King's Shropshire Light Infantry

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The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (53rd and 85th)
The British Army in North-west Europe 1944-45 B11295.jpg
Men of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry queue for their rations at a rest camp in Holland, 26 October 1944.
Active 1881–1968
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Light infantry
Part of Light Infantry Brigade (1948 to 1968)
Garrison/HQ Copthorne Barracks, Shrewsbury
Motto Aucto Splendore Resurgo ("I rise again with increased splendour")
Colors burgundy, gold, dark blue and dark green
March Quick : 1st Bn : "Old Towler" - 2de Bn : "The daughter of the regiment"
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Lt-Gen Sir Charles Edmond Knox
Maj-Gen Raymond Northland Revell Reade

The King's Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) was a light infantry regiment of the British Army, formed in 1881, but with antecedents dating back to 1755. In 1968 the KSLI was merged with the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry, the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the Durham Light Infantry to form The Light Infantry. In February 2007 The Light Infantry itself amalgamated with the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment and the Royal Green Jackets to become part of the new large regiment, The Rifles.

Formation[edit]

The King's Light Infantry (Shropshire Regiment) was formed on July 1, 1881, as the county regiment of Herefordshire and Shropshire as part of the Childers Reforms. It was renamed as The King's (Shropshire Light Infantry) in March 1882.

The regiment was an amalgamation of the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment of Foot and the 85th (King's Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot, which became the regular 1st and 2nd Battalions. The 1881 reforms also redesignated the militia and rifle volunteers units within the regimental district as battalions of the regiment. Accordingly the Shropshire Militia and Royal Herefordshire Militia became the 3rd and 4th (Militia) Battalions respectively, and the 1st and 2nd Shropshire Rifle Volunteer Corps became the 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions. The 1st Herefordshire (Herefordshire and Radnorshire) Rifle Volunteer Corps was also affiliated as a volunteer battalion, without change of title.[1][2]

The KSLI served with distinction in Egypt in 1882, the Eastern Sudan, 1885–86 and the Second Boer War.

In 1908, as part of the Haldane Reforms, the two militia battalions were merged to form the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion and the 1st and 2nd VBs were merged to form the 4th Battalion Territorial Force. At the same time, the Herefordshire RVC became independent as the Herefordshire Regiment (TF).[1]

First World War[edit]

Officers of the 2nd King's Shropshire Light Infantry with skulls excavated during the construction of trenches and dugouts at the ancient Greek site of Amphipolis, 1916.

During the First World War, the KSLI fielded the following battalions:[1][3]

  • 1st Battalion: Regulars, served in 6th Division
  • 2nd Battalion: Regulars, served in 27th Division
  • 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion: served as a depot/training unit in home defence
  • 1/4th Battalion: First Line Territorials, served in India before returning to the Western Front in 1917
  • 2/4th Battalion: Second Line Territorials, formed October 1914, disbanded 1917
  • 3/4th (later 4th Reserve) Battalion: Territorials, served as a training unit in home defence
  • 5th (Service) Battalion: New Army (K1), formed August 1914, served in 14th (Light) Division
  • 6th (Service) Battalion: New Army (K2), formed September 1914, served in 20th (Light) Division
  • 7th (Service) Battalion: New Army (K3), formed September 1914, served in 3rd Division
  • 8th (Service) Battalion: New Army (K3), formed September 1914, served in 22nd Division
  • 9th (Reserve) Battalion: New Army (K4), formed October 1914, became 48th Training Reserve Battalion in home defence
  • 10th (Shropshire & Cheshire Yeomanry) Battalion: formed in Egypt 1917 from Shropshire Yeomanry and Cheshire Yeomanry

During the Irish War of Independence following the war in Europe, on 7 September 1919, the KSLI suffered the British Army's first casualties at the hands of the IRA when a detachment from a unit stationed at Fermoy were ambushed on a church parade by an IRA unit under command of Liam Lynch; one soldier was killed, four wounded and the rest disarmed by the motor-borne raiders. Following the failure of a local coroner's inquest to return a murder verdict on the dead man, 200 soldiers next day in unofficial reprisal attacked businesses belonging to members of the inquest jury.[4]

In 1921 the regiment was renamed as The King's Shropshire Light Infantry.[1]

Second World War[edit]

The KSLI provided the following battalions in the Second World War:[1][5]

Operations[edit]

It was a member of the KSLI who was recorded as the first British Army casualty of the Second World War, killed in France during the "Phoney War" - Corporal Thomas Priday was killed by friendly fire near Metz on 9 December 1939 when the 1st Battalion was based near the Maginot Line as part of the original British Expeditionary Force that was sent to France at the outbreak of war.[9] Remarkably, it was also members of the KSLI who were part of the operation to arrest Grand-Admiral Karl Dönitz, successor to Adolf Hitler, at the very end of the war.

Regular Army[edit]

The 1st Battalion would serve with the 3rd Infantry Brigade, part of 1st Infantry Division for the entire war. They fought in the Battle of Dunkirk, the Tunisia Campaign and the Italian Campaign including one of the most controversial battles of the whole war, the Battle of Anzio which saw some of the fiercest fighting of the campaign and endured fighting similar to that of the Great War.

The 2nd Battalion began the war in Jamaica, with a company detached to the Bermuda Garrison. The battalion eventually would join the 185th Infantry Brigade which included the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment. The brigade was originally assigned to the 79th Armoured Division but then was transferred to the 3rd British Infantry Division in April 1943, when the division was preparing to invade Sicily until it was replaced by the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. The battalion took part in the D-Day landings of Operation Overlord, where they suffered 114 casualties on D-Day alone, or 14% of their total strength, near Lebisey Wood and failed to capture the D-Day objective of Caen due to the presence of 21st Panzer Division. The 2nd Battalion fought in the Normandy Campaign, Operation Market Garden and the rest of the North West Europe Campaign with the British Second Army. In March 1945 Sergeant James Stokes, a Scotsman, of the 2nd Battalion was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.[10]

Territorial Army[edit]

The 4th Battalion was a 1st Line Territorial Army unit assigned to the 159th Infantry Brigade, part of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division. However, on 17 May 1942, the 4th KSLI, along with the brigade, were transferred to the become the motorised infantry element of the 11th Armoured Division. They spent many months training in preparation for Operation Overlord and the 4th KSLI, like the 2nd Battalion, also served with distinction in the North West Europe Campaign. In October 1944 Sergeant George Harold Eardley of the 4th Battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in knocking out multiple enemy machine guns. By the end of the war the 4th Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry had suffered 271 officers and men killed in action.

The 5th Battalion was a 2nd Line TA duplicate of the 4th Battalion formed in 1939 on the doubling of the Territorial Army as, by this time, another European conflict seemed inevitable. The battalion was assigned to the 114th Infantry Brigade of the 38th (Welsh) Infantry Division, a 2nd Line duplicate of the 53rd (Welsh) Division which the 4th Battalion was originally assigned. The battalion never saw active service and remained in the United Kingdom for the war and served as a training unit for both the KSLI and the North Staffordshire Regiment, eventually sending over 100 officers and 4,000 other ranks to the front-line as trained replacements.[11]

Hostilities-only[edit]

A hostilities-only unit, the 6th Battalion was raised in June 1940, assigned to the 204th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home), later part of Lincolnshire County Division. The 6th Battalion was converted into 181st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery in 1942. At the time there was a shortage of insignia, so the troops were ordered to cut off the 'KING'S' and 'L.I.' from the ends of their cloth shoulder titles, leaving 'SHROPSHIRE', which led to the regiment's nickname 'the Shropshire Gunners'. This regiment served with 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, wearing Scottish Tam o' Shanter caps and Royal Artillery badges, but still with a regimental badge of a gold light infantry bugle horn embroidered on a green background.[7][12] The Shropshire Gunners supported 15th (Scottish) throughout the North West Europe Campaign from Normandy to Germany, being the first field artillery regiment across both the Rhine and the Elbe.

The 7th and 8th Battalions were, like the 6th Battalion, raised in 1940. The 7th Battalion was converted to the 99th Anti-Tank Regiment in 1941 but was disbanded in 1943. The 8th (Home Defence) Battalion was raised specifically for home defence duties until it became a training unit until 1943 when it was disbanded.

Postwar[edit]

In 1948 the KSLI was reduced to one regular battalion and became part of the Light Infantry Brigade, and in 1968 the four regiments of the Brigade (the KSLI, Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and Durham Light Infantry) amalgamated to form The Light Infantry, with the 1st KSLI being redesignated as the 3rd Battalion of the new regiment.[1]

Battle honours[edit]

As well as inheriting the battle honours of the 53rd and 85th Foot the KSLI bore the following honours on their colours:[13]

  • Egypt 1882
  • Suakin 1885
  • Paardeberg
  • South Africa 1899-1902
  • Ten selected honours for the First World War:
    • Armentieres, 1914
    • Ypres 1915, '17
    • Frezenberg
    • Somme 1916, '18
    • Arras, 1917, '18
    • Cambrai, 1917, '18
    • Bligny
    • Epehy
    • Doiran, 1917, '18
    • Jerusalem
  • Ten selected honours for the Second World War:
    • Dunkirk, 1940
    • Normandy Landing
    • Antwerp
    • Venraij
    • Hochwald
    • Bremen
    • North-West Europe 1940, '44-'45
    • Tunis
    • Anzio
    • Italy, 1943-5
  • Korea, 1951-2

Colonels[edit]

The following served as Colonel of the regiment:[14]

Notable soldiers[edit]

  • Private Arthur "Nick" Carter served with the regiment from 1901 to 1951. He actively served in the Second Boer War (1899-1902) and World War One (1914-1918). When he retired, he was the oldest serving member of the British Army. He earned ten Good Conduct stripes and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal with two clasps for 48 years of good service, the only soldier in British Army history to do so.

Recipients of the Victoria Cross[edit]

Depot and museum[edit]

The KSLI were based at Copthorne Barracks in Shrewsbury: this is now the HQ of the 143 West Midlands Brigade, along with TA, cadet and support units. Its regimental museum has been located in Shrewsbury Castle since 1985 and combines the collections of the 53rd, the 85th, the KSLI to 1968, the local Militia, Rifle Volunteers and Territorials, as well as those of other county regiments - the Shropshire Yeomanry and the Shropshire Artillery.[15] The museum was attacked by the IRA in 1992 and extensive damage to the collection and to some of the Castle resulted. It re-opened in 1995.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f KSLI at Regiments.org, accessed 20 September 2014.
  2. ^ Westlake, pp. 209–12.
  3. ^ KSLI at Long, Long Trail, accessed 20 September 2014.
  4. ^ Bennett, Richard (1959). The Black and Tans. Four Square. p. 16. 
  5. ^ Joslen.
  6. ^ Neal.
  7. ^ a b 181 Fd Rgt at RA 39–45, accessed 20 September 2014.
  8. ^ 99 A/T Rgt at RA 39–45, accessed 20 September 2014.
  9. ^ Charman, Terry (2010). Outbreak: 1939: The World Goes to War. Random House. p. 284. ISBN 0753536684. 
  10. ^ The Black Bull: From Normandy to the Baltic with the 11th Armoured Division, Patrick Delaforce
  11. ^ http://www.shropshireregimentalmuseum.co.uk/regimental-history/shropshire-light-infantry/the-kings-shropshire-light-infantry-1939-1945/
  12. ^ Neal, pp 30–31.
  13. ^ Swinson.
  14. ^ Leslie.
  15. ^ Shropshire regimental Museum accessed 20 September 2014.

References[edit]

  • 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 1843424746.
  • N.B. Leslie, The Succession of Colonels of the British Army from 1660 to the Present Day, Society for Army Historical Research Special Publication No 11, 1974.
  • Don Neal, Guns and Bugles: The Story of the 6th Bn KSLI – 181st Field Regiment RA 1940–1946, Studley: Brewin, 2001, ISBN 1-85858-192-3.
  • Arthur Swinson, A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army, London, 1972.
  • Ray Westlake, Tracing the Rifle Volunteers, Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84884-211-3.

External links[edit]