The Manchester Regiment 1758 - 1958
The First Battalion
The first battalion of the Manchester Regiment was formed from the 63rd (West Suffolk ) Regiment by the general order 69 of July 1881.
For the battalion's service in the Boer War see this link for the potted history
The Great War
1914 The Western Front
On the 4th August 1914, The battalion was stationed at Dalhousie, Amritar and Jullundur. as part of the Jullundur Brigade. 3rd (Lahore) Division. The battalion was quickly collected together, and on the 29th August 1914 they sailed from Karachi for Europe, on the Edavana, with the rest of the Jullunder Brigade, arriving Marseilles 26th September. They then marched to Borely, where it was re-equipped for the european theatre.
They reached Ypres towards the end of October and arrived at Estaires on the 23rd then on to Picantin with the 47th Sikhs. On the 26th October, the battalion marched to Gorre and later that day went to relieve the Bedfordshires at Festubert. Here the two regular battalions of the regiment met for the first time since 1882 Here the battalion took it's first casualties On the 29th they marched to Picantin, taking over trenches near the Rue Tilleloy, where they stayed until 13th November, under constant shellfire. On the 16th November they moved to La Couture and later to LaQuinque Rue. On the 27th troops from No 3 Coy carried out a succesful raid on the german trenchs
After a period in and out of the trenches,on the 20th December, the battalion was ordered to march to Gorre again, the reason being:- "The germans had occupied the whole of the Sirhand Brigade Front, and the brigade had fallen back to the Festubert Road. The enemy had also occupied the northern part of the line held by the Ferozepore Brigade, while Givenchy village was itself also in the hands of the germans" The Manchesters began their attacked at 3pm and found the village held in unexpected strength and hand to hand fighting took place, taking the village house by house, which they held all night.. The germans counter attacked but were held back until the French on the left were forced back and a flank attack by the germans forced them to retire. But the battalion attacked again and rew-took the original trenches. The arrival of fresh german re-inforcements attcking from the front and left forced them to retire once more, but the Manchesters had held the line long enough for reinforcements to be brought up.
Lieutant General Watkis:- "...Yours was the battalion detailed to carry out the attack on Givenchy..It was a magnificent piece of work...In my reports to higher authorites, I could only use the term 'Gallant Manchesters' ...When you were called to go back in, by God men, you went back in....You are a very brave set of men."
In March orders were recieved for the attack on Neuve Chapelle, on the 10th March the battalion marched to the SE of Neuve Chapelle, on the next day they attacked but where unsuccesful. On the 12th they attacked the Bois de Biez and eventually reached the fornt line trenches but suffered bad casualties. The attack failed mainly due to other units being unable to reach their objectives.
In April the battalion was ordered up to the Ypres area again where the situation had become critical due to the german gas attack. There the battalion attacked over a distance of 1600 yards and suffered bad casualties from machine gun and shell fire. Here Corporal Issy Smith won a Victoria Cross, exposing himself to heavy fire to rescue wounded men. The battalion was specially mentioned by General Smith-Dorien for their 'great service' in the battle of second Ypres.
In September the battalion was to take part in the battle of Loos, Two lines of german trenches were to be taken and the Manchesters but found them too heavily held, and were replused with 56 casualties.
In November, due to the heavy casualties substained by the Indian Corps, it was decided to withdraw it from the western front, and the divisions entrained to the south of France. On the 10th December the battalion reached Marseilles and embarked upon the Huntsend, reaching Basra on the 8th January 1916
January 8th batt arrived in Basra, re-equipped and proceeded to Shaik Sa'ad, now attached to the 7th brigade with the intention of releiving the seige of Kut. On the 19th the brigade advanced west along the Tigris fighting small actions as the went along. On the 20th the main attack on the Hannah position started but the Manchesters played little part in it, being employed on piquet and reserve.
February 5th batt in trenches on the south bank of Tigris with little other than patrol duties, draft received 131 men
In March the bttn was in trenches at at Abu Roman mostly, draft of 202 men recieved on 4th. on the 7th the battn was part of the attack on the Dujalah redoubt, advancing across a front of 400 yards, they came under heavy fire from the Sinn Aftar redoubt and cross frire from supporting trenches, they gained a footing in the redoubt and took two trenches, however with bombs running out and under heavy counterattack from the left flank, they were forced to retire with many casualties ( 172 killed or missing, 288 wounded)
April 5th saw another attack, this time a success, with the battn taking the Abu Roman mounts and beating off an turkish counter attack. A further advance was made on the 17th and when strogly counter attacked the manchesters and the 47th sikhs blocked and held the north end of trench X holding the position for the allies causing a great many casualties amoungst the turkish attackers.
At this point the defenders of Kut were virtually at the end of their resourses and at the end of April the town surrendered.
From the fall of Kut to the end of August operations were of a minor and defensive nature. In May, after an enemy withdrawal the Dujailah redoubt was occupied. June and July saw some badly needed drafts being received.
On the 29th September the division moved to Simm Aftar, near the Nasafieh Canal.
October saw the battalion engaged in road building, and November saw a draft of 212 new men recieved
January 1917, on the 9th an attack by the divison across the river near Kut, the battan got in to the turkish trenches and consolidated their position, the turks counter attacked ( like a football crowd) and a furious fight ensued. the trenches were held but with severe casualties (87 killed and 141 wounded) The fighting went on every day, the toen of Hai was captured and one by one the advance posts were taken and one February 15th the corps successfully attacked the Dahra Bend defenses. The enemy positions at the Sannaiyat lines were left but on 17th (after 3 unsuccesful attacks) these were again the target. The battn was placed in a defensive position on the right flank. After this succesful attampt the 1st was mainly engaged in salvage duties collecting the enornmus amount of shells and ammunition abandoned by the retreating turks.
On the 5th March the brigade marched to Aziziya, arriving on the 7th, by the 14th the battalion had reache the east wall of Baghdad. By the 18th the were across the Diala. On the 23rd the turks were pushed back to the Jebel Hamrin, a natural strong point. The stong positions were attacked by the Britiah brigades with the Manchesters held in reserve until the attack was given up and they were used to cover the retirement. "The Manchesters specially distingished themselves by their gallantry and steadiness on this occassion" Gen Maude. The previous positions were held and by the end of the month, patrols discovered the turks had withdrawn.
The brigade was not actively engaged for the rest of the summer, being generally held in reserve, the offer of leave to India was taken up by Officers and men alike. Drafts were received and training for the battalion filled their time.
The battalions 1917-8 history in the Middle East is work in progress
31.10.18. 8th Indian Bde. 3rd Indian Div. Palestine; Jaljulye, N.E. of Jaffa.
The Second World War and the time in between are 'work in progress'
After the fall of Singapore and the loss of the 1st Battalion there, the 6th Battalion was reconstituted as the first Battalion. See the 6th Battalion for their history prior to 1942