2/1st Battalion

 

The 2/1st Battalion was originally formed in Cambridge as  the 1st Reserve Battalion, The Cambridgeshire Regiment. It was formed in early September 1914 as a Second Line Battalion, the role of which was to serve as a home service unit for TF men who had not volunteered for Imperial Service or were being held in reserve.

After its formation the Battalion remained in Cambridge, mostly billeted at the Girls' County School, and was often seen training on Parker's Piece. They finally left Cambridge for Peterborough just before Christmas 1914 and became part of the 207th Brigade, 69th Division.

In January 1915 the naming system for Second Line Battalions was changed and the 1st Reserve Battalion, The Cambridgeshire Regiment became the 2/1st Battalion, The Cambridgeshire Regiment. In February, after the 1/1st Battalion left for overseas service, the 2/1st Battalion was moved to Bury St. Edmunds and took over the 1/1st place in the East Midlands Brigade, 54th Division.

Several months later in April 1915 the 54th Division left the UK for Gallipoli, as the 2/1st were a home service unit they did not go. Instead it was sent to Norwich for two weeks before rejoining the 207th Brigade, 69th Division at Peterborough. In the first week of June 1915 the Battalion was moved once again this time to Newmarket where the Brigade was now based. After a stay at billets around Newmarket  they eventually moved to a hutted camp at what is now Brickfields Stud, Exning Road, Newmarket.

June 1915 saw a big change in the TF system brought into place. Men who had still not volunteered for Imperial Service or who were never going to be medically fit enough were transferred to Provisional Battalions (for more information on this please click here). These newly formed home defence battalions were to be used to guard the East Coast. The 2/1st and the rest of the 69th Division were now being considered for overseas service.

Throughout the summer several drafts of men left the 2/1st and were sent as replacements to the 1/1st, information about these drafts can be found by clicking here.  The minimum strength set out for the Battalion had been set at 600 men, in reality the need for replacement meant that often the Battalion was well below strength. In November the 2/1st was reduced to 400 men and the surplus was posted to the 3/1st.  Early December 1915 saw the Battalion divided in half and around 200 men left to establish the new 4/1st Battalion. The 2/1st was then brought back up to strength by a large intake from the 3/1st. In late June 1916 the 2/1st and the rest of the 69th Division was moved and was now centred around Harrogate.

With the introduction of the Military Service Act in 1916 the right for TF men to refuse overseas service was scrapped. The act also fully released all the Second Line Territorial Divisions (like the 69th) from home defence and meant they could now be sent overseas. This new possibility of 69th being sent overseas however coincided with the staggering mass losses on the Somme in the summer of 1916. It was therefore decided to hold the Division in the UK and use it as a draft-furnishing division for those battalions already over in France and Flanders.

As the need for men to replace the Somme losses reached desperation for some regiments, large drafts of men left the 2/1st for France and found themselves in all sorts of other regiments. Large drafts of 2/1st Cambs men from this time period are known to have ended up in the Royal Sussex Regt, Northumberland Fusiliers, and King's Royal Rifle Corps. Men recovering from wounds from other regiments (mostly London TF units) were also now starting to be posted to the 2/1st.

Over the winter of 1916/17 the 2/1st was in winter quarters and billeted firstly at Marton Hall, Middlesbrough and later at Catterick. As the weather improved in April 1917 the Division moved to Retford and the 2/1st with the rest of the 207th Brigade moved to a camp near Worksop.

On the 6th October 1917 the 2/1st left the 207th Brigade and was posted to the 200th Brigade, 67th Division at Canterbury. Once again there was some talk of the 2/1st going overseas but it never came to be. The 2/1st Battalion, The Cambridgeshire Regiment was finally disbanded in late February 1918.

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2/1st Battalion Commanding Officers

Initially named 1st Reserve Battalion.

 

Lt Col L Tebbutt       31-8-1914 to 5-10-1914

Lt Col C Heycock      5-10-1914 to 31-5-1916

Lt Col W Cutlack      31-5-1916 to 2-12-1916

Lt Col J Paul              2-12-1916 to 31-1-1918

2/1st men marching in Peterborough.

Lt Tom Formby, later KiA 13th October 1916.

Lt Col Cutlack, 2/1st Bn CO in 1916.

This site went live on the 14th February 2015 to mark  100 years since the 1/1st Cambs went off to war.

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

Copyright 2015, 2016, 2017 by Felix Jackson. The information and images on this site should not be reproduced without prior permission.