Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars
The Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars was a Yeomanry regiment of the British Army. First raised in 1794, it participated in the Second Boer War and World War I as horsed cavalry before being converted to an anti-tank regiment of the Royal Artillery for service in World War II. In 1956 it was amalgamated with the Warwickshire Yeomanry to form the Queen's Own Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry. The lineage is maintained by B (Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry) Squadron, part of The Royal Yeomanry.
|Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars|
Badge and service cap as worn at the outbreak of World War II
|Country|| Kingdom of Great Britain (1794–1800)|
United Kingdom (1801–present)
|Size||Regiment [World Wars]|
Two Squadrons [Present day]
|Part of||Royal Armoured Corps|
|Battle honours||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
The Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars were formed in 1794, as the Worcestershire Yeomanry, when King George III was on the throne, William Pitt the Younger was the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and across the English Channel, Britain was faced by a French nation that had recently guillotined its King and possessed a revolutionary army numbering half a million men. The Prime Minister proposed that the counties form a force of Volunteer Yeomanry Cavalry, which could be called on by the King to defend the country against invasion or by the Lord Lieutenant to subdue any civil disorder within the country. Worcestershire responded quickly - the first troop paraded in front of the Unicorn Inn in Worcester on 25 October 1794 under the command of Captain John Somers-Cocks and Lieutenant Thomas Spooner.
With the threat of a French invasion having receded after the signing of the Peace of Amiens in 1802, the King commended the Worcestershire Yeomanry for their "honourable distinction in forming an essential part of the defence of the country against a foreign enemy in circumstances of extraordinary emergency". Edwin Hughes served as Sergeant-Instructor with the Worcestershire Yeomanry starting from the day after his discharge from the 13th Hussars until his discharge for 'old age' on 5 January 1886. Edwin Hughes was the oldest survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade. The regiment was disbanded in 1827 but reformed in 1833. In 1837, Queen Victoria altered the title of the regiment which was for the future to bear the designation of the Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars.
Second Boer WarEdit
In 1899, they were called for service in the Imperial Yeomanry, for the Boer War. The War Office was not prepared for the Boer offensive and sent only 10,000 Indian troops, under command of Lord Methuen, to face some 70,000 Boers. After an initial success the British found themselves in trouble owing to lack of cavalry. The result was the English Yeomanry Regiments were called upon and their response was immediate. Lord Windsor, the Commanding Officer asked for volunteers for a newly formed Imperial Yeomanry Cavalry and was able to select 129 men from the 3,021 men who offered their services.
The Worcestershire contingent formed the 6th Squadron of the 5th Regiment of the Imperial Yeomanry Cavalry under the command of Colonel Meyrick. The squadron's orders were to protect the railways, pacify the local Boer farmers and to capture the Boer forces their supplies, arms and equipment. The Regiment was armed with the Martini–Henry carbine and 2 lb and 3 lb guns which were, in fact, the private property of Lord Plymouth and paid for out of private funds. The Second Boer War ended in June 1902 and the Regiment returned to a home having lost 16 NCOs killed in action and 20 wounded. The regiment was based at Silver Street in Worcester at this time (since demolished).
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 Worcestershire HussarsEdit
The Earl of Dudley, who took command of the Worcestershire Yeomanry Cavalry in November 1913, was already convinced that another European war was approaching. He appointed a permanent staff of instructors who trained the Regiment in musketry.
War was declared in August 1914 and the Worcestershires formed part of the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade commanded by Brigadier E.A. Wiggin. The Brigade was ordered to Egypt and was based in Chatby Camp, close to Alexandria, by April 1915.
In August the Brigade were informed they were to fight as infantry, and were sent to Suvla Bay, and took part in the Gallipoli campaign. The Regiment were in support of the Anzacs and other British soldiers, in an attempt to break through the Turkish defences. These Turkish defences on the hills overlooking the beaches proved too strong and Gallipoli was evacuated in January 1916.
The Regiment was sent to Egypt, where their casualties were replaced by fresh troops from England and the Regiment was sent to protect the eastern side of the Suez Canal. The Regiment dug wells and sent out patrols for reconnaissance to establish the location of the Turkish attack, the Regiment being responsible for patrolling the whole of the Qatia water area. The small isolated garrison at Oghratine had been ordered to protect a party of engineers on a well-digging expedition, when at dawn on 23 April 1916, 3,000 Turkish troops, including a machine gun battery of 12 guns, attacked. The defending troops repulsed the first attack but were forced back by the weight of the onslaught. The defenders' only machine gun was put out of action early in the attack and all the gunners were killed or wounded.
The victorious Turkish troops then advanced to reinforce the attack taking place against the small garrison at Qatia. Qatia fell to the Turkish forces with the loss of all of the Yeomanry's officers except a Major W.H. Wiggin who was wounded and managed to withdraw with about half the squadron. Anzac troops, who occupied both Qatia and Oghradine four days later, testified to the ferocity of the battle and paid tribute to the valour and tenacity of the defenders. In these actions, 9 officers and 102 NCOs and men of the Regiment were killed and many other wounded. A composite regiment, including the Worcestershire Yeomanry, was formed in August 1916 and together with Anzac regiments were tasked to force back some 48,000 Turks from Romani, a strategically important and fortified watering hole which was identified as the Turkish base for a major attack on the Suez Canal. After a fierce battle, the Turkish forces were forced to retreat and large numbers of guns were captured.
The Turkish army regrouped at Gaza and made a stand which brought the British advance to a halt until the arrival of General Edmund Allenby, who reorganised the army and allowed them to conduct operations towards the Turkish positions at Beersheba. The resulting operation took the Turkish forces by surprise and they were forced to withdraw.
In the pursuit that followed the Worcestershire Yeomanry with the Warwickshire Yeomanry took part in the last cavalry charge on guns in British Military history, the Charge at Huj. Under Colonel Hugh Cheape the cavalry charged a group of Turkish guns at a place called Huj in November 1917. This action, in defence of the beleaguered 60th London Division, who were pinned down by Turkish fire, succeeded forcing them to withdraw and resulted in the capture of the guns. Yeomanry losses were heavy. Two out of nine officers were killed and four wounded and of 96 NCOs and men 17 were killed and 35 wounded.
2/1st Queen's Own Worcestershire HussarsEdit
The 2nd Line regiment was formed at Worcester in September 1914. In April 1915 it joined the 2/1st South Midland Mounted Brigade at Cirencester and in June moved to King's Lynn where the brigade joined the 2/2nd Mounted Division. In July 1915, the regiment was at Holkham Hall. On 31 March 1916, the remaining Mounted Brigades were ordered to be numbered in a single sequence; the brigade was numbered as 10th 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 at Tunbridge Wells. In November 1916, the division was broken up and regiment was merged with the 2/1st Royal Gloucestershire Hussars to form 12th (Gloucestershire and Worcestershire) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment in 4th Cyclist Brigade at Ipswich. In March 1917, it resumed its identity as 2/1st Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars. In April 1917, it moved to Wivenhoe, by November at Frinton and then to Manningtree. About April 1918 the regiment moved to Ireland and was stationed at Dublin where it remained, still in 4th Cyclist Brigade, until the end of the war.
3/1st Queen's Own Worcestershire HussarsEdit
The 3rd Line regiment was formed in 1915; in the summer it was affiliated to a Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Tidworth. In the summer of 1916 it was affiliated to the 4th Reserve Cavalry Regiment, still at Tidworth. Early in 1917, it was absorbed into the 5th Reserve Cavalry Regiment, also at Tidworth.
Between the WarsEdit
The Regiment returned from Palestine in 1919, under strength, but were quickly reformed and brought up to strength. It had become clear during the war that cavalry was obsolete and, in 1922, it was announced that the Worcestershires were to serve as two horsed batteries in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA): 397 at Worcester and 398 at King's Heath, Birmingham. Together with 399 and 400 batteries from the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars they formed 100th (Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry) Brigade, RFA. The horses were replaced by artillery tractors in 1922. In 1924 the RFA 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 QOWH batteries were renumbered as 209 (at Kidderminster) and 210 (at Kng's Heath) (Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars Yeomanry) A/T Btys. Its 18-pounders were replaced with 2-pounders. After the Munich Crisis the TA was doubled in size, and the 53rd A/T Rgt was split in February 1939, the Worcester Yeomanry batteries remaining with the 53rd and expanding to four (209 at Kidderminser, 210 and 211 at King's Heath and 212 at Bewdley), and the QOOH batteries forming a new 63rd A/T Rgt. Both were officially titled 'Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry', taking no account of the actual split.
Second World WarEdit
Battle of FranceEdit
The Regiment was part of the 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division and went with the division in January 1940 to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the border between France and Belgium. On 10 May 1940, the German Army's attack started and the BEF moved forwards across the Belgian frontier to take position on the River Dyle. Lord Gort, commanding the entire BEF, was aware of the possibility of a northward retreat to the coast and used the 48th Division to cover the 28 miles of the La Bassee Canal.
Their purpose was to protect the western flank of the BEF by holding strongpoints such as canal crossings. Large enemy losses were inflicted by the 210 Battery together with troops of the 211 in support of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (of 144th Infantry Brigade) who were holding the town of Wormhoudt. These same troops were later involved in the Wormhoudt massacre.
Orders were received from Brigade to destroy their guns and vehicles and proceed to Dunkirk. Near Oost-Cappell the 212 Battery defended the crossroads against German tanks, some of which were destroyed, until being forced to withdraw after disabling their guns and vehicles. Each battery had been ordered to escape to Dunkirk, but only five officers and 284 men of the Regiment were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo. The Regiment had, however, gained the distinction of having destroyed more enemy tanks than any other anti-tank Regiment of the BEF.
In October 1941 the regiment was transferred to 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division, which was being converted into an armoured division. 42nd Armoured Division was broken up in October 1943, when the regiment moved to 6th Airborne Division, at first as an A/T regiment, then from 3 November as a light field regiment designated 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Air Landing Light Regiment, RA, and was now part of the British Army's airborne forces.
Owing to a shortage of gliders, only 211 Battery participated in the British airborne assault on D-Day, 6 June 1944. Together with the 6th Airborne Division, they were tasked to seize and hold the high wooded area behind the city of Caen, which would see very heavy fighting during the Battle for Caen in the weeks to come, on the eastern flank of the Normandy bridgehead. 211 Battery landed near Caen in 27 gliders on 6 June.
The Regiment's other Batteries, 210 and 212, were sent to Normandy on Empire Capulet, which had been pressed into service as a troopship. They landed by sea at Luc-sur-Mer, on 14 June and joined up with 211 the following day; the complete Regiment going into action on 15 June. The Regiment now manned a series of Forward Observation Posts providing information for the Parachute and Commando Brigades against German mortar strongpoints. By 16 August, reports were received that the Germans were pulling out eastwards.
Major-General Richard Nelson Gale, General Officer Commanding the 6th Airborne Division, received orders that his command, together with the Regiment, was to maintain pressure on the retreating Germans on the coastal route towards the Seine in Operation Paddle. Progress was slow but the Regiment reached Honfleur on 27 August. They then returned to England to rest and reform for future airborne operations with the rest of the 6th Airborne Division.
On 20 December 1944, the Regiment received orders to embark for France again and by 26 December they were in action near Dinant in support of the 6th Airlanding Brigade, as the Americans and British defended against the German offensive in the Ardennes. The Regiment's 210 Battery claimed to be the first to land shells over the frontier on German soil.
In March 1945, the plan for Operation Varsity was to drop two Airborne divisions (the British 6th and US 17th), including the Regiment, behind enemy lines north of Wesel, isolate the industrial Ruhr and disrupt the German rear defences. On 24 March, 78 gliders set off from England for a successful attack that established bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Rhine.
The first guns were in action within 10 minutes of the gliders landing. By the evening, all of the divisions' objectives had been taken but 2 Battery Commanders and 20 Other Ranks had been killed, with 8 officers and 59 men missing or prisoners of war. The advance continued and six weeks later they reached the Baltic coast.
The Regiment had fought in and captured the towns of Greven, Lengerich, Osnabrück, Minden and Lahder. Heavy German resistance was encountered near Celle on 15 April, when German self-propelled guns caused problems for 6th Airborne until they were outflanked after heavy shelling by the Regiment. The advance of the Regiment met with the Russian Army westward advance on 30 April, on the Baltic Coast at Wismar.
The Regiment had returned to England by 23 May and was then ordered in September 1945 to Palestine. Its task was to help establish and maintain security in the Jewish state against Arab hostility and internal Jewish battles for power. The Regiment retrained as infantry to act as a police force, controlling and searching traffic along the north to south roads into Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Their largest operation was to search Tel Aviv in three days, arresting men suspected of subversive activities and discovering hidden dumps of arms.
The Regiment was to change its title to the 33rd Airborne Light Regiment (Worcestershire Yeomanry), RA, just prior to the Regiment's posting in January 1948 to Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. However the Worcestershire Yeomanry had already been reborn in 1947 in Worcestershire as the 300th (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Anti-tank Regiment, RA. It was equipped with six-pounder anti-tank guns and later 17-pounder self-propelled guns. In 1950 the Regiment became cavalry again as The Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars, equipped with armoured cars in the Royal Armoured Corps.
Early in 1956, the Government announced its intention to reduce the size of the T.A. due to the high cost. In November 1956, it was announced that the Warwickshire Yeomanry and The Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars were to be amalgamated. The new Regiment became the Queen's Own Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry in 1957. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, agreed to be Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, the only Regiment in the army to have that singular honour. The Regiment continued as an Armoured Regiment with Comet tanks until 1962 when it became an Armoured Car Reconnaissance Regiment. In 1966, it became a light Reconnaissance Regiment equipped with Daimler Dingo Scout cars.
In 1969, the volunteer Territorial Army was dramatically reduced by the Labour Government and except for one Yeomanry Regiment all the others were disbanded but permitted to retain a small cadre of five members for possible expansion in later years. In addition, the Regiment was invited to form 67 (Queen's Own Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron at Stratford-on-Avon and Stourbridge with a Royal Signals role. This Squadron was raised from former members of the Queen's Own Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry.
In 1971, with a change of government, each Yeomanry cadre was authorised to expand to Squadron strength (120 men). The three squadrons raised from the cadres of the Queen's Own Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry, the Staffordshire Yeomanry and the Shropshire Yeomanry were formed into a new Regiment called "The Queen's Own Mercian Yeomanry" with a reconnaissance role. With the defence cuts of 1992, The Queen's Own Mercian Yeomanry were amalgamated with The Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry to form The Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry with H.M. The Queen as its Colonel in Chief. It had a medium reconnaissance role and was equipped with Land Rovers.
In July 1999, A (Queen's Own Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry) Squadron amalgamated with B (Staffordshire Yeomanry) Squadron of the same regiment, to form A (Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire) Squadron, The Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry at Dudley.
In October 2006, the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry became a single cap badge regiment, when the individual cap badges of each squadron were replaced by the newly designed RMLY cap badge. This incorporated the Mercian Eagle from the Queen's Own Mercian Yeomanry with the Red Rose from the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry. It served in the armoured replacement role, providing replacement tank crews for regular armoured regiments. This was also the point at which H-Det (Hereford) joined the regiment, to provide a Recce troop.
In July 2013, it was announced that the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry would be restructured under the Army 2020 plan. The squadron, as B (Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry), resubordinated to The Royal Yeomanry.
Following its formation in 1794 the "Worcestershire Troop of Gentlemen and Yeomen" wore red jackets faced in dark blue and silver, with white or buff breeches. The headdress was the Tarleton helmet worn by the regular light cavalry regiments. When re-raised in 1831 the Worcestershire Yeomanry adopted a red and white Light Dragoon dress, complete with plumed shako and buff facings. From 1850 to 1870 a Heavy Dragoon style helmet was worn, retaining the white plume of the earlier period. In 1871 a dark blue hussar uniform heavily embroidered in silver (for officers) or white (for other ranks) braiding, replaced the scarlet dragoon style (se photograph above). Fur busbies closely resembling those of the regular hussars were worn with red plumes and bags. Plainer blue undress uniforms were worn for training and ordinary duties by all ranks.
For reasons of economy and simplification, a khaki "lancer" style uniform was introduced in 1902-03 for the regiment, worn with scarlet facings for both full dress and service dress. Influenced by Boer War experience, a wide brimmed slouch hat with scarlet "page" band and plume was also worn. This attempt at modernisation proved unpopular with serving yeomen and by 1908 the dark blue, silver or white full dress had been restored to the regiment. The plain (without facings) khaki service dress of the regular cavalry was worn from 1907 onwards, replacing the colourful full dress for nearly all occasions after 1914. While battle dress or other standard British Army uniforms were worn after 1938, features such as the by now historic blue and scarlet survived in items such as the field service caps of World War II (see lede illustration above).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Worcestershire Yeomanry.|
- The Long, Long Trail
- Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth – Regiments.org (archive site)
- British Army units from 1945 on
- Queen's Own Warwickshire & Worcestershire Yeomanry Comrades Association - Website dedicated to past and present serving members of the Warwickshire Yeomanry, Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars, and all successor units.