Royal Norfolk Regiment

Royal Norfolk Regiment
Royal Norfolk Regiment
Royal Norfolk Regiment Badge.jpg
Cap badge of the Royal Norfolk Regiment
Active 1881–1959
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line Infantry
Size 2 Regular Battalions

1–2 Militia and Special Reserve Battalions
Up to 4 Territorial and Volunteer Battalions
Up to 12 Hostilities-only Battalions

Garrison/HQ Norwich
Nickname "The Holy Boys", "The Fighting Ninth", "The Norfolk Howards"
Motto Firm
Facings Yellow
March Rule Britannia
Anniversaries Almanza, 25 April
Battle honours see below
Shoulder titles "Royal Norfolk"

The Royal Norfolk Regiment, originally formed as the Norfolk Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the British Army. The Norfolk Regiment was created on 1 July 1881 as the county regiment of Norfolk. It was formed from the 9th (the East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot (formerly the 9th Regiment of Foot) and covered the local militia and rifle volunteers.

Battalions of the Norfolks fought in the First World War on the Western Front and in the Middle East.

It became the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 3 June 1935. In the Second World War, the regiments battalions were in action in the battle of France, the Far East, and then in the invasion of and subsequent operations in north-west Europe.

The Royal Norfolks were amalgamated in 1959 with their neighbours, the Suffolk Regiment, to become part of the 1st East Anglian Regiment; this in turn became part of the Royal Anglian Regiment, of which "A" company of the first battalion is known as the Royal Norfolk.



1st Bn Royal Norfolk Regiment on parade being inspected by Sir John Anderson, the Governor General of Bengal. Dacca, British India, 1933.

First World War

The Norfolks entered the First World War with two regular, one reserve and three Territorial Force battalions (one of cyclists) but the regiment expanded to nineteen battalions.

The total number of men raised during the war amounted to 32,375 of whom 5,576 were killed

In the East

The 2nd Battalion of the Norfolks fought in the Mesopotamian Campaign. The treatment of prisoners after the fall of Kut al Amara mirrors that that would later befall the Royal Norfolks in the Far East during the Second World War.

The two territorial battalions served in Gallipoli. The 1/5th included the "Sandringham Company" which recruited from the King's estate at Sandringham. On 12 August 1915, the Sandringham company suffered heavy losses at Gallipoli when it became isolated during an attack. A myth grew up after the War that they had advanced into a mist and simply disappeared.[1] A BBC TV drama, All the King's Men (1999), starring David Jason as Captain Frank Beck, was based upon their story.

In the Second Battle of Gaza, the 4th and 5th Territorial battalions suffered 75% casualties, about 1,100 men [2]


The 8th Battalion as part of the 18th (Eastern) Division was present on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. They got beyond their initial target and had by 5.00pm reached the German trenches known as "Montauban Alley". Over one hundred men and three officers had been killed.

During the war Lt-Col Jack Sherwood Kelly, a Norfolk regiment officer, won a Victoria Cross leading a trench assault by Irish troops during the battle of Cambrai in 1917.

Second World War

Five members of the Royal Norfolks won the Victoria Cross in the Second World War:

Le Paradis Incident

During the Battle of France as part of the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940, members of the Royal Norfolks were victims of a German war crime at Le Paradis in the Pas-de-Calais on May 26.

The 2nd Battalion was one of the units of the 4th Infantry Brigade covering the retreat to Dunkirk. They were holding the line of the La Bassée Canal. Units became separated from each other. Their HQ company had formed a defensive position based at the Duriez farmhouse. they carried on their defence until the afternoon by which point many were injured and the enemy were shelling the farm. Making a last stand in the open they were outnumbered and surrendered to a unit of the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the SS 'Totenkopf' (Death's Head) Division. The commander was SS Obersturmfuhrer Fritz Knoechlein. The 99 prisoners were marched to some farm buildings on another farm where they were lined up alongside a barn wall. They were then fired upon by two machine guns. 97 of them were killed and the bodies buried in shallow pit. Privates Albert Pooley and William O'Callaghan had hid in a pig-sty and were discovered later by the farm's owner, Mdme Creton, and her son. The two soldiers were later captured by a Wehrmacht unit and spent the rest of the war as prisoners of war.

The bodies were exhumed in 1942 by the French and reburied in the local churchyard which now forms part of the Le Paradis War Cemetery. The massacre was investigated by the War Crimes Investigation Unit and Knoechlein was traced and arrested. Tried in a court in Hamburg, he was found guilty and hanged on January 28, 1949. A memorial plaque was placed on the barn wall in 1970.

Far East

The 4th, 5th and 6th Battalions served in the Far East, as part of the 18th Infantry Division, in the defence of Singapore and Malaya against the Japanese advance. The battalions ended up as prisoners-of war when Singapore fell in February 1942 . They would remain so until August 1945 during which time they were used as forced labour on projects such as the Death Railway.

Normandy 1944

The 1st Battalion of the Royal Norfolks formed part of the initial landings on D-Day. They were part of the 185th Brigade in the 3rd Infantry Division alongside the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the King's Shropshire Light Infantry. The battalion landed on Red Queen Beach (on the left flank of Sword Beach) at 07:25. On the 6 August 1944 at Sourdeval, Sidney Bates won his Victoria Cross. The 7th Battalion of the Royal Norfolks was part of the 59th (Staffordshire) Division, one of the follow-up units.

Post War

The Norfolks served in Korea in 1951-2 during the Korean War, and in Cyprus in the fight against EOKA in 1955-56, during the post war period.

In 1959 the Norfolks were amalgamated as part of the 1957 Defence White Paper into a new formation, the 1st East Anglian Regiment, part of the East Anglian Brigade.


The Norfolk Regiment held an anniversary on 25 April for the Battle of Almanza which they inherited along with the regimental nickname of the "Holy Boys" from the 9th Regiment of Foot. The story of the nickname is that it was gained it from a misidentification of their cap badge of Britannia by a Spanish soldier for the Virgin Mary.

Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

The history of the Norfolk Regiment and its predecessors and successors is recorded at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum (52°37′44″N 1°17′51″E / 52.6288°N 1.2974°E / 52.6288; 1.2974 (Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum)) at the Shirehall, Norwich, having moved there from the regiment's former home, Britannia Barracks, now part of Norwich prison. The exhibits illustrate the history of the Regiment from its formation to its incorporation into the Royal Anglian Regiment. There is an extensive and representative display of medals awarded to soldiers of the Regiment, including two of the six Victoria Crosses won.[3]

Other regimental artifacts are on display at the Royal Anglian Regiment Museum based at the Land Warfare Hall of the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

Battle honours

The following honours were inherited from the 9th Regiment of Foot.

18th Century

  • Seven Years War
    • Belleisle, Havannah

19th Century

On top of these, the (Royal) Norfolk regiment gained the following battle honours before amalgamation:

20th Century

  • Second World War
    • St Omer-La Bassée, North-West Europe 1940
    • Normandy Landing, Brieux Bridgehead, Venray (Operation Aintree), Rhineland, North-West Europe 1944-45,
    • Singapore Island, Kohima, Aradura (1944–1945 ), Burma 1944-45

Victoria Cross

In total six members of the Norfolk or Royal Norfolk Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross:

  • Acting Lieutenant-Colonel John Sherwood-Kelly
  • Company Sergeant Major George Gristock
  • Captain John Neil Randle
  • Corporal Sidney Bates
  • Captain David Jamieson
  • Lieutenant George Arthur Knowland

Uniform and insignia

The dress worn by the Regiment's predecessor units in the late 17th and early 18th centuries included orange and subsequently green facings. In 1733 official permission was given to change from bright green back to light orange facings. By 1747 this unusual shade had evolved into yellow which was retained until 1881 when, in common with all English and Welsh regiments the newly renamed Norfolk Regiment was given white distinctions on its scarlet tunics.[4] In 1905 the traditional yellow facings were restored for full dress and mess uniforms.[5] Another distinction of the Norfolk Regiment was the inclusion of a black line in the gold braid of officers' uniforms from 1881 onwards.[4] When the regiment was redesignated as the "Royal Norfolk Regiment" in 1935 it was specially permitted to retain the yellow facings instead of changing to blue.[6]

The figure of Britannia was officially recognised in 1799 as part of the insignia of the 9th Regiment of Foot.[7][8] Regimental tradition claimed that it was granted to the regiment by Queen Anne in 1707 in recognition of its service at the Battle of Almanza. However there is no evidence that it was used before the 1770s, and it was not listed as an authorised device in the royal warrants of 1747, 1751 or 1768.[8][9] It subsequently became a central part of the badge of the Norfolk Regiment.[9] This led to the joke within the Army that the regiment was the only one to be allowed to have a woman (Britannia) in barracks.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ The Vanished Battalion
  2. ^ Eastern Daily Press Sunday section, May 5, 2007
  3. ^ Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum website – Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum
  4. ^ a b Carman, W Y; Simkin, Richard; Douglas-Morris, K J (1985). Uniforms of the British Army: The Infantry Regiments. Webb & Bower. ISBN 0863500315. 
  5. ^ Hamilton, Eric (1968). "Colours of the Regular Army Infantry of the Line 1st July 1881 to 1958". The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society (Special Issue No.1): 5, 14. 
  6. ^ "Honours for the Army". The Times: p. 21. 3 June 1935. "His Majesty has further approved that the following regiments be permitted to retain their present facings:- ...The Royal Norfolk Regiment (yellow)" 
  7. ^ Horse Guards Letter dated 30 July 1799: "His Majesty has been pleased to confirm to the 9th Regiment of Foot the distinction and privilege of bearing the figure of Britannia as the badge of the Regiment."
  8. ^ a b Sumner, Ian (2001). British Colours & Standards 1747–1881 (2) Infantry. Oxford: Osprey. p. 5. ISBN 1841762016. 
  9. ^ a b Edwards, T J (1953). Standards, Guidons and Colours of the Commonwealth Forces. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. p. 204. 

External links

Preceded by
9th Regiment of Foot
(Royal) Norfolk Regiment
Succeeded by
1st East Anglian Regiment

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