Welsh Guards in the Second World War

This article will help you to research soldiers who served in the Welsh Guards during the Second World War. The first part of this guide provides a brief outline of the services of the different battalions of the Welsh Guards during the war while the second focuses on how to research a soldier. I have written a guide on my other website to researching Welsh Guards who served in the First World War:

I offer a Second World War Soldier Research Service.

Welsh Guards in the Second World War

1st Battalion Welsh Guards

The Battalion was at Gibraltar when the war began and left for Marseilles, France on 7 November 1939. In France, the Battalion served as General Headquarters Troops. Between 16 June 1940 and 12 September 1941, the Battalion served as part of the 24th Infantry Brigade. The Battalion then served as part of the 32nd Infantry Brigade (Guards) from 4 June 1942 to 22 March 1945 and finally with the 22nd Guards Brigade between 11 April and 3 August 1945.

2nd Battalion Welsh Guards

The 2nd Battalion had only been formed on 18 May 1939 and was stationed at the Tower of London when Britain declared war on Germany in September of the same year. Apart from a brief interlude at Theydon Bois, Epping Forest, Essex the Battalion remained at the Tower of London before it moved to Camberley in April 1940. At Camberley, the Battalion joined the 20th Independent Infantry Brigade (Guards) in which it served between 22 April 1940 – 13 September 1941. Apart from service at Boulogne in May 1940, the Battalion served at Home. Between the 15 September 1941 and 11 January 1943 the Battalion was part of the 6th Guards Armoured Brigade. The Battalion then became the armoured reconnaissance battalion of the Guards Armoured Division. Between 20 June and 31 August 1945, the Battalion served as part of the 32nd Infantry Brigade (Guards).

3rd Battalion Welsh Guards

The Battalion served with the 33rd Independent Infantry Brigade (Guards), London District between 30 October 1941 and 4 February 1943 at Home. The Battalion subsequently served with the 1st Independent Infantry Brigade (Guards) between 1 March 1943 and 31 August 1945 in North Africa and Italy.

Researching Soldiers who Served in the Welsh Guards in the Second World War

In general, there’s a lot of information available whether you’re researching officers or other ranks of the Welsh Guards. The most important step is to get hold of a soldier’s service record. Welsh Guards’ service records are now held by the Ministry of Defence, not the Welsh Guards’ Archive. You follow the steps which can be found here: Order a Second World War Service Record. After a service record, the most important documents you need are the correct war diaries and I offer a copying service for these documents. A war diary will provide the unit’s location and activities and I have discussed the war diaries of the Regiment below.

I also recommend purchasing a copy of the regimental history which has been reprinted by the Naval and Military Press. The reprint isn’t on the best quality paper so the photographs are very poor but the text is fine. You can often pick the first editions up for only an extra £5-8 more than the reprint, especially on Abebooks.

War Diaries of the Welsh Guards

After a service record, war diaries are the most important documents to get hold if you’re researching a soldier. A war diary will record a unit’s location and activities, they haven’t been digitized and can only be viewed at the National Archives. I offer a copying service for war diaries.

1st Battalion Welsh Guards

  • Date: September 1939 – June 1940
  • Reference: WO 167/696
  • Notes:
  • Date: July 1940 – December 1941
  • Reference: WO 166/4112
  • Notes:
  • Date: 03 January – 31 December 1943
  • Reference: WO166/12472
  • Notes: A poor war diary when it comes to the daily entries, though there are a variety of appendices, especially concerning exercises.
  • Date: January – March 1945
  • Reference: WO 171/5151
  • Notes:
  • Date: 11 April – 30 September 1945
  • Reference: WO 166/17141
  • Notes: A good typed war diary with more detail than is usually found for this period. There are no appendices.
  • Date: November – December 1945
  • Reference: WO 169/20034
  • Notes:

2nd Battalion Welsh Guards

  • Date: 01 September 1939 – 30 April 1940 then 01 June – 31 December 1941
  • Reference: WO 166/4113
  • Notes: This war diary only provides the most basic information regarding the activities of the 2nd Battalion during this period, though there wasn’t a lot to record. Most of the entries concern the arrival and departure of officers.  There is a “nominal roll of officers available, or who may be available for second battalion and training battalion Welsh Guards” from September 1939. There is another appendix recording the list of officers posted to the 2nd Battalion which appears at the end of October 1939 along with a list of other ranks who on 1st King’s Guard the same month, with army numbers.
  • Date: May 1940
  • Reference: WO 167/697
  • Notes: A good detailed war diary with contains a complete list of officers and men of the Battalion (with army numbers for other ranks), divided by company, who embarked on 22 May 1940.
  • Date: 1942
  • Reference: WO 166/8582
  • Notes: Another short war diary with brief entries for most of the year. The only appendices are a Battalion Operational Instruction dated 17 September and a march table for the same month.
  • Date: 1943
  • Reference: WO 166/12473
  • Notes: Another short diary which contains no appendices.
  • Date: 1944
  • Reference: WO 171/1260
  • Notes: This war diary is more detailed in the months prior to the Normandy Campaign with appendices appearing from June. Once the Battalion is in action, the level of detail can vary considerably. However, map coordinates are often provided and you can combine the war diary with the regimental history for more information. There are a wide variety of appendices in this war diary, including a list of casualties suffered by the end of September which takes up three pages.
  • Date: January – February, April – June 1944
  • Light Aid Detachment
  • Reference: WO 171/1261
  • Notes:
  • Date: 06 January – 29 December 1945
  • Reference: WO 171/5152
  • Notes: Another poor war diary when it comes to daily entries. However, there are a lot of appendices including a detailed “Account of the part played by 2 (Armd Recce) BN Welsh Guards in Operation Veritable 8 Feb – 12 March 1945”. An appendix also covers Operation Plunder. Overall a good war diary, at least for the final months of the war. There is also the Battalion’s L.A.D. war diary for January.
  • Date: January 1946
  • Reference: WO 171/9205
  • Notes: A single page with the following three entries while the unit was at Bensberg. “14 January: 11 am: Commander 1st Corps visits the Battalion. 19 January: 9.30 am: Commanding Officer inspects the Barracks. 23 January: Nuremberg Guard rejoins the Battalion”.

3rd Battalion Welsh Guards

  • Date: 24 October – 31 December 1941
  • Reference: WO 166/4114
  • Notes: A good war diary which has been typed and contains a wide variety of appendices.
  • Date: January – June 1943
  • Reference: WO 175/490
  • Notes:
  • Date: July – December 1943
  • Reference: WO 166/10171
  • Notes:
  • Date: January – December 1944
  • Reference: WO 170/1355
  • Notes:
  • Date: January – July 1945
  • Reference: WO 170/4982
  • Notes:

Miscellaneous Files Relating to the Welsh Guards

The following files held at the National Archives may be of interest if you’re researching either the Regiment or a soldier who served with it during the war.

  • Welsh Guards: Disposition and Movement of Regiment
  • Reference: WO 379/22
  • Notes: These index cards record the stations of the battalion’s of the Welsh Guards with the 1st Battalion’s noted from 1919 to 1960. Though, when the units were abroad on campaign, only the vaguest information was recorded e.g., Normandy.
  • Report on Operations of the 2nd Battalion Welsh Guards at Boulogne 21 – 24 May 1940 by Major  J. C. Lewis
  • Date: 1940
  • Reference: CAB 106/228
  • Notes: Contains a six-page report on operations at Boulogne and a roll of officers who embarked and disembarked along with the number of other ranks. A page on tactical notes on operations, a four-page account of the battle by Major J. C. Windsor Lewis and a map of Boulogne. Also a map of “Final position of Allied forces Saturday May 25th in Harbour Station” along with a sketch map of positions in Boulogne.
  • Welsh Guards Recommendations for Honours and Awards for Gallant and Distinguished Service
  • Reference: WO 373
  • The search is set up for recommendations for the Regiment between 1925 and 1949. There is a small fee for each citation you’d like to download, currently £3.50. You can download the citations for free at the National Archives.

Welsh Guards Missing Soldier Reports

  • Missing Personnel British Expeditionary Force France
  • Date: 1940
  • Reference: WO 361/52
  • Notes:
  • Missing Personnel 3rd Battalion Welsh Guards North Africa
  • Date: August – September 1943
  • Reference: WO 361/925
  • Notes:
  • Missing Personnel Welsh Guards North West Europe
  • Date: 1944 – 1945
  • Reference: WO 361/648
  • Notes: A useful document if you’re researching a soldier who was initially posted as missing or was captured during the war. Most of the pages in the file consist of individual reports into missing servicemen. These record when they were last seen, who by and in what circumstances. The 2nd Battalion reports often record the rest of the missing soldier’s tank crew. For example, 2738036 Guardsman D. V. Wilcox went missing on 9 September 1944, while serving as part of the crew of No.187999 Cromwell tank which was hit. The other four crew are named, as are the circumstances of the tank’s destruction and efforts to ascertain whether they had become casualties. The last contact was from the tank commander by wireless, stating they were bailing out. Wilcox  was taken prisoner by the Germans and survived the war.