Military Wiki
127th (Manchester) Brigade
Active 1908–1941
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Infantry Brigade
Part of 42nd (East Lancashire) Division
Engagements Gallipoli Campaign
Battle of Romani
Battle of Passchendaele
Battles of the Somme (1918)
Hundred Days Offensive (1918)
Dunkirk evacuation
General Sir Herbert Lawrence
Brigadier Sir John Smyth, VC

The 127th (Manchester) Brigade was a formation of the British Army during World War I and World War II. It was assigned to the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division and served in the Middle East and on the Western Front in WWI. In WWII it was at Dunkirk and was then converted into an armoured support group.


After the creation of the Territorial Force in 1908, four battalions of the Manchester Regiment were organised into a Manchester Brigade within the East Lancashire Division.[1]

World War I

On the outbreak of World War I, the men volunteered for overseas service and the division embarked at Southampton and sailed for Egypt on 10 September 1914, the first TF division to leave England for foreign service. The division began disembarking at Alexandria on 25 September and the bulk (including the Manchester Brigade) concentrated at Cairo.[1]

Order of Battle

During World War I the Manchester Brigade was constituted as follows:[1][2][3][4][5]

  • 5th Battalion Manchester Regiment (from Wigan)
  • 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment (from Hulme)
  • 7th Battalion Manchester Regiment (from Manchester)
  • 8th Battalion Manchester Regiment (from Ardwick)
  • 127th Brigade Machine Gun Company (formed 14 March 1916)[6]
  • 127th Trench Mortar Battery (joined 23 April 1917)


The following officers commanded The East Lancashire Brigade during World War I:[1]

  • Brigadier-General N. Lee (wounded 4 June 1915)
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Rochdale (acting)
  • Brigadier-General Hon. H.A. Lawrence (from 21 June 1915)[7]
  • Brigadier-General G.S.McD. Elliot (from 22 September 1915)
  • Brigadier-General V.A. Ormsby From 1 Mar 1916, killed 2 May 1917)
  • Brigadier-General Hon. A.M. Henley (from 5 May 1917)

Egypt and Gallipoli

The East Lancashire Division remained in Egypt training and manning the Suez Canal defences until 1 May 1915 when it embarked at Alexandria for Gallipoli. The Manchester Brigade first went into action at the Third Battle of Krithia

In late May 1915 the division was numbered as 42nd (1st East Lancashire) Division – taking the lowest number of any TF division in recognition that it was the first to go overseas – and the brigades were also numbered, the East Lancashire becoming 127th (1st Manchester) Brigade. The battalions adopted the prefix '1/' (becoming 1/4th East Lancs, for example) to distinguish them from their 2nd Line duplicates then training in the UK as the 199th (2/1st Manchester) Brigade in 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division.[1]

The 127th Brigade participated in the Battle of Krithia Vineyard (6–13 August) and then for the rest of 1915 was engaged in trench warfare. After the evacuation from Gallipoli, the division returned to Egypt in January 1916 with less than half the strength with which it had set out. It remained in the Canal Defences for the whole of 1916, rebuilding its strength, and taking part in the Battle of Romani (4–5 August).[1]

Western Front

In January 1917, 42nd Division was ordered to France, the move being completed by mid-March. It spent the remainder of the war on the Western Front. During 1917 it formed part of Fourth Army in 'quiet sectors' (though the brigade commander was killed in May that year) and taking part in some minor operations along the Flanders coast.[1]

In 1918 the division became part of IV Corps in Third Army, in which it remained for the rest of the war. When British infantry brigades were reduced to three battalions in February 1918, 1/8th Manchesters transferred to 126th Brigade in 42nd Division. At the same time, the machine gun company left to join a new divisional machine gun battalion.[1]

During the German Spring Offensive (Operation Michael or the First Battles of the Somme 1918), the troops of 42nd Division took part in the Battle of Bapaume (24–25 March), First Battle of Arras (28 March) and the Battle of Ancre (5 April). Then, during the Allied Hundred Days Offensive, it participated in the Battle of Albert (21–23 August) and the Second Battle of Bapaume (31 August–3 September) during the fighting on the Somme.[1]

When the Hindenburg Line was breached during the Battle of the Canal du Nord on 27 September, 127th Brigade's attack was completely successful. The rest of 42nd Division then passed through to continue the attack. 125th Brigade's follow-up was only partially successful, but the advance was renewed after dark, and the following afternoon 126th Brigade passed through 127th to take Welsh ridge, the final objective.[8]

Third Army's advance in Picardy culminated in the Battle of the Selle on 20 October.126th Brigade led the division's attack over footbridges laid by the engineers over the River Selle. 1/5th and 1/6th Manchesters of 127th Brigade then followed up to an intermediate objective. The division then had to wheel right, and was held up. But in the afternoon the attack was resumed and 127th Brigade pushed on to the final objective, which 1/6th Manchesters took after dark without much difficulty.[9]

After the Selle, 42nd Division was withdrawn into reserve and halted around Beauvois-en-Cambrésis from 24 October until the advance was resumed on 3 November. On 7 November the 42nd Division captured Hautmont and the high ground to its west.[10] By 10 November the most forward troops of 42nd Division were on the Maubeuge–Avesnes-sur-Helpe road. This was the end of the fighting, because the Armistice with Germany came into the effect the following day. In December the division moved into quarters in the Charleroi area and by mid-March 1919 most of its troops had gone home for demobilisation.[1]

World War II

The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division and its components were reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920. On the outbreak of World War II 127th Infantry Brigade once again mobilised as a 1st Line formation.

Order of Battle

127 Brigade was constituted as follows during World War II:[11]

  • 4th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment
  • 5th Battalion Manchester Regiment (transferred to 126 Bde 8 September 1941)
  • 8th Battalion Manchester Regiment (until 6 May 1940)
  • 1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry (from 6 May 1940)
  • 127th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (formed 2 February 1940, disbanded 24 January 1941)
  • 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry (8 September–19 October 1941)
  • 1st Battalion East Lancashire regiment (from 126 Bde 25 October 1941)


The following officers commanded 127 Brigade during World War II:[11]

  • Brigadier V.T.R. Ford
  • Brigadier K.J. Martin (from 24 November 1939)
  • Brigadier John Smyth, VC (from 5 February 1940)
  • Brigadier R.C. Matthews (from 2 April 1941)
  • Brigadier C.C.G. Nicholson (from 28 October 1941)


127 Brigade landed in France on 24 April 1940, where 8th Bn Manchesters were sent on to Malta and the brigade received the Regular 1st Bn Highland Light Infantry in exchange.[11] When the German attack on France and the Low Countries began, 127 Bde was assigned to 'Macforce', a scratch force commanded by the Director of Military Intelligence with the British Expeditionary Force, Lt-Gen Noel Mason-Macfarlane. Macforce assembled on 17 May with the role of covering the crossings over the River Scarpe[11][12] As German pressure increased, the BEF was forced to withdraw and 126 Bde returned to 42nd Division on 20 May. It was evacuated from Dunkirk on 30 May.[11]


On 1 November 1941, 42nd Division was converted into 42nd Armoured Division, and 127 Bde was renamed 42nd Support Group. Apart from 1st Bn East Lancashires, its infantry battalions were replaced by artillery regiments. On 1 June 1942 the support group was disbanded, its headquarters becoming the Royal Artillery HQ for the division.[13]



  • Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2a: the Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territoral Force Divisions (42–56), London: HM Stationery Office, 1935/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-84734-739-8.
  • Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2b: the 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th–69th), with the Home Service Divisions (71st–73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions, London: HM Stationery Office, 1937/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-84734-739-8.
  • Brig-Gen Sir James Edmonds, History of the Great War: Military Operations, France and Belgium 1918, Vol V, 26th September–11th November, The Advance to Victory, London: HM Stationery Office, 1947/Imperial War Museum and Battery Press, 1993, ISBN 1-87023-06-2 .
  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military, 2003, ISBN 1-84342-474-6.
  • John North, Gallipoli: The Fading Vision, London: Faber & Faber, 1936.

External Sources

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