Unit History: Dorsetshire Regiment
The Regiment was officially formed in 1881 from the amalgamation of the 39th and 54th Regiments of Foot however its history can be traced back 179 years prior to this date.
The 39th was formed in 1702 by Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont in Ireland as Richard Coote's Regiment of Foot; this followed the tradition of the time of naming Regiments after the current colonel.
In 1751 the traditional system of naming Regiments after the current colonel was simplified with a number assigned according to the Regiments precedence; therefore Richbell’s Regiment became the 39th Regiment of Foot. In 1782 all British Regiments without Royal titles were awarded county titles in order to aid recruitment from that region therefore the 39th initially became the 39th (East Midlands) Regiment of Foot however this title was swapped with 35th (Sussex) Regiment of Foot to become the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot in 1805.
The 39th went on to served during the Peninsular War (1808-1814) fighting at the Battles of Marabout, Albuhera, Vittoria, Pyrenees Nivelle Nive, Orthes and Peninsula. In 1825 the Regiment was deployed to Australia to garrison the colony of New South Wales and also saw service in Hobart, Sydney, Swan River and Bathurst. The Regiment departed to India in 1832 and served during the Gawalior Campaign 1843 fighting at the Battle of Maharajpore. The 39th also served during the Crimean War (1854–1856) fighting at Sevastopol.
The 54th was first formed in 1755 as the 56th Regiment of Foot but was subsequently re-numbered two years later after the disbandment of other Regiments. It received the county title ‘West Norfolk’ in 1782 to become the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot. The Regiment served during the Egyptian Campaign 1801 which drove the Napoleon’s Army out of Egypt during the The French Revolutionary Wars (1792– 1802). The 54th went on to serve during the Battle of Waterloo, the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) fighting at the Battle of Ava and during the Indian Mutiny (1857-59).
Both Regiments were amalgamated in 1881 as part of the Childers Reforms which restructured the British army into a network of multi-battalion Regiments to become The Dorsetshire Regiment. The newly formed Regiment went on to serve in India on the North West Frontier fighting during the Tirah Expedition (1897-1898) in order to regain control of the Khyber pass from the Afridi tribe. The Regiment also served during the Second Boer war (1899-1902) fighting at the Relief of Ladysmith and during two World Wars.
In 1958 the Regiment was amalgamated with the Devonshire Regiment to form the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment. The Regiment was further amalgamated in 2005 with the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire Wiltshire Regiment and the Light Infantry to form the Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry. This Regiment was further amalgamated in 2007 with the Royal Green Jackets to form the Rifles.
Dorsetshire Regiment during WW1
Since 1815 the balance of power in Europe had been maintained by a series of treaties. In 1888 Wilhelm II was crowned ‘German Emperor and King of Prussia’ and moved from a policy of maintaining the status quo to a more aggressive position. He did not renew a treaty with Russia, aligned Germany with the declining Austro-Hungarian Empire and started to build a Navy to rival that of Britain. These actions greatly concerned Germany’s neighbours, who quickly forged new treaties and alliances in the event of war. On 28th June 1914 Franz Ferdinand the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated by the Bosnian-Serb nationalist group Young Bosnia who wanted pan-Serbian independence. Franz Joseph the Austro-Hungarian Emperor (with the backing of Germany) responded aggressively, presenting Serbia with an intentionally unacceptable ultimatum, to provoke Serbia into war. Serbia agreed to 8 of the 10 terms and on the 28th July 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, producing a cascade effect across Europe. Russia bound by treaty to Serbia declared war with Austro-Hungary, Germany declared war with Russia and France declared war with Germany. Germany’s army crossed into neutral Belgium in order to reach Paris, forcing Britain to declare war with Germany (due to the Treaty of London (1839) whereby Britain agreed to defend Belgium in the event of invasion). By the 4th August 1914 Britain and much of Europe were pulled into a war which would last 1,566 days, cost 8,528,831 lives and 28,938,073 casualties or missing on both sides.
The regiment raised a total of 12 Battalions and received 57 Battle Honours losing 4,060 men during the course of the war.
04.08.1914 Stationed at Belfast as part of the 15th Brigade of the 5th Division.
16.08.1914 Mobilised for war and landed at Havre and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
The Battle of Mons and subsequent retreat, The Battle of Le Cateau and the Affair of Crepy-en-Valois, The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne, The Battles of La Bassee and Messines 1914, The First Battle of Ypres.
The Second Battle of Ypres and the Capture of Hill 60.
31.12.1915 Transferred to the 95th Brigade of the 32nd Division.
07.01.1916 The 95th Brigade became the 14th of the same Division;
The Battle of Delville Wood, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette.
The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The First Battle of the Scarpe, The Third Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of Langemark, The First Battle of Passchendaele, The Second Battle of Passchendaele.
The Battle of St Quentin, The Battle of the Avre, The Battle of Ypres 1918 and the final advance in Flanders.
11.11.1918 Ended the war in Flaumont east of Avesnes, France.
04.08.1914 Stationed at Poona, India as part of the 16th Brigade of the Poona Division.
06.11.1914 Deployed to the Persian Gulf and landed at Fao.
29.04.1916 350 men captured at Kut al Amara by the Turkish Army (only 70 survived their captivity).
04.02.1916 Composite Battalion was formed at El Orah, Tigris while battalion was besieged, from drafts and recovered wounded of the 2nd Norfolk and 2nd Dorset battalions, nicknamed the Norsets and was part of the 21st Brigade of the 7th Indian Division.
21.07.1916 The Composite Battalion was broken up and the 2nd Battalion reconstituted to become the Corps Troops of the Tigris Corps.
Sept 1916 Deployed on the Tigris Defences.
Jan1917 Transferred to the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Indian Division.
April 1918 Deployed to Egypt landing at Suez
31.10.1918 Ended the war at Zawata S.W. of Nazareth, Palestine.
3rd (Reserve) Battalion
04.08.1914 Stationed at Dorchester and then moved to Weymouth.
June 1915 Moved to Wyke Regis, Dorset.
1/4th Battalion Territorial Force
04.08.1914 Stationed at Dorchester as part of the South Western Brigade of the Wessex Division and then moved to Salisbury Plain.
09.10.1914 Embarked for India at Southampton landing at Bombay and then the Division broken up.
18.02.1916 Embarked for Basra from Karachi.
23.02.1916 Transferred to the 42nd Brigade.
May 1916 The 42nd transferred to the 15th Indian Division and engaged in various actions including;
Action of As Sahilan.
Capture of Ramadi.
Occupation of Hit and Action of Khan Baghdadi.
31.10.1918 Ended the war near Khan Baghdadi on Euphrates N.W. of Baghdad, Mesopotamia.
2/4th Battalion Territorial Force
Sept 1914 Formed and then moved to Salisbury Plain as part of the 2/South Western Brigade of the 2/Wessex Division.
Oct 1914 Moved to Dorchester.
12.12.1914 Embarked for India from Southampton arriving at Bombay and the Division was broken up.
15.08.1917 Embarked for Egypt from Bombay arriving at Suez.
29.08.1917 Transferred to the 234th Brigade of the 75th Division and engaged in various actions as Part of the Palestine Campaign including;
The Third Battle of Gaza, The Capture of Gaza, The Capture of Junction Station, The Battle of Nabi Samweil.
02.05.1918 Transferred to the 233rd Brigade of the 75th Division.
Aug 1918 Disbanded in Palestine.
3/4th Battalion Territorial Forces
1915 Formed in Bath and Cheddar and then moved to Bournemouth.
Spring 1916 Moved to Romsey, Hampshire.
08.04.1916 became the 4th Reserve Battalion as part of the Wessex Reserve.
Oct 1916 Moved to Bournemouth.
Feb 1917 Moved to Sutton Veny, and then Larkhill, Wiltshire.
April 1918 Deployed to Ireland stationed at Londonderry.
5th (Service) Battalion
Aug 1914 Formed at Dorchester as part of the First New Army (K1) and then moved to Belton Park, Grantham and attached to the 11th Division.
18.01.1915 Joined the 34th brigade of the 11th Division.
03.07.1915 Embarked for Gallipoli from Liverpool via Mudros and Imbros.
06.08.1915 Landed at Suvla Bay and engaged in various actions against the Turkish Army including;
The Battle of Sari Bair.
16.12.1915 Evacuated from Gallipoli to Mudros and Imbros due to severe casualties from combat, disease and harsh weather.
01.02.1916 Deployed to Alexandria and took over a section of the Suez Canal defences.
03.07.1916 Embarked for France from Alexandria arriving at Marseilles and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
The capture of the Wundt-Werk, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, The Battle of Thiepval.
Operations on the Ancre, The Battle of Messines, The Battle of the Langemarck, The Battle of Polygon Wood, The Battle of Broodseinde, The Battle of Poelcapelle.
The Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of the Drocourt-Quant Line, The Battle of the Canal du Nord, The Battle of Cambrai 1918, The pursuit to the Selle, The Battle of the Sambre.
11.11.1918 Ended the war at les Trieux west of Aulnois, Belgium.
6th (Service) Battalion
06.09.1914 Formed at Dorchester as part of the Second New Army (K2) and then moved to Wareham, Dorset attached to the 17th Division.
Mar 1915 Transferred to the 50th Brigade of the 17th Division and then moved to Romsey, Hampshire.
14.07.1915 Mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
Holding front lines in southern area of Ypres salient.
The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Delville Wood.
The First Battle of the Scarpe, The Second Battle of the Scarpe, The Capture of Roeux, The First Battle of Passchendaele, The Second Battle of Passchendaele.
The Battle of St Quentin, The Battle of Bapaume, The Battle of Amiens, The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bapaume, The Battle of Havrincourt, The Battle of Epehy, The Battle of Cambrai 1918, The pursuit to the Selle, The Battle of the Selle, The Battle of the Sambre.
11.11.1918 Ended the war at Eclaibes north of Avesnes, France.
7th (Reserve) Battalion
Nov 1914 Formed at Weymouth as a service battalion of the Fourth New Army (K4) as part of the 102nd Brigade of the 34th Division.
10.04.1915 Became a 2nd Reserve Brigade and moved to Wool and Wareham, Dorset.
Oct 1915 Returned to Wool and joined the 8th Reserve Brigade.
01.09.1916 Became the 35th Training Reserve Battalion.
8th (Home Service) Battalion
01.09.1916 Formed at Wool, Dorset as the 2nd (Home Service) Garrison Battalion.
Sept 1916 Moved to Portland, Dorset.
01.11.1916 Became the 8th (Home Service) Battalion.
07.11.1916 Moved to Blackpool and transferred to the 219th Brigade of the 73rd Division.
Jan 1917 Moved to Danbury, Essex.
Dec 1917 Disbanded.
01.06.1918 Formed at Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
18.06.1918 Absorbed into the 6th Wiltshire Regiment.
1st (Home Service) Garrison Battalion
June 1916 Formed at Wyke Regis, Dorset and then moved to Weymouth and then Portland.
Jan 1917 Disbanded.