The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War
The 8th (Service) Battalion
The 8th Battalion was a "Service" battalion that was formed specifically for the duration of the war. It was raised at Bedford in October 1914, as part of 'K3' - Lord Kitchener's 3rd 'call to arms' for another 100,000 men to leave their civilian lives and enlist into the expanding British Army. That month, the enlisted men of the 8th Battalion, in the Third New Army were attached to the 71st Brigade of the 24th Division and remained there for a year.
The enlisted men from all over the county mustered at their local train stations and were transported en-masse to the Regimental HQ at Bedford to be mobilised into the 8th Battalion of the Regiment. Other than a brief spell in Brighton, most of their training was undertaken in Surrey, with almost seven months being spent in the sprawling New Army training area around Woking.
Finally, the increasingly restless men of the 'Hungry 8th' (a nickname used in a letter home from Private 19861 Leslie Worboys) received orders to mobilise and prepared to ship out. At 11pm on the 28th August 1915, the Battalion boarded the troop trains at Chobham Station and left for Dover. After transferring straight onto troop ships, they arrived at Boulogne early on the 30th August 1915.
Six weeks after landing in France, on the 11th October 1915, the entire 71st Brigade was transferred with the to the 6th Division, who were a veteran Regular Army Division that had been serving in France since 1914. During another reorganisation on 17th November 1915, the battalion were transferred to the 16th Brigade of the 6th Division.
The 8th battalion served entirely in France and Flanders during the war and fought in every major battle during the battalion's active service, gaining a reliable reputation within a professional, Regular Division and winning many gallantry medals. On the 16th February 1918, in line with a major shake up of the British Army, the 8th Battalion was disbanded in France and the men were distributed amongst the other battalions in the Regiment.
The battalion was part of the 71st Brigade for their initial period of training in 1915 and for a few weeks in France, but most of their service was within the 16th Brigade, attached to the veteran 6th Division. For the period the 8th battalion served within it, the following battalions formed the 16th Brigade and served together as a tactical unit:
- 8th Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment.
- 1st Battalion, the Buffs.
- 1st Battalion, the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry.
- 2nd Battalion the York and Lancaster Regiment.
The 8th Battalion's service in The Great War
During their service in the Great War, the Battalion was engaged during the following battles:
In 1915 they were one of the few 'New Army' units to be committed to The Battle of Loos in September. They were also in the line when the army experienced the first German use of Phosgene gas in December, losing hundreds of men in the attack.
In 1916 they lost heavily during a massed bombardment and raid on their lines in April and were engaged in The Battles of the Somme 1916, specifically at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette and the Battle of Morval in September, as well as the Battle of Le Transloy in October.
In 1917 the battalion were involved in Battle of Hill 70 in April and during the Cambrai Operations (also called the Battle of Cambrai), specifically during the Tank attack and the Battle of Bourlon Wood in November, as well as throughout the German counter attacks in November and December.
Around 670 Officers and men of the battalion gave their lives for King and Country, with over half of them doing so in the battles of 1916, and around 2,800 men * were also wounded during the battalion's tours on the Western Front.
*According to the "Official History of the Great War, medical services, casualties and medical statistics" by Major T.J. Mitchell and Miss G.M. Smith (1931) there were 2,977,801 British Army casualties, including 704,803 deaths (23.67%). This factor (4.22) is used in the approximation of regimental casualties.
Commanding Officers of the 8th battalion
Several of the battalion's commanding officers were wounded in action, so some of those in the list below were temporary commanders. However, the commanding officers of the 8th battalion between 1914 and 1918 were:
- Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Stanley Curwen Kennedy, 1st October 1914 to 26th September 1915, when he was gassed at the Battle of Loos and returned to England wounded.
- Captain (Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) John Sinclair Liddell, C.M.G., D.S.O., 11th October 1915 to 13th January 1916, when he was moved to another battalion.
- Major (Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) Henry Cholmondeley Jackson, D.S.O., 14th January 1916 to 17th April 1916, when he was wounded at Ypres. From his spell in command of the battalion, he went on to command a Brigade, then a Division, finally becoming a full General and becoming the Colonel of the Regiment between 1935 and 1948. A full biography can be seen .
- Major (Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) William Rowland Harris Dann, D.S.O., 17th April 1916 to 19th May 1916, when he was also wounded at Ypres. He went on to command a London Regiment unit.
- Captain (Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) Donald McLeod Hawkins, 19th May 1916 to 1st June 1916.
- Colonel Lord Henry Scott, 2nd June 1916 to 4th April 1917, after which he was promoted to G.H.Q.
- Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Oliver Villers Russell, the Lord Ampthill, 5th April 1917 to 19th May 1917, when he was promoted to G.H.Q. under the Director of Labour.
- Captain (Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) Herbert Rochfort MacCullugh, 20th May 1917 to 14th June 1917, after which he commanded a battalion of the D.L.I.
- Lieutenant-Colonel Reginald Le Huquet, 15th June to 10th July 1917.
- Lieutenant-Colonel James Robert Robertson, 20th July to 6th August 1917, after which he commanded a Leicester Territorial battalion.
- Lieutenant-Colonel Reginald Le Huquet, 6th August 1917 to 16th February 1918, when the battalion were disbanded in France
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