The Berkshire Yeomanry was a regiment of the British Army formed in 1794 to counter the threat of invasion during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was the Royal County of Berkshire's senior volunteer unit with over 200 years of voluntary military service. After taking part in the Second Boer War, it saw action as mounted troops in the First World War and as artillery (145th (Berkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery) in the Second World War. Its lineage is maintained by 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron, part of 39 (Skinners) Signal Regiment. The Headquarters of the Squadron is based in Windsor, Berkshire. The Berkshire Yeomanry had a number of battle honours won from Europe to the Far East and Private Frederick Potts was awarded a Victoria Cross for service during the Gallipoli Campaign.
Badge of the Berkshire Yeomanry
|Active||20 April 1794 – April 1828|
12 February 1831 – present
|Country|| Kingdom of Great Britain (1794–1800)|
United Kingdom (1801–present)
|Type||Yeomanry (First World War)|
Royal Artillery (Second World War)
Royal Signals (current)
|Role||Royal Corps of Signals|
|Size||Three Regiments (First World War)|
One Regiment (Second World War)
One Squadron (current)
|Engagements||Second Boer War|
First World War Second World War
|Br.-Gen. John Tyson Wigan|
Formation and early historyEdit
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". The first yeomanry in Berkshire was the Abingdon Yeomanry, raised on 20 April 1794.[a] Other corps followed so that eight were in existence by the end of 1800.[b] The brief Peace of Amiens in 1802 saw a number of corps disbanding, to be re-raised in 1803 with the resumption of hostilities.
The 1st Regiment of Berkshire Cavalry was formed on 21 March 1804 by the regimentation of five independent troops (seven by 1814). 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" in the absence of organised police forces. Indeed, the Eastern Berkshire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry was formed on 14 January 1820.
The unwillingness of the government to pay for the Yeomanry led to many corps being disbanded in 1827–28. Twenty two corps were authorised to continue officially, and another sixteen were allowed to continue to serve without pay (until 1831). The Berkshire Yeomanry was not amongst them: the 1st Regiment was disbanded in January 1828 and the Eastern Regiment in April.
Four independent troops of yeomanry were re-formed in Berkshire in 1831, but these had dwindled to just the Hungerford Corps of Yeomanry Cavalry by 1838. In 1853, this had grown to three troops and was designated Berkshire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry (Hungerford). On 1 April 1893, the troops were reorganised into two squadrons, and the Headquarters was at Hungerford.
Second Boer WarEdit
On 13 December 1899, the decision to allow volunteer forces serve in the Second Boer War was made. Due to the string of defeats during Black Week in December, 1899, the British government realized they were 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. 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 in 20 battalions of 4 companies, which arrived in South Africa between February and April, 1900. Upon arrival, the regiment was sent throughout the zone of operations. The Berkshire Yeomanry sponsored the 39th Company, 10th Battalion and the 58th Company, 15th Battalion.
On 17 April 1901, the regiment was renamed as the Berkshire 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 Berkshire (Hungerford) Yeomanry and transferred to the Territorial Force, trained and equipped as dragoons. Its organisation was:
|Berkshire (Hungerford) Yeomanry|
|HQ||Yeomanry House, Reading|
(detachments at Maidenhead, Wokingham)
(detachment at Wallingford)[a]
(detachments at Hungerford, Lambourn)
(detachments at Abingdon, Faringdon, Didcot)[a]
First World WarEdit
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.
1/1st Berkshire YeomanryEdit
The regiment was mobilized with its brigade on 4 August 1914 upon the outbreak of the First World War. Initially, it concentrated in Berkshire and on 5 August 1914 joined the 1st Mounted Division. On 2 September it was transferred to the 2nd Mounted Division and in mid November 1914 it moved with its division to Norfolk on coastal defence duties.
In April 1915, the 2nd Mounted Division moved to Egypt arriving at Alexandria between 19 and 21 April and was posted to Cairo by the middle of May. The regiment was dismounted in August 1915 and took part in the Gallipoli Campaign. It left a squadron headquarters and two troops (about 100 officers and men) in Egypt to look after the horses.
They landed at "A" Beach, Suvla Bay on 18 August and moved into bivouacs at Lala Baba on 20 August. On 21 August it advanced to Chocolate Hill via Salt Lake and Hetman Chair and took part in the attack on Scimitar Hill. Due to losses during the Battle of Scimitar Hill and wastage during August 1915, the 2nd Mounted Division had to be reorganised. On 4 September 1915, the 1st Composite Mounted Brigade was formed from the 1st (1st South Midland), 2nd (2nd South Midland) and 5th (Yeomanry) Mounted Brigades. Each brigade formed a battalion sized unit, for example, 2nd South Midland Regiment and each regiment a sub-unit. The brigade embarked for Mudros on 31 October and returned to Egypt in December 1915 where its component units were reformed and remounted.
The brigade left the 2nd Mounted Division on 17 January 1916 and was sent to the Western Frontier of Egypt as an independent formation. On 31 March 1916, the remaining Mounted Brigades were numbered in a single sequence. As a consequence, the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade was redesignated as 6th Mounted Brigade. The brigade served with the Western Frontier Force from January to October 1916. It joined the newly formed Imperial Mounted Division in January 1917 and took part in the First and Second Battles of Gaza.
The complete brigade was transferred to the newly formed Yeomanry Mounted Division on 27 June 1917, joining it at el Maraqeb. From 31 October it took part in the Third Battle of Gaza, including the Battle of Beersheba and the Capture of the Sheria Position. It took part in the Battle of Mughar Ridge on 13 and 14 November and the Battle of Nebi Samwil from 17 to 24 November. From 27 to 29 November, it withstood the Turkish counter-attacks during the Capture of Jerusalem.
In March 1918, the 1st Indian Cavalry Division was broken up in France. The British units (notably 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, 17th Lancers, 1/1st Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons and A, Q and U Batteries RHA) remained in France and the Indian elements were sent to Egypt. By an Egyptian Expeditionary Force GHQ Order of 12 April 1918, the mounted troops of the EEF were reorganised when the Indian Army units arrived in theatre. On 24 April 1918, the Yeomanry Mounted Division was indianized[c] and its title was changed to 1st Mounted Division, the third distinct division to bear this title.[d] On 24 April 1918, the 6th Mounted Brigade was merged with elements of the 5th (Mhow) Cavalry Brigade: the Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars and the Berkshire Yeomanry left the brigade on 4 April and were merged to form C Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. They were replaced by 2nd Lancers (Gardner's Horse) and 38th King George's Own Central India Horse from 5th (Mhow) Cavalry Brigade.
C Battalion, MGC was posted to France, arriving on 28 June 1918. In August 1918 it was renumbered as 101st (Bucks. & Berks. Yeo.) Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. They remained on the Western Front for the rest of the war. At the Armistice, it was serving as Army Troops with the Second Army.
2/1st Berkshire YeomanryEdit
The 2nd Line regiment was formed at Reading in September 1914. By March 1915 it was with 2/2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade in 2/2nd Mounted Division and was at King's Lynn in Norfolk. On 31 March 1916, the remaining Mounted Brigades were ordered to be numbered in a single sequence; the brigade was numbered as 11th Mounted Brigade and the division as 3rd Mounted Division.
In July 1916, the regiment was converted to a cyclist unit in 8th Cyclist Brigade, 2nd Cyclist Division and was stationed in the Maidstone area of Kent. In September 1916 it moved to the Ipswich area of Suffolk. In November 1916, the division was broken up and regiment was merged with the 2/1st Hampshire Yeomanry to form 11th (Hampshire and Berkshire) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment in 4th Cyclist Brigade. In March 1917 it resumed its identity as 2/1st Berkshire Yeomanry and by July 1917 it was at Wivenhoe. About January 1918 it went to Ireland with the 4th Cyclist Brigade and was stationed at Dublin and Dundalk until the end of the war.
3/1st Berkshire YeomanryEdit
The 3rd Line regiment was formed in 1915; in the summer it was affiliated to the 7th Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Tidworth. Early in 1917 it was absorbed into the 6th Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Tidworth.
Between the warsEdit
On 7 February 1920, the Regiment was reconstituted in the Territorial Army with HQ still at Reading. 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 22 June 1921, the Regiment was amalgamated with the Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry and simultaneously transferred to the Royal Artillery to form 99th (Buckinghamshire and Berkshire) Brigade, RFA with HQ at Aylesbury.
The two yeomanry regiments retained their own identities and badges within the amalgamated unit, with each providing two batteries. The Berkshire Yeomanry formed 395 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Battery at Reading and 396 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Battery at Newbury.
The brigade / regiment underwent a number of redesignations before the outbreak of the Second World War. In February 1922 it regained its yeomanry title as 99th (Buckinghamshire and Berkshire Yeomanry) Brigade, RFA. Another title change came in June 1924 as the Royal Field Artillery was reamalgamated back into the Royal Artillery and it became 99th (Buckinghamshire and Berkshire Yeomanry) (Army) Field Brigade, RA. The final change came in November 1938 as artillery brigades became regiments, hence 99th (Buckinghamshire and Berkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, RA.
By 1939 it became clear that a new European war was likely to break out, and the doubling of the Territorial Army was authorised, with each unit forming a duplicate. The Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Yeomanry were separated on 25 August 1939, with each being reconstituted as field regiments of the Royal Artillery. The Buckinghamshire contingent became 99th (Buckinghamshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery and the Berkshire contingent became 145th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.
Second World WarEdit
With the outbreak of war in September 1939, 145th Field Regiment, RA was mobilised at Newbury and assigned to 61st Infantry Division. Field regiments were organised in 1938 into two 12-gun batteries. The experience of the BEF in France 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. The third battery (509) was formed in the regiment at Antrim on 14 January 1941. It gained its subtitle, initially as 145th Field Regiment, RA (Buckinghamshire and Berkshire Yeomanry) (TA) from 17 February 1942, amended on 12 May 1942 to 145th Field Regiment, RA (Berkshire Yeomanry) (TA).
The regiment remained in the UK for most of the war, only moving to India in February 1945. There, it was successively assigned to 39th Indian Division at Dehra Dun, 36th British Infantry Division at Poona, 26th Indian Infantry Division at Bangalore, and 25th Indian Infantry Division at Cocanada. Post war, it moved to Malaya and Java. The regiment was placed in suspended animation in ALFSEA on 1 June 1946.
The regiment was reformed on 1 January 1947 as 345th (Berkshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, RA, with HQ at Newbury and a battery at Windsor. The Windsor battery was detached to form 662nd Medium Regiment, RA which was shortly afterwards redesignated as 346th (Berkshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, RA. They were amalgamated on 16 August 1950 as 345th (Berkshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, RA. On 31 October 1956, the regiment was reduced to a single battery as R (Berkshire Yeomanry) Battery in 299th (Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry, Berkshire Yeomanry, and Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars) Field Regiment, RA.
On 1 May 1956, the battery was amalgamated with the Westminster Dragoons to form C (Berkshire Yeomanry) Squadron, Berkshire and Westminster Dragoons, RAC  and converted to armoured cars. This was a short lived arrangement: on 1 April 1967 the Berkshire and Westminster Dragoons was reconstituted as two units with the Berkshire elements forming A Company (Berkshire Yeomanry), The Royal Berkshire Territorials at Windsor. At the start of 1969 it once more changed role as 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Squadron in 71st Signal Regiment, Royal Signals. The squadron became independent in 1996, joined 31st Signal Regiment in 2003 and transferred to 39th Signal Regiment in 2006.
Trooper Frederick William Owen Potts, VC, 1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry, won the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
On 21 August 1915 in the attack on Hill 70, Private Potts (although wounded in the thigh) remained for over 48 hours under the Turkish trenches with another private from his regiment who was severely wounded, and unable to move. He finally fixed a shovel to the equipment of his wounded comrade and using this as a sledge, dragged the man back over 600 yards to safety, being under fire all the way.
The role of the squadronEdit
Today the squadron is a Territorial Army squadron of the Royal Corps of Signals, serving within both of the Royal Signals UK Brigades. The squadron supports NATO's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), providing essential Combat Net Radio communications for the ARRC or international coalition force.
- Second Boer War
- First World War
- Second World War
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.
- Wallingford, Wantage, Abingdon, Faringdon, and Didcot were all historically in Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred them to Oxfordshire.
- Corps in this context meaning either an independent troop or a number of troops under a single command.
- British divisions were converted to the British Indian Army standard whereby brigades only retained one British regiment or battalion and most support units were Indian (artillery excepted).
- See 1st Mounted Division and 3rd Mounted Division.
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