East Surrey Regiment

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
East Surrey Regiment
East Surrey Regiment Cap Badge.jpg
East Surrey Regiment Cap Badge
Active 1881–1959
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry
Size 1–2 Regular battalions

2 Militia and Special Reserve battalions
1–4 Territorial and Volunteer battalions

Up to 12 Hostilities-only battalions
Garrison/HQ The Barracks, Kingston upon Thames
Nickname(s) 1 Battalion: The Young Buffs
2 Battalion: The Glasgow Greys
March Quick: A Southerly Wind and a Cloudy Sky
Slow: Lord Charles Montague's The Huntingdonshire March
Anniversaries Sobraon (10 February)
Ypres (23 April)

The East Surrey Regiment was an infantry regiment of the line of the British Army in existence from 1881 until 1959. The regiment was formed in 1881 under the Childers Reforms from the amalgamation of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot and the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot.

In 1959, the East Surrey Regiment was amalgamated with the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) to form the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment which was later merged with the Queen's Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment, the Royal Sussex Regiment and the Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own) to form the Queen's Regiment. However, the Queen's Regiment was amalgamated with the Royal Hampshire Regiment to form the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires).


In 1702 a regiment of marines was raised in the West Country by George Villier (not related to the Villiers that became the Duke of Buckingham). It was named Villier's Marines and its direct descendant became the East Surrey Regiment. Villier was drowned in 1703, and the regiment was taken over by Alexander Luttrell. After Luttrell's death in 1705, the command went to Joshua Churchill until 1711 when it became Goring's Regiment (At this time regiments took the name of their colonel).

In 1715 the regiment was removed from the marines and became the 31st Regiment of Infantry, and in 1751 the designation was changed to the 31st Regiment of Foot. Five years later a second battalion was raised in Scotland, the 2/31st Foot, which was predesignated in 1758, the 70th Regiment of Foot (Glasgow Lowland Regiment).

Further changes were made in 1782. The 31st became known as the Huntingdonshire Regiment, while the 70th became the Surrey Regiment. They stayed with this title until 1881 when they became the 1st & 2nd battalions of the East Surrey Regiment. They had been paired in 1873 as linked regiments for alternate service at home and abroad.

Early history

In the form of the 31st Foot, the regiment saw service at the Battle of Dettingen, where it received the nickname "The Young Buffs". In the Napoleonic Wars it served in the West Indies and Spain, where it won 8 Battle Honours. It was fighting in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the Crimean War, in China at the Taku Forts.

The 70th Foot was in the Indian Mutiny, the Maori Wars in New Zealand, and the Second Afghan War

The Barracks in Kings Road, Kingston

The Barracks in Kings Road, Kingston upon Thames, now called The Keep (Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found. TQ187703), were designed by Major Siddon of the Royal Engineers and completed in 1875. In 1881, when the 31st and 70th Regiments combined to become The East Surrey Regiment, the Kings Road Barracks became their Brigade Depot.[1][2]

The 1st Battalion, after formation, was based in various garrisons around the British Empire but did not see major action until the First World War in 1914.

The 2nd Battalion on the other hand was in action soon after formation, being part of the British expedition to the Sudan in 1884. This battalion also took part in the Anglo-Boer War that started in 1899. They took part in the Battle of Colenso, the Relief of Ladysmith, the Battle of the Tugela Heights and Laing's Nek. After South Africa the battalion was shipped to India in 1903 where they remained until the outbreak of World War I.

First World War

East Surrey Regiment Memorial Gateway to All Saints Church, Kingston upon Thames

During the First World War, the regiment raised 18 battalions. The Regiment served on the Western Front from the Battle on Mons in August 1914 to the Armistice in November 1918. Battalions also served in Italy, Macedonia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Also in North Russia in 1919. It was given 62 Battle Honours and seven of its soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross, all of whom survived the awarding action. During the war over 6,000 men of the East Surrey Regiment lost their lives.

The 1st Battalion

On 4 August 1914, the 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment was in Dublin. Eleven days later, mobilization completed and at full war establishment, the 1st Battalion was in France, and before the end of the month was in action against the Germans. The battalion was assigned to the 14th Brigade, 5th Division. During the Retreat from Mons and afterwards, the Battalion took part in the great battles of 1914, Le Cateau, the Marne and the Aisne. In 1915, after the Battle of La Bassée, the 1st Surreys withstood a most determined attack on Hill 60, near Ypres. In the desperate fighting which ensued, the Battalion won three Victoria Crosses and seven Distinguished Conduct Medals. Among the VCs was Lieutenant George Roupell,[3] who later became the last Colonel of the East Surrey Regiment. The casualties in this short action alone amounted to 113 killed and 165 wounded.

In late 1915 the brigade was transferred to the 32nd Division. In 1916, the 1st Battalion took part in the great battles of the River Somme, and distinguished itself notably at Morval in September. The Battalion took part in many of the great battles of 1917, such as Arras, the Third Battle of Ypres. After a four-month tour on the Italian Front, the Battalion was back in France in March 1918, and was engaged in the Battles of Albert and Bapaume, and the subsequent advance to victory.

The 2nd Battalion

The 2nd Battalion returned from India at the outbreak of war, but it was not until January 1915 that it arrived in France with the 85th Brigade, 28th Division. It was soon in action to the south of Ypres where it lost many men, some by poison gas. In the Battle of St Julien, the 2nd Battalion had 141 killed and 256 wounded. A week later it lost a further 100 killed and 133 wounded. The 2nd Battalion took part in the Battle of Loos in September 1915, and fought valiantly in the defence of the Hohenzollern Redoubt. At a vital stage in this battle, Lieutenant Arthur Fleming-Sandes, though wounded, displayed exceptional courage and leadership, for which he was later awarded the Victoria Cross.[4] The following month the Battalion was transferred to the Salonika Expeditionary Force, and spent the remainder of the War on the Struma Valley Front and east of Lake Doiran. The summer heat in Macedonia was intense, but the principal scourge was malaria, which at one period reduced the strength of the Battalion to 186 Other Ranks.

The Territorial Battalions

The 5th and 6th battalions, East Surrey Regiment were not to see service on the Western Front. Both battalions were part of the Surrey Brigade, alongside the 4th and 5th West Surreys, and attached to the Home Counties Division. They embarked for India in October 1914 and were employed on garrison duties in the United Provinces and the Punjab for two years. The 5th Battalion then joined the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force and took part in the operations on the Tigris, while the 6th Battalion left India for a twelve-month tour of duty with the Aden Field Force. This battalion returned from India for demobilization in 1919, but the 5th Surreys, who were engaged on active operations in Southern Kurdistan until late December, did not reach home until February 1920. Both were resuscitated in 1921 with the rest of the Territorial Army.

In the late 1930s the 5th Battalion converted to Royal Artillery and in 1939 the 6th Battalion, which by then was over 1,200 strong, was divided into the 1/6th and 2/6th Surreys.

The Service Battalions - Kitchener's Army

The East Surrey Regiment raised seven Service battalions, of which the 7th, 8th, 9th (the Gallants), 12th and 13th served in France. All these non-Regular battalions had fine fighting records, and in every way maintained the traditions of the Regiment, enhancing its prestige by their gallantry and endurance. All took part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Most were present at the principal battles of 1917, such as Arras, the Scarpe and the Third Battle of Ypres, and in 1918 at St Quentin, Albert and Cambrai. They saw as much fighting as the Regular battalions and showed themselves as worthy members of the Regiment whose name they bore.

One particular incident will always be remembered. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, B Company of the 8th Battalion went into the attack dribbling two footballs which the Company Commander, Captain Wilfred Nevill, had bought for his platoons to kick across No Man's Land. Captain Nevill and many of his men were killed during the advance, but the 8th Surreys were one of the few battalions to reach and hold their objective on this day. The ‘Football Attack’ caught the imagination of the country, and illustrations of it are shown in the Regimental Museum, which also contains one of the footballs used. On that day, the 8th Battalion won two DSOs, two MCs, two DCMs and nine MMs, but 147 officers and men were killed and 279 wounded.

Second World War

The 1st Battalion

A lance corporal of the East Surrey Regiment, equipped with a Thompson m1928 submachine gun (drum magazine), 25 November 1940.

The 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment was a Regular Army unit based in England at the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. The battalion was part of the 11th Infantry Brigade, which also included the 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers and 1st Battalion, Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, and was attached to the 4th Infantry Division and was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in October. After returning to the United Kingdom after the Battle of Dunkirk and evacuation from Dunkirk in May–June 1940 the 1st Battalion was reformed and spent the next two years on home defence expecting a German invasion. In June 1942 the battalion was reassigned, with the rest of the 11th Brigade, part of the newly raised 78th Battleaxe Infantry Division, with which it remained for the rest of the war. It took part in Operation Torch in November 1942, landing in North Africa at Algiers with the British First Army. Following this the battalion fought with the division in Tunisia until the end of the Tunisia Campaign in May 1943. During this time it took part in notable actions such as Ochsenkopf offensive, Longstop Hill and Tebourba.

Men of the East Surrey Regiment bring in wounded during the attack on Longstop Hill. Churchill tanks of the North Irish Horse are in the background

After North Africa the British First Army was disbanded and 78th Division became part of the British Eighth Army. The battalion then fought in Sicily during the invasion before moving to Italy for the Italian Campaign where it had notable involvement in the Battle of Termoli and the fighting on the Barbara Line and River Sangro during the autumn of 1943. In February 1944 78th Division was switched to the Cassino sector. The battalion initially held positions on the River Rapido south of Cassino but by March had been moved into bleak and exposed positions in the mountains north of the town. In late April they were relieved and after a brief rest took part in the fourth and final battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944. They were then involved in the pursuit after the Allied breakthrough. They fought a hard engagement at Lake Trasimeno on the Trasimene Line in June 1944 before being withdrawn with the rest of the division in July to Egypt for rest and training.

The 1st East Surreys returned with 78th Division to Italy in September 1944 in time to take part in Operation Olive and the fighting in the Apennine Mountains during the winter of 1944 and occupying positions on Monte Spaduro when the front became static.

In February 1945 the battalion came out of the front line to prepare and train for the offensive planned for the spring. By late March the whole division was in place on the banks of the Senio river ready for the start of the spring 1945 offensive which started on 6 April. The battalion fought in the intense action at the Argenta Gap before advancing with the rest of the division to the north of the Gulf of Venice and crossing the Italian border to finish the war in Austria.

The 2nd Battalion

Memorial in All Saints, Kingston to the 2nd and the men it lost in the Malayan campaign and as prisoners afterwards

In 1940 the 2nd Battalion was shipped from China to Malaya where it was attached to 11th Indian Infantry Division based in North West Malaya. In December 1941 the Japanese Army invaded Malaya after landing in southern Thailand. The 2nd East Surreys suffered tremendous casualties during the defence and retreat from this part of Malaya. The battalion was amalgamated with the 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment to form the British Battalion (Malaya 1941) on 19 December 1941. This unit fought gallantly throughout the rest of the short campaign until the surrender of the British Army at Singapore in February 1942.

Corporal Charles "Nobby" Hibbert, of the 2nd battalion, the East Surrey regiment, wrote an informal unpublished memoir shortly before his death at the age of 49 in 1969 in Stevenage, Herts, England, his health undermined fatally by his experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war in the far East. The book, which he called The Wheel of Fortune, described vividly in colloquial London English, the lost battle for Malaysia and the grimness of life under the loathsome prison camp regime in Borneo. His memoir also touches on the Chinese leg of the battalion's far eastern spell that ended in heroic disaster.

Further unpublished notes were made by George Britton, also of the 2nd Battalion, who was one of the very few survivors of the Alexandra Hospital massacre and who also survived internment at Changi Prisoner of War Camp and later forced labour on the notorious Death Railway. He lived in Hampton, Middlesex until his death in 2009.

In May 1942 the 2nd Battalion was reformed in the United Kingdom from the redesignation of the 11th Battalion, a hostilities-only battalion raised in 1940 that joined the 184th Infantry Brigade, 61st Division. It did not see further action in the Second World War.

Territorial Battalions

The 1/6th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment was originally the 6th Battalion until 1939 when it was split in two and formed a 2nd Line duplicate, the 2/6th Battalion, when the Territorial Army was doubled in size and each unit was ordered to a 2nd Line duplicate. The 1/6th were deployed with the 132nd Brigade, attached to 44th (Home Counties) Division, to France in April 1940, becoming part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The battalion was exchanged in 132nd Brigade for the 1st Battalion, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, making the brigade an all West Kent formation, and transferred to the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, as part of official BEF policy to integrate the Regular and Territorial Armies. The 1/6th fought alongside the 1st Battalion in the Battle of Belgium and were evacuated at Dunkirk. The 1/6th continued to see active service with the 1st Battalion in North Africa in March 1943 and took part in the Tunisian Campaign. From February 1944 to May 1945, the 2/6th Battalion fought in Italy, and it experienced hard fighting at Cassino and Forlì. It then moved to Greece.

The 2/6th Battalion were formed in 1939 as part of the doubling of the Territorial Army. The battalion was assigned to the 37th Infantry Brigade, alongside the 6th and 7th Royal Sussex, part of 12th (Eastern) Infantry Division. They were deployed to France in April 1940 with the BEF as a line of communications unit and almost immediately became involved in the Battle of France[5] and the defence of the Channel ports. They were ordered to take up a defensive position on the River Béthune as part of the support group for the 1st Armoured Division.[6] Separated from the rest of the BEF, they were outside of the encirclement of and evacuation from Dunkirk. Beaten back to the coast, along with the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division the division were forced to surrender to Rommel on 12 June 1940 at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. About 95% of the Battalion were captured or killed, the majority becoming prisoners of war including commanding officer Major D G Adams.[5] Many of those captured were subsequently imprisoned in Poland at Stalag XX-B[7] and Stalag XXI-D[8] After St. Valery, the battalion was reformed in England under Norman Brading [9] but did not see further active service.[10] The battalion was placed in 'suspended animation' in July 1946.[11]


The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1948 and its personnel joined the 1st Battalion. In 1959 the East Surreys were amalgamated with Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) to form The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment. In further amalgamations in 1966 and 1992 the Queen's Royal Surreys first became part of The Queen's Regiment and then the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

Battle honours

Colours, in All Saints church, Kingston
  • From 31st Regiment of Foot: Talavera, Albuhera, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Peninsula, Cabool 1842, Moodkee, Ferozeshah, Aliwal, Sobraon, Sevastopol, Taku Forts, Gibraltar 1704-05 (awarded 1909), Dettingen (awarded 1882)
  • From 70th Regiment of Foot: Guadeloupe 1810, New Zealand, Afghanistan 1878-79, Martinique 1794 (awarded 1909)
  • Suakin 1885, Relief of Ladysmith, South Africa 1899-1902
  • The Great War (18 battalions): Mons, Le Cateau, Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914, Aisne 1914, La Bassée 1914, Armentières 1914, Hill 60, Ypres 1915 '17 '18, Gravenstafel, St. Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde, Loos, Somme 1916 '18, Albert 1916 '18, Bazentin, Delville Wood, Pozières, Guillemont, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Thiepval, Le Transloy, Ancre Heights, Ancre 1916, Arras 1917 '18, Vimy 1917, Scarpe 1917, Messines 1917, Pilckem, Langemarck 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Cambrai 1917 '18, St. Quentin, Bapaume 1918, Rosières, Avre, Lys, Estaires, Hazebrouck, Amiens, Hindenburg Line, Épéhy, Canal du Nord, St. Quentin Canal, Courtrai, Selle, Sambre, France and Flanders 1914-18, Italy 1917-18, Struma, Doiran 1918, Macedonia 1915-18, Egypt 1915, Aden, Mesopotamia 1917-18, Murman 1919
  • The Second World War: Defence of Escaut, Dunkirk 1940, North-West Europe 1940, Tebourba, Fort McGregor, Oued Zarga, Djebel Ang, Djebel Djaffa Pass, Medjez Plain, Longstop Hill 1943, Tunis, Montarnaud, North Africa 1942-43, Adrano, Centuripe, Sicily 1943, Trigno, Sangro, Cassino4, Capture of Forli, Argenta Gap, Italy 1943-45, Greece 1944-45, Kampar, Malaya 1941-42

Victoria Crosses


  • Ford, Ken (1999). Battleaxe Division. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton. ISBN 0-7509-1893-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Squire, G.L.A.; Hill, P.G.E. (1992). The Surreys in Italy. Clandon, Surrey: The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment Museum.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Langley, Michael (1972). The East Surrey Regiment. London: Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-114-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  1. "The Chapel of The East Surrey Regiment in The Parish Church of All Saints, Kingston-upon-Thames". The Queen's Royal Surrey Regimental Association. Retrieved 21 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "The Regimental Depots: The Barracks, Kingston-up-Thames". The Queen's Royal Surrey Regimental Association. Retrieved 21 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. The London Gazette: no. 29202. p. 6115. 22 June 1915. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 29371. p. 11448. 16 November 1915. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Colonel D G Adams, DSO OBE TD". The Queen's Royal Surrey Regimental Association. Retrieved 31 Mar 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "East Surreys in the Second World War". The Queen's Royal Surrey Regimental Association. Retrieved 2 Apr 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Lance-Corporal Robert Beesley". Retrieved 8 Apr 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "PROGRAMMES, MENUS AND OTHER EPHEMERA ESR/11/3/ 1940-1943". The National Archive - Surrey History Centre - 2/6TH BATTALION. Retrieved 29 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Brigadier N B Brading, CMG CBE". The Queen's Royal Surrey Regimental Association. Retrieved 31 Mar 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "ESR/11/ 1939-1990". The National Archive - Surrey History Centre - 2/6TH BATTALION. Retrieved 29 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Lt Col R W M Wetherell, OBE". The Queen's Royal Surrey Regimental Association. Retrieved 9 Apr 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links