Author Topic: A Short History of the 1st Battalion The Manchester Regiment  (Read 19164 times)

Offline themonsstar

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,471
                                                                                A SHORT HISTORY
                                                                          THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT
                                                                              (REGULAR BATTALIONS)


The 1st Battalion, known for the first 120 years of its life as the 63rd Regiment, came into existence at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, when hostilities had begun between the French and ourselves, and when it was seriously believed that an invasion of England was imminent.   

The establishment of the British Army had sunk very low and hurried efforts were made both to raise new regiments and to add 2nd battalions to such corps as then already existed; and under an order of the 20th September, 1756, Fifteen selected regiments were directed to raise each a 2nd battalion; one of the fifteen was the 8th Wolfe�s Foot. In April, 1758, however, these 2nd battalions were formed into distinct and separate Regiments and were re-numbered, when the 2nd Battalion 8th Wolfe�s Foot became the 63rd Regiment, its first Colonel being one David Watson.

By this time our soldiers were fighting with the French in many parts of the world�in America, in India, and in Germany, at least two descents had been made upon the coast of France, and an attempt was launched against the French possessions in West Africa. In the early days of its separate existence the 63rd seems to have supplied many drafts for Regiments serving out of England. In the autumn of 1758 the 63rd received orders to form part of an Expeditionary Force then preparing to capture the French West Indian Islands, and sailed in the early part of the year following. The 63rd assisted in the capture of Guadaloupe, there gaining its first Battle Honour�not granted, however, until the year 1909, almost exactly one hundred and fifty years
later! The Regiment remained in Garrison at Guadaloupe and certain other of the West Indian Islands taken from France, until the summer of 1764 when it came home again, having lost far more men and officers from the ravages of the climate than in warring with mortal enemies.

During the next ten years the 63rd was quartered in Ireland, and it was at this time that the Colour of facings of the uniform, which on first raising had been Black, was now changed to "very deep green.� 

 When in the spring of 1775 War broke out with our Colonies in North America, the General Commanding had no more than four Regiments at his disposal, and he at once advised the Home Government that at least 20,000 men would be needed for restoring order.   The first reinforcements � seven battalions sailed in May, and with them went the 63rd Regiment.   The first action in which the 63rd took part was that known as Bunker�s Hill, but the only portions of the Regiment actually engaged in that very desperate and bloody action were the Grenadier and Light Companies, which, in accordance with the usual practice of those days, were included in Grenadier and Light Battalions. 

The 63rd took part in several of the other actions of the Campaign in the Northern Colonies, but in the spring of 1780 it was sent South with the troops that proceeded to Charleston, and, first under Clinton and later under Cornwallis, operated for many months in that very difficult Country, occasionally being employed as Mounted Infantry, under the celebrated partisan leader, Tarleton.  It was present at many minor but hardly-contested  fights, such as Fishdam, Ninety six, Eutaw Springs and Hob-kirk's Hill, and formed part of the Garrison of Charleston when the long drawn-out War came to an end and Charleston was evacuated by its British Garrison.

The 63rd did not at once return to England;  it was sent to, and remained in, Garrison at Jamaica until January, 1784 and while here was in February, 1783 accorded a Territorial Title, being styled "The West Suffolk Regiment."   

On return to England it was sent for a very short period to Bury St. Edmunds, in Suffolk, then to Scotland, and later still to Ireland. It was serving in that country when, in 1794, it was ordered to join a body of troops which was to proceed, under Lord Moira, to Ostend and there reinforce the Army, under the Duke of York, composed of British, Austrian, Hanoverian and Dutch troops, which, since early in the year, had been engaged with the Armies of Revolutionary France. 

The campaign was short and indecisive, but the 63rd gained what honour there was to be acquired, and in common with the remainder of the troops employed, suffered much from the severity of the weather, and the veiled hostility of the inhabitants of the Country, while the force was so supplied that the Duke of York placed on record considered opinion that it was

 "certainly in a worse state with respect to clothing and necessaries of every sort than ever a British Army was found to be before.�

The Regiment was back again in England by the beginning of May, 1795, and even in June had more than 300 men on the sick list due to the hardships of the late campaign, but already at the end of October, the 63rd had embarked for another Theatre of War.The West Indian Islands captured from France during the last War had been restored to that country at the Peace, but Martinique, Guadaloupe and St. Lucia had been retaken by us when War once more broke out.   

French reinforcements arriving in these waters, our troops had been driven again from Guadaloupe, but our losses by disease had been so heavy that at the end of 1794 there were no more than 2,000 British soldiers to hold eleven different islands. The Government now decided to send out a really large and well-found Expeditionary Force, and some 16,000 men in 24 different  Regiments left England, under Sir Ralph Abercromby.
The start was unfortunate; the weather was unusually stormy, seven of the Transports, among them one having on board 150 men of the 63rd, were lost, some were captured by the French, many were obliged, at least twice, to put back to port, and the expedition did not reach the islands for more than six months after it had originally sailed from England.
The 63rd was employed in the capture of Grenada, and of St. Lucia, and in repulsing an attack by the Spaniards upon Honduras, and when the War in these islands came to a close, the Regiment remained in Jamaica until in 1799 it came back to England once more.

England at this time was at War nearly all the World over and her Army was so small that a regiment had no sooner been released from service in one Theatre of War, than it was almost at once despatched to another; and by the autumn of this year the 63rd was again embarking for another spell of Active Service forming part of an Army of 30,000 men which, assisted by a Russian contingent, 18,000 strong was to endeavour to drive the French from Holland of which country they had for some time past been in possession.

It was decided first to capture Texel Island and  then the Helder, in the extreme north of Holland, and these objectives were obtained without much difficulty; but later there was very heavy fighting, while the British Regiments were weak in numbers and had been largely made up with drafts from the Militia immediately prior to embarkation.  The most important action in this Campaign in which the 63rd was engaged was that at "Esmont-op-Zee," a name which today forms the Second "of the Battle Honours to be found on the Colours of The Manchester Regiment,"   The result of the campaign was not so generally successful as had been hoped, the British troops had been five times engaged with the enemy,and  had lost from 9,000�10,000 men, the Russian allies had lost heart, and, negotiations for an armistice having been opened, an agreement was come to under which we evacuated the country, leaving the French in possession, and at the beginning of the winter of 1799 the force had  landed again in England.

During the years 1800-1803 the 63rd led a very wandering existence; for much of the time it was afloat, forming part of a force which was  intended to make various diversions against France in the Mediterranean; it saw no fighting though it was put ashore at various places and helped to Garrison Turin, Minorca, Gibraltar and Malta, but in August, 1803, the Regiment's wanderings came temporarily to an end, and it was then quartered in Ireland until November, 1807, when it went to the West Indies.

( In August, 1804, a 2nd Battalion of the 63rd Regiment was raised, mainly in the county of Suffolk. This battalion continued in existence only until October, 1814, when it was disbanded, but during its short life it saw something of active service, taking part in the ill fated and badly managed Walcheren Expedition of 1808.)

In the West Indies the 63rd remained for twelve years serving during that time in Expeditions against the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe, repeatedly sending detachments, and on one occasion a complete company, to serve as Marines on the ships of the Royal Navy engaged in those seas with the War vessels of France and suffering very heavily from the then deadly climate of those islands.

When in 1819 the 63rd Regiment returned at last to England the casualty returns, which, in those days were most irregularly kept, show that it had lost by disease, chiefly yellow fever, 20 officers and 1,108 non commissioned officers and men.

The Regimetal Colours was increased by this service by two more names, those of "Martinique" and "Guadaloupe" to which in later years the appropriate dates were added.

The next eight-and-thirty years of the life of the 63rd were comparatively uneventful five years were spent in Ireland, during two more the Regiment was stationed in Portugal, the years 1830-1833 were passed in Australia, for rather more than thirteen years the Regiment was stationed in India and Lower Burma, and then on return to England occupied quarters in the north and in Ireland.

 In March, 1854, the 63rd was under orders to proceed to the Cape of Good Hope when serious trouble arose between the British and Russian Governments, and it was at first expected that the Regiment would at once proceed to Turkey with the Expeditionary Force ordered there; these hopes were disappointed and the 63rd was ordered to furnish drafts for other Corps, so that when the Crimean War had actually commenced and the 63rd  was finally ordered to Russia with the 1st Brigade, 4th Division, it had already parted with many of its best men.

The 63rd landed in the Crimea just too late to take part the Battle of the Alma, but it was one of the few Infantry Battalions engaged in the purely Cavalry action of Balaclava,and was fighting all through the terrible Sunday to Inkerman, took part in the two Expeditions to Kertch and to Kinburn, and in all the siege operations that led to the fall of the fortress of Sebastopol, the total casualties incurred among all ranks numbering 947, while only 8 officers and 45 other ranks served uninterruptedly throughout the Campaign.

In common with the majority of the Regiments that served in this War the 63rd added three more 'Battle Honours' to those already on its Colours. 

« Last Edit: January 31, 2017, 11:20:06 AM by charlie »

Offline themonsstar

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,471
Re: A Short History of the 1st Battalion The Manchester Regiment
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2012, 03:24:36 PM »
Leaving the Crimea at the end of the War the 63rd proceeded to Canada, remaining there until 1865, and on return home was stationed in England, Scotland and Ireland until it embarked for a second tour of Indian service in September, 1870.

Colours were presented to the Regiment at Hazaribagh, India, in 1872, It was quartered for the most of the time in the North, and in 1880 joined the Southern Afghanistan Field Force at the close of the second phase of the Afghan War; for its services it was awarded the Honour "Afghanistan, 1879-80."

In 1881 a great change in Army organization was announced, all numerical titles being abolished, and the 63rd becoming the 1st Battalion of Manchester Regiment of which the 96th Regiment now became the 2nd Battalion, the facings of the combined Regiment to be white. Early in 1882 the Battalion was under orders to return home in the coming trooping season, but hostilities having broken out in Egypt, it was ordered to proceed there in the early autumn with a contingent sent from India. But in this very Short  Campaign the Battalion was not so fortunate as to be actively employed, being engaged most of the time in Garrison duty at Ismailia, but were awarded the battle Honour �Egypt, 1882.� The Egyptian War over, the 1st Battalion voyaged on to England and for fifteen years  made the  usual round of Garrisons  until 1899,  when  it  found itself at Gibraltar just as War seemed imminent with the Dutch Republics in South Africa.

The British Government was unwilling to send reinforcements to the some what weak Garrisons in Cape Colony and Natal so long as there seemed any hope whatever that war might be avoided; and only two Battalions proceeded from their peace stations to South Africa while the negotiations with the Boer leaders were in progress and before any mobilization order had been issued. One of these was the 1st Battalion The Manchester Regiment which left Gibraltar towards the end of August, landing at Durban in the middle of September 1899.

From Durban the Battalion proceeded direct to Ladysmith,then already threatened by the Boer forces invading Natal, and it formed part of the heroic Garrison of the little town which during many long months defied the onset of the Boer Army.

The key of the defences was Caesar's Camp which was occupied by The Manchester from the beginning to the end of the siege, which may be said to date from the action of Elandslaagte in which the Battalion played a leading part. (In commemoration of the repulse of the enemy on the position held by the Battalion, the 6th of January was observed as a holiday by both Battalions.)

During the rest of the War the Regiment was not engaged in any decisive actions, but it marched and fought in the Transvaal at Graskop, Bergendal, in the Lydenburg district, and indeed all over the three Colony, protecting convoys, holding important centres, and clearing the different parts of the country were the enemy chiefly drew his supplies.

Later on in the war it took part in the big "drives" which, carried out in combination with the blockhouse lines that had been widely established, gradually waring  down the enemy and which brought his resistance to an end after the three years of War.

The casualties sustained in the South African War amounted to 741 of all ranks.Two privates of the Battalion, Pte Scott and Pitts, were awarded the coveted decoration of the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the repulse of the Boer attack on Casar's Camp on the 6th  January, 1900.

The Battalion remained in South Africa until early in 1903, when it sailed from Durban for Singapore being transferred to India at the end of the following year.

It was stationed first at Secunderabad, then Kamptee, and later at Jullundur, and was serving there when, in August, 1914, the Great War broke out.

The army in India practically always stands on a War footing, and preparations were at once made to send an Indian Army Corps to France.The 1st Battalion The Manchester Regiment was ordered to mobilize on the 8th August, on the 17th it left Jullundur, and on the 29th it sailed from Karachi, forming part of the Jullundur Brigade of the Lahore Division of the Indian Army Corps.

Marseilles was reached in the last week of September, and moving at once towards the front, the Battalion was under fire within a fortnight. Near Festubert the Two Battalions of the Regiment met for the first time since 1882.

The 1st Battalion served in France for some sixteen months only, but was engaged in some very heavy fighting at Givenchy on 20th December, 1914, when by its gallant behaviour it saved a very serious situation, at Neuve Chapelle, and at the second battle of Ypres. By the end of the year 1915, the casualties in the Indian Corps had become so heavy, and the difficulty of reinforcement and replacement were so insuperable, that it was decided to move its component parts to another Theatre of War, and by the end of the first week in January, 1916, the Indian Corps had reached Basra at the head of �the Gulf,� destined to take part in the Campaign in Mesopotamia and especially in the Operations about to be undertaken for the relief of the British force besieged in Kut.

In the course of these operations, which may have to some extent delayed, but could not wholly prevent the fall of Kut, and in those which followed for the expulsion of the Turkish from Mesopotamia, the Battalion was frequently engaged in the attack on the Turkish position at Hannah, in the assault upon the Dujailah Redoubt, where the 1st Battalion The Manchester regiment lost many good officers and men, and gained great honour; at Abu Roman, the attack on the lines of Beit Aeissa, and on the works at the Khaidari Bend, when the Battalion again suffered many casualties; the operations against the enemy position at Jebel Hamrin, and those conducted in the neighbourhood of Tekrit, which proved to be the last in which the Manchesters were to take part in this particular Theatre of War.

The casualties had been heavy, and in this Campaign, as in some of those with which in its early years as a Regiment the old 63rd had been engaged, the officers and men had to contend with the terrible heat of a summer in the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, and with all the diseases which a tropical sun brings in its train. In the spring of 1918 the very great pressure exerted by the Germans on the Western Front necessitated the transfer to France and Flanders of several of the British Divisions then operating under General Allenby in Palestine, and the places of these were ordered to be filled by Indian Divisions withdrawn from Mesopotamia.

The 3rd Lahore Division was sent to Palestine in the place of the 74th Division ordered to France landing at Suez at the end of April, 1918, was moved up to  Ludd, and now formed part of the XXI (21st) Corps, remaining on this part of the front line until the middle of September.

By this time General Allenbv had effected the reorganization of the forces under his command, and the final operations which were to bring about the downfall of the Turks now commenced. The XXI  Corps was ordered to break through the enemy defences in the coastal plain, and the 1st Battalion Manchester Regiment was engaged in heavy fighting and greatly distinguished itself in the operations about Jiljulieh Village, at El Funduk and in the neighbourhood of Samaria, driving the Turkish from their entrenchments and opening the way for Allenby's cavalry bodies to get through and consummate the victory.The Turkish now hurriedly opened negotiations, an armistice was arranged and came into force on the 31st October followed on the 11th November by the conclusion of an armistice with Germany.

The honours granted to the Regiment for the part played by the 1st Battalion were Givenchy, 1914, Ypres, 1915, Megiddo and Baghdad.

Under an Army Order issued on July 5th, 1924, these honours are borne on the King's Colour. The early part of 1919 was spent in Palestine, but the strength of the Battalion rapidly diminished owing to demobilization till finally a cadre of one officer and seven other ranks proceeded home with documents, etc.

The 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion had been moved to Blackdown, near Aldershot, earlier in the year and the reconstitution of the 1st Battalion was arranged by the Officer Commanding the 3rd Battalion handing over command to Lieut.-Colonel E. Vaughan, C.M.G., D.S.O., in July, 1919, and by a stroke of the pen the 1st Battalion was re-formed.

The 1st Battalion consequently consisted of a considerable number of all ranks who were due for demonization, but at the same time, Officers, Warrant officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and men who were continuing their service were joining.

« Last Edit: January 31, 2017, 11:19:50 AM by charlie »

Offline themonsstar

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,471
Re: A Short History of the 1st Battalion The Manchester Regiment
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2012, 03:25:21 PM »
 In October, 1919, the Battalion moved to Aldershot, when the 1st and 2nd Battalions were able to meet. October, 1919, to March, 1920, was chiefly spent in shaking down and re-forming the Battalion generally.

In March, 1920, the Battalion proceeded to Ireland at notice on account of the increasing disturbance and was stationed at Kilworth Camp, Co. Cork a Musketry Camp near Fermoy.

The Battalion performed various duties in connection with the rebellion here, but as yet the rebels had not turned their attention to soldiers and few serious active operations were undertaken.

In July, 1920, a move was made to Ballmcollig, Co Cork an Old Cavalry Barracks, which had been formed into an Ordnance Store for the whole of the South of Ireland.

The duty of guarding the stores was assigned to the Battalion, and, in addition, a detachment of two companies was formed at Macroom, which again found outposts at Ballyvourney, Inchigeela and Millstreet.

The Rebels' action against the troops by now was increasing and took the form of ambushes for soldiers in lorries, chiefly with the idea of obtaining arms, etc.

 Greater precautions had, therefore, to be taken, when stores, etc., were being sent. Two ambushes were laid by rebels for our men in the out-stations, and, unfortunately, in both of these encounters we lost an officer, Captain Airy being killed in July and Lieutenant Sharman, R.A., attached to the Battalion, in September.

The conditions of affairs in the South of Ireland, became steadily worse from September and culminated in November by the rebels murdering and attempting to murder any Officer who was not in a position to retaliate. 

Unfortunately several Officers were  killed in Dublin and elsewhere, including Captain Thompson of the Battalion, this officer, who was riding a motor-bicycle within a mile of the Barracks, was captured and murdered.

From November onwards every precaution had to be taken to prevent isolated Officers and Soldiers being murdered, and as a result all ranks when off duty were practically confined at all times to Barracks, and all outlying stations were called in to headquarters.

At the same time, although men off duty were not allowed out, active operations in large and small parties were continuously carried out in endeavours to find arms, ammunition and wanted persons.

These operations continued until July, 1921, when the British Government made a truce with the Sinn Fein leaders and active operations ceased.

 During this period there were two outstanding operations. In January, 1921, information was obtained through the medium of a loyal resident, Mrs. Lindsay, that an ambush had been prepared near the village of Dripsey, a party of the 1st Battalion immediately turned out from Ballincollig and engaged the rebels, killing seven, capturing others, and finally returned to barracks after an entire success, with several captured rifles, shot guns, revolvers and ammunition.

The result of this success was a complete cessation of any attempt at ambushes in the immediate neighbourhood of Ballincollig, and a considerable lowering of the morale of the local rebels.

An unfortunate result of the success, however, was that the rebels soon afterwards kidnapped Mrs.Lindsay and the driver of her motor car, and murdered both in revolting circumstances.

Mrs. Lindsay's heroic action in warning the Battalion of the ambush requires special note. A lady living alone in a rebel district, knowing the danger of giving information to the troops, did not hesitate to do her duty. It was a great example of courage and devotion to the Empire.

The other operation was an affair at Mourne Abbey, on the main road between Cork and Mallow. A party of about 20, with the Quartermaster, was proceeding to Mallow on administrative duties in motor vehicles, an ambush was discovered and immediate action taken, again with success.

The rebels were engaged, and immediately ran away and were pursued. One or two were killed and six captured; these latter being finally tried by Court-Martial and sentenced to severe penalties.

 In July, 1921, as has been mentioned, the truce was arranged, and active operations ceased. Towards December arrangements were commenced  for the complete evacuation of the South of Ireland by troops, and in February, 1922, the Battalion moved to Guernsey and Alderney, half the Battalion being stationed in each place. During its stay in Ireland the Battalion maintained its high reputation for fighting and complimentary farewell speeches were made by the Divisional and Brigade Commanders.

In June, 1922, the Battalion was again hurried to Ireland, and this time proceeded to Enniskillen. It remained here for a couple of months, then went to Magilligan, near Londonderry, and to Dublin in September.

In December, 1922, Southern Ireland was finally evacuated by British Troops and the Battalion returned to Guernsey. Nothing of any great moment happened whilst in Ireland on this occasion.

In 1923, sanction was obtained for the Badge formerly used by the 63rd Foot, the Fleur-de-Lys, to be taken into use by all Battalions of the Manchester Regiment in place of the Badge of the Arms of the City of Manchester which had been adopted in 1881 on the amalgamation of the 63rd and 96th Foot.
In October, 1924, the Battalion left Guernsey for service with the Army of Occupation on the Rhine, Germany, and arrived at Cologne, their
new station, on October 25th.

In 1925 the Battalion Rifle Team achieved great success at Bisley, winning the Roupell  Cup, Roberts Cup, Britannia Trophy and Worcester Cup. Captain E.B. Champion became Army Champion.

In November, 1925, the Battalion moved to Konigstein  near Wiesbaden, where it relieved the French.  It remained here until November, 1927, when it returned to England and was stationed at Shorncliffe. 

At the latter end of the year 1929, H.M. King George V most graciously consented to become Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment, and was gazetted as such on 21st December, 1929, the fifteenth anniversary of the Battle of Givenchy.

In honour of the above event a detachment of the Battalion, consisting of Officers, Warrant and Non-Commissioned Officers, with representatives of the 2nd Battalion and Territorial units of the Regiment, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel B. C. Freyberg, V.C., C.M.G., D.S.O., LL.D., commanding 1st Battalion, were received by His Majesty the King at Buckingham Palace on 16th May, 1930.

After four years in Shornclifle the Battalion moved to Gosport, arriving there on 20th October, 1931.

In 1932 the Battalion again achieved great success at Bisley, winning the Roupell Cup, Roberts Cup and Britannia Trophy. Captain C. L. Archdale became Army Champion.

In 1933 the Battalion received orders to move to the West Indies, half the Battalion to be stationed in Kingston, Jamaica, and the other half in Bermuda.

On 23rd January,1934, the Battalion sailed from Southampton in H.M.T. Dorsetshire. On 9th October a set of Silver Drums presented by the City of Manchester were brought out to Jamaica by Alderman Walker, Deputy Mayor of Manchester, and handed over to the Battalion.

On 6th March, 1935, H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester visited Jamaica. The Battalion furnished Guards of Honour on his arrival and departure, and during his stay he dined in the Officers' Mess.

In September, 1935, the Battalion left the West Indies in H.M.T. Dorsetshire, for service in Egypt, calling at Southampton for six hours on 15th October. In spite of their short stay, a great welcome was given to the Battalion.  Special trains from the north were run and relatives and friends had a great reunion.

The journey continued to Moascar, Egypt. Shortly before Christmas the Battalion moved to Mersa Matruh in the Western Desert, where a British Force was assembled to oppose any attempt by the Italian Army to cross into Egypt.

On arrival the Battalion joined the Armoured Brigade in the role of lorried infantry, their vehicles being provided and driven by the R.A.S.C.

In March, 1936, the Battalion returned to Moascar and resumed its role of normal infantry.

In October the Battalion was placed on 12 hours' notice to fly to Baghdad for internal security duties, but fortunately the trouble subsided and the Battalion stood down.

For some time there had been a project for a Regimental Chapel, and in February the Earl of Derby graciously allowed his family Chapel in Manchester Cathedral to become the Regimental Chapel of The Manchester Regiment. The Chapel was dedicated on 11th November, 1936.

In April, 1937, the Battalion found Company detachments at Cyprus and Port Said. In May orders were received for the Battalion to be reorganized as a Medium Machine Gun Battalion (M.M.G).  Earlier in the year the Battalion had received orders to move to Malta, but this was cancelled in November, when orders were received to move to Palestine to assist in putting down the Arab rebellion.

In January the Battalion moved to Palestine where it remained until September. During this time it was split up into many detachments in the north of Palestine and took part in a number of actions against armed bands of Arabs. Lieutenant R. King Clark, was awarded the Military Cross (M.C.) and many other officers and men were Mentioned in Despatches. Lieutenant R. F. H. Griffiths, R.S.M. Currie and several men were killed in action and a number of officers and men wounded.

In September the Battalion embarked at Haifa for Singapore, but, due to the Munich crisis, were disembarked in Egypt, where they remained for about week before re-embarking for Singapore, where the outbreak of the 1939/45 war found them.

The Battalion being a Machine Gun Battalion,was given the role of beach defence of Singapore and was allotted about twelve miles to hold on the South East Coast of the island. These defences consisted of concrete machine gun emplacements, about six hundred yards apart, each post having two M.M.Guns.  In 1940 an additional stretch of beach on the island of Blankang Mati was given to the Battalion which was manned by one company.

In order to equip these posts the Battalion were given 104 M.M.Gs. Motor transport was very short and once deployed on the beach defences, it was impossible to move the Battalion without considerable outside assistance. It was largely due to this and the important role they fulfilled that it was not brought into the battle earlier. From the outbreak of war until December, 1941, the Battalion worked incessantly on strengthening their line with wire, anti-boat obstacles of local pattern and the construction of supporting posts.

The Japanese landed at the northern end of the Malayan peninsula on the night of 8th December, 1941, and advanced southward in great strength. After fighting a number of engagements in which the enemy enjoyed every advantage, our troops finally fell back on to Singapore Island. On 8th February, the Japanese crossed the straits and landed on the North Western side of the Island, and more forces were passed over near the causeway on the following day. At least three Divisions were on the island by the evening of the 9th and two more followed in the next few days. By 11th February the Japanese, after three days of desperate fighting,had succeeded in reaching the road which connects the causeway to Singapore town, and orders were issued for a withdrawal of British Forces.

The Battalion was still manning the coastal defences, but it was now ordered to form a perimeter defence round its Headquarters while "B" Company, which had been temporarily detached to the Naval Base on the north of the island, was attached to  �James force,� a special force, which was formed in the Changi area.  A further withdrawal was made on the 12th and the Battalion found themselves in new positions covering the eastern approaches to Singapore, while �James force,� with �B� company attached, occupied the southern sector with its right flank resting on the coast.

On 13th February, 26 officers and men of the Battalion embarked in H.M.S. Dragonfly with the intention that they should form the nucleus of a new Battalion on arrival in England, but misfortune overtook them for the ship was sunk by Japanese planes and there were only four survivors, who were taken prisoner.

The enemy's severest thrusts were always made against the western and northern parts of our line, but by 14th February, considerable Japanese forces had worked round to the eastern sector of the perimeter defence where the Battalion was posted. "B� and "D� Companies were severely engaged all day, and although the sectors allotted to them were far too long, they managed to hold their positions and to deal with infiltrations.

In the latter part of the afternoon, Lieutenant Sully led a counter attack against a Japanese post and drove it from the position that it had occupied.
Colonel James read justed the line during the evening and the night of 15th February but the enemy, who everywhere far outnumbered us, contrived to overrun a part of the line that was held by "B" Company, and by so doing to get on to "D" Company's line of withdrawal.

Once again Lieutenant Sully led a bayonet charge and, thanks to its success, the two Companies cleared the way. The enemy had, however, made a serious breach in another part of the "James Force" line, and the positions that our Companies were ordered to occupy ran through the eastern suburbs of the city. While they were moving to them, the surrender was arranged and the Battalion was ordered to assemble at a place called the Pineapple Factory. On the following morning the officers and men received their first orders from their captors. The Battalion now had to endure three years of captivity while 60 of all ranks fell in action up to the time of the surrender, no less than 370 officers and men succumbed to the ill-treatment that they suffered at the hands of the captives, but none failed in endurance or courage.

The 1st Battalion was re-formed in June,1942 renumbering the 6th Battalion as the new 1st Battalion. After two years' intensive training as a machine-gun battalion, the  new 1st Battalion landed near Arromanehes on 26th June, 1944, and took up positions in the forward area near Cheux as part of the 53rd Division.  It took part in the General British and Canadian attack on the German positions in the eastern sector designed to pin down the enemy armour while the U.S. Army in the western sector was staging its break-out. Later, on 2nd August, the Battalion was engaged in a large and successful raid against the German positions on Mount Pincon at the same time as the German Armies were being severely battered in the Falaise pocket.

In the pursuit of the enemy the Battalion crossed the Seine on 30th August and arrived at Antwerp on 8th September.

It took part in bitter lighting near Turnhout when, as part of 53rd Division, it played its part in guarding the left flank of XXX (30th)Corps, while the latter was advancing to Arnhem. In October it spent some weeks in the Nijmegen bridgehead, assisting in the attack and capture of Hertegenbosch, and then forcing the crossing of the Wessem Canal in bitterly cold weather and in a desolate, flat, waterlogged countryside.

The Battalion then went into reserve, but was quickly ordered up to man a portion of the River Dyle, between Louvain and Genappes, when von Rundstedt delivered his counter offensive through the Ardennes.

Later it took part in the attack on Gnmblemont, and was then withdrawn to the neighbourhood of Eindhoven. Before crossing the Rhine at Xanten on 26th March, the Battalion had seen very heavy fighting in the Reichswald Forest. 

At the end of March it assisted in the capture of Bocholt and continued the pursuit to the Weser. It saw hard fighting at Rethem, which was captured on 12th April, and Verden, which fell on 17th April. On 4th May, the Battalion entered Hamburg, and while Garrisoning that town the Surrender of the German Army was announced.

During the 1944/5 campaign the Battalion had 47 officers and men killed in action. On the cessation of hostilities the Battalion moved to Essen where it remained until October, 1945, when it moved to Schloss Soder, near Seesen. In June, 1946, the Battalion moved to Goslar in the Hartz Mountains, with companies at Braunlager and Bad Sachsa, and one company at Warminster doing duty as Demonstration Company at the School of Infantry. On 31st July, 1946, the City of Manchester paid a particular tribute to the Regiment by presenting it with the Freedom of the City. Detachments from Regular and Territorial units and Old Comrades, together with the Depot, escorting the Colours, took part in a parade outside the Town Hall. After the presentation the parade marched past the Lord Mayor with drums beating, bayonets fixed and Colours flying It was while they were at Goslar that orders were received for the Battalion to be reorganized into an Infantry Battalion. In December, 1947, the Battalion returned to England and was stationed at Maghull and Freshfield close to the 2nd Battalion, who were at Formby.  In April, 1948, the Battalion moved to Dunham Park Altrincham.

From A Short History of The Manchester Regiment (Regular Battalions)
« Last Edit: January 31, 2017, 11:20:30 AM by charlie »