Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars
The Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars was the designated name of a Yeomanry regiment of the British Army formed in 1794. It saw service in the Second Boer War with 40 and 59 Companies of the Imperial Yeomanry and also served in Belgium and France during the Great War. In 1922, the regiment became part of the Royal Artillery. The lineage is maintained by 142 (Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars) Vehicle Squadron Royal Logistic Corps.
|Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars|
|Country|| Kingdom of Great Britain (1794–1800)|
United Kingdom (1801–present)
|Role||Cavalry World War I|
Artillery World War II
Port Maritime Present
|Part of||Royal Logistics Corps|
|Nickname(s)||Queer Objects On Horseback|
|Engagements||South Africa 1900–1901|
World War I
Canal du Nord
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.
Formation and early historyEdit
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. This led to the formation in 1798 of a troop of yeomen known as the County Fencible Cavalry at Watlington, Oxfordshire in 1798.
Some of the original independent troops of yeomanry were consolidated to form the North Western Oxfordshire Regiment of Yeomanry in 1818. Francis Spencer, 1st Baron Churchill, brother of the 5th Duke of Marlborough, became lieutenant-colonel of the regiment. After a visit of Queen Adelaide, the regiment became 'Queen's Own Royal Oxfordshire Yeomanry Cavalry in 1835.
George Spencer-Churchill, 6th Duke of Marlborough took over the role of lieutenant-colonel in 1845 and Lord Alfred Spencer-Churchill became lieutenant-colonel of the regiment in 1860. The regiment became the 'Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars' in 1888.
Charles Richard Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough joined the regiment as a junior officer and then saw service with the Imperial Yeomanry in the temporary rank of captain during the Second Boer War.
Sir Winston Churchill joined the QOOH as a captain 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. The latter's great personal friend, F.E. Smith, later 1st Lord Birkenhead joined the same regiment in 1913 and was ultimately promoted to major in 1921.
Second Boer WarEdit
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. 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. 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.
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
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 Queen's Own Oxfordshire HussarsEdit
In 1914, after only a month's training, the regiment received a telegram 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. The QOOH became the first Territorial unit to see action. It was typical of Churchill's 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.
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. As such it was one of only six yeomanry regiments to be posted to a regular cavalry division in the war.[a]
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.
2/1st Queen's Own Oxfordshire HussarsEdit
The 2nd Line regiment was formed at Oxford in September 1914. In January 1915 it was with 2/2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade and in April 1915 it joined 2/2nd Mounted Division 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 9th Cyclist Brigade, 1st Mounted Division (3rd Mounted Division renamed). The brigade was renumbered as the 5th Cyclist Brigade at Bridge near Canterbury. In February 1917, it joined the 4th Cyclist Brigade at Ipswich, in July at Wivenhoe, in November at Frinton and then to Manningtree. About January 1918 it went to Ireland with the 4th Cyclist Brigade and was stationed at Dublin until the end of the war.
3/1st Queen's Own Oxfordshire HussarsEdit
The 3rd Line regiment was formed in 1915 at Oxford and in the summer it was affiliated to a Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Tidworth. In the summer of 1916 it was affiliated to the 8th Reserve Cavalry Regiment at The Curragh. Early in 1917 it joined the 2nd Reserve Cavalry Regiment, also at The Curragh.
Between the warsEdit
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.
The regiment formed two batteries (399 and 400 (Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars Yeomanry) Batteries, 400 being a howitzer battery) of 100th (Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, in the retitled Territorial Army (TA). Both batteries were initially at Oxford, though 400 Bty later moved to Banbury. In 1924 the Royal Field Artillery was subsumed into the Royal Artillery (RA), and the unit was redesignated as an 'Army Field Brigade, RA', serving as 'Army Troops' in 48th (South Midland) Divisional Area.
As the British Army rearmed in the years before World War II, the 100th Field Brigade was converted on 28 November 1938 to the anti-tank role as 53rd (Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment, RA (RA 'brigades' being redesignated 'regiments' at this time). The two QOOH batteries were renumbered as 211 and 212 (Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars Yeomanry) A/T Btys. After the Munich Crisis the TA was doubled in size, and the 53rd A/T Rgt was split in 1939, the Worcester Yeomanry batteries remaining with the 53rd, and the QOOH batteries forming a new 63rd A/T Rgt. Although both were officially designated 'Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry' in 1942, the 63rd was usually known as the 63rd (Oxfordshire Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment, RA in recognition of the split. It consisted of 249–252 A/T Btys.
Second World WarEdit
This time there was no sudden order to join the front line actions soon as war broke out, 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.
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, 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.
Prisoners on the Burma RailwayEdit
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.
When the TA was reformed in 1947, the regiment was going to become 387 Medium Rgt, RA, but this was changed to 387 (Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars) Field Regiment, RA. It formed part of 43rd (Wessex) Division. However, in 1950 it was amalgamated with 299 (Royal Bucks Yeomanry) Field Rgt, initially as 299/387 Field Rgt, then as 299 (Royal Bucks Yeomanry and Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars) Field Regiment, RA, with the QOOH forming Q Battery based in Oxford and Banbury. Further changes occurred in 1956 when they were joined by the Berkshire Yeomanry.
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, though some personnel were absorbed into 39th (City of London) Signal Regiment, Royal Corps of Signals. This lasted until 1971 when they were re-formed in Banbury as 5 Squadron, 39th (City of London) Signal Regiment, later reviving the QOOH title and tradition as 5 (Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars) Squadron in 1975. In 1998 it celebrated its bi-centenary by being granted the Freedom of Banbury.
On 5 April 2014 the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars became part of the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), forming 142 (QOOH) Vehicle Squadron based at Banbury. They operate within 165 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC, whose RHQ is based at Plymouth.
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."
Uniforms and insigniaEdit
Prior to World War I the QOOH wore an elaborate hussar style full dress of dark blue with white (silver for officers) braiding. The busby bag, plume and trousers were in mantua purple. This distinctive colour was unique to the regiment, and was retained for the collar, cuffs, trouser stripes and hat band for officers' No 1 uniform and mess uniform even after conversion to artillery. The officers also continued wear cavalry shoulder chains.
The two Oxfordshire batteries of the 100th (Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry) Field Brigade continued to wear the QOOH cap badge, and this was carried on by the 63rd (Oxfordshire Hussars) A/T Regiment and 387 (QOOH) Field Regiment. In battledress the usual embroidered 'ROYAL ARTILLERY' shoulder title was worn, but with a white metal 'QOOH' worn on the shoulder strap.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars.|
- British Army units from 1945 on
- Baker, Chris. "The Oxfordshire Yeomanry". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth – Regiments.org (archive site)
- The Royal Artillery 1939–1945