Regiments and Corps

The East Surrey Regiment

1st Battalion The East Surrey Regiment advancing on the Sangro front, Italy, 1943

Origins

This unit was formed in 1881 by merging the 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot and the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot, thereby creating a county regiment for East Surrey. The old regiments were designated the new unit’s 1st and 2nd Battalions respectively. Six militia and volunteer battalions were added.

During the unit's first three decades, the two regular battalions were stationed around the British Empire, garrisoning places such as India and Ireland. 2nd Battalion also fought in the Sudan in 1884 and in the Boer War (1899-1902), taking part in several engagements including Colenso (1899), Ladysmith (1899) and Tugela Heights (1900).

Other ranks' cap badge, The East Surrey Regiment, c1914

Corporal Albert Curtis VC, 2nd Battalion The East Surrey Regiment, 1902

Corporal Albert Curtis VC, 2nd East Surrey Regiment, 1902

Discharge badge awarded to Private E Gibbs, 9th East Surrey Regiment, 1918

Discharge badge of Private E Gibbs, 9th East Surrey Regiment, 1918

First World War

During the First World War (1914-18), 1st Battalion served on the Western Front. It fought in the battles of Mons (1914), the Aisne (1914), the Somme (1916), Arras (1917) and Third Ypres (1917), before moving to Italy for four months in 1917. It then returned to the Western Front and took part in the Allied advances of 1918. 

2nd Battalion served in India until 1915, when it deployed to France. It took part in the Battle of Loos (1915), before moving to Salonika for the remainder of the conflict.

The regiment also raised 17 Reserve, Territorial and New Army battalions.  These served at home stations, on the Western Front, in Egypt, Mesopotamia and India. Captain RC Sherriff, a winner of the Military Cross, based his 1928 play ‘Journey’s End’ on his experiences of the Western Front with the 9th Battalion.

The regiment won 62 battle honours and seven Victoria Crosses during the conflict.

After the war, the two regular battalions undertook garrison duties in Britain, Ireland, Palestine, Gibraltar, Egypt, Shanghai, Hong Kong, India and Sudan.

1st Battalion The East Surreys moving up during the attack on Recce Ridge, Tunisia, 1943

Second World War

During the Second World War (1939-45), the regiment deployed nine Reserve, Territorial and hostilities-only battalions, as well as its two regular battalions.

1st Battalion and the Territorial 1/6th and 2/6th Battalions served with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium. While the 1st and 1/6th Battalions were evacuated from Dunkirk (1940), the 2/6th was captured. 1st Battalion went on to fight in North Africa (1943), Sicily and Italy (1943-44), and Greece (1945).

2nd Battalion fought in Malaya from 1941. But it suffered such heavy casualties at Singapore that it had to merge with the 1st Leicestershire Regiment to form ‘the British Battalion’ in December 1941.

A new 2nd Battalion was formed in May 1942 by renaming the regiment’s 11th Battalion. This remained in Britain until a brief posting to Palestine in 1946.

Clearing mud from the forward positions of the 1st East Surrey Regiment on the Rapido River, Italy, 1944

Clearing mud from the 1st East Surrey Regiment's position on the Rapido River, Italy, 1944

Post-war

Like all the other line infantry regiments of the British Army, The East Surrey Regiment was reduced to a single battalion in 1948, with 1st Battalion absorbing the personnel from the disbanded 2nd Battalion.

Until 1949, the regiment was deployed in Greece, which was in a state of civil war at the time. Aside from a few brief home postings, it remained abroad for the rest of its existence, in British Somaliland (1949), Libya and Egypt (1951), West Germany (1955-56) and Cyprus (1958). 

Legacy

In October 1959, it was amalgamated with The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) to create The Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment.

The Surrey Infantry Museum

The National Army Museum works together with Regimental and Corps Museums across the country to help provide a network of military museums for everyone to visit and enjoy.

Explore the history and collections of the East Surrey Regiment by visiting the regimental museum at Surrey History Centre in Woking.

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