410: DLI, KOYLI, SHLI & Somerset Light Infantry

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Durham Light Infantry

The Durham Light Infantry (DLI) was an infantry regiment of the British Army from 1881 to 1968. It was formed by the amalgamation of the 68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) and the 106th Regiment of Foot (Bombay Light Infantry) along with the militia and rifle volunteers of County Durham. Following a series of mergers since 1968, the regiment’s lineage is continued today by The Rifles.


Originally raised in County Durham by General John Lambton in 1758, the 68th Regiment of Foot was transformed into a light infantry regiment in c. 1808 as part of Wellington‘s army in Portugal and Spain during the Peninsula War. The 68th later went on to fight in the Crimean War and in New Zealand. The 106th Foot joined the British army in 1862, having been raised in 1839 by the Honourable East India Company.

World War I

During the First World War the DLI raised 43 battalions with 22 seeing active service overseas – on the Western Front, in ItalyEgyptSalonika and India.

The DLI fought in every major battle of the Great War – at YpresLoosArrasMessinesCambraiMoreuil Wood on the Somme and in the mud of Passchendaele.

October 1914 : attached to 89th Brigade, original 30th Division.10 April 1915 : became a second Reserve battalion (after the 4th Bn). September 1916 : became 1st Training Reserve battalion of 1st Reserve Brigade


Between the Wars

After 8 months in Germany, 2nd Battalion returned to Catterick. Stationed in Batoum in South Russia, then Anatolia. From here they went to India for final tour of duty in that country, staying until 1937.

1919 – 1st DLI in Third Anglo-Afghan War.

1st Battalion, abroad for 20 years, in India throughout war, returned to England. Then to Cologne, Upper Silesia and Hungary. In 1929 moved to Waziristan (at Razmak). Relief of Datta Khel, cleaning up of Mahoud stronghold of Makin. Returned to England at end of 1937 after 1 year in Khartoum. Then sent to Shanghai, passing 2nd Battalion in Red Sea.

World War Two

During the Second World War, 11 battalions of the DLI fought with distinction. Dunkirk in 1940, North AfricaMaltaSicilyItalyBurma and from D-Day to the final defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

Post War

  • 1946 Greece
  • 1948 UK

25 September 1948 amalgamated with 2nd Battalion without change of title

  • 1949 Dortmund
  • 1951 Berlin
  • September 1952 Korea – 28th Commonwealth Brigade – In 1952–1953, 1 DLI fought as part of the United Nations forces in Korea AS PART OF 1st Commonwealth Division.
  • September 1953Egypt
  • April 1955 England: Barnard Castle
  • November 1957Aden
  • July 1958 Cyprus
  • July 1959 England: Honiton
  • May 1961 – based in Berlin in 1961, the time when the Berlin Wall was built
  • June 1963Hong Kong
  • June 1966 the Durhams fought their last campaign and suffered their last casualties in the jungles and mountains of Borneo.

Finally in 1968, whilst the battalion was serving in Cyprus, it was announced that The Durham Light Infantry would join with three other county light infantry regiments to form one large Regiment – The Light Infantry.

Former soldiers who served with the Durham Light Infantry also include General Sir Peter de la Billière who was Director of United Kingdom Special Forces during the Iranian Embassy Siege in 1980 and was Commander-in-Chief of the British armed forces during the first Gulf War in 1990.

Currently, the stable belt of the Durham Light Infantry is worn by members of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment

King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) was a regiment of the British Army. It officially existed from 1881 to 1968, but its predecessors go back to 1755. The regiment’s traditions and history are now maintained by The Rifles.

The 51st Foot

The 53rd Regiment of Foot was raised in Leeds in 1755 and renumbered the 51st in January 1757. In 1782, in common with other regiments of the line, the 51st was given a “county” designation, becoming the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding) Regiment of Foot. The title of Light Infantry was given in honour of its former commander General Sir John Moore in 1809, and in 1821 the regiment was given royal status when King’s Own was added to its title, becoming the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding, The King’s Own Light Infantry) Regiment.

The 105th Foot

Main article: 105th Regiment of Foot (Madras Light Infantry)

The 2nd Madras European Light Infantry was raised by the British East India Company in 1839. In 1861 East India Company forces were absorbed into the British Army, and the regiment became the 105th (Madras Light Infantry) Regiment. In 1878, the 105th was moved to Pontefract, where the KOLI already also had their depot.

The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

In 1881 after the Cardwell and Childers reforms, regimental numbers were abolished. The 51st King’s Own Light Infantry became the 1st Battalion, The King’s Own Light Infantry (South Yorkshire Regiment) and the 105th became its 2nd Battalion. The Childers reforms also combined militia and rifle volunteer units into the regiments formed in 1881. Accordingly the 1st West Yorks Rifles Miltia became the 3rd Militia Battalion, while the 3rd Administrative Battalion West Riding of Yorkshire Rifle Volunteer Corps became the 1st Volunteer Battalion. In 1897 the regimental title was changed to the The King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry), and in 1921 to The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

With the creation of the Territorial Force in 1908, the 1st Volunteer Battalion was reorganised as the 4th and 5th Battalions (TF), while the 3rd Battalion was transferred to the Special Reserve. The KOYLI was raised to thirteen battalions during the Great War, and nine during World War II, including not only infantry but anti-aircraft and armoured units as well. In 1948, 1 KOYLI was disbanded and 2 KOYLI was renamed 1 KOYLI. In 1968, 1 KOYLI became the 2nd Battalion of The Light Infantry (2LI). In 2007 the LI merged with the Royal Green Jackets to form a new regiment, The Rifles. The former 1 KOYLI battalion (now 1LI) became ‘5 RIFLES’.


The 51st first saw action during the Seven Years’ War, gaining a reputation at Minden, its first battle honour. In 1803 it served in the first Kandyan War in Major-General Hay Macdowall’s division. The regiment embarked for the Peninsula in 1807, serving with distinction. The regiment served on the extreme right at Waterloo, and was engaged at Hougoumont Farm. Both the 51st and 105th saw extensive service all over the Empire throughout the nineteenth century. The Second battalion (105th) fought well in the South African War. Both battalions served on the Western Front in World War I, as well as 3 Territorial and eight volunteer service battalions.

In World War II the regiment’s nine battalions represented the new age of warfare. 5 and 8 KOYLI were anti-aircraft units, 7 KOLYI were armoured, and 9 KOYLI (formerly the Queens Own Yorkshire Dragoons) was motorised. The 2/4 battalion served in Europe and the Mediterranean, the Second fought as a rearguard in the retreat through Burma. The 1/4 battalion participated in the Battle of Normandy in 1944 and subsequently in the Netherlands. Reduced to one battalion, the KOYLI took part in peace-keeping and counter-insurgency operations post war. The battalion moved to Berlin in 1967, where it joined the Light Infantry Regiment.

Cap badge

The badge of the KOYLI is unique amongst English light infantry regiments as the horn is of the ‘French’ type (with a twist). The origins of this are obscure. It appears to have been adopted after Waterloo, however prior to this the 105th had an ‘English’ style Bugle horn with a loop. In its centre is the White Rose of York, linking to the regiment’s home in Yorkshire. Unusual amongst British Army regiments, the badge lacks a crown. It was also the smallest cap badge used in the British Army.

King’s Shropshire Light Infantry

The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) was a regiment of the British Army, formed in 1881, but with antecedents dating back to 1755. The KSLI was amalgamated with three other county light infantry regiments in 1968 to became part of The Light Infantry. In February 2007 The Light Infantry itself became part of the new large regiment, The Rifles.


The King’s Light Infantry (Shropshire Regiment) was formed on July 1, 1881, as the county regiment of Herefordshire and Shropshire as part of the Childers Reforms. It was renamed as The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) in March 1882.

The regiment was an amalgamation of the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment of Foot and the 85th (King’s Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot, which became the regular 1st and 2nd Battalions. The 1881 reforms also redesignated the militia and rifle volunteers units within the regimental district as battalions of the regiment. Accordingly the Shropshire Militia and Royal Herefordshire Militia became the 3rd and 4th (Militia) Battalions respectively, and the 1st and 2nd Shropshire Rifle Volunteer Corps became the 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions. The 1st Herefordshire (Herefordshire and Radnorshire) Rifle Volunteer Corps was also affiliated as a volunteer battalion, without change of title.

In 1908 the Territorial Force was formed, the two militia battalions were merged to form the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion and the 1st and 2nd VBs were merged to form the 4th Battalion (TF). At the same time, the Herefordshire RVC became an independent territorial Herefordshire Regiment.

The regiment was greatly expanded during the First World War with 13 battalions serving in various theatres. In 1921 the regiment was renamed as The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. The KSLI again formed additional battalions during the Second World War, although not on the same scale as the previous conflict.

In 1948 the KSLI was reduced to one regular battalion and became part of the Light Infantry Brigade, and in 1968 the four regiments of the Brigade (the KSLI, Somerset and Cornwall Light InfantryKing’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and Durham Light Infantry) amalgamated to form The Light Infantry, with the 1st KSLI being redesignated as the 3rd Battalion of the new regiment.


The KSLI served with distinction in Egypt in 1882, the Eastern Sudan, 1885-86 and in all the major campaigns of the 20th Century, including the Second Boer WarWorld War IWorld War II, the Korean War, and other tours. Notably it was a member of the KSLI who was recorded as the first British Army casualty of the Second World War, killed in France during the German invasion – Corporal Thomas Priday was killed by a landmine near Metz on 9 December 1939 when 1 KSLI was based near the Maginot Line as part of the original British Expeditionary Force. Remarkably, it was also members of the KSLI who were part of the operation to arrest Grand-Admiral Karl Dönitz, successor to Hitler, at the very end of the war.

Depot and museum

The KSLI were based at Copthorne Barracks (built 1877-81) in Shrewsbury: this is now the HQ of the 5th Division and 143 West Midlands Brigade, along with TA, cadet and support units. Its regimental museum has been located in Shrewsbury Castle since 1985 and combines the collections of the 53rd, the 85th, the KSLI to 1968, the local Militia, Rifle Volunteers and Territorials, as well as those of other county regiments – the Shropshire Yeomanry and the Shropshire Artillery. The museum was attacked by the IRA in 1992 and extensive damage to the collection and to some of the Castle resulted. It re-opened in 1995.

 Somerset Light Infantry


The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s) was an infantry regiment of the British Army, which served under various titles from 1685 to 1959. Its lineage is continued today by The Rifles. 


Early history


The regiment was one of nine regiments of foot raised by James II when he expanded the size of the army in response to the Monmouth Rebellion. On 20 June 1685, Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon was issued with a warrant authorising him to raise a regiment, and accordingly the Earl of Huntingdon’s Regiment of Foot was formed, mainly recruiting in the county of Buckinghamshire. 

Jacobite wars

The regiment remained in existence when William III came to the throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Fernando Hastings took over the colonelcy of the regiment, which accordingly became Hastings’s Regiment of Foot. Hastings’s Regiment first saw action at the Battle of Killiecrankie, where they failed to halt the advance of Jacobite rebels, although they were later defeated at the Battle of Dunkeld. The regiment accompanied William to Ireland in the following year, fighting in the decisive Williamite victories at the Boyne and Cork.

Nine Years’ War

The Jacobite struggles in Scotland and Ireland were part of a wider European conflict that became known as the Nine Years’ War. In 1692, Hastings’ Regiment sailed to Flanders and, in 1694, took part in the disastrous amphibious assault at Camaret on the French coast. In 1695, Colonel Fernando Hastings was found guilty of extortion, and dismissed. Sir John Jacob became the colonel, and it was as Jacob’s Regiment of Foot that they returned to England at the end of the war in 1697.



13th (1st Somersetshire) (Prince Albert’s Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot

The conduct of the 13th at Jalalabad was officially rewarded on 26 August 1842, when Prince Albert offered his patronage to the regiment and permitted his name to be used in its title, becoming the 13th (1st Somersetshire) (Prince Albert’s Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot.At the same time, the regimental facings were changed from yellow to (royal) blue, and the badge of a mural crown with a scroll inscribed “Jellalabad” was granted for display on the colours and uniform of the regiment.  The unit was also honoured with the firing of a twenty-one gun salute at each army station it passed on its return to India.

The 13th Light Infantry returned to England in 1845 after 23 years of foreign service. Presented with new colours at Portsmouth in 1846, the regiment moved to Ireland in the following year, remaining there until 1850, before spending a year in Scotland. From 1851–1854, they were stationed in Gibraltar.

Crimean Warn

In 1854, the regiment was brought up to full strength and, in June of the following year, landed in the Crimea as part of the Anglo-French forces conducting a campaign against the Russians. They took part in the Siege of Sevastopol, and remained in the area after the ending of hostilities in February 1856, subsequently sailing to South Africa. 


Childers reforms

The reorganisation begun by Cardwell in 1873 was carried to its logical conclusion by his successor, Hugh Childers, in 1881. Under these reforms, infantry regiments ceased to bear numbers and were instead known by “territorial” or royal titles only. The 13th Foot accordingly became Prince Albert’s Light Infantry (Somersetshire Regiment) on 1 July 1881. As the county regiment of Somersetshire, it also gained the county’s militia and rifle volunteer battalions, which were integrated into the regiment as numbered battalions. Within months the regiment had been retitled to Prince Albert’s (Somersetshire Light Infantry).


Second Boer War

In October 1899, war broke out between British Empire and the Boer Republics of South Africa. The 2nd Battalion landed in the Cape in December 1899, and was part of the British forces defeated at the Battle of Spion Kop in January 1900. In February of the same year, the battalion helped to relieve the siege of Ladysmith. They spent the remainder of the conflict taking part in a number of minor actions.

The 4th (Militia) Battalion was embodied in December 1899, and embarked in March 1900 for service in South Africa. A large contingent of officers and men returned home in May 1902 on the SS Sicilia.

Haldane reforms

The Boer War had severely stretched the resources of the British Army and had exposed the weakness of the militia and volunteers as an effective reserve force. In 1907–1908, Richard Haldane, Secretary of State for War reorganised these second-line units of the army as part of a larger series of reforms. The existing militia was reduced in size and redesignated as the “Special Reserve”, while the Volunteer Force was merged with the Yeomanry to from a new Territorial Force, organised into 14 infantry divisions, liable for service in wartime.

The changes were carried out under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, and came into effect on 1 April 1908. From that date, the existing 3rd (Militia) Battalion was transferred to the Special Reserve, while the 4th Battalion was disbanded. The three volunteer battalions were organised and reduced to two Territorial Force battalions: the 4th based in Bath and the 5th in Taunton.

First World War

The regiment’s name was again changed to the Prince Albert’s (Somerset Light Infantry) in 1912.

The Regiment saw active service in the First World War, with battalions involved on the Western Front, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Palestine. Altogether, 18 battalions existed during the war. One of the new battalions was formed by the conversion of the West Somerset Yeomanry, a Territorial Force Cavalry Regiment; the rest were formed by the duplication of the existing Territorial Force units or by the formation of new “service” battalions.

Battalions of the Somerset Light Infantry in the First World War



1st Battalion In England on outbreak of war, on Western Front from August 1914 (part of 4th Division)
2nd Battalion In India on outbreak of war, and remained in the country (part of the 4th (Quetta) Division 1914–1917, 1st (Peshawar) Division 1917–1918.
3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion Training unit through which recruits passed. Originally in Taunton, moved to Devonport in August 1914, to Derry in 1917 and Belfast in 1918.
1/4th Battalion (TF) The original 4th Battalion, redesignated on the formation of duplicate 2/4th in September 1914. To India in November 1914 and Mesopotamia from 1916 (part of 3rd Indian Division until September 1918, then 14th Indian Division)
2/4th Battalion (TF)
2/4th (Pioneer) Battalion
Duplicate of 4th Battalion, formed September 1914 as part of the 45th (2nd Wessex) Division. In India and the Andaman Islands from December 1914 – September 1917. To Egypt as part of the 75th Division September 1917, to France in January 1918. Converted to pioneer battalion, 34th Division June 1918.
3/4th Battalion (TF)
4th (Reserve) Battalion
Third-line duplicate of 4th Battalion, formed March 1915. Converted to reserve battalion in April 1916, remained in United Kingdom.
1/5th Battalion (TF) The original 5th Battalion, redesignated on the formation of duplicate 2/5th in September 1914. To India in November 1914 and then Egypt as part of the 75th Division from May 1917.
2/5th Battalion (TF)
2/5th (Pioneer) Battalion
Duplicate of 5th Battalion, formed September 1914 as part of the 45th (2nd Wessex) Division. In India from December 1914 where they were attached to Burma Division.
3/5th Battalion (TF)
5th (Reserve) Battalion
Third-line duplicate of 5th Battalion, formed March 1915. Converted to reserve battalion in April 1916, remained in United Kingdom.
6th (Service) Battalion Formed August 1914. To Western Front as part of 14th (Light) Division. Following heavy casualties they formed a composite unit with the 5th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry April 1918, returned to England for reconstruction and absorbed 13th Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, returned to France August 1918.
7th (Service) Battalion Formed September 1914. To Western Front as part of 20th (Light) Division July 1915.
8th (Service) Battalion Formed October 1914. To Western Front as part of 21st Division September 1915. Transferred to 37th Division July 1916.
9th (Service) Battalion
9th (Reserve) Battalion
Formed October 1914 as part of 33rd Division. Converted to Reserve battalion April 1915, converted to 45th Training Reserve Battalion 1916. Remained in United Kingdom.
10th (Home Service) Battalion Formed November 1916, disbanded November 1917
11th Battalion Formed January 1917 by redesignation of 86th Provisional Battalion, TF. To France May 1918 as part of 59th Division
12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion. Formed January 1917 in Egypt by conversion of West Somerset Yeomanry. Part of 74th (Yeomanry) Division. To France May 1918.
13th (Home Service) Battalion Formed April 1918 to replace 11th Battalion.
1st Garrison Battalion Formed 1917. To India.

Inter-war period

Following the armistice ending the First World War, the war-raised battalions were rapidly disbanded.[7] The regular battalions returned to the pre-war system of alternating home and foreign stations. The 1st Battalion was stationed in Northern Ireland and England, before being stationed in Egypt (1926–1928), Hong Kong (1928–1930) and India from 1930.

The 2nd Battalion, which had spent the entire war in India, fought in the brief Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, seeing active service in Afghanistan and on the North-West Frontier. Returning to India in 1920, the battalion moved to the Sudan in 1926 and England in 1927.

The Territorial Force was reorganised to become the Territorial Army in 1920, and the 4th and 5th Battalions were reconstituted. At the same time, the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion was placed in “suspended animation”, and was never again embodied.

On 1 January 1921, the regimental title was changed a final time, becoming The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s).

Second World War

Altogether, the Somerset Light Infantry raised 11 battalions for service during the Second World War, six of which saw service overseas. In addition to the Regular Army 1st and 2nd battalions, the existing 4th and 5th Territorial Army battalions formed duplicate units in 1939 prior to war being declared: the 6th and 7th battalions. The 8th (Home Defence) Battalion, which was also formed in 1939, was renumbered as the 30th Battalion in 1941. The 9th, 10th, 11th (Holding) and 50th (Holding) Battalions were all formed in 1940, although the latter two had ceased to exist by the year end.

The 2nd Battalion was serving with the 1st Gibraltar Brigade as part of the garrison there. In 1943 the brigade was redesignated the 28th Infantry Brigade and became attached to 4th Infantry Division.[45] The 30th Battalion, of 43rd Infantry Brigade, formed part of the Briitish First Army, and served in Tunisia and Italy.However, the 30th Battalion was used mainly as a deception unit and did not take part in any fighting. The 2nd Battalion served in Italy with the British Eighth Army in many battles such as that of Monte Cassino, one of the worst battles of the Italian Campaign, in 1944 where they played an important role alongside 2nd Battalion King’s. In November 1944 the 4th Division, with the rest of III Corps, was sent to Greece to help calm the Greek Civil War, which was caused after the German Army withdrew from the country.

The 1st Battalion was stationed in India at the outbreak of war and would remain in the Far East throughout the war. The battalion fought in the Burma Campaign with the 114th Indian Infantry Brigade which was part of the 7th Indian Infantry Division, itself part of the British Fourteenth Army, led by Bill Slim.

The 4th and 7th Territorial battalions both served in the North West Europe Campaign after the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, D-Day. The 4th was with the 129th Brigade and the 7th with 214th Brigade. They were with the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, which was considered to be one of the best divisions of the British Army in World War II. The division fought very well in Normandy at Hill 112 and played a large part in the disastrous Operation Market Garden. They later played a small role in the Battle of the Bulge and finally took part in Operation Plunder, the crossing of the River Rhine by the Allies.

The other battalion to see active service was the 10th Battalion, raised in 1940, which was converted in 1942 into the 7th Parachute Battalion, and was now part of the Parachute Regiment, itself part of the British airborne forces. They were assigned to the 3rd Parachute Brigade, which was originally part of the 1st Airborne Division, but were later assigned to the newly-raised 5th Parachute Brigade, part of the 6th Airborne Division which had also just been raised. Despite being numbered as the 6th this was simply to deceive German intelligence and was in reality only the second of two airborne divisions created. The 7th Parachute Battalion would see its first combat during Operation Tonga, the British airborne landings in Normandy, the night before June 6, 1944, D-Day. They would then go on to serve throughout the Battle of Normandy as normal infantrymen, The battalion then played a part in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and then again in Operation Varsity in March 1945, the largest airborne drop of World War II, including both the 6th Airborne and the US 17th Airborne Division, with well over 16,000 airborne troops being involved.

The SLI also had responsibility for defending local airfields, including RNAS Charlton Horethorne, where they prepared trenches, hardpoints and machine gun positions.[49]

Post war to amalgamation

The 1st Battalion was the last British infantry battalion to leave India after its independence, departing on 28 February 1948. During the final ceremony, the battalion marched through Bombay (now Mumbai) and received a guard of honour from the newly formed Indian Army at the Gateway of India. The 2nd Battalion ended the war in Greece, subsequently forming part of the Allied occupation force of Austria. The two regular battalions returned to the United Kingdom where they were amalgamated into a single 1st Battalion on 28 June 1948 – this was part of a general reduction in the size of the infantry following Indian independence.

The reconstituted 1st Battalion was stationed in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine from 1951–1953. From 1952–1955, it formed part of the British forces fighting in the Malayan Emergency, where it took part in jungle warfare. In its final years, the battalion was involved in a number of conflicts: the anti-tank platoon formed part of the Anglo-French force that intervened in the Suez Crisis of 1956. The majority of the battalion was in Cyprus, where a nationalist uprising against British rule had broken out. In 1957, they returned to Germany.

In 1947, the Territorial Army was reconstituted and the 4th and 6th Battalion were reformed as infantry battalions; the 5th Battalion was reformed as a unit of the Royal Artillery. Three years later, the 4th Battalion absorbed the two other units.


The regiment amalgamated with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in 1959 to form the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry. This, in turn, amalgamated with the three other regiments of the Light Infantry Brigade to form The Light Infantry in 1968.

The final chapter of the Somerset Light Infantry ended on 1 February 2007, when the Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, the Light Infantry, the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry and the Royal Green Jackets merged to form the RIFLES.

The Regiment’s history is exhibited at the Somerset Military Museum, which is a part of the Museum of Somerset at Taunton Castle.


Victoria Cross recipients






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