South Wales Borderers

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24th Regiment of Foot
24th (The 2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot
South Wales Borderers
South Wales Borderers cap badge, showing the Sphinx.jpg
Cap badge of the South Wales Borderers showing the Sphinx
Active 1689–1969
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry
Garrison/HQ The Barracks, Brecon
Nickname(s) Howard's Greens
March Men of Harlech
Anniversaries Rorke's Drift (22 January)
Commanders
Ceremonial chief King Edward VIII

The South Wales Borderers was a line infantry regiment of the British Army in existence for 280 years. It first came into existence, as the 24th Regiment of Foot in 1689. Based at Brecon the regiment recruited from the border counties of Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and Brecknockshire, but was not called the South Wales Borderers until the Childers Reforms of 1881. The regiment served in a great many conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War, various conflicts in India, the Zulu War, Second Boer War, and World War I and World War II. In 1969 the regiment was amalgamated with the Welch Regiment to form the Royal Regiment of Wales.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

Soldier of 24th Regiment of Foot, 1742
Plaque 24th Regiment of Foot in Quebec, Canada, dating to 1840

The regiment was formed as Sir Edward Dering's Regiment of Foot in 1689, becoming known, like other regiments, by the names of its subsequent colonels.[1] The regiment served under the Duke of Schomberg during the Williamite War in Ireland and then saw action again at the Battle of Schellenberg in July 1704 and at the Battle of Blenheim in August 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession.[2]

The regiment was part of the amphibious expedition to the Caribbean and participated in the disastrous British defeat at the Battle of Cartagena de Indias in March 1741 during the War of Jenkins' Ear.[3] The regiment was ranked as 24th in the infantry order of precedence in 1747 and became the 24th Regiment of Foot in 1751.[1] It took part in the Siege of Fort St Philip in Minorca in April 1756 during the Seven Years' War.[4] It was also part of the amphibious expedition against, or descent on, the coast of France and participated in the disastrous British defeat at the Battle of Saint Cast in September 1758.[5]

In June 1776 the regiment was sent to Quebec where it subsequently fought American rebels who had invaded the province during their War of Independence. The regiment was part of the 5,000 British and Hessian force, under the command of General John Burgoyne, that surrendered to the American rebels in the Saratoga campaign in summer 1777 and remained imprisoned until 1783.[2] In 1782 it became the 24th (The 2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot.[1]

The regiment was deployed to Egypt in the aftermath of the Battle of Abukir in March 1801; a 2nd Battalion was raised in 1804 which suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Talavera in July 1809 during the Peninsular War.[2] The vast majority of the 1st Battalion was captured at sea by the French at the action of 3 July 1810 near the Comoro Islands; they had been on the East Indiamen Astell, Ceylon and Windham when a French frigate squadron captured the last two ships. They were released the following year.[6] The 1st Battalion took part in the Anglo-Nepalese War in November 1814.[7] The regiment was deployed to Canada in 1829 and remained there until 1842.[3]

Second Sikh War and Indian Mutiny[edit]

Memorial to Private James Cooper VC who fought gallantly in the Andaman Islands in May 1857
Marble memorial at St. John's, Jhelum, in memory of the soldiers of the 24th Foot killed there in July 1857 during the Indian Mutiny

The regiment returned to India in 1846 and saw action at the Battle of Chillianwala in January 1849, where the regiment fought off the enemy with bayonets rather than rifles and 255 of its men died, during the Second Anglo-Sikh War.[2] Meanwhile, 5 Victoria Crosses were awarded to men of the regiment who rescued their colleagues from cannibals on the Andaman Islands in May 1857.[2] Some 35 soldiers of the regiment were killed by mutineers at their garrison in Jhelum in July 1857 during the Indian Rebellion: among the dead was Captain Francis Spring, the eldest son of Colonel William Spring.[8]

Zulu War[edit]

Isandlwana[edit]

Main article: Battle of Isandlwana

In 1879 both battalions took part in the Anglo-Zulu War, begun after a British invasion of Zululand, ruled by Cetshwayo. The 24th Regiment of Foot took part in the crossing of the Buffalo River on 11 January, entering Zululand. The first engagement (and the most disastrous for the British) came at Isandlwana. The British had pitched camp at Isandlwana and not established any fortifications due to the sheer size of the force, the hard ground and a shortage of entrenching tools. The 24th Foot provided most of the British force and when the overall commander, Lord Chelmsford, split his forces on 22 January to search for the Zulus, the 1st Battalion (5 companies) and a company of the 2nd Battalion were left behind to guard the camp, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Pulleine (CO of the 1/24th Foot).[2]

A Zulu force of some 20,000 warriors attacked a portion of the British main column consisting of about 1,800 British, colonial and native troops and perhaps 400 civilians.[9] During the battle Lieutenant-Colonel Pulleine ordered Lieutenants Coghill and Melvill to save the Queen's Colour—the Regimental Colour was located at Helpmekaar with G Company. The two Lieutenants attempted to escape by crossing the Buffalo River where the Colour fell and was lost downstream, later being recovered. Both officers were killed. At this time the Victoria Cross (VC) was not awarded posthumously. This changed in the early 1900s when both Lieutenants were awarded posthumous Victoria Crosses for their bravery.[10] The Battle of Isandlwana was dramatized in the 1979 movie Zulu Dawn.[11]

Rorke's Drift[edit]

A depiction of soldiers of the 24th Regiment repelling the Zulu attack on Rorke's Drift in January 1879

After the battle, some 4,000 to 5,000 Zulus headed for Rorke's Drift, a small missionary post garrisoned by a company of the 2/24th Foot, native levies and others under the command of Lieutenant Chard, Royal Engineers, the most senior officer of the 24th present being Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. Two Boer cavalry officers, Lieutenants Adendorff and Vane, arrived to inform the garrison of the defeat at Isandlwana. The Acting Assistant Commissary James Dalton persuaded Bromhead and Chard to stay and the small garrison frantically prepared rudimentary fortifications.[12]

The Zulus first attacked at 4:30 pm. Throughout the day the garrison was attacked from all sides, including rifle fire from the heights above the garrison, and bitter hand-to-hand fighting often ensued. At one point the Zulus entered the hospital, which was stoutly defended by the wounded inside until it was set alight and eventually burnt down. The battle raged on into the early hours of 23 January but by dawn the Zulu Army had withdrawn. Lord Chelmsford and a column of British troops arrived soon afterwards. The garrison had suffered 15 killed during the battle (two died later) and 11 defenders were awarded the Victoria Cross for their distinguished defence of the post, 7 going to soldiers of the 24th Foot.[13] The stand at Rorke's Drift was immortalised in the 1964 movie Zulu.[14]

Third Anglo-Burmese War and Second Boer War[edit]

After the Childers Reforms, the 24th Foot became the South Wales Borderers on 1 July 1881.[15] The regiment's regimental depot had been moved to the Barracks, Brecon in Wales in 1873 and this, understandably, led to the regiment having close links with South Wales.[16] The 2nd Battalion was deployed to Burma and saw action in November 1885 during the Third Anglo-Burmese War.[17] The 2nd Battalion then arrived in Cape Colony in early February 1900[18] and saw action at the Battle of Elands River in September 1901 during the Second Boer War.[19]

First World War[edit]

Lieutenant Colonel Sidney John Wilkinson of the 10th Battalion, killed in action during the First World War

Regular Army[edit]

The 1st Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 3rd Brigade in the 1st Division with the British Expeditionary Force in August 1914 for service on the Western Front.[20] The 2nd Battalion landed at Laoshan Bay for operations against the German territory of Tsingtao in September 1914 and saw action at the Siege of Tsingtao in October 1914.[20] After returning home in January 1915, the 2nd Battalion landed at Cape Helles as part of the 87th Brigade in the 29th Division in April 1915; it was evacuated from Gallipoli in January 1916 and then landed at Marseille in March 1916 for service on the Western Front.[20]

Territorial Force[edit]

The 1/1st Brecknockshire Battalion landed in Bombay as part of the 44th (Home Counties) Division in October 1914 and then moved to Aden in December 1914 before returning to Bombay in August 1915.[20]

New Armies[edit]

The 4th (Service) Battalion landed in Gallipoli as part of the 40th Brigade in the 13th (Western) Division in July 1915; it was evacuated from Gallipoli in January 1916 and moved to Egypt and then to Mesopotamia.[20] The 5th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers) landed at Le Havre as part of the 58th Brigade in the 19th (Western) Division in July 1915 for service on the Western Front.[20] The 6th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers) landed at Le Havre as part of the 76th Brigade in the 25th Division in September 1915 for service on the Western Front.[20] The 7th (Service) Battalion and the 8th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 67th Brigade in the 22nd Division in September 1915 for service on the Western Front but moved to Salonika in October 1915.[20]

The 10th (Service) Battalion (1st Gwent) and the 11th (Service) Battalion (2nd Gwent) landed at Le Havre as part of the 115th Brigade in the 38th (Welsh) Division in December 1915 for service on the Western Front.[20] The 12th (Service) Battalion (3rd Gwent) landed at Le Havre as part of the 119th Brigade in the 40th Division in June 1916 for service on the Western Front.[20] Welsh poet and language activist Saunders Lewis served in the 12th Battalion during the First World War.[21]

Inter-War[edit]

The 1st Battalion embarked for Ireland in June 1920 to maintain order during the Irish War of Independence and to Waziristan in February 1937 in connection with disturbances on the frontier.[4] Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion was deployed to Palestine in 1936, returning home at the end of the year.[4]

Second World War[edit]

Plaque commemorating the liberation of a bridge in Normandy by the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers on D-Day in June 1944.

The 1st Battalion, as part of the 10th Indian Infantry Division, was sent to Iraq to quell a German-inspired uprising in Iraq in November 1941.[22] The battalion saw subsequent service in Iran. The battalion sustained enormous casualties in Libya near Tobruk when they lost around 500 officers and men captured or killed during a general retreat.[22] The battalion found itself cut off when the German forces outflanked them, the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. F.R.G. Matthews, decided to attempt to escape around the enemy and break through to British lines. It turned into a disaster with only four officers and around one hundred men reaching Sollum.[22] To the surprise of the survivors the battalion was ordered to disband in Cyprus and the remnants of the battalion were transferred, with the exception of a small cadre that returned to the United Kingdom, to the 1st Battalion of the King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster). A few months later the battalion was re-formed from the cadre and the 4th Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment.[22]

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the 2nd Battalion was serving in Derry, Northern Ireland, under command of Northern Ireland District, having been there since December 1936.[23] In December 1939 the battalion left Northern Ireland and was sent to join the 148th Infantry Brigade of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, a Territorial formation.[24] In April 1940 the battalion was again transferred to the newly created 24th Guards Brigade (Rupertforce), and took part in the Norwegian Campaign, and were among the first British troops to see action against the German Army in the Second World War.[25] The campaign failed and the brigade had to be evacuated. Casualties in the battalion, however, had been almost remarkably light, with only 13 wounded and 6 killed and two DCMs had been awarded.[26]

Infantrymen of the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers hide themselves in a laurel bush during a brigade exercise near Ballymena in Northern Ireland, 19 September 1941.

The 2nd Battalion returned to the United Kingdom and, on 7 December 1941 (the day the United States entered the war), transferred to the 37th Independent Infantry Brigade (redesignated 7th Infantry Brigade the day after).[27] On 1 March 1944 the battalion was transferred to the newly created 56th Independent Infantry Brigade, alongside which were the 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment and 2nd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment and trained for the invasion of Normandy. The battalion had the distinction of being the only Welsh battalion to take part in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, landing at Gold Beach under command of 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and fought in the Battle of Normandy, under command of 7th Armoured Division for a few days in June 1944, before reverting to the 50th Division.[26] In August 1944 it was briefly under command of the 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division and fought in the Battle of the Falaise Gap.[26] On 20 August the brigade joined the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, replacing the disbanded 70th Brigade. With the division, the battalion fought in the operations to clear the Channel coast, where they captured Le Havre in Operation Astonia.[26] Afterwards the battalion enjoyed a short rest and, on 22 September, moved to join the rest of the 21st Army Group fighting in Belgium. In October, shortly after the failure of Operation Market Garden, the division was sent to garrison 'The Island', the area of land between Arnhem and Nijmegen, where it remained throughout the winter of 1944. The last major action for the battalion was in April 1945 when, with the rest of the division, they fought in the Second Battle of Arnhem.[26] The battalion ended its war in Germany, and remained there, as part of the occupation forces, until 1948 when it returned home. During the campaign in North-western Europe the battalion had suffered over 100% casualties.[26]

The 6th Battalion, South Wales Borders served in the Burma Campaign with the 72nd Infantry Brigade, 36th British Infantry Division, previously a division of the British Indian Army before being redesignated the 36th British Division.[28]

Post-War[edit]

The 1st Battalion was deployed to Palestine to deal with the volatile uprising in Palestine there in October 1945 and then moved to Cyprus in April 1946.[29] The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in May 1948 as a consequence of defence cuts implemented shortly after the Second World War.[29]

The regiment deployed to the Sudan in March 1949 and became part of the occupation force in Eritrea, a former Italian colony that was ruled by a British military administration, in January 1950.[29] The regiment arrived in Brunswick, West Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine in January 1953 and was then deployed to Malaya in December 1955, as part of the response to the Malayan Emergency.[29] The regiment's conduct during the war compelled Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, a distinguished British officer and a man instrumental in the defeat of the communist terrorists during the Emergency, to state that, "there has been no better regiment in Malaya during the ten years of the emergency and very few as good".[30]

The regiment was posted to Minden, Germany in June 1959 and returned home three years later.[29] It arrived at Stanley Fort in Hong Kong in November 1963 to perform internal security duties.[29] It returned home to Lydd in Kent in June 1966 before deploying to Aden in January 1967.[29] The regiment was amalgamated with the Welch Regiment to form the Royal Regiment of Wales (24th/41st Foot) in June 1969.[29]

The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh (Brecon) is at The Barracks, Brecon, South Wales.[31]

Battle honours[edit]

No. 94: Regimental flag of the 24th Regiment of Foot.

The regiment's battle honours were as follows:[1]

  • Early wars: Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, Malplaquet, [Egypt]1, Cape of Good Hope 1806, Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes d'Onor, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthes, Peninsula, Chillianwallah, Goojerat, Punjaub, South Africa 1877-8-9, Burma 1885-87, South Africa 1900-02
  • The Great War: Mons, Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914, Aisne 1914 '18, Ypres 1914 '17 '18, Langemarck 1914 '17, Gheluvelt, Nonne Bosschen, Givenchy 1914, Aubers, Loos, Somme 1916 '18, Albert 1916 '18, Bazentin, Pozières, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Ancre Heights, Ancre 1916, Arras 1917 '18, Scarpe 1917, Messines 1917 '18, Pilckem, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Cambrai 1917 '18, St. Quentin, Bapaume 1918, Lys, Estaires, Hazebrouck, Bailleul, Kemmel, Béthune, Scherpenberg, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Havrincourt, Épéhy, St. Quentin Canal, Beaurevoir, Courtrai, Selle, Valenciennes, Sambre, France and Flanders 1914-18, Doiran 1917 '18, Macedonia 1915-18, Helles, Landing at Helles, Krithia, Suvla, Sari Bair, Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli 1915-16, Egypt 1916, Tigris 1916, Kut al Amara 1917, Baghdad, Mesopotamia 1916-18, Tsingtao
  • The Second World War: Norway 1940, Normandy Landing, Sully, Caen, Falaise, Risle Crossing, Le Havre, Antwerp-Turnhout Canal, Scheldt, Zetten, Arnhem 1945, North-West Europe 1944-45, Gazala, North Africa 1942, North Arakan, Mayu Tunnels, Pinwe, Shweli, Myitson, Burma 1944-45

Victoria Cross recipients[edit]

Colonels of the Regiment[edit]

The colonels of the regiment were as follows:[32]

The 24th Regiment of Foot[edit]

24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot[edit]

The South Wales Borderers[edit]

  • 1888–1898: Gen. Edmund Wodehouse
  • 1898–1900: Lt-Gen. Richard Thomas Glyn, CB, CMG
  • 1900–1902: Maj-Gen. Henry James Degacher, CB
  • 1902–1922: Maj-Gen. George Paton, CMG
  • 1922–1931: Gen. Sir Alexander Stanhope Cobbe, VC, GCB, KCSI, DSO
  • 1931–1944: Maj-Gen. Llewellyn Isaac Gethin Morgan-Owen, CB, CMG, CBE, DSO
  • 1944–1950: Maj-Gen. Dudley Graham Johnson, VC, CB, DSO, MC
  • 1950–1954: Gen. Sir Alfred Reade Godwin-Austen, KCSI, CB, OBE, MC
  • 1954–1961: Maj-Gen. Francis Raymond Gage Matthews, CB, DSO
  • 1961–1969: Maj-Gen. Sir David Peel Yates, DSO, OBE

Alliances[edit]

  • Australia 18th Battalion (The Kurung-Gai Regiment) (1929–1944)
  • Australia 17th/18th Infantry Battalion (The North Shore Regiment) (1948–1960)
  • Australia 24th Battalion (The Kooyong Regiment) (1929–1951)
  • Southern Rhodesia / Rhodesia 1st Battalion, The Rhodesian African Rifles (1957–1965)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "South Wales Borderers". Regiments.org. Archived from the original on January 10, 2006. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "24th Regiment of Foot". British Empire. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "British military units in North America". Peter Mackenzie. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "Dates". Royal Welsh. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  5. ^ An Authentic Account of our last attempt on the Coast of France by an Officer who miraculously escaped being cut to pieces, by Swimming to a Boat at a considerable distance from the shore., London, 1758.
  6. ^ Brenton, p. 462
  7. ^ "24th Regiment of Foot". Napoleon Series. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 22141. p. 2492. 19 May 1858. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  9. ^ Knight (2002), p. 49, Knight gives a total of 1,768 combat troops, not including wagon drivers and other civilians, of which there were some 350, Colenso, p. 263
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 24717. p. 3178. 2 May 1879.
  11. ^ "Zulu Dawn". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  12. ^ Knight (1996), p. 25
  13. ^ Whybra, pp. 71–72
  14. ^ "Zulu". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 24992. pp. 3300–3301. 1 July 1881. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  16. ^ "The Keep at Brecon Barracks". Powys History. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "South Wales Borderers". North-East Medals. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  18. ^ "Latest intelligence - The War - Movements of Transport" The Times (London). Tuesday, 6 February 1900. (36058), p. 5.
  19. ^ "South Wales Borderers". Anglo-Boer War. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "South Wales Borderers". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  21. ^ "Saunders Lewis". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  22. ^ a b c d "1st Battalion The South Wales Borderers" (PDF). Royal Welsh. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  23. ^ "2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers". Regiments.org. Archived from the original on January 10, 2006. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  24. ^ Joslen, p. 333
  25. ^ "Rupertforce" (PDF). British Military History. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  26. ^ a b c d e f "2nd Battalion The South Wales Borderers" (PDF). Royal Welsh. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  27. ^ Joslen, p. 286
  28. ^ "6th Battalion The South Wales Borderers" (PDF). Royal Welsh. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h "South Wales Borderers". British army units 1945 on. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  30. ^ "The History of the Royal Regiment of Wales: The South Wales Borderers (1881-1969)". Royal Welsh. Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  31. ^ "The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh (Brecon)". Retrieved 3 July 2016. 
  32. ^ "24th Regiment of Foot". British Empire. Retrieved 4 July 2016. 

Sources[edit]

  • Brenton, Edward Pelham (1825). The Naval History of Great Britain. London: C. Rice. 
  • Colenso, Frances E.; (assisted in those portions of the work that touch on military matters by Lieut.-Colonel Edward Durnford) (1880). History of the Zulu War and Its Origin. London: Chapman and Hall. ISBN 1-152-31729-6. 
  • Joslen, Lt-Col H.F. (1960). Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945. London: HM Stationery Office. ISBN 1-84342-474-6. 
  • Knight, Ian (1996). Rorke's Drift 1879, "Pinned Like Rats in a Hole". Osprey. ISBN 1-85532-506-3. 
  • Knight, Ian (2002). Isandlwana 1879: The Great Zulu Victory. Osprey. ISBN 1-84176-511-2. 
  • Whybra, Julian (2004). England's Sons. Gift. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Adams, Jack (1968). Famous Regiments: The South Wales Borderers. Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 978-0241913888. 

External links[edit]