The Second World War

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The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment was represented by its forebears in every theatre of the Second World War. Six battalions of The Queen’s, three of The Buffs, three of The East Surreys, , five battalions of The Royal Sussex, five battalions of The Queen’s Own Royal West Kents, three battalions of The Middlesex and the 2nd Battalion of The Hampshires to France went with the British Expeditionary Force. They were hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with the German Blitzkrieg (Lightning War) when it began on the 10th May 1940. Most of them managed to return to England through Dunkirk, Le Havre, Cherbourg and St Nazaire, but four of the twenty three battalions were overwhelmed and forced to surrender. The East Surreys, Hampshires and Middlesex gained the battle honour of ‘Dunkirk’.

The Royal Sussex took a full part in the Abyssinian and Syrian campaigns against the Italians in 1941, whilst The Queen’s gained two battle honours from Tobruk. In the Far East in the same year, The 1st Middlesex put up a stout defence at Hong Kong, but like the 2nd East Surreys at Singapore, they were forced to surrender. Prior to Singapore, The 2nd East Surreys had held up two Japanese divisions for four days and their losses had forced an amalgamation with the 1st Leicesters (then known appropriately as ‘Tigers’). The combined battalion was called the British Battalion, which is still remembered on the 20th December each year, when an appropriate signal is sent by Regimental Headquarters to the Regimental Headquarters of the Royal Anglian Regiment. Many of the survivors were to die building the notorious Japanese Death Railway.

Battalions of The Buffs, Hampshires and Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment were to help with the successful defence of Malta in the period 1940-1942.

1942 was to prove a better year for the allies with victories in the desert and in Russia. The Regiment’s forebears played a full part in 1st and 8th Army operations in North Africa, five of them gaining the battle honour of El Alamein. In the 1st Army, Major Le Patourel of The Hampshires won the VC at Tebourba Gap in December 1942, when he led four volunteers against German machine-gun positions. At one point, during this action, he went forward alone with a pistol and some grenades to deal with the machine-guns at close-quarters. His most gallant conduct and self sacrifice, his brilliant leadership and tenacious devotion to duty in the face of the enemy were beyond praise. This four-day battle, fought at a critical time in the campaign, was the triumph of individual leadership and corporate discipline which the Times correspondent reported as ‘an astonishing feat of arms which inspired the 1st Army’. Forebear regiments participated in the enemy defeat in Tunisia and the subsequent invasion of Sicily in 1943. Part of the drive North through Italy included the amphibious landings at Salerno.