THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY

THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY

 The First World War took a terrible toll on the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) with more than 12,500 dead [1] and thousands wounded.  The Regiment was such a part of county life that there was hardly a family that hadn’t suffered.  This section will briefly look at the Regular Army Battalions, the Territorials and Service Battalions, their casualties and some DLI memorials.

The Regular Army Battalions [2]

 1st Battalion: remained in India throughout the war.

2nd Battalion: 10 September 1914 landed at St. Nazare and came under the orders of the 18th Brigade 6th Division.

3rd (Reserve) Division: remained at South Shields as part of the Tyne Garrison throughout the war.

4th (Extra Reserve) Division: remained at Seaham Harbour as part of the Tyne Garrison throughout the war.

The Territorials [3]

In April 1908 the re-organisation of the British Army saw the volunteers reorganised on the lines of the regular army, in brigades and divisions with staffs of regular officers, complete with all their ancillary services.  Under the new scheme the counties of Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire supplied 2 divisions, the Northumbrian and West Riding, to the former of which all the Durham Territorial Battalions were assigned.  The new Durham battalion designations were as follows:

  • 5th Battalion with HQ at Stockton.
  • 6th Battalion with HQ at Bishop Auckland
  • 7th Battalion with HQ at Sunderland.
  • 8th Battalion with HQ at Durham.
  • 9th Battalion with HQ at Gateshead.

The men from south west and west Durham from towns such as Bishop Auckland, Barnard Castle, Spennymoor, Crook, Stanhope and areas such as Weardale, Teesdale and the Gaunless Valley tended to joint their local Territorial Force, the 6th Battalion.

A Division was in effect a self-contained army of approximately 18,000 men including infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineer, medical, supply and signal units. The Northumbrian Division was typical, consisting of three infantry brigades, the Northumberland, the York and Durham and the Durham Light Infantry Brigades. Each brigade was composed of four infantry battalions.

The Durham battalions were brigaded in the Northumbrian Division in the following manner:

  • Northumberland Brigade: 4th 5th 6th & 7th Northumberland Fusiliers
  • York & Durham Brigade: 4th East Yorkshire Regiment, 4th & 5th Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) and 5th DLI
  • Durham Brigade: 6th 7th 8th & 9th DLI

The Northumbrian Division moved to France in April 1915.  In May 1915, the Division was numbered as the 50th and the Brigades received the following numbers:

  • 149th Northumberland Brigade
  • 150th York and Durham Brigade
  • 151st Durham Brigade [4]

The 50th Division served on the Western Front for the rest of the war. In 1915 it took part in the Second Battle of Ypres and in 1916 the Battle of the Somme.   In 1917 it took part in the Battle of Arras and the Third Battle of Ypres. As a result of the losses suffered in the German Spring of 1918 (First Battle of the Somme and Battle of the Lys), the division had to be comprehensively reorganized.  The assigned infantry battalions were reduced to cadre on 15 July 1918 and left the Division. Thereafter, it took part in the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and the Final Advance in Picardy, 1918.  [5]      

Between 4 August 1914 and 15 July 1918, 1/6 DLI came under the orders of 151st Brigade 50th Division and between 16 August 1918 and 6 November 1918 it came under the orders of 117th Brigade 39th Division.[6]

The Service Battalions [7]

10th (Service) Battalion
Formed at Newcastle on 22 August 1914 as part of K1 and came under orders of 43rd Brigade in 14th (Light) Division.
21 May 1915: landed at Boulogne.
12 February 1918: disbanded in France.

11th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers)
Formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K2 and came under orders of 60th Brigade in 20th (Light) Division.
6 January 1915: converted into a Pioneer Battalion in same Division.
20 July 1915: landed at Boulogne.

12th (Service) Battalion
Formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3 and came under orders of 68th Brigade in 23rd Division.
26 August 1915: landed at Boulogne.
November 1917: moved with Division to Italy.

13th (Service) Battalion
Formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3 and came under orders of 68th Brigade in 23rd Division. Record same as 12th Bn.
14 September 1918 : left 23rd Division and returned to France, joining 74th Brigade in 25th Division at St Riquier on 19 September 1918.

14th (Service) Battalion
Formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3 and came under orders of 64th Brigade in 21st Division.
11 September 1915: landed at Boulogne.
28 November 1915: transferred to 18th Brigade in 6th Division.

15th (Service) Battalion
Formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3 and came under orders of 64th Brigade in 21st Division.
11 September 1915: landed at Boulogne.

16th (Reserve) Battalion
Formed in Durham in October 1914 as a K4 Service Battalion and came under orders of 89th Brigade in original 30th Division.
1 September 1916: converted into 1st Training Reserve Battalion of 1st Reserve Brigade at Rugeley.

17th (Reserve) Battalion
Formed in Barnard Castle in September 1914 as a K4 Service Battalion and came under orders of 89th Brigade in original 30th Division. Record same as 16th Bn.
1 September 1916: converted into 2nd Training Reserve Battalion of 1st Reserve Brigade at Rugeley.
Later became the 53rd (Young Soldier) Battalion (see below).

18th (Service) Battalion (1st County)
This and other battalions (below) often known by the name of the Durham Pals.
May 1915: came under orders of 93rd Brigade in 31st Division.
6 December 1915: sailed from Liverpool for Egypt, arriving Port Said on 21 December.

11 March 1916: went on to France

19th (Service) Battalion (2nd County)
Formed in Durham on 13 January 1915 by the Durham Parliamentary Recruiting Committee as a Bantam Battalion. .
June 1915: came under orders of 106th Brigade in 35th Division.
1 February 1916: landed at Le Havre.
January 1917: ceased to be a Bantam Battalion.
8 February 1918: transferred to 104th Brigade in same Division.

20th (Service) Battalion (Wearside)
Formed in Sunderland on 10 July 1915 by the Mayor and a committee. .
January: came under orders of 123rd Brigade in 41st Division.
5 May 1916: landed at Le Havre.
November 1917: moved with the Division to Italy but returned to France in March 1918.

21st (Reserve) Battalion
Formed at Cocken hall in July 1915 from depot companies of 18th and 20th Bns.
1 September 1916: converted into 87th Training Reserve Battalion in 20th Reserve Brigade at Hornsea.

22nd (Service) Battalion (3rd County Pioneers)
Formed at West Hartlepool on 1 October 1915 by the Durham Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. 17 June 1916: landed at Le Havre and then attached to 19th (Western) Division
2 July 1916: transferred to 8th Division and became Pioneer Battalion
3 July 1918: absorbed by 1/7th Bn.

23rd (Reserve) Battalion
Formed at Catterick in October 1915 from depot companies of 19th Bn.
1 September 1916: absorbed into Training Reserve Battalions in 20th Reserve Brigade at Hornsea.

No 24th Battalion was formed.

Other Battalions: [8]

5th (Works) Battalion
Formed at Pocklington in May 1916 and remained in England throughout the war.

28th (Home Service) Battalion
Formed at Frinton on 27 April 1918.

29th (Service) Battalion
Formed at Margate on 1 June 1918 and moved to Brookwood, where it absorbed the cadre of the 2/7th Bn the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment).
11 June 1918: came under orders of 41st Brigade, 14th (Light) Division.
3 July 1918: landed at Boulogne.

1st (Home Service) Garrison Battalion
Formed at Blyth in June 1916, then moved to Cork. On 1 April 1917 became the 1st (Home Service) Garrison Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers.

51st (Graduated) Battalion
Up to 27 October 1917, this was known as 258th Graduated Battalion and had no regimental affiliation. Before that it had been 4th Battalion of the Training Reserve and up to September 1916 had been the 11th (Reserve) Battalion of the North Staffordshire Regiment. A training unit based at Ipswich, it was part of 215th Brigade in 72nd Division. In March 1918 when 72nd Division was broken up it went to 206th Brigade of 69th Division at Durham. Moved to Guisborough in March 1918 and in autumn went on to Catterick.

52nd (Graduated) Battalion
Up to 27 October 1917, this was known as 273rd Graduated Battalion and had no regimental affiliation. Before that it had been 86th Battalion of the Training Reserve and up to September 1916 had been the 31st (Reserve) Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. A training unit based at Chelmsford, it was part of 220th Brigade in 73rd Division. In March 1918 when 73rd Division was broken up it went to 206th Brigade of 69th Division at Stockton. Moved to Guisborough in March 1918 and in autumn went on to Catterick.

53rd (Young Soldier) Battalion
Up to 27 October 1917, this was known as 2nd Young Soldier Battalion and had no regimental affiliation. Before that it had been 17th (Reserve) Battalion of the DLI (See above). A basic recruit training unit based at Rugeley, it was part of 1st Reserve Brigade. By November 1918 it had moved to Clipstone Camp.

The following figures were compiled immediately after the war recording those members of each of the 37th battalions who died during the First World War: [9]

 

Battalion Killed Battalion Killed
1st 42 b/f 8078
2nd 1306 15th 1508
3rd 64 16th 8
4th 27 17th 11
1/5th 831 18th 525
2/5th 23 19th 496
1/6th 830 20th 677
2/6th 52 21st 5
1/7th 600 22nd 526
2/7th 26 25th 37
1/8th 816 26th 25
2/8th 9 27th 8
1/9th 682 28th 2
2/9th 28 29th 51
10th 688 51st 3
11th 288 52nd 7
12th 534 53rd 7
13th 635 5th (Reserve) 19
14th 597 Depot 13
c/f 8078 Total 12006

References:

[1] “A short guide to the Durham Light Infantry Chapel and other memorials in Durham Cathedral” The Chapter of Durham & the DLI Association quote over 12,600.  “Faithful: the Story of the Durham Light Infantry“1962 S.G.P Ward p.446 quotes 12,006 non-commissioned officers and men.  Soldiers Died in the Great War record 11,448 Officers Died in the Great War record 607 Total: 12555 Officers and men

[2] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[3] Ward & http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[4] Ward p.265 & 266

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50th_(Northumbrian)_Division

[6] Ward p.334

[7] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[8] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[9] Ward p.446