The Dorsetshire Regiment
On 1 July 1881, the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot and the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment amalgamated to become the Dorsetshire Regiment. The new regiment retained the 39th's county affiliation to Dorset.
The 39th became the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment. It served under Robert Clive at the Battle of Plassey on 23 June 1757. It was the first crown regiment to serve in India, hence the motto Primus in Indis.
The 54th became the 2nd Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment. The regiment captured Fort Marabout from the French in the Egyptian Campaign of 1801.
The Castle and Key in the regimental badge are from the Arms of Gibraltar. It was granted to the 39th Foot in recognition of the distinguished part it played in the defence of the Rock from 1779 to 1783.
On 17 May 1958 the Devonshire Regiment linked with the Dorset Regiment to form the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment.
The 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment
11 Sept 1882 Six coys of the 1st Battalion arrived from Aldershot via Portsmouth. It disembarked at Malta on 20 September.
The 1st/Dorset Regiment embarked for Aldershot via Portsmouth on 20 Sept on the transport Iberia and on 3 Oct 1882 on the transport Batavia.
12 Mar 1885 The 1st/Dorsetshire Regiment arrived from Chatham via Portsmouth.
It had an average strength of 571 men. It had 837 admissions (1465.8/1000 mean strength) into hospital with 5 deaths (8.75 deaths/1000 mean strength). 31 invalids returned to England.
Its average constantly sick was 65.37 (114.48/1000 mean strength). The average sick time to each soldier was 41.78 days. The average duration of cases of sickness was 28.50 days.
The 1st/Dorsetshire Regiment had a the highest ratio of admissions and constantly sick. Surgeon General James Sinclair attributed this to
the inferior physique and great youth of the men, which rendered them quiet unable to endure the unusual heat of the summer months. The Principal Medical Officer stated that Spring was the most unfavourable time for regiments to arrive at Malta. Those arriving in Spring suffered much from fever during the following summer and autumn.1
Fort Chambray Gozo was occupied by the headquarters and four companies of the 1st/Dorsetshire Regiment during the last three months of the year. The fort needed considerable improvements to make it habitable for long term occupation. In particular, the barrack room floors, latrines and ventilation had to be improved.
Malta 26 Sept 1885 The 1st Battalion left for Egypt; those unfit to proceed with the regiment to Egypt were returned to England. The battalion left Egypt for Portland Barracks Dorset on 25 July 1886.
The 1st/Dorsetshire Regiment arrived from Portland, Dorset on 17 Feb 1888. It was quartered at Isola Gate Barracks, San Francisco de Paola Barracks and Polverista Barracks Cottonera. It had detachments at Forrest Hospital and Gozo.
It had an average strength of 726 men. It had 370 admissions (509.6/1000 mean strength) into hospital with 4 deaths (5.51/1000 mean strength). 5 invalids returned to England.
Its average constantly sick was 20.49 (28.22/1000 mean strength). The average sick time to each soldier was 10.32 days. The average duration of cases of sickness was 20.26 days.
The 1st/Dorset Regiment had an average strength of 473 men. It had 197 admissions (416.5/1000 mean strength) into hospital with 4 deaths (8.46/1000 mean strength). 14 invalids returned to England.
Its average constantly sick was 13.84 (29.26/1000 mean strength). The average sick time to each soldier was 10.68 days. The average duration of cases of sickness was 25.64 days.
The 1st/Dorset Regiment was quartered in Cottonera, Forrest and Gozo for 12 months. It embarked for Egypt on 15 July 1889. It left Egypt for Bombay on 27 Sept 1893.
The 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment
1 Oct 1923 The 1st Bn arrived at Malta. Its strength was 29 Officers and 578 rank and file.
Malta 1 Oct 1923 Strength: 26 Officers and 573 rank and file.
Malta 1 Jan 1924 Strength: (HQ and 4 coys) 26 officers and 568 men.
Malta 1 July Strength: (HQ and 4 Coys) 28 officers, 758 rank and file.
Malta Nov 1924 The Bn was stationed temporarily in Khartoun, Sudan.
1 Oct 1925 The Bn was stationed temporarily in Khartoun, Sudan.
Malta 1 Jan 1926 Strength: 0 officers, 50 men.
Malta 1 Oct Strength: 27 officers and 799 rank and file.
Malta Oct 1926 Returned from Khartoun where it was relieved by the 2nd/Border Regiment.
Malta 1 Jan 1927 Strength: 0 officers and 6 men.
Malta 1927 The 1st Bn embarked from Malta for another 11 years in India.
The 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment
Malta 30 June 1939 (Strength): 28 officers and 579 men. The Bn formed part of 231 (Malta) Brigade and guarded the coast of Malta from the east to the south of Valletta.
Malta 30 June 1940 Strength: 24 Officers and 689 men.
Malta 6 July 1940 140 men of the 2nd/Dorsetshire Regiment were at Verdala Barracks Cospicua which had been hit by enemy bombing. The lightly built verandahs were completely destroyed but the main barracks withstood the blast and there were no serious casualties. Two Medical Inspection rooms at the fort had been blown in succession on 6 July. The medical stores were moved to the ammunition store which was located in the bastion and well sheltered.
Malta 10 July 1940 A bomber which had been shot down fell on the Beach Post of B Coy 1st/Dorsetshire Regiment. Three soldiers received burns; after treatment at ADS Tarxien all were evacuated to Mtarfa Hospital.
Malta 12 July 1940 On 12 July, No 5724730 L/Cpl Maurice Andrew William Malcolm died under anaesthesia.
Malta 23 July 1940 On 12 July, No 5724730 L/Cpl Maurice Andrew William Malcolm died under anaesthesia.
Not every soldier was psychologically robust enough to withstanding the daily bombings. On 23 July, No 5724710 Pte Churchill C Coy 1st/Dorsetshire Regiment fired two bursts of his Lewis gun on the men of his company without hitting anyone, and then attempted to kill himself. He was evacuated to Mtarfa Hospital with a flesh wound to his right thigh.
Malta 30 June 1941 Strength: 36 Officers and 821 men. Commanding officer Lt Col De La Bere with his HQ at Corradino.
Malta 30 Sept 1941 Strength: 30 officers and 949 men.
Malta 30 Mar 1943 Left Malta as part of the force involved in the invasion of Sicily (Op Husky).
3 Feb 1943 Claudette Joyce Woodrow daughter of Kathleen and Lt Frank Woodrow 1st/Dorset of 12 Amery Street Sliema, born on 1 Feb 1943, was baptised at St Oswald's Church Mtarfa.
The 2nd Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment
The 2nd/Dorsetshire Regiment embarked at Southampton from Enniskillen on 12 Jan 1897. It arrived at Malta on 21 January.
It had an average strength of 905 men with 751 admissions (829.8/1000 mean strength) into hospital and 9 deaths (9.94/1000 mean strength). 9 invalids returned to England.
Its average constantly sick was 40.34 (44.57/1000 mean strength). The average sick time to each soldier was 16.27 days. The average duration of cases of sickness was 19.61 days.
The 2nd/Dorsetshire Regiment was quartered at Pembroke Camp for 11 months, with detachments at Fort Chambray Gozo.
The following were buried at Rinella Military Cemetery in 1897:
- 7 Apr Pte George David Topp aged 19 years, died at Cottonera.
- 22 Apr Pte John George Telford Dinwoodie aged 19 years, died at Cottonera.
- 15 May Sgt Robert Humphries aged 26 years, died at Cottonera.
- 18 May Henry Robert Stevenson aged 9 months, died at Cottonera.
- 10 June Gladys Gough aged 9 months, died at Cottonera.
- 15 June Pte Harry Stevens aged 21 years, died at Cottonera.
- 23 June Dmr Frederick Hancock aged 21 years, died at Cottonera.
- 7 July Victor Lawrence Read aged 2 years 6 months, died at Cospicua.
- 10 July George Ernest Read aged 6 months, died at Cospicua.
- 5 Sept Pte Roger Downes aged 20 years 5 months, died at Cottonera.
- 23 Sept Pte Archer Skinner aged 19 years 5 months, died at Cottonera.
The 2nd/Dorsetshire Regiment had an average strength of 938 men. It had 795 admissions (847.5/1000 mean strength) into hospital with 3 deaths (3.20/1000 mean strength). 15 invalids returned to England.
Its average constantly sick was 39.01 (41.59/1000 mean strength). The average sick time to each soldier was 15.18 days. The average duration of cases of sickness was 17.91 days.
The 2nd/Dorsetshire Regiment was quartered at Pembroke Camp for 12 months.
Strength 1 July 1025 men.
Strength 1 Dec 963 men.
The 2nd/Dorsetshire Regiment had its HQ Coy at Pembroke Camp with detachments at Fort Chambray Gozo and Crete.
The following was baptized in Malta in 1898:
- 24 Feb Henry Collins born on 19 December 1897, son of L/Sgt Francis Collins and Matilda, resident at Pembroke.
- 10 Mar Richard Duncan Smith born on 19 February 1898, son of CSgt Richard Hemming Smith and Nancy, resident at Pembroke.
- 22 Apr Eleanor Caroline Primrose Reade born on 19 April 1898, daughter of Pte Charles Robert Reade and Eleanor Jane, resident at Pembroke.
Malta 1 Jan 1899 Strength: 750 men.
Malta 24 Jan 1899 The Bn left Malta for Shorncliffe England.
The following was baptized in Malta in 1899:
- 6 Feb Reginald Thompson born on 12 January 1899, son of Sgt James Henry Thompson and Millicent, resident at Pembroke.
The 1st Battalion Devonshire and Dorset Regiment
1970 1st/Devonshire and Dorset
Mar 1970 The Bn arrived from Quebec Barracks Osnabruck Germany.
Malta June Coy Training at Sardinia.
Malta July–Aug 1970 Detachments at Belfast Northern Ireland.
1971 1st/Devonshire and Dorset
Malta Sept 1971 Detachments in Cyprus.
Dom Mintoff became Prime Minister of Malta in the June 1971 elections. On 17 June he informed the British Government that he no longer accepted the ten year 1964 Defence and Financial agreement. In July 1971, at the request of the Government of Malta the British Government suspended the planned change over between 41 Commando Group and the 1st/Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, pending discussions between the two governments.
An advance party of 80 soldiers and their families had already left at the end of June to their new base in Gillingham Kent to prepare the way for the 650 men and 390 families still stationed in Malta.
In Sept 1971, an agreement was reached whereby Malta would receive £5.25 million a year in rent from Britain, and £4.25 million from NATO. However, in December 1971, Mintoff increased his demand for an extra £9.5 million, together with restrictions on the use of the base by other NATO powers and set a dead line of 31 December 1971 for the withdrawal of British Troops. On 29 Dec 1971, Britain reacted to Mintoff's ultimatum by announcing the withdrawal of its 3,500 troops and 7,000 dependants from Malta. The deadline was extended to 15 Jan 1972 by the Malta Government to allow for an orderly withdrawal. Crisis talks resumed in London. On 26 March 1972, an agreement was finally reached for the use of military bases in Malta up to March 1979 when all troops had to leave Malta.
1972 1st/Devonshire and Dorset
Malta May 1972 The 1st/Devonshire and Dorset Regiment was the last infantry regiment in Malta. In May 1972, it was replaced by 41 Commando Royal Marines which henceforth constituted the garrison of Malta until the withdrawal of British troops in March 1979.
- Farmer, J. S., 1984. The regimental records of the British Army Reprint Edition, Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Crecy Books.
- Edwards, T. J., 1980. Regimental Badges First Edition, Tonbridge, Kent: Ernest Benn Ltd.
- Wickes H. L., 1974. Regiments of Foot Southampton: Osprey Ltd.
- 1AMD report for 1885. Br Med J (1888); 1: 154 (Published 21 January 1888).
- TNA:WO 379/11. Stations of Regiments 1859–1900.
- TNA:WO 156/115. Register of burials in the military cemetery Rinella from January 1890 to January 1908.
- TNA:WO 156/598. Baptism Register No 16; Malta from 20 February 1898 to 17 July 1916.