This Day In History

  • 1860 New Zealand. As relations with the Maoris deteriorate, 4 companies of the 40th Regiment (later 1st South Lancashires) disembark at New Plymouth, on transfer from Tasmania.
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The Regiments Post-War

by John Downham

A Lancashire Infantry Museum Narrative History

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

1945-1954

Occupation Duties The first two years after the return to peace found the British Army serving in more countries than ever before. The 1st Battalions of both the East and South Lancashires as well as the 30th Loyals were part of the Army of Occupation in Germany, while the 31st Loyals was guarding the lines of communication in France and Belgium. The 2nd Loyals were with the Allied force sent to keep the Jugoslavs out of Trieste, but early in 1946 they joined the Army of Occupation in Austria. Two more battalions were sent to the Mediterranean during 1945; the 4th East Lancashires went to Tripoli, while the 4th South Lancashires were sent to Malta.

Palestine Further east, 1st Loyals were involved in the struggle to keep the peace in Palestine, where Jewish terrorists, particularly the Stern Gang, had renewed their campaign for a Jewish state and ship loads of illegal immigrants arrived from all over Europe, while the Arabs increased their opposition to both. The Loyals moved to Egypt in December 1945, but in the same month the 1st South Lancashires, recently arrived from Germany, travelled in the opposite direction on their way to Haifa. The two battalions’ roles were again reversed in April 1946, with the Loyals spending another six months in Palestine before finally leaving for Eritrea. The South Lancashires returned to Palestine for the first half of 1947, when they were based in Jerusalem, the centre of much of the terrorist action.

India The immediate post war period found Lancashire battalions serving in India as well; the 7th South Lancashires were soon disbanded while their 2nd Battalion left for Malta early in 1946, but the 2nd East Lancashires remained to see some of the inter-communal rioting which marked the partition of India and Pakistan, and was particularly involved in restoring order in Calcutta. The battalion sailed from Bombay in December, four months after Independence Day.

Demobilisation During these years the Army gradually reverted to a peacetime organisation;  wartime battalions were disbanded and there was a continual flow of soldiers through the demobilisation centres. The Territorial Army battalions were demobilised. The 4th South Lancashires were dissolved in Malta on being relieved by their 2nd Battalion in mid 1946, and the 4th East Lancashires, by then in Egypt, followed suit at the end of the year. In Lancashire in early 1947 Territorial Army recruiting started again at the Drill Halls of the 4th Battalions of the East and South Lancashires as well as the 5th Battalion of the Loyals, whose cap badge during the war had been that of the Reconnaissance Corps.

Regular Infantry Reductions The post-war period saw a major cut in the size of the Regular Infantry, and each county regiment was reduced to a single battalion, finally ending the practice of referring to the battalions by their old regimental numbers. The East Lancashire Regiment brought its battalions together in September 1948. After leaving Germany, the 1st Battalion had spent a year at the School of Infantry, Warminster as the Demonstration Battalion before moving to Carlisle where the 2nd Battalion joined it soon after returning from India. The South Lancashires’ reduction started in Egypt in July 1947 when the 1st Battalion was reduced to a small cadre, which then went home to go into ‘suspended animation’; early the same year the 2nd Battalion had moved from Malta to Trieste, where in September 1948 it formally took over the colours of the 1st Battalion and completed the process. The Loyals 2nd Battalion went into suspended animation in Austria in December 1946, and amalgamation did not take place until March 1949 when a small 2nd Battalion cadre from the Depot was absorbed by the 1st Battalion at a parade in Cyprus to where they had moved from Mogadishu.

Depots Soon after these reductions the Regimental Depots came back into being. Initially they were cadres with no training responsibilities, recruit training being done at centralised training units. In 1947 the Lancastrian Brigade came into existence and this grouped together the eight northwestern regiments. Early in 1952 the individual regimental depots again took on the training of recruits; the East Lancashires and Loyals Depots were at Fulwood Barracks, Preston, and the South Lancashires at Peninsula Barracks, Warrington.

Civic Honours came to all three Regiments in the post war years, the East Lancashires were granted the freedom of both Blackburn in 1945 and Burnley in 1953 and the South Lancashires were similarly honoured by Warrington in 1947, while the Loyals were adopted by Preston in 1952. These were the first of many Freedoms since accorded to the Regiment by the towns of Lancashire.

Canal Zone The early 1950s found all three regular battalions serving in the Middle East. The Loyals moved to Egypt from Cyprus in March 1950. Ten months later, having received new Colours from Lord Derby at Chester, the East Lancashires moved to Khartoum. At the end of 1951 there was a ‘general post’ when the South Lancashires left Trieste for Khartoum, the East Lancashires went from Khartoum to Egypt and the Loyals moved from Egypt to Trieste, using in turn the same troopship Empire Test. Early in 1953 the South Lancashires joined the East Lancashires in Egypt. The troubles, due principally from the lack of an agreement between Egypt and Britain over the ownership of the Suez Canal, affected all three battalions, whose role was to protect British lives and installations in the Canal Zone. Just prior to their departure for Trieste the Loyals became involved in the early stages of confrontation when their operations included a successful night assault across the Canal to capture intact the important El Firdan swing railway bridge guarded by the Egyptian Army. Three months later the East Lancashires provided the cordon for the ‘Battle of Ismailia’ against the auxiliary police.

1954 – 1959

All three battalions’ next moves were back to England; for two of them it was for the first time since the war. The East Lancashires spent a few months at Barnard Castle before going back to Hubbelrath in early 1954 as part of the British Army of the Rhine. In August of the same year the South Lancashires arrived in Barnard Castle. They were joined there three months later by the Loyals, who had been the last British troops to leave Trieste when, after a year of increasing tension, the agreed border between Italy and Yugoslavia came into effect.

Whilst at Barnard Castle both battalions had important ceremonial events; in October 1955 in the grounds of Bowes Museum the 1st South Lancashires were presented with new colours by Field Marshal Montgomery, and in the following June the 1st Loyals were reviewed at Darlington Racecourse by HM Queen Elizabeth, who at the time of her Coronation three years earlier had honoured the Regiment by becoming its Colonel-in-Chief.

Early in 1955 the East Lancashires moved to Luneburg and at the end of 1956 the South Lancashires went to Berlin for a year. For all three Regiments however the next major overseas commitment was in the Far East. After eight months at Brentwood the East Lancashires sailed to Hong Kong in October 1957 and were followed there by the South Lancashires in June the next year after a short stay at Formby in Lancashire. Before either of these moves however, the Loyals had left for a three year operational tour in Malaya.

Malaya 1957-59 The Malayan state of emergency had come into force in 1948 when the Communists unearthed the weapons that they had acquired as a wartime anti-Japanese army and started their anti-British guerrilla war. In the years since then one of the world’s most successful anti-terrorist campaigns had gradually reduced the 8,000 or so Communist Terrorists to a hard core of a few hundred, who withdrew deep into the jungle. Early in 1957 the Loyals joined in the slow hard work that was needed to prise the rebels out of their hideouts. They were based at Ipoh in Perak State and were the British battalion of 28th Commonwealth Brigade. In their first two years there they killed seventeen terrorists, captured two more and were responsible for the elimination of the leader of the gang which had killed the British High Commissioner six years earlier. These were unparalleled achievements at this stage of the campaign and earned for the battalion an OBE, an MC and 22 Mentions-in-Despatches. In the middle of the tour the battalion spent two months in Hong Kong and finally left Malaya at the end of 1959.

The Lancashire Regiment

The next stage in the reduction of the British Army took place at the end of the 1950s, and for the first time since 1881 this included the amalgamation of separate infantry regiments. On the 1st July 1958 the East and South Lancashire Regiments combined to form the Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers), the amalgamation of the two regular battalions taking place in Hong Kong. The Governor of the Colony, Sir Robert Black, presented new Colours to the 1st Battalion in November of that year at the polo ground in Kowloon. At this time the Lancastrian Brigade cap badge was taken into use and a Brigade Depot at Fulwood Barracks, Preston, replaced the separate Regimental Depots.

1959-1970

After leaving the Far East both the Lancashires and the Loyals spent a short while in England before moving to Germany. The Loyals merely staged at home and arrived in Wuppertal early in 1960, while the Lancashires who returned six months later, stayed rather longer and moved via the Isle of Wight to Plymouth before going to Hilden near Dusseldorf at the end of 1961. The Hilden tour was marked by the battalion winning the Army Basketball Championships in three successive years, and the ‘twinning’ of the towns of Hilden and Warrington.

Early in 1963 the Loyals returned to Barnard Castle, from where over the next four years they travelled extensively; literally around the world. In 1967 they went to Cyprus, Kenya and Swaziland, in 1964 after public duties at Buckingham Palace, when they were again visited by their Colonel-in-Chief, half the battalion went on training to New Zealand while the first six months of 1965 were spent in Cyprus. Early in 1966 they moved to Malta.

Soon after arriving in Catterick in 1964 the Lancashires continued the pre-independence presence in Swaziland for nine months and then, in the autumn of 1965, did a spell of public duties at Windsor Castle. In March 1966 the freedom of Haslingden, which had been granted to the 4th East Lancashires two years earlier, was extended to the Lancashire Regiment. After a brief visit to Cyprus the battalion started to prepare for an emergency tour in Aden.

Aden The troubles in Aden had started in the mid 1950s since when, with the support of Egypt’s President Nasser and the Yemen, tribesmen in the remoter parts of the Protectorate had been waging intermittent war against British rule. Terrorist activity in Aden itself however did not become serious until 1965. During the second half of 1966 the three Loyals rifle companies in Malta spent two months each in Aden with the task of guarding RAF Khormaksar. The Lancashires arrived in Aden in February 1967 and initially had responsibility for the Tawahi and Steamer Point areas of the town. Five months later, however, the mutiny of South Arabian Federal Army and Police units resulted in a reorganisation which gave the battalion responsibility for the extremely hostile Al Mansoura area of Sheikh Othman as well as the Khormaksar isthmus. Whilst there the battalion, which had an exceptionally high proportion of young eighteen year old soldiers, earned considerable praise for its handling of the situation. Gradually the terrorist activity developed into a battle between opposing factions to decide which was to rule after the British evacuation. The battalion left Aden at the beginning of October just seven weeks before the final abandonment having amassed more operational awards than any other unit in the colony – a DSO, two MCs and three MMs, as well as six Mentions in Despatches and an MBE.

TA Reductions 1967 was remembered in the territorial battalions for major reductions and reorganisations. The 4th Battalions of the East and South Lancashires had continued in existence after the amalgamation of their 1st Battalions in 1958. Now the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve came into being and these battalions as well as the 5th Loyals were disbanded and replaced by the Lancastrian Volunteers, which were formed on the 1st April 1960.

Eight months after returning from Aden, the Lancashires left Catterick for Malta. Initial planning was started there with the Loyals for the third round of reductions to affect the regular infantry since the war, and which was to result in the amalgamation of these two Regiments. The changes also included the absorption of the Lancastrian Brigade regiments into the new King’s Division.

The Loyals moved to Dover at the end of 1968 and, in its final year as a separate Regiment, the 1st Battalion exercised in Canada and became the Army Swimming Champions; in addition the officers of the Regiment were honoured by their Colonel-in-Chief’s presence at dinner. Before leaving Malta The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers) met the Prince of Wales when he visited the 1st Battalion, who trooped their Regimental Colour in his presence. The battalion arrived in Folkestone in January 1970.

The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment

On the 25th March 1970 at Connaught Barracks under the walls of Dover Castle the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment was inaugurated when the 1st Battalions of The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers) and The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) were formally amalgamated.  On behalf of the Queen, its Colonel-in-Chief, Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer[1] presented the new battalion with its first Colours. The inauguration of the new regiment was completed on the 1st April 1975 when the 2nd Battalion, The Lancastrian Volunteers took the title the 4th (Volunteer) Battalion, The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment.

Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer presents the new Regiment with its colours during the Formation Parade at Dover

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[1] Capt Templer was awarded the DSO as a company commandeer with the Loyals in Palestine in 1936.by John Downham