Royal Norfolk Regiment

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Norfolk Regiment
Royal Norfolk Regiment
Royal Norfolk Regiment Cap Badge.jpg
Norfolk Regiment Cap Badge
Active 1881–1959
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry

2 Regular battalions
1–2 Militia and Special Reserve battalions
Up to 4 Territorial and Volunteer battalions

Up to 12 Hostilities-only battalions
Garrison/HQ Britannia Barracks, Norwich
Nickname(s) "The Holy Boys", "The Fighting Ninth", "The Norfolk Howards"
Motto(s) Firm
Facings Yellow
March Rule Britannia
Anniversaries Almanza, 25 April
Battle honours see below
Shoulder titles "Royal Norfolk"

The Royal Norfolk Regiment, originally formed as the Norfolk Regiment, was a line infantry regiment of the British Army. The Norfolk Regiment was created on 1 July 1881, as part of the Childers Reforms, as the county regiment of Norfolk. It was formed from the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot[1] and covered the local militia and rifle volunteers.

The Norfolk Regiment fought in the Great War on the Western Front and in the Middle East. After the war, the regiment became the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 3 June 1935. The regiment fought with distinction in the Second World War, in action in France and Belgium, the Far East, and then in the invasion of, and subsequent operations in, North-west Europe. In 1959, the Royal Norfolk Regiment was amalgamated with the Suffolk Regiment, to become the 1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk); this later amalgamated with the 2nd East Anglian Regiment (Duchess of Gloucester's Own Royal Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire), the 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot) and the Royal Leicestershire Regiment to form the Royal Anglian Regiment, of which A Company of the 1st Battalion is known as the Royal Norfolks.



The Norfolk Regiment was created on 1 July 1881, as part of the Childers Reforms, as the county regiment of Norfolk.[2] From its predecessor, the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot it inherited its battle honours and traditions.[3]

First World War[edit]

Regular Army[edit]

The 1st Battalion was serving in Ireland upon the outbreak of the war and was given orders to mobilise on 4 August, the day that Britain declared war on Germany. Part of the 15th Brigade, 5th Division the battalion left Belfast on 14 August and immediately embarked for France, where they became part of the British Expeditionary Force.[4] They saw their first action of the war against the German Army at the Battle of Mons in August 1914.[5] The 2nd Battalion was serving in Bombay, India in the 18th (Belgaum) Brigade, part of the 6th (Poona) Division, of the British Indian Army, upon the outbreak of war. The 2nd Battalion of the Norfolks fought in the Mesopotamian campaign. The treatment of prisoners after the fall of Kut al Amara in April 1916 mirrors that that would later befall the Royal Norfolks in the Far East during the Second World War.[6]

Territorial Force[edit]

The two Territorial Force, the 4th and 5th, battalions were both part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade, part of the East Anglian Division. In May 1915 these became the 163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade, 54th (East Anglian) Division. The two territorial battalions both served in the Gallipoli Campaign in mid-1915. The 1/5th included men recruited from the Royal estate at Sandringham. On 12 August 1915, the 1/5th Battalion suffered heavy losses at Gallipoli when it became isolated during an attack. A myth grew up long after the War that the men had advanced into a mist and simply disappeared.[7] A BBC TV drama, All the King's Men (1999), starring David Jason as Captain Frank Beck, was based upon their story.[8]

In the Second Battle of Gaza in 1918, the 1/4th and 1/5th battalions suffered 75% casualties, about 1,100 men.[9] The 1/6th (Cyclist) Battalion was in Norwich on the outbreak of war: however, the 1/6th never served overseas and remained instead in Norfolk throughout the war until 1918 when it was sent to Ireland.[4]

The 2/4th and 2/5th battalions were both raised in September 1914 from the few men of the 4th and 5th battalions who did not volunteer for Imperial Service overseas when asked. Therefore, Territorial units were split into 1st Line units, which were liable to serve overseas, and 2nd Line units, which were intended to act as a reserve for the 1st Line serving overseas. To distinguish them, all battalions adopted the '1/' or '2/' prefix (1/4th Norfolks as a 1st Line unit, 2/4th Norfolks as a 2nd Line unit). The 2/4th and 2/5th were part of the 2nd Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade, 2nd East Anglian Division, later, in August 1915, they became 208th (2/1st Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade, 69th (2nd East Anglian) Division. However, both battalions were disbanded in 1918: the 2/4th in June and the 2/5th in May.[4] The 2/6th (Cyclist) Battalion, formed in October 1914 as a duplicate of the 1/6th (Cyclist) Battalion, had much the same history as the 1/6th Battalion and remained in the United Kingdom until May 1918 when it was disbanded.[4]

Service battalions[edit]

Men of the 1st Battalion, Norfolk Regiment on parade being inspected by Sir John Anderson, the Governor General of Bengal; Dacca, British India, 1933.

The 7th (Service) Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was raised in August 1914 from men volunteering for Kitchener's New Armies: it landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 35th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division in May 1915 for service on the Western Front.[4] The 8th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne as part of the 53rd Brigade of the 18th (Eastern) Division in July 1915[4] and was present on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916.[10] The 9th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne as part of the 71st Brigade in the 24th Division in August 1915 for operations on the Western Front.[4] The 10th (Service) Battalion, raised in 1914, became the 10th (Reserve) Battalion in April 1915.[4]

Victoria Cross[edit]

During the war, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Sherwood Kelly, a Norfolk Regiment officer, was awarded the Victoria Cross while leading a trench assault by Irish troops during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.[11]

Second World War[edit]

John Niel Randle VC

The regiment was renamed to the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 3 June 1935 to celebrate 250 years since the regiment was first raised and also to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. In 1940, the first decorations for gallantry awarded to the British Expeditionary Force in France were gained by men of the 2nd Battalion. Captain Frank Peter Barclay, was awarded the Military Cross, and Lance-Corporal Davis the Military Medal. Captain F.P. Barclay would later lead the 1st Battalion in the North West Europe Campaign towards the end of the war.[12] Five members of the Royal Norfolks, the highest number of any British Army regiment during the Second World War, were awarded the Victoria Cross:

Regular Army battalions[edit]

Men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment receive their rum ration before going out on patrol in France, 26 January 1940

The 1st Battalion was a regular army unit that was stationed in India at the outbreak of war and was recalled to Britain, arriving in July 1940 during the Battle of Britain. They were part of the 185th Infantry Brigade originally assigned to the 79th Armoured Division but the brigade (including the 2nd Royal Warwickshire Regiment and 2nd King's Shropshire Light Infantry) transferred to the 3rd Infantry Division, with which it would remain with for the rest of the war. The battalion landed on Red Queen Beach, the left flank of Sword Beach, at 07:25 on 6 June 1944, D-Day, and fought with distinction through the Normandy Campaign and throughout the North West Europe Campaign. On 6 August 1944 at Sourdeval, Sidney Bates of B Company was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his great courage in the Battle of Sourdevallee against the crack 10th SS Panzer Division. Miles Dempsey, British Second Army Commander, stated that by holding their ground in the battle the battalion made the subsequent breakthrough in August possible. By the end of the war in Europe, the 1st Battalion had gained a remarkable reputation and was claimed by Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, known as Monty, as 'second to none' of all the battalions in the 21st Army Group. The 1st Royal Norfolks had suffered 20 officers and 260 other ranks killed with well over 1,000 wounded or missing in 11 months of almost continuous combat.[13]

Monument at Biéville-Beuville, Normandy, in memory of 116 comrades who fell between D-Day 6 June and 9 July 1944

During the Battle of France in 1940 Company Sergeant-Major George Gristock of the 2nd Royal Norfolks was awarded the Victoria Cross.[14] During the battle, members of the Royal Norfolks were victims of a German war crime at Le Paradis in the Pas-de-Calais on 26 May.[15]

The 2nd Royal Norfolks were attached to the 4th Infantry Brigade, part of 2nd Infantry Division, which was holding the line of the La Bassée Canal and covering the retreat to Dunkirk. Units became separated from each other and HQ Company had formed a defensive position based at the Duriez farmhouse. They carried on their defence until the afternoon, by which point many were injured and the enemy were shelling the farm. Making a last stand in the open they were outnumbered and surrendered to a unit of the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the SS 'Totenkopf' (Death's Head) Division, under SS Obersturmfuhrer Fritz Knoechlein. The 99 prisoners were marched to some farm buildings on another farm where they were lined up alongside a barn wall. They were then fired upon by two machine guns; 97 were killed and the bodies buried in a shallow pit. Privates Albert Pooley and William O'Callaghan had hidden in a pigsty and were discovered later by the farm's owner, Mme Creton, and her son. The two soldiers were later captured by a Wehrmacht unit and spent the rest of the war as prisoners of war.[16]

The bodies of the murdered soldiers were exhumed in 1942 by the French and reburied in the local churchyard which now forms part of the Le Paradis War Cemetery. The massacre was investigated by the War Crimes Investigation Unit and Knoechlein was traced and arrested. Tried in a court in Hamburg, he was found guilty and hanged on 28 January 1949.[16] A memorial plaque was placed on the barn wall in 1970.[15]

The 2nd Battalion, still as part of the 4th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, also served in the Far East in the Burma Campaign participating in battles such as the Battle of Kohima until the end of the war against Japan in 1945. They served with the British Fourteenth Army, known as the 'Forgotten Army' as their actions were generally over-looked and the main focus was in the North West Europe Campaign. The Fourteenth Army was commanded by the popular and highly respected William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim. Both John Niel Randle and George Arthur Knowland were posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion in the Far East, both for extraordinary heroism.[17][18]

Territorial Army battalions[edit]

The 4th, 5th and 6th battalions, all part of the Territorial Army, served in the Far East. The 5th and 6th (City of Norwich) were both assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade, and the 4th Battalion the 54th Infantry Brigade. Both brigades were part of the 18th Infantry Division. Throughout most of their existence, all three battalions remained in the United Kingdom assigned to coastal defence duties and training to repel a German invasion and, in October 1941, the division left, destined for the Middle East. The 18th Division fought in the defence of Singapore and Malaya against the Japanese advance. The men of these battalions, and other East Anglian battalions of other regiments, ended up as prisoners of war when Singapore fell in February 1942. They would remain so until August 1945 during which time they were used as forced labour on projects such as the Death Railway through Burma.[19]

The 7th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment was formed in May 1939 as a 2nd Line Territorial Army duplicate of the 5th Battalion and, therefore, contained many former members of the 5th. Together with the 5th and 6th battalions, the 7th was assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade, part of the 18th Infantry Division until November when it assigned to pioneer duties in France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). In May 1940 was assigned to the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division. The 51st Division was stationed on the Maginot Line and therefore escaped encirclement with the rest of the BEF during the Battle of France where they spent some time attached to the French Tenth Army. The 7th Royal Norfolks suffered heavy casualties when the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division was surrounded and had no choice but to surrender, on 12 June 1940, with only 31 members of the battalion managing to return to Britain. In October 1940 the battalion was assigned to 205th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home), then the 220th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home). On 14 October 1942, the battalion was transferred to the 176th Infantry Brigade, alongside the 7th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment and 6th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment, of the 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division.[20] The 59th Division was one of the follow-up units after D-Day in June 1944 and was considered by General Bernard Montgomery as one of his best divisions. On the night of 7/8 August 1944, Captain David Auldjo Jamieson of D Company was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroic leadership which greatly helped to fend off several enemy counter-attacks in a 36-hour period.[21] Due to an acute shortage of infantrymen in the British Army at the time, the battalion and division were disbanded in late August 1944 and its men used as replacements for other British divisions in the 21st Army Group who had also suffered heavy casualties in Normandy.[22]

Monument on Royal Norfolkplein, Helmond, Netherlands, recording the liberation of the town on 25 September 1944 by the 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment.

Hostilities-only battalions[edit]

The 8th Battalion was raised in 1939 alongside the 9th Battalion with many veterans of the Great War. Both battalions were used mainly to supply other battalions of the regiment which were overseas with reinforcements. Neither of these battalions saw service overseas and remained in the United Kingdom throughout the war as part of the Home Forces with the 9th Battalion apparently being disbanded in August 1944 when its parent unit (25th Brigade attached to 47th (Reserve) Infantry Division) was disbanded.[23]

The 8th Battalion was renumbered as the 30th Battalion and used for garrison duties in Italy during which the 43rd Infantry Brigade, which included 30th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry and 30th Battalion, Dorset Regiment, was made to appear as a full division for deception purposes. The battalion remained in Italy until it was disbanded in 1946.[24]

The 50th (Holding) Battalion was raised in late May 1940. The role of the Holding battalion was to temporarily 'hold' men who were homeless, medically unfit, awaiting orders, on a course or returning from abroad. The battalion was renumbered as the 9th Battalion in October and was assigned to the 220th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home), part of Norfolk County Division in early 1941.[25]

The 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion was raised in late 1940 for those young soldiers, mostly around the ages of 18 or 19, who had volunteered for the Army and therefore had not reached the compulsory age for conscription. The battalion spent most of its time in the UK guarding against a German invasion. However, the battalion was disbanded in 1943 due to the British government lowering the age of conscription to the British Armed Forces to 18 earlier in the year. This decision was due to a growing shortage of manpower, especially in the British Army and in the infantry in particular and the young soldiers of the disbanded 70th were sent to other battalions of the regiment serving overseas.[26]

Post Second World War[edit]

The regiment served in Korea in 1951–52 during the Korean War, and in Cyprus in the fight against EOKA in 1955–56.[27] In 1959 the Royal Norfolk Regiment was amalgamated as part of the reorganisation of the British Army resulting from the 1957 Defence White Paper becoming part of a new formation, the 1st East Anglian Regiment, part of the East Anglian Brigade.[28]

Uniform and insignia[edit]

The dress worn by the Regiment's predecessor units in the late 17th and early 18th centuries included orange and subsequently green facings. In 1733, official permission was given to change from bright green back to light orange facings. By 1747, this unusual shade had evolved into yellow which was retained until 1881 when, in common with all English and Welsh regiments, the newly renamed Norfolk Regiment was given white distinctions on its scarlet tunics.[29] In 1905, the traditional yellow facings were restored for full dress and mess uniforms.[30] Another distinction of the Norfolk Regiment was the inclusion of a black line in the gold braid of officers' uniforms from 1881 onwards.[29] When the regiment was redesignated as the "Royal Norfolk Regiment" in 1935 it was specially permitted to retain the yellow facings instead of changing to blue.[31]

The figure of Britannia was officially recognised in 1799 as part of the insignia of the 9th Regiment of Foot.[32][33] Regimental tradition claimed that it was granted to the regiment by Queen Anne in 1707 in recognition of its service at the Battle of Almanza. However, there is no evidence that it was used before the 1770s, and it was not listed as an authorised device in the royal warrants of 1747, 1751 or 1768.[33][34] It subsequently became a central part of the badge of the Norfolk Regiment.[34]


The Royal Norfolk Regiment held an anniversary on 25 April for the Battle of Almanza which they inherited along with the regimental nickname of the "Holy Boys" from the 9th Regiment of Foot. They gained the "Holy Boys" nickname during the Peninsular War from the misidentification by a Spanish soldier of Britannia on their cap badge as the Virgin Mary.[35]

Battle honours[edit]

The following were the regiment's battle honours:[36]

Victoria Cross[edit]

In total six members of the Norfolk or Royal Norfolk Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross:

Colonels of the Regiment[edit]

Colonels of the regiment were:[37]

The Norfolk Regiment[edit]

  • 1881–1889: Gen. Sir Henry Bates, KCB
  • 1889–1893: Gen. Sir Arthur Borton, GCB, GCMG
  • 1893: Gen. Charles Elmhirst, CB
  • 1893–1898: Gen. Thomas Edmond Knox, CB
  • 1898–1903: Lt-Gen. Henry James Buchanan, CB
  • 1903–1917: Gen. Henry Ralph Browne, CB
  • 1917–1946: Gen. Sir Edward Peter Strickland, KCB, KBE, CMG, DSO

The Royal Norfolk Regiment[edit]

  • 1946–1947: Maj-Gen. Horatio Pettus Mackintosh Berney-Ficklin, CB, MC
  • 1947–1951: Brig. William John O'Brien Daunt, CBE
  • 1951: Maj-Gen. Eric Charles Hayes, CB
  • 1951–1959: Brig. Claude John Wilkinson, DSO

Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum[edit]

The history of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and its predecessors and successors is recorded at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum. The museum moved from the Britannia Barracks, now part of Norwich prison, to the Shirehall and then to the Norwich Castle Museum. Although archives and the reserve collections are still held in the Shirehall, the principal museum display there closed in September 2011, and relocated to the main Norwich Castle Museum, reopening fully in 2013.[38] Its exhibits illustrate the history of the Regiment from its 17th-century origins to its incorporation into the Royal Anglian Regiment in 1964, along with many aspects of military life in the Regiment. There is an extensive and representative display of medals awarded to soldiers of the Regiment, including two of the six Victoria Crosses won.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The other regiment linked with Norfolk, the 54th Regiment of Foot, became part of the Dorsetshire Regiment.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 24992. pp. 3300–3301. 1 July 1881.
  3. ^ Beckett, p. 86
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Norfolk Regiment". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  5. ^ "The Battle of Mons (2nd Day): Elouges". British Battles. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  6. ^ Petre, Loraine (1918). "History of the Regiment 1685-1918". Jarrold & Sons. p. 102. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  7. ^ "The Vanished Battalion". Jarrold & Sons. Archived from the original on 2 December 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  8. ^ "King's Men ending 'distasteful'". BBC. 17 November 1999. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Eastern Daily Press Sunday section, 5 May 2007
  10. ^ Petre, Loraine (1918). "History of the Regiment 1685-1918". Jarrold & Sons. p. 214. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  11. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30471. p. 722. 8 January 1918. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  12. ^ Storey, Neil R (2013). "The Little Book of Norfolk". History Press. ISBN 978-0752499765. 
  13. ^ Further information on this unit can be found in Thank God and the Infantry - From D-Day to VE-Day with the 1st Battalion The Royal Norfolk Regiment, by John Lincoln who himself served as a young 20-year-old Officer Commanding 17 Platoon, D Company, in the 1st Battalion in 1944 and was awarded the Military Cross.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34928. p. 5137. 23 August 1940. Retrieved 2009-07-26.
  15. ^ a b "Massacre of Royal Norfolk Soldiers At Le Paradis". War Memorials Trust. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  16. ^ a b "Private Pooley's Revenge". British Military & Criminal History. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  17. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36833. p. 5673. 8 December 1944. Retrieved 1 August 2009.
  18. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37027. p. 1939. 10 April 1945. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  19. ^ "Royal Rorfolk". Far East Prisoners of War. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  20. ^ Joslen, p. 355
  21. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36764. p. 4899. 24 October 1944. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  22. ^ "1944 D-Day and the Normandy Landings". Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  23. ^ Joslen, p. 272
  24. ^ "The Second World War, 1939-1945". Somerset County Council. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  25. ^ Joslen, p. 383
  26. ^ "The Officers of the 70th Young Soldiers Battalion, DLI, October 1941". Retrieved 28 December 2015. 
  27. ^ "Royal Norfolk Regiment". British army units 1945 on. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  28. ^ "Birth of a regiment". East Anglian Film Archive. 19 September 1959. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  29. ^ a b Carman, W Y; Simkin, Richard; Douglas-Morris, K J (1985). Uniforms of the British Army: The Infantry Regiments. Webb & Bower. ISBN 0-86350-031-5. 
  30. ^ Hamilton, Eric (1968). "Colours of the Regular Army Infantry of the Line 1st July 1881 to 1958". The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society (Special Issue No.1): 5, 14. 
  31. ^ "Honours for the Army". The Times. 3 June 1935. p. 21. His Majesty has further approved that the following regiments be permitted to retain their present facings:- ...The Royal Norfolk Regiment (yellow) 
  32. ^ Horse Guards Letter dated 30 July 1799: "His Majesty has been pleased to confirm to the 9th Regiment of Foot the distinction and privilege of bearing the figure of Britannia as the badge of the Regiment."
  33. ^ a b Sumner, Ian (2001). British Colours & Standards 1747–1881 (2) Infantry. Oxford: Osprey. p. 5. ISBN 1-84176-201-6. 
  34. ^ a b Edwards, T J (1953). Standards, Guidons and Colours of the Commonwealth Forces. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. p. 204. 
  35. ^ "Holy Boys". Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  36. ^ "The Royal Norfolk Regiment". Archived from the original on 4 January 2006. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  37. ^ "9th (East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot". Retrieved 8 July 2016. 
  38. ^ "Royal Norfolk Museum Moves to Norwich Castle". BBC Norfolk News. 26 July 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  39. ^ "Royal Norfolk Regiment museum". Norfolk Museums. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 


  • Beckett, Ian (2003). Discovering English County Regiments. Shire. ISBN 978-0747-805069. 
  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2003, ISBN 1-843424-74-6.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
9th Regiment of Foot
(Royal) Norfolk Regiment
Succeeded by
1st East Anglian Regiment