78: North Staffordshire (1740) & South Staffordshire (1705)
North Staffordshire Regiment
The North Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s) was an infantry regiment of the British Army, which was in existence between 1881 and 1959. It can date its lineage back to 1756 with the formation of a second battalion by the 11th Regiment of Foot, which shortly after became the 64th (2nd Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot. In 1881, the 64th Foot was merged with the 98th (Prince of Wales’s) Regiment of Foot (originally raised in 1824) to form the new regiment.
Formed at a time when the British Empire was reaching its peak, the Regiment served all over the Empire, in times of both peace and war, and in many theatres of war outside the Empire. It fought in World War I and World War II, as well as in other smaller conflicts around the world. These other wars included the Second Sudanese War, the Second Boer War, the Anglo-Irish War and the Third Anglo-Afghan War.
In 1959, as part of a defence review, the regiment was amalgamated with the South Staffordshire Regiment to form the Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s). Today the traditions of the Regiment are continued by the 3rd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment.
The Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire) Regiment was formed under the Childers Reforms on 1 July 1881, by the amalgamation of the 64th (2nd Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot and 98th (Prince of Wales’s) Regiment of Foot.These two regular regiments became, respectively, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the new regiment.The militia and Rifle Volunteers forces of North Staffordshire were also incorporated into this new regiment, and a permanent depot was established at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield, which also housed the newly formed South Staffordshire Regiment.
Early service (1881–1914)
Garrison duties and the Mahdist War
The 1st Battalion was in Ireland at the time of the amalgamation. It moved to England in 1883, and the following year to the West Indies, based mainly in Barbados, but with detachments on other islands. It moved to Natal in 1887, to Mauritius in 1890, to Malta in 1893 and to Egypt in 1895. From there the 1st Battalion took part in operations in the Second Sudanese War under Lord Kitchener.During the campaign, the 1st battalion were based initially at Wadi Halfa but moved to Gemai to avoid a cholera outbreak. In September the battalion took part in the action against the Dervish Army at Hafir, which was decisive in ending the campaign. As a result, the North Staffordshire Regiment received the unique “Hafir” battle honour, given to no other British regiment.
Second Boer War
The 2nd Battalion was stationed in India in 1881 when the North Staffordshire Regiment was formed, and remained there until 1886. During this time period, it took part in an expedition to the Zhob Valley in 1884, thus making it the first battalion in the regiment to see active service. In 1886, it returned to England via Aden, and then deployed to Ireland in 1893. In 1899, 2nd Battalion mobilised and moved to South Africa, where it took part in the Second Boer War. Forming part of 15th Brigade in the 7th Division,the majority of the battalion saw little action throughout the conflict, being mostly occupied in garrison duties in Johannesburg in 1900. In 1901, the battalion was part of a mobile column under Brigadier-General Dartnell in the Eastern Transvaal which carried out a scorched earth campaign,and it also took part in the subsequent blockhouse occupation of the Transvaal.
Meeting in India
The 1st Battalion was subsequently stationed in India from 1897 until 1903. Here, the 1st and 2nd Battalions met for the first time, and no fewer than 590 men from the 1st Battalion were transferred to the 2nd Battalion. Thus 1st Battalion was reduced to a small cadre, which served for nine years upon its return to Lichfield and other stations in England, before moving to Ireland in 1912.
First World War (1914–1918)
The North Staffordshire Regiment was heavily committed to the fighting during the First World War, and over the course of the conflict, was expanded to 18 battalions, some by duplication of the Territorial Force battalions and others, labelled “service” battalions raised as part of Field Marshal Kitchener’s New Army. These battalions saw service in a number of theatres including on the Western Front, at Gallipoli, in the Middle East, and India.
The battalions that served in France took part in many of the major actions of the war including the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the Battle of Loos, the Battle of the Somme, the Third Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Amiens.
The 1st Battalion went to France in September 1914 as part of 17th Brigade in 6th Division. It took part in the First Battle of Ypres being based in the Armentieres sector on the southern flank of the battle.In October 1915 17th Brigade was exchanged with 71st Brigade of 24th Division. Immediately on joining 24th Division, the battalion was moved to 72nd Brigade within the division. It was to remain as part of this formation until the end of the war.
During the Third Battle of Ypres, the 1st Battalion took part in the initial assault on 31 July 1917. Its objectives were to capture the German frontline trench called Jehovah trench, the second line trench called Jordan trench and the remains of Bulgar Wood. These three objectives were 1,000 yards (910 m), 1,500 yards (1,400 m) and 1,750 yards (1,600 m) from the British front line. The battalion managed to capture both the trenches and a platoon reached Bulgar Wood before events around them forced a retreat from Bulgar Wood and Jordan trench. The battalion dug in on the Jehovah trench line having lost 11 officers and 258 other ranks as casualties, almost 50% of the battalion strength.After the war, the anniversary of this attack became the main Regimental Day.
The 2nd Battalion was one of only eight Regular battalions of the British Army to remain in India throughout the war. It took part in operations on the North West Frontier in 1915. Amusingly, the commanding officer at this time was Major Fox and the adjutant Captain Squirell. Although it was a Regular Army battalion, it received very few replacements during the war. From a pre-war establishment strength of a HQ plus eight companies, after the 1915 North West Frontier campaign the battalion comprised only a HQ company and four rifle companies. This cannot be attributed to war casualties as the battalion suffered less than 100 casualties throughout the entire war.
Four Victoria Crosses were awarded to men of the regiment during World War I:
Interwar years (1918–1939)
The 1st Battalion was posted to The Curragh, Ireland after the armistice, becoming involved in the Irish War of Independence until 1922, when it moved to Gibraltar. In the following year it was moved to Thrace, where it played a peace-keeping role in the conflict between Greek and Turkish forces. In 1923 it moved to India and remained in the Far East until 1948.
The 2nd Battalion was stationed in India in 1919 when Afghan forces crossed the border and occupied some Indian territory, sparking the brief Third Anglo-Afghan War. During this conflict, the battalion was involved very early on, firstly in the investing of Peshawar City, where Afghan sympathisers were mooting a holy war and on 11 May 1919 when they were involved in a bayonet charge on the Afghan forces at Bagh, near Landi Kotal. For their involvement, the regiment received the battle honour “Afghanistan NWF 1919”. It returned to England via Egypt and the Sudan in 1921, and was quickly redeployed to Ireland. On the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, it returned to the regimental depot at Lichfield. Until 1939, it spent time in “home stations”. Apart from England, this included service in Gibraltar from 1930 to 1932 and a year in Palestine in 1936–7.
In 1921, the regimental title was altered to The North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s). In 1937, the black facings formerly worn by the 64th Foot were restored, replacing the white colour that had been imposed on all non-royal English regiments in 1881.
Second World War (1939–1945)
In September 1939, the North Staffordshire Regiment consisted of two regular and two Territorial battalions — the 1st, 2nd and 6th and 7th Battalions. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, the regiment was expanded as it had been during the First World War. This expansion, however, was limited this time only to the addition of two more battalions — the 8th and 9th Battalions,raised in 1940. The roles of the two regular battalions were reversed this time, with the 1st Battalion serving in India and Burma throughout the war, while the 2nd Battalion remained in Europe and North Africa.
The 1st Battalion saw no action until 1942, when one company that was stationed on the Andaman Islands were involved in the defence of the islands during the Japanese invasion. In 1943, the battalion served for six months in Burma before being withdrawn to India again. For the rest of the war, the battalion was employed on internal security duties.
The 2nd Battalion went to France in September 1939 as part of 1st Division of the British Expeditionary Force, and was involved in the Battle of France before eventually being evacuated from Dunkirk on 1 June 1940. Following that, it remained in the United Kingdom until 1943 when, still as part of 1st Division, it sailed to North Africa and took part in the Tunisian Campaign. The battalion did not participate in the invasion of Sicily or the initial invasion of Italy but was one of the lead units for the Anzio landings. As part of 15th Army, the 2nd Battalion continued to serve in Italy until January 1945 when the battalion and the rest of 1st Division were transferred to Palestine.
Postwar service (1945–1959)
Following the independence of India in 1947, all infantry regiments in the British Army were reduced to a single regular battalion. Accordingly the 1st Battalion left India to take part in a ceremony officially amalgamating with the 2nd Battalion in Egypt in 1948. The new 1st Battalion remained in Egypt until 1950, when it returned to the depot in Staffordshire. A year later, the battalion was posted to the disputed port city of Trieste. In 1953, the battalion was transferred to Korea, where they were stationed on garrison duties as part of the United Nations force established at the end of the Korean War. In 1954, it moved to Hong Kong, where the regiment’s 200th anniversary was celebrated in 1956.
In July 1957, a defence review was announced, which resulted in the amalgamation of the North Staffordshire Regiment with The South Staffordshire Regiment, with the new regiment becoming part of the new administrative Mercian Brigade. The amalgamation of the 1st Battalions of the two regiments took place on 31 January 1959 at Minden, Germany, to form the 1st Battalion, The Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s).
The 6th Battalion continued as a Territorial unit of the new regiment without a change of title. In 1961, it merged with the 441st Light Anti Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, the successor to the 5th North Staffords, to become the 5th/6th Battalion. The combined battalion was abolished in 1967 on the creation of the Territorial Army and Volunteer Reserve in 1967.
The Staffordshire Regiment only had a separate existence from 1959–2007. As part of the reforms proposed in the 2003 Defence White Paper, Delivering Security in a Changing World, the regiment was merged with the Cheshire Regiment and the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment to form the Mercian Regiment. The amalgamation took place on 1 September 2007 when the Staffordshire Regiment became the 3rd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment.
South Staffordshire Regiment
The South Staffordshire Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1881, but with antecedents dating from 1705. In 1959 the regiment was amlagamated with the North Staffordshire Regiment to form the Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s). The lineage of the South Staffords is continued by the Mercian Regiment.
The regiment was formed as part of the Childers Reforms on July 1, 1881 by the amalgamation of the 38th and 80th regiments of foot, which became the regular 1st and 2nd Battalions of the regiment.
1881 – 1914
The 1st Battalion (the former 38th) was sent to Egypt in 1882 as part of the British invasion of the country. On landing in Alexandria they carried their colours through the city. This was the last occasion on which a British Army unit carried their colours on active service. In 1885 they travelled up the River Nile to Sudan in an unsuccessful attempt to lift the Siege of Khartoum. The battalion was subsequently involved in the defeat of Arab forces at Kirbekan. The battle was to be the last time that the South Staffords wore red uniforms in battle.
The 1st Battalion then entered a long period of garrison duty in Gibraltar, Egypt, England and Ireland. With the outbreak of the Second Boer War they embarked for South Africa, arriving as part of the 8th Division in 1900. The battalion was mostly involved in minor skirmishes with the Boers, but suffered casualties due to disease and poor nutrition.
In 1904 the 1st South Staffords returned to the UK, being stationed in Ireland and England until 1911, when they moved to Gibraltar. While in Gibraltar, new colours were presented to the battalion by King George V on January 31, 1912. The battalion returned to South Africa in 1913.
The 2nd Battalion (the former 80th) was stationed in India in 1881, soon moving to Tralee in Ireland, where they were involved in actions against Irish nationalists. They returned to England in 1883, were posted to The Curragh from 1889 to 1891, before travelling to Egypt via Aldershot in 1893. They subsequently served in southern India and Burma until 1907, when they started a four-year posting in Pretoria, South Africa. The battalion returned to England in 1911.
First World War 1914 – 1918
The regiment was greatly expanded for the duration of the war, with 18 battalions serving on the Western Front, in Italy, Gallipoli and Egypt. Ten representative battle honours were chosen for display on the regiment’s colours: Both the 2/5th and 2/6th BN were involved in hostilities in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising. Soldiers from the regiment murdered a number of civilians in the North King St. area. These actions inflamed the Irish public’s hostility towards the British, alienating even the most moderate of nationalists..
1918 – 1939
The 2nd battalion moved to Cork in 1919, and was involved in the Irish War of Independence. They returned to England in 1923, where they remained for five years. After postings in Malta, Palestine and Egypt, they were posted to India in 1932.
The 3rd and 4th (Special Reserve) Battalions were placed in “suspended animation” in 1921, eventually being disbanded in 1953. The Territorial Force was reconstituted as the Territorial Army in 1920, and the 5th and 6th Battalions were reformed. In 1939 the size of the Territorial Army was doubled, with duplicate 2/6th and 7th Battalions being formed.
In 1935 the South Staffords were granted the distinction of a badge backing of buff-coloured Brown Holland material. This commemorated the 57 years of continuous service by the 38th Foot in the West Indies from 1707 to 1764, and recalled the fact that their uniforms became so threadbare during their service in the tropics that they had to be repaired with pieces of sacking. In 1936 the yellow facings formerly worn by the 38th and 80th Foot were restored, replacing the white colour that had been imposed on all non-royal English regiments in 1881.
Second World War 1939 – 1945
The regiment was expanded during the war, with the two regular and four territorial battalions being supplemented by the creation of additional battalions. Battalions served in North West Europe, Sicily, Italy, North Africa and Burma.
The regular battalions found themselves fighting in new roles: During the “Chindits” campaign in Burma, the 1st Battalion took part in jungle fighting against the Japanese forces, while the 2nd Battalion was converted to a glider borne role. As such they landed in Sicily in 1943 and at Arnhem in 1944. After the war the regiment was awarded an arm badge depicting a glider, in recognition of its services as an airborne unit.
Major Robert Henry Cain of B-company, 2nd Battalion of the regiment was awarded the Victoria Cross for his participation during Operation Market Garden (more specifically at the Battle of Arnhem). During the Battle of Arnhem, from 17 September to 25 September 1944, Major Cain’s company was cut off from the battalion and throughout the whole of this time was closely engaged with enemy tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry. The Major was everywhere danger threatened, moving among his men and encouraging them to hold out. By the end of the Battle, Cain had reportedly been personally responsible for the destruction or disabling of six tanks, four of which were Tigers, as well as a number of self-propelled guns. By his leadership he not only stopped but demoralized the enemy attacks and although he was suffering from a perforated ear-drum and multiple wounds, he refused medical attention. Major Cain’s conduct throughout was highly respected, both in terms of personal actions and leadership ability, and for this he was awarded the Victoria Cross; the only living man to receive this medal at Arnhem.
1945 – 1959
Following the granting of independence of India in 1947, all infantry regiments in the British Army were reduced to a single regular battalion. Accordingly the 1st and 2nd Battalions amalgamated in Lichfield in 1948. The new 1st Battalion (38th/80th) travelled to Hong Kong in the following year, and thence to Northern Ireland two years later. New colours were presented to the battalion at Lisburn on May 22, 1952. Later that year they were stationed in Germany. In 1954 the battalion was posted to the Suez Canal zone, before being speedily dispatched to Cyprus where hostilities had broken out between the two communities on the island.
In 1955 a ceremony was held in Lichfield to commemorate the regiment’s 250th anniversary. The 1st Battalion moved to its final posting in Germany two years later.
The amalgamation of the 1st Battalions of the two regiments took place on January 31, 1959 at Minden, Germany, to form the 1st Battalion, The Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Own).
In 1947 the Territorial Army was reformed, and the 5th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (TA) was duly raised. Following the 1959 amalgamation of the North and South Staffords, the battalion continued as a territorial unit of the new regiment without change of title. The battalion was disbanded in 1967 on the creation of the Territorial Army and Volunteer Reserve in 1967, with its lineage continued by HQ Company of the Mercian Volunteers.