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Regimental History - 20th Century

Second World War 1939-1945

8th Battalion, King's Own Royal Regiment, Lancaster

The 8th Battalion was one of four newly formed battalions of the King's Own in February 1940. In April 1940 they joined the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium with the aim of assisting in the construction of defensive works. Following the German invasion on 10th May 1940 the 8th Battalion made their way back to Dunkirk and were evacuated to the UK. On their return they were employed on anti-invasion duties in the South West of England and in October 1940 part of the battalion was sent to the Scilly Isles. In July 1941 the battalion had moved to Scotland, from where they set sail for Malta. En route, on 23rd July 1941, HMS Manchester, carrying the majority of the Battalion, was torpedoed and had to limp back to Gibraltar. The Battalion finally arrived in Malta on board other ships on 2nd August, and remained on the island until November 1943. The battalion's main role being to provide the defence for the various airfields, however they were also required to assist with the unloading of the supplies ships which made it to Malta. Battalion Headquarters was based at Ta Salvatur. In November 1943 the Battalion left Malta and moved to Palestine and absorbed the remaining handful of men of the 1st Battalion King's Own who had suffered heavily when the Germans had attacked the Greek Island of Leros. In January 1944 the 8th Battalion re-titled as the 1st Battalion with the permission of the Colonel of the Regiment - and they joined the 10th Indian Division in Italy for the remainder of the war.

February 1940 - 8th Battalion Formed.

26th April 1940 - 8th Battalion arrives in France and moves to Hersin Coupigny area.

15th May 1940 - Attacked by aircraft, no casualties and defensive withdrawal begins.

25th May 1940 - order given that the British Expeditionary Force to be evacuated through Dunkirk.  8th Battalion ordered to move back to Kemmel, Zillebeke, Passchendaele and Poperinghe.

27th May 1940 - moves to Beveren.

28th May 1940 - withdrawn from Lille.  A platoon had been guarding the telephone exchange, but when that was destroyed they were ordered to make for the coast.  Captain J H Everett and men of 'C' Company held at bridgehead at Moeres near Bray-Dunes.  Forty men will killed or wounded by a large flight of Junkers which attacked them.  There was no transport so it was difficult to get treatment for the wounded.  17 men are recorded as having been killed, and buried in a common grave.  The near by Adinkerke Military Cemetery, Belgium contains the graves of 17 men who died on that day.

29th/30th May 1940 - withdrawn from Dunkirk.

31st May 1940 - Arrive at Ramsgate.  Moved to a coastal defence role in the South West of England.

1st August 1940 - The battalion moves to Bournemouth to take over beach defences from the 4th Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.

3rd August 1940 - The battalion takes over all coastal defence positions in the Bournemouth area.

9th August 1940 - The battalion is visited by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester.

7th September 1940 - The signal 'Cromwell' is received, which meant that there was a German invasion was imminent.  The battalion had to stand to until 19th September as the alert continued.

21st September 1940 - The signal 'Cromwell' is received again, this time only until 24th September.

13th October 1940 - half of the 8th Battalion is moved to the Scilly Isles.

February 1941 - Battalion moves to Portsmouth.

11th July 1941 - 8th Battalion depart the port of Glasgow for Malta via Gibraltar.

20th July 1941 - arrive at Gibraltar.

21st July 1941 - depart Gibraltar on HMS Manchester and HMS Arethusa. 

27th July 1941 - HMS Manchester returns to Gibraltar after being attacked en route to Malta.

2nd August 1941 - 8th Battalion eventually land at Malta.


30th January 1944 8th and 1st Battalions Merge

The 8th Battalion had arrived in Palestine after leaving Malta. After the disaster at Leros only about 58 members of the 1st Battalion King's Own made their way back to Palestine. It was decided that they would joined with the 8th Battalion. It was decided to merge the 1st Battalion with the 8th - and reform a new 1st Battalion. This took place, with the permission of the Colonel of the Regiment - on 30th January 1944. The new battalion remained part of the 25th Infantry Brigade of the 10th Indian Division.

Find out more:

bullet1st Battalion, King's Own Royal Regiment in Italy
bulletMontone, July 1944
The King's Own The Story of a Royal Regiment Volume 3 1914-1959 by Colonel Julia Cowper - the best history of the King's Own in the Second World War.  On a CD-rom, viewable through a computer with Internet Explorer or similar.  Price including UK postage 12.75

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