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First Surrey Rifles

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The First Surrey Rifles was a unit of the Volunteer Force and later Territorial Army based in Camberwell, south London from 1859-1967.

In 1859 the 1st and 3rd Surrey Rifle Volunteer Corps were raised in Camberwell. In the following year the two units were merged as the 1st Surrey (South London) Rifle Volunteer Corps. In 1881 they were designated as a volunteer battalion of the regular East Surrey Regiment, and in 1891 their title was altered slightly to 1st Surrey (South London) Volunteer Rifle Corps.

The regiment did not see any active service until 1900. In that year, during the Second Anglo-Boer War, active service companies were formed to provide reinforcements to the regular units fighting in South Africa. Accordingly the 1st Surrey Rifles sent detachments to reinforce the East Surrey Regiment, earning their first battle honour: South Africa 1900-'02.

In 1908 reserve forces were reorganised, with the formation of the Territorial Force. All territorial infantry battalions in the County of London became numbered battalions of the new London Regiment. The 1st Surrey Rifles became the 21st (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles).

With the outbreak of the First World War all territorial units were ordered to increase recruitment to form duplicate units. In August 1914 the existing unit became the 1/21st Battalion, and in March 1915 was moved to the Western Front. The duplicate 2/21st Battalion was formed in August 1914. In June 1916 they moved to France, in November 1916 to Salonika, in July 1917 to Egypt before being disbanded in Palestine in June 1918. A 3/21st Battalion was formed in March 1915, remaining in the United Kingdom as a reserve unit.

Following the end of the war the unit was reformed in 1920. In 1922 each of the battalions of the London Regiment were constituted as separate regiments, with the unit becoming the 21st London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles).

In 1925 the regiment was awarded battle honours for the First World War, with those shown in bold print selected for display on the colours:

  • Aubers
  • Festubert 1915
  • Loos
  • Somme 1916 '18
  • Flers-Courcelette
  • Le Transloy
  • Messines 1917
  • Ypres 1917
  • Cambrai 1917
  • St. Quentin
  • Bapaume 1918
  • Ancre 1918
  • Amiens
  • Albert 1918
  • Pursuit to Mons
  • France and Flanders 1915-18
  • Doiran 1917
  • Macedonia 1916-17
  • Gaza
  • El Mughar
  • Nebi Samwil
  • Jerusalem
  • Jericho
  • Jordan
  • Tell 'Asur
  • Palestine 1917-18

In 1935 territorial forces in Greater London were reorganised in response to the threat of air attack. The regiment was re-roled to as 35th (First Surrey Rifles) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers. In 1940 they became a searchlight regiment of the Royal Artillery and later a light anti-aircraft regiment. In 1967 the First Surrey Rifles lineage was finally abandoned.

ReferencesEdit

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