Royal Hampshire Regiment
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Royal Hampshire Regiment
|Garrison/HQ||Lower Barracks, Winchester|
|Nickname||The Hampshire Tigers|
|Colors||Yellow facings from 1904.|
The Hampshire Regiment (Royal Hampshire Regiment from 1946) was a line infantry regiment of the British Army that existed from 1881 to 1992. The regiment served in many small conflicts and both World War I and World War II. In 1992 the regiment was amalgamated with the Queen's Royal Regiment to form the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Formation and antecedents
- 1.2 Second Boer War
- 1.3 World War I
- 1.4 Irish War of Independence
- 1.5 World War II
- 1.6 Post war and amalgamation
- 2 Battle honours
- 3 Notes and references
- 4 External links
Formation and antecedents
The Hampshire Regiment was formed on 1 July 1881 under the Childers reforms from the merger of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot and the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot along with the militia and rifle volunteers of the county of Hampshire.
A regimental tradition was that on 1 August, known as Minden Day, each year battalion members would wear a rose in their head dress to commemorate the Battle of Minden.
Second Boer War
At the turn of the 20th century, there were two regular battalions of the regiment. A 3rd Militia battalion was formed of the former Hampshire Militia, with headquarters in Winchester. The battalion was embodied in January 1900 for service during the Second Boer War in South Africa, and disembodied in December the same year.
A Volunteer battalion was also formed to serve in South Africa. Men from this battalion were involved in the worst train accident during the war, near Barberton, on Easter Sunday 30 March 1902. Following the accident, the battalion returned to the United Kingdom, arriving at Southampton in May 1902.
World War I
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During the Great War of 1914-1918, the regiment had a total of 32 battalions and saw service in every theatre of war. By the end of the war the regiment had lost 7,580 killed in action.
The 1st Battalion was a Regular Army unit stationed in Colchester on the outbreak of war in August 1914. The battalion was assigned to the 11th Brigade, 4th Division. With the division, the battalion joined the British Expeditionary Force and was sent overseas to France in August 1914, landing at Le Havre on 23 August. The 1st Battalion saw its first combat against the German Army at Le Cateau. The battalion served on the Western Front for the rest of the war, participating in many battles in 1914 alone such as the First Battle of the Marne, the First Battle of the Aisne, and the Battle of Messines. In 1914, on Christmas Day, men of the 1st Battalion participated in the legendary Christmas Truce of 1914 where British and German soldiers fraternised in No man's land. In 1915, the battalion took part in the Second Battle of Ypres, famous for its use of poison gas. In 1916 it fought at Albert and Le Transloy, which was part of the larger Somme offensive.
The 2nd Battalion was also a Regular Army battalion that was serving in India at the outbreak of war and arrived in England on 22 December 1914. In early 1915 the battalion became part of the 88th Brigade, assigned to the 29th Division. The 2nd Battalion took part in the Battle of Gallipoli when engaged in the fatal Landing at Cape Helles in April 1915 and fought in the Battle of Krithia. In 1916, the 2nd Battalion was evacuated to Alexandria due to a mixture of heavy casualties from combat, disease and the terrible weather conditions. In March 1916 the battalion was sent to France and would serve on the Western Front for the rest of the war, participating in the battle of Albert and Le Transloy rides, alongside the 1st Battalion.
Irish War of Independence
The 2nd Battalion was sent to Ireland to fight the Irish Republican Army. On 31 May 1921 seven soldiers, all with the band of the 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment were on their way to the rifle range at Youghal County Cork when a road mine exploded under the truck they were travelling in. Three soldiers were killed outright while a further four died later from their wounds.
World War II
In the Second World War, the Hampshire Regiment had six battalions that fought abroad, whilst more battalions stayed at home. The six battalions who fought abroad were the 1st, 2nd, 1/4th, 2/4th, 5th and 7th battalions. The 1st Battalion of the regiment formed part of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, and took part in the D-Day landings, landing at Gold Beach on 6 June 1944.
The 1st Battalion
The 1st Battalion was a Regular Army battalion that was deployed on Garrison duties in El Daba, Egypt at the beginning of the war.
- 12 December 1939 the 1st Battalion was moved to Palestine on peace keeping duties.
- 2 June 1940 the 1st Battalion was moved to Moascar in Egypt, then to Mearsa Matruh. One of their duties was to look after the large number of Italian prisoners after the fall of Sidi Barrani.
- 21 February 1941 the 1st Battalion arrived in Malta, where it became part of the 1st (Malta) Infantry Brigade (with 1st Dorset Regiment and 2nd Devonshire Regiment). This later became the 231st Infantry Brigade. Duties in Malta included airfield repair and working as stevedores in the docks. Malta was subjected to a prolonged siege, and by July 1942 the food situation had become serious, but the situation eased as the Allies fortunes improved in the North African Campaign.
- On 3 April 1943 the 231st Infantry Brigade, including the 1st Hampshires, was moved to Alexandria, then subsequently to Cairo and Suez, as it trained as an independent assault brigade.
- 10 July 1943 the 1st Battalion invaded Sicily as part of the first wave of Operation Husky. The beach landing went smoothly, but the 1st Battalion ran into resistance at Vizzini on 13 July when it ran into the Herman Goring Parachute Panzer Division. On 22 July, the 1st Battalion was engaged in hard fighting for Agria, which only fell on 29 July. The 1st Battalion was reduced to three companies after the battle. There was further hard fighting to capture the Regalbuto Ridge, which ended the Sicilian Campaign. The 1st Battalion suffered 18 Officers and 286 Other Ranks killed or wounded in action in Sicily.
- 8 September 1943 the 231st Infantry Brigade invaded Italy, landing at Potro San Venere near Pizzo. The 1st Battalion was involved in fighting as the Germans withdrew northwards.
- 23 September 1943 the 1st Battalion was back in Sicily waiting for transport back to the United Kingdom.
- 4 November 1943 the 1st Battalion was back in the United Kingdom for the first time in 22 years. It was allocated to the 50th Infantry Division, one of the assault divisions for the invasion of North West Europe which had an excellent reputation after fighting in the Mediterranean theatre.
- 6 June 1944 the 1st Battalion came ashore as part of Operation Overlord. On the first day the battalion captured Le Hamel and Arromanches after a hard fight. When the battalion landed there were no tanks with them, and they faced machine gun fire upon landing. On D-Day alone the 1st Battalion suffered 182 casualties, 64 of them being killed in action.
- 18 June, the 1st Battalion started a three-week fight for the village of Hottot, against the German Panzer-Lehr-Division. This culminated in a major assault on 11 July, but the 1st Battalion was withdrawn from the line the next day, testimony to the hard fighting.
- 30 July 1944 the 1st Battalion was in the vanguard of the assault towards Villiers Bocage. There were stiff fights at St Germain d’Ectot and Launay. Villiers Bocage was taken on 4 August, following which 50th Division was taken out of the line.
- 11 August 1944 a brigade attack was launched towards Conde, and the 1st Battalion attacked St Pierre la Vielle. The fighting was particularly hard, and after the 11-hour battle the Rifle companies of the 1st Battalion were severely reduced – ‘B’ Company had 25 men, ‘C’ Company had 35 men, and ‘D’ Company were down to just 12 men. ‘A’ Company was only lightly engaged and, on 12 August, the 1st Battalion was withdrawn from the line.
- 25 August 1944 the 1st Battalion was motorised and joined with 11th Armoured Division for the breakout attack. There was no fighting, and on 31 August, the 1st Battalion crossed the river Seine at Vernon and swept on to Amiens. The 1st Battalion was then placed under command of the Guards Armoured Division and swept into Brussels on 3 September.
- 17 September 1944 the 1st Battalion, still under command of the Guards Armoured, started the attack towards Eindhoven, which was the attack designed to relieve the British and Polish airborne troops fighting at Arnhem, who had dropped as part of Operation Market Garden, which ended in a failure. The 1st Battalion, as part of 231st Infantry Brigade, was charged with defending the "Corridor" formed by the armoured advance. In October, the 1st Battalion moved up to Nijmegen and moved onto "The Island", the bridgehead over the river Waal but behind the river Lek.
- 4 October 1944 the 1st Battalion attacked north of Bemmel, and expanded the bridgehead up to the Wettering Canal. The 1st Battalion then went onto the defensive until the end of November.
- 29 October 1944 the 1st Battalion moved back to Ypres in Belgium, and subsequently was moved back to the United Kingdom as a training cadre, as was the rest of the 50th Division, and the men were mainly used as replacements for other infantry battalions. The battalion ended the war in Louth, Lincolnshire. Since D-Day the 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment had suffered casualties of over 1,281 including 231 officers and men killed in action, the rest being either wounded or missing in action.
The 2nd Battalion
The 2nd Battalion was also a Regular Army battalion that started the war in Aldershot, in Hampshire, England.
- 13 September 1939 the 2nd Battalion moved to Cherbourg in France with the 1st Guards Brigade attached to 1st Infantry Division. It then moved to Sille-le-Guillaume, and from there 250 miles north to take its allocated place on the "Gort Line", which it reached on 3 October.
- 10 October 1939 the 2nd Battalion moved to the Belgian/French border. On 4 February 1940 the 2nd Battalion spent three weeks on the Maginot Line before returning to Metz.
- 11 May 1940 the 2nd Battalion crossed into Belgium in response to the German invasion of Belgium, and by 14 May was digging into a defensive position. However, an attack never came, but the Dutch and the French Ninth Army were retreating, so on 16 May the 1st Division was ordered to retreat. A slow retreat then commenced, ending at Dunkirk.
- 1 June 1940 the 2nd Battalion began to be embarked from Dunkirk for the United Kingdom (some were evacuated on 2 June). The battalion managed to carry away 100% of their small-arms, mortars and anti-tank rifles. They were congratulated by the Minister for War, Mr Anthony Eden. The battalion then spent two years on home defence, training and preparing for a German invasion which never arrived.
- 11 November 1942 the 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment sailed for North Africa, taking part in Operation Torch with the 1st Guards Brigade, which was now part of the 78th Infantry Division. They disembarked at Algiers on 21 November and joined the British First Army.
- 29 November 1942 the 2nd Battalion moved to Tebourba. The following day the 2nd Battalion were attacked by heavy shelling, and on 1 December the Battalion was attacked by a force four times its size, that was able to outflank it and rake it with enfilading fire. This was the start of three days of fierce close combat, fought at close quarters and featuring bayonet charges and counter-charges. The battalion was forced back a mile and a half, and on 3 December Major Wallace Le Patourel was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in leading counter-attacks against the enemy. After three days the 2nd Battalion retreated through Tebourba, only to find all other troops had been withdrawn and the road behind them was cut. The battalion broke into small groups and attempted to break through to allied lines, reuniting at Medjez-el-Bab; many, including the Commanding Officer, were captured. The 2nd Battalion started the battle with 689 men; after the battle it was down to 194 men. The battalion was withdrawn from the line and in December, nine officers and 260 other ranks joined the 2nd Battalion. After the fall of Tunis on 13 May 1943 the 2nd Battalion joined the 128th (Hampshire) Brigade attached to 46th (West Riding) Infantry Division.
The 128th Infantry Brigade
The 128th Infantry Brigade – The Hampshire Brigade.
- The Hampshire Regiment had a number of Territorial Army battalions, whose ranks were swelled throughout 1939 when the Territorial Army was doubled in size. During 1939 the 5/7th Battalion was split into the 5th Battalion and the 7th Battalion, and the 4th Battalion was split into the 1/4th Battalion and the 2/4th Battalion.
- The 1/4th, 2/4th and 5th battalions were formed into the 128th Infantry Brigade (the "Hampshire Brigade"), part of 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division and the 7th Battalion joined the 130th Infantry Brigade, also part of 43rd Division.
- 6 January 1943 the 128th Infantry Brigade left Britain as part of 46th (West Riding and North Midland) Infantry Division, for North Africa, as part of Operation Torch. The 128th Brigade disembarked at Algiers on 17 January, moving to Bone where it remained until the end of January, when the brigade moved to Hunts Gap. The 5th Battalion was sent 12 miles further ahead to Sidi Nsir.
- 26 February, the 5th Battalion at Sidi N'sir was attacked in overwhelming strength as the Germans began Operation "Ox Head", a Corps level assault by German Paratroopers, elements of 10th Panzer Division and the 501st Heavy Tank battalion. The 5th Battalion was supported by 155th Battery, Royal Artillery. The Germans had to take the Hampshires' hilltop positions before they could attack the artillery, knocking out all the guns, whose crews stood and died firing over open sights at the German tanks. Only 9 gunners survived. At 5pm ‘B’ Company of the 5th Battalion, reduced to 30 men, was overrun. At dusk the battalion considered its position untenable, and it withdrew to a feature known as "Hampshire Farm". Of the four Rifle Companies, only ‘C’ Company, less a single platoon, and 30 men of ‘D’ Company, remained. The German force was delayed for one critical day.
- 27 February the Hampshire Brigade was attacked at Hunt's Gap by the German force that had been delayed at Sidi N'sir. 2/4th was the main Battalion engaged, with 1/4th Battalion in support. The 2/5th Leicesters was attached to the brigade as well. The situation was so precarious that the 2nd Hampshires, still training its new recruits, was put into the line alongside 1/4th Battalion. The brigade was supported by plenty of artillery and the Churchill tanks of the North Irish Horse. Extensive minefields and heavy dive bombing kept the German tanks at bay. On 28 February a pre-dawn attack penetrated the 2/4th battalion’s ‘B’ Company positions, but heroic resistance and the tanks of the North Irish Horse kept the Germans at bay until dusk, when ‘B’ Company was overrun. ‘C’ Company was overrun by German infantry. On 1 March the Germans attacked again, and ‘D’ Company was overrun, but 2/4th Battalion hung on to their remaining positions. On 2 March the Germans withdrew, and on 5 March the 2/4th Battalion was relieved by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The 2/4th Battalion had suffered 243 men killed or missing.
- During March the brigade was engaged on defensive patrolling, under heavy shelling. 1/4th Battalion lost 100 casualties during March, but 5th Battalion received 5 Officers and 150 men as replacements. On 5 April the brigade handed over their positions and moved 100 miles south to El Ala. The 128th Brigade subsequently captured the Fondouk Gap, allowing the 6th Armoured Division to pass through and debouche onto the Kairouan Plain.
- 22 April 1943 the 128th Infantry Brigade attacked Bou Arada. The 16th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry was added to the brigade for the attack. Five Field regiments and two Medium regiments of the Royal Artillery supported the 128th Brigade. Early progress was good, but when the mist cleared all four battalions were caught in the open under heavy fire, and losses mounted. The rifle companies of 1/4th Battalion only had 3 Officers and 80 men left between them and the 2/4th Battalion had to reorganise onto a three-company basis.
- 13 May 1943 Tunis fell and the North African Campaign was over. 128th Infantry Brigade was reconstituted to consist of 2nd Battalion, 1/4th Battalion and 5th Battalion. The 2/4th Battalion was split into two to form two Defence Units of two Beach Groups. Their role was to protect the maintenance area of a Beach Group when it made a landing where no port was available.
- 9 September 1943 the 128th Infantry Brigade was one of three British brigades that made an assault landing at Salerno in Italy as part of British X Corps under command of US Fifth Army, led by Mark Clark. The landing was opposed by shore batteries firing shrapnel, and the beaches were raked by machine gun fire. 2nd Battalion and 1/4th Battalion made steady progress, but 5th Battalion had been landed in the wrong place and suffered heavily. A German counter-attack overran ‘B’ Company and the Battalion HQ of 5th Battalion. The 5th Battalion lost 40 men killed and over 300 were wounded or taken prisoner. On 12 September the Germans started a general assault against the Salerno bridgehead, which made good progress, the US VI Corps were almost driven into the sea. However, the arrival of US paratroops and the British 7th Armoured Division turned the tide. 128th Brigade was in the hills above Salerno, and the fighting was hard, but on 20 September the Germans began to withdraw northwards, and the pressure eased. All three battalions had suffered – 2nd Battalion suffered 304 casualties, 1/4th Battalion suffered 159 casualties and the 5th Battalion suffered 29 officer and over 400 other rank casualties.
- 8 October 1943 the 128th Brigade, still part of the X Corps, moved up to the River Volturno, behind which the Germans had withdrawn. On 10 October the 1/4th Battalion captured the town of Castel Volturno, alongside the river, and on 12 October the 1/4th made a night assault across the river, establishing a small bridgehead. The 2nd and 5th battalions moved across the river in support, but the entire 128th Brigade was soon engaged in a stiff fire-fight. The brigade advanced some 2,500 yards, and then dug in behind a canal as the Germans bought up tanks. The brigade remained in the low-lying, swampy, mosquito-ridden land between the river and the canal until the Germans withdrew due to a breakthrough elsewhere. The Brigade then advanced along Route 7, meeting little resistance. The 128th Brigade was then taken out of the line for R&R.
- 27 November 1943 the Hampshire Brigade moved up to the River Garigliano. It was relieved on 11 January, and moved back to the River Volturno. They were selected as the Assault Brigade of the 46th Infantry Division, and trained in river crossings.
- 19 January 1944 the Hampshire Brigade made a night assault across the swift flowing River Garigliano. The brigade had severe problems getting the boats through the minefields down to the river, and in the darkness confusion reigned. Only a few men managed to get across, and these were withdrawn at daylight.
- 23 January 1944 the Hampshire Brigade assaulted Monte Damiano, a bare, razor-backed feature, already strewn with British dead from 56th (London) Infantry Division. The assault was made by the 1/4th and 2nd battalions in daylight, and immediately came under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire. The attack was made with great dash, but it failed, with heavy casualties.
- 1 February 1944 the 5th Battalion was put under the command of 138th Infantry Brigade, part of the 46th Division, to assault Mounts Ornito and Cerasola. The assault met little opposition, although the Germans put in spirited counter-attacks on Mount Ornito, which were all driven off. However, as the days passed the casualties mounted from heavy shelling; the bare rock made cover difficult. In eight days the 5th Battalion suffered 200 casualties. Supply was particularly difficult, as supplies had to be carried up by mules and porters for 3 to 4 hours from the nearest road. On 7 February, the 5th Battalion attacked Mount Cerasola, a successful assault. On 10 February, the 5th Battalion was relieved.
- 28 February the Hampshire Brigade was relieved. It moved south to Naples and on 16 March they sailed for Egypt, and subsequently moved to Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and back to Egypt. All battalions were brought up to strength, largely from gunners from disbanded Middle-East Anti-Aircraft units who were retrained as infantrymen. On 27 June the 128th Brigade sailed from Alexandria, and subsequently landed in Taranto. The move north through Italy was at an easy pace.
- 25 August 1944 the 128th Brigade started its assault on the "Gothic Line", a line of German defences across the Etruscan Apennines. The Hampshire brigade, with the North Irish Horse under command, led the 46th Division’s assault (along with the 46th Reconnaissance Regiment). The brigade’s first target was to cross the River Metauro and take Monte Bartolo. The assault went to plan against little opposition, and Mount Bartolo was captured by the morning of 29 August. The brigade had marched 25 miles to cover 12 miles as the crow flies, and climbed 1,500 feet. Only the 1/4th Battalion had come across serious opposition, engaging in heavy fighting around Montegaudio.
- 30 August 1944 the brigade assaulted the Gothic Line proper, crossing the River Foglia and assaulting Monte Gridolfo. This was heavily defended, with all cover cleared from its bare slopes. Nevertheless the men of the 2nd Battalion assaulted them with great vigour, and by dawn on 31 August they had captured the first crest. The 1/4th Battalion passed through, driving deeper into Gothic Line. During this assault, Lieutenant Gerard Norton was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 1 September, the 5th Battalion took the lead, and by 2 September had captured Meleto. The Gothic Line had been breached. A fighting advance continued northwards. On 5 September the 128th Brigade was relieved, and sent to the rear for rest, but they were back in the line by 11 September.
- 14 September 1944 the 128th Brigade began an assault on Montescudo. Montescudo was defended by the German 100th Mountain Regiment, and they put up a desperate resistance. Other elements of the Brigade assaulted Trarivi, which was captured by 16 September. On 18 September, the brigade was relieved. All three battalions were short of men, even after replacements were received from the 1st Battalion, Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment).
- 28 September 1944 the Hampshire Brigade crossed the River Fiumicino, and then the Rubicon. The weather was atrocious, and movement was slowed by deep mud, and supply was difficult. Fighting continued until 9 October. A steady advance was made, and by 12 November the River Montone was crossed; on 26 November the River Lamone was reached. This was crossed on 3 December in the face of stiff opposition, and by 6 December the Brigade had captured Casa Nova. The Brigade was relieved the following day, and moved well to the rear. From 24 August (when the 128th Brigade moved up to the Gothic Line) to 7 December when they were relieved, the 128th (Hampshire) Brigade had suffered 1,276 casualties.
- 13 January 1945 the 2nd Battalion and the 5th Battalion embarked from Taranto and disembarked in Piraeus, Greece, two days later. 1/4th Battalion arrived on 22 January. The 128th (Hampshire) Brigade (now known as "Tigerforce") split its battalions, and set about disarming the E.L.A.S Army. The troops were welcomed everywhere, and there was no fighting.
- 5 April 1945 the brigade began to return to Italy for the final offensive. By 1 May the brigade was back in the line around Forlimpopoli; but the war ended before the brigade was in action again.
The 2/4th Battalion
The 2/4th Battalion.
- 10 July 1943 the 20th Beach Group ("A" and "B" companies) invaded Sicily as part of Operation Husky. The role of the Beach Group was to land supplies until a harbour could be captured. On 12 July, 20 Beach Group moved inland, behind the advancing infantry, but by 22 July the half-battalion was in the line, capturing Mount Scalpello. On 4 August the half-battalion moved to Catania, where they remained on garrison duty.
- 9 September 1943 the 21st Beach Group ("C" and "D" companies) invaded Salerno. The assault went in at dawn against stiff opposition, and rather than take its allotted role the half-battalion was moved straight into the line. However there was little action until 13 September when the half-battalion was attacked by armoured half-tracks. This happened again on 15 September when ‘D’ Company was overrun. However, the half-tracks didn’t assault ‘D’ Company as such, they ran over the slit trenches until picked off by 6pdr anti-tank guns. On 17 September the half-battalion was moved back into reserve, and by 23 September they were back on the beaches unloading cargo.
- 18 November 1943 the two halves of the 2/4th Battalion were re-united at Portecagnano near Naples. However, there was no immediate employment, and orders were received to send cadres to the three battalions in the 128th (Hampshire) Brigade (this was rescinded after protests). However, six officers and 77 other ranks were posted away to form the "2/4th Hampshire Training Centre", three officers and 188 other ranks were assigned to ‘porterage duties’ and another detachment of 50 men was assigned to help the Provost Corps with traffic duties.
- 29 February 1944 the 2/4th Battalion was back in the line in Italy, near Garigliano, as part of 28th Infantry Brigade, in 4th Infantry Division. This was the same ground where the Hampshire Brigade had suffered through the Italian winter. The battalion was relieved for short periods on a regular basis before returning to the line.
- 11 May 1944 the 2/4th Battalion assisted the other two battalions of their brigade (2nd King's and 2nd Somersets) to cross the River Rapido as part of the assault on Monte Cassino. The river and bank were under intense enemy fire, and the river so swift that swimmers from 2/4th had to cross with lines to enable the boats to get across. Troops got across the river but could make little headway against the storm of machine gun fire. The 2/4th could not get across to join their fellow battalions, and so on 12 May they came under command of 12th Infantry Brigade and crossed via a bridge on 13 May. Supported by 17th/21st Lancers and their Sherman tanks, the 2/4th Battalion attacked along the river, taking 200 prisoners. On 14 May, back in 28th Brigade, the 2/4th attempted to cross the River Pioppeta. The bridge for tanks sunk in the mud, and the battalion took 100 casualties in two minutes. The 2/4th waded the river, but in spite of heavy casualties and fierce resistance, the advance continued. During this advance, Captain Richard Wakeford was awarded the Victoria Cross. By 6.30pm all objectives had been captured, and the 2/4th reorganised on a three-company basis. On 16 May the battalion was relieved. Two days later, Cassino was captured by the Polish II Corps.
- 22 June 1944 the 2/4th Battalion was back in the line near the village of Villastrada, between Lake Chiusi and Lake Trasimeno to north of Rome. On 24 June a major attack was launched on that section of the Trasimene Line by 2nd Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry supported by the tanks of 12th Canadian Armoured Regiment. 2/4th Hampshires were to follow on, but their entry into battle was delayed until the next day. Having passed through the village of Vaiano, which they found unoccupied, an attack was launched on a ridge being held by the German 1st Parachute Division. Although "C" Company established a foothold on the ridge, occupying a farmhouse, that night a fierce German counter-attack was made by the Germans, who overran the company headquarters. Fighting was close and confused, and the company ran low on ammunition. It was forced back to literally the last ditch, but hung on. At dawn the next day, 26 June, the battalion counter-attacked and managed to recapture their previous positions; the Germans were withdrawing to the Arezzo Line. The 2/4th Battalion followed up, coming into action again on 21 July. Supported by the North Irish Horse, a steady advance was made. The 2/4th Battalion was then taken out of the line again – some platoons were down to ten men each with no officer.
- 28 July 1944 the 2/4th Battalion attacked Santa Lucia, a small but fierce battle which was captured on 30 July. The enemy then withdrew, and the 2/4th moved up to the River Arno. On 10 August the battalion was withdrawn.
- 15 September 1944 the 2/4th began its assault on the Gothic Line, attacking across the River Marano and capturing Casa Bagli. All the first day objectives were achieved, and the 2/4th defended them on 16 September against German counter-attacks. On 17 September the battalion captured Cerasola, and were relieved the following day. The battalion then moved north behind the British Eighth Army’s advance, arriving in time to stand by to support the Hampshire Brigade’s assault on Forli during November. During 22 November the 2/4th attacked and captured a bridgehead over the River Cosina against heavy shelling, and this was the battalion’s last action in Italy.
- 11 December 1944 the 2/4th Battalion was flown to Greece in the bomb-bays of Wellington and Liberator bombers in response to the outbreak of the Greek Civil War, arriving 12 December. The E.L.A.S. Army, armed and trained by the British, was trying to overthrow the Greek Government. On arrival, the 2/4th Battalion was split up, primarily defending the airfield, then clearing E.L.A.S. forces from Athens. This did involve some fighting, and the 2/4th Battalion lost three men killed. The 2/4th Battalion then settled down to peace-keeping duties.
- 6 May 1945 the 2/4th was moved to Crete to take charge of the Germans, who had surrendered, and they ended the war there.
The 7th Battalion
The 7th Battalion.
- The 7th Battalion was a Territorial Army unit, originally the 5/7th Battalion until it was split into the 5th and 7th battalions when the Territorial Army was doubled in size in the spring and summer of 1939. The 7th Battalion remained in the United Kingdom training long and hard for many years until after the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944. It was sent to Normandy as reinforcements with the 130th Infantry Brigade attached to the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division.
- 22 June 1944 the 7th Battalion landed near Le Hamel. They were with 130th Brigade (with 4th and 5th Dorsets) and were initially held in reserve.
- 10 July 1944 the 7th Battalion attacked Maltot, supported by tanks of 9th Royal Tank Regiment (9th RTR). The village was defended by Waffen-SS troops supported by Tiger tanks. Both the 7th Battalion and 9th RTR suffered severe casualties, and although the 7th Battalion managed to fight its way into the village it was withdrawn. The 7th Battalion suffered 18 officer and 208 other rank casualties, including 4 officers and 12 other ranks killed, but was back in the line two days later.
- 30 July 1944 the 7th Battalion attacked the village of Cahagnes. This was fought in typical ‘bocage’ countryside, but after the initial attack by the brigade ran into difficulties, 7th Battalion deployed from reserves and captured Cahagnes, beating off several German counter-attacks. On 2 August, the battalion moved up to Jurques, and after a short stiff fight advanced to "Point 132", close to Mount Pincon. On 6 August, the battalion put in a deceptive attack on Mount Pincon, making a diversion whilst 129th Infantry Brigade made a flank attack. During heavy fighting, 'C' Company lost many casualties, including all the officers. Following the successful flank attack by 129th Brigade, the 7th Battalion mopped up and concentrated near Mauny by 10 August.
- 14 August 1944 the 7th Battalion captured St Denis de Mere after a bombardment by 9 artillery regiments. The 7th Battalion took 74 prisoners. The 7th Battalion then prepared for "The Breakout".
- 25 August 1944 the 7th Battalion moved 50 miles north-east to Conches, and by 27 August, the 7th Battalion was across the River Seine. The battalion then participated in the capture of Tilly, and thereafter spent 11 days taking in replacements and resting.
- 8 September 1944 the 7th Battalion started to move to Brussels for temporary garrison duty, arriving the next day. This easy duty was welcome; since landing in Normandy in June, the 7th Hampshires had lost (including wounded) 35 officers and 450 other ranks.
- 15 September 1944 the 7th Battalion fought in Operation Market Garden. On 20 September, the battalion moved through Eindhoven to Grave. The battalion was tasked with defending the southern end of the two large bridges over the Waal. On 23 September, the 7th was sent into the line, fighting west of the bridges in the Valburg-Elst area. They then moved to the "Island" and stayed there until 4 October, before moving to the Groesbeek-Mook area on the Dutch-German border.
- 9 November 1944 the 7th Battalion was moved to Maastricht, and then moved around as divisional reserve. On 19 December the German launched their Ardennes offensive which caused the 7th Battalion to move north of Liege to guard the bridges over the Meuse. On 26 December, the 7th Battalion moved to Aachen, and on 12 January moved again to Teveren.
- 22 January 1945 the 7th Battalion captured Putt, then Waldenrath, and on 25 January captured Dremmen and Porselen.
- 15 February 1945 the 7th Battalion advanced south-east from Cleves as part of the big Reichwald offensive. Over two days fighting for Berkhofel, the 7th lost 70 casualties. It was relieved on 17 February.
- 24 March 1945 the 7th Battalion crossed the Rhine in assault craft, consolidating on the far bank and then advancing across the IJssel Canal to Milligen, which was captured on 26 March. German resistance was collapsing, and the 7th moved over the Twente Canal on 1 April, liberating Hengelo.
- 9 April 1945 the 7th Battalion took part in operation "Forward On", sweeping through Germany against minimal resistance. However, on 13 April the Battalion had a hard fight for Cloppenburg, a fight which was as hard as any they had fought, vicious hand-to-hand fighting from street to street. Luckily they were supported by tanks, sappers of the Royal Engineers and a single Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers, which demolished several buildings with its petard. Cloppenburg was captured the next day.
- 19 April, the 7th Battalion embarked on its final advance, moving through Bahlum, Bremen, then Bremerhavan, capturing hundreds then thousands of prisoners. The 7th Battalion reached Gnarrenburg on 3 May, and were still there when the Germans surrendered the following day. From June 1944 until May 1945, the 7th Hampshire Regiment had suffered 250 other ranks killed in action, including 20 officers and over 900 wounded or missing in action.
The Home Based Battalions
Although the Hampshire Regiment sent 6 battalions overseas, many more stayed at home as training units or being converted to other roles.
- Before the war, the 6th Battalion (Duke of Connaught’s Own), Hampshire Regiment was converted into an anti-tank regiment and became part of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and, upon the Territorial Army being doubled in size in 1939, formed a 2nd Line duplicate. The 59th Anti-Tank Regiment served with the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division and went with them to Normandy; the 69th Anti-Tank Regiment fought with the British Expeditionary Force in the battles of Belgium and France in 1940, and then served in the Burma Campaign.
- The original 8th Battalion (Isle of Wight Rifles), Hampshire Regiment was transferred to the Royal Artillery and made into an artillery battery in 1937. However, a new 8th Battalion was formed, shortly after the war began, at Southampton in December 1939. It subsequently split into the 1/8th and 2/8th Battalions, before the 2/8th Battalion was renamed the 13th Battalion, and then both battalions were re-formed into the 8th Battalion again, which was subsequently renumbered the 30th Battalion and was disbanded in September 1942.
- The 9th Battalion was formed in the Isle of Wight in July 1940, and in 1942 was transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps and converted to armour as 157th Regiment of the Royal Armoured Corps and was assigned to 36th Army Tank Brigade. Units converted in this way continued to wear their infantry cap badge on the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps. However, the brigade was disbanded in July 1943 and 157 RAC was broken up in August, without having seen active service.
- The 10th Battalion was formed in Aldershot in July 1940, and in 1941 was also transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps to became 147th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps and was assigned to the 34th Army Tank Brigade. Its Churchill tanks were named after Hampshire Regiment battles (the CO’s tank was called "Minden"). The regiment went to serve with distinction with 34th Tank Brigade in the North West Europe Campaign at Normandy, Le Havre, the Reichswald Forest and Operation Plunder from 1944 to 1945 .
- The 50th (Holding) Battalion was formed in the Isle of Wight in June 1940, and absorbed the Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey. The Jersey Militia subsequently became the 11th Battalion, whilst the rest of the 50th Battalion became the 12th Battalion. The 11th Battalion stayed in the United Kingdom as a training battalion until the war ended, with the 209th Brigade and later the 135th Brigade, 45th (Holding) Division. The 12th Battalion also stayed in the United Kingdom, with the 136th Brigade, but was disbanded in September 1944, sending a large draft to the 7th Battalion serving in North-west Europe.
- The 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion was formed in Southampton in September 1940, but soon moved to Basingstoke. It was raised for those soldiers around the age of 18 or 19 who had volunteered for the Army but were not old enough to be conscripted, the age being 20 at the time. However, the battalion was disbanded in July 1943 as the British government lowered the age of conscription for the British Armed Forces from 20 to 18.
- The Hampshire Regiment had its Regimental Depot in Winchester since long before the Second World War. In September 1939 it moved to Parkhurst, Isle of Wight, where it stayed for the rest of the war. It contained the Regimental Infantry Training Centre, the Regimental Auxiliary Territorial Service, and at its peak was over 3,000 men strong. It also sponsored the Regimental Mascot, "Blang" the tiger, who lived in London Zoo.
Post war and amalgamation
The Regiment was awarded the following battle honours:
- From the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot: Minden, Tournay, Peninsula
- From the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot: Barrosa, Peninsula, India, Taku Forts, Pekin 1860, Charasiah, Kabul 1879, Afghanistan 1878-80
- Blenheim1, Ramillies1, Oudenarde1, Malplaquet1, Dettingen1, Belleisle2, Burma 1885-87, Paardeberg, South Africa 1900-02
- The Great War (36 battalions): Le Cateau, Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914 '18, Aisne 1914, Armentières 1914, Ypres 1915 '17 '18, St. Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde, Somme 1916 '18, Albert 1916, Guillemont, Ginchy, Flers-Courcelette, Thiepval, Le Transloy, Ancre Heights, Ancre 1916, Arras 1917 '18, Vimy 1917, Scarpe 1917 '18, Messines 1917, Pilckem, Langemarck 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Cambrai 1917 '18, St. Quentin, Bapaume 1918, Rosières, Lys, Estaires, Hazebrouck, Bailleul, Kemmel, Béthune, Tardenois, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Havrincourt, Canal du Nord, Courtrai, Selle, Valenciennes, Sambre, France and Flanders 1914-18, Italy 1917-18, Kosturino, Struma, Doiran 1917 '18, Macedonia 1915-18, Helles, Landing at Helles, Krithia, Suvla, Sari Bair, Landing at Suvla, Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli 1915-16, Egypt 1915-17, Gaza, El Mughar, Nebi Samwil, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Tell 'Asur, Megiddo, Sharon, Palestine 1917-18, Aden, Shaiba, Kut al Amara 1915 '17, Tigris 1916, Baghdad, Sharqat, Mesopotamia 1915-18, Persia 1918-19, Archangel 1919, Siberia 1918-19
- The Second World War: Dunkirk 1940, Normandy Landing, Tilly sur Seulles, Caen, Hill 112, Mont Pincon, Jurques, St. Pierre La Vielle, Nederrijn, Roer, Rhineland, Goch, Rhine, North-West Europe 1940 '44-45, Tebourba Gap, Sidi Nsir, Hunt's Gap, Montagne Farm, Fondouk, Pichon, El Kourzia, Ber Rabal, North Africa 1940-43, Landing in Sicily, Regalbuto, Sicily 1943, Landing at Porto S. Venere, Salerno, Salerno Hills, Battipaglia, Cava di Tirreni, Volturno Crossing, Garigliano Crossing, Damiano, Monte Ornito, Cerasola, Cassino II, Massa Vertecchi, Trasimene Line, Advance to Florence, Gothic Line, Monte Gridolfo, Montegaudio, Coriano, Montilgallo, Capture of Forli, Cosina Canal Crossing, Lamone Crossing, Pideura, Rimini Line, Montescudo, Frisoni, Italy 1943-45, Athens, Greece 1944-45, Malta 1941-42
1. For services of 37th Regiment of Foot.
2. For services of 67th Regiment of Foot.
Notes and references
- "The Roll of Honour". The Hampshire Society. 2007. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
- Swinson, Arthur (1972). A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army. London: The Archive Press. p. 222. ISBN 0-85591-000-3.
- Hamilton, Eric (1968). "Colours of the Regular Army Infantry of the Line 1st July 1881 to 1958". The Bulletin (London: Military Historical Society) (Special Issue No.1): 36.
- Farmer, John S (1901). The Regimental Records of the British Army : a historical résumé chronologically arranged of titles, campaigns, honours, uniforms, facings, badges, nicknames, etc. London: Grant Richards. pp. 148–149.
- "The War - return of troops" The Times (London). Wednesday, 14 May 1902. (36767), p. 13.
- Scott Daniell, David (2009). The Royal Hampshire Regiment 1918-1954. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84574-257-7.
- George Forty (1998), "British Army Handbook 1939–1945", Stoud: Sutton Publishing, pp. 50–1.
- Forty pp. 50–1.
- Forty p. 345.
- "Royal corps and regiments - war service honours". The Times. 10 December 1946.
- Army Order 167/1946
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Royal Hampshire Regiment.|
- An account by Jack Durey of his service with 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment in France, his capture, time at Stalag XX-B and his escape, and journey home via Odessa
- Contemporary account of Battle of Sidi Nsir and Hunt's Gap
- Regiment Museum (Serles House)