The Battle of Sobraon 10th February 1846

The Battle of Sobraon was fought on 10 February 1846, between the forces of the East India Company and the Sikh Khalsa Army, the army of the Sikh Empire of the Punjab. The Sikhs were utterly defeated, making this the decisive battle of the First Anglo-Sikh War.

The First Anglo-Sikh war began in late 1845, after a combination of increasing disorder in the Sikh empire following the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839 and provocations by the British East India Company led to the Khalsa invading British territory. The British had won the first two major battles of the war through a combination of luck, the steadfastness of British and Bengal units.

The Sikhs had been temporarily dismayed by their defeat at the Battle of Ferozeshah, and had withdrawn most of their forces across the Sutlej River. The Khalsa had been reinforced from districts west of Lahore, and now moved in strength into a bridgehead across the Sutlej at Sobraon, entrenching and fortifying their encampment. Any wavering after their earlier defeats was dispelled by the presence of the respected veteran leader, Sham Singh Attariwala. Unfortunately for the Khalsa, Tej Singh and Lal Singh retained the overall direction of the Sikh armies. Also, their position at Sobraon was linked to the west, Punjabi, bank of the river by a single vulnerable pontoon bridge. Three days’ continuous rain before the battle had swollen the river and threatened to carry away this bridge.

Contemporary sketch map of the Battle of Sobraon from the Collection of the Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire)

M101-1

Contemporary sketch map of the Battle of Sobraon from the Collection of the Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire)

On 7th February 1846 Sir Hugh Gough received reinforcements.   Moving out before dawn on 10th February with Taylor’s brigade (including the 29th Regiment) leading, Chota Sobraon was occupied and from here at 10.00 hours the attack was launched. The 29th supported by two native battalions dashed towards the ramparts of clay and wood (in some places ten feet high), which the enemy had erected. The attackers could see nothing but the muzzles of the guns behind which the enemy infantry were posted in entrenchments four deep. After two unsuccessful charges, the 29th succeeded in reaching the first Sikh trenches. The enemy suffered terrible casualties and by the end of the battle had lost some 10,000 men and 67 guns. The British losses, too, were heavy suffering 2,383 killed or wounded, out of which the 29th’s casualties numbered 186 out of a total strength of 552.

The first British units began to cross the river on the evening of the day of battle, and on 13 February, Gough’s army was only 30 miles (48 km) from Lahore, the capital. The remaining Sikh troops could not be concentrated quickly enough to defend Lahore.  As a result the Sikhs were forced to come to terms.

By the Treaty of Lahore, the Sikhs ceded the lands between the Sutlej and Chenab Rivers to the East India Company, and allowed a British Resident at Lahore. In addition, the Sikhs were to pay an indemnity of 1.2 million pounds.

Advertisements

The Boer War – The Battle at Slingersfontein 1900

 

The 2nd Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment left Bermuda on 25 November 1899 under the command of Lt. Col. C. Coningham. They landed at Southampton and spent ten days at Aldershot in freezing winter weather, before leaving for South Africa from Southampton on 17 December 1899 aboard SS Tintagel Castle.

The Battalion arrived at Cape Town on 12 January 1900 where the Boer War had been in progress for three months.  They travelled by train to Rensburg and then marched 18 miles to take over the outpost at Slingersfontein from the cavalry. Slingersfontein was a farm on the extreme right flank of the British line.

M922-3

A British sentry keeps watch at Slingersfontein

The 2nd Battalion Worcesters now joined General Clements Brigade together with the 1st Royal Irish and the 2nd Battalion Wiltshires. The British line still laid in a semicircle extending from Slingersfontein upon the right to Kloof Camp upon the left, and the general scheme of operations continued to be an enveloping movement upon the right. General Clements commanded this section of the forces on the right. The British lines had gradually stretched until they were now nearly fifty miles in length.

M922-6

Members of the 2nd Battalion manning a “saggar”

Patrols were in action every day and captured several Boers from whom they learned that an attack was imminent. The attack came before dawn on 12 February 1900, exactly a month after the Battalion had arrived in South Africa. They were attacked by 300 of the South African Republic (Transvaal) Police, known as the “Zarps”, the storm troops of the Boer Forces.

The weight of the attack was at the extreme right held by A, C and E Companies under  Major Stubbs. The forward picquets were overrun, but no ground was lost. The landscape was hilly scrub land and the battle was centred around Pinnacle Hill, Burnt Hill and Signal Hill.

Coningham

Lt. Colonel C. Coningham

Lt. Col. Coningham went to take command, but was shot in the head by a sniper as he directed operations from the top of Pinnacle Hill. Major Stubbs and Captain Thomas were also killed. Captain Hovell assumed command of the three companies.

Pinnacle Hill was held throughout the day. E Company led initially by Major Stubbs held onto the lower slopes assisted by C Company and well directed fire from A Company. In spite of heavy attacks during the day, they held fast and did not give ground. They made several counter attacks, but were unable to drive the Boers from the crests of Signal Hill and Burnt Hill.

The defence was helped by fire from four guns of J Battery, RHA and one howitzer, which kept all lost ground under heavy bombardment and eventually set fire to the scrub on Burnt Hill, enveloping the position in clouds of smoke.

2014-308-1a

Burying in the dead at Slingersfontein. In the foreground are the grave markers of Col. Conningham and Major Stubbs

After the all day fight, with heavy casualties inflicted  on the enemy the Boers retired. Three officers had been lost, 22 men killed and three officers and 47 men wounded.

The successful defence was largely due to the high standard of musketry in the Battalion. Boers taken prisoner were reputed to have said that they had never met such accurate and well directed fire.

A memorial was erected below Pinnacle Hill over the graves of the fallen. It occupies a prominent spot some 200 feet above the surrounding country. It is a granite cross, and at its foot, a plaque is inset into the mound naming Lt. Col. Coningham, the Officers, N.C.O.s and men who died. The foundation of the memorial contains the empty rifle cartridges from the battle.

Battle of Chillianwallah 13th January 1849

Fought during the Second Anglo-Sikh War, in the region of Punjab, now part of Pakistan. Although the battle may be considered a draw, it was a strategic check to Britain, and damaged British prestige in India.

When war broke out in the Punjab, which had recently lost much of its independence to the British East India Company following the First Anglo-Sikh War, in April 1848, the East India Company’s Commissioner for the Punjab, Frederick Currie, sent several forces of locally raised troops to help quell the revolt. The force led by Sher Singh Attariwalla also revolted and moved north to join his father, Chattar Singh Attariwalla in Hazara.

The East India Company ordered the formation of an Army of the Punjab under the veteran Commander in Chief, Sir Hugh Gough. On 18th November news arrived of the crossing of the Chenab by an army under Shere Singh. Gough dispatched a column up stream, which crossed, and marched down the enemy flank. The 29th Foot, having taken up a position with a battery on the British right, opened fire on the Sikhs to distract their attention from the outflanking troops, but the Sikh general was too wise to be caught and, breaking camp, retired to the north.

Shere Singh was now joined by Chattar Singh’s army bringing his strength to 30,000 against Gough’s 13,000. When the British closed Gough was, therefore, fairly cautious. The enemy were in positions at Chillianwallah stretching some six miles from the low hill at Rasul to Mung on the right. The country in front was mostly thick scrub and movement was difficult, but on the Sikh left in front of Rasul the approaches were fairly open. At 0700 hours on 13th January 1849 Gough advanced with the intention of forcing the enemy left flank, which task was given to Gilbert’s division. Mountain’s brigade with the 29th of Foot was on the right and on their left was Pennycuick’s brigade. Shere Singh, perceiving the British intention, seized a small mound near Chillianwallah causing Gough to alter the line of advance to the village. Nevertheless, he did not intend to assault until the next day.

Shere Singh was now joined by Chattar Singh’s army bringing his strength to 30,000 against Gough’s 13,000. When the British closed Gough was, therefore, fairly cautious. The enemy were in positions at Chillianwallah stretching some six miles from the low hill at Rasul to Mung on the right. The country in front was mostly thick scrub and movement was difficult, but on the Sikh left in front of Rasul the approaches were fairly open. At 0700 hours on 13th January 1849 Gough advanced with the intention of forcing the enemy left flank, which task was given to Gilbert’s division. Mountain’s brigade with the 29th of Foot was on the right and on their left was Pennycuick’s brigade. Shere Singh, perceiving the British intention, seized a small mound near Chillianwallah causing Gough to alter the line of advance to the village. Nevertheless, he did not intend to assault until the next day.

While the troops were piling their arms and unsaddling the horses Lieutenant MacPherson, of the 24th of Foot, climbed a tree and was appalled to see masses of turbans moving through the undergrowth. Bugles were sounded and the British took up their positions for attack. Moving up the guns Gough ordered the advance to commence at 0300 hours. As the advance passed through the thick undergrowth, it was subjected to heavy fire from the Sikh sharpshooters. This caused the orderly line to disintegrate into a series of small groups that, when they debouched into the open, came under the enemy artillery which poured grape into their ranks. The situation on the right was retrieved by the action of General Colin Campbell with the 61st and in the centre by Congreve who, seeing that the 29th were suffering from the fire of a particularly dangerous Sikh gun, charged it himself. Then commenced a struggle of the utmost ferocity. The Sikhs cast aside their matchlocks, and sword in hand fought desperately until overwhelmed.chillianwallah

The battle was by no means over. Pennycuick’s brigade had suffered heavily and the 29th were ordered to change front to cover the gap that had occurred. Congreve, noticing that the enemy was attempting to withdraw its guns, turned the 29th about and charged. Sikh cavalry were now seen moving up but checked their pace within 200 yards of the 29th. Every British firelock was brought up to the present and as they fired Sikhs dropped from their saddles and horses rolled over. Another volley completed the confusion and the survivors galloped away.

Reforming line the regiment continued to advance; meeting some Sikh infantry who were engaging Pennycuick’s men they charged. Six of the guns that had been supporting the Sikhs limbered up and got away, but the seventh turned round and, taking a shot at the colours, succeeded in clearing away every man around them. The gun was captured, however, and the gunners bayoneted; the gallant 24th who had taken the brunt of this action was saved further loss.

In this battle the centre of the Queen’s Colour was shot out and its bearer, Ensign Smith, was twice hit by bullets. This battle was the last occasion on which the colours of any battalion of the regiment were carried in action.

An obelisk was subsequently erected in memory of the British who lost their lives at Chillianwallah. Locally the battle goes by the name of ‘Katalgarh’, the House of Slaughter.

 

The Battles of Nives 9th to 13th December 1813

6135

Soldiers from the Grenadiers and Light Companies of the 29th Regiment in 1813

After his defeat at Nivelle, Marshal Soult fell back to a defensive line south of the town of Bayonne along the Adour and Nive rivers.  Despite poor weather, Hill led five Anglo-Portuguese divisions (2nd (including the 29th Regiment), 3rd, 6th (including the 36th Regiment), Portuguese and Pablo Morillo’s Spanish Divisions) across to the east bank of the Nive near Ustaritz on 9 December.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the British force under Hope launched diversionary attacks towards Bayonne on the west bank of the Nive.

Soult launched a counter-attack with eight divisions against Hope the following day, and despite several fierce actions the British line held until reinforced.

The right flank of Hope’s line was held by the 7th Division at the bridge of Urdains.  The Light Division defended the centre near Bassussary. The left was held by Bradford and Campbell’s independent Portuguese brigades north of Barroilhet. The terrain forced the French into these three corridors of attack. The 5th Division lay three miles to the rear while the 1st Division were ten miles away.

Soult committed five divisions against Bassussary and three divisions against Barroilhet. The four divisions leading the attack were fresh while the supporting troops were tired from skirmishing with Hill’s troops.

The French advance soon came upon the ridge of Arcangues, topped by a chateau and a church. After one attack was beaten off with ease by the Light Division, the French settled down to a futile artillery bombardment and probing attacks against the very strongly built structures.

The picket line on Hope’s left flank was overrun by the French attack and 200 men captured. The Portuguese held onto Barroilhet and awaited reinforcements. The 5th Division arrived, but due to a staff blunder, was low on ammunition.

Soult sent two divisions to assist this attack. After hours of heavy fighting, he ordered one last charge. This attack drove to the mayor’s house of Barroilhet, the French skirmishers wounding and nearly capturing Hope.  At this point, the 1st Division came up and Soult called off his attacks. Both sides had lost around 1,600 troops.

Battle of St. Pierre

On the night of 12 December, a temporary pontoon bridge over the Nive at Villefranque was washed away. This isolated Hill’s 14,000 men and 10 guns on the east bank of the river, just as the French were reorganizing for an assault.

Seizing his opportunity, Soult rapidly switched six divisions and 22 guns to the east bank of the Nive and attacked Hill. Soult outnumbered Hill’s corps by three-to-one. Defending a line between Petit Mougerre and the Nive, the Allied corps held on for hours in a bitter fight. The capable Hill performed superbly, feeding in his few reserves with skill and exhorting his troops.

However, after the arrival of reinforcements under Wellington, the French troops refused to continue the attack. Soult reluctantly retreated into Bayonne, having lost 3,000 men against Anglo-Portuguese losses of 1,750. The Allied army commander rode up to his subordinate and congratulated him, “Hill, the day’s your own.”

As a result of their courage on this day both the 29th and 36th Regiments were accorded the battle Honour NIVE.

The Battle of Nivelles, 10th November 1813

After the successful Allied siege of San Sebastian (7 July – 8 September 1813), Wellington, with 80,000 British, Portuguese and Spanish troops advanced northwards pursuing Marshal Soult’s retreating army.

Soult turned to face the British at prepared position along the River Nivelle.    The French army was drawn up on a series of hills on which they had constructed a number of strong  redoubts.   However, Marshal Soult’s lines stretched from the shores of the Atlantic on the French right flank to the snow-covered pass of Roncesvalles on the left, a perimeter of about 20 miles. With only 60,000 men to protect this, Soult’s forces were stretched impossibly thin.

The French position was dominated by the Greater Rhune, a gorse-covered, mountain nearly 3,000 feet high. Separated from the Greater Rhune by a ravine, roughly 700 yards below it,was the Lesser Rhune along the precipitous crest of which the French had constructed three defensive positions.

Wellington decided to attack along the whole of Soult’s line, but to mount his major assault in the centre.  A breakthrough in the centre or on the French left flank would enable the British to cut off the French right.   Wellington disposed his forces as follows:  the left wing led by Sir John Hope, comprised the 1st and 5th Divisions as well as Freire’s Spaniards. General Beresford was to lead the main Allied attack against the French centre with the 3rd, 4th, 7th and Light Divisions,  while on the British right (attacking the French left ) Sir Rowland Hill would lead with the 2nd and 6th Divisions, supported by Morillo’s Spaniards and Hamilton’s Portuguese.   In this assault, the 2nd Division, including the 29th Worcestershire Regiment and the Sixth Division, including the 36th Herefordshire Regiment, had the toughest job and earned special praise from Wellington.  The battle honour “Nivelles” was to be  borne on the Colours of both Regiments thereafter.

The battle started just before dawn on the 10th of November, as the Light Division headed towards the plateau on the summit of the Greater Rhune (the summit had been garrisoned by French troops but they had fled after the skirmish on the River Bidassoa, fearing to be cut off from their own army). The objective of the division was to sweep the three defensive forts the French had constructed out of the battle. They moved down into the ravine in front of the Lesser Rhune and were ordered to lie down and await the order to attack.   After the signal from a battery of cannon, the assault began. It started with the men of the 43rd, 52nd and 95th – with the 17th Portuguese Caçadores in support – storming the redoubts on the crest of the Rhune.   The surprise and boldness of the British sent the French fleeing towards forts on other hills.

The Battle of Nivelles

The Battle of Nivelles

While the 43rd and 95th were dealing with the French on the Rhune, there still remained one very strong star-shaped fort below on the Mouiz plateau which reached out towards the coast. This was attacked by Colborne’s 52nd Light Infantry, supported by riflemen from the 95th. Once again, the French were surprised and in danger of being cut off, they fled leaving Colborne in possession of the fort and other trenches without a single fatal casualty.

The main British assault then began with the nine divisions fanning out over a five-mile front.  When the 3rd division took the bridge at Amotz, all French resistance broke as any communication between the two halves of Soult’s army was now impossible. The French resistance melted away and soon they were in full retreat (by 2 o’clock they were streaming across the Nivelle) having lost 4351 men to Wellington’s 2450.

“Breaking the Stalemate”: the Battle of Loos – 25th September to 18th October 1915

There had been no decisive advance on the Western Front and the stalemate of the trenches continued through the summer of 1915.   The Allies therefore decided upon another major offensive in Champagne to be launched by the French. The British were to provide support to this campaign with a joint Anglo-French attack at Loos.  It was hoped a breakthrough of German defences at Artois and Champagne would restore a war of movement.

The scale of the attack was much greater than any that had been attempted that year and was known as ‘The Big Push’. The battleground, to the south of La Bassée Canal, was less than suitable, being uniformly flat and dominated by slag-heaps. The combined Franco-British offensive would attack eastwards against the German Sixth Army. The whole force, supervised by General Foch, would consist of French Tenth Army and British First Army. It would attack on a 20-mile front between Arras and La Bassée. The British bombardment started on 21 September and continued into 24th.

The 2nd Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment, was moved into reserve position west of Givenchy on the 24th September, amid heavy initial bombardments for the battle. They then spent the night carrying gas cylinders to emplacements in the trenches in preparation for the morning.

At dawn of the 25th the poisonous chlorine gas was released, which formed a 30 to 50 feet high blanket, moving forward slowly in places but virtually standing still in the British assault positions in other areas, with devastating effects.  Very soon rumours of a disaster began to filter back to the reserve – the windless conditions had caused the gas to hang motionless in the air in front of the parapet, and even in some cases had drifted back onto the British troops.   As the troops advanced out of the trenches it was realised that the initial bombardment had failed to cut extensively the German wire; within range of German machine guns and artillery, advancing over open ground, the losses were great. Whilst numerical superiority had initially enabled the capture of the town of Loos-en-Gohelle, the late arrival of reserves meant this breakthrough could not be exploited.

Two companies of the 2nd Battalion were sent forward in the support of the Highland Light Infantry, but before they reached the front line it had been decided to suspend the attack. By sunset the Battalion was again back in the reserve position, having suffered few casualties.

Meanwhile, further north the 10th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment in reserve at Le Hamel, marched forwards to Le Plantin. There the attack was counter-ordered and they trudged back to their previous billets at Locon.

Throughout the day of the 26th September the 2nd Worcestershire waited, eventually receiving orders to move southwards to join 1st Royal Berks and 1st Kings Royal Rifle Corps to form an improvised Brigade. During the night the situation altered and a strong enemy counter-attack had driven back the troops of the 7th Division and had recaptured the Quarries. The 7th Division were unable to regain ground.

Battle of Loos 26 Sept 1915

Battle of Loos 26 Sept 1915

The 2nd Worcesters were ordered to lead an attack at “the Quarries”. The battalion deployed in four waves, coming under heavy fire as they reached the old German lines. When the two leading companies had got clear of the trench, Colonel Lambton again signalled the advance. In short rushes of small squads, firing and dashing, they pushed on up the gentle slope towards the enemy. Major P. S. G. Wainman leading the men was mortally wounded. The survivors of the 2nd Worcesters held their ground opposite the enemy’s line during the remaining hours of daylight. Nearly half the Battalion had been lost (13 officers and more than 300 N.C.O.’s and men).  Throughout the night the stretcher-bearers toiled to clear the battlefield.

Major P. S. G. Wainman

Major P. S. G. Wainman

At 5 am on the 27th a strong German bombing party, advancing along the communication trench, was driven back. Throughout the day sharp firing was kept up between the trenches.   At one point, CSM E. Welch mounted a machine-gun to repel another bombing party coming up the communication trench. The following day was spent in miserable conditions under continual firing.  At dawn on the 29th September, the Worcesters repelled a fresh attack, with Colonel Lambton ordering a charge over the parapet.

After a long and hard day, the Worcesters were relieved by the 2nd Kings Own, and made their way back across the battlefield. They then remained at Essars till the following day.  By this time the Germans had retaken both the Slagheap of ‘Fosse 8’ and the Hohenzollern Redoubt, and it was decided that the 2nd Division should relieve the 7th Division at Gun Trench with a view to regaining the lost ground. In the afternoon of the 30th the 2nd Worcesters re-joined the 5th Brigade at Vermelles.

An attack by the Highland Light Infantry was made on the evening of 2nd October; whilst the Worcestershire waited for orders to join in the fight. Presently it became known this would not happen and the attack had failed. The 2nd Battalion was spent the final day of battle for the under enemy shell, eventually being relieved after midnight. Their battle was over!  As a result of their actions men of the Battalion were awarded:  one Military Cross (Captain C.H. Ralston) and no less than seven Distinguished Conduct Medals.

Fighting continued until the 18th October.  British casualties were estimated at 50,000 whilst German losses were thought considerably lower at around 25,000.

Action at Krithia Vineyard, Gallipoli, 6th August 1915

The 4th Worcestershire, having taken part in the initial landings at Cape Helles on 25th April, advanced up the peninsula towards the village of Krithia.  Three attempts to take the village were made in April, May and June, and in further fighting Lt James won the Regiment’s first VC on 3 July.  After this the front stabilised about 3/4 mile short of Krithia at its nearest point.

Veteran of the 4th Battalion

Veteran of the 4th Battalion

The Battalion went into reserve at Gully Beach on 28 July and prepared for another attack by the 29th Division between the Krithia Nullah and the Gully Ravine.  At 0400 6 August the attacking troops left the beach and moved forward to the assembly trenches.  The Battalion had been made up to full strength by fresh drafts and went into action over 800 strong.  There was plenty of time to make final preparations, for the attack was not to commence until the cool of the evening.  Midday passed amid heat and buzzing flies.  At 1420 the British heavy artillery opened fire.  Instantly the Turkish guns replied and high explosive shells burst all along the British trenches.  The British field artillery and machine guns joined in the fire preparation, and the attacking troops left their trenches at 1550.

Krithia June-August 1915

Krithia June-August 1915

The Battalion went forward in four waves.  For the first 50 yards all went well and losses were not heavy until the crest of the low rise in front was reached.  As the successive waves topped the rise and came in full view of the enemy, they were struck from both flanks by a hail of machine gun bullets.  The platoons rushed on, but under that deadly fire the ranks withered away.  The remnant charged the trenches and in many cases leapt in, fighting hand to hand until overpowered by numbers.  About 30 of the Worcestershires formed a stronghold in the enemy trench and held out for three hours.  After expending nearly all their ammunition, 12 survivors made their escape under cover of darkness.
By dawn a large number of the wounded had been brought in and the Battalion was relieved.  The remnant of the 4th Worcestershire went back to Gully Beach, to reorganise and reckon their loss.  It was found that the casualties numbered 16 officers and 752 other ranks.

The Mercian Regiment Museum launches an exciting new book

Norton Book Front CoverThe Story of Norton Barracks:Home of the Worcestershire Regiment’ by Stan Jobson
This is the story of both the buildings that formed Norton Barracks and of the soldiers and other personnel who were based there as members of staff or who passed through as they underwent training. Stan Jobson has spent much time in the Regimental Archives unearthing both photographs and personal recollections of time spent at the barracks. The result is a tale of British Military history in microcosm, but often seen from a personal viewpoint of hard training, military structures, playful pranks, sporting achievements, patriotic surges, post D-Day traumas and both keen and reluctant National Servicemen. There is also an appendix which gives the background to the names of the streets which now criss-cross much of the site of the barracks, names which are largely associated with the battle honours of the Worcestershire Regiment.
On retiring from a service career in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Stan Jobson joined the American IT company Electronic Data Systems where he worked as an Information Systems Project Manager, primarily for the MOD. Having had an interest in military and aviation history for many years he gained his MA in British First World War Studies from the University of Birmingham, graduating in December 2007. For the past three years he has been researching the history of the barracks at the request of the Trustees of the Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire).  Available through the Museum, priced £7.50 plus p&p.  Please contact us on 01905 721982.

Recent Acquisition

With the generous assistance of the The ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the Mercian Regiment Museum we have recently acquired an Officer shoulder belt plate of the 36th Herefordshire Regiment.  This belt plate succeeded the 1800 pattern and was prompted by the plethora of battle honours awarded for the Peninsular War, and the authorisation of the motto “FIRM”, both events occurring in 1816.  The introduction of this plate must therefore be after 1816 when the last four battle honours were granted yet before 1825 when “PYRENEES” and “NIVE” were granted.  This plate shows clear signs that the star has been moved upwards to accommodate the “FIRM” scroll.  Bennet, who originally acquired the badge of Captain Bayley, (Bennet R.W. 1994 “Badges of the Worcestershire Regiment”) mentions only one other example of this type of shoulder belt plate, whose current location is unknown.

Charles Andrew Bayley was first commissioned on the 25th November 1804, as an Ensign of the 41st Regiment of Foot.  On the 26th January 1806 he was a gazetted Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 31st Foot and it was in this capacity that he served in the Peninsular.  He was present at the siege of Badajoz and the Battle of Albuehera and at the action of Arroyo del Molinos for which he received a promotion.  He was gazetted Captain and joined the 36th Foot (the Herefordshire Regiment) on the 15th January 1812.  He joined the 2nd Battalion of the 36th in May and went recruiting in Borrisokane, Ireland.  He was back in Spain in March 1813, but was sick and on leave from October 1813 to May 1814.   He was then appointed Officer in charge of the 36th Depot in Cork. Following the disbandment of the 2nd battalion in 1815 he joined the first battalion in Portsmouth. In 1817 he was posted to Malta.  He became DAQMG Malta in August 1821 and then Military Secretary Corfu in February 1822.  He was appointed military secretary in Malta from May 1824 and then deputy Judge Advocate in Malta in April 1825.   In 1826, he went on half pay until 1841.  On the 23rd November 1841 he was appointed Lt. Colonel Mediterranean and from 1846 to 1850 he was Commander Forces Gozo, Malta.  He died in 1852.

Officer's shoulder belt plate of the 36th Regiment

Officer’s shoulder belt plate of the 36th Regiment

Neuve Chapelle 10th to 13th March 1915

 This was the first major British offensive of the war on the Western front.  The initial assault on 10th March broke through the German line.  During that night elements of the 1st Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment went forward to hold the gap.  They were reinforced by the remainder of the Battalion the next afternoon.

At dawn on the 12th March the German artillery opened up and shortly afterwards attacking infantry loomed through the mist.  “There was a most extra-ordinary hush for a few seconds as we held our fire” said an officer “While they closed in on us.”  Then the Battalion opened a rapid fire.  As the Germans reeled, the Battalion broke from their trenches and charged with the bayonet, pursuing the enemy back beyond their own trenches which the Battalion then occupied and held against several counter-attacks.

Mantania

This painting by Matania of the 1st Battalion at Neuve Chapelle graphically portrays the savage nature of the hand-to-hand fighting

By 10 am it was clear that the position of the Battalion, far in advance of any support, encircled on three sides, and shelled by both enemy and friendly artillery, was not tenable.  As they withdrew in good order, they were decimated by the enemy’s cross-fire, losing amongst others the Commanding Officer and the Adjutant.

wodehouse

Lt. Colonel Wodehouse

 

 

The losses had been severe; 9 officers and 92 men killed, 10 officers and 226 men wounded, and 27 men missing.