West Somerset Yeomanry

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West Somerset Yeomanry
Active June 1794 - 9 November 1988
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Yeomanry
Size Regiment
Part of Boer War
Imperial Yeomanry
World War I
Yeomanry
Infantry
World War II
Royal Artillery
Garrison/HQ Taunton
Engagements

Boer War

South Africa 1900-01

World War I

Gallipoli 1915
Egypt 1916–17
Palestine 1917–18
France and Flanders 1918

World War II

North-West Europe 1944–45

The West Somerset Yeomanry was a Yeomanry regiment of the British Army. First raised in 1794, it participated in the Second Boer War and World War I before being converted to an artillery regiment. It served in World War II (as two field artillery regiments). Post-war it was gradually reduced in strength until the yeomanry lineage of the successor unit was discontinued on 9 November 1988.

History[edit]

Formation and early histoy[edit]

Under threat of invasion by the French Revolutionary government from 1793, and with insufficient military forces to repulse such an attack, the British government under William Pitt the Younger decided in 1794 to increase the Militia and to form corps of volunteers for the defence of the country. The mounted arm of the volunteers became known as the "Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry".[1] The West Somerset Yeomanry was first raised in June 1794 as an independent troop at Bridgwater. Three more troops followed in 1794 before being regimented in 1798 as the West Somersetshire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry.[2]

Despite the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the Yeomanry was retained by the government "for Military Service in aid of the Civil Power"[3] in the absence of organised police forces. The establishment of police forces (in London in 1829 and in the counties in 1855) reduced the need for Yeomanry to be called out. The last occasion was during the food riots in Devon in 1867 when 112 members of the 1st Devonshire Yeomanry Cavalry mustered in Exeter.[4]

The unwilliingness of the government to pay for the Yeomanry led to many corps[a] being disbanded in 1827–28. Twenty two corps were authorised to continue officially, and another sixteen were allowed to continue to serve without pay.[3] Serving without pay from 1828 to 1831, the Regiment was never disbanded.[6]

Some time in the 19th Century, the regiment was renamed as the West Somerset Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry with Headquarters at Taunton. On 1 April 1893, the troops were reorganised in squadrons.[2]

Boer War[edit]

On 13 December 1899, the decision was made to allow volunteer forces to serve in the Second Boer War. Due to the string of defeats during Black Week in December 1899, the British government realized it wa going to need more troops than just the regular army, thus issuing a Royal Warrant on 24 December 1899. This warrant officially created the Imperial Yeomanry.

The Royal Warrant asked standing Yeomanry regiments to provide service companies of approximately 115 men each. In addition to this, many British citizens (usually mid-upper class) volunteered to join the new regiment.[7] Although there were strict requirements, many volunteers were accepted with substandard horsemanship/marksmanship, however they had significant time to train while awaiting transport.

The first contingent of recruits contained 550 officers, 10,371 men with 20 battalions and 4 companies,[8] which arrived in South Africa between February and April 1900.[9] Upon arrival, the regiment was sent throughout the zone of operations.
The inscription "South Africa" on the Regimental crest commemorates service in the Boer War. The regiment provided troops for the 25th (West Somerset) Company, 7th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry,[8] and sailed for the Cape in March 1900.[9]

On 17 April 1901, the regiment was renamed as the West Somerset Imperial Yeomanry and reorganised in four squadrons and a machine gun section. On 1 April 1908, the regiment was renamed for the final time as the West Somerset Yeomanry and transferred to the Territorial Force, trained and equipped as hussars. Its organisation was:[2]

West Somerset Yeomanry
HQ Taunton
A Squadron Wellington
(detachments at Minehead, Wiveliscombe, Washford, Dulverton, Williton)
B Squadron Taunton
(detachments at Churchinford, Buckland St. Mary, Bishops Lydeard, Churchstanton, Hatch Beauchamp)
C Squadron Bridgwater
(detachments at Highbridge, Glastonbury, Langport, Nether Stowey, North Petherton)
D Squadron Yeovil
(detachments at Crewkerne, Chard, Ilminster, South Petherton, Martock)

It was ranked as 33rd (of 55) in the order of precedence of the Yeomanry Regiments in the Army List of 1914.[10] When the order of precedence was being established, inaccuracies in tracing its history led to a loss of precedence despite apparently serving continuously from 1794.[6]

World War I[edit]

2nd South Western Mounted Brigade
Organisation on 4 August 1914

In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw.7, c.9) which brought the Territorial Force into being, the TF was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many members volunteered for Imperial Service. Therefore, TF units were split in August and September 1914 into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units. Later, a 3rd Line was formed to act as a reserve, providing trained replacements for the 1st and 2nd Line regiments.[11]

1/1st West Somerset Yeomanry[edit]

At the outbreak of the First World War, the regiment was part of the 2nd South Western Mounted Brigade. It mobilised on 4 August 1914 and moved to Winchester. On 15 August it moved with its brigade to the Colchester area. In September 1915 it was at Thorpe-le-Soken where it was dismounted.[12]

Gallipoli 1915[edit]

Still with the 2nd South Western Mounted Brigade, in September 1915 the regiment left Thorpe-le-Soken for Liverpool. On 24 September it boarded RMS Olympic and sailed the next day. It arrived at Mudros on 1 October and on to Suvla Bay. The regiment landed in Gallipoli on 9 October and was attached to the 11th (Northern) Division[13] (digging trenches). In November it was in the firing line, attached to the 2nd Mounted Division[14] and 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division.[15] On 19 December it was evacuated to Imbros.[16]

Egypt 1916–17[edit]

In December 1915 the regiment landed in Alexandria to help defend Egypt. In February 1916, 2nd South Western Mounted Brigade was absorbed into the 2nd Dismounted Brigade (along with elements of the Highland and Lowland Mounted Brigades). It served on Suez Canal defences[17] and part of the Western Frontier Force.[18] On 4 January 1917, the regiment was comverted at Ismaïlia, Egypt to form the 12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry and 2nd Dismounted Brigade became 229th Brigade in the 74th (Yeomanry) Division.[12]

Palestine 1917–18[edit]

With the 74th Division, it took part in the invasion of Palestine in 1917 and 1918. It fought in the Second and Third Battles of Gaza (including the capture of Beersheba and the Sheria Position). At the end of 1917, it took part in the capture and defence of Jerusalem and in March 1918 in the Battle of Tell 'Asur. On 3 April 1918, the Division was warned that it would move to France and by 30 April 1918 had completed embarkation at Alexandria.[19]

France and Flanders 1918[edit]

On 7 May 1918, 12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry landed at Marseilles, France with 74th (Yeomanry) Division. It served in France and Flanders with the division for the rest of the war. From September 1918, as part of III Corps of Fourth Army, it took part in the Hundred Days Offensive including the Second Battle of the Somme (Second Battle of Bapaume) and the Battles of the Hindenburg Line (Battle of Épehy). In October and November 1918 it took part in the Final Advance in Artois and Flanders.[20] By the Armistice it was still with 229th Brigade, 74th (Yeomanry) Division, moving from Havinnes to Escalette, east of Tournai.[21]

2/1st West Somerset Yeomanry[edit]

The 2/1st West Somerset Yeomanry was formed at Taunton in 1914. In January 1915 it joined 2/2nd South Western Mounted Brigade at Woodbury. In September 1915 it moved to Essex, taking over the horses of the newly dismounted 1st Line regiment. In May 1916 it went to Norfolk with its brigade (by now renamed as 2nd Mounted Brigade[22]) and joined 1st Mounted Division.

In July 1916 it became a cylist unit in the 1st Cyclist Brigade of the 1st Cyclist Division in the Beccles, Suffolk area.[23] In November 1916, the 1st Cyclist Division was broken up and the regiment was amalgamated with the 2/1st City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) to form the 5th (West Somerset and City of London) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment in the 2nd Cyclist Brigade, in Norfolk. In February 1917, the City of London Yeomanry was replaced by 2/1st Hampshire Yeomanry and the unit was now 5th (Hampshire and West Somerset) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment.[24] In March 1917 it resumed its identity as 2/1st West Somerset Yeomanry, still with the 2nd Cyclist Brigade, at Elmham near East Dereham. It remained in Norfolk until May 1918 when it went to Ireland with the 2nd Cyclist Brigade and was stationed at Athlone until the end of the war.[12]

3/1st West Somerset Yeomanry[edit]

The 3/1st West Somerset Yeomanry was formed in 1915. In the summer it was affiliated to a Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Tidworth. In July 1916 it was dismounted and attached to the 3rd Line Groups of the Wessex Division at Winchester as its 1st Line was serving as infantry. Disbanded in early 1917 with personnel transferring to the 2nd Line regiment or to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry at Bournemouth.[12]

Between the wars[edit]

On 7 February 1920, the Regiment was reconstituted in the Territorial Army with HQ still at Taunton. Following the experience of the war, it was decided that only the fourteen most senior yeomanry regiments would be retained as horsed cavalry, with the rest being transferred to other roles. As a result, on 1 June 1920, the Regiment was transferred to the Royal Artillery to form 1st (Somerset) Army Brigade, RFA. In 1921 this became 94th (Somerset Yeomanry) Brigade, RFA with just two batteries: 373 (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battery at Taunton and 374 (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battery at Glastonbury.[2]

On 25 January 1922, the Brigade incorporated two Batteries (375 and 376[25]) of the Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry to form 94th (Somerset and Dorset Yeomanry) Brigade, RFA, soon being renamed as 94th (Dorset and Somerset Yeomanry) Brigade, RFA. This was a short-lived marriage, the Somerset Yeomanry batteries being moved to 55th (Wessex) Army Field Brigade, RA in July 1929.[2] They joined two Wiltshire batteries (217 and 220) based in Swindon.[26] Some time in the 1930s, 374 Battery moved to Shepton Mallet.[26] The final change in title came on 1 November 1938 as artillery brigades became regiments, hence 55th (Wessex) Field Regiment, RA.[26]

In 1939, the Territorial Army was "duplicated" - existing units formed a second unit. On 22 July 1939, 217 and 220 Batteries transferred to the duplicate 112th Field Regiment, RA. 55th Field Regiment was now purely "West Somerset Yeomanry".[26]

World War II[edit]

Field regiments were organised in 1938 into two 12-gun batteries. The experience of the BEF in 1940 showed the problem with this organisation: field regiments were intended to support an infantry brigade of three battalions. This could not be managed without severe disruption to the regiment. As a result, field regiments were reorganised into three 8-gun batteries.[27]

55th (Wessex) Field Regiment, RA[edit]

55th (Wessex) Field Regiment served in the Home Forces for most of the war, taking part in the North West Europe Campaign from June 1944.[28]

At the outbreak of the war, 55th Field Regiment was part of 45th Division.[29] Initially commanding two batteries - 373 (West Somerset Yeomanry) from Taunton and 374 (West Somerset Yeomanry) from Shepton Mallet - the third battery (439) was formed in the regiment at Barnsley on 15 November 1940.[30]

In June 1942, it transferred to the Guards Armoured Division, landing with the division in Normandy on D-Day plus 21. It fought throughout the North West Europe Campaign with the division until the end of the war.[31]

112th (Wessex) Field Regiment, RA[edit]

112th (Wessex) Field Regiment served in the Home Forces for most of the war, also moving to North West Europe in June 1944.[28]

At the outbreak of the war, 112th Field Regiment was part of 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division.[32] Initially commanding two batteries - 217 (Wiltshire) and 220 (Wiltshire), both from Swindon - the third battery (477) was formed in the regiment at Sarre on 25 March 1941. It was authorised to use the "Wessex" designation from 17 February 1942.[33]

It remained in the United Kingdom until June 1944 when it was deployed to France, still with the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division. It remained with 43rd Division until the end of the war.[34]

Post-war[edit]

In 1947, the Regiment was reformed as the 255th (Wessex) Medium Regiment, RA with headquarters now in Yeovil. On 1 July 1950 it amalgamed with the 633rd (Surrey) Super Heavy Regiment, RA. On 31 October 1956 it amalgamated with 421st (Dorset) Coast Regiment, RA to become 255th (West Somerset Yeomanry and Dorset Garrison) Medium Regiment, RA. In May 1961 it was reduced to battery strength in 250th (Queen's Own Dorset and West Somerset Yeomanry) Medium Regt, RA as it amalgamed with 294th (Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry) Field Regiment. In April 1967, this battery became B Company (West Somerset Yeomanry), The Somerset Yeomanry and Light Infantry (Territorials), an infantry unit. In April 1969, the company was reduced to cadre at Keynsham.[2]

In April 1971, two companies were reconstituted from the cadre as A (Somerset Yeomanry Light Infantry) Company, 6th (V) Battalion, The Light Infantry at Bath (with a detachment at Midsomer Norton)[b] and B (Somerset Yeomanry Light Infantry) Company, 6th (V) Battalion, The Light Infantry at Yeovil (with a detachment at Taunton). Finally, on 9 November 1988, company subtitles were omitted and the yeomanry lineage was discontinued.[2]

In 2013 it was announced as part of Future Reserves 2020, that the Forward Air Control Troop, Royal Signals based at Bath would re-subordinate from Royal Signals to become a Tactical Air Control Party battery within the Royal Artillery and become 255 (Somerset Yeomanry) Battery Royal Artillery, re-subordination to take place no later than Dec 16.

Battle honours[edit]

The West Somerset Yeomanry has been awarded the following battle honours:[2]

Second Boer War

South Africa 1900–01

World War I

Somme 1918, Bapaume 1918, Hindenburg Line, Épéhy, Pursuit to Mons, France and Flanders 1918, Gallipoli 1915, Egypt 1916–17, Gaza, Jerusalem, Tell 'Asur, Palestine 1917–18

World War II

The Royal Artillery was present in nearly all battles and would have earned most of the honours awarded to cavalry and infantry regiments. In 1833, William IV awarded the motto Ubique (meaning "everywhere") in place of all battle honours.[35]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Corps in this context meaning either an independent troop or a number of troops under a single command.[5]
  2. ^ As successor of the North Somerset Yeomanry.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mileham 1994, pp. 8–10
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h West Somerset Yeomanry at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 16 August 2007)
  3. ^ a b Mileham 1994, p. 14
  4. ^ Mileham 1994, p. 19
  5. ^ Mileham 1994, p. 72
  6. ^ a b c Mileham 1994, p. 109
  7. ^ "Boer War Notes". Retrieved 11 June 2007. 
  8. ^ a b Imperial Yeomanry at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 29 May 2007)
  9. ^ a b "Boer War - Imperial Yeomanry Battalions". Retrieved 3 July 2007. 
  10. ^ Mileham 1994, p. 73
  11. ^ Rinaldi 2008, p. 35
  12. ^ a b c d James 1978, p. 28
  13. ^ Becke 1938, p. 21
  14. ^ Becke 1936, p. 15
  15. ^ Becke 1936, p. 119
  16. ^ Westlake 1996, p. 276
  17. ^ Baker, Chris. "74th (Yeomanry) Division". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  18. ^ Chappell, PB. "Miscellaneous Units Serving Overseas". The Regimental Warpath 1914-18. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  19. ^ Becke 1937, p. 121
  20. ^ Becke 1937, p. 122
  21. ^ James 1978, p. 57
  22. ^ Becke 1936, p. 3
  23. ^ Becke 1936, p. 4
  24. ^ James 1978, p. 20
  25. ^ Dorset Yeomanry (Queen's Own) at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 23 October 2007)
  26. ^ a b c d 2nd Wessex Regiment, Royal Artillery at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 16 August 2007)
  27. ^ Forty 1998, p. 73
  28. ^ a b Mileham 1994, p. 110
  29. ^ Bellis 1995, p. 92
  30. ^ Frederick 1984, p. 516
  31. ^ Barton, Derek. "55 (Wessex) Field Regiment RA(TA)". The Royal Artillery 1939-45. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  32. ^ Bellis 1995, p. 97
  33. ^ Frederick 1984, p. 528
  34. ^ Barton, Derek. "112 Field Regiment RA(TA)". The Royal Artillery 1939-45. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  35. ^ Royal Regiment of Artillery at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 July 2007)

Bibliography[edit]

  • Becke, Major A.F. (1936). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2A. The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42-56). London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-12-4. 
  • Becke, Major A.F. (1937). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2B. The 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th-69th) with The Home-Service Divisions (71st-73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-00-0. 
  • Becke, Major A.F. (1938). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 3A. New Army Divisions (9-26). London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-08-6. 
  • Bellis, Malcolm A. (1995). Regiments of the British Army 1939-1945 (Artillery). London: Military Press International. ISBN 0-85420-110-6. 
  • Forty, George (1998). British Army Handbook 1939-1945. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-1403-3. 
  • Frederick, J.B.M. (1984). Lineage Book of British Land Forces 1660-1978. Wakefield, Yorkshire: Microform Academic Publishers. ISBN 1-85117-009-X. 
  • James, Brigadier E.A. (1978). British Regiments 1914–18. London: Samson Books Limited. ISBN 0-906304-03-2. 
  • Mileham, Patrick (1994). The Yeomanry Regiments; 200 Years of Tradition. Edinburgh: Canongate Academic. ISBN 1-898410-36-4. 
  • Rinaldi, Richard A (2008). Order of Battle of the British Army 1914. Ravi Rikhye. ISBN 978-0-97760728-0. 
  • Westlake, Ray (1996). British Regiments at Gallipoli. Barnsley: Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-511-X. 

External links[edit]