5th Bn The Queen’s Royal Regiment
The 5th Queen’s also had their origins in the old Rifle Volunteers, forming by 1862 part of Administration Battalion of the Surrey Rifle Volunteers. Among its officers in Guildford in 1860 was Lieutenant Ross Lowis Mangles VC who had won his decoration in the Indian Mutiny while employed in the Bengal Civil Service. (His brother-in-law, two sons and a grandson also served later in the Queen’s).
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Known as the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment a number of its members served overseas in the South African War and then later, under the Haldane re-organisations, became the 5th Battalion The Queen’s Royal Regiment. Mobilised at the start of the First World War, all ranks of the 1/5th Battalion volunteered for overseas service.
Their departure from England was not long delayed as on 29th October 1914, they embarked in the SS Alaunia at Southampton for India. The ship’s passengers included two members of the Battalion who were destined to become distinctive and distinguished. Private (later Sergeant)Thomas Bertram Holdforth of Woking won the Military Medal for gallantry while serving in Mesopotamia. Frank E Stafford (who by rights should have been languishing in a reserved occupation at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough) was to become the Orderly Room Sergeant in Mesopotamia and eventually rise to the rank of Brigadier, CMG, CBE as well as holding high rank in various government and civilian appointments.
Reaching Bombay on 2nd December they disembarked at once to travel by train to Lucknow which it reached two days later to become part of the 8th Division. From here early in 1915 two small drafts were sent to join the 2nd Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia. Later in the year the remainder of the Battalion were also destined for Mesopotamia. Embarking at Bombay on 2nd December 1915, in HMT Elephanta they arrived at Basra on the 7th. From there they travelled up the Euphrates in towed barges and other vessels to reach Nasariyeh on the 15th. With the object of trying to assist in operations for the relief of Kut they moved on to Butaniyeh in which area they were involved in actions against Arab forces, suffering some casualties in the process. On 7th February 1916, they withdrew to Nasariyeh under a series of attacks resulting in 300 more casualties. The stay in Nasariyeh was not pleasant, attacks by Arabs being accompanied by other hazards in the form of floods and outbreaks of cholera. Presumably the troops were not sorry when they received orders to move to Baghdad which they reached on July 1st. Further moves and actions took place between then and the end of the year, when on cessation of hostilities demobilisation plans and arrangements commenced, finally being completed with disembodiment in England in May 1919.
The 2/5th and 3/5th Queen’s were engaged on Home Defence duties and supplying drafts for overseas service. The 2/5th was disbanded in September 1917 and the 3/5th in the summer of 1919.
Between the wars the usual routines of training and camps took place with the 5th Queen’s showing a particular aptitude for shooting at which they gained many trophies.
On 28th April 1926 Her Majesty Queen Mary presented Colours to the battalion at Guildford. The cost of the Colours was paid by the ladies of West Surrey. On 5th April 1939 with the threats of war increasing and a resulting expansion of the Territorial Army taking place, a second Battalion was raised, becoming the 2/5th Bn.
On the outbreak of the Second World War the 1/5th mobilised at Guildford and initially went to Sussex to guard vulnerable points. Further training took place in Dorset before the Battalion embarked for France at Southampton on 2nd April 1940. Landing at Cherbourg, they were in action on the Escaut Canal and in Strazeele before being evacuated through Dunkirk. After reforming in Oxford they were employed on coastal defence before being drafted to the Middle East where they joined the 8th Army in August 1942.
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It was first in action with 131 Brigade at Alam Halfa and thereafter remained with the Brigade throughout the war. The Battalion took part in the Battle of El Alamein where casualties were caused by opposing machine gun and mortar fire. After El Alamein the battalion advanced to Enfidaville, where heavy fighting took place, and then by way of a long journey through the hills they victoriously reached Tunis where troops received an enthusiastic welcome from the liberated French civilians. But there was to be no resting on laurels. By September 1943 the 1/5th were engaged at Salerno at the same time as the 2/5th and in December it returned to England to prepare for the invasion of Europe. Definitely “quick off the mark” the Battalion landed in Normandy two days after ‘D’ Day.
Advancing from the Tilly area, through the heavily defended Villers Bocage, they reached Livry where a welcome rest and refit period ensued.
By September, following the roads their fathers trod before them, they reached the Somme which they crossed in two places. After enduring hard winter conditions, again reminiscent of the First World War, steady advance, over often strongly contested territory, continued towards Germany and on 3rd May the Battalion entered Hamburg which had surrendered. The Adjutant (Captain R G Newell) hoisted the Regimental Flag over the Town Hall. Days later all hostilities ceased.
The war was over, victory had been obtained and the 1/5th Queen’s, like other battalions of the Regiment had played their noble part in it.
The 2/5th Bn The Queen’s, formed out of the 5th in April 1939, had a strength of 630 by the spring of 1940. It landed in France on 24th April to undertake pioneer duties with the British Expeditionary Force which also included the 2/6th and 2/7th Battalions.
Poorly armed and equipped it endeavoured to stem the German advance after the breakthrough at Sedan but after a long and hard fighting retreat it was eventually embarked at Cherbourg for Southampton having lost 387 of its original 596 outgoing members. Home Defence duties followed until the Battalion went overseas in late 1942 for service in Iraq where they wintered at Kirkuk. In March 1943, after being relieved by a Polish Division, they left on the epic move, later known as “the longest march”, on a 3,000 mile journey to join the 8th Army in Libya. The distance was covered in less than five weeks with seven non-travelling days. It ended on 23rd April and by early the next day the Battalion was in action at Enfidaville in the final stages of the North African Campaign. After some heavy fighting there a short spell in reserve was a welcome respite but inactivity was not to last for long. On 9th September 1943, the Battalion as part of 169 Brigade landed at Salerno, an action which has been well described by Brigadier G B Curtis in his book ‘Salerno Remembered’.
Having successfully come ashore the battalion experienced a period of relative calm before the Germans launched a counter-attack which was successfully repelled. From then on there was a continuing advance across difficult country against a determined enemy. Mountains and rivers were principal obstacles - Monte Stella and the River Volturno being but two examples of centres of stubborn enemy resistance. On 2nd May 1945, German forces in Italy surrendered and the 2/5th, as part of 169 Brigade, occupied Venice. Thereafter they were engaged in peace-keeping duties in Trieste until disbandment in May 1946.
Re-formed in 1947 the 5th embarked on a recruiting campaign, which was not easy in a war-weary country, but later had their ranks swollen by the compulsory entry of National Servicemen. Training was also undertaken in Civil Defence duties - a Home Service task visualized for the TA in any future war. In 1961 the Battalion amalgamated with the 565 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment RA (4th Queen’s) and 6th Queen’s to form a new Battalion titled the 3rd Battalion The Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment.
Thus ended the 5th Queen’s after 102 years service to the Crown.