The story of the Northamptonshire Regiment in the Great War

Officers of the 6th (Service) Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment prior to the battalion's first major battle
Officers of the 6th (Service) Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment prior to the battalion's first major battle
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From Flanders to France and Gallipoli to Egypt, soldiers from the Northamptonshire Regiment fought, and died, in almost every major theatre of conflict in the First World War.

Thousands of young men from the county joined the regiment and almost 6,000 of those were never to return.

The 6th(Service) Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment on parade before departure for France. ENGNNL00120110703093100

The 6th(Service) Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment on parade before departure for France. ENGNNL00120110703093100

Of the many brave men who served with the regiment during the conflict, four were recognised for major acts of gallantry in the face of the enemy with the Victoria Cross – and three of those men received the honour posthumously.

However, the lives and actions of many ordinary soldiers are also recorded on the website www.roll-of-honour.com, which aims to list the names on war memorials from all over Northamptonshire and tell the story of how they died.

The tales are a poignant reminder of the losses suffered by towns and villages in the First World War. One of those killed was Kettering man 2nd Lt John George Christy, who served in the Leicestershire Regiment and died at Magny La Fosse on October 3, 1918, just five weeks before the end of the war.

A letter sent to his wife by a chaplain said: “I very much regret to tell you that your husband was killed in action and was buried by me today in a little village cemetery just behind the Hindenburg Line which your husband and his division so bravely and wonderfully stormed on Sunday last.”

A regimental letter added: “His should not have been a soldier’s life and all the 
horrors and grimness of war must have been even more 
repulsive to him than to many of us.

“Yet he never shirked a duty, never ‘begged off’, no matter the hardship.”

Percy Beresford-Lees was an Oundle man working in Canada when the war broke out. His name is recorded on the Oundle memorial.

He returned to England and joined the Northamptonshire Regiment, becoming a 2nd Lt in the 2nd battalion.

He died on March 11, 1915, aged 24, during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. He was one of more than 11,000 British and Indian soldiers killed in the battle, which ended in a British victory.

The unmarried man was buried in Neuve Chapelle, near to where he died.

Pte Ernest Fletton’s name is recorded on the memorial for Higham Ferrers.

He was 21 years old and unmarried when he was killed 
by shell-fire in Flanders on April 13, 1916, and was afterwards commended for his bravery.

A letter to his family from Capt H Podmore, his commanding officer, said: “The Germans made a sudden attack on a post where he, with another man, was [in a trench], looking over a crater.

“The other man was killed instantly. Fletton was very badly wounded, but without thinking of his own pain, immediately ran back and gave the alarm. He then proceeded along the trench to get his wounds dressed, and was hit almost immediately by a shell. I am sending his name in for gallant conduct.”

A long and very proud history

Although formed in 1881 when the 48th and 58th regiments of Foot were amalgamated, the Northamptonshire Regiment can trace its history back to the mid-1700s.

The 48th Regiment of Foot was first formed in 1741 by James Cholmondeley in Norwich, as part of seven Infantry Regiments raised to expand the British Army during the War of Austrian Succession between 1740 and 1748.

It saw its first action in 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie, the grandson of James II, landed in Scotland, attempting to regain the crown for the Stuart family, and the regiment fought at the Battle of Falkirk and Culloden. The 58th Regiment of Foot was first formed in 1755 during the Seven Years’ War.

Originally numbered as the 60th Regiment it was renumber the 58th in 1757 following the disbandment of senior

regiments.

During the Seven Years War, the 48th was deployed to North America as part of Major-General Edward Braddock’s campaign to halt the advance of the French into British-claimed territories on the East coast. The 48th went on to serve in the West Indies and helped to capture the French Island of Martinique and Havana.

In 1773, prior to the American War of Independence, the 48th was stationed in the West Indies and was captured by French forces.

The 48th were finally repatriated back to England in 1780 and located in Northampton.

In 1782 all British Regiments without Royal titles were awarded county titles in order to aid recruitment from that region. Therefore the 48th became the 48th (Northamptonshire) Regiment of Foot and the 58th became the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot.

Both regiments took part in the Great Siege of Gibraltar when Franco/Spanish forces attempted for three years and seven months to capture Gibraltar.

The 58th went on to serve in Egypt during the French Revolutionary War, fighting at the Battle of Alexandria and Calabria, it also took part in the Capture of Minorca in 1798.

Both regiments served during the Peninsular War, the 58th fought at the battles of Salamanca and Burgos and the 48th fought at the battles of Talavera, Douro, Albuhera, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthes, Toulouse, Albuera.

Both regiments went on to serve in Australia in various locations, the 48th garrisoned in Sydney, Newcastle, Port Macquarie and Parramatta, while the 58th took over garrison duties in New South Wales.

The 58th also went on to serve in New Zealand from 1845 during the First Maori War and remained in New Zealand until 1858 when more than 300 men chose to take their discharge in New Zealand. The 48th went on to serve during the Crimean War, fighting at the Battle of Sevastopol. The 58th served in the final stages of the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879, fighting at the Battle of Ulundi.

In 1881 the Childers Reforms restructured the British army into a network of multi-battalion regiments. The 48th and the 58th Regiments of Foot were merged to form the Northamptonshire Regiment.

The newly formed Regiment went on to serve North West Frontier Operations between 1897 and 1989, in the Second Boer War from 1899 to 1902 and in both world wars.

In 1960 the Regiment was merged with the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment to become the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

Regiment’s First World War involvement

1st Battalion

August 4, 1914: Stationed at Blackdown, Aldershot, as part of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division.

August 13, 1914: Mobilised for war and Landed at Havre and engaged in various actions on the Western Front.

1914: The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne, First Battle of Ypres.

1915: Winter Operations, The Battle of Aubers, The Battle of Loos.

1916: The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin, The Battle of Pozieres, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, The Battle of Morval.

1917: The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The Second Battle of Passchendaele.

1918: The Battle of Estaires, The Battle of Hazebrouck, The Battle of Bethune, The Battle of Drocourt-Queant, The Battle of Epehy, The Battle of the St Quentin Canal, The Battle of Beaurevoir, The Battle of the Selle, The Battle of the Sambre.

November 11, 1918: Ended the war at Fresnoy-le-Grand, south-west of Bohain, France.

2nd Battalion

August 4, 1914, Stationed at Alexandria.

October 1914: Returned to England at Hursley Park, Winchester, to join the 24th Brigade of the 8th Division.

November, 5, 1914: Mobilised for war and landed at Le Havre where the 24th Brigade joined the 23rd Division which engaged in various actions on the Western Front.

1915: Trench familiarisation as part of the 20th (Light) and 27th Divisions then took control of the front line at Ferme Grande Flamengrie to the Armentieres-Wez Macquart road and at Bois Grenier.

1916: The German Attack on Vimy Ridge, The Battle of Albert.

July 15, 1916: Brigade transferred back to the 8th Division.

1917: The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The Battle of Pilkem, The Battle of Langemarck.

1918: The Battle of St Quentin, the actions at the Somme crossings, The Battle of Rosieres, The actions of Villers-Bretonneux, The Battle of the Aisne 1918, The Battle of the Scarpe, The Final Advance in Artois.

November 11, 1918: Ended the war at Bermissart west of Mons, Belgium.

3rd (reserve) Battalion

August 4, 1914: Formed at Northampton, moved to Portland.

May 1915: Moved to Gillingham, Kent and then to Strood.

March 1916: Moved to Gillingham.

May 1918: Moved to Scrapsgate, Sheppey, where it remained as part of the Thames & Medway Garrison.

1/4th Battalion territorial force

August 4, 1914: Formed at Northampton as part of the East Midlands Brigade of the East Anglian Division and then moved to Bury St Edmunds.

May 1915: The formation became the 162nd Brigade of the 54th Division and then moved to St Albans area.

July 1915 : Embarked at Liverpool and moved to Gallipoli via Mudros. Landed at Suvla Bay on August 15.

December 19, 1915: evacuated from Gallipoli and arrived at Alexandria to defend the Suez Canal, then engaged in the Palestine Campaign.

1917: The First Battle of Gaza, The Second Battle of Gaza, The Third Battle of Gaza, The Capture of Gaza, The Battle of Jaffa.

1918: The fight at Ras el’Ain, The operations at Berukin, The Battle of Sharon.

October 31, 1918: Ended the war in Beirut, Palestine.

2/4th battalion territorial force November 27, 1914: Formed at Northampton.

1915: Moved to Thetford and then became transferred to the 207th Brigade of the 69th Division.

June 1916: Moved to Harrogate and then Stockton.

May 1917: Moved to Carburton Camp, Nottin ghamshire, and then on to Clipstone.

March, 14, 1918: Disbanded and remaining personnel to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion.

3/4th battalion territorial force

May 12, 1915: Formed at Northampton and then moved to Windsor Great Park.

October 1915: Moved to Halton Park, Tring.

April, 8, 1916: Became the 4th (Reserve) Battalion.

4th reserve battalion territorial force

September 1, 1916: Transferred to the East Anglian Reserve Brigade Territorial Force and moved to Halton Park.

Aug 1917: Moved to Crowborough, East Sussex.

September 1918: Moved to St Leonards.

5th (service) Battalion (Pioneers)

August 1914: Formed at Northampton as part of the First New Army (K1) and then moved to Shorncliffe attached to the 12th Division and then moved to Hythe.

January 1915: Became a Pioneer Battalion of the 12th Division.

February 1915: Moved to Aldershot.

May 30, 1915: Mobilised for war and landed in France and engaged in various actions on the Western Front.

1915: The Battle of Loos.

1916: The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Pozieres, The Battle of Le Transloy.

1917: The First Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of Arleux, The Third Battle of the Scarpe, The Cambrai operations.

1918: The Battle of Bapaume, The First Battle of Arras 1918, The Battle of Amiens, The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Epehy, The Final Advance in Artois.

November, 11, 1918: Ended the war east of Orchies, France.

6th (service) Battalion

September 1914: Formed at Northampton as part of the Second New Army (K2) and then moved to Colchester attached to the 18th Division.

November 1914: Transferred to the 54th Brigade of the 18th Division.

May 1915: Moved to Salisbury Plain.

July 26, 1915: Mobilised for war and landed in France and engaged in various actions on the Western Front.

1916: The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, The Battle of Delville Wood, The Battle of Thiepval Ridge, The Battle of the Ancre Heights, The Battle of the Ancre.

1917: Operations on the Ancre, The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The Third Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of Pilkem Ridge, The Battle of Langemarck, First Battle of Passchendaele, and The Second Battle of Passchendaele.

1918: The Battle of St Quentin, The Battle of the Avre, The actions of Villers-Brettoneux, The Battle of Amiens, The Battle of Albert, The Second Battle of Bapaume, The Battle of Epehy, The Battle of the St Quentin Canal, The Battle of the Selle, The Battle of the Sambre.

November 11, 1918: Ended the war near Le Cateau, France.

7th (service) Battalion

September 1914: Formed at Northampton as part of the Third New Army (K3) and then moved to the South Downs to join the 73rd Brigade of the 24th Division.

November 1914: Moved to Southwick.

June 1915: Moved to Inkerman Barracks, Woking.

September 2, 1915: Mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne and engaged in various actions on the Western Front.

1915: The Battle of Loos (the division suffered severe casualties and took the rest of the year to rebuild).

1916: The German gas attack at Wulverghem, The Battle of Delville Wood, The Battle of Guillemont.

1917: The Battle of Vimy Ridge, The Battle of Messines, The Battle of Pilkem Ridge, The Battle of Langemarck, The Cambrai Operations.

1918: The Battle of St Quentin, The Actions at the Somme Crossings, The Battle of Rosieres, The First Battle of the Avre;

The Battle of Cambrai 1918, The pursuit to the Selle, The Battle of the Sambre, The passage of the Grand Honelle.

November 11, 1918: Ended the war at Louvignies near Bavai, France

8th (reserve) Battalion

October 1914: Formed at Weymouth as part of the Fourth New Army (K4) as a Service Battalion of the 103rd Brigade of the 34th Division.

January 1915: Moved to Penzance and became a 2nd Reserve Battalion then moved to Colchester.

March 1916: Moved to Sittingbourne as part of the 6th Reserve Brigade.

9th Battalion territorial Force

January 1, 1917: The 62nd Provisional Battalion became the 9th Northants.

It had been formed from Home Service personnel at Cley, Norfolk.

1918: Moved to Sheringham until the end of the war.

1st garrison battalion

September 1915: Formed at Warlington.

October 1915: Deployed to Egypt and then Palestine.

Octpber 1918: Deployed to Salonika.

2nd (Home service) garrison battalion

June 1916: Formed at Isle of Grain, Sheerness.

August 1917: Became the 13th Battalion of the Royal Defence