Manchester Regiment

Manchester Regiment
The Manchester Regiment
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Active 1 July 1881-1 September 1958
Country United Kingdom
Branch Army
Type Line Infantry
Anniversaries Ladysmith, 23 February
Kohima, 15 May
Guadeloupe, 10 June
Inkerman, 5 November
Colonel-in-Chief HM King George V (1930)
HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (1947)
Colonel of
the Regiment
Edmund Richard Jeffreys (1881)
John MacNeill Walter (1889) Sir Henry Radford Norman (1895)
Vere Hunt Bowles (1899)
William Osborne Barnard (1904)
Sir Vere Bonamy Fane (1920)
Sir Willoughby Garnons Gwatkin (1924)
Hon. Sir Herbert Alexander Lawrence (1925)
Wilfrid Keith Evans (1932)
Francis Holland Dorling (1934)
Charles Dawson Moorhead (1947)
Eric Boyd Costin (1948)
Thomas Bell Lindsay Churchill (1954)

The Manchester Regiment was a regiment of the British army, formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 63rd Regiment of Foot and the 96th Regiment of Foot. The regiment amalgamated with the King's Regiment (Liverpool) in 1958, to form the King's Regiment (Manchester and Liverpool).



Between the 1860s and 1880s, the British Army underwent a period of reform implemented by Edward Cardwell and Hugh Childers. Single-battalion regiments amalgamated and were affiliated with a geographical area.[1] The Manchester Regiment came into being on 1 July 1881 by the union of the 63rd (West Suffolk) and 96th Regiments of Foot. They had been linked in 1873 by their allocation to the 16th Sub-district Brigade Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne, near to Manchester.[2] The 2nd Battalion, as the 96th Foot, had been raised in the town of Manchester in 1824. Eight additional battalions were gained through the incorporation of the 6th Royal Lancashire Militia and rifle corps units from Lancashire.[2]

India featured prominently in the early history of the regiment. The 1st Battalion had been based there for a decade before departing for Egypt and thence to Britain in 1883, while the 2nd Battailon arrived in 1882 after service in Malta and Egypt. In the volatile North-West Frontier, the battalion participated in two expeditions against warring tribes in 1891.

In 1897, the 1st and 2nd Manchesters were posted to Gibraltar and Aden respectively, the latter battalion relocating to Manchester a year later.

Boer War (1899-1902)

The Manchester Regiment in the full dress uniform of 1914. Illustration by Harry Payne (1858–1927)

Amidst growing tension between Boers and the British in the Transvaal, the 1st Manchester shipped to South Africa in September 1899. The battalion arrived in Durban, Natal Colony in early October, and was soon afterwards moved to Ladysmith.[3] The war began on 11 October with a Boer invasion of the colony.[4] After Boer forces captured Elandslaagte railway station, the Manchesters had four companies sent by armoured train to Modderspruit. While disembaking there, the Manchesters and accompanying Imperial Light Horse came under ineffectual artillery fire.[3]

The 1st Manchesters, along with a number of other regiments, took part in the subsequent assault. The fighting was heavy, with the Boers pouring accurate fire into the advancing Manchesters. Under increasingly heavy fire, the battalion halted its advance. The Manchesters became the main vanguard of the frontal assault, having originally been tasked with a left-flank attack on the Boer hills. Once the battalion closed in, the Boers withdrew to their main line of defence, situated behind barbed-wire. Further fighting took place on the last hill reached by the British, and the Boers that defended it soon retreated. However, a few dozen Boers soon appeared, counter-attacking the Manchesters and Gordon Highlanders. Heavy fighting ensued, however, the British prevailed.

On 2 November, Boer forces encircled and isolated the town of Ladysmith, beginning a 118-day siege.[5] An abortive attempt had been made on 29 October to attack Boer positions.

On 6 January 1900, a contingent of 16 soldiers of the 1st Manchesters came under attack at Wagon Hill, near to Caeser's Camp. Against superior numbers, the detachment held its position for 15 hours. Only two survived, Privates Pitts and Scott, who had continued to hold out for many hours when the others had been killed. Both received the Victoria Cross for their actions, giving the regiment its first two VCs. By the 28 February, Ladysmith had finally been relieved by a force under the command of General Redvers Buller.

In April, the 2nd Manchesters arrived in Natal as reinforcements.[6] Both battalions participated in the offensive which followed the relieving of Ladysmith, Kimberley and Mafeking. After the fall of Bloemfontein and Pretoria, the Boer commandos transitioned to guerilla warfare. The 2nd Manchesters operated in the Orange Free State, searching farms and burning those suspected of housing commandos.[7]

The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902. Further reforms were implemented following the war's end by Richard Haldane, the Secretary of State for War. The Haldane Reforms, as they became known, included the creation of an expeditionary force and the transformation of the volunteers into the Territorial Force.

First World War (1914-1918)

The 1911 Delhi Durbar

The 2nd Manchesters returned to Britain in 1902, where they would remain until 1914 and the outbreak of the First World War. The 1st Manchesters departed South Africa for Singapore in 1903. The following year the 1st moved to India, where, in 1911, the battalion paraded at the Delhi Durbar, attended by King George V and Queen Mary.

The 1st Manchesters, on the outbreak of war, were part of the 3rd (Lahore) Indian Division, while the 2nd Manchesters became part of the 5th Division. One of the last surviving World War I veterans, Netherwood Hughes, served in the 51st Manchesters.[8] Ned Hughes died 4 April 2009 aged 108.[9]

Home Front

During a raid by German Zeppelin L 21 on 1 April 1916, 31 soldiers of the 3rd Manchesters were killed when a bomb hit their billet at Cleethorpes.[10]

Western Front

Before the arrival of the 1st Battalion from India, the 2nd Manchesters embarked for France with the 5th Division in August 1914 and contributed to the rearguard actions that supported the British Expeditionary Force's retreat following the Battle of Mons.[11] Engaged in the battles of the Marne, the Aisne and "First Ypres", the 2nd Battalion was the regiment's sole representative on the Western Front until the arrival of the Indian Corps, comprising two infantry divisions and cavalry. Each brigade contained a constituent British battalion, the 1st Manchesters being the Jullundur's of the Lahore Division.

Having been briefly attached to French cavalry, the 1st Battalion moved to the frontline on 26 October, relieving a battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment near to Festubert.[12] Three days later, a heavy bombardment preceded an attack by a German force directed against the 2nd Manchesters and the Devonshire Regiment. Despite capturing a trench line, the Germans were unable to capitalise due to the actions of a platoon commanded by Second-Lieutenant James Leach. In the process of their methodical retaking of the trench, the party killed eight, wounded two and captured 14 soldiers.[13] For their contribution to the defence of the Manchesters' trenches, Second-Lieutenant Leach and Sergeant John Hogan were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Severe casualties were sustained by the 1st Manchesters and its brigade during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. A succession of intensely fought battles followed, culminating in Second Ypres and Loos.

The 1st Battalion embarked for Mesopotamia in late 1915, accompanying the infantry element of the Indian Corps. On 1 July 1916, the First Day of the Somme, the regiment had nine battalions committed, including the Manchester Pals. The day proved to be the deadliest in the British Army's history, with more than 57,000 killed, wounded or missing.

The regiment continued its involvement in the Somme Offensive. In late July, the 16th, 17th, and 18th Manchesters, attacked an area in the vicinity of the small village of Guillemont. During the action, Company Sergeant-Major George Evans, of the 18th, volunteered to deliver an important message, having witnessed five previous, fatal attempts to do so. He delivered his message, running more than half a mile despite being wounded. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.

C Company, 2nd Manchesters taking the battery at Francilly Selency. Painting by Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927)

On 2 April, the 2nd Manchesters attacked Francilly-Selency, in which C Company of the battalion captured a battery of 77 mm guns and a number of machine-guns. Two paintings were made of this action by the military artist Richard Caton Woodville. Later in the month, the Manchester Regiment fought in the Arras Offensive.

Prepations for a new offensive in the Ypres sector had got underway in June with a preliminary assault on Messines. The Manchester Pals' Brigade fought in the offensive's opening battle, at Pilckem Ridge, on 31 July.[14] Conditions during "Third Ypres" (or Passchendaele) reduced the battleground to an intractable morass.[15] During "Third Ypres", Sergeant Coverdale, of the 11th Manchesters, killed three snipers, rushed two machine gun positions, then reorganised his platoon to capture another position, though after advancing some distance was forced back due to bombardment from the British artillery, suffering nine casualties in the advance.

In March 1918, the German Army launched an all-out offensive in the Somme sector. Faced with the prospect of continued American reinforcement of the Allied armies, the Germans urgently sought a decisive victory on the Western Front.[16] On the morning of 21 March, the 16th Manchesters occupied positions in an area known as Manchester Hill, near to St. Quentin. A large German force attacked along the 16th's front, being repulsed in parts, but completely overwhelming the battalion elsewhere. Some positions lost were recaptured in counter-attacks by the 16th. Though encircled, the 16th continued to resist the assault, encouraged by its commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob. During the course of the battle, Elstob single-handedly repulsed a grenadier attack and made a number of journeys to replenish dwindling ammunition supplies. At one point, he sent a message to Brigade that "The Manchester Regiment will defend Manchester Hill to the last", to his men he had told them that "Here we fight, and here we die". The 16th Manchesters effectively ceased to exist as a coherent body. Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. An attempt to retake the hill was later made by the 17th Manchesters with heavy losses. Two more Victoria Crosses were awarded ot the regiment in the final months of the war.

Middle East

In September 1915, just before the Ottoman Empire entered the war on Germany's side, six of the regiment's battalions joined the Egypt garrison.[17] They belonged to the territorial East Lancashire Division (later numbered the 42nd), which was selected to release regular troops for service in active theatres.[18] In May 1915, the division landed at Cape Helles, Gallipoli to reinforce the British beachheads established during the initial landings in April.[19]

The Manchesters disembarked at "V" and "W", [19] where, in the April landings, there had been at least 2000 casualties.[20] The Manchester battalions took part in the Third Battle of Krithia on 4 June. The 127th (Manchester) Brigade reached their first objective and advanced a further 1000 yards, capturing 217 Ottomans in the process. A few hours later, the brigade withdrew when an Ottoman counter-attack threatened its flanks. Further fighting took place at the positions the British had withdrawn to and were soon repusled after many days fighting.

During the Battle of Krithia Vineyard, the Manchesters suffered heavy losses and gained a Victoria Cross for gallantry by Lieutenant Forshaw of the 1/9th Battalion. The evacuation of Cape Helles lasted from December 1915 to January 1916. The Manchester battalions suffered many casualties during the Dardnalles Campaign. At the Helles Memorial, 1,215 names of the Manchesters fill the memorial alone.

In the Mesopotamian Campaign, the 1st Manchesters took part in the Battle of Dujaila in March 1916, which was intended to relieve the British forces in Kut-al-Amara, which was being besieged by Ottoman forces. In the battle, the 1st Manchesters seized the trenches of the Dujaila Redoubt with the 59th Scinde Rifles (Frontier Force); however, they were subsequently displaced by an Ottoman counter-attack, being forced back to their starting lines. During the withdrawal, Private Stringer held his ground single-handedly, securing the flank of his battalion. He was awarded the Victoria Cross. British and Indian forces suffered 4,000 casualties. After five failed attempts to relieve the town, Kut surrendered to Ottoman forces on 29 April 1916. The 1st Manchesters would take part in further actions in Mesopotamia, but in April 1918 the regiment moved to Egypt.

The battalion then moved to Ottoman-controlled Palestine, still part of the 3rd (Lahore) Division, to take part in the campaign there against the Ottomans. They fought in the last major offensive there, at Megiddo, on 19 September. Within three hours the Turkish lines, held by the Eighth Army, had been broken. Open warfare defined the theatre. During the Megiddo offensive, the cavalry advanced more than 70 miles in 36 hours. The 1st Manchesters took part in further engagements until the Armistice with the Ottoman Empire, remaining in the area until 1919.

Inter war years

In 1919, the 1st Manchesters returned to Britain for a year, later reinforcing the garrison in Ireland. In 1922 it garrisoned the Channel Islands before joining the British Army of the Rhine in Germany. It returned to Britain in 1927 and, in 1933, departed for the West Indies. After being posted to Egypt in 1936, the 1st Manchesters were converted into a Vickers machine-gun battalion.[21] The battalion had to be rushed to the Mandate of Palestine when the Arab populace erupted in revolt. In difficult conditions, the battalion suffered four killed and contributed a number of men to the counter-insurgency Special Night Squads.[21] In 1937, a company on detachment in Cyprus provided a special guard for the Coronation parade. In 1938 the battalion moved to Singapore.

Meanwhile, in 1920 the 2nd Manchesters became part of the garrison in Mesopotamia,[22] which had been acquired by Britain as a mandate territory under the auspices of the League of Nations.[23] During an action near Hillah, Captain Henderson reorganised his company who were wavering in the face of a large force of tribesmen, then led the company in three attacks against the tribesmen, being severely wounded in the second attack, though carrying on for the third and final counter-attack. He carried on fighting until he succumbed to a loss of blood and collapsed. Aided by one of his men, who helped him to stand, Henderson told his company, "I'm done now, don't let them beat you." He was shot again, killing him. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.

The battalion departed for India in 1922, where it remained until 1932. At the beginning of the Second World War, it was stationed in Britain.

Jack Churchill also served in this regiment.

Second World War

North West Europe

When Germany invaded France in May 1940, the 2nd, 5th, and 9th Manchesters formed part of the British Expeditionary Force.[24] Despite putting up a stubborn defence, the BEF went into retreat, the Manchesters being engaged along the way. Much of the expeditionary force converged on Dunkirk, where hundreds of ships evacuated more than 330,000 soldiers to Britain. Of the surviving men of the 2nd Manchesters, more than 300 men were evacuated. Fewer than 200 remained, fighting until being either captured or killed.[25] The 5th and 9th were also evacuated, having sufferered light casualties. The evacuation ended on 3 June.

In 1944 the 1st Manchesters landed in France on the 27 June, 21 days after the invasion had begun. The battalion took part in a number of engagements in the area around Caen, which was captured by British and Canadian Forces on 9 July. The battalion advanced across Northern France, reaching Antwerp in Belgium in early September. The 1st Manchesters, along with the rest of the 53rd (Welsh) Division, moved to Turnhout, before advancing later that month into the Netherlands where the 1st and 7th Manchesters saw heavy action. The 1st Manchesters, after entering German territory in the face of the Wehrmacht's defences, crossed the Rhine with the 53rd Division in late March. The 7th Manchesters saw its last fighting in Bremen, when that city was captured on 26 April. The 1st Manchesters ended the war in Hamburg when that city surrendered on 3 May.

The 8th and 9th Manchesters took part in the Italian campaign. The former battalion was part of the Indian 10th Infantry Division, with the latter being part of the Indian 4th Infantry Division. The 9th Manchesters saw much action during the Battle for the Gothic Line, including the Battle of Montegridolfo. After service in Greece and a return to Italy for the last weeks of the campaign there, they reached Graz, Austria by the end of the war.

Far East

Vickers machine-gun of the 1st Manchester Regiment, 17 October 1941, Malaya

Stationed in Singapore from 1938, the 1st Manchesters saw action during the Japanese invasion of the island in February 1942. After a bitter defence, Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival signed the surrender of Singapore on 15 February. About 80,000 Commonwealth personnel became POWs.

In 1942, the 2nd Manchesters were sent to the sub-continent, being stationed first in India, then Burma in 1944. The battalion was involved in the Battle of Kohima in fierce fighting with the Japanese. It fought in subsequent actions in Burma until April 1945, when it returned to India.

Post war

The 1st Manchesters remained in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) until it returned to Britain in 1947, where it was joined by the 2nd Battalion. On 1 June 1948, the two battalions amalgamated in the presence of the regiment's colonel-in-chief, Queen Elizabeth.[26] Soon afterwards, the 1st Battalion was posted to Germany, being first based at Wuppertal. On the regiment joining the West Berlin garrison in 1950, detachments performed guard duty at Spandau Prison.[26] The battalion proceeded, in 1951, to Malaya aboard the troopship Empire Hallande. In three years of service during the Malayan Emergency, the Manchesters had 14 men killed in action.

With the exception of a brief return to Britain, the 1st Manchesters remained part of BAOR until amalgamation in 1958.

Battle honours

  • From the 63rd Regiment of Foot: Egmont-op-Zee, Martinique 1809, Guadeloupe 1810, Alma, Inkerman, Sevastopol, Afghanistan 1879-80
  • From the 96th Regiment of Foot: Egypt, Peninsula, New Zealand
  • Guadeloupe 1759, Egypt 1882, Defence of Ladysmith, South Africa 1899-1902
  • The Great War: Mons, Le Cateau, Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914, Aisne 1914, La Bassée 1914, Armentières 1914, Givenchy 1914, Neuve Chapelle, Ypres 1915 17 '18, Gravenstafel, St. Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde, Aubers, Somme 1916 '18, Albert 1916 '18, Bazentin, Delville Wood, Guillemont, Flers-Courcelette, Thiepval, Le Transloy, Ancre Heights, Ancre 1916 '18, 1917 '18, Scarpe 1917, Bullecourt, Messines 1917, Pilckem, Langemarck 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, St. Quentin, Bapaume 1918, Rosières, Lys, Kemmel, Amiens, Hindenburg Line, Épéhy, Canal du Nord, St. Quentin Canal, Beaurevoir, Cambrai 1918, Courtrai, Selle, Sambre, France and Flanders 1914-18, Piave, Vittorio Veneto, Italy 1917-18, Doiran 1917, Macedonia 1915-18, Helles, Krithia, Suvla, Landing at Suvla, Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli 1915, Rumani, Egypt 1915-17, Megiddo, Sharon, Palestine 1918, Tigris 1916, Kut al Amara 1917, Baghdad, Mesopotamia 1916-18
  • The Second World War: Dyle, Withdrawal to Escaut, Defence of Escaut, Defence of Arras, St. Omer-La Bassée, Ypres-Comines Canal, Caen, Esquay, Falaise, Nederrijn, Scheldt, Walcheren Causeway, Flushing, Lower Maas, Venlo Pocket, Roer, Ourthe, Rhineland, Reichswald, Goch, Weeze, Rhine, Ibbenburen, Dreirwalde, Aller, Bremen, North-West Europe 1940 '44-45, Gothic Line, Monte Gridolfo, Coriano, San Clemente, Gemmano Ridge, Montilgallo, Capture of Forli, Lamone Crossing, Defence of Lamone Bridgehead, Rimini Line, Montescudo, Cesena, Italy 1944, Malta 1940, Singapore Island, Malaya 1941-42, North Arakan, Kohima, Pinwe, Shwebo, Myinmu Bridgehead, Irrawaddy, Burma 1944-45


  1. ^ Mileham (2000), p. 58
  2. ^ a b Frederick, John Bassett Moore (1969), Lineage book of the British Army; Mounted Corps and Infantry, 1660-1968, pp. 112-3
  3. ^ a b Mileham (2000), pp. 65-7
  4. ^ Fremont-Barnes (2003), The Boer War 1899–1902, p. 11
  5. ^ Raugh, Harold E. (2004, The Victorians at War, 1815-1914: An Encyclopedia of British Military History, p. 205
  6. ^ Mileham (2000), p. 73
  7. ^ Mileham (2000), p. 75
  8. ^ Bingham, John (2008-11-20). "'New' First World War veteran comes to light through internet". Telegraph Online. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  9. ^ Report on Ned Hughes' death
  10. ^ Cook, Vernon (1999). "Zeppelin Disaster Casualty List - Cleethorpes Lincs 1916". WEST-RIDING-L Archives. 
  11. ^ Mileham (2000), pp. 83-4
  12. ^ Wylly, H C (1923), History of the Manchester Regiment (Late the 63rd and 96th Foot), p. 108
  13. ^ Mileham (2000), p. 86
  14. ^ Mileham (2000), p. 125
  15. ^ Morrow (2005), The Great War: An Imperial History, p. 192
  16. ^ Robbins, Keith (2002), The First World War, p. 73
  17. ^ Mileham (2000), p. 109
  18. ^ Westlake, Ray & Chappell, Mike (1991), British Territorial Units 1914-18, p. 20
  19. ^ a b Mileham (2000), p. 111
  20. ^ Keegan, John (1999), The First World War, p. 265
  21. ^ a b Mileham (2000), pp. 136-7
  22. ^ Mileham (2000), p. 132
  23. ^ Arthur, Max (2005), Symbol of Courage: The Men Behind the Medal, pp. 376-7
  24. ^ Mileham (2000), pp. 141-2
  25. ^ Mileham (2000), p. 145
  26. ^ a b Mileham (2000), pp. 183-4

External links

Preceded by
63rd Regiment of Foot
96th Regiment of Foot
Manchester Regiment
Succeeded by
King's Regiment

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