Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Charitable Trust

Welcome to the Trust's own home page and an important public and private charitable initiative to commemorate the role of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry during the First World War 

The regiment was raised specifically as part of the British Army and the RGLI responded directly to the global call across the dominions for loyalty, allegiance and support.

New for 2019

The RGLI Charitable Trust is proud to have been instrumental into transforming these commemorations into ongoing cultural ties with the twinning if Guernsey's capital with Masnieres in France, scene of one of the RGLI's hardest fought battles. 

You can download the latest details for the 2019 30th November's last centenary service celebrating the RGLI and our movement towards our permanent ties based on our shared history. 

 

DOWNLOAD THE LATEST ITINERARY & ORDERS OF SERVICE FOR 30TH NOVEMBER 2019

This programme, through the generosity of its sponsors, and its Patrons remembers the sacrifice made by the men of the Island, their families and their next of kin.

 

 

It reflects on the ongoing effects these had on the generations yet to come. From 2017 to 2019 in these the centenary years, we remember specific days and events that were significant in having such a lasting effect on our small island community.  From days when those men left our island, other days, far away from home, when the horrors of war brought out their bravery, courage and spirit. Leading to their return home in May 1919 and the eventual disbandment of the Regiment.

Hear the story of the first of June 1917 in this short video commissioned with the Guernsey Press

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June 1st 2017

During 2017 Project LesEmrais commissioned two events commemorating two pivotal days in the life of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry during World War One.

Events on the First of June 2017

On 1st June 2017 the island commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the embarkation of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry.

 

13.30 Castle Cornet, St Peter Port. 

BBC Radio Guernsey broadcast their afternoon show live from the home of the RGLI regimental museum. Hosted by John Randall and Chris Oliver, guests included His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Ian Corder (Co-patron of the RGLI Charitable Trust), Lt Col Colin Vaudin, The Very Reverend Tim Barker the Dean of Guernsey and Social History Curator Matt Hervey who told of the events that led to the departure of the regiment and its experiences abroad. 

19:00 Town Church, St Peter Port.

The church bells will be rung exactly 100 years after the original departure to mark the moment when the SS Lydia (see below) the Cross Channel Steamer took over 1,000 men to war.  

The History of the First of June 

On the first day of June 1917, shortly after the colours of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry had been deposited in the island's capital town church of St Peter's, the 1st (Service) Battalion formed up for inspection. At 11am on their parade ground at Belvedere Field, Fort George, set high above the main town of of the island St Peter Port, they were inspected by Col. H. St Leger and presented with their mascot, a small Guernsey Donkey by the name of "Joey".

Shortly after four o'clock in the afternoon they departed the field and marched to the harbour. 

On arrival at the harbour the men began to board the London and Southwest steamer the SS Lydia, sister ship of the infamous SS Stella which foundered in Channel waters with a great loss of life.

The men began to board at 7 o'clock on a warm summer's evening, waved off by their loved ones. Many never to return to their home island and their families again.

London & Southwest 'SS' Lydia with

St Peter Port's Castle Cornet in the background.

 

November 30th 2017

Download the itinerary for the unveiling of the Masnieres memorial at Les Rues Vertes on 30th November 2017

Thirtieth of November 2017

On 30th November 2017 in the French town of Masnieres, near Cambrai, a memorial made of Guernsey granite was unveiled to commemorate the brave actions of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry and their heavy losses during the defence of the town and its surrounding area of Les Rues Vertes.  This was a pivotal public event for the commune and was once again attended by representatives of both the French and Guernsey civil and political authorities. Arrangements were made for members of the public to attend. Further information on the day's itinerary and events was released during October 2017. 

Thirtieth of November 1917

On the morning of 30th November 1917 most of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry were sheltering in the Catacombs of Masnieres, south of Cambrai, due to a heavy German bombardment that started at 0430. This was a prelude to the German counter attack directly in response to the Allies recent advance on Cambria ten days earlier. The Germans planned a large sweeping move designed to push through the line and sweep up and isolate the Allied troops in a great curve. 

 

By 0800 the RGLI had taken up positions in Masnieres and Les Rues Vertes (the latter, a small village made up of a single street some 400 yards long, south of the Canal). By 0830 the men could see German troops advancing from the east in solid blocks on both sides of the canal. It was up to the RGLI to hold the village. Throughout the day there was hand to hand fighting between the houses of the little hamlet and the Guernseys managed to hold the line, facing several onslaughts and heavy casualties. By evening they were surrounded in a pocket on three sides. The German army was to their north across the canal, to their east and to the south. Only the way east connected them with friendly troops. Despite this they repulsed the enemy the following morning and after many heavy barrages Masnieres and Les Rues Vertes were left as 'smoking ruins'. 

 

The attackers reached the bridge but were again beaten back by the RGLI who took 80 prisoners. The Germans reported 'Masnieres held stoutly by the enemy in spite of the heaviest fire'.

 

By nightfall on 1st December the position of the RGLI could not be maintained and they were withdrawn to the west of Les Rues Vertes after searching for wounded. Their losses, of over 40%, would mean that the RGLI would never again be made up of more than 50% native born Guernsey men.

 

As one diarist records at the time 'Over the next three days almost every Guernsey family received news of their own personal loss'. The effects of this battle alone would bring change, hardship and in some cases emigration into the lives of local families for generations to come.

 

Writing to the Bailiff of Guernsey, the Commanding Officer of 29th Division, General de Lisle said;

 

" I want to convey to the Guernsey Authorities my appreciation of the very valuable services rendered by the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry in the battle of Cambria. Theirs was a wonderful performance. Their first action was on 20th November and although their task that day was not severe, they carried out all they were asked to do with a completeness that pleased me much.

On 30th November, when the Germans, in their heavy surprise attack pierced our line to the south of my sector the enemy entered Les Rues Vertes, a suburb of Masnieres, which town was on my right flank. It was the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry that recovered this village twice by counter attacks and which maintained the southern defences of Masnieres on the night of the 1st December, it being a dangerous salient, it was the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry which covered the withdrawal.

 

Guernsey has every reason to feel the greatest pride in her sons and I am proud to have them under me, fighting alongside my staunch veterans of three years fighting experience. Many officers and men greatly distinguished themselves amongst whom I may mention Le Bas and after him Stranger, Stone and Sangster.

 

I regret that casualties were heavy, further proof, if any were needed that they fought magnificently." 

The sweeping German surprise attack of the 30th of November came from the north, east and a sweep around to the south in an attempted encircling action. The RGLI put up a fierce defence of Masnieres, Les Rues Vertes and what remained of the bridge across the canal.

The little hamlet of Les Rues Vertes with its winding 400 yard long central road, as it appeared at the time.

The bridge at Masnieres which had been damaged during the allied advance on 20th November. Despite this a British tank 'The Flying Fox' attempted to cross the bridge, which collapsed under its weight. This event prevented the British cavalry exploring the open ground left by the early successes and the advance had to be halted. It was here some of the RGLI saw the heaviest fighting ten days later. (Inset, the bridge today).

 

Sponsors 2017

As we remember a series of events that changed forever the lives of the islanders and the people of France, for generations to come, we invite individuals and businesses to help make these commemorations happen.

 

We have already had generous sponsorship that has secured the memorials, their inscriptions and carriage.

 

There are still a few sponsorship opportunities that will help us realise the placement, groundworks and eventual unveiling of the memorials, together with their upkeep in the years to come.

The project team are specifically grateful to the current sponsors to date, without whom it would not be possible to stage these commemorative events.

There are also a number of private sponsors who have donated anonymously to the project.

Can you become a sponsor to LesEmrais ?

Please contact chris@lesemrais.com

 

The Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Charitable Trust

The Team

Lt Col Colin Vaudin

 

Colin is a native Guernseyman who spent the majority of his career as an officer in the British Army with operational service in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan ending as Commander of 2nd Signal Regiment. Colin specialised in strategic and operational planning and wrote the NATO capstone, UK’s operational planning, joint GCHQ and MoD doctrines. He was part of the team that wrote the MoD cyber doctrine. Colin is a Chartered Engineer, an MSc, BSc (Eng). He holds the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service. Colin Vaudin is currently the States of Guernsey Chief Information Officer delivering SMART Guernsey (e-Government; digital business development and differentiation; data-protection and cyber security) and digitisation of the Island.


 

Chris Oliver

Chris was a founder of the Itex Walk (now the Saffrey Champness Walk) and Chairman of Guernsey’s NSPCC. Before moving to Guernsey in 1984 he started his career in the Police Service and was a Civilian Logistics Officer in the South Atlantic in 1982. Chris is a well known local military historian involved in a number of local events with published works. He has made military history programmes with the BBC, C4 and Wildfire Television. Chris is currently Chief Executive of Armstrong Continuity, an NED for a global internet auction company and previous international Vice-Chairman of the Business Continuity Institute.

Angus Preston

 

Angus has had a long history of service with the Armed Forces and went on to serve in the intelligence community and as a Director of the UK Security Services. He lectures on strategy and tactics in logistical threat deployment. He is an advisor to the Eduction Development industry and several security and resilience businesses, including a consultant in the finance and manufacturing industries. Angus is also a keen Non Executive Director with a particular interest in technology. 

Thomas Remmick

Tom was previously the Global Director of Technology Services for an international Swiss based banking group, before becoming a global business director at IBM. He specialises in compound integration of critical business activities and strategic development. Tom has a keen interest in military history and is a regular correspondent and author in the field of the First World War.

 

Contact

chris@lesemrais.com or colin@lesemrais.com

+ 44 1481 251 683