The East Midland Brigade was an infantry brigade of the Territorial Force, part of the British Army, that was raised in 1908. As the name suggests, it commanded infantry battalions recruited in the East Midlands of England: Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. The brigade was an integral part of the East Anglian Division.
It was numbered as the 162nd (East Midland) Brigade (and the division as 54th (East Anglian) Division) and saw active service in World War I at Gallipoli in 1915, Egypt in 1916 and in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in 1917 and 1918.
Disbanded after the war, the brigade was reformed in the Territorial Army as the 162nd Infantry Brigade and continued to be part of the 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division. In World War II the brigade remained in the United Kingdom throughout the war and did not see service and was disbanded in August 1944.
The 54th (East Anglian) Division was not reformed after World War II, but the brigade was reformed in 1947 as 162nd Independent Infantry Brigade before being finally disbanded in 1961.
The Territorial Force (TF) was formed on 1 April 1908 following the enactment of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw.7, c.9) which combined and re-organised the old Volunteer Force, the Honourable Artillery Company and the Yeomanry. On formation, the TF contained 14 infantry divisions and 14 mounted yeomanry brigades. One of the divisions was the East Anglian Division and the East Midland Brigade formed one of its constituent brigades.
As the name suggests, the brigade recruited in the East Midlands of England and commanded four infantry battalions:5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
4th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment
1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment
In peacetime, the brigade headquarters was in Bedford. The battalions were organized on an 8-company basis, but shortly after the outbreak of World War I they were reorganized on the regular army standard of four companies in January 1915.
The brigade was on its annual fortnight's training camp when World War I broke out on 4 August 1914. It immediately mobilized and concentrated at Bury St Edmunds; it was employed on coastal defence duties in East Anglia until May 1915.
In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw.7, c.9) which brought the Territorial Force into being, the TF was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many members volunteered for Imperial Service. Therefore, TF units were split into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units. 2nd Line units performed the home defence role, although in fact most of these were also posted abroad in due course. The East Midland Brigade formed the 2nd East Midland Brigade in this manner with an identical structure.
The 1/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment left the brigade on 6 November 1914, landed at Le Havre and joined the 4th (Guards) Brigade in 2nd Division on the Western Front. It was to remain on the Western Front for the rest of the war. Likewise, the 1/1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment landed at Le Havre on 15 February 1915 and joined the 82nd Brigade in 27th Division. It also spent the rest of the war on the Western Front. They were replaced by the 10th (Hackney) and 11th (Finsbury Rifles) battalions of the London Regiment, transferred from 3rd London Brigade, 1st London Division in April 1915.
In May 1915, the brigade concentrated with its division in the St Albans area to prepare for overseas service. In mid-May, the East Anglian Division was numbered as 54th (East Anglian) Division and the brigade became 162nd (East Midland) Brigade. On 8 July it was warned for service at Gallipoli and between 28 and 30 July it departed Devonport (Beds and Northants battalions) and Liverpool (London battalions) for the Mediterranean. On the night of 10/11 August 1915 the brigade landed at Suvla with its division as part of IX Corps.
The brigade's first attack was against Kiretch Tepe Ridge and Kidney Hill in support of the 10th (Irish) Division on 15 August which cost a high price: the 1/5th Bedfords suffered casualties of 14 officers and 300 other ranks, the 1/10th Londons 6 and 260 and the 1/11th Londons 9 and 350 (the 1/4th Northants had not yet landed). After the failure of the Battle of Scimitar Hill (21 August), the Suvla front subsided into trench warfare. The brigade spent September, October and November serving turns in frontline trenches with names like Finsbury Vale and New Bedford Road, battalions normally spending about a week at a time in the frontline with the enemy lines being as little as 15–50 yards away. Sniping and artillery attacks were a constant problem, as was the heat, flies, and lack of sanitation.
The brigade was withdrawn from Suvla in early December, departing for Mudros and from there to Egypt.
The brigade arrived at Mena Camp, Cairo on 19 December 1915. It would spend the rest of the war in Egypt, Palestine and Syria.
On 2 April 1916, the brigade joined No. 1 (Southern) Section of the Suez Canal Defences.
In 1917, the brigade took part in the invasion of Palestine. It fought in the First Battle of Gaza (26 and 27 March), the Second Battle of Gaza (17–19 April) under Eastern Force, and the Third Battle of Gaza (27 October – 7 November), the Capture of Gaza (1–7 November) and the Battle of Jaffa (21 and 22 December) as part of XXI Corps.
Still with XXI Corps, in 1918 the brigade took part in the Fight at Ras el'Ain (12 March) and Berukin (9 and 10 April). It then took part in the Final Offensive in Palestine in the Battle of Sharon (19–23 September). The brigade reached Haifa by 4 October, and advanced on Beirut via Acre, Tyre and Sidon concentrating at Beirut by 5 November. However, the Armistice of Mudros had ended the war with the Ottoman Empire on 31 October.
The division and brigade were withdrawn to Egypt in late November and December, concentrating at Helmie by 7 December. On 6 January 1919, the 162nd Brigade Trench Mortar Battery was disbanded marking the start of the demobilization process. By 30 September 1919 the division had disappeared in Egypt.
The brigade commanded the following units in World War I:1/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
1/4th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
1/1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment (left February 1915)
1/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (left November 1914)
2/1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment (joined February 1915, left April 1915)
1/10th (Hackney) Battalion, London Regiment (joined April 1915)
1/11th (Finsbury Rifles) Battalion, London Regiment (joined April 1915)
162nd Machine Gun Company (formed 26 April 1916, joined 54th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps on 19 April 1918)
162nd Trench Mortar Battery (formed 5 May 1917)
The brigade had the following commanders in World War I:
The Territorial Force was effectively disbanded in 1919, but started to reform from 1 February 1920 as the units commenced recruiting. From 1 October 1921, it was renamed as the Territorial Army (TA). In 1920, the 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division (and the brigade) began to reform in Eastern Command with the same structure as the pre-war formation, and the brigade was reconstituted as 162nd (East Midland) Infantry Brigade. However, in the early 1920s, the 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment was transferred to 163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Infantry Brigade and replaced by the 5th (Huntingdonshire) Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, previously the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion of the Army Cyclist Corps
In 1938, a major reorganization of the Territorial Army saw infantry divisions reduced from twelve to nine battalions and so the 162nd Brigade was reduced from four to three battalions. Consequently, the 4th Northants were transferred to the Royal Engineers and converted as 50th (The Northamptonshire Regiment) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers with a searchlight role and became part of 32nd (South Midland) Anti-Aircraft Group, 2nd Anti-Aircraft Division. The 5th Northants were transferred to the 143rd (Warwickshire) Infantry Brigade of the 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division in 1938 and received the 1st Cambridgeshires as a replacement (which had transferred to 163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Infantry Brigade in the 1920s).
By 1939 it became clear that a new European war was likely to break out, and as a direct result of the German invasion of Czechoslovakia on 15 March, the doubling of the Territorial Army was authorised, with each unit and formation forming a duplicate. The 162nd Brigade formed the 55th Infantry Brigade which became part of a new 18th Infantry Division.
At the outbreak of World War II on 3 September 1939, the 162nd Infantry Brigade was part of 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division in Eastern Command. Apart from a period (5 December 1942 – 15 August 1943) when it served under London District, the brigade remained with the 54th Division until the division was disbanded in December 1943. Thereafter, the brigade formed part of the Lines of Communication for 21st Army Group and 12th L of C Area (also of 21st Army Group).
The brigade was designated as 162nd Independent Infantry Brigade from 10 November 1942 to 5 September 1943 (a period that coincided with detachment from 54th Division to London District). On 31 August 1944, the brigade headquarters was disbanded, having never left the United Kingdom throughout the war.
The brigade underwent a number of changes in organization during the war.6th Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment was the only unit to remain with the brigade throughout the war. It was placed in suspended animation in August 1944 – that is, it continued to exist but without any personnel or equipment assigned.
2nd Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment left in September 1942. It was later retrained and served as part of No. 9 Beach Group. It took part in the assault landings in Normandy, landing at Ver-sur-Mer on D Day, 6 June in support of 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division.
2nd Herts was replaced by 7th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment. This battalion remained with the brigade until disbanded in July 1944, just before the brigade was broken up.
1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment also left in September 1942 and was posted to Gibraltar. It later served with the 66th Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Italy and Palestine.
1st Herts was replaced by 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (soon renumbered as the 16th Battalion). It left the brigade in December 1942 and transferred to 222nd Infantry Brigade briefly where it was once again redesignated – this time as 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters – to replace the original battalion captured at Tobruk.
16th Foresters was in turn replaced by 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment in December 1942. It had been reformed in 222nd Infantry Brigade in May 1942 to replace the original battalion captured at the Fall of Singapore. It remained with the brigade until July 1944 when it transferred to 147th Infantry Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division.
The brigade commanded the following units in World War II:6th Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (left 20 August 1944)
1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (left 7 September 1942)
2nd Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (left 17 September 1942)
162nd Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (from 1 February 1940 to 14 July 1941)
70th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (from 8 to 27 September 1942)
16th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (from 28 September 1942 to 5 December 1942)
7th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment (from 22 September 1942 to 6 July 1944)
1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment (from 8 December 1942 to 2 July 1944)
The brigade had the following commanders in World War II:
The Territorial Army was formally disbanded at the end of World War II. TA units were reactivated on 1 January 1947, though no personnel were assigned until commanding officers and permanent staff had been appointed in March and April 1947. The brigade was reformed in 1947 as the 162nd Independent Infantry Brigade and commanded:5th Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment
1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment
5th (Huntingdonshire) Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
162nd Brigade Signals, Royal Corps of Signals
162nd Brigade, Royal Army Service Corps
162nd Brigade Workshop
On 1 May 1961, the ten existing TA divisions were merged with the districts, and the number of infantry brigades were reduced from 31 to 23. On 1 April 1961, the 5th Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment was amalgamated with the 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment to form the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment. On 1 May 1961, the 5th (Huntingdonshire) Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment amalgamated with R (The Northamptonshire Regiment) Battery, 438th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment RA (formerly 4th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment) to form 4th/5th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment.
The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Two soldiers won the award while serving with the brigade:Lance-corporal John Alexander Christie of 1/11th (Finsbury Rifles) Battalion, London Regiment on 21/22 December 1917 at Fejja, Palestine
Private Samuel Needham of 1/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment on 10/11 September 1918 at Kefr Kasim, Palestine