Portsmouth’s WW2 Dead – The Hampshire Regiment in focus

The Hampshire Regiment in focus

114 men from Portsmouth died serving with the Hampshire Regiment during the Second World War, more than any other infantry Regiment. Between 1939 and 1945 six Hampshire Battalions fought overseas – the 1st, 2nd, 1/4th, 2/4th, 5th and 7th.

11 men died in England, 1 in Algeria, 1 in Burma, 1 in Egypt, 21 in France, 1 in Germany, 1 in Greece, 5 in Holland, 41 in Italy, 2 in Malta, 1 in Singapore, 1 in Syria, and 27 in Tunisia.

Traditionally British county infantry Regiments consisted of two regular Battalions and several territorial Battalions. In wartime these might be joined by a number of war-raised Battalions, and also Depot Battalions. Unlike in the Great War no ‘pals’ Battalions were formed, after concerns that too many men from the same communities were being killed together, which was bad for morale at home and for the men concerned.

For many years the Hampshire Regiment Depot had been at Winchester, but during the Second World War it was evacuated to the Isle of Wight. Almost all wartime recruits would have undertaken their basic training there.

Regular Battalions:

1st Battalion – 20
2nd Battalion – 22

Most line infantry Regiments began the Second World War with two regular Battalions. In peacetime normally one Battalion would be serving overseas – such as in India, or Egypt – while the other would be at home.

The 1st Hants began the war in Egypt. After pecekeeping duties in Palestine and guarding Italian prisoners in Egypt, they spent some time in Malta in 1941, suffering two casualties there, before joining the Malta Brigade and fighting in Sicily and Italy. At the end of 1943 they were withdrawn to England, after Montgomery requested experienced troops to take part in the D-Day operations. When the Battalion laned in England in 1943 it was the first time it had set foot in the UK after 23 years overseas. The 1st Hants landed on D-Day, with four Portsmouth soldiers being killed among total losses of 182 men, including the CO and second in command. After fighting at Hottot, Villers-Bocage, Belgium and Holland, along with the rest of the 50th Division the Battalion was disbanded in November 1944 and the men dispersed to other units.

The 2nd Battalion was based in Aldershot when war began. They landed in France in September 1939, serving on the Maginot Line and the Franco-Belgian Border, but were evacuated through Dunkirk with its equipment intact and without suffering any casualties. The 2nd Hants then went to North Africa in November 1942, fighting in Algeria and Tunisia. The Battalion suffered very heavy casualties between 1 and 3 December 1942, with 7 Portsmouth men killed. After the fall of Tunis they joined the 128th ‘Hampshire’ Brigade.

Territorial Battalions:

1/4th Battalion – 15
2/4th Battalion – 16
5th Battalion – 14
7th Battalion – 17

On the outbreak of war in 1939 most Regiments also possessed two Battallions of the Territorial Army. To provide a firm basis for new recruits, the 4th Battalion were split in two to provide an extra Battalion, of the first and second line, ie 1/4th and 2/4th. The 5/7th Battalion, meanwhile, was split up into the 5th and 7th Battalions. Therefore these Battalions were made up roughly half of territorials and half of conscripts, although they would have taken on conscripts during the war to make up losses.

The 1/4th, 2/4th and 5th Hants were formed into the 128th ‘Hampshire’ Brigade, part of the 43rd (Wessex) Division. In January 1943 the Brigade left the 43rd Division and joined the 46th (West Riding) Division for North Africa. After the end of the war in North Africa the Brigade landed at Salerno in September 1943, suffering very heavy casualties, with 8 Portsmouth Hampshires killed. After fighting up trough Italy the Brigade was taken out of the line in February 1944, and taken to Egypt where reinforcements were taken on. In August 1944 the Hampshire Brigade was back in action in Italy. In December 1944 they were relieved once again, and in January 1945 were sent to Greece to disarm communist guerillas. One man of the 5th Battalion was killed in Greece. Although the Brigade moved back to Italy in April 1945 the war was over before they could go into action again.

The 7th Hants was part of the 43rd (Wessex) Division, and were grouped with the 4th and 5th Dorsets in 130th Brigade. They landed in France on 22 June, and were initially in reserve. In July the 7th Hants went into action in the bitter bocage fighting, culminating in the capture of Mont Pincon. The Battalion was then involved in the breakout and the great swan across France, before being involved in the latter stages of Operation Market Garden. After rest the 7th Hants took part in the battle of the Reichswald in February 1945. After crossing the Rhine on 24 March 1945 they ended the war at Barkhausen in Germany, between Bremen and Hamburg.

Home Service/Depot Battalions

12th Battalion – 3
13th Battalion – 2

Home Service and Depot Battalions were formed to act as holding units for recruits, or for older men who were maybe not suitable for service overseas. Younger men could in turn be posted overseas. Four of the five men who died while serving in Depot Battalions died in the UK. The other man died in Burma, perhaps while he was travelling to another unit or while he was serving as a Staff Officer.

Of the Portsmouth Hampshires killed during the Second World War, only Lance Corporal Leslie Webb of the 1st Battalion was decorated for bravery. He won the Military Medal for his part in D-Day, but after being evacuated wounded to England died on 14 June 1944. He was 27 and from North End, and is buried in Milton Cemetery.

Information taken from ‘The Royal Hampshire Regiment 1918 – 1954′ by David Scott Daniell.

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26 Comments

Filed under Army, d-day, Family History, Local History, Uncategorized, World War Two

26 responses to “Portsmouth’s WW2 Dead – The Hampshire Regiment in focus

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  3. Katie

    Sorry – think this is factually incorrect – my great uncle also received a Military Medal – he was in the 231 Brigade of the hampshire regiment – I have a copy of the approved commendation in front of me – I’m also faily certain he was a Portsmouth man

    • James Daly

      Hi Katie, I’m sorry your great-uncle seems to have slipped the net. I have been working from the list on Portsmouth City Council’s website that was put together for the planned Portsmouth WW2 Memorial. This in turn was put together from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s register, but sadly there do seem to have been more than a few men from Portsmouth who were not recorded as such by the CWGC.

      If you would like to contact me I would be more than happy to research him (I’m off the to National Archives and the Hampshire Regiment Museum soon) and make sure that he is not forgotten.

      • Katie

        Hi

        Thanks for your reply, his name was Mark Pook, according to the commendation he was a private (no 5499645) in the 231st Brigade, 1st Battalion Hampshire regiment. He received the Military Medal for action on 8/9/43 during the landings in Italy at Porto San Venere. He’s buried in Salerno ( he died the following day). I checked – he was definately born in Portsmouth and the family stayed there after the war. I found the approved commendation on the National Archives website (as it’s not a common surname he’s quite easy to trace). Anything you can find out would be great.

        With the Portsmouth memorial – do you know is this still likely to happen and how do we go about making sure he’s on it correctly?

        Katie

        • James Daly

          Hi Katie you’re right, he was awarded an MM. Most people who were awarded Medals and died during the war had the fact recorded on their entry on the CWGC, but it looks like Mark Pook did not. I will contact the CWGC and see if they can change it. I wonder how many more people won medals but have not had it recorded on the CWGC? I will have to search for them on the National Archives/London Gazette.

          As for the Portsmouth WW2 memorial, fundraising is going on at the moment. The memorial itself has been built in Guildhall Square, but it is taking some time to raise the money for the plaques bearing the 2,500+ names. It may be some years before this is finally completed.

          I have checked the list on the Portsmouth City Council website and Mark Pook does not appear on their list: http://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/media/Warlistings_P.pdf

          I will do some research and find proof that he was from Portsmouth (electoral roll or street directory) and submit his name to the Council for inclusion.

          • Katie

            Hi

            Thank you

            If it helps his birth was registered in Portsmouth in Apr/Jun 21, mother maiden name was Gibbins, his dads name was Mark as well. I’ll order his birth cert as that will have a starting address on it.

            Katie

            • James Daly

              That should be enough, I will have a look at the electoral roll, street directories and the Evening News when the Central Library re-opens after they’ve sorted out their flood damage!

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  5. LEE

    NEED HELP!!! trying to find out more about my grandad “James George Toovey” he was from portsmouth, he died in 2005 at the age of 78.. he only told me a couple of storys but otherwise didnt like talking about it.. i do believe that only a few of his regiment came back due to shrapenel wounds, the others died??? please can anyone help or put me though to the relevant people. i do have a great postcard picture of my grandad in his regiment,

    • James Daly

      Hi Lee, I should be able to give you a few pointers, as I went through a similar process researching my Grandad who died in 1995. I will email you later.

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  7. Arthur Ernest Hawker

    Any information relating to the death of Private (5178404) Arthur Henry Hawker, 1/4th Bn, Hampshire Regiment would be appreciated. To my knowledge, he died in action on Longstop Hill on the 22nd of April 1943 and is buried at the Medjez-el-Bab war cemetary. Arthur was originally with the Glosters and transferred to the 1/4th Hampshires at a later date.

  8. Hello, I just found out my Great Grandfather was in the 2/4 Hampshire. I know the basics of his identity but that is about it. He is buried in Arezzo, killed 21 July 1944. Is there somewhere to get more information on him than the CWGC? Pvt. Joseph William Cliff (5956950)

  9. Caroline Bloomfield

    I am a bit confused by this, my grandfather’s cousin was in 5th Hampshires. Pte Arthur William Tucker Hunnybun service no:5505800 he is buried at Klagenfert War Cemetery, Austria but you do not mention Austria in this the above. I was hoping to find out why they would have been in Austria?

  10. Daniel Paterson

    Hi my name is Daniel, i am looking for imformation on my grandfather Walter Edward Greenyer he was in the 7th battalion and died in april 1945 when my mother was 3 months old. If anyone can help please send me a message. thank you.

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