Lest we Forget

Lest we Forget

Postby kerchi » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:05 pm

1. The following is a transcript from the Cumbrian newspaper, The News & Star, which the editor has given special permission to be shown here.
2. Please note that due to certain copyright issues images from the original article cannot be shown.

For many, today is a day for solemn remembrance and a time to pay respects. It officially marks the end of the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. And it is the 90th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day in the British Army’s history when 60,000 soldiers were wounded and 20,000 died.

By the end of the Battle, on November 18, the army had suffered its largest casualty list ever. More than 420,000 men. The Regiment, which played a key role at the Somme, is now being amalgamated with two others to form The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (King’s, Lancashire and Border). The move follows a bitter struggle that involved a 30,000-name petition to at least keep the name of a regiment with whom so many have fought and died.

Records show that 19 men from the regiment have been awarded the Victoria Cross, including Sergeant Major Victor Batty. He was killed in action in 1918 and was last seen fighting Germans with his fists.

In September 1944 the 1st Battalion Border Regiment resisted almost constant German bombardment while the Allies tried to gain control of the bridge at Arnhem, Holland. Equipped to fight for 48 hours, they held out for nine days. Of 800 officers and men, just over 250 came out alive.

In the Battle of the Somme, two regular battalions and the Lonsdale Battalion of volunteers from across Cumberland and Westmorland represented the Border Regiment, some 2,400 men. Of those, 1,499 casualties were reported at the end of the day and more than 550 were dead.

Former Border Regiment corporal John Mallinson is proud to say that his uncle Fred was part of the first attack at the Somme on July 1, 1916. Fred joined the Lonsdale Battalion as a 16-year-old, along with Mr Mallinson’s father, Charlie and two other brothers who were still in their teens. All saw action in France and amazingly, all came home again. Though none of them ever spoke of what they witnessed or experienced at ‘The Front’.

Mr Mallinson, of Empire Road, Carlisle, only heard of their exploits from his grandmother. He recalled: “Uncle Fred was wounded on July 7. They patched him up and sent him back to fight. But he was lucky, he came back, they all came back. Families joined up because they thought it was their duty. Many of these young lads had never been further than Silloth and all of a sudden they had the chance to go to Paris, well!”

“The only time my uncle Fred ever mentioned the war was when I saw him one night as I came back from the county dance. He looked a bit rough and we went in a cafe and he just said: ‘This bloody leg’. He rolled up his trouser leg and there was no calf muscle there, just a big scab. The wound had taken all the flesh away. I should have asked what happened, but in those days, you only spoke when you were spoken to. He went and that was it. He came back and that was it. No one ever talked about what had happened.”

Fellow war veteran, Frank Phillips, is certain that the fight to save the KORBR name was not in vain. Mr Phillips, of Hartington Place, Carlisle, wore the red beret of the first airborne division of the Border Regiment before it merged with the King’s Own. He saw action in Norway, Germany and Italy at the end of the war, and then in Palestine.

He said: “It is a sad day, but they had made their minds up about the Regiment long ago. I thank the people of Carlisle and Cumbria that signed the petition. I don’t think it was in vain because it drew many people’s attention to the history of the King’s Own Royal and Border Regiments.”

That long story and the proud connection between the Regiment and the county has been forged by generations in battles that have been turning points in the nation’s history. In World War One alone, the Borderers were at Gallipoli, Ypres (including Passchendaele), Arras and Loos. In World War II they were at Dunkirk, Tobruk, the airborne landing at Sicily in 1943 and the airborne attack on Arnhem in 1944.

They saw action in Burma, including the Chindit campaign, and have been part of peacekeeping campaigns in Palestine, Korea, Cyprus, Northern Ireland the Balkans and Iraq. The Territorial Army battalion have been posted to Afghanistan and Iraq recently.

Stuart Eastwood, curator at the KORBR museum at Carlisle Castle, reckons it is now a time to look forward, not back. He’s far from happy at the amalgamation, but said: “We have got to the stage where it is going ahead and as a Regiment we are looking forward. What the KORBR is taking forward is 326 years of history and an awful lot of very capable officers, NCOs and soldiers, as they proved recently on tour in Iraq.”

The new Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment is made up of two regular battalions of 500 to 600 personnel and one Territorial Army battalion. One regular battalion will be based in Osnabruck in Germany as part of 12 Mechanised Brigade. The other regular battalion will be based in Catterick in North Yorkshire as part of 19 Infantry Brigade.

The TA battalion will have its Headquarters in Preston with companies across the region as part of 42 (North West) Brigade. Regimental Headquarters will be at Fulwood Barracks in Preston with outstations in Carlisle, Liverpool and Manchester.

But as the guardian of the Regiment’s history explained, its past, present and future involves more than just a name. Mr Eastwood said: “The fundamental thing about a regiment is that it is made up of people. The history we look after here is made up of people. It is not just a battalion on the Somme, it is guys who were people.”

A formal formation parade of the new Regiment is being held in Lancaster today. Mr Phillips and other members of the KORBR veterans committee will attend a ceremony to mark the creation of the new Regiment at its North Luffenham barracks next weekend.

A march through Carlisle city centre is planned for July 12 to allow the people of Carlisle and Cumbria to pay their respects to the old regiment and welcome the latest version. Mr Phillips said: “We will pay our respects and say goodbye. God bless the Border Regiment and all who served in it. We have got our memories.”

For further information on the KORBR, call 01228 532774.

Published 1st July, 2006, The News & Star
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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The Border Regiment Forum is a small and friendly community for anyone with an interest in the British regiment throughout its long and colourful history. The forum was set up first and foremost to bring together those with an interest and passion in the Regiment; to ask questions, share stories, provide knowledge and post photos relating to the regiment during the various conflicts and peacetimes it bore witness to.

  -  Cumbria's Museum of Military Life
  -  5th Border Regiment War Grave Project and Roll of Honour
  -  7th Border Regiment War Grave Project and Roll of Honour
  -  8th Border Regiment War Grave Project and Roll of Honour
  -  11th Border Regiment (Lonsdale) War Grave Project