Entrenching battalions were temporary units formed in the British Army during the First World War. Allocated at Corps level, they were used as pools of men, from which drafts of replacements could be drawn by conventional infantry battalions.
The practice ceased on the Western Front by autumn 1917, due to manpower shortages, but saw a revival at the start of 1918. The reduction in the number of battalions in an infantry brigade (from four to three) resulted in many (under-manned) infantry battalions being disbanded. Following the disbandment of these infantry battalions in February 1918, the pool of men was used to bring the remaining battalions up to strength, and to allocate any remaining manpower surplus to twenty five entrenching battalions. These battalions were put to use in improving the existing defences in anticipation of a German offensive, and could be used as a reserve force if needed.
The Entrenching Battalions were disbanded in April 1918, with their troops apportioned to infantry battalions to make good the losses suffered following Operation Michael, the German spring offensive of 1918. Many of their war diaries from 1918 have survived and can be consulted at the National Archives at Kew though the 1918 war diaries for the 1st, 6th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 15th and 17th Entrenching Battalions have not survived.
In addition to the entrenching battalions of the British Army, there were also entrenching battalions in both the Canadian Expeditionary Force and the Australian Imperial Force (the 1st Anzac Entrenching Battalion). In addition, the New Zealand (Māori) Pioneer Battalion served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
1st Entrenching Battalion
The Battalion appears to have been stationed in Salonika in 1918.
2nd Entrenching Battalion
The Battalion appears to have been stationed in Salonika in 1918. The unit was commanded by Hubert Carr-Gomm.
3rd Entrenching Battalion
Formed from a number of battalion elements.
4th Entrenching Battalion
Formed primarily from the disbanded 13th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, and a small number of former members of 14th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (aka 2nd Barnsley Pals), although many of the 2nd Barnsley Pals were to join the 1st Barnsley Pals.
5th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 13th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, 8th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, 9th Battalion Suffolk Regiment and 8th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
6th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 11th Battalion Kings Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment.
7th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the Nelson Battalion, Royal Naval Division and 8th (Service) Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment.
8th Entrenching Battalion
Refer to article on 1914-1918.net for further details; see "External Links" below.
9th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 3rd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment.
10th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the disbanded 8th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment and 12th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. Disbanded on 5 April 1918. These men subsequently joined the 7th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment and 10th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment.
11th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the Household Battalion, a battalion raised from the Household Cavalry.
12th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from elements of the 23rd Battalion Manchester Regiment. The Officer Commanding was Lieutenant Colonel L M Stevens DSO.
13th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 10th (Service) Battalion, The Gloucestershire Battalion.
14th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 7th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
15th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 8th Battalion, East Lancaster Regiment.
16th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from half of the disbanded 6th Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
17th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from elements of the 18th Battalion Manchester Regiment The battalion was with the 49th Infantry Division during the Spring Offensive.
18th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 12th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment.
19th Entrenching Battalion
20th Entrenching Battalion
21st Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 10th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.
22nd Entrenching Battalion
23rd Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 14th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
24th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 2/5th (TF) Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the 2/4th & 2/6th (TF) Battalions Gloucestershire Regiment.
25th Entrenching Battalion
Formed from the 2/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion and the 2/8th (TF) Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. These men subsequently joined the 2/4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when the battalion was disbanded in April 1918.