389: Berkshire (1742) & Wiltshire (1743) Regiments

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Cardwell Reforms 1881

In 1881, under the Cardwell reforms, Infantry Regiments were reorganised and the 49th and 66th Regiments became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Berkshire) Regiment and the 62nd and 99th the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire) Regiment. The Berkshire Regiment Depot was established at Brock Barracks, Reading and The Wiltshire Regiment Depot at Le Marchant Barracks, Devizes.

Battle of Tofrek – Granting of “Royal” Title

1885 found the 1st Battalion of the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Berkshire) Regiment, the old 49th Regiment, in the Suakin area of the Sudan. It was part of the British Force sent to assist in protecting British authority which was being threatened by a fanatical Moslem leader, the Mahdi, and in particular a local chief, Osman Digna, who was supporting the revolt.

On the morning of 22nd March, working parties were out building a defensive Zariba. Without warning thousands of yelling Arabs erupted from the dense scrub through which they had crawled unobserved. The Berkshires were able to grab their rifles moments before the Arabs struck and their volleys, fired at only a few yards range, inflicted hundreds of casualties. Once an organised line was established the danger was over but the Arabs continued to attack with fanatical bravery. The disciplined fire of the soldiers inflicted over a thousand casualties although the Arabs’ determination brought them at times to close quarters and there followed fierce hand to hand fighting. The Arabs eventually fled and Osman Digna’s power was broken.

Tofrek was another “Soldiers’ battle” in which the discipline of individual soldiers averted a terrible disaster and turned it into total victory. To mark its conduct at Tofrek the Regiment received what was then a unique honour. This was the granting of the title “Royal” to a Regiment as a reward for service in the field. The Regiment became the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s Royal Berkshire Regiment and its facings changed from white to blue.

The Boer War

Both the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Berkshire) Royal Regiment, the old 66th Regiment and the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire) Regiment, the old 99th Regiment, were involved in the Boer War. The Berkshires’ experiences were routine rather than memorable but it acquitted itself well at Mosilikatse Nek where Pte House earned the Victoria Cross. The Wiltshires fought in all the major engagements of the war.

The Great War 1914-1918

The misery of trench warfare and the catastrophic scale of losses that developed on the Western front during the Great War do not need further elaboration. Suffice to say that both the Royal Berkshires and the Wiltshire had their full share of both. The Royal Berkshires raised 13 Battalions and the Wiltshires 11 Battalions which served in France, Flanders, Italy, Salonica, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and Palestine.

The Regiments earned 55 Battle Honours and 60 Battle Honours respectively. 2Lt Alexander Turner and LCpl James Welch of the Royal Berkshires and Captain Reginald Hayward of the Wiltshires were awarded the Victoria Cross. The cost in deaths was heavy. The Royal Berkshires lost 6,688 men and the Wiltshires nearly 5,000.

Change of Titles

In 1920 the Regiments changed their titles to The Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales’s) and The Wiltshire Regiment (Duke of Edinburgh’s).

Second World War 1939-1945

During the second World War both Regiments fought over an even wider front than 1914-18. A total of eleven Royal Berkshire Battalions were eventually raised of which six (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 10th and 30th) saw service in France, North West Europe, Italy, Sicily and Burma while The Wiltshire Regiment raised six Battalions of which four (1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th) saw action in France, North West Europe, Italy, Sicily, the Middle East, Burma and Madagascar. Sergeant Maurice Rogers MM, The Wiltshire Regiment, was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his gallantry while serving with the 2nd Battalion in Italy. Although the overall cost in lives did not approach that of the Great War, individual Battalions at times suffered heavily. For example, the 1st Battalion The Royal Berkshire Regiment lost 300 men at Kohima and the 10th Battalion was reduced to 40 men defending the Anzio beachhead.

Post War Years

The post war years saw the start of the scaling down of the British Army which reduced each Regiment of the Line by one Battalion by amalgamating the 1st and 2nd Battalions. Thus the 1st Battalion The Royal Berkshire Regiment amalgamated with the 2nd Battalion at Asmara, Eritrea in March 1949 to become the 1st Battalion The Royal Berkshire Regiment and the 1st Battalion the Wiltshire Regiment amalgamated with its 2nd Battalion at Krefeld, BAOR, on 10 January 1949 to become the 1st Battalion the Wiltshire Regiment. Each Regiment was honoured by the appointment of a Royal Colonel in Chief. In 1947 HM King George VI became Colonel in Chief of the Royal Berkshire Regiment and in 1953 HRH The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh Colonel in Chief of the Wiltshire Regiment.


Wiltshire Regiment

The Wiltshire Regiment (Duke of Edinburgh’s) was an infantry regiment of the line in the British Army, formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment of Foot and the 99th Duke of Edinburgh’s (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot.

The regiment was originally formed as The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment), taking the county affiliation from the 62nd Foot (which became the 1st Battalion) and the honorific from the 99th Foot (which became the 2nd Battalion). In 1921, the titles switched to become The Wiltshire Regiment (Duke of Edinburgh’s).

After service in the First and Second World Wars, it was amalgamated into The Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment (Berkshire and Wiltshire) in 1959. Following further mergers, the regiment’s lineage is today continued by The Rifles. The regiment’s depot was at Le Marchant Barracks in Devizes.

Predecessor formations

62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment of Foot 

The senior partner in the amalgamated Wiltshire Regiment was the 62nd Regiment of Foot. The 62nd was formed in 1756, originally as the second battalion of the 4th Regiment of Foot. In 1758, the battalion was redesignated as the 62nd Regiment of Foot. Although a regiment of the line, many of its companies were initially deployed as marines, serving with Admiral Boscawen’s fleet during the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758. The balance of the regiment remained in Ireland where they defended Castle Carrickfergus from a French invasion force in 1758.

After its initial baptism, the regiment would go on to see active service in the American Revolutionary War. Being used as light infantry, the regiment took part in General John Burgoyne‘s doomed campaign, culminating in the Battles of Saratoga. Twelve years after the end of the American Revolution, the regiment would fight against revolutionary and imperial France. Taking part in campaigns in West Indies, Sicily, and the Peninsula where they won the battle honours “Nive” and “Peninsula”.


Following the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars, the 62nd rotated through the expanding British Empire. They would serve as parts of garrisons in Canada and Ireland before being dispatched to India. While in India, the 62nd became part of General Sir Gough‘s army during the First Sikh War. During the war, although it lost its colours twice to various mishaps, the regiment would earn its proudest honour at the Battle of Ferozeshah.[5] In tribute to the service of its sergeants, who commanded the regiment when virtually all the officers were killed or incapacitated, the regiment would celebrate every 21 December as Ferozeshah Day.

Eventually, the regiment rotated back to the Home Islands in time to be available for the Crimean War. From 1854 to 1856, the regiment served in the Crimea, mainly as part of the forces besieging the port of Sevastopol. The 62nd took part in the failed attack on the Great Redan Bastion, suffering heavy casualties.

With the end of the Crimean War, the 62nd returned to its task of policing the British Empire. During its last quarter century as an independent regiment, the 62nd would serve in Canada, Ireland, India, as part of Aden garrison. As part of Cardwell reforms in 18711, the 62nd was linked with 99th Regiment of Foot. With Childers reforms, the two regiments were amalgamated into a single regiment, the Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire) Regiment, in 1881.

99th Duke of Edinburgh’s (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot

The 99th Regiment of Foot was raised in 1824 in Edinburgh by Major-General Gage John Hall. It was unrelated to earlier units designated as the 99th Regiment of the British Army, including the 99th Regiment of Foot (Jamaica Regiment) and the 99th Foot which was re-designated as the 100th Regiment of Foot. In 1832, the new 99th Regiment received its county title, becoming the 99th (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot.

During its early years, the 99th spent much of its time in the Pacific. The first detachments of the 99th Regiment arrived in Australia with transported convicts aboard the transport ship North Briton, destined for Tasmania, in 1842. The rest of the 99th arrived on with successive shipments of convicts. The 99th rotated through various colonial posts during much of 1842 until being ordered to Sydney, Australia. However, the 99th soon earned an unsavory reputation, alienating the locals to such an extent that an additional regiment had to be assigned to Sydney. The 11th Regiment of Foots‘s principal job was keeping the men of the 99th under control.

The 99th remained in Tasmania for three years before being dispatched to New Zealand to take part in the New Zealand land wars. Detachments of the 99th took part in the Hutt Valley Campaign, seeing action at the Battle of Battle Hill.[12] three government soldiers and at least nine Ngāti Toa were killed. Following the capture of Te Rauparaha in 1846, the Regiment would depart New Zealand and return to Australia, although detachments would be sent as needed to reinforce the British forces in New Zealand for the next few years to keep the peace. For its service in the First Maori War, the regiment earned its first battle honour: New Zealand.

In 1856, the regiment rotated back to the British Isles. The 99th spent its next two years at various garrisons in Ireland, until in 1858, it was ordered to join the Aldershot garrison.While at Aldershot, the regiment earned its reputation as an extraordinarily well drilled and well turned out regiment.

Following its tour of duty at Aldershot, the regiment rotated to India in 1859. After serving at various Indian stations, the 99th was called to active service to form part of General Sir Hope Grant’s force during the Second Opium War. Assigned to the 2nd Division, commanded by Major-General Sir Robert Napier, the 99th took part in the Third Battle of Taku Forts and the Battle of Palikao. The regiment also participated in the Sack of Peking, where among the loot carried off, the regiment took a Pekinese dog which belonged to the Chinese Empress. The dog, named Lootie, was taken back to England where it was presented to Queen Victoria.For its service in China, the regiment earned the battle honour: Pekin 1860. Rather than return the 99th to India, the regiment was ordered to join the Hong Kong garrison, securing the new Kowloon territory acquired by the Convention of Peking. The regiment would remain in Hong Kong until 1865.


From 1865 until 1868, the 99th served in South Africa.While in South Africa, Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, inspected the regiment as part of a tour of the colony. The regiment impressed him so much that he took a continued interest in the regiment for the rest of his life. This culminated in permission being granted to re-title the regiment. In 1874, the 99th (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot became the 99th (Duke of Edinburgh’s) Regiment.After returning to England in 1868, the regiment returned to South Africa in 1878 in time to take part in the Anglo-Zulu War.

Assigned to Lord Chelmsford’s column, they marched to the relief of British forces under Colonel Charles Pearson besieged by the Zulu impis. At the Battle of Gingindlovu, the 99th helped defeat a Zulu impis which tried to overrun the British while laagered.[20] Although it would not participate in the final battle at Ulundi, the 99th was honoured for its service in Anglo-Zulu War, being awarded the battle honour South Africa 1879.

It would be the last battle honour earned by the 99th as an independent regiment. In 1881, following up on the earlier Cardwell Reforms of 1872, the 99th was merged with 62nd Regiment of Foot as part of the Childers reforms to the British Army. The new regiment would be known as The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment).

Second Boer War

Following amalgamation of the 62nd and 99th regiments into the Duke of Edinburgh (Wiltshire Regiment) in 1881, the regiment rotated through various posts of the British Empire. In 1899, the 1st Wilts were stationed in India, while the 2nd Wilts were on Guernsey.This changed in 1899 when the 2nd Wilts were dispatched to South Africa to take part in the Second Boer War.Arriving in time to take part in Lord Roberts‘ campaign against the Boers. Upon arrival, the 2nd Wilts were brigaded with the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment, 1st Royal Irish Regiment, and 2nd Worcestershire Regiment to form the 12th Brigade under Major General Clements.

Although initially assigned to Lieutenant General Kelly-Kenny‘s Sixth Division, the brigade was used as an independent force. Dispatched to the Colesberg district, they were soon on the defensive against Boer raids once the cavalry under Major-General French were withdrawn to be used to use in the relief of Kimberly. Assigned to garrison an exposed position at the town of Rensburg, the 2nd Wilts lost 14 men killed, 57 wounded, and more than a 100 prisoners taken. Eventually, the brigade commander was forced to pull back the Wiltshires to prevent the Boer Commandos from breaking through and threatening other towns. However, in issuing the order to retreat from Rensburg, two companies of the 2nd Wiltshires, assigned to outpost duty, were never given the word of the retreat. When they tried to reenter what had been the main camp for the battalion, they found it occupied by the Boers. Although they attempted to escape, the Boer commandos soon caught up with the two companies, and after a fight, forced them to abandon the surrender.

Despite losing almost a third of its strength, once Lord Robert’s operations began to succeed, the Boer reaction allowed the 12th Brigade, and the 2nd Wilts, to go back on the offensive against the Boer Republics. Although a part of the Sixth Division, the brigade did not take part in the ill-fated attack on Bloody Sunday during the Battle of Paardeberg. Instead the Wilts were tasked with guarding Bloemfontein and Kroonstad.Eventually, the 12th Brigade was ordered to move in conjunction with another independent brigade and capture the town of Bethlehem, where Christiaan de Wet‘s commando was operating from. Although the town was taken, De Wet escaped. Pausing to resupply, Clemments’ brigade attempted to destroy De Wet’s commando at the Battle of Slabbert’s Nek (23–24 July 1900). With the Royal Irish Regiment, two companies of the 2nd Wilts conducted a night assault up the Nek, capturing the ridge overlooking the Boer position. Although they cleared the Nek, taking 4000 prisoners, the British forces had not been in time to capture De Wet and some his commando who managed to escape to the mountains.

After the capture of Bethlehem, the Boer War was moving from its second phase and into the third, guerrilla, phase. The 12th Brigade was broken up and its units sent out to other commands. The 2nd Wilts would join Major-General Paget and the West Riding Regiment in patrolling the areas northeast and northwest of Pretoria.After being moved to help block De Wet’s attempt to raid the Cape Colony in February 1901, it was assigned to defend the Pretoria-Pietersburg rail line with the 2nd battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment.

In addition to protecting the Pretoria-Pietersburg line, the 2nd Wilts also contributed four companies of infantry to Lieutenant-Colonel Grenfell’s column. Along with the Kitchener Fighting Scouts, 12th Mounted Infantry, and some artillery, left Pietersburg in May 1901. Between May and July 1901, the Wiltshires participated in Grenfell’s operations, capturing 229 Boer commandos and 18 wagons.

The combination of the blockhouses, sweeper operations and concentration camps proved to be too much for the Boers. In 1902, the war ended as the last of the Boer commandos surrendered and the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed. With the war over, the 2nd Wiltshires returned to the England in 1903.

The First World War

At the start of World War I, the Wiltshire Regiment, like most of the rest of the British Army, consisted of two regular battalions (1st and 2nd); there was also a reserve battalion (3rd) and a Territorial Force battalion. Eventually, the Wiltshire Regiment expanded to ten battalions, seven of which served overseas. These included three additional Territorial Force battalions (1/4th, 2/4th, and 3/4th Battalions) as well as four service battalions (5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th battalions) formed for the Kitchener Army formations.

Regular Army battalions

On mobilization and declaration of war, the 1st Wilts deployed to France as part of the 3rd Infantry Division‘s 7th Brigade, landing in France on 14 August 1914. The 1st Wilts remained with the 3rd Division until the 7th Brigade was transferred to the 25th Division on 18 October 1915. The 1st Wilts served with the 25th Division until was transferred on 21 June 1918.  On 21 June 1918, the 1st Wilts joined the 110th Brigade, part of the 21st Division, with which it served for the rest of the war.

At the outbreak of war, the 2nd Wilts was serving as part of the Gibraltar Garrison. Recalled home to Britain, the 2nd Wilts was attached to the 21st Brigade, part of the 7th Division. As part of the 21st Brigade, the 2nd Wilts arrived in France in October 1914, in time to take part in the First Ypres, where it suffered heavy casualties in helping to stop the German advance.  In December 1915, the 21st Brigade transferred to the 30th Infantry Division.  In three years of action on the Western Front, the 2nd Wilts took part in most of the major engagements, including the battles of Neuve Chapelle, Aubers, Loos, Albert, Arras and Third Ypres.

In May 1918, the 2nd Wilts received orders to join the 58th Brigade, part of the 19th (Western) Division. As part of the 19th Division, the 2nd Wilts would see action with the division through Hundred Days Offensive. In 1919, with the division’s disbandment, the 2nd Wilts returned to its pre-war duties of policing the Empire.

Territorial Force and Special Reserve

Under the pre-war British Army system, created during the Haldane reforms, each regiment, in addition to having two battalions would also have two reserve formations associated with it. One would be special reserve battalion, while the other would be the Territorial Force unit. In the case of the Wiltshire Regiment, the 3rd battalion was the special reserve formation. The 3rd Wiltshires came into active service during 1914. It would remain in the home islands throughout the war. For most of the war, it would act as the depot and training unit for the battalions of the Wiltshire Regiment. In 1917, it moved from the depot at Devizes to join the Portland Garrison in 1915. In 1917, the 3rd Wilts would be transferred to the Thames and Medway garrison. 

During the war, the Wiltshire’s Territorial component would expand from one battalion to three. The 1/4 Wilts was called into service in 1914 and dispatched to India. For the next three years, it performed internal security duties in India until being transferred to Egypt in 1917. There it continued to perform security duties until joining the 75th Infantry Division, part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. While serving with the 75th Division, 1/4 Wilts would see action at the Battle of Megiddo.

2/4 Wiltshire Regiment came into being in October 1914. Like the 1/4 Wilts, it was also dispatched to India. However, unlike the 1/4, 2/4 Wilts never saw action in the First World War. Instead, the battalion took over garrison duties, freeing first-line units up for action against the Central Powers.

The final Territorial Force unit of the Wiltshire Regiment was 3/4 battalion. Raised in October 1915, the battalion converted into the 4th Reserve Battalion in April 1916. The battalion remained in the Home Islands throughout the war, finishing the war as part of the Dublin garrison.

War service battalions

5th (Service) Battalion

The 5th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment was formed at Devizes in August 1914. Soon thereafter, the battalion was assigned to the 13th (Western) Division, taking the place of the 8th Welsh Regiment in the 40th Brigade. With the rest of the division, it transferred in June 1915 from England to the Mediterranean theatre, joining the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. Initially assigned to reinforce the forces at Cape Helles on 6 July 1915, the division was temporarily withdrawn and then landed at ANZAC Cove to support the operations there. With the rest of the division, it was withdrawn to Egypt in January 1916 before being dispatched to Mesopotamia as part of the ill-fated attempt to relieve the garrison of Kut.

The battalion remained in Mesopotamia for the rest of war, participating in the recapture of Kut. Once a further offensive was approved, 5th Wilts became one of the first two battalions to cross the Diyalah River, breaking the Turkish defenses containing the initial crossing attempt by the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.  Following the Diyala crossing, the battalion participated in the fall of Baghdad, and operations north of there. With the signing of the Armistice, the battalion demobilized in 1919.

6th (Service) Battalion

Formed at Devizes in September 1914, the 6th Battalion was soon assigned to the 19th (Western) Division, eventually being assigned to the 58th Infantry Brigade. In July 1915, the battalion was sent to France with the rest of the division. It would see action at the Battle of the Loos, Battle of the Somme, and Third Ypres. Due to losses sustained in Passchendaele campaign, the 6th Battalion would be amalgamated with the Wiltshire Yeomanry to form the 6th (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry) battalion on 9 September 1917. Eventually, the battalion would be reduced to cadre strength. The excess personnel would be used as replacements for the 2nd Battalion which assumed its place in the 58th Brigade. The cadre was returned to England on 18 June 1918 and the battalion brought up to strength by absorbing the 9th Battalion of the Dorset Regiment.

Now assigned to the 14th (Light) Division, the 6th Wilts became part of the 42nd Infantry Brigade. With the rest of the division, it returned to France in July 1918, seeing action in the Battle of Avre.

7th (Service) Battalion

Also formed at the Wiltshire Regiment’s depot in Devizes in September 1914, the 7th Battalion was part of the Third New Army (or K3) of Kitchener’s scheme. Soon after formation, the battalion became part of the 79th Infantry Brigade, assigned to the 26th Division. In September 1915, the division was transferred to France before being reassigned to the Mediterranean as part of the British forces fighting in Salonika. As part of the division, the battalion was engaged in The Battle of Horseshoe Hill in 1916, and First and Second Battles of Dorian in 1916 and 1917.

In June 1918, the 7th Wilts transferred to France, arriving there in July 1918. After the German Spring Offensives, many divisions needed be rebuilt with fresh battalions to replace those decimated by the German offensives. Once in theatre, 7th Wilts was assigned to the 150th Infantry Brigade of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division. As part of the 50th Division, the battalion took part in the October 1918 battles, including Battle of St. Quentin Canal, the Battle of the Beaurevoir Line, and the Battle of Cambrai during the Hundred Days Offensive.

8th (Service) Battalion

Formed from volunteers at Weymouth in November 1914, the 8th Battalion was part of Kitchener’s Fourth New Army. Originally assigned to the 34th Division, the War Office decided to convert the battalion into a reserve battalion. Eventually in September 1916, the battalion was absorbed into the 8th Reserve Brigade at Wareham. The battalion never deployed overseas.

Between the wars

In 1921, the regiment was retitled as The Wiltshire Regiment (Duke of Edinburgh’s). The regiment’s two battalions returned to policing the British Empire. The 1st Battalion would serve as part of the Dublin garrison during the Irish War of Independence. After the treaty, the 1st Battalion would then see service in Egypt in 1930 and Shanghai in 1931. The battalion was then made part of the Singapore garrison in 1932, where it would remain for four years. In 1936, the battalion would be assigned to India.

Following the Great War, the 2nd Battalion was sent to Hong Kong. In 1921, the battalion began nine years as part of Indian Army. The battalion became part of the Shanghai garrison in 1929 before being rotated back to the Home Islands in 1933. The 2nd Battalion was dispatched to join the British Forces policing the Palestinian Mandate. The battalion served there during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.

The Second World War

Regular Army battalions

At the start of the Second World War, the Wiltshire Regiment found its two regular battalions stationed in India (1st Battalion) and Palestine (2nd Battalion). Eventually two more battalions would be raised for the war. The 1st Battalion remained in India, performing internal security duties at the outset of the war. During the reorganization of the Burma front in 1943, the battalion became responsible for guarding the lines of communications and support for the Arakan offensive as part of the Eastern Army. The 1st Wiltshires were transferred to the 4th Indian Infantry Brigade, part of 26th Indian Infantry Division, in October 1943. With the 26th Indian Division, the 1st Wiltshires took part in the Battle of the Admin Box. Before Slim’s offensive to recapture Burma, 1st Wiltshires were rotated back to serve along the North-West Frontier.

The 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, began the war as part of the 13th Infantry Brigade, part of the 5th Infantry Division of the British Expeditionary Force in France. The 2nd Wilts fought in a series of engagements during the Battle of France, most notably at the Battle of Arras. After being evacuated at Dunkirk, the 2nd Wiltshires participated in Operation Ironclad, the capture of Vichy-held Madagascar, known as the Battle of Madagascar. On 19 May the Battalion re-embarked on the Franconia to sail to India to rejoin the 5th Division and were stationed in Bombay and Ahmednagar until August. The Wiltshires, as well as the rest of the brigade were then sent to the Middle East. As part of 13th Infantry Brigade, the Wiltshires spent the end of 1942 until early part of 1943 operating in Iraq, Persia, Syria and Palestine. Later, the brigade participated in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, and the follow-on invasion of the Italian mainland in 1943.  During the Italian Campaign, the 2nd Wiltshires would win battle honours for its actions at Garigliano River crossing, as well as taking part in the Moro River Campaign, Anzio and the subsequent capture of Rome. Whilst serving in Italy in mid 1944, Sergeant Maurice Albert Windham Rogers was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.[42] Eventually the battalion, as well as the rest of the brigade and the 5th Division would be withdrawn from the Italian Campaign. After a brief period to refit, in Palestine, the 2nd Wiltshires returned to Italy in late 1944. The 5th Division, which the 2nd Wiltshires were a part, joined the British 2nd Army in North West Europe Campaign in to participate in the final drive into Germany in April 1945. They took part in the Elbe River crossing as well as the encirclement of Army Group B.[43] When hostilities ended on 8 May 1945, they were at Lubeck on the Baltic Sea. The Battalion moved to Einbeck on 1 July and settled down to occupation duties. As the official history reads, “So ended a journey of over 25,000 miles through nearly six years of war.”

Territorial and war service battalions

In addition to the two regular army battalions, the Wiltshire Regiment (Duke of Edinburgh’s) raised four other battalions before and during the war. Two of these would be used on foreign service (4th and 5th Battalions), while the other two remained in Great Britain as home defence or as training units.

The 4th and 5th Battalions of the Wiltshire Regiment were both Territorial Army (TA) units called up to active duty with the start of the Second World War. The 4th Wilts had been the original 1st Line battalion assigned to the Wiltshire Regiment when the Territorial Army was reorganized during the 1920s. The 5th Battalion was formed as the 2nd Line duplicate of the 4th Battalion as part of the expansion of the Territorials in March 1939 when another European conflict seemed increasingly likely. From 1939 to 1944, both units remained in England training, both attached to 129th Infantry Brigade, part of the excellent 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division. Although the 5th Battalion was a 2nd Line Territorial unit, it was assigned to a 1st Line brigade and division.

As part of the 129th Brigade, the 4th and 5th Wiltshires, participated in the Normandy Campaign, landing in France on 24 June 1944. On arrival in theatre, the division became part of Lieutenant General Sir Richard O’Connor‘s VIII Corps. Both battalions would be heavily engaged in many battles during the campaign across North-West France, the low countries, and Germany. During the Normandy Campaign, this included the Battle of Odom, the fight for Hill 112, and the capture of Mont Picon.

After the breakout from Normandy, the 5th Wiltshires would be one of the first two British battalions to force a crossing of the Seine River. On 25 August 1944, they, along with the 4th Somerset Light Infantry, crossed the Seine in paddled assault boats. Once across, the 5th Wiltshires had to stand-off a counter-attack from the German forces including three Tiger tanks of 205 Heavy Tank Battalion. Because of an error in landing on an island in the Seine, rather than the far shore, by the other battalion, the 4th Somerset Light Infantry, the 5th Wilts found themselves cutoff initially. Despite the heavy counter-attack from the German defenders, the 5th Wiltshires were able to hold and extend the beachhead enough to allow reinforcements to be brought over. Eventually, by the daybreak on 26 August 1944, the Somersets were reembarked and brought to the right landing site. The 4th Wilts were ferried over while elements of the 214th Infantry Brigade, also a part of 43rd (Wessex) Division, managed to cross at a damaged bridge in order to relieve the 5th Wilts.

During Operation Market Garden, the 4th and 5th Wiltshires, still as part of the 43rd (Wessex) Division, formed part of the relief force which tried to reach the airborne troops of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, as well as the British 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem. After the failure of Market Garden and the ensuing stalemate, both battalions participated in the Geilenkirchen Offensive in October 1944.Both battalions also played a significant part in the 43rd division’s fighting in the Roer Salient, as well as the capture of Bremen.

In addition to the Territorial Army battalions that deployed to combat theatres, the Wiltshire Regiment also formed two other battalions during the Second World War.

The 6th (Home Defence) Battalion was formed after the outbreak of hostilities in 1939. In 1941, the battalion was redesignated as the 30th battalion; however it remained in the UK in the home defence role.

The 50th (Holding) Battalion was formed in 1940. However, later that year, it was redesignated as the 7th Battalion. Although it was a war service battalion, the 7th Wiltshires remained in Great Britain as part of the home defence forces. Initially assigned to the 214th Infantry Brigade, formed with other war-raised units, it would be transferred to 135th Infantry Brigade in 1942. The 7th Wiltshires would not see active service during the war and remained in the UK supplying the front-line units with trained infantrymen.

Post-war and amalgamation

As part of Britain’s post-war reduction, each regiment was required to reduce its strength by one battalion. In the case of the Wiltshire Regiment, this meant amalgamating the 1st and 2nd Battalions. This was done on 10 January 1949, while the regiment was part of the British Army of the Rhine. For the remainder of its existence, the Wilts would remain a one battalion regiment.

After the end of the Second World War, the Wiltshire regiment would add one more campaign to its list. Although initially earmarked to be sent to Malaya during the Emergency, the Wilt’s orders were changed en route and they joined the Hong Kong garrison in 1950. After returning home to Britain in 1953, the Wilts were ready for foreign service once more.The Wilts final campaign as an independent regiment came in 1956, when it deployed to Cyprus as reinforcements for the British garrison during the Cyprus Emergency. The battalion, deployed in response to EOKA attacks which escalated in 1955, remained on Cyprus until its amalgamation in 1959. ] The Wiltshires would be amalgamated with The Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales’s) to form The Duke Of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment (Berkshire and Wiltshire) on 9 June 1959. The ceremony took place at Albany Barracks, Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight.


Victoria Crosses

The following members of the Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross:

Regimental traditions and nicknames

In honour of the sergeants who took command of the regiment during the Battle of Ferozeshah, 21 December was a regimental anniversary of the 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment of Foot. When amalgamated with the 99th Duke of Edinburgh’s (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot in 1881, the anniversary was incorporated into the new The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment). Each 21st of the December, the regiment’s colours would be passed to the keeping of the non-commissioned officers for 24 hours. This tradition continued through its descendants, the 1st Battalion, Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment until it too was amalgamated to form part of The Rifles.

The Wiltshire Regiment was also known as the Wilts, The Splashers, The Springers, and The Moonrakers. The earliest nickname may have been the Splashers. This name came about from an incident during the Seven Years’ War when the regiment ran out of ammunition and were forced to melt their buttons down to make musket balls. Thereafter, their buttons had a dent, known as a “splash”, in them. The next name, The Springers, came from the regiment being used in the light infantry role during the American Revolution. A common command for light infantry to advance while skirmishing, was to “spring up”. The nickname Moonrakers came from the Wiltshire region itself. According to a local legend, customs officials had come across some yokels raking a pond to retrieve some kegs of alcohol. The men explained themselves by pointing to the reflection of the moon in the water and claiming they were trying to retrieve the roundel of cheese there. Hence the name, “Moonrakers”. When the regiment was affiliated with Wiltshire, the nickname followed.

The second battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment (formerly the 99th Regiment of Foot) brought its own nicknames with them when the regiments were amalgamated in 1881. During its time as a separate regiment, the 99th Foot was known for the smartness of its drill. This earned it an assignment guarding Queen Victoria’s pavilion during tour of duty there in 1858. As a result, the 99th became known as the “Queen’s Pets”. It is also said that the expression “dressed to the nines” originated as a reference to the 99th.As part of their drill, their uniforms were kept in immaculate condition which other regiments attempted to emulate, or dressing to the nines.


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