Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars

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Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars
Oxfordshire-yeomanry-plaque.jpg
Plaque commemorating the founding of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry
Active 1888-1922
Country Britain
Branch Army
Type Yeomanry
Role Cavalry World War I
Artillery World War II
Signals Present
Size Squadron
Part of Royal Signals
Garrison/HQ Banbury[1]
Nickname Queer Objects On Horseback
Colors Mantua Purple
Engagements South Africa 1900-1901
World War I
Messines 1914
Armentieres 1914
Ypres 1915
St Julien
Bellewaarde
Arras 1917
Scarpe 1917
Cambrai 1917-18
Somme 1918
St Quentin
Lys
Hazebrouck
Amiens
Bapaume 1918
Hindenburg Line
Canal du Nord
Selle
Sambre
France and Flanders 1914–18
World War II
No battle honours were awarded. It is tradition within artillery units that the Regiment's guns represent its colours and battle honours.[2]
Website http://sites.google.com/site/oxfordshireyeomanry/Home
Commanders
Colonel of
the Regiment
Winston Churchill

The Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars[3] was the designated name of a Yeomanry regiment of the British Army between 1888 and 1922. In response a call by the government for troops of volunteers to be formed in the shires, meeting of “Nobility, Gentry, Freeholders and Yeomanry” was called at the Star Inn in Cornmarket, Oxford in 1794.[4] This led to the formation in 1798 of a troop of yeomen known as the County Fencible Cavalry at Watlington, Oxfordshire in 1798. Renamed several times before becoming the QOOH,[5] it saw service in the Boer War with 40 and 59 Companies of the Imperial Yeomanry and also served in Belgium and France during the Great War.[6] In 1922, the regiment became part of the Royal Artillery. In 1998 it celebrated its bi-centenary by being granted the Freedom of Banbury.[7]

The Churchill connection[edit]

Francis Spencer, 1st Baron Churchill, brother of the 5th Duke of Marlborough, consolidated some of the original independent troops of yeomanry into a regiment in 1818. George Spencer-Churchill, 6th Duke of Marlborough took over the command himself in 1845, and the Churchill family continued this close personal connection with the QOOH well into the 20th century.

Blenheim Palace provided a fitting background for annual camps and spectacular full-dress parades, while the dukes gained personal prestige from their patronage of a yeomanry regiment, and the regiment benefited from their wealth and influence. It was not unusual for several Churchills to be in the regiment at the same time.

Charles Richard Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough was commissioned in 1892 as a humble Cornet, and was an officer for many years, including service with the Imperial Yeomanry during the Second Boer War. He finally became Lieutenant-Colonel in command of the regiment from 1910 to 1914.

Sir Winston Churchill joined the QOOH in 1902 and remained an enthusiastic supporter for the rest of his life, having a significant influence on the fortunes of the regiment during both World Wars, and even giving it a special place of honour at his funeral.[8] The latter's great personal friend, F.E. Smith, later 1st Lord Birkenhead joined the same regiment in 1913[9] and was ultimately a Major in 1921.[10]

Boer War[edit]

The Imperial Yeomanry was raised to match the Boers' skill as fast moving, mounted infantry. The Boer War brought unexpected defeats for the British army at the hands of the Boers in "Black Week", December 1899. This was attributed to the skill and determination of the Boer farmers-fast moving, highly skilled horsemen operating in open country.[11] Britain's answer to the Boers was the Imperial Yeomanry, hurriedly dispatched in January 1900. Among the officers chosen to organise this force was Viscount Valentia, CO of the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars, who became Assistant Adjutant General. The 9th Duke of Marlborough was also appointed to the Headquarters Staff.[12] Volunteers were called for from present and past members of Yeomanry regiments and from new recruits. Over 20,000 men came forward in two years, among them about 240 from Oxfordshire.[11]

Some came because they saw a chance of emigrating at government expense; some for love of sport and excitement; some because their domestic affairs were in a tangle from which enlistment offered a ready escape; some because they were tired of their present occupation; some because they wanted a job; some because they wanted a medal, and some because others came.—Trooper Sidney Peel, one of the Imperial Yeomanry from Oxfordshire[11]

World War I[edit]

2nd South Midland 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.[13]

1/1st Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars[edit]

In 1914, after only a month's training, the regiment received an unexpected telegram. It came from the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, instructing them to prepare for immediate embarkation. They were to join the Naval Brigade which he was sending to Flanders to prevent a German advance towards the Channel ports.[14] The QOOH became the first Territorial unit to see action. It was typical of Churchill's boyish enthusiasm for amateur soldiering that he should have thought up this plan for his old yeomanry regiment, in which his younger brother, Jack Churchill, was then serving.[14]

The regiment soon hardened to the realities of war. Although disparagingly nicknamed by men of the regular army 'Queer Objects On Horseback' or 'agricultural cavalry', the QOOH took part in many actions from Ypres in 1914 to Amiens and the final advance in 1918, winning battle honours and the lasting respect of their fellow members of the 2nd Cavalry Division.[15]

As cavalry they spent frustrating periods waiting in readiness to push on through the gap in the enemy's line, which never came. They toiled in working parties bringing up supplies, digging defensive positions, suffering the discomforts of appalling conditions, and frequently dismounting to fight fierce engagements on foot and in the trenches themselves.[15]

2/1st Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars[edit]

3/1st Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars[edit]

Between the Wars[edit]

The QOOH was converted from cavalry to artillery after 1922. Some saw this as the end of the Yeomanry, which had originally been a mounted force based on hunting and horsemanship.[16]

World War II[edit]

When World war II loomed, the size of the Territorial Army was doubled, and the role of the QOOH changed again, merging with the Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars and becoming the 53rd and 63rd (Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiments, Royal Artillery. The Kidderminster-based 53rd later became an air-landing regiment and dropped the Oxfordshire title, but the Oxford-based 63rd continued in the anti-tank role throughout the war.[17][18][19][20]This time there was no sudden order to join the front line action, and the regiment was detailed to perform home defence duties, at first in England, but then for three years in Northern Ireland. One Battery (251), however, was detached in 1941 and found itself part of the hastily assembled force sent to defend Singapore from the Japanese.[17]

Churchill then influenced the QOOH's history again. When the regiment saw others leave for the D-Day landings, they were anxious to join the action. The main part of the regiment had remained on second-line duties in Ireland and then back in England. However, Winston Churchill, though now Prime Minister, was still Honorary Colonel of the QOOH,[21] and in 1944 it was decided to make a personal appeal to him in the spirit of his famous intervention of 1914. Colonel John Thomson arranged to send this request via Frederick Smith, 2nd Earl of Birkenhead, Churchill's godson and a former QOOH officer. The effect was dramatic. By October 1944 the QOOH found themselves dispatched to France on the personal orders of the Prime Minister.[17]

Prisoners on the Burma Railway[edit]

On 15 February 1942, Singapore fell and the men of 251 Battery who had been involved in the attempt to defend it became some of the 60,000 prisoners taken by the Japanese. For three and a half years they were prisoners and used as slave labour to build the notorious Burma Railway.[22]

Post war[edit]

The reorganisation after World War II caused many changes. In 1947 the QOOH was reformed as the 387 Field Regiment Royal Artillery, TA. Then in 1950 it was amalgamated with Royal Bucks Yeomanry and redesignated 299 Field Regiment, with the QOOH forming Q Battery based in Oxford and Banbury. Further changes occurred in 1956 when they were joined by the Berkshire Yeomanry.[23]

In 1967 the Regiment disbanded. This was part of a major cutback in Britain's armed forces and the switch to a defence policy based on the nuclear deterrent. This lasted until 1971 when they were re-formed as 5 Squadron,39th City of London Signal Regiment (SC)(V) Royal Signals, based in Banbury, reviving the QOOH title and tradition.[23]

On 5 April 2014 the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars becomes part of The Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), forming 142 (QOOH) Vehicle Squadron based at Banbury. They are welcomed to the Corps and bring their long and valued history to enrich the largest Corps in the British Army. They will operate with 165 Regiment RLC, whose RHQ is based at Plymouth.

Churchill's funeral[edit]

Sir Winston Churchill remained Honorary Colonel until the time of his death in 1965. When he left detailed instructions in the safe at the TA Centre, Oxford, for his funeral, he included a special honour for the QOOH. Just as he had sent them to Flanders in 1914 and to France in 1944, so now he singled them out to have a prominent position immediately ahead of his coffin at the state funeral, in preference to many senior and more prestigious regiments. As the huge procession was forming up, a Brigade Major of the Guards stormed up to the officer commanding the QOOH detachment and told him his men were incorrectly arranged according to accepted protocol.

The OC replied:

"In the Oxfordshire Yeomanry we always do state funerals this way."[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Squadron’s current rationale. Retrieved 2008-05-29
  2. ^ "mod.uk". 
  3. ^ Brief history of regiment
  4. ^ Blue plaque on site of Star Inn
  5. ^ 1818-The North Western Oxfordshire Regiment of Yeomanry; 1823-First Oxfordshire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry; 1835- Queen's Own Royal Oxfordshire Yeomanry Cavalry “Discovering English County Regiments” Taylor, A.A: Tring, Shire, 1970 ISBN 0-85263-095-6
  6. ^ The Times, Monday, 19 Nov 1979; pg. VIII; Issue 60478; col H Obituary of former soldier, The Rt Rev R. B. White, Suffragan Bishop of Tonbridge
  7. ^ “The story of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry : Queen's own Oxfordshire Hussars 1798-1998” Eddershaw,D: Banbury, Oxfordshire Yeomanry Trust,1998 ISBN 0-9534694-0-9
  8. ^ a b "The story of Oxfordshire Yeomanry - Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - Churchill's funeral". Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service. Retrieved 2008-05-30. [dead link]
  9. ^ The Complete Peerage, Volume XIII, Peerage Creations 1901-1938. St Catherine's Press. 1940. p. 293. 
  10. ^ Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes, 1930. Kelly's. p. 239. 
  11. ^ a b c "The story of Oxfordshire Yeomanry - Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - Boer War". Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service. Retrieved 2008-05-30. [dead link]
  12. ^ "The story of Oxfordshire Yeomanry - Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - Viscount Valentia". Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service. Retrieved 2008-05-30. [dead link]
  13. ^ Rinaldi 2008, p. 35
  14. ^ a b "The story of Oxfordshire Yeomanry - Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - Churchill intervenes". Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service. Retrieved 2008-05-30. [dead link]
  15. ^ a b "The story of Oxfordshire Yeomanry - Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - The QOOH in action". Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service. Retrieved 2008-05-30. [dead link]
  16. ^ "The story of Oxfordshire Yeomanry - Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - Territorial gunners". Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service. Retrieved 2008-05-30. [dead link]
  17. ^ a b c "The story of Oxfordshire Yeomanry - Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - Another war - another role". Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service. Retrieved 2008-05-30. [dead link]
  18. ^ 53 A/T at RA 39–45
  19. ^ 63 A/T at RA 39–45
  20. ^ 53 A/L at RA 39–45
  21. ^ "Famous People". British Army. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  22. ^ "The story of Oxfordshire Yeomanry - Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - Wartime prisons". Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service. Retrieved 2008-05-30. [dead link]
  23. ^ a b "The story of Oxfordshire Yeomanry - Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - Post-war changes". Oxfordshire County Council Museum Service. Retrieved 2008-05-30. [dead link]

Bibliography[edit]