This Day In History

1915 Gallipoli. In the early hours, after a difficult crossing in choppy seas from Mudros, the 6th Battalions of the East, South and Loyal North Lancashires land at Anzac Cove in preparation for the Battle of Chunuk Bair.
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The Regiments in World War II

A Lancashire Infantry Museum Narrative History

© Lancs Inf Museum & Lt Col E J Downham MBE BA DL


by John Downham

Shortly after the outbreak of war with Germany the 1st South Lancashires and 1st Loyals crossed to France with, respectively, the 4th and 1st Divisions of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). By early October 1939 both battalions were in position on the Belgian frontier, where they were joined in April 1940 by the 1st and 4th East Lancashires, both of 42nd Division.

On 10th May 1940 the ‘Phoney War’ came to an abrupt end when Germany invaded Belgium and Holland. The BEF advanced into Belgium but the Allied front rapidly collapsed before the German ‘blitzkrieg’ and the British force, with its flanks exposed and its rear increasingly threatened, was obliged to make a succession of withdrawals. Ordered back from one defensive line to the next, amid scenes of growing chaos, the four Lancashire battalions fought a number of delaying actions, most notably at Tournai on the Escaut, at Lannoy and at Rousbrugge, before reaching Dunkirk.


All three of the 1st Battalions then took up defensive positions to cover the evacuation of the BEF. The South Lancashires held the far left of the British line, west of Nieuport, the Loyals occupied the fortified town of Bergues on the right, while the East Lancashires plugged a gap in the centre of the line along the Bergues Canal. All three units held their positions, under constant attack, until ordered to withdraw. On 1st June a determined enemy attack on the Dunkirk perimeter was halted by the gallant stand of B Company, 1st East Lancashires, for which Captain Marcus Ervine-Andrews was awarded the Victoria Cross (the only one at Dunkirk), assisted by a counter-attack by the Loyals. The three Lancashire battalions were among the last British troops to embark on the night 2nd/3rd June.

B Company 1st East Lancashires holding the Dunkirk perimeter as their barn burns around them. Captain Marcus Ervine-Andrews (top deck, firing Bren Gun) won the East Lancashire Regiment’s only VC of World War II, and the only one to be awarded for Dunkirk.


After Dunkirk, Britain was in imminent danger of invasion and all available battalions, Regular, TA and newly-raised Service units, were at first tasked with coastal defence. After the Battle of Britain in September 1940 the threat of invasion receded and the battalions were able to start training for offensive operations.

A number of Lancashire battalions were converted to units of other Arms:

7th East Lancashires – 103rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment

8th East Lancashires – 144th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps

2/4th South Lancashires – 13th Battalion Parachute Regiment

5th South Lancashires – 61st Searchlight Regiment

4th Loyals – 62nd Searchlight Regiment

5th Loyals – 18th Battalion Reconnaissance Regiment

6th Loyals – 2nd Battalion Reconnaissance Regiment

7th Loyals – 92nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment

8th Loyals – 93rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment

9th Loyals – 148th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps


In the dark days when Europe was overrun by the Axis powers and Britain was still building her strength, many gallant officers and men of our predecessor Regiments, impatient for action, volunteered for service with the Army Commandos and took the war to the enemy from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, while others operated with resistance fighters from France to Poland.


Taken less than 2 months before Japan attacked, this War Office publicity photograph shows the 2nd Loyals training with their Bren Gun carriers in Malaya, probably Singapore, in October 1941

The 2nd Loyals were in garrison at Singapore when on 8th December 1941, without warning or declaration of war, Japan launched attacks on British and American bases throughout the Pacific theatre. Within a month northern Malaya was overrun by Japanese forces, who were also masters at sea and in the air. On 12th January 1942 the Loyals were hurried forward from fortress reserve at Singapore to aid the hard-pressed Indian and Australian troops who were falling back through Johore, and over the next fortnight they fought several desperate rearguard actions, notably north of Batu Pahat, to assist in the Allied withdrawal from the mainland. Many Loyals were cut of in the fighting but managed to evade the enemy and rejoin the Battalion. Back on Singapore Island, 2nd Loyals held the reserved demolition on the causeway until it was blown on 31st January.

Reinforcements were still arriving at Singapore, the very last unit being the 18th Reconnaissance Battalion (late 5th Loyals, Bolton’s TA battalion) aboard the Empress of Asia. Ten miles out from Singapore, the ship was attacked on 4th February by Japanese dive-bombers and set ablaze. 18th Recce were ordered to abandon ship, losing all their arms and equipment.

On 8th February the Japanese landed on Singapore Island. Some counter-attacks were attempted, including one made at Bukit Timah on 11th February by the re-equipped 18th Recce, but in general the invaders were allowed to retain the initiative as the garrison fell back towards the suburbs of Singapore city. 2nd Loyals defended positions on Reformatory Road before starting, on the 12th, a series of withdrawals which took them to Gillman Barracks, their former peacetime base. A further two days of heavy pressure resulted, on 15th February, in a final withdrawal to Mount Washington where the surviving Loyals were ordered to lay down their arms. They had fought to the last with courage, tenacity and devotion.

Over the next three and a half years the survivors of both battalions suffered severe privations and many deaths at the hands of their brutal captors. 2nd Loyals were sent to Keijo, in Korea, while the men of 18th Recce were taken to Thailand to construct the notorious Burma Railway.

The two photographs shown below may be the only ones ever taken showing the 2nd Loyals while in captivity in Changi. They are part of a set of eight historically-priceless photographs taken in Changi Gaol, Singapore, by Army Chaplain the Rev. Lewis Headley, using a Leica camera and film which he buried for safety at the time of the surrender, and retrieved eight months later. He processed the film in an X-Ray developer, and then hid the negatives throughout the rest of his time in captivity. They survived his forced transfer to the Siamese jungle, and escaped detection by numerous searches. They were hidden in socks, in hollow bamboo and finally in the centre of a ball of mending wool. Discovery would have entailed the most severe punishment by his captors. Reproduced from photographs held in the Royal Army Chaplains Department Museum Collection and used with the permission of the RAChD Museum Trustees.

Changi Gaol was built before the war to house 600 prisoners. The Japanese crammed 5,000, and eventually 12,000, men,women and children into it. The Loyals were imprisoned there for several months before their transfer to Korea.

Men of the 2nd Loyals queing for their evening rice while Prisoners of War in Changi Gaol, Singapore,October 1942. These possibly-unique photographs may be the only ones ever taken showing the Loyals in captivity.

Men of the 2nd Loyals queing for their evening rice while Prisoners of War in Changi Gaol, Singapore,October 1942. These possibly-unique photographs may be the only ones ever taken showing the Loyals in captivity.


Men of the 2nd Loyals "enjoying" their rice stew and "Dourers" while Prisoners of War in Changi Gaol, Singapore,October 1942. One of the possibly-unique and historically priceless photographs taken by the Reverend Lewis Headley.

Men of the 2nd Loyals “enjoying” their rice stew and “Douvers” while Prisoners of War in Changi Gaol, Singapore,October 1942. One of the possibly-unique and historically priceless photographs taken by the Reverend Lewis Headley.


In June 1940 the 2nd Battalions East Lancashires and South Lancashires left India in convoy for England, where they joined 29th Infantry Brigade and, in April 1940, began training for amphibious operations. The following March they embarked on a secret expedition to capture the Vichy French island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

Both battalions took part in the assault landing on 5th May 1942 and pressed on rapidly towards the French naval base at Diego Garcia. That night the South Lancashires infiltrated behind the enemy lines. Heavy and confused fighting followed and, although the South Lancashires’ success was not immediately exploited, their daring operation persuaded the French that they were beaten and the port was captured the next day. In August both battalions re-embarked for Mombasa to prepare for the next phase. Over the next two months they cooperated in the capture by assault of the ports of Majunga and Tamatave and the rapid clearance of the remainder of the island.


Djebel Kesskiss. On 9th March 1943 the 1st Loyals, again part of 1st Division, landed at Algiers to take part in the Tunisian campaign. By the end of the month the Loyals were in contact with the Afrika Korps in the area of Banana Ridge and the Medjez Plain. On 22nd April the Battalion’s stout defence and counter-attack were largely responsible for breaking an attack by German tanks and infantry at Djebel Kesskiss.

Gueriat el Atach Ridge. The following day the Loyals suffered heavy casualties in a hard-fought battle for the heavily fortified Gueriat el Atach feature. The Commanding Officer was killed and Lieutenant Sandys-Clarke earned a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Gab Gab Gap. On 28th-29th April the Battalion was closely engaged in a desperate but finally successful defensive battle against enemy armour in the Gab Gab Gap. In one week of hard fighting 1st Loyals had lost 22 officers and 446 men, of whom eleven officers and 45 men were killed. On 5th May the Battalion supported an attack on the key Djebel Bou Aoukaz feature, and the following day the German front crumbled. The Loyals moved forward to take part in mopping up operations in the Tunis area where, on 20th May, they were represented at the Victory Parade.

ITALY 1943-45

Pantelleria. The battle for North Africa was over, but 1st Loyals were soon training for combined operations in preparation for Allied landings on Sicily and the Italian mainland. As a preliminary to these operations, the 1st Division was tasked with the capture of the heavily fortified island of Pantelleria. 1st Loyals landed in the first wave of the assault but met with no opposition from the Italian garrison of 10,000 men, who surrendered without firing a shot.


Following the Allied invasion of southern Italy, 1st Loyals landed in December 1943 at Taranto. As frontal attacks on the Gustav Line were proving costly, it was decided to turn the German’s flank by landing at Anzio, 60 miles behind the front and 30 miles south of Rome. The British 1st Division and an American division were selected for this enterprise, landing on 22nd January with no opposition. Unfortunately the Allied command failed to exploit their initial advantage of surprise. Within days the Germans had deployed substantial reinforcements and by the end of January the Allies were on the defensive.

Repeated German counter-attacks culminated on 16th February in a massive thrust by three divisions down the Rome-Anzio road with the object of splitting the beach-head and driving its defenders into the sea. In the direct path of this assault, 1st Loyals occupied the final line of defence around the vital Fly-over Bridge and along Wigan Street. On the 18th and 19th February the enemy launched repeated and heavy assaults on this position, but despite mounting casualties the Loyals fought back valiantly and held their ground until, on the afternoon of the 19th, they were able to mount a successful counter-attack. This was the turning-point of the battle and, although there was much hard fighting over the next few weeks, by the end of May 1st Loyals were advancing on Rome, which was captured on 4th June.

The Battle of the Fly-Over, showing the ground over which the 1st Loyals fought. In the foreground is a Bren-gun team from 2nd North Staffordshires comprising Reg Grocott and his No.2 Fred Mason, the artist who painted the picture. In 2004 Fred, from Walsall, presented the picture to the Anzio town military museum, where it was discovered some years later during a visit by the Friends of the Lancashire Infantry Museum. It is reproduced here in tribute to all who fought at Anzio, by kind permission of Mr Fred Mason.


Fiesole. The Allies followed the retreating enemy and on 15th August the 1st Loyals occupied Florence. Having cleared the city, the Battalion had a fierce action on 24th August with the German rearguard on the steep slopes leading up to Fiesole. ‘Fiesole’ is a unique Regimental battle honour.

The Gothic Line. Early in September the enemy withdrew to their main Gothic Line positions astride the Apennines. Later that month and during October this line was penetrated, the Loyals fighting smart actions at Poggio dei Ronchi and Monte Carnevale, being involved in the capture of Monte Gamberaldi, and successfully defending the summit of Monte Ceco against a German counter-attack.

Monte Grande. In November the 1st Loyals were moved to the massive Monte Grande feature where for the next two months, under difficult winter conditions, they resisted a series of determined enemy attacks. In April 1945 the resuscitated 2nd Loyals (formerly the 10th), who had arrived in theatre in December 1944, also defended Monte Grande before the final collapse of the German forces in Italy.



Normandy Landing. On D Day, 6th June 1944, the 1st South Lancashires were one of the two leading assault battalions of the 3rd Division. The Battalion landed on Queen White Beach at 7.20 a.m. and, despite losing the Commanding Officer and well over one hundred other casualties, made good progress through the well-prepared German beach defences and pressed inland to capture Hermanville by 9 a.m. Over the next days the South Lancashires captured the villages of Plumetot, Cresserons and La Deliverande, and the enemy strongpoint known as ‘Trout’, and secured the famous Pegasus Bridge across the Orne.

Caen. The 1st South Lancashires were then heavily engaged in the initial British thrust towards Caen, with particularly heavy fighting and many casualties on 22nd-23rd and 26th June against strong enemy positions around Le Londel. By the end of June the 1st and 5th East Lancashires were also in Normandy, with the 53rd and 59th Divisions respectively. On 8th July the 5th East Lancashires took part in a renewed advance on Caen, during which their B Company fought an action at St Contest.

The Bocage. Both East Lancashire battalions then deployed into the close bocage country west of Caen. While the 1st Battalion held a succession of defensive positions in an exposed salient, at Cheux, Grainville and Bougy, the 5th Battalion were involved in offensive action 2-3 miles further west. On 16th July (‘Black Sunday’) the 5th East Lancashires suffered some two hundred casualties in an attack at Fontenay-le-Pesnil. On 29th July the same Battalion made another costly attack, though this time with more success, and by 8th August they had advanced to the River Orne bridgehead at Grimbosq, where the 1st Battalion also crossed. On 13th August, due to an acute shortage of infantry battle casualty replacements, the 59th Division, including 5th East Lancashires, was disbanded.

Operation Goodwood. The 1st South Lancashires were next engaged on the left flank of Operation Goodwood, the major British offensive on the Bourguebus Ridge designed to draw in the German reserves prior to the Allied break-out from the Normandy beach-head. The Battalion was in action 17th-27th July around the villages of Touffreville and Sannerville and the infamous ‘Black Orchard’, where they lost their third Commanding Officer since D Day, earning the battle honour Troarn.

Falaise. The break-out was now under way and a large part of the German army in Normandy was trapped in a pocket west of Falaise On 11th August the 1st South Lancashires led an advance into this pocket down the Vire-Tinchebray road, on the extreme left of the British front. Meanwhile the 1st East Lancashires, advancing south from the Orne against the neck of the pocket, captured the little town of Bois Halbout in a spirited quick attack on 12th August, then exploited to just west of Falaise. On 19th August, when the encirclement of German forces in the Falaise pocket was completed, the battle for Normandy was effectively over.


Antwerp. The 1st East Lancashires joined in the pursuit across France, fighting several actions against enemy rearguards north of St Pol, 4th-6th September, before taking part in the clearance of the vital Antwerp docks, 9th-13th September.

Operation Market Garden. The British 2nd Army was now closing up to the Dutch border where the Meuse-Escaut Canal was the first of a succession of water obstacles. On 17th September the Allies attempted to force these obstacles by landing airborne forces on the Maas, Waal and Rhine bridges in conjunction with an armoured thrust on a narrow front. Both Lancashire battalions took part in this Nederrijn battle on the flanks of the main axis. On the night of the 16th/17th the East Lancashires carried out a difficult opposed assault crossing of the Meuse-Escaut Canal at Lommel, mopping up its parachutist defenders the following day before moving forward against determined resistance to capture the little town of Bladel, near Eindhoven, on the 22nd. On the right flank of the advance, The South Lancashires were in action around Weert.

Overloon.The partial success of Market Garden put the Allies in possession of a wedge of Holland with its point at Nijmegan, and the immediate object, which again involved both Lancashire battalions, was now to clear remaining enemy from west of the Maas. On the southern flank of the wedge, the South Lancashires took part in some of the bitterest fighting of the campaign around Overloon and Venraij 12th-18th October.

The anti-tank platoon of the 1st South Lancashires, in their Universal Carrier and towing their anti-tank gun, negotiating the mud near Overloon, Autumn 1944

s’Hertogenbosch. Meanwhile, the East Lancashires were initially tasked to hold a section of the corridor to Nijmegan, defending an area near St Oedenrode. The 53rd Division was then ordered north to capture the important route centre of s’Hertogenbosch on the Lower Maas. The East Lancashires played a particularly distinguished part in this battle, leading a daring night infiltration attack on the 23rd/24th and then participating in four days of heavy street fighting before the town was cleared. Both battalions subsequently held defensive positions west of the Maas.

An actual combat photograph of the 1st East Lancashire's anti-tank platoon in action in S'Hertogensbosch, Netherlands, in October 1944. The platoon has exposed itself and its gun while the attention of a German tank, out of sight to the left, is distracted. The platoon has seconds in which to set up and get their gun into action before the tank can target them. The NCO in charge (2nd from right) was awarded the Military Medal for this action

An actual combat photograph of the 1st East Lancashire’s anti-tank platoon in action in S’Hertogensbosch, Netherlands, in October 1944. The platoon has exposed itself and its gun while the attention of a German tank, out of sight to the left, is distracted. The platoon has seconds in which to set up and get their gun into action before the tank can target them. The NCO in charge (2nd from right) was awarded the Military Medal for this action

The Ardennes. On 19th December the German launched a counter-offensive and broke through the American front in the Ardennes. 53rd Division was withdrawn to cover Brussels and then, as the battle stabilised, committed to the Allied counter-attack on the Ourthe. On 7th January 1945, after five days of hard fighting in the woods in severe arctic conditions, and without armoured support, the East Lancashires assaulted and captured the village of Grimbiemont. The position was strongly-held by German tanks and infantry, and casualties were heavy, eleven officers and 232 men.


The Rhineland. The Allies now crossed the Maas into Germany and began to clear the enemy from between that river and the Rhine. The East Lancashires had considerable success in ten days very heavy fighting, 8th-17th February, in the Reichswald Forest, being singled out for congratulation by Montgomery. There was much close combat, including at least one bayonet charge, and many prisoners were taken. The South Lancashires had a grim struggle in the Hochwald, near Goch, on the 27th, when they fought their way slowly forward against stubborn opposition and took many casualties. The following day the East Lancashires moved through to take up the advance, clearing an area east of Weeze against fanatical opposition, particularly at Bussenhof and Trupphof, to reach Geldern, where they were the first British infantry to link up with a converging American attack.

From the Rhine to the Elbe. At the end of March both Lancashire battalions crossed the Rhine and began the final advance across the North German Plain. 1st East Lancashires first took an active part in the battle for Bocholt, 28-29 March, then, like the South Lancashires, moved through the eastern border areas of Holland, mopping up enemy stragglers. German defences were based on water obstacles, and the East Lancashires then took part in fighting on the Ems-Weser Canal near Ibbenburen, 6th-7th April, and at the assault crossing of the River Aller on the 12th, with another heavy engagement at Kirchlinteln on the 16th, before occupying Hamburg on 4th May. Meanwhile, on 5th April the South Lancashires were engaged at Lingen, on the Dortmund-Ems Canal, and mounted a successful attack at Delmenhorst during the operation to capture Bremen, which fell on 26th April. On May 8th 1945, ‘VE Day’, German capitulation ended the war in Europe.

BURMA 1943-45

The fall of Singapore in February 1942 was followed by Japanese invasion of Burma, and the small British and Indian force in that country was obliged to make an exhausting and hard fought withdrawal through the jungle and mountains to the Indian frontier, where in May they turned to face the enemy and, under General Bill Slim, prepared for their return to Burma. The 2nd Battalions of the East and South Lancashires, who had spent over a year in India after the Madagascar campaign, joined the 36th Indian Division of Slim’s 14thArmy. Two further Lancashire battalions were also present at this time; the 2nd Battalion Reconnaissance Regiment (formerly 6th Loyals) was in the 2nd Infantry Division, while the 7th South Lancashires were stationed in India from October 1943 to the end of the war, employed as a training battalion.

The Arakan In February 1944 Slim launched an attack in the Arakan, an advance which coincided with a Japanese offensive in the same area. The two Lancashire battalions deployed initially to the Bawli area ofNorth Arakan, where they saw no action. A few days later, however, the Japanese gave up their offensive and both battalions moved up to the Mayu Ridge, where they had their first contact with the enemy. During early March the South Lancashires dealt successfully with an enemy penetration of the area; they then handed over theNgakyedaukPass to theEast Lancashires and moved further along the ridge. Ten days later the South Lancashires attacked the heavily defended Point 1301, near the Maya Tunnels, but after a great deal of hard fighting the attempt was called off when the companies were held up within yards of their objectives, which were later taken only after considerable air and artillery bombardment.

Kohima To the north of the Arakan the Japanese offensive had had some success and British garrisons of Kohima and Imphal were surrounded. Both 2nd Battalions were moved north to help counter this: the South Lancashires, now in the 7th Indian Division, to Kohima in May and the East to Shillong in June. Kohima was relieved after two weeks. On 1st June theSouth Lancashires joined in the work of clearing the enemy from the area and then advanced toward Imphal against minor but often determined opposition. The battalion’s attack on Kidema was however over very difficult ground and against a large and well-sited enemy who were only dislodged after six days of artillery fire and patrol action. The road to Imphal was opened on the 22nd June. The tide had been turned and in Burma the first main objective was to be Mandalay.

B Company 2nd East Lancashires crossing a chaung in Burma, October 1944

Pinwe Early in August the East Lancashires left Shillong and were flown into Myitkyina where the 36th Indian Division joined the, mainly Chinese, Northern Area Combat Command under the American General ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stillwell. The battalion then started to advance onMandalay first encountering a stubborn but confused defence in the approach to Ingyingon. During October they advanced 75 miles through thick Jungle in twelve days taking numerous Japanese positions. In November the battalion had four days hard fighting for thevillage of Okshitkon, near Pinwe, and then defended it for a further nine days whilst sending out long range patrols through the Japanese forward positions. By mid-December the battalion was in the Indaw area. In December the East Lancashires crossed theIrrawaddy and advanced to Twinnge, and then in late February after some sharp encounters near the Kin Chuang, the battalion headed for Mongmit. By then however the Japanese had moved south to help with their main defence near Meiktila.

Nyaungu Bridgehead While Stilwell was bearing down from the north, Slim was pushing east from Imphal. Having advanced to and crossed the River Chindwin his next obstacle was the Irrawaddy. The plan was for the main crossing to be near Mandalay with a second surprise one much further south near Meiktila, which was intended to cut the Japanese withdrawal route. The South Lancashires, who were to lead the crossing at the southern most point in this the longest opposed river crossing of the war, left Kohima in December and arrived at their crossing point near Nyangu early in February 1945. The assault started silently in the early hours of the 14th but the strength of the 2,000-yard wide river and the poor quality and damaged craft prevented the battalion putting more than one company across successfully under cover of darkness. At dawn on St Valentine’s Day the second wave was caught in mid-stream and suffered heavy casualties from accurate enemy fire. A foothold had been established however and during the morning an Indian battalion completed the task with considerable artillery support.

Letse Having occupied Nyaungu, the 2nd South Lancashires helped to clear the enemy from theMountPopa area. Then, as the battle for Meiktila came to an end they were moved back over theIrrawaddy and took part in the defence of the Letse Box against an advance from the south. On the 1st April the battalion attacked the heavily defended Point 534 feature which dominated the ‘box’ and which only fell after twenty-four hours very difficult fighting. ‘Letse’ is an unique Battle Honour.

The race for Rangoon was now on. In this the 2nd East Lancashires, by now back under British command, moved to Meiktila, then cleared the enemy from the road to Kalaw. In mid-May the battalion was flown back to India. The South Lancashires first helped to cut off the Japanese retreating from the Arakan then joined in the advance on Rangoon, during which they met a strong rear guard defence. Rangoon was entered on the 7th May and as a result large numbers of Japanese attempted to retreat eastwards through the mountains of Pegu Yoma. The 2nd South Lancashires spent a month during the monsoon harassing the enemy in the mountains, before sailing for India at the end of July.

The next step was to be the invasion of Malaya, but on the 6th August an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and nine days later the Japanese surrendered.

The deadliest and most wide-spread war in human history was over. At least 50 million, and perhaps as many as 70 million, people were dead; over 100 million had served in military units; and the vast majority of the world’s nations, including all the major powers, had been involved.

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The Accrington Pals and the Benedictine Connection – or ‘A Bene ‘n ‘ot’ – 1918

It is a remarkable fact that more Benedictine liqueur is drunk in East Lancashire – more specifically the area which includes Accrington, Blackburn and Burnley – than anywhere outside France, and that the Burnley Miners Social Club is to this day, reportedly the world’s biggest single consumer.

The connection dates from at least the days following the end of the First World War, when the 11th (Service) Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment – better known as the famous Accrington Pals – was based in the Le Havre, Harfleur and Fecamp area, close to the Benectine Abbey which produces the liqueur, from June to October 1919.

The Armistice on 11 November 1918 found the Accrington Pals at Gramont, in Belgium. From there they moved back to France, to St Omer, Calais, and Abbeville before being posted to Le Havre in early June 1919, and finally to No 2 Dispatching Camp at Harfleur (now a suburb of Le Havre) on 25 June 1919. This, as the name implies, was a base from which men went to England for demobilisation.

Both those awaiting demobilisation, and men newly posted in to the camp, spent their time on route marches, lectures, football and cricket. It was inevitable that the camp would have a relatively relaxed atmosphere. Everyone, officers and men alike, looked forward to going home for good. There was plenty of free time – time to sight-see, and to dine and drink in the cafes and bars in the area.

The town and port of Fecamp is just over 20 miles from Harfleur. A particular attraction of the town is Le Palais Benedictine, a huge neo-Gothic building in the town centre. Le Palais had produced Benedictine since 1863. It is possible that, in 1919, parties of the Pals visited the distillery. What is more certain is that Benedictine was sold in every café and bar in Harfleur and Le Havre.

Men whose physical condition had suffered in years of fighting, or were still recuperating from wounds and sickness, all agreed that ‘a Bene’ had medicinal properties and a fortifying effect. The liqueur rapidly became the Pals favourite tipple. So when they returned home to East Lancashire, it was inevitable that they began to ask for ‘a Bene.’

Such was the demand for the drink that sales in East Lancashire soon amounted to most of the sales in Britain, and so it has continued to this day.

To keep out the chill of the bleak Lancashire winter, they sought the glowing comfort of a ‘Bene’ with added hot water – a ‘Bene and (h)’ot’: a uniquely English way of drinking Benedictine, still one of the most popular mixed drinks in Lancashire. It can be purchased, for instance, at every home game of Burnley United Football Club (the ‘Clarets’), where its devotees insist that there is no better way of keeping out the winter chill while manning the terraces.

In the 21st Century, there are also other unconventional ways to enjoy Benedictine – with tonic and a dash of lemon juice, or with grapefruit juice, or Café Benedictine (black coffee with a generous tot of Benedictine, topped with whipped cream), to name but three. In the kitchen, fruit cake with Benedictine (soak the ingredients in the liqueur overnight), or Benedictine Tart (soak the raisins overnight), can be made and enjoyed with a glass of Bene as a ‘digestif’.

Of course, the Accrington Pals cannot take all the credit for these modern cocktails and dishes, but at least they forged the first links of this most pleasurable chain that binds so many in East Lancashire to Le Palais in Fecamp.

(The Lancashire Infantry Museum is indebted for this article to the late William Turner, who through years of study and research, probably knew more about the Accrington Pals, or did more to preserve their memory, than anyone else in recent times)

The Regiments In The South African War 1899-1902

By John Downham

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A Lancashire Infantry Museum Narrative History

© Lancs Inf Museum & Lt Col E J Downham MBE BA DL


1st Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment march past the Town Hall and into the town of Kimberley on 7 October 1899. Four days later the Boer Republics declared war, crossed the border and within days had laid siege to the town.

Kimberley BesiegedPrior to the outbreak of war with the Boer republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State, 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was at Cape Town, part of the small peacetime garrison of Cape Colony. On 18 September 1899 one wing (half) of the Battalion was despatched north to defend the diamond town of Kimberley, vulnerably situated on the border with the Orange Free State. The Loyals Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kekewich, was appointed to command the garrison. On 11 October the Boer republics declared war, invading Cape Colony and Natal, and within days Kimberley was besieged. Throughout the four-month siege which followed the Loyal North Lancashires, the only regular infantry in the town, provided the backbone of the defence. Kekewich raised and trained local volunteer units and made skilful use of scarce resources to keep the Boers at bay and feed the townspeople while contending with the at times baneful influence of Cecil Rhodes.

As Garrison Commander, Robert Kekewitch not only had to contend with the enemy, but also too often Cecil Rhodes.

Dronfield Many sorties were mounted by the Kimberley Garrison, usually involving the mounted troops supported by companies of the Loyal North Lancashire. The first notable engagement was at Dronfield on 24 October when two companies of the Battalion made a spirited charge to drive off a Boer commando.

Carter’s Ridge On 25 November Kekewich mounted a successful sortie to the south-east, where the Boers were establishing positions on Carter’s Ridge. This raid was repeated on 28 November, but with less happy results when some of the mounted troops launched an almost suicidal assault on the Boer redoubts.  Elements of the Loyal North Lancashires were drawn into this attack which cost the garrison of Kimberley 22 dead and some 32 wounded.

Graspan Meanwhile the other wing of the Battalion, advancing from the Orange River, was engaged in the relief operation under Lord Methuen. On 25 November they were in action at Graspan, where they were part of the force which attacked and captured the kopje (hill) which was the key to the Boer position.

Modder River At the hard-fought battle of Modder River, 28 November, the Loyal North Lancashires were on the left flank and, after a two-hour firefight, they were the first troops to wade waist-deep across the river in an audacious move that turned the Boer flank. Unfortunately the advance was then halted by the British defeat at Magersfontein, 11 December, in which the Regiment was not involved, and further progress could not be made until reinforcements arrived from Britain. Consequently it was not until 15 February 1900 that Kimberley was relieved by French’s Cavalry Division.


Ordered South The 1st South Lancashires left Fulwood Barracks, Preston on 30 November 1899 and in January 1900 they joined Sir Redvers Buller’s army in Natal. Buller was attempting to force his way across the Tugela River and the rugged heights beyond it to relieve a British force trapped in the town of Ladysmith. He had already been repulsed once, at Colenso on 15 December, and the besieged troops were in desperate straits.

 Across the Tugela Buller’s next move towards Ladysmith was an outflanking left hook across the Tugela at Trichardt’s Drift and through the Tabanyama Hills, but the plan miscarried due to tardy and confused execution. The South Lancashires crossed the river on 17 January and, after two days protecting the bridgehead, captured the lower slopes of the Tabanyama in a silent night attack. The main body remained in that area, in close defence of forward gun positions, for the next six days as repeated attempts were made to break through the hills.

British troops cross the Tugela River on their way to Spion Kop. The South Lancashires crossed the river, spent two days defending the bridgehead, then captured the lower slopes of the hills beyond.

Spion Kop On the night of 23/24 January two companies of the South Lancashires marched with a force of some two thousand men to seize the dominating Spion Kop feature. Unfortunately dawn revealed that the shallow British trenches on the bare rocky summit were ill-sited and enfiladed by Boer riflemen and, as enemy artillery pounded the position, casualties mounted. Amidst the carnage and confusion of that bloody day, and despite the loss of 41 men, the two South Lancashire companies held their positions until ordered to withdraw after dark. Two days later the Battalion was rearguard as Buller re-crossed the Tugela.

Vaal Krantz Buller’s next offensive was at Vaal Krantz where, on 5th February, the South Lancashires executed an exemplary feint attack with, as a result of their steady discipline, minimal casualties. The main assault, however, failed again.

The Tugela Heights Buller determined to make a final all-out attempt to relieve Ladysmith. The Boers were entrenched on the hills on both sides of the Tugela and, once their successive positions to the south of the river had been methodically reduced, the South Lancashires crossed it to start the progressive clearance of the north side. On 22 February the Battalion captured Green Hill and held it under heavy fire and enemy counter-attacks for two days until relieved. Casualties had been relatively heavy, six officers and 46 men.

Pieters Hill The final phase of Buller’s break-through battle, on 27 February 1900, involved an assault by three brigades on three large hill features – Pieters, Railway and Hart’s. The 11th (Lancashire) Brigade, including the South Lancashires, was allocated the central objective, Railway Hill. Despite well-coordinated artillery support from across the Tugela, the open, steeply terraced approaches to the Boer-occupied heights were extremely hazardous and the attack was in danger of stalling when the South Lancashires were brought forward to assault the main position. At this critical moment Lieutenant Colonel MacCarthy O’Leary ordered a bayonet charge and with his words, ‘Remember, men, the eyes of Lancashire are watching you today’, ringing in their ears the South Lancashires swept over the Boer trenches to gain the day. The Colonel was killed at the moment of victory, as were five of his men, but the way to Ladysmith lay open and the following day the town was relieved.

"Remember, men, the eyes of Lancashire are watching you today!" This depiction of the moment when the South Lancashires swept over the Boer trenches on Pieters Hill was painted by J.A. Lamb, who as a private soldier in the regiment was there. It hangs today in the Regimental Council Chamber of the Museum.


Mobilisation By December 1899 it was evident that additional troops would be required in South Africa and over the next few weeks the 3rd (Militia) Battalions of the East, South and Loyal North Lancashire Regiments were all embodied, reservists were recalled and active service companies of the Volunteer Battalions of all three Regiments were formed for service with their respective Regular Battalions. On 19 December the 1st East Lancashires left Jersey, joining Lord Roberts’ army at the Orange River. Roberts, now C-in-C  South Africa, had planned a major offensive to take the Boer capitals, Bloemfontein and Pretoria, and finish the war.

Paardeberg The advance began on 11 February and the East Lancashires, after a trying march, took part on the 15th in the capture of Jacobsdal. Their Mounted Infantry Company were also in action that day at Waterval Drift, while on the both they and the Loyal North Lancashire Mounted Infantry were present at the decisive victory of Paardeberg. During the subsequent advance on Bloemfontein the Mounted Infantry were engaged at the battles of Driefontein and Poplar Grove. On 13 March Bloemfontein surrendered.

Karee Siding After a short halt at Bloemfontein the 1st East Lancashires marched north with the 7th Division and, on 29 March, attacked a Boer defensive position at Karee Siding. The Lancashire lads took the Boers’ main position, known afterwards as ‘East Lancashire Hill’, with a gallant charge.

Zand River After a pause for resupply, Roberts resumed his advance north to the Rand, and on 10 May the East Lancashires were in action at the battle of Zand River, capturing the key to the Boer position and beating off a strong counter-attack.

Johannesburg With the East Lancashire and Loyal North Lancashire Mounted Infantry well to the fore, Roberts’ army pressed on to take Johannesburg on 31 May. 1st East Lancashires had marched 126 miles in seven days.

Pretoria and Diamond Hill Then, while the East Lancashires remained to garrison the Rand, the Mounted Infantry companies took part in the capture of the Transvaal capital and the subsequent battle of Diamond Hill, 11-12 June.

Botha’s Pass The South Lancashires, meanwhile, marched with Buller through the rugged Biggarsberg range and shared in his successful operation to turn the Boers out of their formidable Laing’s Nek position. On 8 June they scaled the steep Drakensberg escarpment to win the battle of Botha’s Pass. 

Rhenoster River To the west, the Loyal North Lancashires joined the general advance on 14 May, marching from Boshof to Bothaville before turning east to counter raids on Roberts’ lines of communication. On 11 June they came up with Christian De Wet and drove him off at the battle of Rhenoster River.


Boer Tactics The conflict now assumed a completely different complexion, that of guerrilla warfare. As he advanced, Roberts had attempted to win over the Boers by a policy of conciliation, but it was soon clear that there were irreconcilable elements willing to fight to the bitter end. These evolved an appropriate strategy, aggressive raiding by mobile commandos against the long and vulnerable railway lines of communication and against isolated garrisons, convoys and columns. This activity ranged in scale from sniping, cutting telegraph wires, railway demolitions and ambushes, to offensive operations by two to three thousand men with artillery support. Commandos could be concentrated for operations and then disperse to their homes, hiding their weapons, only to reappear in strength elsewhere. This strategy depended on support from the farmsteads and hamlets which formed a network of Boer supply depots, intelligence agencies and safe houses across the sparsely populated veldt.

British Tactics Roberts could never really accept that the Boer commandos were more than ‘a few marauding’ bands’ to be pursued by mobile columns and punished by burning their farms. Then, in December 1900, Kitchener took over. His strategy, more systematic than Roberts’ reactive farm burnings, was to clear the land in disaffected areas while harrying the enemy with mobile columns. At the same time he had to protect his lines of communication and garrison the larger towns and settlements, which would otherwise have been reoccupied by the Boers. At various times 1st East Lancashires were in garrison at Johannesburg, 1st South Lancashires occupied Vreiheid, four companies of 1st Loyal North Lancashires were besieged in Zeerust and all three Militia battalions were deployed in defence of the railways.

Mounted Infantry An unusual feature of the Boer War, and of its guerrilla phase in particular, was the prominence of mounted troops, including Mounted Infantry. The East, South and Loyal North Lancashire Regiments all provided large numbers of Mounted Infantry, including several complete companies. As the cutting edge of the mobile columns the mounted men saw more than their share of the fighting, and there was never any shortage of volunteers for this dashing role.

Columns Kitchener had some ten times the overall strength of the Boers, but by the time his lines of communication had been secured he had barely more soldiers available for offensive operations than his opponents, perhaps 22,000 to the Boers’ 20,000. In consequence, at local level the game of cat and mouse involved frequent role reversals when the ‘mice’ converged in superior strength to attack convoys and isolated columns. Detachments of the Lancashire Regiments were involved in a number of column actions, including the battle of Hartebeestfontein, when, on 18 February 1901 two companies of the Loyal North Lancashires played a leading part in capturing a strong Boer position. The Mounted Infantry companies were very active at this stage of the war, and the 1st East Lancashire Company in particular took part in many successful engagements.

Blockhouses and Drives As the war entered its second year, Kitchener realised that he had to deny both logistic support and freedom of movement to the Boers. His draconic farm clearances were largely achieving the first of these requirements, and to achieve the second he began a comprehensive programme of blockhouse building to cordon off great tracts of the country. These blockhouses were miniature forts, sited for all-round defence, each with a garrison of an NCO and 6-8 privates. They were linked by barbed-wire fences and erected at intervals of about half to three-quarters of a mile to contain the Boer commandos so that coordinated search and destroy drives could be mounted by mobile columns. The 1st East Lancashires built and manned a blockhouse line near Frankfort, and the Volunteer Company Loyal North Lancashires by the Modder River. By October 1901 this system was proving its worth, but it was not until May 1902 that the surviving Boer leaders accepted that further resistance was useless and surrendered.


The Boer War was the first conflict in which soldiers of the volunteer units, predecessors of today’s Territorials, served on active service overseas. Hundreds of part-time Lancashire soldiers volunteered for the Active Service Companies which usually joined their respective Regular battalions of the East, South and Loyal North Lancashire Regiments, much as they have done more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Militia battalions of those Regiments were also embodied, but they served in South Africa as complete units.


British soldiers in the Boer War traveled  light by modern standards. Their standard uniform was thin khaki drill with long cloth puttees, boots and sun helmet. Apart from rifle, bayonet, ammunition and water bottle, they usually carried an ‘iron’ emergency ration, change of shirt and socks, knife, fork and spoon, a  waterproof sheet and a blanket. Greatcoats were carried on company transport, while luxuries might include a comb, razor, pipe and (when available) tobacco.


For the British Infantry, after the first nine months or so of ‘conventional’ warfare, the South African campaign involved many long, dusty marches, or ‘treks’, punctuated by frequent skirmishes and occasional battles, and by periods of guarding the vulnerable railway lines and towns from raiding Boer commandos. The Lancashire lads, on a staple diet of ration biscuit and ‘bully’ beef, bore the scorching African sun and bitterly cold nights with a lively good humour and spirited determination that shines through their letters.


A total of 395 officers and men of our predecessor Regiments died in South Africa, but only 118 of these were killed in action or died of wounds. Nearly all the others died of disease, mostly typhoid or dysentery. In addition 295 were wounded in action. Memorials to our Boer War casualties may be seen both in South Africa and in many Lancashire towns, including Burnley, Preston and Warrington.


Battle of The Alma 1854

A Lancashire Infantry Museum Narrative History

© Lancs Inf Museum & Lt Col E J Downham MBE BA DL


30th & 47th Regiments – 20th September 1854

by John Downham

The Crimean War was fought between the leading military powers of the day, and was essentially a multinational response to Russian imperial ambitions.

From Central Asia to the Danube Tsar Nicholas I’s attempts at southward expansion and his increasingly bellicose search for warm water ports and access to the Mediterranean brought him into conflict with his neighbours. This had already led to a war by proxy in Afghanistan in 1839-1842, when the 40th Foot won great distinction, but in 1853 the Russians invaded the Danubian provinces of the ailing Ottoman Empire.

The Governments of Britain and France could not contemplate Russian domination of the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean, and so, when the Tsar ignored an Anglo-French ultimatum demanding withdrawal from the Danubian provinces, the Allies resolved to settle the ‘Eastern Question’ by force of arms and despatched an expeditionary force to the Black Sea.

When, on 28th March 1854, Britain declared war on Russia, the 30th and 47th were in Mediterranean garrisons, at Gibraltar and Malta respectively, and they were at once selected for active service. Both regiments were to be in Lieutenant-General Sir George De Lacy Evans’ 2nd Division, the 30th being in Pennefather’s 1st Brigade, together with the 55th and 95th, and the 47th in Adams’ 2nd Brigade with the 41st and 49th. [1]

The British expeditionary army was commanded by Lord Raglan, who as Lord FitzRoy Somerset had been at Wellington’s side as Military Secretary in Spain and at Waterloo, where he had lost an arm. Now, nearly forty years later, he was a quiet-spoken, gallant and respected elderly gentleman, but his war service had been entirely on the staff and he had never commanded so much as a battalion in action. Sir George De Lacy Evans, commanding the 2nd Division, was even older but considerably more experienced as a general. He had fought with distinction in the Peninsula, India and America, and at Waterloo, and then in 1835-37 commanded the British Legion during the Carlist civil war in Spain.

The 2nd Division assembled at Scutari on the Bosphorus, opposite Constantinople. The 47th landed there on 19th April, followed by the 30th on 12th May. Both regiments were quartered in the huge Turkish barracks above the town, later famous as the British base hospital in which Florence Nightingale effected her nursing reforms. At Scutari there was a significant increase in combat effectiveness when the regiments handed in their old smooth-bore muskets and were issued with the rifled Minié, a weapon which was accurate to 300 yards and effective for volley fire up to 1,000 yards. The tactical implications of this superior weapon were not at first generally realised, and there was some surprise at the Alma as the British troops recognised their advantage. Subsequently, skirmishing tactics were used more often instead of the traditional line.

In mid-June the 2nd Division sailed to Varna in Bulgaria, from where on 31st August its regiments embarked for the Crimea. It had been decided that British, French and Turkish forces should land on the Crimean peninsula and capture the fortress-town and harbour of Sevastopol, home port of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and a potent symbol of Tsarist aggression.

The British Army is ferried ashore in Kalamita Bay to begin the invasion of the Crimea


On 14th September 1854 some 30,000 French, 27,000 British and 7,000 Turks made an unopposed landing at Kalamita Bay, some 35 miles to the north of Sevastopol, and on the 19th the Allied army commenced its advance along the coastal Post Road. The French moved on the right, nearest to the shore. The 2nd Division marching next to them, with the 30th, as senior regiment, at the head of the column.

The Russians, under Prince Menshikov, moved to meet the Allies and resolved to give battle on the heights beyond the Alma River, some fourteen miles north of Sevastopol.

The Alma was a natural defensive position. On the Allied right, facing the French, cliffs rose 350 feet from the sea and ran inland along the south bank of the river for two miles. It was a difficult approach, but by no means inaccessible, for a number of tracks led up to the heights. Further east, where the British advanced astride the Post Road, or ‘Causeway’, to Sevastopol, the terrain was markedly different. Here there was a gentle descent over an open plain to the green valley bottom where the white houses of the straggling riverside village of Bourliouk stood amid vineyards, gardens and stone-walled enclosures to the right of the road. Beyond the village, the steep-banked Alma flowed with many windings and deep pools. The river was 40 to 50 yards wide and its sheer bank on the far side was between 6 and 15 feet high. The Alma was fordable, but was nevertheless a significant obstacle. On the far side of the Alma the ground rose more abruptly to a plateau, broken by ravines, rocky knolls and mounds. The thin white Post Road crossed the river by a wooden bridge before climbing a re-entrant, misleadingly termed ‘the Pass’ in contemporary accounts, to the heights, and there was a ford downstream from Bourliouk. The slopes beyond the river were generally open and barren, rising to between 300 and 500 feet, with two principal features. In the left centre of the Russian position, and to the west of the Post Road, the Telegraph Height crowned the ascent to the plateau, while on the eastern (inland) flank, Kourgane Hill dominated approaches from the river line and up the Pass.

Menshikov had some 35,000 infantry, 3,600 cavalry and 116 well-served guns at his disposal to dispute the passage of the Alma, and to the natural strength of the position he had added defensive works. Kourgane Hill, which offered excellent fields of fire, had been fortified with two large artillery redoubts; on the forward slope, the 12 heavy guns of the ‘Great Redoubt’ covered the smooth 300 yard slope down to the river and could bring a flanking fire to bear on the Post Road, while the ‘Lesser Redoubt’ protected the Russian right flank. Further batteries were sited in depth on either side of the Post Road, between 500 and 700 yards from the bridge. Menshikov trusted in his efficient and well-sited artillery to win the battle, and his gunners had carefully set out posts to mark the ranges. His infantry regiments were massed in column to protect and support the guns, and to counter-attack once the artillery had shattered the Allied assault, with a heavy line of skirmishers on the river-line. His left he considered relatively inaccessible, and he consequently placed only 13,000 men and 36 guns between the Telegraph Height and the sea.

It was undoubtedly a very strong position, and Prince Menshikov had complacently invited a party of ladies out from Sevastopol to picnic on the heights, sipping champagne while they watched the inevitable destruction of the Allied armies.

It was around noon on the 20th September when the Allies, advancing on a five-mile front, came within sight of the Russian position and halted. It was a hot late summer’s day, and a strange silence fell over the expectant troops while Lord Raglan and the French commander, Marshal St Arnaud, conferred. Their discussions were somewhat less than conclusive, but eventually it was understood that the French would climb the cliffs to turn Menshikov’s weaker left flank while the British made a frontal attack on the main Russian force on Kourgane Hill and around the Pass. The British assault was to be delayed until the French had obtained a purchase on the heights.

The 2nd Division deployed in line facing the village of Bourliouk and the Pass, with the French to their right. To their left, beyond the Post Road, the Light Division formed opposite the frowning redoubts of Kourgane Hill. The 3rd and 1st Divisions lined up behind the 2nd and Light Divisions respectively, while the 4th Division was held in reserve and the Light Cavalry Brigade watched the army’s open left flank. Unaccountably, the leading British divisions put all their regiments in one line, with no supports or reserves, and the resulting congestion along the front was compounded for the 2nd Division by being squeezed between the French and the Light Division, the latter having taken ground too far to its right. In consequence the two leading British divisions overlapped, and they remained partially entangled for the rest of the day. Raglan, who saw the problem, did not wish to embarrass the irascible commander of the Light Division by sorting it out. Consequently, of the 2nd Division only Pennefather’s Brigade could at first be brought into line. The 30th were on the extreme right of the British line, with the 55th and 95th to their left, while Adams’ Brigade (41st, 47th and 49th) was at first held back for lack of space to deploy.

At about 1 p.m. the 2nd and Light Divisions advanced slowly into the valley until they came under Russian artillery fire, when they were halted to await the result of the French attack. The troops lay down on the open slope, and remained there, passively enduring the bombardment for the next hour and a half. Kinglake, the historian of the Crimea, was with Raglan’s staff close behind the 30th Regiment and watched the old ‘Three Tens’ under fire:

‘They had to lie down with no duty to perform except the duty of being motionless; and they made it their pastime to watch the play of the engines worked for their destruction – to watch the jet of smoke – the flash – the short, momentous interval – and then, happily and most often, the twang through the air above, and the welcome sound of the shot at length embedded in the earth. But sometimes, without knowing whence it came, a man would suddenly know the feel of a rushing blast and a mighty shock, and would find himself bespattered with the brains of the comrade who had just been speaking to him. When this happened, two of the comrades of the man killed would get up and gently lift the quivering body, carry it a few paces in rear of the line, then quietly return to their ranks and again lie down.

‘This sort of trial is well borne by our troops. They are so framed by nature that, if only they know clearly what they have to do, or to leave undone, they are pleased and animated, nay, even soothed, by a little danger. For, besides that they love strife, they love the arbitrament of chance; and a game where death is the forfeit has a strange, gloomy charm for them . . . They did not perhaps like the duty so much as a charge with the bayonet; but if they were to be judged from their demeanour, they preferred it to a church parade. They were in their most gracious temper. Often, when an officer rode past them, they would give him the fruit of their steady and protracted view, and advise him to move a little on one side or the other to avoid a coming shot.’

Suddenly, directly in front of the 2nd Division, the village of Bourliouk burst into flames; it had been filled with combustibles and fired by the Russian engineers. Burning fiercely amid thick clouds of smoke, the village was now an effective and mostly impassable obstacle across the greater part of the divisional front.

Over on the right, the French attack started with great elan and their infantry were soon established on the edge of the plateau, but then the advance lost impetus. After an hour and a half they had failed to take Telegraph Heights, being unable to haul sufficient field guns onto the high ground to support their further progress. Aware that the Allied attack was grinding to a halt, and sensitive to the losses his men were suffering in their exposed position, at 3 p.m. Raglan ordered a resumption of the British advance.

‘The line will advance!’ The welcome order rippled across the two-mile British frontage, and the red-coated regiments sprang to their feet. Markers were sent out, the ranks were dressed, and the foremost divisions marched grandly down the slope towards the river, bands playing and Colours flying in the bright sunshine. Russian officers, accustomed to manoeuvring in massive columns, gazed in astonishment as the British infantry came on in a thin red line, only two men deep. The French General Canrobert was also impressed at the steady advance, exclaiming: ‘They go forward as though they were in Hyde Park.’ It was indeed a gallant sight, but no artillery concentration had been arranged and there was to be no fire and manoeuvre to support the frontal assault. The British were playing right into Menshikov’s hands and allowing the Russians to make maximum use of the arm in which they were most expert, their artillery.

The open slope was in full view of the enemy guns. ‘The moment we came within range,’ wrote Major Richard Farren of the 47th, ‘he fired away round shot, grape and shells, which rattled like a storm of hail stones.’

The firing of Bourliouk in the path of the 2nd Division considerably disrupted and delayed its advance. ‘We took ground to the right and then to the left’, wrote Lieutenant and Adjutant Mark Walker of the 30th, ‘all the time under fire; but in the end, after some fruitless moving, we were ordered to lie down until the smoke cleared away. As we lay we had a few men wounded, [but] most of the shot passed over us.’ The way ahead was masked by dense smoke clouds, but De Lacy Evans decided to pass his division round both sides of the burning village. He detached Adams with the 41st and 49th Regiments and a field battery to try for a ford to the right, below the village, and brought the 47th up to join with Pennefather’s Brigade in a move round the left side of Bourliouk. Evans now had four battalions with him: the 47th on the right, then the 30th, 55th and 95th in succession, with a battery of field guns in direct support.

‘Evans’s task was a hard one’, recalled Kinglake. ‘Having on his right an impassable conflagration, and being cramped towards his left by our Light Division, he was forced to move along the unsheltered line of the Great Causeway upon a narrow and crowded front, and this under a converging fire of artillery; for with the sixteen guns of the Causeway batteries, with the eight other guns planted near, and the heavy guns of position discharging their shot and shell flankwise from the left shoulder of the Great Redoubt, the enemy swept the main road and the bridge, and searched the fords both above and below it. And whilst the enemy’s batteries thus dealt with the more open approaches to the bridge, his infantry defended the ground which could not be searched by round-shot.’

The Battle of the Alma, by the French artist Horace Vernet. The 30th and the 47th were both in the thick of the fight, battling their way into the re-entrant beyond the trees in the centre.

In the coverts and vineyards about and beyond the river-line was a heavy Russian skirmishing line comprising two battalions of the Borodino Light Infantry, a battalion of the 6th Rifles and some companies of sappers, while a few hundred yards behind them, supporting the Causeway batteries, stood the other two Borodino battalions. Further back, astride the Post Road, was the Russian Grand Reserve.

De Lacy Evans moved his men to their left in fours, around the flank of Bourliouk until the leading regiment, the 55th, had crossed the Post Road. The four battalions then turned again towards the river, straight into Menshikov’s chosen killing ground. Their frontage at this congested choke point was extremely narrow, probably no more than three to four hundred yards in all, and even so the left of the 2nd Division overlapped the front of the Light Division. Consequently the 95th Regiment became entangled with its right-hand battalion, the 7th Fusiliers, and was swept on with them into the attack on the Great Redoubt. For the remainder of the battle they shared the varied fortunes of the Light Division.

Once past the village, the remaining three battalions of the 2nd Division had a little more room to deploy and De Lacy Evans inclined to his right so as to reoccupy his intended place in the line of battle. This movement brought him to the river with the 47th, 30th and 55th, in line to the right of the Post Road, having marched right round the burning village. There was a good deal of confusion in this close country, but in Kinglake’s words, ‘Whenever any number of men got together upon ground which enabled them to extend, they quickly fell into line, and this they did notwithstanding that the groups thus instinctively hastening into their English formation were sometimes men of different regiments.’ Progress was slow as the troops advanced by rushes, from one enclosure to another. Casualties mounted, and several times the men were ordered to lie down to avoid the concentrated hail of grape, canister and musket balls. The 55th suffered particularly heavy losses around the bridge, and Pennefather’s brigade lost in killed and wounded nearly one quarter of its strength.

Colonel O’Grady Haly led his 47th Regiment over to its right, between Bourliouk and the river, where they forded the stream some 400 yards below the bridge. The river flowed in several channels at this point, and Major Farren remarked on the difficulty of crossing under fire:

‘The banks were precipitous and slippery with mud, and, at the place where we crossed, had to be passed in three places. The heavy guns of the enemy were placed on the high ground beyond the river, and they completely enfiladed the ground through which the river flowed.’

The 47th was better protected from the fire of the Causeway batteries than the regiments of Pennefather’s brigade, but took some casualties while passing over the ground beyond the village. A plunging shot struck the Colour party, holing the Queen’s Colour and killing Sergeant Lomax and Corporal Crone of the escort, while the Commanding Officer had his horse shot from under him.

The 47th Regiment carried these Colours for 26 years, from 1832 to 1858. They were holed at the Alma by plunging shot which killed two of the Colour Party

Next in line, Colonel Hoey of the 30th persistently worked his men forward through the gardens and stone-walled enclosures till at length he was able to cross the river just below the road bridge. Mark Walker recalled in his journal this scrambling advance through the village outskirts to the river:

‘After a while we advanced to the village where the fire was tremendous; the men were ordered to shelter behind a wall; we, the mounted officers, sat on our horses in rear, and every moment I expected one of us would be knocked over, but we mercifully escaped. The artillery came up behind and opened – they suffered considerably. We (here my shako was knocked off by the wind of a round shot) were then ordered to move across a small green field; in going over it many were knocked over, including [Captain Thomas] Packenham severely wounded and [Lieutenant Frederick] Luxmore killed (his servant fell with him). We then got into a vineyard on the banks of the river, which was deep and its sides steep. Here we were ordered to shelter. Many were wounded and many killed, and some were drowned. Here [Captain Graham] Dickson was wounded and my horse hit severely.’

The Light Companies had been thrown out as a skirmishing line to cover Evans’ move round Bourliouk, and we have some account of their subsequent activities from Lieutenant John Ross-Lewin of the 30th:

‘Our Light Company was thrown forward about 100 yards in skirmishing order, and I had the honour of being sent to command the left sub-division. I and my party lay about 60 yards in front of the line for about an hour and a half under a tremendous fire. I had a narrow escape from a shell which burst quite close to me, and two round shot went too near for comfort, one taking away the heads of two Light Company men. Soon after [this] the skirmishers went on to an old house and wall; we ran forward at a good pace, and soon commenced plying the Minié rifles, which told tremendously on their gunners and Imperial Guard.[2]

During the advance the light companies had been ordered to join their respective battalions, but on attempting to do so the Light Company of the 30th, under Captain Arthur Wellesley Connolly, found itself not in its proper place on the left of its own regiment, but on the left of the 55th and touching their light company. Throughout the campaign there was a close friendship between these two regiments. Major Rose, commanding the Light Company 55th, had just been mortally wounded, and Lieutenant Hume had assumed command, but when Captain Connolly asked that he might be allowed to fight with the 55th, Lieutenant Hume most chivalrously told his men to take their orders from Connolly and the two companies advanced as one to the river. 

De Lacy Evans and his divisional staff, riding forward between the 30th and the 47th,  attracted serious attention from the enemy. Evans himself received a severe contusion and almost all his staff were struck down. Among them was the AQMG, Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Herbert, who many years later on his death-bed recalled the gallantry of two men of the 47th Regiment. While lying wounded on the ground, unable to move, he saw a number of men going to the rear and feared that they were falling back without orders. He called on them to stop, at which two of those who had passed him turned back and, despite the heavy fire, came over to where he lay, showing him that they were not running away but were badly wounded, one being shot through the jaw and the other having a severe shell wound in the chest. Both these men belonged to the 47th Regiment, and their disciplined act in turning back amid such fire had so impressed Herbert that he wished a fact so honourable to their regiment to be placed on record.

Having crossed the Alma, the 30th, 47th and 55th lined the bank and opened a steady and destructive fire on the massed Russian infantry and batteries to their front, but as Kinglake explains, further advance in that quarter was for the present impracticable:

‘So long as the Causeway batteries swept the mouth of the pass, Evans, with his three shattered battalions could do no more than maintain an obstinate and bloody combat in this part of the field . . . He was not yet able to push forward beyond the left bank of the river and assail the enemy in the heart of his position across the great road.’

This impasse was shortly broken by a most extraordinary, indeed quite unique, event. Lord Raglan, apparently seeking a good viewpoint from which to control the battle, had followed Adam’s brigade round to the right of Bourliouk and dashed briskly through the river with his staff. Passing through astonished lines of French and Russian skirmishers, and seemingly oblivious to the possibility of death or capture, the British Commander-in-Chief and his small band of plumed followers rode up the forward slope of the Telegraph Height to a high commanding knoll well within the centre of the Russian position. Standing unmolested at a mercifully undefended point in the heart of his enemy’s army, Raglan found himself looking down on the left and rear of the guns and troops defending the Post Road and, less than a mile away, the Great Redoubt. One glance sufficed to see the possibilities of his position, and Raglan sent at once for Adams’ brigade and some field guns. He also appreciated that his very appearance in their midst would have a profoundly unsettling and disruptive influence on the Russians, remarking insouciantly to his staff, ‘Our presence here will have the best effect’. After all, would any general in his right mind show himself well behind enemy lines without ten thousand men at his heels? While waiting for the arrival of his guns, the coat-trailing Commander-in-Chief could only watch with impotent anguish as his left crossed the river and assaulted the Great Redoubt on Kourgane Hill.

The Light Division advanced very gallantly, but became disordered on crossing the river and, without forming, impetuously converged on the Great Redoubt, which was stormed and captured.[3] The Division suffered severely in this attack, and its shattered, disorganised and intermingled regiments were in turn driven out of the redoubt by the lumbering counter-attack of a four-battalion column of the Vladimir Regiment before the 1st Division belatedly came up to support them. In falling back, elements of the Light Division ran into the Guards Brigade of the 1st Division and carried away its centre regiment, the Scots Fusilier Guards. Only on the right of the Light Division did a knot of men based on the 7th Fusiliers and the 95th stand firm, tenaciously holding their ground against the 1,500-strong Kazan Regiment.

The battle was hanging in the balance when suddenly, at about 3.40 p.m., the sound of British 9-pounders was heard from deep within the Russian centre. Two field guns had reached Raglan’s commanding knoll and were engaging the Causeway batteries. Kinglake described the immediate consequence of this sudden, unexpected and ultimately decisive turn of events:

‘A busy change began to stir in the Russian batteries. Presently, though the smoke of the burning village lay heavy in this part of the field, our people could make out what the change was. It was one of great moment to the Allies; for the enemy was limbering up, and beginning to carry off the sixteen guns which up to this minute had barred the mouth of the Pass. The great road lay open. Evans understood the battle. He acted instantly. He saw that though he was weak, yet the moment had come for the advance of his three battalions.’

Colonel Hoey, commanding the 30th, had also been reading the battle and needed no order to advance. Observing the enemy’s batteries suddenly slacken their fire, he at once called for the mounted officers, the Colours and covering sergeants (markers) to mount the riverbank. The men sprang up and formed upon them, and Major James Mauleverer dressed the line carefully by the centre. His friend Major James Patullo marked the left, and as they unhurriedly resumed their places in rear Mauleverer was heard to ask Patullo for a light for his cigar, lamenting at the same time the loss of his Irish pipe. Then the 30th advanced in a line that was admired by all, marching straight and steadily towards the site of the Causeway batteries.

‘During this advance’, wrote Mark Walker, the Adjutant, ‘a sharp fire opened upon us, and I was struck by a spent grape-shot in the chest which nearly knocked me over, but happily I was not disabled.’

On their right, the 47th were formed in column by Captain Rooke as the Colonel and the other mounted officers had been obliged to make a detour to mount the river bank; then they too moved forward, protecting Evans’ right flank. The 55th also advanced and, wheeling to their left, they came to the assistance of the 7th Fusiliers, who were still engaged in their heroic struggle with the Kazan Regiment. As we have seen, the Light Company 30th Regiment was fighting alongside the 55th, and it was at this time that they fired with great effect into the mass of the supposed ‘Imperial Guard’, which wavered and retreated leaving many casualties on the ground.

For some minutes Evans’ three battalions, together with the 7th Fusiliers, were the only British troops in action across the river, but then the Guards Brigade came up, with the Highland Brigade to their left, while the 3rd Division moved forward in support of Evans and his embattled battalions in the Pass, and the red coats of the 41st and 49th appeared on Raglan’s knoll. The French also advanced again. There was still some hard fighting, particularly on Kourgane Hill, but the issue was not now in doubt. De Lacy Evans advanced straight up the Pass and established his three battalions, now supported by thirty guns of the 2nd and 3rd Divisions, on the ground recently vacated by the Causeway batteries. The Russian riflemen and the Borodino Regiment, skirmishers and formed battalions alike, fell back before this determined advance, and neither they nor the massed Russian infantry reserves waited for the British lines to come to close quarters.

‘It was evident that the day was ours’, wrote Mark Walker, ‘The Guards had done good work on our left, and the artillery, coming up, threw shell and grape among some columns on the hill until they turned and disappeared. We then advanced in column to the top of the hill and, when Lord Raglan came up, one loud cheer proclaimed that Alma was won.’

British losses in the battle totalled 2,002, including 362 killed, while the French lost under 560 and the Russians admitted to 5,709 killed and wounded, leaving 1,810 dead on the battlefield. The 30th Regiment lost Lieutenant Luxmore and 12 rank and file killed, and six officers, two sergeants and 58 rank and file wounded. In the 47the Regiment, Sergeant Lomax and three rank and file were killed, Lieutenant Woolocombe of the Grenadiers died of wounds, while three officers, the sergeant-major, three sergeants, one drummer and 56 rank and file were wounded.

Writing home to his mother two days after the battle, Major James Patullo of the 30th was critical of the tactical leadership that had flung the flower of the British Army into a poorly supported frontal assault on what subsequent examination confirmed to be a very strong defensive position:

‘We . . . think that there was a great want of generalship and much loss of life in consequence . . . The simple fact was we deployed from the right of the whole English force and as each regiment deployed we advanced straight on the enemy’s batteries, and during the day received no more instructions. A river, a burning village and a walled vineyard afforded us some shelter, and the greater loss of other regiments must be attributed to their being badly handled, I think, and brought up to the batteries in masses. Our men behaved most gallantly and advanced in perfect parade order to the last moment. Whether they will give us the credit of leading the advance, or reserve it for some favourite regiment, I cannot say.’


[1] The post-1881 and present successors to these Regiments of Foot are:

               30th – 1st Bn The East Lancashire Regiment, now The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.

               55th – 2nd Bn The Border Regiment, now The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.

               95th – 2nd Bn The Sherwood Foresters, now The Mercian Regiment.

               41st – 1st  Bn The Welch Regiment, now The Royal Welsh.

               47th – 1st Bn  The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, now The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.

               49th – 1st Bn The Royal Berkshire Regiment, now The Rifles.

[2] Ross-Lewin was mistaken in believing this body, wearing spiked helmets with burnished brass plates was Russian Imperial Guard. It was in fact a two-battalion column of the Kazan Regiment.

[3] The assault on the Great Redoubt was made by four battalions, the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers and 33rd (Duke of Wellington’s) Regiment of Codrington’s brigade, and the 19th (1st Yorkshire, North Riding) and 95th (Derbyshire) Regiments from Buller’s and Pennefather’s flanking brigades, while Codrington’s third battalion, the 7th (Royal) Fusiliers, engaged the Kazan Regiment to the west of the redoubt.

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Join the Friends of The Museum and help to support and sustain one of the most important military history collections in the country.

You can get involved as much or as little as you wish.

Opportunities include direct involvement in the running and development of the Museum if you wish, and reduced-rate access to our regular programme of Study Evenings. 

Or join us on our popular annual Battlefield Tours to the Continent, and occasionally beyond.

Benefits include:

  • Privileged access to the collection’s library & archives
  • Free research and assistance
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  • Reduced Entry Fees for all Museum-organised special events and social occasions
  • Members’ Privileges on all special events and social occasions, including annual Battlefield Tours

Our members are drawn from all walks of life, brought together by their common interest in military history. Many are former members of The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment or its antecedents, but there are others who either served in other units, or indeed the other Armed Forces. Many have seen no service but are keen amateur historians. One collects and restores old military vehicles, and at least one is an expert war gamer. There is something in the Friends for everyone – all you need is an interest in history.

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(provided only that in the appropriate tax year, you have paid an amount of Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax at least equal to the tax that the Friends reclaims on your donations )

Friends of the Museum

The Friends of The Lancashire Infantry Museum

(Registered Charity No 1120003)

The Friends is an active organisation which provides a focus and a forum for all those with an interest in military history in general, and that of Central Lancashire’s historic infantry regiments in particular.

By doing so, the group helps the Museum to preserve and promote the most important regimental heritage collection in the North West of England, and one of the most important in the country.

Founded in 2001, the Friends became an independent charity registered with the Charity Commissioners in 2007.

The Friends:

  • Raise funds to support the Museum, which receives only minimal public funding.
  • Organise a busy annual programme of study days and evening events. These offer opportunities for in-depth examination of specific aspects of Regimental history. Drawing on the Museum’s extensive and often unique archives; sometimes featuring Regimental veterans of the campaign being studied; and often led by nationally-recognised experts, these Study Days are designed not only to be academically and educationally valid for the serious student of military history; but also entertaining and enjoyable for those with a more general interest. Recent study days have included the Regiment’s campaigns in Afghanistan, Arnhem, Aden, Iraq, Malaya, Northern Ireland, and The Somme.
  • Run annual Battlefield Tours to areas of historical Regimental interest – which, given that ours is the only Regiment in world history which has fought on every inhabited continent, provides an inexhaustible range to choose from. Since 2001 the Friends have visited Belgium (The Siege of Namur 1695 and the Battle of Waterloo 1815), France (the Retreat from Mons 1914, The Somme 1915, Ypres 1915-18,Normandy 1944, ), Turkey (Gallipoli 1915), Italy (Anzio and Cassino 1944), Spain and Portugal (The Peninsular War 1808-1814), and the Netherlands (Operation Market Garden 1944).


MAKE A DIFFERENCE – JOIN THE FRIENDS TODAYand help to sustain one of the most important Regimental heritage collections in the country.Benefits include:- Privileged access to the collection’s library & archives- Free research and assistance- Reduced Entry Fees for Museum-organised events and social occasions- Members’ Privileges on special events and social occasions, including annual Battlefield Tours



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Contact Us

Contact us by email, phone, or post.


The Curator,
Lancashire Infantry Museum
Fulwood Barracks

NOTE FOR SATNAV USERS:  Do NOT use the above postcode in Satnavs as it will take you away from the Barracks entrance. Please use PR2 8AB instead, which will take you directly to Fulwood Barracks Main Gate.



(01772) 260584


Before e-mailing, PLEASE NOTE:   

E-mails are normally only monitored during office hours Monday to Friday. PLEASE DO NOT SEND URGENT E-MAILS OUT OF HOURS OR DURING WEEKENDS AND BANK HOLIDAYS.

If your enquiry relates to family historical research, PLEASE FIRST READ THE INFORMATION UNDER RESEARCH given elsewhere on this website. In particular, please note that we can normally ONLY assist regarding soldiers who served in one of the following regiments:

The East Lancashire Regiment
The South Lancashire Regiment
The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers)
The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment

For all queries :


Due to the Corona Covid 19 virus, the Lancashire Infantry Museum is closed until further notice.

RESEARCH: During Lockdown, our staff are still offering a limited family history research service from home. For details just e-mail: 

(Please note that we request a £15 donation for this service)

Why not visit our first-ever on-line ‘virtual exhibition’? The Lancashire Infantry Museum should at this time be mounting a special exhibition to mark the 80th anniversary of the role of our Regiments at Dunkirk, produced in association with the University of Central Lancashire. Instead, with the generous assistance of the University, we have made it into our very first on-line display. Please take a look by clicking on the link below:

Good Luck, take care, and please stay safe, everybody.


Welcome to the website of the Lancashire Infantry Museum, the largest Regimental archive and the premier centre for military historical research in the North of England.

The Museum is housed in the heart of Lancashire,  in the traditional home of the old county infantry regiments in Fulwood Barracks, Preston.

We preserve for posterity the achievements, records and artefacts of those historic infantry regiments of Central Lancashire which now form part of The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, created in 2006 by the amalgamation of The Kings Own Royal Border, Kings and Queen’s Lancashire Regiments. 

In all we cherish the heritage of  120 separate units, including the 59 battalions formed by our antecedent Lancashire regiments during the First World War,  and all associated  Militia, Rifle Volunteers, Territorials, Home Guard and Cadet units.

 The Antecedent Regiments

The East Lancashire Regiment ( 30th and 59th of Foot) The South Lancashire Regiment ( 40th and 82nd of Foot)  The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers) The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) (47th and 81st of Foot)


On 7 November 2016 the Ministry of Defence announced the closure and disposal of Fulwood Barracks by 2022. 

**( Closure delayed until 2027 announced in March 2019 )**

This does NOT mean that Lancashire Infantry Museum, which with its predecessors has been located in the Barracks for the past 90 years, will also close. The Museum Trustees fully intend that the Museum will continue in existence.

We are an independent charitable organisation occupying premises within the Barracks on a lease from the Ministry of Defence. We very much hope that we may continue to be located at the Fulwood Barracks site in whatever future form that may take. However, if this proves not to be possible, then the Ministry of Defence is legally committed to re-locating us in suitable and appropriate accommodation elsewhere, and we have received ministerial confirmation that this obligation will be honoured.

Please be assured that, whatever the future of Fulwood Barracks:

• The Museum is not threatened with closure either now or in the foreseeable future.
• The Trustees will continue to hold and display donated material to at least the present standards of access and security.
• We continue to welcome new donations and financial support .

We are touched and grateful for the great wave of support which the Museum has received since the announcement was made. We are most appreciative, and hope for to your continuing support during the difficult years which lie ahead.