Burma Star Association
Burma Star Association

The History of the Border Regiment

From the Winter 1982 edition of Dekho!


The King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) and The Border Regiment (Carlisle) amal­gamated to form The King’s Own Royal Border Regiment in 1959. Today’s regiment remem­bers with pride the four battalions who served in Burma. The 2nd Bn The King’s Own formed 41 and 46 Columns in 111 Bde in the Chindits; 2nd 13n The Border Regt in 20th Indian Division; 4th Bn The Border Regt in 23 Brigade forming 34 and 55 Columns; and the 9th Bn The Border Regt in 17th Indian Division.


The 2 King’s Own were flown into “Broadway” on March 10, 1944 and flew out from Myitkyina on July 26, having marched and fought over 1,100 miles behind the Japanese lines.


2 Border fought in the withdrawal from the Kabaw Valley to the Shenam Pass, where many engagements for the defence of Imphal in April/May, 1944 took place; 9 Border fought with 17 Div. up the Tiddim Road and in the battles round Bishenpur and also in defence of the Silchar Track; 4 Border in 23 Bde, harassed the lines of communication of the Japanese 31st Div., and met up with 2 Border on the Ukhrul Road in June, 1944.


In the advance into Burma, 2 Border crossed the Irrawaddy on February 13, whilst in April, 1945, 9 Border fought in the battles for Meiktila.


Today’s regiment incorporates the history and traditions of three former regiments. The regiment raised in 1680 as one of the Tangier regiments, was granted the name King’s Own and the distinction of The Lion of England as a badge, by William of Orange in 1688. In 1702, the regiment which became the 34th (Cumberland) Regt was raised, and the 55th (Westmorland)) Regt was raised in 1755.


The badge of today’s regiment includes the Lion of England of the King’s Own and the laurel wreath awarded to the 34th for their part in the rearguard which saved the Army at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745.


In 1756, the 4th and 34th were both included in the small garrison on the island of Minorca. Abandoned by the fleet and besieged by the French, they were forced to surrender, but were allowed to march out with colours flying as a tribute to their gallant defence.


In the American War of Independence, the 4th and 55th fought together in the Army of General Howe, which successfully captured New York in 1776, and Philadelphia in 1777. The 34th fought with General Burgoyne and was present at the disaster of Saratoga. Moved to the West Indies to counter the French threat, the 4th and 55th share the battle honour “St. Lucia 1778.”


Having fought in the West Indies in the early years of the French Revolutionary War in the 1790s, the 55th were in the Army of the Duke of York in his campaign in the Low Countries in 1799, showing particular gallantry at the Battle of Egmont-op-Zee. But it was in the Napoleonic wars, and particularly in the Peninsula War that the regiment gained its battle honours. The King’s Own fought with General Moore’s Army in 1808-9 and took part in the famous retreat to Corunna, and the defence of the town whilst the Army was evacuated. Between 1809 and 1814, 11 battle honours were won by the regiment. Arroyo dos Molinos is unique to the regiment, mainly on account of the fact that the English 34th met and defeated in battle the French 34th, capturing their drums and drum-major’s mace, both of which are still in possession of the regiment and trooped every year on the anniversary of the battle.


The 4th Regt particularly distinguished themselves at San Sebastian in Northern Spain in 1813, where they were instrumental in breaching the wall of the town. After Napoleon’s escape from Elba in 1815, the King’s Own crossed from England to Belgium, and by marching 48 miles in 30 hours, took part in the Battle of Waterloo.


The Chinese Dragon with which the Border Regt was always associated was awarded to the 55th after the First China War of 1841. The regiment captured an Imperial Chinese Dragon Standard which hangs in Kendal Church, and was awarded the Dragon as a regimental badge. This dragon now appears on the regimental buttons.


The 4th and 5th landed with the Army in the Crimea in 1854 and fought at the Battles of Alma and Inkerman. They were joined by the 34th in the siege and capture of Sebastopol. Five of the new Victoria Crosses were awarded to the regiments.


After returning from the Crimea the 34th were soon on their way to India as reinforce­ments to fight in the Indian Mutiny. In 1857 they fought at the Relief of Lucknow. One Victoria Cross was awarded to the regiment during the Mutiny.


The 4th King’s Own formed a part of General Napier’s Army that fought the Abyssinian War of 1867-68. This was a well-planned and executed campaign, overcoming incredible supply difficulties. The Army rescued European captives from the Emperor Theodore’s mountain stronghold, Magdala, and returned to the coast before the spring rains swelled the rivers and blocked the route. All three regiments were involved in minor wars on the frontiers of India, and the 4th in the Zulu War of 1879.


In the Army reforms of 1881, the 4th King’s Own Royal Regt was territorially affiliated to Lancaster, and recruited in Furness and North Lancashire. At the same time, the 34th Cumberland and the 55th Westmorland Regts became the 1st and 2nd Bns The Border Regt. Depots were open in Bowerham Barracks, Lancaster for The King’s Own, and in The Castle, Carlisle for The Border Regt.


The 2nd Bn The King’s Own and the 1st Bn The Border Regt fought in the Boer War and both were present at the Relief of Ladysmith in 1900 and in the battles before the Relief. Both battalions marched many miles over the veldt during the Guerilla war that followed.


The 1st Bn The King’s Own fought at Le Cateau and in the retreat from Mons in the first actions in the 1914-18 War. 2 Border soon followed with the 7th Dlv, and fought in the first Battle of Ypres in defence of the Channel Ports. The other regular battalion were hastily brought home from the East, King’s Own to fight in France, and Border to join the “Incomparable” 29th Div. to land in Gallipoli in April, 1915. Soon, other battalions of the regiment were formed. Eighteen battalions were to see active service in the war, in every theatre. A total of 13,167 of the regiment were killed in action.


Between the wars the regiment was to serve in Ireland, India including the North West Frontier, Burma, China, Egypt and Palestine where Border and King’s Own were involved in the Arab Revolt of 1938-39.


Before Dunkirk, 1 Border, 4 and 5 Border and 5 King’s Own fought in France. After Dunkirk, 1 Border were converted to gliderborne troops. They landed in Sicily, fought in Italy with the 1st Airborne Div. and in 1944, fought at Arnhem. 1 King’s Own were flown from India to Iraq in 1941, and took part in the defence of Habbaniya, one of the earliest examples of a battalion being flown into action. 1 King’s Own later fought in Italy with the 10th Indian Div. 6 Border were a beach landing group at the Normandy landings.


2nd King’s Own and 2, 4 and 9 Border all fought in Burma as explained in the beginning of this article.


After the war the two regular battalions served in Germany and Italy, before I Border was posted to Palestine in 1947. On the evacuation of Palestine in 1948, it served in Somali-land, and later in the Canal Zone of Egypt. 1 King’s Own was posted to Korea in October, 1953, moving on to Hong Kong. Whilst 1 Border served in BAOR and Berlin, the King’s Own served in Aden and Kenya.

When you go home

tell them of us and say,

For your tomorrow,

we gave our today

Lt Gen Slim at Fort Dufferin, Mandalay, in March 1945 Lt Gen Slim at Fort Dufferin, Mandalay, in March 1945
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