The East Surrey Regiment

Web Equipment (Braithwaite) 1937.

The Regular Battalions
The 1st Battalion The East Surreys (1st Surreys)
was in France soon after the outbreak of the Second World War and were evacuated through Dunkirk in June 1940. After two years of training in England and Scotland, they landed in North Africa in November 1942, as part of the assaulting troops of “Operation Torch”; this was the first Anglo-American operation of the War. Then followed the capture of Tunis and Medjez-el-Bab and the Battle of Tebourba. The short successful campaign against Sicily followed.

The 1st Surreys crossed to Italy with the 78th Division and there followed a very arduous campaign up the toe of the Country, with heavy fighting around Monte Cassino and “The Bowl”. There was a short break for training in Egypt and then the Battalion continued its time in Italy until the final German surrender.

Officer The East Surreys, Middle East 1943.

The 2nd Surreys was in Malaya in 1940, where the Battalion served with great distinction against the Japanese, but with heavy losses. The 1st Leicestershire Regiment suffered a similar fate and the two battalions were joined together in the face of the enemy to form what was called the “British Battalion”. They fought on until the Army was forced to surrender in Hong Kong. Of the two battalions, only 265 men remained and of those 149 died during the three and a half years of Japanese imprisonment.

The Territorial Battalions
The 1/6th and 2/6th TA Battalions of the Surreys deployed to France at the beginning of the War. The 1/6th fought alongside the 1st Battalion in Belgium, before evacuation from Dunkirk. The 2/6th Battalion was forced to surrender at St Valery and the majority of the soldiers became prisoners of war. The 1/6th continued to see active service, as it landed in North Africa in March 1943 and took part in the Tunisian Campaign. From February 1944 to May 1945, the Battalion fought in Italy, and it experienced hard fighting at Cassino and Forli. It then moved to Greece.

Similar to the Queen’s TA, the East Surreys were reorganised in 1947 and established the 6th Battalion at Kingston.

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