Memorial to Royal Leicestershire Regiment at National Arboretum

Capbadge R Leics gold

A memorial to the Royal Leicestershire Regiment will be dedicated at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on Saturday 27 September 2014 – the 326th anniversary of the founding of the Regiment.

India service

The Regiment was conferred with the title ‘Royal’ by King George VI in 1946 in recognition of its services during World War II, where it was represented by a battalion in every theatre: an almost unique distinction.

The regiment takes its nickname – ‘The Tigers’ – from its badge, which incorporates a Royal Tiger and the inscription ‘Hindoostan’. King George IV awarded the badge to the regiment in 1825 in recognition of its service in India.

The Royal Leicestershire Regiment was awarded 73 battle honours ranging from the battle of Namur in 1695 to the campaign in Korea in 1952.

VC winners

Four members of the regiment won the Victoria Cross. Among them was lieutenant-colonel Philip Bent of 9th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, who won the medal near Ypres on 1 October 1917.

His VC citation read: ‘For most conspicuous bravery, when during a heavy hostile attack, the right of his own command and the battalion on his right were forced back. The situation was critical owing to the confusion caused by the attack and the intense artillery fire.

‘Lieutenant-colonel Bent personally collected a platoon that was in reserve, and together with men from other companies and various regimental details, he organised and led forward to the counter attack, after issuing orders to other officers as to the further defence of the line.

‘The counter attack was successful and the enemy were checked. The coolness and magnificent example shown to all ranks by Lieutenant Colonel Bent resulted in the securing of a portion of the line which was of essential importance for subsequent operations. This very gallant officer was killed whilst leading a charge which he inspired with the call of “Come on the Tigers”.’

The memorial will comprise a large Irish blue limestone plinth topped by a tiger.

To find out more about the Leicestershire Regiment, click here.

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War Memorial at Lyddington, Rutland

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The war memorial at the Rutland village of Lyddington includes seven names from the First World War.

Among them are private Walter Hinch of 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment whose name appears on the Basra Memorial in Iraq.

There are also two brothers, 23-year-old major Malcolm Neilson of the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry, who was killed near Arras in 1917 and 25-year-old captain Donald Neilson.

The Lyddington memorial states the latter was a member of 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists him as serving with 3rd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment when he was killed in Flanders in 1918.

Among the Second World War names is that of 29-year-old John Leigh Caradog Jones, who died in India in May 1945. He was the son of Lyddington’s vicar.

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Shot at dawn pamphlet published online

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A campaigning contemporary pamphlet, designed to draw attention to the British army’s relatively common and often arbitrary use of the death penalty, has been made available online.

Entitled Shootings at Dawn and written by Ernest Thurtle MP, it uses extracts from eye-witnesses to emphasise the way in which circumstances were often ignored and men condemned to death despite extenuating circumstances.

Triple execution

One example concerns the account of an unnamed soldier who was present when a sergeant and two corporals of the Durham Light Infantry were executed in 1917.

The man recounts that the Durham NCOs were ordered to retreat by their captain following a German counter-attack. The officer was then killed and the men were arrested the next day and shot shortly afterwards.

The three were 24-year-old lance sergeant Joseph Stones, 28-year-old lance-corporal John McDonald and lance-corporal Peter Goggins, all of 19th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.

Ordered to retreat

In his defence Stones said he was ordered to retreat by lieutenant James Mundy. His rifle was jammed so he used it to block the trench to slow the German advance.

Stones then came to a post manned by McDonald and Goggins and advised them to fall back because the enemy was close behind him. This they duly did, taking up positions in a reserve trench just 20 yards away.

Stones has seen action at the Somme and was known as a reliable, brave and capable soldier. Brigadier-general H O’Donnell doubted the evidence but upheld the death penalty to send a message to the remainder of the battalion and other regiments in the sector.

To read the pamphlet, click here.

 

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WW1 Tank Corps VC winner saved trapped crew

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In 1914 20-year-old Cecil Sewell was an articled clerk at his father’s law firm in Greenwich, London.

At the outbreak of war he joined the Royal West Kent Regiment. In 1916 he signed up with the newly established Tank Corps, where he became a commander of a troop of Whippet light tanks.

The Whippet was a comparatively agile machine. It had a crew of three: gunner, driver – and commander – whose duties included directing the tank and helping the gunner fire a total of four machine guns mounted in the turret.

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Crew trapped

On 29 August 1918 Sewell was in charge of a section of tanks advancing towards German positions near Fremicourt. One of his machines steered into a shell hole, turned over and caught fire. Realising the crew was trapped, Sewell dismounted from his tank, sprinted across open ground under machine gun fire and proceeded to dig through the mud that was blocking the escape hatch and to free his soldiers.

The London Gazette takes up the story: ‘Having done this he saw one of his own crew lying wounded behind his own tank. He crossed the open ground to his assistance. Although hit while doing so he reached the tank. Only a few minutes later he was hit, fatally this time, while dressing his wounded driver.’

The full citation is quote on the CWGC website, here.

Lieutenant Sewell was 23 and is buried at Vaulx Hill Cemetery. His brothers Harry and Herbert also died during the First World War. 

Sewell’s tank is now in the Tank Museum, Dorset, UK.

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The Royal Guernsey Light Infantry in WW1

The Royal Guernsey Light Infantry on parade at Montreuil-sur-mer, 1918

The Royal Guernsey Light Infantry on parade at Montreuil-sur-mer, 1918

The Royal Guernsey Light Infantry was one of the lesser known British units of the First World War.

It was established comparatively late in the conflict, in December 1916, with its recruits training initially on Guernsey and later in Kent.

Sailed for France

On 26 September 1917 the regiment’s 1st Battalion, comprising 44 officers and 964 other ranks, sailed for France. A few weeks later they were in action at the Battle of Passchendaele and, in November, they were involved in the Battle of Cambrai.

During that action the battalion was tasked with the defence of the village of Les Rues Vertes. Attacked by a large German force the unit lost 40 per cent of its strength in casualties.

Heavy casualties

For the next few months, the battalion was in quieter areas and many wounded men returned to the front line. Then, on 10 April 1918, the Guernseys were marched off to the Battle of the Lys. During a long-lasting retreat, the regiment suffered further heavy casualties.

Among them was Captain Harry Stranger MC, who died of wounds on 11 May 1918 and is now buried at Les Baraques Military Cemetery, Sangatte. A talented cricketer and footballer, who had played for Guernsey FC, he was awarded the Military Cross for his actions during the retreat.

His medal citation states: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He held an important bridgehead during a period of strenuous fighting at close quarters. He collected and organised men of several units, and held the bridge successfully against all the enemy’s efforts to break through. He set a splendid example of courage and determination.’

Rear echelons

For the remainder of the war, the remnants of the unit were withdrawn to rear areas and, among other tasks, took on guard duties at the General Headquarters at Montreuil-sur-mer. 

The Guernsey’s regimental motto was ‘Diex Aix’ – supposedly the rallying cry of the Norman cavalry at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Some 2,280 members of the regiment saw action on the Western Front, with 327 killed and 667 wounded.

A guard detachment of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry at Montreuil-sur-mer in 1918

A guard detachment of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry at Montreuil-sur-mer in 1918

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Recognition for Channel Islander killed during retreat from Mons

Captain Victor Briard, killed near Mons on 24 August 1914

A Jersey housing development is to be named after the first Channel Islander to be killed in the First World War.

Captain EFV (Victor) Briard was 25 when he was killed in action on 24 August 1914 during the retreat from Mons.

He was born in St Helier and educated at Felstead School and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He was captain of hockey while at Felstead and went on to represent the Army at the sport. He also played cricket for his regiment.

Royal Norfolk Regiment

He was serving with 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment. His unit, along with 1st Battalion the Cheshire Regiment, was left exposed as other battalions retreated and left them to be outflanked and overrun by the advancing German forces.

Around 250 Norfolks became casualties, along with more than 700 from the Cheshire Regiment.

Mons retreat

British troops take up defensive positions during the retreat

Family tragedy

Briard’s widowed mother, Maud, was initially told he had been taken prisoner and his death was not confirmed until 1916.

Private Henry Grigglestone wrote to Mrs Briard describing the moment her son was killed: ‘I was in the same section as Lieutenant Briard was in charge of on the 24th August 1914. He was directing operations and I stayed next to him. I saw him killed about two minutes before I was captured.

‘I cannot tell you any more, but all I can say is, “he died a hero”.’

Captain Briard is buried at Elouges Communal Cemetery in Belgium along with 24 other members of the Norfolk Regiment.

Briard’s younger brother, John, died aged just 19 on 15 October 1919 of complications related to wounds received in May at a skirmish on the Khyber Pass. At the time he was serving with 35th Sikhs and had been on his way to a posting on the Afghan border.

He was buried at Peshawar and is now commemorated on the Delhi Memorial.

 

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Rare colour photographs show realities of WW1

 

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A British tank waits in a street in Péronne

To mark the Centenary of the First World War, publisher Taschen has produced a fascinating volume dedicated to colour photographs from the conflict.

Entitled The First World War in Colour it brings together more than 320 images brought together from archives in Europe, the US and Australia.

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German soldiers pose in a concrete-lined trench

Subject matter is wide and varied, covering the mobilisation of 1914, through soldiers in moment of relaxation, to developing military technology and victory celebrations in 1919.

These rare colour images were taken by a small group of photographers pioneering recently developed autochrome technology.

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A French Caudron G-3 at an airfield in 1914

Since the autochrome process required a relatively long exposure time, almost all of the photos depict carefully composed scenes of rear areas, static machines and towns affected by war.

The First World War in Colour is published by Taschen, price $59.99. To find out more about the book, click here.

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A British ambulance and RAMC crew, 1914

Verdun, wrecked by bombardment

Verdun, wrecked by bombardment

French anti-aircraft gunners at Verdun, 1916

French anti-aircraft gunners at Verdun, 1916

 

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