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World War One

7th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment

Attempt to save the Battalion, 1918

Early in 1918 the number of Infantry Battalions in a Brigade was reduced from four to three. The 7th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, was one of the many chosen for disbandment. At the time of the Order, Captain and Adjutant Charles W Wingrove MC and Captain Peers of the 7th Battalion, proceeded on leave, from France to London. Dismayed by the prospect of the break up of their Battalion, as were all ranks, they wondered what could be done in London to prevent this catastrophe.
They hit upon the idea of making a direct approach to their Colonel in Chief, King George V.
This was a daunting prospect, but after a couple of days, they plucked up courage and went to Buckingham Palace. They talked their way passed the Police on duty, insisting that, as Officers, they had a right to place their grievances directly to their Colonel in Chief.
This caused a deal of commotion but they stuck to their guns.
They were eventually interviewed by Clive Wigram, His Majesty’s Personal Secretary, to whom they explained their mission in detail.
Wigram persuaded them that it was just not possible for them to see the King personally but if they would sit down he would help them compose a letter. This they did, and Wigram promised to ensure that His Majesty received the letter and he, Wigram, would enlarge on the written word, filling in as much background as possible.

Two letters were subsequently received by Captain Wingrove from Clive Wigram:

Buckingham Palace
Private and Confidential
8th February 1918

My dear Captain Wingrove

I am commanded by the King to acknowledge the receipt of your letter signed by yourself and by Captain Peers, with reference to the disbandment of the 7th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, concerning which I had already informed His Majesty after our meeting yesterday morning.
As a matter of fact a letter was sent yesterday afternoon to the War Office, asking whether there was any possibility of assisting the wishes of the Regiment as put forward by you and your colleague.
If anything can be done without upsetting the general scheme of reorganization, I am sure that Lord Derby will do it.
In the ordinary course of events your letter would be forwarded to the War Office. I feel sure, however, that such a course would do your cause more harm than good, especially as the Adjutant-General’s Department is overworked, and your addressing His Majesty is associated as Colonel-in-Chief.
It is only the inexorable demands of military policy that has forced this upon the General Staff.

Yours sincerely,
Clive Wigram.

Captain C W Wingrove MC

Buckingham Palace
11th February 1918

Dear Captain Wingrove

Since writing to you I have received the enclosed letter from Lord Derby which I send for your private information, and which please return. I have also again spoken to Lord Derby.
It is needless to say how sorry I am that nothing can be done to save your fine Battalion, but there it is – The King is Colonel-in-Chief of 14 British Infantry Regiments, which aggregate 169 Battalions, and if His Majesty overruled the Secretary of State in one case, what would other Battalions in the same plight have to say?
I am sure that you and your colleague will understand the difficulty of the situation, and whatever your fate may be, that you will endeavour to create the same esprit de corps, which characterizes the 7th Battalion, in your new surroundings.

Yours very truly,

Clive Wigram

Captain C W Wingrove.

Captain Charles William Wingrove, 7th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, spring 1915.
Accession Number: KO1777/01

Captain Charles William Wingrove, 7th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, circa 1918.
Accession Number: KO2381/01 and KO2381/02

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