1st Northumberland Fusiliers

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by DavidW, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Can anyone help with this units movements in 1939-1942 please?
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    all I can add.

    The Vickers Machine Gun

    Already in the Western Desert at the outbreak of war, the 1st Battalion, one of the few machine-gun battalions remaining in the British Army, fought continuously in North Africa from the time of Italy's entry into the lists against us, until the final curshing defeat inflicted on the Germans and Italians in Tunisia three years later.
    Under Wavell, against odds of 10 to 1, it took part in the routing of the vaunted Italian Army at the vitories of Sidi Barrani, Bardia, Tobruk and Benghazi. Under Wavel it helped to cover the withdrawal made necessary by the honouring of out promise of aid to stricken Greece, until it was left under the command of the 9th Australian Division to bear a notable part in the immortal defence of Tobruk, culminating in the "Battle of the Break-out" eight months later, during which battle Capt. Jackman won a posthumous V.C.
    Under the ill-starred Auchinlech, the Battalion fought the Battle of Egpyt until, with the advent of Generals Alexander and Montgomery, and of adequate reinforcements of men, material and up-to-date equipment, it swept forward again with the 8th Army over some 1,500 miles, through the major battles of El Alamein, Agheila and Mareth, to junction with the 1st Army in Tunisia, and to final and spectacular victory in the Cape Bon peninsula. This battalion is now fighting in Italy (July, 1944).
  3. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Thanks Owen.

    Anything on the site you linked, regarding technical info on the Vickers, such as rate of fire, range etc?
    I spent 20 minutes last night and found an awful lot, but not that.
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    11. Rate of fire. – about 500 rounds per minute.

    17. The maximum range of the gun is 4,500 yards, but it is not normally required to fire over 2,00 yards. It can engage targets well beyond the reach of other low trajectory weapons.
    That's from the 1951 manual on there in the 'manuals & handbooks' page.

    that must be a typo for 2000 yards
  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Not an expert on the eastern side of North Africa, but I believe that 1st Northumberland Fusiliers were attached to 4th Indian Infantry Division for a period:

    "A British Regular Army unit came under command of the division in April 1940 as the divisional machine gun battalion: 1st Bn. The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers This battalion was attached during Operation Compass, but remained in Egypt when the division left to move to the Sudan for the campaign in Ethiopia."

    Later in Nov 1941, the battalion were fighting near to Tobruk, and this is from Doherty's History of the 8th Army:

    "..In the course of that fighting (at El Duda), Captain James Jackman of 1st Royal Northumberland Fusiliers earned TOBFORCE's second Victoria Cross..
    Jackman's Z Company..was under the command of 32 Tank Brigade together with a squadron of King's Dragoon Guards, an anti-tank battery and 1st Essex Regiment...On 26 November (1941), two of 32 Tank Brigade's were leading the attack on El Duda with Jackman's Company following up. When the tanks were stopped by heavy shell, and mortar fire, Jackman brought Z Company forward..From their positions, the platoons were able to pour fire on the Trigh Capuzzo, the enemy's main supply route...All the while Jackman drove around the positions to coordinate the defences and encourage his soldiers.In the course of visiting one machine gun position, his luck ran out and he was killed by a mortar burst.."
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Not an expert on the eastern side of North Africa, but I believe that 1st Northumberland Fusiliers were attached to 4th Indian Infantry Division for a period:

    Good shout , just checked in my copy of the 4th Ind Div history.
    Lists them in Order of Battle from April - December 1940.

    edit: just reading they would be involved in the Sidi Barrani operation of December 1940 on the coastal flank of as part of 'Selby Force' that ''would demonstrate against Maktila Camp in a not very convicing manner' .

    Selby Force consisted of 3 Coldstream, 7 Hussars, elements of 1 Durhams, 1 South Staffs and MG from 1 Northumberland Fus & 1 Cheshires.
  7. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member


    Thanks for that. I was not looking in the correct place it would seem.

    Was the Infantry version (as used by 1st Northumberlands) capable of "indirect fire" as with some other longer ranged M/Gs?
    Was "indirect fire" (possibly not correct terminology) part of Commonwealth M/G unit doctrine?
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  9. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Here is a summary of the NA Service of 1st Royal Northumberland Fusiliers M-G:

    1st Battalion, The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers M-G

    7th Infantry Division – 3 September 1939 to 3 November 1939
    On the outbreak of war the battalion was dispatched to Mersa Matruh to serve under the 7th Infantry Division.

    6th Infantry Division – 3 November 1939 to Early March 1940
    The 7th Infantry Division was renamed as the 6th Infantry Division on November 3rd, 1939. It returned to the Delta in early March 1940.

    HQ British Troops in Egypt (BTE) – Early March 1940 to September 1940
    On arrival in the Delta in early March 1940, the battalion moved to Moascar on the Suez Canal and joined the 1st Durham Light Infantry there. It moved to the Alexandria Sub-Area on anti-parachute duties in May 1940 and was located between Amiyria and Daba. The battalion then concentrated at Sidi Bishr and was located there when war broke out with Italy on June 11th, 1940. ‘W’ Company moved to Sollum on the frontier at Halfaya Pass at the outbreak of war but rejoined the battalion a few days later at Garawala.

    4th Indian Infantry Division – September 1940 to 21 December 1940
    In September 1940 the battalion moved to Naghamish and came under the command of the 4th Indian Infantry Division. It was organized for the Sidi Barrani battle in December 1940 with ‘W’ Company under Selby Force, ‘X’ Company (Less 2 platoons) with Battalion HQ, ‘Y’ Company under the 11th Indian Infantry Brigade, and ‘Z’ Company under the 5th Indian Infantry Brigade.

    6th Australian Infantry Division – 21 December 1940 to 30 January 1941
    The battalion transferred to 6th Australian Infantry Division as part of the XIII Corps on December 21st, 1940 and fought at Bardia, Tobruk and Derna with the division. It left the division on January 30th.

    2nd Support Group – 1 February 1941 to March 1941
    From February to March 1941 it was at El Agheila and under the command of the 2nd Support Group, less ‘Y’ Company, which was attached to the 1st Tower Hamlet Rifles.

    HQ Cyrenaica Command – March 1941 to 9/10 April 1941
    The battalion then moved to Benghazi and served under HQ Cyrenaica Command. During the retreat to Tobruk it came under the 9th Australian Infantry Division. It moved to Barce under the 20th Australian Infantry Brigade and eventually entered Tobruk with the division on the night of 9th/10th of April 1941.

    HQ Tobruk Fortress 9/10 April 1941 to Mid-October 1941
    The battalion served during the defence of Tobruk.

    70th Infantry Division – Attached - Mid-October 1941 to 15 December 1941
    It transferred to the 70th Infantry Division in mid-October 1941, when this division took over the Tobruk garrison. ‘Z’ Company was detached to the 32nd Armoured Brigade. After the breakout the battalion transferred to the 8th Army command and left the front on December 15th, 1941 and moved to The Citadel, Cairo.

    HQ British Troops in Egypt (BTE) – 15 December 1941 to June 1942
    The battalion rested and refitted until June 1942 at the Citadel in Cairo. It then moved to the front, leaving ‘W’ and ‘Z’ Companies behind at Alexandria.

    8th Army – June 1942 to mid-July 1942
    The battalion moved to the front in June 1942. ‘X’ Company served in the Cauldron with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment and an Indian Brigade while ‘Y’ Company was detached to serve with the 50th Reconnaissance Battalion (4th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers) in a nearby box. ‘X’ Company withdrew to serve under an Indian Brigade at El Adem. The companies at Alexandria then moved to Sollum, where the battalion assembled, with the exception of ‘Z’ Company. When the battalion withdrew to Mersa Matruh, ‘Z’ Company remained behind under the 1st/5th Mahratta Light Infantry as a rearguard. This force withdrew and came under the 50th Infantry Division to Gerawala near Mersa Matruh. Three companies were put under the brigades of 50th Infantry Division with ‘Z’ Company serving with the 151st Infantry Brigade.

    HQ British Troops in Egypt (BTE) – Mid-July 1942 to Early October 1942
    In mid-July 1942, the battalion (except for ‘Z’ Company) withdrew to Sidi Bishr to refit. ‘Z’ Company stayed with the 50th Infantry Division. From July 1942 until October 1942 the battalion was at Sidi Bishr with ‘W’, ‘X’ and ‘Y’ Companies amalgamated under Martin Force. ‘Z’ Company was involved in the heavy fighting on Ruweisat Ridge under the 5th Indian Infantry Brigade. It had detached No. 14 Platoon to form part of the Tobruk raid on September 13th, 1942.

    8th Army – Early October 1942 to 31 July 1943
    The battalion concentrated at Alexandria in early October 1942 for El Alamein. At the battle of El Alamein, ‘X’ and ‘Z’ Companies served under the 1st Armoured Division while ‘W’ Company served under the 10th Armoured Division. It moved around a great deal during the battle but saw little fighting. ‘Z’ Company came under 1st Armoured Division for the pursuit, and under 22nd Armoured Brigade on November 24th, 1942. It was later attached to the 131st Infantry Brigade. The battalion moved to the forward area at Mareth in March 1943 and served as Army Troops until the end of the campaign. After the end of the North African campaign the battalion moved to Tripoli by May 24th, with the 1st Armoured Division to rest. After six weeks it left the division for the 7th Armoured Division at Homs on July 7th, but returned to Tripoli on July 25th and back to Alexandria on July 31st.
  10. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Nice. QED...
  11. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Thanks, that was great.
  12. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member


    Thanks for that. I was not looking in the correct place it would seem.

    Was the Infantry version (as used by 1st Northumberlands) capable of "indirect fire" as with some other longer ranged M/Gs?
    Was "indirect fire" (possibly not correct terminology) part of Commonwealth M/G unit doctrine?

    Hi David

    Yes the Vickers MMG was equipped with a dial sight and was quite capable of indirect fire. I doubt that the versions used in tanks and armoured cars were so equipped, just the ground mounting used by the infantry. I am sure that indirect fire was part of the doctrine.

  13. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member


    That's very useful. Thankyou very much.
  14. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Having studied the 9th Australian Div, I can say that 1st RNF was a fine outfit, much respected by the Australian infantry they worked with. As to the Vickers gun, the best print resource is Dolf Goldsmith's excellent book, The Grand Old Lady of No Man's Land.

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