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The Royal Berkshire Regiment:

Great War - Inter-war - Second World War - Post-war

Royal Berkshire Regiment

The Royal Berkshire Regiment was an Infantry Battalion that would have had an MG Section as part of its Battalion Headquarters. These weapons would have been brigaded when the Machine Gun Corps was formed in 1915. The guns, and crews, would have been formed into a Machine Gun Company.


The Great War

During the Great War, the dispositions of Battalions were distributed as follows:

1st

The 1st Battalion was part of the 99th Brigade, attached to the 2nd Division. It's MG Section was transferred, on formation in England, to the 99th Bde. MG Coy. It landed in France on 26 April 1916 and joined the Division on 28 April.

The MG elements of the Battalion would not have seen any active service prior to tranferring.

2nd

The 2nd Battalion started the Great War as a member of the 25th Brigade, 8th Infantry Division.

As a unit of the 8th Infantry Division, its MG Section will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
1914
The division had no existence before the outbreak of War. The first units to arrive (from Malta) assembled on Baddesley Common (near Southampton), and on 2nd October, 1914, Divisional H.Q. and available units moved to Hursley Park (near Winchester), where concentration ws effected. The arrival of the 2/E. Lanc. R. on the 30th October completed the division. The 12 infantry battalions had all been brought back from various overseas stations, viz: - India (3), S. Africa (1), Aden (1), Egypt (3), Malta (3), and Bermuda (1). The mounted troops included an existing yeomanry regiment and a cyclist company, which was formed on mobilization. The Field Artillery was made up by one Horse Artillery Bde. (3 batteries), and the two Field Artillery Bdes., which still remained at home. The two Heavy Batteries were new units formed at Woolwich after the outbreak of War, and the Field Companies came from Cairo and Gibraltar. The three Field Ambulances of the Wessex Division (T.F.) were used; and of the four A.S.C. Companies, one (41) came from Cairo and the other three were new formations.

The division embarked at Southampton on the 4th and 5th November, and disembarked at Havre on the 6th and 7th; it began entraining for the Front on the 8th November, and completed its assembly around Merville by the 12th.

Throughout the remainder of the War the 8th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium, and was engaged in the following operations:-

18 DecemberNeuve Chapelle (Moated Grange Attack) [IV. Corps].
1915
10 to 13 MarchBattle of Neuve Chapelle [IV. Corps, First Army].
09 MayBATTLE OF AUBERS RIDGE
Attack at Fromelles [IV. Corps, First Army].

25 SeptemberBois Grenier [III. Corps, First Army].

Its MG Section was transferred on 15 January 1916 to form the 23rd Bde. MG Coy..

5th

The 5th Battalion was part of the 35th Brigade, attached to the 12th (Eastern) Division.

As a unit of the 12th Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.

FORMATION, BATTLES AND ENGAGEMENTS
This New Army Division had no existence before the outbreak of the Great War.

A proclamation was issued on the 11th August 1914 asking for an immediate addition of 100,000 men to the Regular Army (see Appendix I). Army Order No. 324 of the 24th August (amended by Army Order No. 382 of the 11th September) authorized the addition of six divisions (9th to 14th) and Army Troops to the Regular Army. This augmentation forced the First New Army, and late in August, 1914 the 12th (Eastern) Division begain to assemble around Colchester, with the artillery at Shorncliffe.

The 12th Division was chiefly recruited from the Eastern and Home Counties. After enlistment, drill and route marching began at once; but only improvised wooden rifles were available to accustom the recruits in handling arms. As soon as battalions had recruited up to war establishment they moved to the infantry brigade centres and more advanced training was then undertaken. In November, 1914 the three infantry brigades concentrated near Hythe, and in February, 1915 the pioneer battalion joined the Division. Towards the end of February the training had advanced far enough for the whole Division to move and concentrate at Aldershot, to complete its intensive training for war and take part in divisional field manoeuvres. In the early spring of 1915 no fewer than five divisions (10th to 14th) of the six in the First New Army were concentrated at Aldershot for their final training.

On the 24th May Aldershot Training Centre issued orders to the 12th Division to embark for France between 29th May to 1st June. On the 25th May the divisional advanced parties left, and on the 29th the Division began to entrain at Aldershot. The personnel went via Folkestone and Boulogne, and artillery, engineers, horses, and transport moved via Southampton and le Havre. By midnight 1st/2nd June the entrainment at Aldershot was completed. Meanwhile, on the 1st June, the units had begun to arrive to the southward of St. Omer and by the 4th all the units had reached the concentration area. On the 5th June the Division advanced and joined III Corps.

Throughout the remainder of the Great War the 12th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium and was engaged in the following operations:

1915
01 to 08 OctoberBattle of Loos [XI Corps, First Army].
13 to 19 OctoberThe Quarries (Hulloch) [XI Corps, First Army].

It's MG Section was transferred on 01 February 1916 to form the 35th Bde. MG Coy. at St. Hilaire.

6th

The 6th Battalion was part of the 53rd Brigade, attached to the 18th (Eastern) Division.

As a unit of the 18th (Eastern) Division, it may have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
FORMATION, BATTLES AND ENGAGEMENTS
This New Army Division had no existence before the outbreak of the Great War.

Army Order No. 382 of the 11th September 1914 authorized the further addition of six divisions (15th to 20th) and Army Troops to the Regular Army (see Appendix I). This augmentation formed the Second New Army, and during September 1914 the 18th (Eastern) Division began to assemble around Colchester.

In the earliest days of the formation, trains brought large bodies of recruits who knew no words of command and were accompanied by no officers or non-commissioned-officers. In consequence the detrainment of a party was apt to resemble the arrival of a football excursion crowd. The officer who met one of these trains could only tell the mob to follow him, and then lead the men to the particular encampment which was to accommodate them. The food was sufficient, but coarse; there were no canteens, the tents were crowded, the nights were chilly, there were never enough blankets to go round. Nevertheless in those tedious early days all ranks made the best of everything. At first the men had to march and drill in the civilian suits and boots which they wore on joining; any men whose boots became soleless had to do slow marching on grass. After some time blue uniforms and forage caps arrived, and later on sufficient khaki uniforms were received to allow at least one suit to be issued to each platoon. But the training was progressive and never slackened; and in April 1915 the Division, in full marching order, covering 62 miles in 48 hours.

It was weeks after the infantry had received their rifles before any guns were issued to the divisional artillery. At first the only armament was limited to one improvised wooden gun per battery, and up to November 1914 no battery had more than a score of horses. Nevertheless the difficulties and deficiences were overcome.

Between the 4th-12th May the Division moved to Salisbury Plain and divisional headquarters opened at Codford. On the 24th June the 18th Division was inspected by H.M. the King; and in July the Division was informed that it was to be prepared to embark for the Western Front. On the 24th July the move to France began, headquarters started on the 25th, and on the 30th July the Division completed its concentration near Flesselles (south of Doullens) in the Third Army area. The Division was placed under X Corps. For the remainder of the Great War the 18th Division served on the Western Front in France and Belgium.

It's MG Section will have been disbanded on the attachment of 53rd MG Company, which took place on 13 February 1916, Machine Gunners may have been absorbed by the 53rd MG Company, or trained on the Lewis Gun, which now equipped the Infantry Battalion.

8th

The 8th Battalion joined the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, on 16 August, 1915. It's MG Section was transferred on 26 January 1916 to form the 1st Bde. MG Coy..

As a unit of the 1st Infantry Division, it will have taken part in the following battles and engagements.
1915
25 September to 1 OctoberBattle of Loos [IV Corps, First Army]
5 to 8 October
13 OctoberHohenzollern Redoubt [IV Corps, First Army]


Inter-war Period

In 1922, the Machine Gun Corps was disbanded and the guns returned to the Infantry Battalion as a Machine Gun Platoon and then formed as a Machine Gun Company in the early 1930s.


Second World War

This remained until the formation of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in 1936 where guns were brigaded once again.


Post-Second World War

Upon the disbandment of Divisional Machine Gun Battalions in the post-WW2 restructure of the British Army, the Vickers Machine Gun assest reverted to individual Battalions as part of the Support Company as a Machine Gun Platoon.


Sources:

  • Becke, 1934
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