Chapter 15 – THE FIRST WORLD WAR 1914-18
During the Great war our predecessors raised 58 battalions, of whom 38 saw active service overseas earning 112 battle honours.
FRANCE AND FLANDERS
The 30th, 47th and 82nd formed part of the original British Expeditionary Force in 1914, the “Old Contemptibles”, earning 13 battle honours of which Mons, Retreat of Mons, Marne 1914, Messines 1914, and Ypres 1914 are borne on the present Regimental Colours. At Le Gheer Drummer Bent of the 30th won the Victoria Cross. The pre-war Regular Army fought virtually to the death in the desperate fighting of 1914.
In 1915 the surviving Regulars were reinforced by an increasing flow of Territorials and newly-formed service battalions of Kitchener’s “New Army”. Lancashire battalion were particularly involved in the battles of Neuve Chapelle, Ypres 1915 and Loos, where Private Kenny of the 47th earned a Victoria Cross. Later in the same year the award was also made to Private Young, 8th East Lancashires.
By the middle of 1916 there were nineteen Lancashire battalions on the Western Front. On 1st July 1916, in the opening hours of the battle of the Somme, the 1st and 11th East Lancashire’s advanced across open ground in the face of German machine guns. Of 722 men of the 30th who went into action that day only 237 came out while the 11th battalion (The Accrington Pal’s) lost some 584 out of 720 in the attack. This Memorable devotion to duty is commemorated in the Regiment annually to this day. Victoria Cross were won at St Eloi By Lieutenant Jones, 8th Loyals, and on the Somme By Lieutenant Wilkinson, 7th Loyals and 2nd Lieutenant Coury, 1/4th South Lancashires.
1917 saw our strength in France and Flanders reach a peak of 27 battalions. Seven Lancashire battalions took part in the successful Messines offensive, where Private Ratcliffe of the South Lancashires won the Victoria Cross, while nineteen battalions fought in the Mud of the Third Battle of Ypres at Passchendaele and elsewhere.
In the final German offensive of March 1918 the Lancashire battalions fought stubbornly, despite mounting casualties, until the attack was halted, Victoria Cross were awarded to 2nd Lieutenant Horsfall, 11th East Lancashire, and Corporal Davis, 11th South Lancashires. Eighteen Lancashire battalions took part in the allied offensive which brought the war to an end.
East Africa. The 81st served in East Africa 1914-16, earning the battle honour Kilimanjaro before their transfer to Palestine and France.
Gallipoli. Five Lancashire battalions served on Gallipoli, earning five battle honours. A posthumous Victoria Cross was awarded to 2nd Lieutenant Smith, 1/5 East Lancashires.
Egypt and Palestine. All three Regiments took part in the defence of Egypt from the Turks and four battalions took part in the subsequent capture of Palestine, earning eight battle honours.
Mesopotamia. The 6th Battalion of all three Regiments distinguished themselves in the advance up the Tigris to Baghdad, winning four battle honours. Victoria Cross were awarded to Private Readitt, 6th South Lancashires, and Reverend Addison and Captain Reid, 6th Loyals.
Macedonia. One battalion of each Regiment served in Macedonia against the Bulgarians, earning two battle honours.