5th Battalion Durham Light Infantry

5th Battalion Durham Light Infantry

The 5th Battalion Durham Light Infantry was officially formed in 1908 after the Territorial Reserve Forces Act 1907 had been passed in Parliament.

This Act of Parliament was the work of the Minister for War Richard Haldane and was his response to the Boer War which had shown the existing structure of regular army, volunteer formations and militia would not be able to supply the manpower needed to fight a war in the twentieth century. One of the main thrusts of Haldane’s reforms was to create a Territorial Force to replace the Volunteer and Militia forces.

Indeed the 5th DLI can trace its lineage through these volunteer formations to 1860 when the 1st Durham Rifle Volunteer Corps was formed at Stockton-on-Tees. This volunteer unit merged with other similar volunteer corps , from Darlington, Castle Eden and Middlesbrough, to make a larger battalion sized unit with eight companies.

Renamed as the the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry it was awarded its first battle honour, `South Africa 1900-02′, for its service during the Boer War.

When the First World War started in the summer of 1914 the unit was at its annual training camp in Wales. After a period of training the 5th Battalion was sent to France where it served with distinction on the Western Front commanded by Lt.Colonel G.O.Spence. Following heavy losses in the German Spring offensive of 1918 the battalion was reduced to a training cadre in July 1918. Two further battalions were raised .The 2/5th served in Salonika arriving as a garrison unit in October 1916 while the 3/5th formed the 5th (Reserve) Battalion which acted a training battalion for officers and men in the United Kingdom.

In the 1920s the Territorial Force was re-established and many men who had served with the 5th DLI during the war returned to serve with the Battalion.

During the Second World War the 5th Battalion was used as part of the air defences of the country and was split up into 1/5th and 2/5th, and later the 54th and 55th Searchlight Regiments, Royal Artillery.

The units battle honours are the following: Gravenstafel, St Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde, Ypres 1915; Flers-Courcelette, Somme 1916; Scarpe 1917; Arras 1917; Passchendaele, Ypres 1917; St Quentin, Rosieres, Estaires, Lys; Aisne 1918.