Military Units of Essex (1)
The Essex Regiment
An article from The Essex Countryside Magzine November 1965
The 3rd (16th/44th Foot) Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment
By George Newark
In 1958, veteran soldiers of Essex heard with regret that after 217 years of loyal service, during which time it had won 121 battle honours and gained six Victoria Crosses, The Essex Regiment was to be amalgamated with the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot). The modern warfare and technological advances in the British Army must override the county regimental system was obvious, but the disappearance of the proud title “The Essex Regiment” from the Regular Army list was deeply felt. Consolations that helped pacify present and past soldiers of the regiment were the adoption by the new unit of the unique and treasured nickname the Pompadours, the retention of the county title by the Territorial battalion and a pride in the new relationship with the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment.
The two regiments were officially merged at Dortmund, West Germany, on June 2, 1958. Officers and men quickly buckled down to the job of making the new battalion an efficient fighting unit. In May 1959 the Queen Mother presented new colours to the battalion at Warley barracks. The 3rd East Anglian Regiment was soon on the move. It joined the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade in Malaya, and was instrumental in flushing out the remaining Communist terrorists from the almost impenetrable jungle of northern Malaya. To celebrate the end of the long campaign a victory parade was held in Kuala Lumpar in 1960, and the 3rd East Anglian had the honour to represent all the British Infantry units which had served in Malaya since 1945. Two years later the battalion moved to Ballkinler, Northern Ireland.
A further reorganization on 1964 gave the unit its present title of 3rd (16th/44th Foot) Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, and its personnel a new environment. In July the men moved to Wavell barracks, Berlin, and on September 1 held an impressive ceremony to mark formation day, when they adopted the new title. From its muster of 700 men the battalion finds personnel for many arduous duties in that bitterly divided city.
The men patrol the precincts of the British sector, including part of the infamous Berlin wall; escort the British Military trains which run between West Germany and Berlin; and, paradoxically, protect the Soviet Army guards at the Russian war memorial from possible attacks by West Berliners. The battalion also takes its turn, with Russian, French and American troops, in guarding what has been described as the most expensive prison in the world- Spandau. This grim fortress houses only three prisoners, all of whom are major Nazi war criminals; Rudolf Hess, one-time deputy to Hitler; Balder von Schrirach, The Hitler Youth Leader; and Albert Speer, The Nazi minister for munitions. Amid these cold-war activities training and leisure are not forgotten. Weapon training exercises are carried out in the Grunewald Forest, Berlin, and at Soltau in West Germany, frequently in conjunction with the French and United States garrisons. Off-duty sporting facilities are abundant. The magnificent Olympic stadium, built under Hitler’s specific instructions in order to impress the world during the 1936 Olympics, is used by British troops for swimming, football rugby and athletics. The Kurfurstendamn, Berlins Bond Street, with its fashionable shops and blazing neon signs, is a great attraction after dark. Most of the married personnel are housed in attractive centrally heated quarters. West Berlin is one of the most exhilarating, and potentially explosive, places in the world for a British battalion to be stationed.
During the state visit to Germany in 1965 the Queen flew to Berlin and reviewed the British infantry brigade of the Allied garrison before a crowd of 30,000 of the Maifield. This was a proud day for the battalion. Later, during her speech at the Berlin City Hall, the Queen mentioned the important role of the battalion when she said: “Units of my armed forces now live among you as friends and protectors; they are received with kindness as fellow workers and defenders of peace and freedom.”
The Royal Anglian Regiment, now the largest regiment in the British Army, consists of four battalions. The 1st (Norfolk and Suffolk) Battalion is serving in Aden; the 2nd (Duchess of Gloucester’s Own Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire) Battalion is currently in Cyprus; the 3rd (16th/44th Foot) Battalion is in Berlin, as we have read; and the 4th (Leicestershire) Battalion has joined the 1st Battalion in Aden for a six-month tour of duty. The main regimental headquarters is at Blenheim camp, Bury St. Edmunds, but the 3rd battalion maintains a “home” headquarters at Warley, thereby retaining a link with the Essex Regiment. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is colonel-in-chief of the Royal Anglian Regiment, with Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Gloucester as deputy colonels-in-chief. Lieutenant-General Sir Reginald F.S. Denning, K.B.E., C.B., D.L., is colonel of the regiment, and the 3rd Battalion commanding officer is Lieutenant-Colonel P. J. H. Leng, M.B.E., M.C. The new battalion has inherited the battle honours of the Essex Regiment and the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, and selected honours from each unit will be emblazoned on the new Queen’ sand regimental colours now being designed.
Recruiting parties from the 16th/44th Foot can often be seen touring Essex towns and villages, demonstrating weapons and equipment and imparting information to would-be Pompadours.