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1 Royal Tank Regiment
THE 1914 - 1918 WAR

A Company, Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps, the forerunner of the First, was formed under Major C M Tippetts, South Wales Borderers, at Elvesdon, Norfolk and moved under his command to France in October 1916. At the end of the year the expanded Company became 'A' Battalion. For his gallantry at Ypres in October 1917 Captain C Robertson was posthumously awarded the first Victoria Cross for the Tank Corps. In the following month the Battalion took part in the Battle of Cambrai with the other eight original Battalions of the Corps, and Captain R Wain won the Battalion's second Victoria Cross.

On 24 April 1918 the victor of the first tank versus tank engagement at Cachy was Lieutenant F Mitchell's tank No 1 of A Company. Later in the year on 8 August the Battalion took part in the Battle of Amiens in which over 600 tanks were involved and during which an advance of up to 20 miles was achieved. Unfortunately, the cost to the Battalion was high; nine out of ten tanks in 'A' Company of the Battalion were destroyed.


After the Armistice the Battalion moved to Bovington to become the 1st (Depot) Battalion which was renamed the Royal Tank Corps Depot in 1925. It was not until April 1934 that the 1st (Light) Battalion re-appeared at Perham Down as part of the 1st Tank Brigade. It was equipped with Vickers Light Tanks and had the role of reconnaissance. 18 months later it was rushed out to Egypt to reinforce the garrison at the time of the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. It returned to Perham Down after a year but in March 1938 moved again to Egypt to be part of the Mobile Division, the forerunners of the 7th Armoured Brigade.


The TRF as worn by the Royal Tank Regiment

THE 1939 - 1945 WAR

In June 1940, as part of General Wavell's plan to confuse the Italians, the First went into action in a number of small raids across the frontier in the area of Fort Capuzzo. Following the Italians' invasion of Egypt, the first, still serving in the 7th Armoured Division and equipped with A9s as well as light tanks, took part in the successful advance on Sidi Barrani and the resultant full scale attack on Tobruk, Derna and Nechile. The Regiment was also involved in the attempted break-out by the Italian Forces at Beda Fomm and this action, which lasted for 24 hours, resulted in the capture of 20,000 Italian soldiers and 112 tanks. After these actions, the First returned to Cairo to re-equip with Matildas, A10s and A13s.

In April 1941, the Regiment was part of the Tobruk Garrison during its siege by the German Afrika Corps and was the only Regiment, of armour or infantry, to remain in the garrison for the entire period. In December, the Regiment was withdrawn to Alexandria, and moved to Mena in March 1942 having been re-equipped with Grant and Stuart tanks. In June 1942, as part of the 4th Armoured Brigade, the Regiment fought in the Battle of the Cauldron, and on 10 June, whilst acting as a flank guard, suffered heavy casualties. The battles at Knightsbridge and Gazala had been lost and with them most of the British tank strength. The Regiment was withdrawn to Mersa Natruh and hurriedly re-equipped with Honey and Lee tanks, in time to take their place in the Alamein Line. Furious fighting took place along the Line and the Regiment was fully committed, again losing a great many of its tanks. On 23 October 1942, the Regiment took part in the Battle of Alamein and the resultant exploitation to the Mareth Line. In May 1943, following the capture of Sfax, the First together with the 11th Hussars and the Fifth led the 7th Armoured Division into Tunis.

The Regiment took part in the Allied landings at Salerno and was involved in a series of actions around Mount Vesuvius. Early in 1944, the Regiment returned to England to prepare for the 'Second Front'. On 7 June 1944, it landed at Arromanches and was fully committed in the battles for Verriers and Tilly in the Bocage area of Normandy. In August, the First, in particular C Squadron, was instrumental in capturing Lisieux during the Falaise Pocket engagement and, subsequently, the Regiment was in the van of the advance to the River Seine.

From October to December 1944, the Regiment, as part of the 7th Armoured Division, took part in the capture of Undenhaut, Oosterhaut and the River Meuse. It was whilst defending the line of the River Meuse that two squadrons of the Regiment dismounted and acted as infantry.

Following the defeat of the German offensive in the Ardennes, the Regiment was engaged until February 1945 in clearing the Maas-Roer triangle and was again employed in the breakout from the River Rhine bridgehead during March. Then the Regiment moved eastwards, crossed the River Weser at Nienburg and advanced to Hamburg. There was continual resistance, but advances of 40 to 50 miles in a day were common. The First halted outside Harburg, a suburb of Hamburg, but an attack on the city was not necessary as it surrendered just before the German Armies capitulated.

As worn on the right arm of ceremonial and mess dress.


POST 1945

At the end of the war, the Regiment concentrated in Gluckstadt and after a refit with Comet Tanks in Belgium returned to Schleswig before moving to Berlin to rejoin the 7th Armoured Division. In March 1946, the Regiment returned to Schleswig Holstein, and shortly afterwards moved to Hobart Barracks, Detmold where it remained for eight years. During this period it was the first regiment to be equipped with the Mark 3 Centurion and was the first to receive National Servicemen.

Left - Early petrol engined Centurion (1951 whilst based at Hobart Barracks, Detmold).
Right - More Centurions showing spare disposable fuel tank on back, later ones had an armour plated, monowheel, towed tank (as above).
Courtesy of Mr P.A. Lockett
In September 1952, the Regiment moved to Tidworth where it prepared for embarkation to Korea and sailed from Liverpool on 27 October aboard the 'Empire Halladale'. The First landed in Korea on 6 December 1952, and within 24 hours of arrival at the front had taken over in the line from the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. Because of the static nature of the war, all the tanks were dug into pits to protect their suspension and lower parts from enemy fire. Their main task was to dominate 'No Mans Land' by engaging every movement, observation post and occupied trench. The tanks also supported raids carried out by the infantry. During the six months that the Regiment was in the line, the crews fired nearly 26,000 rounds of HE. Supply was no mean feat either in the snow and sub-zero of winter or the mud of the Summer wet season. The Commonwealth division, of which the First was a part, did not yield any ground in spite of the most determined efforts by the enemy. The Regiment handed over to the 5th Royal Tank Regiment and embarked for the Canal Zone on 15 December 1953.

Left- B squadron fitters half track "Beadlebaum II". (both pictures of the same era as those above).
Right -  C squadron fitters on excercise.
Courtesy of Mr P.A. Lockett
The Regiment arrived at Shandur in the Suez Canal Zone on 5 January 1954. As part of 25 Armoured Brigade its task was to protect British interests in the Zone. After the signing of the agreement to evacuate Egypt, the First moved north to Genifa and finally embarked for England from Port Said in August 1955. Following the decision to attack Suez, the Regiment sailed in late October 1956 for the Canal Zone, but were halted at Malta when the Suez operations ended. On the Regiment's return to England early in 1957, it was posted to Hong Kong, where it was stationed at Sek Kong as part of the 48th Gurkha Infantry Brigade. Whilst serving in Hong Kong the First was the last regular regiment to be equipped with Comet tanks. In July 1960 it handed over to 17th/21st Lancers after being re-equipped with Centurions and moved to Hohne, West Germany, where it stayed until November 1965. The Regiment then sailed to the Middle East and served in Little Aden whilst 'B' Squadron became the independent tank squadron in Hong Kong. During the 12 month tour with 24 Infantry Brigade, the First was engaged in internal security operations in Little Aden and the area west and north of the Aden Protectorate up to the Yemen border. Whilst serving in this role, the Regiment was re-equipped with Saladin and Ferret armoured cars. In Hong Kong 'B' Squadron sent detachments to join units in action in Malaysia as well as being involved in IS duties during local riots and border patrols.

In January 1967, the Regiment moved to Catterick as the RAC Training Regiment and two years later was posted to Osnabruck. West Germany as an Armoured Regiment. Between January and June 1972, the Regiment provided two squadrons for employment as infantry on IS duties in Northern Ireland, and in May 1973 took over from the 16th/5th Lancers as the resident Armoured Car Regiment in Northern Ireland being stationed at Omagh. The role of the Regiment during its 18 month tour was to support the Royal Ulster constabulary in maintaining law and order in Police Division L and M.

The majority of the work entailed the patrolling of these Divisions with particular importance being attached to the border with the Irish Republic. The Regiment came under small arms fire, rocket and mortar attacks and ambushes involving Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). As a result of two IEDs, 2 soldiers, a dog handler and an Ammunition Technical Officer, attached to the Regiment were killed.

At the end of this tour in November 1974, the Regiment was posted to Tidworth with Squadrons based in Hong Kong and Cyprus. The Squadron in Cyprus was involved in duties resulting from the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus.

After returning to UK in October 1975 the First moved to Herford in April 1976 as the 1 (BR) Corps covering Force. In May 1977 the Regiment provided 2 squadrons for IS duties in Londonderry for 4 months. On the reorganisation of January 1978 the Regiment became the 2 Armoured Division Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment.

 A Sqn, 1 RTR's first "Hildesheim" Chieftain (1984)

Courtesy of Tiny Hart. 

The Regiment returned to the UK in 1982 and spent two years in Bovington. It then moved to Hildesheim in 1985 but had one squadron in Northern Ireland for six months.

After eight years in Hildesheim the First moved to Tidworth in 1993. However, on arrival they immediately amalgamated with 4 RTR who had moved to Tidworth from Osnabruck.

The newly amalgamated First set about establishing new roots and bringing many of the old 4 RTR traditions onto their books, primarily the Pipes and Drums and the Rose Tartan.

The First returned to Germany in 1996 and established themselves in Paderborn. The noteworthy event at this time was that on handing in their Chieftains to Luggershall they were recognised as the last RAC Regiment to operate on Chieftain. In Germany they were equipped with Challenger 1.

In early 1998 the Strategic Defence Review was announced, the First was nominated to form the Army element of the Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Regiment (JNBCR).

The First moved from Paderborn to RAF Honington and was operational in its new role by 31 December 1999, since their arrival in Honington they have had an independent troop permanently located in Kuwait. One sub-unit, A Squadron, was tasked to provide the armoured squadron as part of the Combined Arms Training Centre Battle Group (CATC BG) at Warminster, they are equipped with Challenger 2. The Honington element of the Regiment are equipped with the Fuchs Armoured Car and Box Bodied PBDS equipment.

1 RTR recruits from Scotland and the North West of England, giving the regiment a very distinct character, unlike any other in the Royal Armoured Corps. With the majority of their soldiers coming from Liverpool and Glasgow, football is a passion!

To reflect their Scottish links they have a Pipes and Drums. The Pipes and Drums are primarily tank soldiers who decide that they would like to try their hand at something different. This summer they were seen performing at the Edinburgh Festival and Military Tattoo. 
                                                                                                                                   © 2005 The Royal Tank Regiment. 
The Regimental march of 1 RTR is 'Lippe Detmold'. This is the march of Detmold on the River Lippe in Germany arranged by Major A W Jarvis. It commemorates the fact that the small German principality of this name could only muster one soldier at the time of the Napoleonic Wars and was adopted to commemorate the fact that 1 RTR was stationed at Hobart Barracks, Detmold from 1946 to 1952.

To view 1 RTR's official reunion website please click here