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Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry

The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI) of the First World War

The RIC’s photographic collection from the First World War features many images of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Reproduced from a series of glass plate pictures, taken by local photographer Arthur William Jordan, they form an extraordinary record of the DCLI on the Homefront and the role the Regiment played in Kitchener’s recruitment drive.

 

The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (henceforth referred to as the DCLI) was a light infantry regiment of the British Army established during the 1881 Army reforms that merged the 32nd (Cornwall Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot with the 46th (South Devonshire) Regiment of Foot. The regiment itself was in existence from 1881 to 1959, when they amalgamated with the Somerset Light Infantry to make the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry.

Photograph of Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry sergeants standing in a line. Photographer: Arthur William Jordan.

© From the collection of the RIC. Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry sergeants standing in a line. Photographer: Arthur William Jordan.

Fun fact: The regiment was named after Queen Victoria’s eldest son: the future King Edward VII.

Portrait of His Majesty, King Edward VII, by Henry John Hudson in 1902.

Portrait of His Majesty, King Edward VII, by Henry John Hudson in 1902.

The outbreak of war in 1914 saw, much the same as the rest of the Army, mass expansion of the DCLI and were immediately sent to various sectors mostly across the Western Front. They were made up of:

Regular Army Battalions

  • 1st Battalion was deployed straight from Britain to the Western Front in August 1914. They spent all but six months of the conflict there, with an interval in Italy from November 1917.
  • 2nd Battalion arrived on the Western Front in December 1914, staying there for 11 months before shifting to Macedonia in 1915.
  • 3rd (Training and Reserve) Battalion, a training unit, initially from Bodmin moved on mobilisation to Falmouth and in May 1915 relocated to the Isle of Wight for duty with the Portsmouth Garrison.

Territorial Force Battalions

  • 1/4th Battalion, formed in Truro, they made up part of the Devon and Cornwall Brigade in Wessex Division. They sailed for India late 1914 and landed in Bombay on 10 November 1914 and remained there until 1916 where they moved to Aden 1916-1917 and then finished out the war in Egypt 1917-1918.
  • 2/4th Battalion, formed in Truro, initially as a home service before becoming part of 2nd Devon and Cornwall Brigade, 2nd (Wessex) Division. They sailed for India late 1914 and landed in Bombay on 10 November 1914 and remained there until 1918.
  • 3/4th Battalion, formed in Bodmin as a training unit, the battalion remained in Britain until 1916 whereupon they were ‘absorbed’ into the 1/5th Battalion and held in reserve at various bases, ending the war in County Donegal, Ireland.
  • 1/5th Battalion made up part of Devon and Cornwall Brigade in Wessex Division. The battalion remained in Britain until 1916 moving to the Western Front 22nd May 1916 until 1918.
  • 2/5th Battalion, formed in Bodmin initially as a home service; on 8th April 1916 this unit became 5th Reserve Battalion but was then absorbed into 4th Reserve battalion on 1st September 1916.
The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry band are about to start, or have just concluded, a march outside what is thought to be the Travellers Comfort Inn, possibly at Farms Common. This was probably part of a recruiting drive.

© From the collection of the RIC. The DCLI band are about to start, or have just concluded, a march outside what is thought to be the Travellers Comfort Inn, possibly at Farms Common. This was probably part of a recruiting drive.

Kitchener’s New Army Battalions

  • 6th (Service) Battalion, formed in Bodmin, August 1914 under the command of 43rd Brigade in 14th (Light) Division. They were deployed to the Western Front landing in Boulogne on 22 May 1915; remaining there until they were disbanded in France on 20 February 1918.
  • 7th (Service) Battalion, formed in Bodmin, September 1914 under the command of 61st Brigade in 20th (Light) Division. They were deployed to the Western Front landing in Boulogne on 25th July 1915; remaining there until the end of the war in 1918.
  • 8th (Service) Battalion, formed in Bodmin, September 1914 under the command of 79th Brigade in 26th They were deployed to the Western Front landing in Boulogne on 22nd September 1915; remaining there until November. They sailed from Marseilles for Salonika, landing 13th November 1915 where they joined the Mesopotamian Front until the end of the war in 1918.
  • 9th (Reserve) Battalion, formed in Falmouth, 29th October 1914 as a service battalion under the command of 103rd The battalion became a reserve unit 10th April 1915 until 1st September 1916 where they joined the Training Reserve Battalions of 10th Reserve Brigade.
  • 10th (Service) Battalion, formed in Truro on 29th March 1915. They were deployed to the Western Front landing at La Havre on 20th June 1916; remaining there until the end of the war in 1918.

Glossary:

In Britain the Infantry is the branch of the army that fights and moves between combat fronts predominately on foot. The Infantry typically form the backbone of the country’s military capability.

The Light Infantry is a faction of the Infantry and is a title assigned to regiments of infantryman who typically used lighter more mobile equipment and arms.

You can view a selection of RIC archive images of the DCLI below. A wider collection can be found on Media Storehouse.

© From the collection of the RIC