5th Bn The East Surrey Regiment
The 5th Bn The East Surrey Regiment (TF) as it was formerly titled on the formation of the Territorial Force in 1908, had its origins in the previous century. The 1st Administrative Battalion Surrey Rifle Volunteers was formed in 1862 from various Rifle Corps then in existence in various parts of Surrey including those at Wimbledon, Streatham, Epsom and Sutton. In 1880 the 3rd Surrey Rifles were formed, becoming titled in 1887 the 2nd Volunteer Battalion The East Surrey Regiment.
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During the South African War it sent a service company to the 2nd Bn The East Surrey Regiment and to the City Imperial Volunteers. In recognition of its services the Battalion was granted the distinction of “South Africa 1900-1902”.
On the formation of the Territorial Force in 1908 the Battalion was re-styled The 5th Bn East Surrey Regiment (TF).
On August 5th 1914, recalled from training at Bordon the Battalion mobilized at Wimbledon and proceeded to its war station at Chatham, later going to Maidstone and Canterbury where the Surrey Brigade was concentrating.
With the exception of a small number, members accepted liability for overseas service. Those who did not accept were transferred as the nucleus of the newly formed 2/5th Bn The East Surrey Regiment. On the 29th October the 1/5th Battalion, as they had now become, embarked at Southampton for India, reaching Bombay on 1st December after a varied voyage during which they passed the homeward bound 2nd Bn The East Surrey Regiment. The battalion occupied several stations in India on garrison duties as well as supplying drafts for other units and other theatres of war. One draft went to Mesopotamia where it lost 42 of its members in action against the Turks.
In November 1917 the whole battalion was ordered to Mesopotamia. Embarking at Bombay on 21st December, and spending Christmas Day in the Persian Gulf, they disembarked at Basrah on the 27th. They spent the rest of the war in Mesopotamia, often in trying climatic conditions and on 11th October 1918 they left Samarra to take part in the final operation against the Turks which resulted in the enemy’s final surrender on 30th October.
The 2/5th Battalion was raised at Wimbledon in September 1914, its original personnel being those members of 1/5th who had not volunteered for General Service. In 1915 members who had not volunteered for General Service were transferred to a Provisional Battalion leaving the 2/5th composed entirely of General Service men. For the remainder of their time the battalion were engaged on Home Defence and Coastal Duties in South East England before being disbanded in August 1917, and their personnel sent overseas as drafts to the Expeditionary Forces.
The 3/5th Bn The East Surrey Regiment was raised at Wimbledon in August 1915, its nucleus consisting of 5 officers and 107 other ranks, including transfers from the 2/5th Bn. Engaged mainly on recruiting the battalion had by March 1916 made sufficient progress to send a draft of 7 officers and 375 other ranks overseas to join the 1/5th Bn in India. Further drafts followed and in August 1916, the 3/5th and 3/6th Bn’s were amalgamated to form a new unit designated the 5th Reserve Battalion The East Surrey Regiment. It continued as a training and draft finding unit until its disbandment in April 1919, having during its existence, supplied drafts for Forces in India, France, Italy and Salonika. In the Territorials reorganisations of 1920 and 1921 a peace-time 5th Battalion was re-formed at Wimbledon and thrived between the wars.
Parades, exercises, courses and camps were carried out and a social life was also maintained.
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In 1938, with war-clouds looming, further Army reorganisations took place and the 5th Battalion was converted to an Anti Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery, their new title being 57th (East Surrey) Anti Tank Regiment RA (TA). They were supplied with two-pounder anti-tank guns for training purposes and, regretfully, their band and drums ceased to exist.
With the doubling of the Territorial Army in the Spring of 1939 as second line Regiment, the 67th, was formed.
It was in the Anti-Tank role that both Regiments fought in the Second World War, showing the same tenacity and courage as their East Surrey predecessors. The 57th, in the Middle East, fought from Alamein to Tripoli, via Tobruk, before landing at Salerno and fighting throughout the Italian Campaign to reach Trieste by the end of the war. The 67th went to Iraq from whence it took part in the epoch making 3,200 miles approach march to Enfidaville in Tunisia. In a somewhat similar manner to the 57th, it fought in North Africa, landed at Salerno and fought its way through Italy to Trieste. Both Regiments were disbanded at the end of the war.
The Territorial Army once more re-formed in 1947 and the former 5th Bn East Surrey Regiment (later Anti-Tank Regiments) found itself recast in several different roles and titles, eventually emerging in 1971 as part of the 6/7th (Volunteer) Battalion The Queen’s Regiment.