Home of the Infantry Regiments of Berkshire and Wiltshire

From Our Records - March 2015

During March 1944 - 77 years ago, the 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment made an assault on the village of Shwegondaing during the Burma Campaign in World War Two. They had prior to thi been receiving training in jungle warfare in Belgaum, when, on 26th March they received the order to ‘move to an operational area’. Both of the regular Battalions fought in Burma as part of the 14th Army, which later became known as the "Forgotten Army". The 1st Battalion was the first unit of the 2nd Division to relieve the besieged Royal West Kents at Kohima. Once in position the Battalion continued the battle with the Japanese for a further 5 weeks in appalling conditions, losing over 300 men. At the same time their comrades in the 2nd Battalion were fighting their way to Mandalay as part of the 19th Indian (Dagger) Division.

Between 21st and 29th March 1918, Captain Hayward won his Victoria Cross near Fremicourt France, whilst commanding a company of the 1st Battalion. As an acting Captain, he displayed almost superhuman powers of endurance. He was buried, wounded in the head and rendered deaf on the first day of operations and had his arm shattered two days later. He refused to leave his men, even though he received a third wound to his head, until he collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Throughout this period the enemy were attacking the company’s front without cessation, but Captain Hayward continued to move across the open from one trench to another with absolute disregard for his own safety.

Between the 10th and 13th of March 1915, the Battle of Neuve Chapelle took place and involved The 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. An attack on a part of the enemy's position to the south-west of the village of Wytschaete had been timed to commence at 10 a.m. on the 12th March. Owing to dense fog, the assault could not be made until 4 o'clock in the afternoon. It was then commenced by the Wiltshire and Worcestershire Regiments, but was so hampered by the mist and the approach, of darkness that nothing more was effective other than holding the enemy to his ground. They had spent the first few months of the war on the Messines Ridge engaged in Trench Warfare. Following the battle, were several more months in Trenches in the Dickebusch area.

The photograph for you to view is an image of a water colour painting of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle which is held in the museum's collection.