Royal Norfolk Regiment

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Norfolk Regiment
Royal Norfolk Regiment
Royal Norfolk Regiment Cap Badge.jpg
Royal Norfolk Regiment Cap Badge
Active 1881–1959
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry

2 Regular battalions
1–2 Militia and Special Reserve battalions
Up to 4 Territorial and Volunteer battalions

Up to 12 Hostilities-only battalions
Garrison/HQ Britannia Barracks, Norwich
Nickname(s) "The Holy Boys", "The Fighting Ninth", "The Norfolk Howards"
Motto Firm
Facings Yellow
March Rule Britannia
Anniversaries Almanza, 25 April
Battle honours see below
Shoulder titles "Royal Norfolk"

The Royal Norfolk Regiment, originally formed as the Norfolk Regiment, was a line infantry regiment of the British Army. The Norfolk Regiment was created on 1 July 1881, as part of the Childers Reforms, as the county regiment of Norfolk. It was formed from the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot[1] and covered the local militia and rifle volunteers.

The Norfolk Regiment fought in the Great War on the Western Front and in the Middle East. After the war, the regiment became the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 3 June 1935. The regiment fought with distinction in the Second World War, in action in France and Belgium, the Far East, and then in the invasion of, and subsequent operations in, North-west Europe. In 1959, the Royal Norfolk Regiment was amalgamated with the Suffolk Regiment, to become the 1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk); this later amalgamated with the 2nd East Anglian Regiment (Duchess of Gloucester's Own Royal Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire), the 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot) and the Royal Leicestershire Regiment to form the Royal Anglian Regiment, of which A Company of the 1st Battalion is known as the Royal Norfolks.


First World War

The Norfolk Regiment entered the First World War with two regular, one reserve and three Territorial Force battalions (one of cyclists), with the regiment expanding to nineteen battalions.

Of these, the Territorial Force raised the 2/4th, 2/5th and 2/6th battalions all of which were 2nd-Line duplicates of the original three battalions, which were redesignated the 1/4th 1/5th and 1/6th battalions to avoid confusion. The 2nd Line battalions were used to supply the 1st Line TF units with replacements.

The Norfolk Regiment also raised many service battalions during the war who were a part of Lord Kitchener's New Armies. The service battalions were created specifically for service in the war, believed, at the time, to be the War To End All Wars. Four service battalions were raised in the early months of the war, three of which saw active service overseas as the 10th Battalion was kept as a reserve battalion, intended to supply the service battalions with drafts and replacements.

The total number of men raised during the war and who served with the Norfolk Regiment amounted to 32,375 of whom 5,576 were killed and many thousands wounded.

Regular Army

The 1st Battalion was serving in Ireland upon the outbreak of the war and was given orders to mobilise on 4 August, the day that Britain declared war on Germany. Part of the 15th Brigade, 5th Division the battalion left Belfast on 14 August and immediately embarked for France, where they became part of the British Expeditionary Force and saw their first action of the war against the German Army at the Battle of Mons and subsequent retreat, which caused the 1st Norfolks 254 officers and men killed, wounded or missing in action, and were forced to leave behind a further 100 wounded officers and men.

The 2nd Battalion was serving in Bombay, India in the 18th (Belgaum) Brigade, part of the 6th (Poona) Division, of the British Indian Army, upon the outbreak of war. The 2nd Battalion of the Norfolks fought in the Mesopotamian campaign. The treatment of prisoners after the fall of Kut al Amara mirrors that that would later befall the Royal Norfolks in the Far East during the Second World War.

Territorial Force

The two Territorial Force, the 4th and 5th, battalions were both part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade, part of the East Anglian Division. In May 1915 these became the 163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade, 54th (East Anglian) Division. The two territorial battalions both served in the Gallipoli Campaign in mid-1915. The 1/5th included men recruited from the Royal estate at Sandringham. On 12 August 1915, the 1/5th Battalion suffered heavy losses at Gallipoli when it became isolated during an attack. A myth grew up long after the War that the men had advanced into a mist and simply disappeared.[2] A BBC TV drama, All the King's Men (1999), starring David Jason as Captain Frank Beck, was based upon their story.

In the Second Battle of Gaza in 1918, the 1/4th and 1/5th battalions suffered 75% casualties, about 1,100 men.[3]

The 1/6th (Cyclist) Battalion was in Norwich on the outbreak of war. However, unlike the 1/4th and 1/5th battalions, the 1/6th never served overseas and remained instead in Norfolk throughout the war until 1918 when it was sent to Ireland.

The 2/4th and 2/5th battalions were both raised in September 1914 from the few men of the 4th and 5th battalions who did not volunteer for Imperial Service overseas when asked. Therefore, Territorial units were split into 1st Line units, which were liable to serve overseas, and 2nd Line units, which were intended to act as a reserve for the 1st Line serving overseas. To distinguish them, all battalions adopted the '1/' or '2/' prefix (1/4th Norfolks as a 1st Line unit, 2/4th Norfolks as a 2nd Line unit). The 2/4th and 2/5th were part of the 2nd Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade, 2nd East Anglian Division, later, in August 1915, they became 208th (2/1st Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade, 69th (2nd East Anglian) Division. However, both battalions were disbanded in 1918: the 2/4th in May and the 2/5th in June, respectively.

The 2/6th (Cyclist) Battalion, formed in October 1914 as a duplicate of the 1/6th (Cyclist) Battalion, had much the same history as the 1/6th Battalion and remained in the United Kingdom until May 1918 when it was disbanded.

Service battalions

Men of the 1st Battalion, Norfolk Regiment on parade being inspected by Sir John Anderson, the Governor General of Bengal; Dacca, British India, 1933.

The 7th (Service) Battalion, Norfolk Regiment was raised in August 1914 from men volunteering for Kitchener's New Armies and was assigned to the 35th Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division.

The 8th (Service) Battalion as part of the 53rd Brigade of the 18th (Eastern) Division was present on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. They got beyond their initial target and had by 5.00pm reached the German trenches known as "Montauban Alley". Over one hundred men and three officers had been killed.

The 9th (Service) Battalion was also raised in 1914, assigned to 71st Brigade, 24th Division.

The 10th (Service) Battalion, raised in 1914, became the 10th (Reserve) Battalion in March 1915

Victoria Cross

During the war, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Sherwood Kelly, a Norfolk Regiment officer, was awarded the Victoria Cross while leading a trench assault by Irish troops during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

Second World War

John Niel Randle VC

The regiment was renamed to the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 3 June 1935 to celebrate 250 years since the regiment was first raised and also to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. In 1940, the first decorations for gallantry awarded to the British Expeditionary Force in France were gained by men of the 2nd Battalion. Captain Frank Peter Barclay, was awarded the Military Cross, and Lance-Corporal Davis the Military Medal. Captain F.P. Barclay would later lead the 1st Battalion in the North West Europe Campaign towards the end of the war. Five members of the Royal Norfolks, the highest number of any British Army regiment during the Second World War, were awarded the Victoria Cross:

Regular Army battalions

Men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment receive their rum ration before going out on patrol in France, 26 January 1940

The 1st Battalion was a regular army unit that was stationed in India at the outbreak of war and was recalled to Britain, arriving in July 1940 during the Battle of Britain. They were part of the 185th Infantry Brigade originally assigned to the 79th Armoured Division but the brigade (including the 2nd Royal Warwickshire Regiment and 2nd King's Shropshire Light Infantry) transferred to the 3rd Infantry Division, with which it would remain with for the rest of the war. The battalion landed on Red Queen Beach, the left flank of Sword Beach, at 07:25 on 6 June 1944, D-Day, and fought with distinction through the Normandy Campaign and throughout the North West Europe Campaign. On 6 August 1944 at Sourdeval, Sidney Bates of B Company was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his great courage in the Battle of Sourdevallee against the crack 10th SS Panzer Division. Miles Dempsey, British Second Army Commander, stated that by holding their ground in the battle the battalion made the subsequent breakthrough in August possible. By the end of the war in Europe, the 1st Battalion had gained a remarkable reputation and was claimed by Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, known as Monty, as 'second to none' of all the battalions in the 21st Army Group. The 1st Royal Norfolks had suffered 20 officers and 260 other ranks killed with well over 1,000 wounded or missing in 11 months of almost continuous combat.[4]

Monument at Biéville-Beuville, Normandy, in memory of 116 comrades who fell between D-Day 6 June and 9 July 1944

During the Battle of France in 1940 Company Sergeant-Major George Gristock of the 2nd Royal Norfolks was awarded the Victoria Cross. During the battle, members of the Royal Norfolks were victims of a German war crime at Le Paradis in the Pas-de-Calais on 26 May.

The 2nd Royal Norfolks were attached to the 4th Infantry Brigade, part of 2nd Infantry Division, which was holding the line of the La Bassée Canal and covering the retreat to Dunkirk. Units became separated from each other and HQ Company had formed a defensive position based at the Duriez farmhouse. They carried on their defence until the afternoon, by which point many were injured and the enemy were shelling the farm. Making a last stand in the open they were outnumbered and surrendered to a unit of the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the SS 'Totenkopf' (Death's Head) Division, under SS Obersturmfuhrer Fritz Knoechlein. The 99 prisoners were marched to some farm buildings on another farm where they were lined up alongside a barn wall. They were then fired upon by two machine guns; 97 were killed and the bodies buried in a shallow pit. Privates Albert Pooley and William O'Callaghan had hidden in a pigsty and were discovered later by the farm's owner, Mme Creton, and her son. The two soldiers were later captured by a Wehrmacht unit and spent the rest of the war as prisoners of war. Fewer than 140 men of the 2nd Royal Norfolks managed to return to Britain.

The bodies of the murdered soldiers were exhumed in 1942 by the French and reburied in the local churchyard which now forms part of the Le Paradis War Cemetery. The massacre was investigated by the War Crimes Investigation Unit and Knoechlein was traced and arrested. Tried in a court in Hamburg, he was found guilty and hanged on 28 January 1949. A memorial plaque was placed on the barn wall in 1970.

The 2nd Battalion, still as part of the 4th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, also served in the Far East in the Burma Campaign participating in battles such as the Battle of Kohima until the end of the war against Japan in 1945. They served with the British Fourteenth Army, known as the 'Forgotten Army' as their actions were generally over-looked and the main focus was in the North West Europe Campaign. The Fourteenth Army was commanded by the popular and highly respected William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim. Both John Niel Randle and George Arthur Knowland were posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion in the Far East, both for extraordinary heroism.

Territorial Army battalions

The 4th, 5th and 6th battalions, all part of the Territorial Army, served in the Far East. The 5th and 6th (City of Norwich) were both assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade, and the 4th Battalion the 54th Infantry Brigade. Both brigades were part of the 18th Infantry Division. Throughout most of their existence, all three battalions remained in the United Kingdom assigned to coastal defence duties and training to repel a German invasion and, in October 1941, the division left, destined for the Middle Eastern theatre of war. The 18th Division fought in the defence of Singapore and Malaya against the Japanese advance. The men of these battalions, and other East Anglian battalions of other regiments, ended up as prisoners of war when Singapore fell in February 1942. They would remain so until August 1945 during which time they were used as forced labour on projects such as the Death Railway through Burma.

The 7th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment was formed in May 1939 as a 2nd Line Territorial Army duplicate of the 5th Battalion and, therefore, contained many former members of the 5th. Together with the 5th and 6th battalions, the 7th was assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade, part of the 18th Infantry Division until November when it assigned to pioneer duties in France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). In May 1940 was assigned to the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division. The 51st Division was stationed on the Maginot Line and therefore escaped encirclement with the rest of the BEF during the Battle of France where they spent some time attached to the French Tenth Army. The 7th Royal Norfolks suffered heavy casualties when the 51st (Highland) Division was surrounded and had no choice but to surrender, on 12 June 1940, with only 31 members of the battalion managing to return to Britain. In October 1940 the battalion was assigned to 205th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home) until, on 14 October 1942, the battalion was transferred to the 176th Infantry Brigade, alongside the 7th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment and 6th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment, of the 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division. The 59th Division was one of the follow-up units after D-Day in June 1944 and was considered by General Bernard Montgomery as one of his best divisions. On the night of 7/8 August 1944, Captain David Auldjo Jamieson of D Company was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroic leadership which greatly helped to fend off several enemy counter-attacks in a 36-hour period. Due to an acute shortage of infantrymen in the British Army at the time, the battalion and division were disbanded in late August 1944 and its men used as replacements for other British divisions in the 21st Army Group who had also suffered heavy casualties in Normandy. Many men of the 7th Royal Norfolks would go on to serve with the 1st Battalion for the rest of the war.

Monument on Royal Norfolkplein, Helmond, Netherlands, recording the liberation of the town on 25 September 1944 by the 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment.

Hostilities-only battalions

The 8th Battalion was raised in 1939 alongside the 9th Battalion with many veterans of the Great War. Both battalions were used mainly to supply other battalions of the regiment which were overseas with reinforcements. Neither of these battalions saw service overseas and remained in the United Kingdom throughout the war as part of the Home Forces with the 9th Battalion apparently being disbanded in August 1944 when its parent unit (25th Brigade attached to 47th (Reserve) Infantry Division) was disbanded.

The 8th Battalion was renumbered as the 30th Battalion and used for garrison duties in Italy during which the 43rd Infantry Brigade, which included 30th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry and 30th Battalion, Dorset Regiment, was made to appear as a full division for deception purposes. The battalion remained in Italy until it was disbanded in 1946.

The 50th (Holding) Battalion was raised in late May 1940. The role of the Holding battalion was to temporarily 'hold' men who were homeless, medically unfit, awaiting orders, on a course or returning from abroad. The battalion was renumbered as the 9th Battalion in October and was assigned to the 220th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home), part of Norfolk County Division in early 1941.

The 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion was raised in late 1940 for those young soldiers, mostly around the ages of 18 or 19, who had volunteered for the Army and therefore had not reached the compulsory age for conscription. The battalion spent most of its time in the UK guarding against a German invasion. However, the battalion was disbanded in 1943 due to the British government lowering the age of conscription to the British Armed Forces to 18 earlier in the year. This decision was due to a growing shortage of manpower, especially in the British Army and in the infantry in particular and the young soldiers of the disbanded 70th were sent to other battalions of the regiment serving overseas.

Post Second World War

The regiment served in Korea in 1951–52 during the Korean War, and in Cyprus in the fight against EOKA in 1955–56.

In 1959 the Royal Norfolk Regiment was amalgamated as part of the reorganisation of the British Army resulting from the 1957 Defence White Paper becoming part of a new formation, the 1st East Anglian Regiment, part of the East Anglian Brigade.

Uniform and insignia

The dress worn by the Regiment's predecessor units in the late 17th and early 18th centuries included orange and subsequently green facings. In 1733, official permission was given to change from bright green back to light orange facings. By 1747, this unusual shade had evolved into yellow which was retained until 1881 when, in common with all English and Welsh regiments, the newly renamed Norfolk Regiment was given white distinctions on its scarlet tunics.[5] In 1905, the traditional yellow facings were restored for full dress and mess uniforms.[6] Another distinction of the Norfolk Regiment was the inclusion of a black line in the gold braid of officers' uniforms from 1881 onwards.[5] When the regiment was redesignated as the "Royal Norfolk Regiment" in 1935 it was specially permitted to retain the yellow facings instead of changing to blue.[7]

The figure of Britannia was officially recognised in 1799 as part of the insignia of the 9th Regiment of Foot.[8][9] Regimental tradition claimed that it was granted to the regiment by Queen Anne in 1707 in recognition of its service at the Battle of Almanza. However, there is no evidence that it was used before the 1770s, and it was not listed as an authorised device in the royal warrants of 1747, 1751 or 1768.[9][10] It subsequently became a central part of the badge of the Norfolk Regiment.[10]


The Royal Norfolk Regiment held an anniversary on 25 April for the Battle of Almanza which they inherited along with the regimental nickname of the "Holy Boys" from the 9th Regiment of Foot. They gained the "Holy Boys" nickname during the Peninsular War from the misidentification by a Spanish soldier of Britannia on their cap badge as the Virgin Mary.

Battle honours

The following honours were inherited from the 9th Regiment of Foot:

18th Century

19th Century

On top of these, the (Royal) Norfolk regiment gained the following battle honours before amalgamation:

20th Century

Victoria Cross

In total six members of the Norfolk or Royal Norfolk Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross:

Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

The history of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and its predecessors and successors is recorded at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum. The museum moved from the Britannia Barracks, now part of Norwich prison, to the Shirehall and then to the Norwich Castle Museum. Although archives and the reserve collections are still held in the Shirehall, the principal museum display there closed in September 2011, and relocated to the main Norwich Castle Museum, reopening fully in 2013.[11] Its exhibits illustrate the history of the Regiment from its 17th-century origins to its incorporation into the Royal Anglian Regiment in 1964, along with many aspects of military life in the Regiment. There is an extensive and representative display of medals awarded to soldiers of the Regiment, including two of the six Victoria Crosses won.[12] [13]

Other regimental artefacts are on display at the Royal Anglian Regiment Museum based at the Land Warfare Hall of the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

See also


  1. The other regiment linked with Norfolk, the 54th Regiment of Foot, became part of the Dorsetshire Regiment.
  2. The Vanished Battalion
  3. Eastern Daily Press Sunday section, 5 May 2007
  4. Further information on this unit can be found in Thank God and the Infantry - From D-Day to VE-Day with the 1st Battalion The Royal Norfolk Regiment, by John Lincoln who himself served as a young 20-year-old Officer Commanding 17 Platoon, D Company, in the 1st Battalion in 1944 and was awarded the Military Cross.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Carman, W Y; Simkin, Richard; Douglas-Morris, K J (1985). Uniforms of the British Army: The Infantry Regiments. Webb & Bower. ISBN 0-86350-031-5. 
  6. Hamilton, Eric (1968). "Colours of the Regular Army Infantry of the Line 1st July 1881 to 1958". The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society (Special Issue No.1): 5, 14. 
  7. "Honours for the Army". The Times. 3 June 1935. p. 21. His Majesty has further approved that the following regiments be permitted to retain their present facings:- ...The Royal Norfolk Regiment (yellow) 
  8. Horse Guards Letter dated 30 July 1799: "His Majesty has been pleased to confirm to the 9th Regiment of Foot the distinction and privilege of bearing the figure of Britannia as the badge of the Regiment."
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sumner, Ian (2001). British Colours & Standards 1747–1881 (2) Infantry. Oxford: Osprey. p. 5. ISBN 1-84176-201-6. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Edwards, T J (1953). Standards, Guidons and Colours of the Commonwealth Forces. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. p. 204. 
  11. BBC Norfolk News 26 July 2011 "-Royal Norfolk Museum Moves to Norwich Castle"
  12. Norfolk Museums - Royal Norfolk Regiment museum"- Royal Norfolk Regiment Museum at Norwich Castle
  13. Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum website – Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

External links

Preceded by
9th Regiment of Foot
(Royal) Norfolk Regiment
Succeeded by
1st East Anglian Regiment