The Hertfordshire Regiment played a role in key battles across Europe, from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Italy, but how did they help win the Second World War?

Formed in 1908, the regiment had seen action throughout the First World War, going into battle at the Somme, Ypres, Passchendaele and the Hindenburg Line.

The first few years of the Second World War saw the Hertfords based in England on costal defence and anti-invasion duties, but July 1943 would see them move closer to combat as the Allies began their efforts to push the Axis powers out of Europe.

1st Battalion, Italy and their Gothic Line heroics

The early months of 1943 saw 1st Battalion ordered to prepare for overseas service, arriving in Gibraltar in April and coming under the command of Lieutenant Colonel G. W. H. Peters.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Troops rest after breaking through the Gothic Line in 1944.Troops rest after breaking through the Gothic Line in 1944. (Image: Imperial War Museum)

They would spend the next year in training as they prepared for deployment in Italy, which had been invaded in Operation Husky and Operation Avalanche a year prior, as the Allies tried to gain a foothold in Europe.

Small-scale, bitter and costly fighting around strongholds followed, including the Battle of Anzio and Monte Cassino, but by the summer of 1944, British and American forces had advanced beyond Rome and Florence to the Gothic Line.

The 30-mile-long defensive line stretched from the Adriatic Sea on Italy’s east cost to the Ligurian Sea in the west, crossing the treacherous Apennine Mountains, and it was proving a real obstacle for the Allies.

Having fought elite German paratroopers at Fiesole and secured the town just over a week earlier, the 1st Battalion took a crack at the Gothic Line of September 14.

Face with a 2,000-foot mountain, heavily for­tified by enemy bunkers, mortars, machine guns and artillery, the brave men of the Hertfordshire Regiment devised a cunning plan to break through the defences.

Following a smoke barrage to distract the enemy, two companies outflanked the German position and pressed up the Poggio Prefetto under heavy fire. They courageously fought their way up the mountain until it was taken.

Their actions would earn them a fierce reputation, and their efforts to take the Gothic Line would continue, most notably with the capture of Monte Gamberaldi and Monte Ceco.

1st Battalion would remain in Italy until January 1945 when they were withdrawn, with the Italian Campaign coming to an end in May that year.

2nd Battalion and the D-Day landings

Operation Neptune, known to most as D-Day, was the key moment of the Second World War, and the 2nd Battalion of the Hertfordshire regiment were right there on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Soldiers march on the road to Ver-Sur-Mer, where Hertfordshire Regiment soldiers landed on D-Day.Soldiers march on the road to Ver-Sur-Mer, where Hertfordshire Regiment soldiers landed on D-Day. (Image: Imperial War Museum)

Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel J.R. Harper, soldiers from the regiment were assigned to Gold Beach at Ver-Sur-Mer, one of five beaches the Allies would use for the largest seaborne invasion in history.

The Battalion landed in the fourth wave and were involved in fighting throughout the day. That night, they would take the hamlet of Vaux which had been a key position for the Germans to harass the beach landings.

In the following days the battalion assisted the Royal Engineers in clearing land mines and moving supplies off the beach, but much to Lieutenant Colonel Harper’s dismay, the unit was disbanded in August, with soldiers dispatched in replacement drafts to other units.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: An aerial photo from D-Day, with Ver-Sur-Mer visible in the background. An aerial photo from D-Day, with Ver-Sur-Mer visible in the background. (Image: Imperial War Museum)

A memorial to the Hertfordshire Regiment and their actions on D-Day stands at the spot where they landed in Normandy.

What happened to the Hertfordshire Regiment?

After the Second World War, the regiment was sent to Palestine where they took part in internal security duties and the rescue effort after the bombing of the King David Hotel.

In 1947, the Hertfords became part of the territorial army, and then in 1961, the regiment was amalgamated into the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, with a further amalgamation in 1967 seeing them become part of the Royal Anglian Regiment.