The King's Shropshire Light Infantry, 1914 - 1918
The KSLI during "the Great War".
As with all the other infantry regiments of the British army, the K.S.L.I. was greatly expanded during the First World War. In all, twelve battalions were raised, of which eight saw active service overseas.
New recruits in 1914 : on the parade ground at Copthorne Barracks, Shrewsbury.
The K.S.L.I. gained no less than 60 battle honours for the Great War; those marked * in the sections below are emblazoned on the King's Colour.
1st Battalion, 1914-18
A Regular battalion, based in the UK and Ireland, 1903-14.
In Tipperary in August 1914 when mobilised for war, when it joined 16th Brigade, 6th Division and landed at St.Nazaire, France, on September 10th. It took part in the early battles of the Aise and Marne and thereafter served entirely on the Western Front and in just about every major engagement.
It was present in the First Battle of Ypres in 1914 and in the Ypres salient, 1915, when it played a leading part in the attack on the Hooge posiitons in August. In April 1916, again at Ypres, they took part in the severe fighting for the capture of positions on the Ypres-Langemarck road, losing their CO, Lt. Col. Luard in the process.
Saw service on the Somme in 1916 under Lt. Col. Murray (Morval and Transloy Ridges; breaking of the "Quadrilateral" at Cinchy during the battle of Flers-Courcelettes) and at Arras and Cambrai in 1917.
In January 1918, the battalion was serving with 5th Army and met the brunt of the great German Spring Offensive on March 21st, being just about annihilated at Lagnicourt - not one combatant officer was left and only 53 other ranks came out of action.
The battalion was completely re-formed under Lt. Col. Meynell and within ten days of being all but destroyed, was back in the line at Ypres and fought continuously in the salient until late August.
After taking part in the fighting on the Hindenburg Line in 1918 with 4th Army, including the desperate fighting around St. Quentin, 1 KSLI served through the final operations against the Germans right up until the Armistice in November.
1 KSLI then became part of the Rhineland occupation force.
They lost 53 officers and 986 other ranks killed during the war.
1st battalion Battle honours :
France and Flanders 1914; France and Flanders 1915; France and Flanders 1916 ; France and Flanders 1917 ; France and Flanders 1918 ; Aisne 1914 ; Armentieres 1914* ; Hooge 1915 ; Somme 1916* ; Flers-Courcelette ; Morva1 ; Le Transloy ; Hill 70 ; Cambrai 1917* ; Somme 1918* ; Hindenburg Line; Epehy* ; Cambrai 1918* ; Selle . (19)
2nd Battalion 1914-18
A Regular battalion, serving in India from 1903-14; at Secunderabad in August 1914 when mobilised for war. It joined 80th Brigade, 27th Division and landed at Le Havre, France, on 21st December 1914 under Lt. Col. Bridgford.
Officers of 2 KSLI in France, December 1914
After some of the hardest fighting in the Ypres Salient at St.Eloi, St.Julien and on Frezenburg Ridge in the Second Battle of Ypres in the Spring of 1915, the battalion moved to the relatively quiet sector (at that stage) of the Somme.
It was sent to Salonika in December 1915 and spent nearly three years fighting the Bulgarians in Macedonia, for the most part based on the Struma front. From June 1916 to December 1917 2 KSLI was in trenches at Neohari and in the final offensive against Bulgaria, it was one of the first allied units to entry enemy territory.
2 KSLI absorbed the war-raised 8th Battalion in November 1918 and returned home via Southern Turkey, after service at Batum on the Black Sea Dec. 1918 - June 1919, protecting oil supplies in the face of the Russian Civil War.
It was sent to Fermoy and Dublin during the last stages of British rule and was the last British battalion to leave Dublin Castle on the formation of the Irish Free State in 1921.
2nd Battalion Battle Honours:
France and Flanders 1915 ; Macedonia 1915-18 ; Gravenstafel ; Ypres 1915* ; St. Julien ; Frezenberg* ; Bellewaerde. (7)
3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion
The Special Reserve Battalion (formerly the old county Militia, renamed in the 1908 reforms) served only as a training battalion during the war, with no overseas war service.
Served in Wales and Scotland until December 1917 when it moved to Cork and ended the war at Fermoy, later being formally absorbed into the 2nd Battalion.
As a training battalion, it fed large numbers of men into the KSLI and other units.4th (Territorial) Battalion, 1914-18
4th (Territorial) Battalion
The Territorial battalion was mobilised for war on 5th August 1914 and was later expanded by the establishment of 2nd and 3rd line battalions.
Part of 1-4th Battalion in Singapore, 1915.
The 1-4th Battalion:
Originally formed from the county Rifle Volunteers (which became the two Volunteer Battalions of the KSLI), designated as the 4th (Territorial) Battalion in 1908 on the creation of the Territorial Force.
The Battalion was mobilised at Shrewsbury on 4th August 1914 and embarked for India in October 1914. Its prime function - as with many of the Territorial battalions at this stage - was to take over routine imperial garrison duty, to free Regular soldiers for active campaigning.
It served in the Far East in Hong Kong, the Andaman Islands, Singapore and Rangoon 1914-17.
Men of 4 KSLI escorted the prisoners of the German ship Emden to Australia after its battle with the Australian warship Sydney and later helped suppress the "Singapore Mutiny" by an Indian garrison battalion in 1915.
En route to UK, it spent some time training in Ceylon and more especially in South Africa, May-June 1917, where it suffered greatly from sickness.
From there, without the men being able to visit their homes after three years' absence, 1/4 KSLI went straight to the Western Front in July 1917, attached to the 63rd (RN) Division around Arras.
Later that year, it moved to the Ypres Salient to take part in the great Passchendaele Offensive (3rd Ypres) and suffered 130 casualties on its first real day in action
The battalion fought around Messines during the great German Spring offensive of 1918.
It was then moved southwards to support French operations in the Soissons region; its greatest moment came in the capture of Bligny Hill on June 6th 1918, for which feat the battalion - reduced to company strength by then - was awarded the French Croix-de-Guerre avec Palme.
(go to separate section on French Croix-de-Guerre)
1/4 KSLI went into the line near Bethune in August 1918 and spent two months there, including action on Aubers Ridge before moving to the Somme in Ocotber.
November 1918 saw the batrtalion with the 56th Brigade of the 19th Division near Bavai, France, when the war ended.
1-4th Battalion Battle Honours :
France and Flanders 1917 ; France and Flanders 1918 ; Passchendaele ; Cambrai 1917* ; Bapaume 1918 ; Messines 1918 ; Bailleul ; Kemmel ; Bligny* ; Aisne 1918 ; Cambrai 1918* ; Selle ; Valenciennes ; Sambre. (14)
The 2-4th Battalion :
Formed at Shrewsbury in October 1914, it served on the Isle of Man and then on East Coast defences, 1915-17. Renamed as the 50th Provisional Battalion in December 1916.
Personnel were absorbed by other battalions by December 1917. No overseas war service.
The 3-4th Battalion :
Raised in May 1915 in Shrewsbury. Stationed in various towns in South Wales, 1915-18.
Re-styled the 4th (Reserve) Battalion in April 1916. Absorbed the 2nd Herefordshire Regt. in Swansea in 1917.
Disbanded at Pembroke Dock at the end of the war. No overseas war service.
5th (Service) Battalion
A war-raised Service Battalion, formed in Shrewsbury in August 1914 under Lt. Col. H. M. Smith, from the mass of enthusiastic volunteers coming forward to enlist. Posted to the 42nd Brigade, 14th Division.
After training around Aldershot, it landed at Boulogne on 20th May 1915, first coming under fire at Ypres on 31st May 1915, and then served entirely on the Western Front.
It saw some of the worst fighting of the war in the Ypres Salient in 1915, around Bellewaerde and Hooge; was on the Somme in 1916, seeing particularly heavy fighting at Delville Wood and Flers-Courcelette.
After service at fought at Arras and in the attack on Vimy Rdige in 1917, returned in August to the Ypres salient to take part in the 3rd Battle of Ypres.
It was disbanded at Jussy on 4th February 1918, its personnel going to other K.S.L.I. battalions.
5th Battalion Battle Honours:
France and Flanders 1915 ; France and Flanders 1916; France and Flanders 1917 ; Ypres 1915*; Somme 1916*; DelviIIe Wood; Flers-Courcelette; Arras 1917*; Ypres 1917*. (9)
6th (Service) Battalion, 1914-18.
A war-raised Service Battalion, formed in Shrewsbury in September 1914, posted to the 60th Brigade of the 20th Division. It landed at Boulogne on 22nd July 1915 and then served entirely on the Western Front.
The 6th fought at Loos in September 1915, around Ypres in 1916 (where it releived the 1st Battalion) and then on the Somme, including the capture eof Guillemont.
It fought at Langemarck (3rd Ypres) in August 1917 and on the Menin Road, Ypres, in September. Served against the Hindenburg Line near Cambrai at the end of the year and throughout the German Spring Offensive in 1918, seeing severe fighitng at St. Quentin.
6/KSLI ended the war north west of Mauberge, France and was disbanded in Shrewsbury in June 1919.
6th Battalion Battle Honours:
France and Flanders 1915 ; France and Flanders 1916 ; France and Flanders 1917 ; France and Flanders 1918 ; Mount Sorrel; GuiIIemont ; Flers-Courcelette ; Le Transloy ; Langemarck 1917 ; Menin Road; Cambrai 1917* ; St.Quentin ; Rosieres. (13)
7th (Service) Battalion
A war-raised Service Battalion under Lt. Col. J.H.Barber, it was formed in Shrewsbury in September 1914 and joined the 76th Brigade of the 25th Division; landed at Boulogne on 28th September 1915 and served entirely on the Western Front.
Men of 7 KSLI "just out of the trenches" near Arras, March 1917.
7 KSLI first saw action in the Ypres Salient in the winter of 1915-16 and moved to the Somme in July 1916; fought at Bazentin Ridge and then at Serre on the Ancre later in the year.
It was in action at Arras and in the three severe battles of the Scarpe in April-May 1917. Back in the Ypres sector in 1917, the 7th took part in the fighting at Polygon Wood in September (3rd battle of Ypres) and was back on the Somme for the battles of 1918.
After taking part in the offensives of summer-autumn of 1918, at Albert, Bapaume, the Canal du Nord and the Selle, the 7th ended the war as part of the 8th Brigade of the 3rd Division, at Romeries, near Solesmes, France. It was disbanded in Shrewsbury in June 1919.
The 7th suffered more casualties than any other KSLI battalion, with 1048 killed in action or died during the war, and earned more battle honours than any other KSLI battalion..
7th Battalion Battle Honours:
France and Flanders 1915 ; France and Flanders 1916 ; France and Flanders 1917 ; France and Flanders 1918 ; Mount Sorrel; Somme 1916* ; Albert 1916 ; Bazentin ; DelvilIe Wood; Arras 1917* ; Scarpe 1917 ; ArIeux ; Ypres 1917* ; Polygon Wood; Somme 1918* ; St.Quentin ; Bapaume 1918 ; Arras 1918 ; Lys ; Estaires ; Hazebrouk ; Bethune ; Albert 1918 ; Bapaume 1918 ; Canal du Nord ; SeIIe. (26)
8th (Service) Battalion
A war-raised Service Battalion, formed in Shrewsbury in September 1914 under Lt. Col. C. H. Sisted.
Joined the 66th Brigade of the 22nd Division and landed in France on 28th October 1915, heading for Amiens.
After only a few weeks on the Western Front, the Battalion was sent to Macedonia, arriving on November 6th 1915. It spent the remainder of the war on the Salonika front around Doiran, suffereing severely from malaria as well as from its encounters with the enemy. Periods of routine trench work, in reserve, along the Struma or in the defences of Salonika were interspersed with some severe fighitng, as at at "Pip Ridge", near Lake Doiran, in February 1917 and again in September 1918.
8/KSLI took part in the final drives against the Bulgarian army in 1918 and after the Armsitice was sent to Doiran and Dedeagatch and then into Bulgaria.
The 8th ended the war near Stavros and was amalgamated with the 2nd KSLI on 1st Dec. 1918.
8th Battalion Battle Honours:
Macedonia 1915-18; Doiran 1917*; Doiran 1918*. (3)
A Reserve Battalion, formed at Pembroke Dock in October 1914, it served only in the U.K., largely in a training role. At Prees Heath camp near Shrewsbury from August 1915,
It had no overseas war service and like the 3rd Battalion, sent trained men to other KSLI battalions and to other units.
10th (Shropshire & Cheshire Yeomanry) Battalion
Formed at Cairo on 2nd March 1917 from the dismounted troopers of the Shropshire Yeomanry and the Cheshire Yeomanry. Served in Palestine in the 231st Brigade of the 74th "Broken Spur" Division.
It took part in the second and third battles of Gaza, July-November 1917 and then in the operations for the capture of Jerusalem (December 1917) and in the capture of Jericho (February 1918). In the attack on Birj-el-Lisaneh, near Tel Asur, on March 10th 1918, Pte. Harold Whitfield won the only VC to a Shropshire regiment for the Great War.
In May 1918, the 10th went to France, serving on the Lys in August and then at Epehy and captured the notorious " Quadrilateral" in November.
Having captured Tournai - where the 53rd had been in action in 1794 - it ended the war near Ath in Belgium and was disbanded in Shrewsbury in June1919.
10th Battalion Battle Honours :
France and Flanders 1918 ; Palestine 1917-18 ; Epehy ; Pursuit to Mons ; Gaza ; Jerusalem* ; Jericho; Tel Asur. (8)
1st KSLI on the Somme, Autumn 1916