Devonshire Regiment

Devonshire Regiment

Cap badge of the Devonshire Regiment.
Active 16851958
Country  Kingdom of England (1685–1707)
 Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1958)
Branch  British Army
Type Line infantry
Role Infantry
Size 12 Regular battalions
Up to 2 Militia and Reserve battalions
Up to 5 Volunteer and Territorial battalions
Up to 19 Hostilities-only battalions
Garrison/HQ Topsham Barracks, Exeter
Nickname(s) The Bloody Eleventh
Motto(s) Semper Fidelis (Ever faithful)
Colors Lincoln green facings
March We've Lived and We've Loved Together

The Devonshire Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army which served under various titles and served in many wars and conflicts from 1685 to 1958, such as the Second Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War. In 1958 the regiment was amalgamated with the Dorset Regiment to form the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment which, in 2007, was amalgamated with the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, the Royal Green Jackets and The Light Infantry to form a new large regiment, The Rifles.

Origin and titles

Henry Somerset, Marquess of Worcester, founder of the regiment

In June, 1667, Henry Somerset, Marquess of Worcester, was granted a commission to raise a regiment of foot, The Marquess of Worcester's Regiment of Foot.[1] The regiment remained in existence for only a few months and was disbanded in the same year. It was re-raised in January 1673 and again disbanded in 1674. In 1682, Henry Somerset was created Duke of Beaufort, and in 1685 he was again commissioned to raise a regiment, The Duke of Beaufort's Regiment of Foot, or Beaufort Musketeers, to defend Bristol against the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion.[2] The regiment served under the name of its various Colonels until it was numbered as the 11th Regiment of Foot when the numerical system of regimental designation was adopted in 1751. It was given the additional county title of 11th (North Devonshire) Regiment of Foot in 1782. In 1881, under the Childers Reforms it became the Devonshire Regiment, at the same time merging with the militia and rifle volunteer units of the county of Devon.[3]


Early years

Soldier of 11th regiment, 1742

The Regiment was not required to fight at the time of its formation since the Duke of Monmouth was drawn away from Bristol. Its first action came in Ireland in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne when it fought for William III against the deposed James II. It then joined the armies of the Duke of Marlborough in Holland in the War of Spanish Succession, and also fought in the Iberian Campaign, being captured by the French at Portalegre in 1704 and part of the British army defeated at the Battle of Almansa. Back in Britain, it helped put down the Jacobite Risings of 1715, fighting the rebels at the inconclusive Battle of Sheriffmuir, and 1719, fighting at the Battle of Glen Shiel. In the War of Austrian Succession, it took part in the battles of Dettingen, Fontenoy and Rocoux. In the Seven Years' War, it fought at the battles of Warburg, Kloster Kampen, Villinghausen and Wilhelmstahl and took part in the inconclusive Iberian campaign. After the war, it garrisoned the island of Minorca.[2]

French and Napoleonic Wars

The 11th Regiment spent the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars serving as detachments in the Mediterranean with the Royal Navy. It acted as marines in the naval Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 and was part of the force that besieged Malta in 1798 and captured the island in 1800. It also took part in an abortive raid on the port of Ostend in 1798. From 1800 to 1806, it was stationed in the West Indies, returning to Europe to fight in the Peninsular War and earning its nickname, The Bloody Eleventh, at the Battle of Salamanca.[4] A 2nd Battalion was formed in 1809 and took part in the disastrous Walcheren Campaign before being disbanded in 1816.[5]

Pax Britannica

Following the defeat of Napoleon, the regiment spent most of the 19th Century on garrison duty throughout the Empire. It took part in the Tirah Campaign in 1897-1898 and the Second Boer War from 1899 to 1902. The 2nd Battalion was re-formed in 1858 and fought in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the Ashanti Wars and the Second Boer War.[6]

The Great War

In the Great War, the regiment expanded to a total of 29 battalions, which fought on the Western Front, in Italy at the battles of the Piave and Vittorio Veneto, Macedonia, Egypt and Palestine, and Mesopotamia. The 9th (Service) Battalion[7] was one of the few British units to reach its initial objectives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, albeit at the cost of 463 dead or wounded of the 775 men who went 'over the top', with only one officer remaining unwounded.[8] The 8th (Service) Battalion, part of 29th Brigade reserve, was committed within 3 hours of the beginning of the attack and suffered 639 casualties on the first day.[9]

The 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment was a Regular Army unit, joined the 8th Brigade, 3rd Division and then transferred to the 14th Brigade, 5th Division.[10]

Lewis gun section of the 8th (Service) Battalion, Devonshire Regiment resting after an attack near Fricourt, France, August 1916.

The 2nd Battalion, assigned to the 23rd Brigade, 8th Division,[10] was awarded the French Croix de guerre for its gallant defence of Bois des Buttes on 27 May 1918, the first day of the Third Battle of the Aisne.[11]

Second World War

The 1st Battalion was serving in British India when the Second World War broke out, and spent the entire war in India, Ceylon and Burma.[12] In 1942 the battalion joined the 80th Indian Infantry Brigade, attached to the 20th Indian Infantry Division and served with them until 1945 when the battalion was transferred to the British 26th Infantry Brigade. The brigade was part of the British 36th Infantry Division.[13]

The 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment was a Regular Army unit that was serving on the island of Malta as part of the 1st Malta Infantry Brigade (redesignated as the 231st Infantry Brigade in April 1943) and was involved in the siege of Malta from June 1940 until November 1942. In July 1943 the battalion, together with the 231st Brigade, fought in the Allied invasion of Sicily, and, briefly, in the Allied invasion of Italy in September. After Italy the brigade was withdrawn to Sicily and then the United Kingdom where it became permanently part of the veteran 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and trained with them in preparation for the Allied invasion of Normandy. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, it was intended that the battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Cosmo Nevill, should land at Le Hamel, on Gold Beach, behind the 1st Hampshires. However, owing to adverse sea conditions and an unexpectedly high tidal surge, three of the four rifle companies were carried over a mile to the east before they could make landfall and had to make their way to their assigned assembly point on foot.[14] Of the four company commanders, two were wounded and one was killed.[15] The battalion continued to fight well throughout the Battle of Normandy and the liberation of North-West Europe. However, in December 1944, the 50th Division was disbanded, due to a severe shortage of infantrymen in the British Army at the time, and the battalion was transferred to the 131st (Lorried) Infantry Brigade, part of the 7th Armoured Division, The Desert Rats, and remained with them for the rest of the war, participating in Operation Blackcock in January 1945 followed by Operation Plunder where they crossed the River Rhine. The division advanced on its destination of the city of Hamburg, Germany, as part of the Western Allied invasion of Germany, taking part in the Battle of Hamburg in late April 1945.[16]

The Devonshire Regiment raised the 8th and 9th Territorial Army battalions, in addition to the 4th, 5th and 6th, all of which (except the 5th, which was converted pre-war into 86th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery) were serving in the 45th (Wessex) Infantry Division on the outbreak of war. However, none of these units, save the 4th Battalion, saw active service outside of the United Kingdom and were used mainly for home defence, training or supplying the other battalions of the regiment with infantry replacements and served with many different brigades and divisions such as the 80th Infantry (Reserve) Division. The 4th Battalion was sent, in May 1940, to Gibraltar to join the 2nd Gibraltar Brigade[17] and returned to the United Kingdom on 28 December 1943 and eventually joined the 164th Brigade, 55th (West Lancashire) Division before finally ending the war in the 183rd Infantry Brigade, 61st Infantry Division. The 6th Battalion was transferred to the 141st Brigade, 47th Division.[18]

The 50th (Holding) Battalion was raised in 1940 and renumbered the 12th Battalion the same year and spent most of its time on home defence anticipating a German invasion. In June 1943, due to the huge expansion of the British Army's airborne forces, the battalion was transferred to the 6th Airlanding Brigade, part of the 6th Airborne Division, and were converted into Glider infantry, trained to enter battle by glider. The battalion landed in Normandy in the late afternoon of 6 June 1944 in Operation Mallard. The battalion also fought in the Battle of Breville, and served throughout the Battle of Normandy but as normal infantrymen. The battalion remained in Normandy until August 1944 where it participated in the breakout from the beachhead. The battalion, along the rest of 6th Airborne, was withdrawn to England in early September where they received new replacements, equipment and continued training. In December 1944 they fought briefly in the Battle of the Bulge but the outcome was already decided before the division arrived. The battalion crossed the River Rhine in Operation Varsity in March 1945 alongside the U.S. 17th Airborne Division. The battalion ended the war by the River Elbe.[19] Throughout its time in 6th Airlanding Brigade, the battalion was allegedly nicknamed the Swedebashers by the men in the other battalions (1st RUR and 2nd OBLI), due to the battalion being commanded by a regular army officer but nearly all the officers and men of the 12th Devons had enlisted for hostilities-only.[20]

Post-war and amalgamation

The 2nd Battalion was disbanded at Topsham Barracks in Exeter in 1948. The remaining battalion was in Malaya from 1948 to 1951 at the time of the Malayan Emergency and in Kenya from 1953 to 1955, during the Mau Mau Uprising.[21] In 1958, the regiment was amalgamated with the Dorset Regiment to form the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment.[22]

Battle honours

The regiment was awarded the following battle honours:[23]


Colonels of the Regiment were:[1]

The 11th Regiment of Foot

The 11th (North Devonshire) Regiment

Devonshire Regiment

Victoria Crosses

The following members of the Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross:

  1. ^ "Devonshire Cemetery, Somme Battlefields, France". Great War. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Devonshire Regiment.


  1. 1 2 "The Devonshire Regiment at the archive of". Archived from the original on January 13, 2008. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  2. 1 2 "Early Days of the Regiments". The Keep Military Museum. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 24992. pp. 3300–3301. 1 July 1881.
  4. "The Devonshire Regiment". Devon Heritage. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  5. "The 11th Regiment of Foot in the Napoleonic War - the 2nd Battalion by Sir David Pepper KCMG". The Keep Military Museum. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  6. "The Boer War". The Keep Military Museum. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  7. The Service designation indicates that this was a battalion of Kitchener's New Army.
  8. "The Devons in World War One". Devon Remembers. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  9. "The 8th and 9th (Service) Battalions The Devonshire Regiment in World War One". The Keep Military Museum. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  10. 1 2 "Devonshire Regiment". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  11. "The Battle of Bois des Buttes". The Keep Military Museum. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  12. "The 1st Battalion The Devonshire Regiment in World War Two". The Keep Military Museum. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  13. "26 Infantry Brigade". Orders of Battle. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  14. "The Devons on D-Day". Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  15. Patrick Elie - Normandie - France. "50th Infantry Division - Order of battle". Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  16. "The 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment in World War Two". The Keep Military Museum. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  17. "The 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 30th Battalions The Devonshire Regiment in World War Two". The Keep Military Museum. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  18. "47th (London) Infantry Division" (PDF). British Military History. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  19. "The 12th and 50th Battalions The Devonshire Regiment in World War Two". The Keep Military Museum. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  20. "D-Day Memories: 12th Devons". BBC. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  21. "Memorial to the Devonshire Regiment men who died in the Kenyan and Malayan emergencies". Devon Heritage. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  22. Merged regiments and new brigading — many famous units to lose separate identity. The Times, 25 July 1957.
  23. "Battle Honours awarded to the Devonshire Regiment after the Great War". Devon Heritage. Retrieved 27 December 2015.

External links

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