1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - 1943

The First Battalion is Reborn

During 1942, the 1st Battalion had been involved in heavy fighting in North Africa and, after the fall of Tobruk, on 21st June 1942 most of the Battalion was captured and imprisoned in a POW cage, which housed some 30,000 men. However, a small number of men evaded capture and it was from these that a small cadre was selected, including Captain Richard Dray MC to return to England.

Lieut.-Col. W. R. ‘Willie’ Cox (later Brigadier) commanding the 11th Battalion had great influence at the war office, and arranged for the 1st Battalion to be reformed around the established and well-trained structure of the 11th Battalion.

On the 1st January 1943 at Pinner near Harrow the 1st Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment was reborn when the small cadre of two officers and ten men from the original battalion marched into the centre of the men of the 11th Battalion carrying their Colours. The 11th Battalion was now disbanded and so became the new 1st Battalion. The 11th had previously moved to Harrow a month earlier on the 5th December 1942 and already had their headquarters in the town.

This was a very emotional day and a Special Order was read out by the Colonel of the Regiment, Brigadier-General G. W. Saint G. Grogan VC, who then inspected the whole Battalion. The parade that followed was commanded by Lieut.-Col. Cox and the whole ceremony was skilfully choreographed by Regimental Sergeant Major J. Hurd MM. The final march-past was led by Brigadier-General Grogan and the salute was taken by Field Marshall Sir Claud Jacob (previously the Colonel of the Regiment). Lieut.-Gen. A. Smith, who was commanding the London District, was heard afterwards congratulating Lieut.-Col. ‘Willie’ Cox. He said "I have never seen a wartime Battalion with better drill than yours!".

On the 5th January 1943, the 1st Battalion Colours were once again laid to rest in Worcester Cathedral where they would remain for the next 3 years.

The Battalion remained at Harrow for the next 6 months where they trained and received their equipment. At this time they were part of the 33rd Guards Independent Brigade Group.

Brigadier-General Grogan VC with Major John Tomkinson
inspecting the reborn the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regt.
(1st January 1943 at Pinner near Harrow)

At the end of July 1943 the Battalion moved to Wanstead and at the same time transferred to the 214 Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier H. Essame, affectionately known to his men as "Twinkle Toes", which itself had just become part of the 43rd (Wessex) Division.

In September 1943 it was with great regret that commanding officer, Lieut.-Col. Cox left to take up an appointment at the War Office as a General Staff Officer. He later became General Officer Commanding, lines of communications troops for 21st Army Group – then a Major-General.

Lieut.-Col. R. B. Moss MBE arrived to take command and at the same time the Battalion left Wanstead and moved to Maresfield Camp in Sussex where they were housed in Nissen huts. However, this type of accommodation was not much appreciated by the troops.
In mid November 1943 the Battalion moved again, but this time, to Belisha built barracks at Hythe, Kent on the South Coast, where training continued in earnest. At the end of November Lieut.-Col. Moss relinquished command of the Battalion and temporarily charge was taken by Major George Taylor (later Lieut.-Col. of the 5th DCLI). At the beginning of January 1944 an new commanding officer arrived, Lieut.-Col. A. R. Harrison.

Officers of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Harrow School on 1st January 1943
(photo from Louis Scully collection)

Back row standing L to R: 2/Lieut. Freddy Coulcher, Lieut. Noel Watkins, Lieut. Wally Leadbeater, Capt. Burnett, Lieut. Jock Bannister,Lieut.
Teddy Tinkler, Lieut. (QM) Arthur 'Yampo' Yeates.
Middle row standing L to R: Lieut. Victor Jones, Lieut. Mick Radcliffe, Lieut. R. 'Dicky' Dingley, Lieut. Harry Matthews, Lieut. Ronny Whatley,
Lieut. Peter Hall, Lieut. D. Y. 'Doc' Watson, Capt. Ian Caldwell RAMC.
Front row seated L to R: Capt. Bob Durrant, Capt. Ted Whittaker, Capt. Richard Dray MC, Major Dick Tweed, Lieut.-Col. W. R. Cox,
Brig.-Gen. G. W. St. G. Grogan VC, Major Nugent Chichester, Major John Tomkinson, Capt. Johnny Gutch, Capt. Peter Roose, Capt. Harry Ewens,
Capt. David Smith