Queen's Territorial Brigades
in the 1939-45 War
As well as distinguishing themselves regimentally, The Surrey Territorials were equally successful in Brigade Formations. Just before the outbreak of the Second World War the Territorial battalions were doubled. Under the new organisation the 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th Queen’s stayed in 131 Queen’s Brigade of 44 (Home Counties) Division while 2/5th, 2/6th and 2/7th Queen’s, after a short period as 31 Brigade became 169 Brigade of 56 (London) Division.
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War the Territorial battalions were doubled.
Under the new organisation the 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th Queen’s stayed in 131 Queen’s Brigade of 44 (Home Counties) Division while 2/5th, 2/6th and 2/7th Queen’s, after a short period as 31 Brigade became 169 Brigade of 56 (London) Division.
131 Brigade and 35 Brigade both arrived in France in April 1940, but after the heavy fighting in May the former were evacuated via Dunkirk and the latter via Cherbourg. In the fighting in North Africa in 1942 131 Brigade were firstly in action at Alam Halfa ridge and later at El Alamein in October where they sustained heavy casualties.
After this battle 44 Division was disbanded and 131 Brigade became the Lorried Infantry Brigade of 7 Armoured Division (The Desert Rats). Occupying first Tobruk and later Benghazi, they entered Tripoli on 23rd January
An enemy counter-attack at Medenine on 7th March 1943 was repelled at a cost to the Germans of 27 tanks which were knocked out by 6 pounder guns. After hard fighting at Enfidaville the Brigade was the first infantry unit into Tunis thereby cutting the Axis armies into two. The whole campaign had been a magnificent achievement. 169 Brigade travelled via Bombay to Iraq where they spent the winter of 1942/43 at Kirkuk. Ordered to join the 8th Army the Brigade made the historic approach of 3,313 miles to Enfidaville in 31 days and was in action the following morning after arrival.
Capturing the high ground north of Enfidaville was an exacting task resulting in many casualties including Lieutenant Colonel H E Wilson the Commanding Officer of 2/6th Queen’s.
Following the Salerno landings both 131 and 169 Brigades were involved in heavy fighting but in December 1943, 131 Brigade returned to England to prepare for the invasion of Europe. 169 Brigade remained in Italy, taking part in the battle at Monte Camino and in the crossing of the Garigliano River as well as in the area of Anzio beach-head.
After a spell of rest, reformation and re-training in Egypt they returned to Italy to take part in the intensive fighting to break the Gothic Line and on the line of the River Senio. Traversing Lake Commachio in amphibious vehicles, they continued by way of the Argenta Gap and the Rivers Po and Adige to Venice where they were at the time of the German surrender on 2nd May 1945. From then until their disbandment in May 1946 the battalions of the Brigade were engaged on peace-keeping operations in Trieste and neighbouring towns. Two days after ‘D’ Day 131 Brigade landed in France. After heavy fighting around Villers Bocage and Caen they pursued the Germans to the Seine and then onwards to Ghent and across the Scheldt. After keeping the Nijmegen road open during the Arnhem battle they continued across the River Maas. The 1/6th and 1/7th Queen’s then returned to England while the 1/5th crossed the Rhine on 28th March 1945, to enter Hamburg on 3rd May where they hoisted the regimental flag on the Town Hall.
In July the Brigade moved to Berlin where, as a climax of its stay, it took part in the Victory Parade before the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Churchill and the Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Montgomery. 1/5th Queen’s, with bayonets fixed and Colours flying marched past to the strains of the Regimental March “Braganza”. 39 Battle Honours had been gained. Victory had deservedly been won.