This Day In History

1918 Battle of the Selle. In a carefully-planned attack, rehearsed over 5 days, 5th East Lancashires mount a remarkably successful night assault near Briastre. They move off at 2 a.m., in a heavy downpour which lasted throughout the engagement, to the sound of the Regimental March being played by the battalion band. Met by heavy machine-gun fire and an artillery barrage which causes 50 casualties, they charge through with a yell and are on their final objective well before the 7 a.m. deadline set, taking 300 prisoners in the process. Casualties are 2 officers and 13 men dead, and 6 officers and 109 men wounded. Some 22 German dead were counted on the battalion front. Study of the ground the next day shows that the battalion had gone through no fewer than 6 defensive belts, including a very strongly-held railway embankment, before reaching its final objective. The 300 prisoners were ‘of far better physique and appearance’ than any of the enemy previously encountered, and turn out to be picked troops. They said that they were members of Kaiser Wilhelm’ bodyguard; that they had never before known defeat; and that they had been sent to hold the line at all costs.
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81st and 82nd Regiments. In the 1793 war with Revolutionary France found Britain militarily unprepared and additional regiments were hurriedly raised. Two of these were formed in Lincolnshire, largely from militia volunteers. These were the 81st, popularly known as The Loyal Lincoln Volunteers, and the 82nd, who earned the title of The Prince of Wales’s. These subsidiary titles were officially authorised in 1832 and 1831 respectively.

The Mediterranean and Egypt. The first priority on the outbreak of war was to man the Fleet and accordingly the 30th Foot once again became marines, serving in that role for three years which included the defence of Toulon, the capture of Bastia and Calvi in Corsica (under Nelson’s Command) and a navel action off Hieres. In 1798 they returned to the Mediterranean, first to Sicily and then on expeditions to capture Malta, 1800, and to wrest Egypt from the French, 1801. Four flank companies of 40th also took a distinguished part in the latter campaign, including a daring assault landing in Aboukir Bay, and for their part in the victory of Alexandria both Regiments were awarded a Sphinx, superscribed ‘Egypt’, which was incorporated in their Colours and badges.

The West Indies. Urgent reinforcements were also required in the West Indies and the 40th, 47th, 59th, 81st and 82nd all served there. The Regiment saw some action on St Vincent and San Domingo (now Haiti) but the most deadly enemy was disease.

Holland. In Europe the Regiments were involved in several attempts to cooperate with unreliable allies against advancing revolutionary armies. In the 1793 the 40th and the 59th took part in an abortive attempt to assist the French Royalists in the Vendee and the following year the same two Regiments joined the Duke of York’s army in the Low Countries, where they fought a sharp rear guard action near Arnhem and shared in a harsh winter retreat to Bremen. In 1799 two battalions of the 40th were again in Holland where in an otherwise ill-managed campaign they fought a brilliant Regimental action at Alkmaar.

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