|126th (East Lancashire) Brigade|
|Part of||42nd (East Lancashire) Division|
Battle of Romani
Battle of Passchendaele
Battles of the Somme (1918)
Hundred Days Offensive (1918)
Brigadier-General Viscount Hampden|
Brigadier Lionel Bootle-Wilbraham
The 126th (East Lancashire) Brigade was a formation of the British Army during World War I and World War II. It was assigned to the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division and served in the Middle East and on the Western Front in WWI. In WWII it was at Dunkirk and was then converted into an armoured brigade.
On the creation of the Territorial Force in 1908, two battalions from the East Lancashire Regiment and two from the Manchester Regiment were organised into an East Lancashire Brigade within the East Lancashire Division.
World War I
On the outbreak of World War I, the men volunteered for overseas service and the division embarked at Southampton and sailed for Egypt on 10 September 1914, the first TF division to leave England for foreign service. The division began disembarking at Alexandria on 25 September and the bulk (including the E. Lancs Brigade) concentrated at Cairo.
Order of battle
- 4th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (from Blackburn)
- 5th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (from Burnley)
- 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (from Ashton-under-Lyne)
- 10th Battalion Manchester Regiment (from Oldham)
- 126th Brigade Machine Gun Company (formed 14 March 1916)
- 126th Trench Mortar Battery (joined 26 March 1917)
The following officers commanded The East Lancashire Brigade during World War I:
- Brigadier-General D.G. Prendergast
- Brigadier-General Viscount Hampden (from 13 July 1915)
- Brigadier-General A.W. Tufnell (from 1 January 1916)
- Brigadier-General A.C. Johnston (from 14 September 1917; wounded 16 September)
- Brigadier-General W.W. Seymour (from 19 September 1917)
- Brigadier-General G.H. Wedgwood (from 25 May 1918)
- Brigadier-General T.H.S. Marchant (from 5 September 1918)
Egypt and Gallipoli
The East Lancashire Division remained in Egypt training and manning the Suez Canal defences until 1 May 1915 when it embarked at Alexandria for Gallipoli. The East Lancashire Brigade first went into action at the Third Battle of Krithia
In late May 1915 the division was numbered as 42nd (1st East Lancashire) Division – taking the lowest number of any TF division in recognition that it was the first to go overseas – and the brigades were also numbered, the East Lancashire becoming 126th (1st East Lancashire) Brigade. The battalions adopted the prefix '1/' (becoming 1/4th East Lancs, for example) to distinguish them from their 2nd Line duplicates then training in the UK as the 198th (2/1st East Lancashire) Brigade in 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division.
The 126th Brigade participated in the Battle of Krithia Vineyard (6–13 August), where Lt William Forshaw of 1/9th Manchesters won a Victoria Cross, and then for the rest of 1915 was engaged in trench warfare. After the evacuation from Gallipoli, the division returned to Egypt in January 1916 with less than half the strength with which it had set out. It remained in the Canal Defences for the whole of 1916, rebuilding its strength, and taking part in the Battle of Romani (4–5 August).
In January 1917, 42nd Division was ordered to France, the move being completed by mid-March. It spent the remainder of the war on the Western Front. During 1917 it formed part of Fourth Army in 'quiet sectors' (though the brigade commander was wounded in September that year) and taking part in some minor operations along the Flanders coast.
In 1918 the division became part of IV Corps in Third Army, in which it remained for the rest of the war. When British infantry brigades were reduced to three battalions in February 1918, 1/4th East Lancs and 1/9th Manchesters transferred to the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division where they merged with their 2nd line battalions. 126th Brigade received 1/8th Manchesters from 127th Brigade in 42nd Division. At the same time, the machine gun company left to join a new divisional machine gun battalion.
During the German Spring Offensive (Operation Michael or the First Battles of the Somme 1918), the troops of 42nd Division took part in the Battle of Bapaume (24–25 March), First Battle of Arras (28 March) and the Battle of Ancre (5 April). Then, during the Allied Hundred Days Offensive, it participated in the Battle of Albert (21–23 August) and the Second Battle of Bapaume (31 August–3 September) during the fighting on the Somme.
When the Hindenburg Line was breached during the Battle of the Canal du Nord on 27 September, 126th Brigade was holding the forward outpost line, but withdrew before Zero Hour for the rest of 42nd Division to attack through it. 125th Brigade's attack was only partially successful, but the advance was renewed after dark, and the following afternoon 126th Brigade passed through 127th to take Welsh ridge, the final objective.
Third Army's advance in Picardy culminated in the Battle of the Selle on 20 October. On 42nd Division's front, 1/5th East Lancashires (with its band playing) and 1/10th Manchesters of 126th Brigade led the attack over footbridges laid by the engineers over the River Selle. The Official History records that 'Very fierce fighting took place on the strongly held railway line, and it was two and a half hours before it was finally mopped up by the companies detailed for the purpose. The portion to the north of the attack up to the edge of Solesmes was dealt with by a company of the Manchester'. The rest of the division then moved on towards the final objective.
After the Selle, 42nd Division was withdrawn into reserve and halted around Beauvois-en-Cambrésis from 24 October until the advance was resumed on 3 November. On 7 November the 42nd Division was tasked to take the high ground west of Hautmont and if possible to capture the town. The division was held up by enfilade fire from the right, and 126th Brigade did no more than occupy some of the high ground. 125th Brigade was therefore ordered to pass through it the next morning and advance to the objective. But the 126th, 'in an endeavour to atone for its slowness on the 7th', pushed on and reached Hautmont before 125th could catch up.
By 10 November the most forward troops were on the Maubeuge–Avesnes-sur-Helpe road. This was the end of the fighting, because the Armistice with Germany came into the effect the following day. In December the division moved into quarters in the Charleroi area and by mid-March 1919 most of its troops had gone home for demobilisation.
World War II
The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division and its components were reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920. On the outbreak of World War II 126th Infantry Brigade once again mobilised as a 1st Line formation. However, 4th Bn Border Regiment was quickly posted away, and the brigade received the Regular 1st Bn East Lancashires in its place.
Order of Battle
126 Brigade was constituted as follows during World War II:
- 5th Battalion King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster)
- 4th Battalion Border Regiment (until 29 October 1939)
- 5th Battalion Border Regiment
- 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (joined 10 November 1939; to 127 Bde 8 September 1941)
- 126th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (formed 20 January 1940, disbanded 21 January 1941)
- 5th Battalion Manchester Regiment (from 127 Bde 8 September 1941)
The following officers commanded 126 Brigade during World War II:
- Brigadier G. Darwell
- Brigadier E.G. Miles (from 15 January 1940)
- Brigadier Lionel Bootle-Wilbraham (from 20 September 1940)
- Brigadier H.L. Birks (from 22 September 1941)
126 Brigade landed in France on 15 April 1940. During the Battle of France the division helped to hold the line of the River Escaut and the canals, until the British Expeditionary Force was forced to withdraw. When 42nd Division was evacuated from Dunkirk, 126 Bde remained behind, transferring to 1st Division for the final part of the battle and only being evacuated on 2 June. Back in England it rejoined 42nd Division.
On 1 November 1941, 42nd Division was converted into 42nd Armoured Division, and 126 Bde was renamed 11th Armoured Brigade. Its infantry battalions became tank battalions of the Royal Armoured Corps as 107th Regiment RAC (King's Own), 110th Regiment RAC (Border Regiment) and 111th Regiment RAC (Manchester Regiment).
- Becke, pp. 35–41.
- Edmonds, pp. 44–8.
- Edmonds, pp. 338–9.
- Edmonds, p. 510.
- Joslen, p. 311.
- Lord Gort's despatch, London Gazette, Supplement 10 October 1941 http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/35305/supplements/5899
- Joslen, pp. 165, 311.
- Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2a: the Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territoral Force Divisions (42–56), London: HM Stationery Office, 1935/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-84734-739-8.
- Brig-Gen Sir James Edmonds, History of the Great War: Military Operations, France and Belgium 1918, Vol V, 26th September–11th November, The Advance to Victory, London: HM Stationery Office, 1947/Imperial War Museum and Battery Press, 1993, ISBN 1-87023-06-2 .
- Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military, 2003, ISBN 1-84342-474-6.
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