- Contributed by
- A McDOUGALL
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 August 2005
HISTORY OF THE WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT —WW2
The Cardwell reforms of 1881 brought together the 29th and 36th Regiments of Foot with the Militia of Worcestershire plus the Volunteer Regiments. The Regiment now consisted of: 1st Battalion (29th), 2nd Battalion (36th) The Worcestershire Regiment; 3rd (Militia) Battalion (late 1st Battalion Worcestershire Militia) and 4th (Militia) Battalion (late 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Militia) and the volunteer Battalions became known as the 1st and 2nd (Volunteer) Battalions The Worcestershire Regiment.
WORLD WAR 2 1939 - 1945
When the War was imminent the 1st Battalion was in Palestine and its war service was, therefore, destined initially to be in the middle East. Likewise the 2nd Battalion, who were in India in 1939 were destined to remain there until called to take part in the Burma Campaign. It was in fact the two Territorial Battalions, the 7th and 8th who first saw active service. both went to France in 1940 and both were in the Dunkirk tragedy.
The first Regular Battalion to join battle with the enemy was the 1st Battalion. They moved from Palestine, via Egypt to the Sudan and following the entry of Italy into the War, formed part of the British force which attacked the Italian Colony of Eritrea in 1941. The first Italian resistance came at El Gocni from which, after stiff fighting the enemy was ejected. Barentu was likewise successful and essentially a company battle in which 'A' Company played a prominent part. Ahead lay the fortress of Keren whose steep rocky approaches added to the stiff Italian resistance, however, this was also captured although the battalion suffered heavy losses.
At the end of August 1941 the 1st Battalion moved to the Western Desert, where in the summer of 1942 they took part in the Gazala Battle and in the defence of Tobruk. The Gazala line stretched from Gazala on the coast some fifty miles south to Bir Hachim. It consisted of a series of isolated infantry localities, wired and mined, which were called "Boxes" and between which were large gaps that could neither be held by artillery fire nor plugged by tanks. One such locality was Point 187 near Acroma, midway between Gazala and Tobruk, where the Battalion stood to meet the German onslaught. By 13th June 1942 the Germans had penetrated the surrounding defences and the Battalion Box became isolated. Enemy tanks attacked relentlessly and although some twenty of them were knocked out, all of the Battalions anti-tank guns had become casualties. Throughout the day the Battalion stayed true to its Motto of "FIRM" and as evening fell and with the desert a blazing inferno, orders were received for the Box to be evacuated.
At Tobruk the German attack, which was launched on 20th June 1942 was heralded by a fierce air bombardment after which came well co-ordinated artillery fire from both the Germans and Italians. This in turn led to a massive Panzer attack against which resistance was virtually impossible. Any attempt to break out to the coast was forestalled by the enemy who were too thick on the ground. A general surrender was ordered - unlike at Corunna and Dunkirk where the soldiers of the Regiment had withdrawn to safety; at Tobruk few escaped being made Prisoners of War.
NORMANDY TO THE ELBE
On 1st January 1943 the 1st Battalion was reformed by disbanding the 11th Battalion, a Service Battalion formed in May 1940 and drafting its personnel to the 1st Battalion. Soon after D Day in 1944 the Battalion arrived in France and their first action, which resulted in the capture of Mouen, was described by the Divisional Commander as "one of the slickest attacks of the war". After the break out came the spectacular drive to the Seine - over one hundred miles in three and a half days. This was followed by some intense fighting in which every man in the Battalion - drivers, clerks, orderlies and signallers fought like demons. The fierce fighting gave cover to the armoured drive to Belgium and Holland. After a spell of comparative quiet the Battalion once more went into battle, to try and relieve the gallant men of Arnhem. The battle to keep the corridor open was some of the fiercest the Battalion had experienced and in the fighting round the Nederijn three of its Company Commanders were killed. From then on it was only a matter of time before victory in Europe was assured and when it came the Battalion had reached an area North of Luneberg, thus ending the advance from Normandy to the Elbe.
Two Battalions of the Regiment fought in South East Asia Command, the 2nd and the 7th. Throughout it was a tale of fight and advance - never once was either Battalion forced back. One action among many is memorable; it was at Merema, near Kohima when the 7th Battalion evicted in 36 hours a Japanese force that had been ordered to hold on for ten days. In the last two months of 1944 the two Worcestershire Battalions advanced on the enemy, taking different directions. Leaving behind 350 miles of soil and dust once trodden by the Japanese the 7th Battalion reached and crossed the Chindwin at Kalewa. Plumes of dust marked their progress across the sandy plain of Central Burma as they moved towards Shwebo. Once there, the grateful inhabitants presented the Battalion with a lacquered bowl, now to be seen in the Regimental Museum. Meanwhile the 2nd Battalion had completed one of the greatest of the Burma Campaign's forced marches, covering 400 miles in six weeks; arriving at Shwebo just after the 7th Battalion, who were there waiting for them with a meal laid out in the open on tables covered with parachutes as table cloths. There then remained the Battle for Mandalay; the 7th Battalion moved towards the city from the South West but it was to be the 2nd Battalion that fought the battle and who carried out the follow up.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.