A few nights ago I did a quick uniform photo shoot portraying an enlisted man of the 1st Battalion of The Royal Ulster Rifles. The regiment's history dates back to the reign of King George III when two new regiments of foot, the 83rd and 86th, were formed in 1793. In 1881, the 83rd and 86th were unified into a single regiment called the Royal Irish Rifles. The regiment provided battalions to all three Irish infantry divisions in World War I suffering 25,000 casualties with 7,000 being killed in action. After the Great War it was decided that Ulster should have its own regiment as the other Irish provinces, Connaught, Leinster and Munster each had their own. So on January 1, 1921 the regiment became the Royal Ulster Rifles.
When World War II was declared, the 1st Battalion was serving in India, with the 31st Independent Brigade Group, training in mountain warfare. When the brigade returned to the United Kingdom, it was decided that with its light scale of equipment the brigade could be converted into a glider unit. The 1st Battalion later joined the 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox & Bucks) and the 12th Devonshire Regiment in the 6th Airlanding Brigade as part of the newly raised 6th Airborne Division. The 6th Airborne Division was the second of two airborne divisions created by the British Army in World War II.
Carried in Horsa gliders, the battalion took part in Operation Mallard, the British glider-borne landings in the later afternoon of D-Day on June 6, 1944. They served throughout the Battle of Normandy employed as normal infantry until August 1944 and the breakout from the Normandy beachhead where the entire 6th Airborne Division advanced 45 miles in 9 days. The 1st Battalion returned to England in September 1944 for rest and retraining until December 1944 when the 6th Airborne was then recalled to Belgium after the surprise German offensive in the Ardennes known as the Battle of the Bulge. The 1st Battalion then took part in their final airborne mission of the war known as Operation Varsity, which was the airborne element of Operation Plunder, the crossing of the Rhine River by the 21st Army Group in March 1945. The 6th Airborne was joined by the U.S. 17th Airborne Division with both divisions suffering heavy casualties.
This uniform is a representation of an enlisted man relaxing after a long day of drill and classroom exercise. The timeframe is spring of 1944 shortly before the Allied invasion of Normandy. I am wearing the P37 Battledress Trousers with a Collarless Wool Shirt. The Trousers are supported by a pair of white Cotton Braces and a 1937 pattern Web Belt. Footwear is the classic black leather British Ammo Boots with a toecap and a pair of canvas Anklets. I am wearing the prized red Beret of the Airborne forces featuring the metal badge of the Royal Ulster Rifles over a green felt backing. Also featured in this series of photos is the brown enameled cup, a mess kit and a Soldier's Pay Book. In the near future I hope to do a follow-up photo recreation wearing the full battle equipment of a Rifleman during the Battle for Normandy.
On Sunday, July 13, Casey, Matt and I headed out in the fields near Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska to pay homage to the men of the 134th Infantry Regiment. A Nebraska National Guard unit before the war, the 134th Infantry entered combat on Sunday, July 15, 1944 in the hedgerow country of Normandy. The Cornhuskers' first assignment was to take Hill 122 which was a key objective in the eventual capture of St. Lo. In taking the hill, the 134th suffered 102 men killed, 589 wounded and 102 missing. In doing so they lived up to their Spanish-American War battle cry, "All Hell Can't Stop Us!" The 1st Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their monumental effort in the attack.
The key to this impression is the relatively sparse use of equipment - wearing just the basics for an attack and nothing extra. Most members of the 134th wore only their cartridge belts with canteens, shovels and first aid kits attached. The men also wore lots of ammunition bandoleers as the fighting was pretty heavy and the men needed all the ammunition they could carry. The July temperatures in Normandy can get warm during the day but cool down considerably at night. Most of the men striped down to their wool shirt during the day and wore their field jackets at night. Another important element of this photo shoot was finding the right terrain that would effectively simulate the fields and hedgerow country of Normandy. Fortunately for us, there are some amazing pieces of land that closely resemble northern France right here in eastern Nebraska! Casey has one particular tree line near his home that looks just like a Norman hedgerow. It's pretty impressive!
It was a great feeling to once again go on patrol through grassy fields wearing the "wagon wheel" patch of the 35th "Santa Fe" Division. For Mr. Hazard and myself, this was the unit that we first represented when we got into reenacting and it has always held a special place in our hearts. The men of the 134th lived by the Pawnee indian words, "Lah We Lah His" which translated means "The Strong, the Brave." We are grateful for the sacrifices of those brave Nebraskans and we honor their service by keeping their memory alive.
UNIFORM OF THE MONTH
I love deciding which unique uniform impression I want to put together each month. Follow me right here to see what's next!