THE MILITIA - 1757-1920
The Militia, sometimes referred to as the ‘Constitutional Force’, is the oldest of Britain’s auxiliary forces and has an ancestry rooted in the military obligations of the Anglo-Saxons. These obligations were transmitted through medieval legislation to be enshrined in the first militia statutes of 1558. Thereafter, the Militia had a formal statutory existence almost continuously until 1908. Service was mostly based on property and wealth, but from 1757 manpower was raised by compulsory ballot and after 1852 by voluntary enlistment. The militia regiments of the respective counties were, in 1757, reorganised as infantry regiments, under the control of the Lords Lieutenant, whose members were obliged to train annually and were required to render continuous service when their regiments were embodied for home garrison duties in time of war.
Thus the county militia regiments in Wales were embodied for service during the Seven Years’ War, the War of American Independence, the War of the French Revolution and between 1803 and 1816 for the long embodiment of the Napoleonic period when in addition to their services in the home garrisons and Ireland they provided hundreds of trained men for service with the regular army, and thus contributed to the success of British units abroad. In recognition of their contribution during the Napoleonic period, each of the Welsh county militia battalions was given the appellation ‘Royal’. A period of decline from 1817 to 1851 ended in 1852 with a revival of the Militia nationally, and in 1881 the Cardwell Reforms brought the Militia under the control of the War Office and closer to their ‘territorial’ regular battalions.
In North Wales, the 1881 Reforms saw the creation of the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, with their titles finally being established in 1890 as the 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh Fusiliers (Royal Denbigh and Flint Militia) and 4th Battalion The Royal Welsh Fusiliers (Royal Carnarvon and Merioneth Militia). The Anglesey Militia had become Engineers in 1877. In 1908 the 4th Battalion was disbanded and the 3rd became a Special Reserve battalion. During the Great War, it acted as a Depot, first in Wrexham and then Liverpool, before being sent in November 1917 to Limerick because of fears of possible Sinn Fein activity. It was disembodied in 1919.
In South Wales in 1876, the militia quotas of Radnor and Brecon were united under the title The Royal South Wales Borderers Militia (Royal Radnor and Brecknock Rifles). Five years later, The RSWB Militia and the Royal Montgomery Rifles Militia were respectively re-designated as the 3rd and 4th (Militia) Battalions, The South Wales Borderers. The Royal Glamorgan Light Infantry Militia became the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, The Welsh Regiment. [The Royal Monmouthshire Militia had become Engineers in 1877 and exist today as the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia)]. The 3rd South Wales Borderers and 3rd Welsh volunteered to serve overseas and were involved in the lines of communication duty during the second Boer war. In 1908, the 4th South Wales Borderers was disbanded and the remaining two militia battalions became ‘Special Reserve’ Battalions of their respective regiments and as such provided the active service battalions of the regiments with a steady flow of reinforcements throughout the Great War. The two battalions stood down in 1920 and although officially listed until 1953 were never again reactivated.
THE VOLUNTEERS - 1858-1908
The Volunteers, which had existed at various times simultaneously with the Militia, are principally associated with the Napoleonic period, 1794-1816, with volunteer infantry and mounted yeomanry. The hostile attitude adopted by France in the late 1850s forced the British Government in 1859 to authorise the raising of a permanent part-time volunteer force. To begin with, these County rifle volunteer corps were largely independent, choosing their own style of uniform and administering themselves at very little cost to the public. The reforms instituted by Cardwell in the period 1868-1874 aimed to weld the Regular, Militia and Volunteers into one homogeneous army. In 1873 the country was divided into Regimental Districts each with a depot for regular battalions; the militia and volunteer units in the district were then linked to the local regulars. This re-organisation was carried a stage further in 1881, when volunteer units adopted the same territorial titles as their constituent regular unit. The result in Wales and the border counties was:
In North Wales with a Regimental District at Wrexham, the 1st Denbighshire and the 1st Flintshire and Carnarvonshire Rifle Volunteer Corps were affiliated to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and in 1884 became the 1st and 2nd (Volunteer) Battalions The Royal Welsh Fusiliers respectively. Thirteen years later, a 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion was formed as an offshoot of 2nd.
The volunteer units of Brecon, Monmouth, and Radnor became the 1st (Brecknockshire), 2nd, 3rd, 4th Volunteers Battalions, The South Wales Borderers in Monmouthshire with a Regimental District being established at Brecon. In 1897, a further battalion entitled 5th (Volunteer) Battalion The South Wales Borderers was raised in Montgomery and Cardiganshire.
The volunteer units of Pembrokeshire and Glamorgan became the 1st, 2nd and 3rd (Volunteer) Battalions The Welsh Regiment with a Regimental District based in Cardiff. The 3rd Glamorgan Rifle Volunteers whose Colonel was then HRH The Prince of Wales, and was nominally 4th Volunteer Battalion, retained its old title.
The first overseas service for volunteer units came in 1900 when they provided composite active service companies to serve, with their regular counterparts, 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The South Wales Borderers and 1st Battalion The Welsh Regiment against the Boers in South Africa; thus gaining the first battle honour ‘South Africa 1900-02’ for their respective Volunteer Battalions.
TERRITORIAL FORCE - 1908-1920
In 1908, when the Territorial Force (TF) was formed, the three Volunteer Battalions of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers became the 4th, 5th and 6th Battalions of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and the 5th (Volunteer) Battalion The South Wales Borderers, based in Montgomeryshire, became the 7th Battalion. In the following year their official titles became the 4th (Denbighshire), 5th (Flintshire), 6th (Carnarvonshire and Anglesey), and 7th (Merioneth and Montgomery) Battalions The Royal Welsh Fusiliers (TF). The remaining four volunteer battalions of the South Wales Borderers became Brecknockshire Battalion, The South Wales Borderers; 1st, 2nd 3rd Battalions The Monmouthshire Regiment. The 1st Monmouths fiercely maintaining their rifle antecedence retained their dark green rifle uniforms with black buttons. The 1st and 3rd Volunteer Battalions of the Welsh Regiment became the 4th and 5th Battalions. The 2nd Volunteer Battalion converted to Artillery. The 3rd Glamorgan Rifle Volunteers forming the 6th Battalion The Welsh Regiment (TF). A new battalion to be called 7th (Cyclist) Battalion The Welsh Regiment (TF) was authorised.
All first line battalions fought with great distinction in the Great War, the 4th Battalion The Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the three battalions of the Monmouthshire Regiment and 6th Battalion The Welsh Regiment saw service in France and Flanders, and the rest with 53rd (Welsh) Division in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine. The 2nd Monmouths had the distinction of being the first Territorial unit to be allocated a battalion sector in the trenches in December 1914. At the end of the war they were the only British Territorial battalion to march into Germany.
The Brecknockshire Battalion saw active service in Aden in 1915, gaining a Battle Honour, before becoming a garrison battalion in India. The 7th Battalion The Welsh Regiment remained in Britain as a garrison battalion.
Three new Territorial battalions were formed in Egypt in 1917 when five dismounted Welsh Yeomanry regiments, the Denbighshire, Glamorgan, Pembroke and the Welsh Horse and Montgomeryshire Yeomanry were converted to infantry to form the 24th (Denbighshire Yeomanry) and 25th (Montgomery and Welsh Horse Yeomanry) Battalions The Royal Welsh Fusiliers and 24th (Pembroke and Glamorgan Yeomanry) Battalion The Welsh Regiment. They were soon engaged in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. At Beersheba in October 1917, Corporal Collins of the 25th Battalion The Royal Welsh Fusiliers gained a Victoria Cross for bringing in the wounded under heavy fire and saving many lives. This battalion was awarded its second Victoria Cross in September 1918 when Sergeant Waring was killed when leading a successful attack against four enemy machine guns at Ronssoy in France.
Inter-War Years - 1921-1939
After the Great War, all Territorial Force battalions were disbanded but soon re-activated in 1921 with the formation of the new Territorial Army (TA). The four pre-war Royal Welch Fusiliers battalions continued as before. The 7th Welch was amalgamated with the 6th Battalion thus leaving the Welch Regiment with three Territorial Battalions viz: 4th Carmarthenshire Battalion, and the 5th and 6th Glamorganshire Battalions. The Brecknocks were absorbed by 3rd Monmouths.
Further changes occurred in 1938 with the increasing threat to mainland Britain, the 5th Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers, become an anti-tank unit with the Royal Artillery, the 1st Monmouths and 6th Welch were converted into a Searchlight Regiments and they too were lost to the Royal Artillery.
Finally in 1939, shortly before the start of the second World War, the TA was doubled and the following new battalions were formed the 8th, 9th and 10th The Royal Welch Fusiliers (out of the 4th, 6th and 7th Battalions respectively), 4th Monmouths (out of 2nd Monmouths), Brecknocks (out of 3rd Monmouths), 15th Welch (out of 4th Welch) and 2/5th Welch (out of 5th Welch).
Second World War - 1939-1945
The Territorial Battalions were embodied in 1939. The 4th, 6th and 7th Battalions The Royal Welch Fusiliers, the 2nd Monmouths, 4th and 1/5th Battalions Welch were to serve with the 53rd (Welsh) Division in the United Kingdom until June 1944. Shortly after D-Day, the battalions moved with the Division to reinforce the Normandy bridgehead and thereafter through to VE Day were actively involved with the Welsh Division in the liberation of France, the Low Countries and the advance into Northern Germany. Also involved in the fight through North West Europe was 3rd Monmouths as part of 11th Armoured Division, when in ten months casualties of the battalion amounted to over 1,100 including 67 officers; of this number 267, including two Commanding Officers, were killed. Two Victoria Crosses were awarded to TA soldiers during the North West Europe campaign (1944-45). The first was gained by Lieutenant Tasker Watkins of 1/5th Battalion, The Welch Regiment near Barfour whilst fighting for Falaise in Normandy in August 1944. The other was awarded to Corporal Edward Chapman of 3rd Monmouths during fighting in the wooded Teutoburger Wald in Germany in April 1945. After the war, Corporal Chapman was to continue to serve as a Senior NCO with the 2nd Monmouths.
At this time the 8th, 9th and 10th Battalions The Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Brecknocks, 2/5th and 15th Welch served in the United Kingdom in a home defence, training and draft finding role, and provided between them many hundreds of trained soldiers for active service with the first line and regular battalions of the regiment. In 1942, the 10th Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers was converted to the parachute role, for which over two-thirds of its members volunteered, and was renamed 6th (Royal Welch) Parachute Battalion.
Post-Second World War - 1945-1967
Just after the war, in 1946, all TA battalions were disbanded but the following year saw the reactivation of the TA, when 4th, 6th and 7th Battalions The Royal Welch Fusiliers, 2nd and 3rd Monmouths, 4th and 5th Welch were re-formed. By 1947 the former 6th and 7th Battalions Royal Welch Fusiliers and 3rd Monmouths were converted to light anti-aircraft regiments with the Royal Artillery. In 1956, a 6th/7th Royal Welch Fusiliers was formed with its Headquarters in Caernarfon and 6th Welch re-appeared being re-formed from 16th (Welsh) Parachute Battalion (TA).
Territorial & Auxiliary Volunteer Reserve (T&AVR) 1967-1971
In 1967, the TA was drastically reduced in size and re-named the Territorial & Auxiliary Volunteer Reserve (T&AVR). This change saw the formation of a single infantry battalion in Wales called The Welsh Volunteers, comprising companies from each of the three Welsh infantry regiments, was raised with a NATO support role, while the existing TA battalions (retaining the title Territorial) were given a purely home defence role and reduced to cadre form.
Territorial & Auxiliary Volunteer Reserve (T&AVR) - 1971-1999
In April 1971, an expansion of the volunteers occurred. The Welsh Volunteers was replaced by 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers, the 3rd and 4th (Volunteer) Battalions, The Royal Regiment of Wales which were raised absorbing the existing T&AVR companies and the cadres of the Territorial battalions, with Battalion Headquarters based on Wrexham, Cardiff and Llanelli respectively. In April 1985, these battalions were each augmented by a Home Service Force (HSF) company, comprising of volunteers who wished a reduced training commitment. These HSF companies had a short life and were disbanded in March 1993. In April 1986, again the battalions were augmented gaining an extra rifle company. The Headquarters of 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Wales moved from Llanelli in 1987, when a new TA Centre, named after Sir Tasker Watkins VC, was opened at Morfa in Swansea. In October 1993, in yet another re-organisation, this time a reduction, 3rd and 4th Battalions The Royal Regiment of Wales merged to form the 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion of the Regiment.
Territorial Army - 1999-to date
Further reductions to the TA were implemented in July 1999 when the 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers amalgamated with 2nd (Volunteer) Battalion The Royal Regiment of Wales to form a new volunteer regiment The Royal Welsh Regiment (RWR). Two rifle companies (Wrexham and Caernarfon) were badged RWF with Headquarters (Cardiff) and two rifle companies (Swansea and Pontypridd) badged RRW. The battalion hosts and administers the Territorial Army Band of Wales (The Royal Regiment of Wales) based in Newport, Monmouthshire which takes part in many public and military events across the Principality.
The Royal Welsh Regiment continued to provide an increasing number of individual TA soldiers for 6-month operational tours of duty working alongside their regular counterparts in the Balkans, Afghanistan and in Iraq. In March 2006 this battalion became part of the new ‘Royal Welsh’ family being designated 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh.
Other elements of the antecedent regiments of The Royal Welsh were ‘Volunteer’ battalions whose soldiers wore regimental cap badges raised in Wales during the Great War – these units were the forerunners of the more well-known county Home Guard units of the Second World War who also wore their antecedent regiment’s cap badge. Of special mention is Private G Jones of the Monmouthshire Home Guard who was awarded a Military Medal for rescuing a seriously wounded comrade during a heavy German air-raid on Newport Docks in July 1940; thought to be the only incident of this gallantry medal being awarded for an action on the mainland of Britain.
The Army Cadet Force, which continues to provide a challenging youth organisation for boys and girls and a source of recruits for the regular and reserve forces, has county based battalions in Wales. In many towns and small communities in Wales, these isolated Cadet detachments are the only representatives of the army in the locality and many of these cadets now wear the cap badge of The Royal Welsh. Those in Clwyd, Counties of Glamorgan and Gwynedd immediately strengthened their links with the regiment by formally adopting the subsidiary titles - 4th (Cadet) Battalion, 5th (Cadet) Battalion and 6th (Cadet) Battalion of The Royal Welsh respectively. Subsequently, a further re-organisation of the ACF took place in April 2009 which linked together Clwyd and Gwynedd, Dyfed and Glamorgan, and Gwent and Powys and the regimental battalion titles were dropped.
The Royal Welsh also has connections with schools that have Combined Cadet Force units. These include Monmouth School, Christ College Brecon, Llandovery College, Ruthin School, St Bridget’s School Denbigh and Hartridge High School Newport. Monmouth School CCF is the only remaining unit that continues to wear the Monmouthshire Regiment cap badge.