Queen's Westminsters

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Queen's Westminsters
Queen's Westminster Rifles Regimental Cap Badge.jpg
Cap Badge.
Active 1860–1961
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Army Reserve
Type Infantry
Role Infantry
Part of London Regiment
Garrison/HQ London
Commanders
Honorary Colonels Hugh Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster (1881)
Field Marshal HM King Edward VII (1921)
Sir Edward Geoffrey Hippisley-Cox CBE TD DL (1939)
Major Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon and Viscount Eden of Royal Leamington Spa KG MC (1952)

The Queen's Westminsters were an infantry regiment of the Territorial Army, part of the British Army. Originally formed from Rifle Volunteer Corps, which were established after a French invasion scare of 1859. The unit became part of the newly established London Regiment on the formation of the Territorial Force in 1908. It was subsequently amalgamated in 1921 with the Civil Service Rifles, and became a territorial Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps in 1937. It ceased to exist as separate entity after it was amalgamated in 1961.

Rifle Volunteers 1860-1908[edit]

The Queen's Westminster Rifles had been formed in the late 19th century, in honour of Queen Victoria. They were raised by the 1st Duke of Westminster. It comprised the 22nd (Middlesex) Rifle Volunteer Corps, The Westminster Volunteers and the Queen's Rifle Volunteer Corps. In the 1880s the unit had become the 13th (Queen's Westminster) Rifle Volunteers and were attached to the King's Royal Rifle Corps as a Volunteer Battalion.[1]

In 1886 they established their headquarters at 58 Buckingham Gate, Westminster.[2] By 1902 they were the largest volunteer rifle corps in London.[3]

Territorial Force 1908-[edit]

Under the Haldane Reforms that created the Territorial Force in 1908, the battalion was included in the new all-Territorial London Regiment, taking its place as the 16th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Queen's Westminsters).

Memorial to C.F.D. Fitch of the Queen's Westminster Rifles, killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916

On the outbreak of the First World War the battalion was designated 1/16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen's Westminster Rifles). At this stage it was part of 4th London Brigade, 2nd London Division. On mobilisation it moved to the Hemel Hempstead area. On 3 November 1914 it left the Division and landed at Le Havre. On 12 November 1914 it came under command of 18th Brigade in 6th Division.

During the war the unit raised a 2nd and 3rd Battalion.The battalions were also redesignated, becoming, for example, '1/16th' Londons (for the 1st Line) to differentiate them from the 2nd Line units, which were redesignated '2/16th' Londons (for the 2nd Line).[4]

On 10 February 1916 the 1st battalion transferred to 169th (3rd London) Brigade in 56th (London) Division. The 2/16th served as part of 179th (2/24th London) Brigade in the Middle East.[5]

Interwar[edit]

The regiment was reformed on 31 December 1921 as the 16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen's Westminster and Civil Service Rifles), London Regiment by the amalgamation of the 15th (County of London) Battalion (Prince of Wales's Own Civil Service Rifles), London Regiment and the 16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen's Westminster Rifles), London Regiment.

In 1922, it became the 16th London Regiment (Queen's Westminster and Civil Service Rifles). In 1937, it was transferred to the King's Royal Rifle Corps, being renamed as the The Queen's Westminsters, King's Royal Rifle Corps.

Second World War[edit]

On 3 September 1939—two days after Nazi Germany had launched its invasion of Poland—the British Empire, France, and their Allies declared war on Germany, beginning World War II.

The original Westminsters became the 1st Battalion after a duplicate battalion was raised in 1939. The following year, it was converted to a motor battalion. In 1941, the 1st Battalion was re-titled as the 11th (Queen's Westminsters) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps, and the 2nd, the 12th (Queen's Westminsters) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps.

Both units saw extensive service during the war. The 11th Westminsters, as part of the 24th Armoured Brigade, saw service in the North African Campaign in mid-1942, taking part in the Allied offensive during the Second Battle of El Alamein against Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps; it was the first major Allied victory against Germany on land, and the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, summed up the importance of the battle with the words '"now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." The battalion took part in the subsequent advance after the Germans and Italians went into full-retreat in North Africa, seeing action in the Tunisia Campaign as part of the 23rd Armoured Brigade after the 24th Armoured Brigade was disbanded.

The 11th Westminsters moved to Sicily the following year, taking part in the campaign on the Italian island, which began on 10 July 1943. It later moved to the Italian Front, remaining there into 1944. In December 1944, the Westminsters took part in the operations to quell a Communist uprising in the Greek capital of Athens; this mission was successful and a cease-fire was signed on 11 January 1945.

Universal Carrier of the 12th (Queen's Westminsters) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps with Browning machine gun in action against a German MG position, Holland, 2 April 1945.

The 12th Westminsters, having remained in the United Kingdom since the war began, took part in the Battle of Normandy in 1944, forming part of the 8th Armoured Brigade. It saw extensive service in France, including action at Rauray on 26 June and at Mont Pincon in Operation Epsom and during the advance east to the Seine, which was crossed in late August. The battalion subsequently crossed the Somme river, a scene of carnage during the Great War, which the Westminsters predecessors had experienced. It later took part in the liberation of Lille in early September, experiencing a welcoming reception by the inhabitants of the large town. Shortly afterwards, the 12th took part in the advance into Belgium, taking part in, among others, the capture of Oostham. The 12th Westminsters saw further service in the Netherlands and when Victory in Europe Day came on 8 May, were in Germany itself.

Notable soldiers in the Westminsters during World War II include the journalist Bill Deedes, who served in the North West Europe Campaign, and was awarded the Military Cross, and Lord Killanin, the former President of the International Olympic Committee.

Post-War[edit]

Shortly after the war, the Territorial Army was reconstituted and the 11th and 12th amalgamated to form, simply, The Queen's Westminsters. On 1 May 1961, it was amalgamated with the Queen Victoria's Rifles to form the Queen's Royal Rifles.

Battle honours[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Army List, HMSO, 1892, p632
  2. ^ Osborne, Mike, 2006. Always Ready: The Drill Halls of Britain's Volunteer Forces, Partizan Press, p.247
  3. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36801). London. 23 June 1902. p. 6. 
  4. ^ Baker, Chris. "The London Regiment". The Long, Long Trail: The British Army in the Great War, 1914-1918. Retrieved 26 July 2015. 
  5. ^ "60th (2/2nd London) Division". The Long Long Trail. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 

Publications[edit]

  • Ian F.W. Beckett, Riflemen Form: A Study of the Rifle Volunteer Movement 1859–1908, Aldershot, The Ogilby Trusts, 1982, ISBN 0-85936-271-X.

External links[edit]

Media related to Queen's Westminsters at Wikimedia Commons