|Surrey Yeomanry (Queen Mary's Regiment)|
|Country|| Kingdom of Great Britain (1794–1800)|
United Kingdom (1801 – present)
|Role||World War I|
World War II
|Size||World War I|
World War II
|Lt-Colonel Eric Richard Thesiger DSO TD|
The Surrey Yeomanry was a unit of the British Army formed as volunteer cavalry in 1794. It saw action in the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II, during which one of its regiments distinguished itself defending the 'Canal Line' during the retreat to Dunkirk, and served at Alamein, in Sicily and Italy. Its other regiment served in East Africa, the Siege of Tobruk, and in Iraq and Persia. The regiment's lineage is maintained today by 2 (Surrey Yeomanry) Field Troop, 579 Field Squadron (EOD), part of 101 (London) Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) (Volunteers).
Formation and early history
In 1793, the prime minister, William Pitt the Younger, proposed that the English Counties form a force of Volunteer Yeoman Cavalry that 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. The regiment was raised as the Surrey Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry in 1794 but was disbanded in 1828. The Corps of Surrey Yeomanry was raised in 1831 and, after becoming the Surrey Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry in 1832, it was also disbanded in 1848.
Second Boer War
The Surrey Imperial Yeomanry was raised on 30 April 1901 from veterans who had served with the Imperial Yeomanry in the Second Boer War. From June 1902 it was known as the Surrey (the Princess of Wales′s) Imperial Yeomanry. In 1908 the Regiment became part of the Territorial Force, and like the other yeomanry regiment dropped the Imperial. The regiment was based at Kings Avenue in Clapham at this time.
World War I
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 Surrey Yeomanry
On mobilisation the Surrey Yeomanry now known as the 1/1st Surrey Yeomanry was attached to the South Eastern Mounted Brigade of the 1st Mounted Division. In late 1914 the regiment was split up, with the Regimental Headquarters and A Squadron being attached to the 27th Division ; B Squadron joined the 28th Division while C Squadron joined the 29th Division. C Squadron would see service in the Dardanelles campaign at Gallipoli in 1916 moved to France as the XV Corps Cavalry squadron which lasted until July 1917 when they were dismounted and sent to be retrained as infantry, before being drafted into the 10th Battalion Royal West Surrey Regiment in September 1917. In December 1916 the regiments A and B Squadrons reformed to become the XVI Corps Cavalry Regiment in Salonika.
2/1st Surrey Yeomanry
The 2nd Line regiment was formed at Clapham in September 1914 and moved to Dorking. In May 1915 it went to Maresfield, in September to Wrotham and in the winter of 1915–16 it was at Hastings, possibly in 1/1st South Western Mounted Brigade which became 2/1st Southern Mounted Brigade. On 31 March 1916, the remaining Mounted Brigades were ordered to be numbered in a single sequence; the brigade was numbered as 16th Mounted Brigade and joined 4th Mounted Division in the Manningtree area.
In July 1916, 4th Mounted Division became 2nd Cyclist Division and the regiment was converted to a cyclist unit in 7th Cyclist Brigade at Woodbridge . In November 1916 the division was broken up and the regiment was merged with the 2/1st Sussex Yeomanry to form 8th (Surrey and Sussex) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment in 3rd Cyclist Brigade at Ipswich. In March 1917 it resumed its identity as 2/1st Surrey Yeomanry at Ipswich, and in July moved back to the Woodbridge area. In May 1918, the regiment moved with 3rd Cyclist Brigade to Ireland. It was stationed at Athlone and Galway; there was no further change before the end of the war.
3/1st Surrey Yeomanry
The 3rd Line regiment was formed in February 1915 at Clapham and in June it was affiliated to the 3rd Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Canterbury. Early in 1917 it was absorbed in the 1st Reserve Cavalry Regiment at The Curragh.
Between the wars
In February 1920 The Surrey Yeomanry (Queen Mary's Regiment) (TF) was reformed, Headquarters once again opened at 73 King's Avenue, Clapham, London. With the South-Eastern Mounted Brigade (TF) having been disbanded, the Surrey Yeomanry was reformed as an Army Troops unit within Eastern Command. In November 1921 the Territorial Force was renamed as The Territorial Army. However, the post-war reorganisations of the Territorials made most of its Yeomanry Cavalry Regiments surplus to requirements and in early 1922 it was announced that the Surrey Yeomanry would convert to Royal Field Artillery and provide two batteries to an existing Brigade, 98th (Sussex Yeomanry) Army Brigade, RFA (TF). This had been formed in 1920 by the conversion to Artillery of the Sussex Yeomanry and comprised Headquarters and 389th (Sussex Yeomanry) Battery at Brighton and 390th (Sussex Yeomanry) Battery at Chichester. The Surrey Yeomanry would then form 391st (Surrey Yeomanry) and 392nd (Surrey Yeomanry) (Howitzer) Batteries, both at Clapham. As a result of this merger the Brigade was redesignated as 98th (Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Brigade, RFA (TA). The unit was among the 'Army Troops' administered by 44th (Home Counties) Divisional Area.
A reorganisation of TA Field Forces was announced in February 1938 and as part of this the Brigade redesignated 98th (Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry, Queen Mary's) Army Field Regiment, RA (TA). It was ordered to reorganise and reduce to two Batteries, in line with the new establishment for TA Field Artillery, but this reorganisation did not immediately come into effect. In March 1939 the War Office ordered the doubling of the Territorial Army and this enabled the Regiment to shed its two surplus Batteries. The Sussex Yeomanry Batteries were withdrawn and formed into a duplicate Regiment, 144th (Sussex Yeomanry) Army Field Regiment, RA (TA), leaving the original Regiment comprising Headquarters, 391st and 392nd Field Batteries.[b]
World War II
98th Field Regiment (Surrey & Sussex Yeomanry Queen Mary's)
Battle of France
The regiment mobilised at Worthing under Lt-Col G.A. Ledingham, MC, TD, who had been the commanding officer (CO) since 1937, and it joined I Corps of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France by 27 September 1939. Its guns were World War I vintage 18-pounders, some handed over by 1st and 2nd Regiments Royal Horse Artillery who were receiving more modern guns, and 98th also took over vehicles from its sister regiment, 144th.
On 10 May 1940, the Phoney War ended with the German invasion of the Low Countries, so the BEF followed the pre-arranged Plan D and advanced into Belgium to take up defences along the River Dyle. 98th (S&SY) Field Rgt was with I Corps on the Dyle Line by 15 May 1940. However, the Panzers of the Wehrmacht's Army Group A had broken through the Ardennes and threatened the BEF's flank, so on 16 May it began to withdraw to the River Escaut. The regiment was with I Corps on the Escaut Line by 21 May 1940.
By now the enemy was in the BEF's rear. To hold the line of the Aire Canal north of Saint-Omer the BEF organised a scratch force of rear elements ('Polforce'), and on 22 May 392 Bty was hastily sent to join the defenders on the Canal Line. The battery only had seven 18-pounders, so each was sent to cover one of the bridges against the advancing 1st Panzer Division:
- Hazebrouck: 15 minutes after digging in, the gun stopped an enemy column, knocking out the lead vehicles. It was then attacked by 11 tanks, putting one (possibly two) out of action before the gun crew were all wounded and the ammunition limber blown up. The gun was withdrawn with its wounded detachment.
- Arques: Sappers were blowing up the bridge when the gun arrived. Advancing enemy troops were firing on and nearing the gun position when it was relieved by the 12th Royal Lancers and withdrawn.
- Renescure: The gun destroyed enemy-held houses across the bridge and remained in action until late afternoon. One enemy tank was destroyed but mortar fire on the gun position forced a withdrawal; as the gun was being limbered up the tractor was hit and the position overrun.
- Wardrecques: The gun supported a party of French infantry, destroying houses opposite and silencing a machine gun, but heavy fire drove the French back and although the gun remained in action it was destroyed by a direct hit shortly afterwards.
- Blaringhem: The gun covered French and British troops. A morning attack was repulsed with the destruction of an enemy tank and two troop carriers. During another attack the gun fired 130 rounds before the enemy closed in. A shell broke the limber connection and the gun had to be abandoned.
- Wittes: This gun was in position during the night of 22/23 May. Nothing further was heard of it and the detachment was captured.
- Saint-Momelin: Here the bridge was held for three days with the help of gunners of 51st (Lowland) Heavy Rgt armed with a few rifles and Bren guns. The gun destroyed enemy-held houses and mortar positions across the canal and being well dug in it survived all retaliation and repulsed all attempts to cross. The gunners had the satisfaction of intercepting a German radio message that said 'Bridge at Momelin strongly held, try elsewhere'. The defenders at St Momelin were relieved by French troops on 25 May.
The RA regimental historian wrote: 'Seldom have two troops of field guns done so much to hold off an armoured division for so long. The delay they caused was vital and saved many Allied lives'.
The regiment then fell back into the 'pocket' round Dunkirk from which the BEF was preparing evacuation (Operation Dynamo). Without the support of a divisional structure the Army field regiments had a difficult time, having to fend for themselves. 98th (S&SY) Field Rgt attached itself to 44th (HC) Division, but got caught in a traffic jam at Saint-Jans-Cappel on 29 May and the gunners were forced to destroy and abandon their guns and vehicles before proceeding on foot to the beaches for evacuation.
On arrival in England the regiment was sent to Okehampton Camp, and then to join a scratch '1st Infantry Brigade' formed by the Royal Artillery at Bourne, Lincolnshire. Detachments were sent to the Sussex coast on anti-invasion duties manning 12-pounder and 4-inch naval guns mounted on Albion and Scammell lorries. By July the rest of the regiment was manning tradesmen's vans and an old Rolls-Royce car, first at Hall Green, Birmingham, then Ince Blundell, Lancashire, (where the Sussex detachments rejoined), and in October at Huyton, Lancashire. Detachments of gunners were sent out to man roadblocks and static guns. Part of 391 Bty was at Barford in the outer defences of Birmingham with Hotchkiss 6-pounders, the rest at Tarvin on airfield defence. 392 Battery was in detachments from Maryport to Speke with weapons ranging from obsolete 6-pounders to 1913-vintage 13-pounders.
In December 1940 the regiment went to Portsmouth in Southern Command, where it joined V Corps. When field regiments were reorganised on a three-battery basis, 98th (S&SY) Fd Rgt formed 471 Bty in January 1941, armed with four French 75mm guns, while 391 and 392 Btys each had two of the new 25-pounders. By April 1941 the regiment was fully equipped with 24 x 25-pounders. It also gained an attached Royal Corps of Signals section and a Light Aid Detachment (LAD) of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The regiment did a spell as depot regiment at the School of Artillery at Larkhill Camp and was later stationed at Sturminster Marshall, the Isle of Wight, and Wimborne Minster.
98th (S&SY) Field Regiment landed in Egypt where on 19 September 1942 it joined 10th Armoured Division in Eighth Army. It was equipped with 24 x 25-pounders with Stuart light tanks as observation posts (OPs).
On the second night of the Second Battle of El Alamein (24/25 October), 10th Armoured Division advanced with strong artillery support from its own regiments and several others, but the tanks could not keep up with the barrage and struggled up to Miteirya Ridge. On 27/28 October the division's lorried infantry brigade attacked the 'Woodcock' and 'Snipe' objectives, but because of the confusion on the objectives the artillery plan had to be very simple, and communication between brigade HQ and the guns broke down. The infantry took serious casualties and dug in short of their objectives. 10th Armoured Division was withdrawn into reserve, but after the battle it took part in the pursuit to Mersa Matruh.
After Matruh, 10th Armoured Division withdrew to the Nile Delta, and on 29 December 98th (S&SY) Fd Rgt came under Middle East Forces. In Egypt it re-equipped with M7 Priest 105mm self-propelled (SP) guns.
Sicily and Italy
98th (S&SY) Field Regiment rejoined Eighth Army for the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) in July 1943. The landings began on 10 July. On 13 July a Commando and paratroop attack (Operation Fustian) had seized Primosole Bridge over the Simeto river and prevented its demolition, but had been unable to retain possession of the bridge. Early on 15 July the SP guns of 98th (S&SY) and 24th Fd Rgts were brought up to support 50th (Northumbrian) Division and 4th Armoured Brigade in their renewed attempts to gain a bridgehead. Aided by a heavy barrage, three battalions of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) forced their way across.
The regiment came into action again on 17 July, together with six other field and medium regiments, in support of an attack on the Fossa Bottaceto, south of Catania, by 6th and 9th Bns DLI and the tanks of 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters). The guns fired a concentration for 30 minutes before Zero (which was at 01.00), then barrages and concentrations as required. The operation bogged down in close country and an attempt to restart it the next night broke down when the artillery was directed to fire on the Bottaceto itself, while German troops were still in position in front of it.
After Sicily had been secured, Eighth Army moved to the invasion of mainland Italy, crossing the Strait of Messina to land around Reggio di Calabria on 3 September (Operation Baytown). From Reggio, 98th (S&SY) Fd Rgt moved to Taranto where in October it embarked in Landing Ships, Tank for a four-day voyage round the 'heel' of Italy to Manfredonia, from where it advanced to Foggia.
By November, Eighth Army faced the Germans' Bernhardt Line. An assault crossing of the River Sangro on 28 November by V Corps was supported by massive artillery fire, the field regiments (98th (S&SY) being attached to 78th Division for the operation) firing over 600 rounds per gun in the first three days. On 9 December 1st Canadian Division joined the battle round the Moro River, with 98th (S&SY) Fd Rgt among the units firing in support.
By January 1944 the regiment had been switched to the other side of Italy to join in X Corps' assault crossing of the Garigliano. The operation began on the night of 17/18 January with 98th (S&SY) Fd Rgt firing in support of 5th Division after the infantry had made a silent crossing.
The opening of the 1944 Allied spring offensive in Italy saw 98th (S&SY) Fd Rgt assigned to 8th Indian Division to force a crossing of the River Gari as part of Operation Diadem. The attack began at 23.45 on the night of 11/12 May, with every gun employed in counter-battery bombardment from 23.00 to 23.40. The field guns concentrated on the Nebelwerfer mortar positions and then provided a creeping barrage for the infantry advancing at a rate of 100 yards (91 m) in six minutes. The leading battalions of 8th Indian Division crossed without much difficulty, covered by mist in the river valley, but aroused by the preliminary bombardment the Germans brought down their pre-arranged defensive fire. The infantry were pinned down and dug in, while the barrage rolled away from them beyond the German positions. However, by morning they had won a small bridgehead, bridges were being built and the first armour crossed before nightfall.
After the fall of Rome on 4 June, the Allies pressed the German forces back to the Gothic Line, where the advance bogged down again.
North West Europe
In the winter of 1944–45 a number of units and formations were transferred from the Italian Front to 21st Army Group fighting in North West Europe. 98th (S&SY) Field Regiment was one of those sent in March 1945, and was re-equipped with Sexton 25-pounder SP guns. The regiment served in the Netherlands and in April 1945 it moved to Lübeck in Germany with the occupation forces. Demobilisation began in October 1945 and the regiment passed into suspended animation in June 1946.
144th Field Regiment (Surrey & Sussex Yeomanry Queen Mary's)
- See main article 144th Field Regiment (Surrey & Sussex Yeomanry Queen Mary's)
The 144th Field Regiment remained in the United Kingdom in the early war years as part of Home Forces, attached to 4th Division after its return from the Dunkirk evacuation. In November 1940 they were sent to Egypt and then attached to the 5th Indian Division seeing service in the Sudan, Abyssinia and Eritrea it was at Keru Gorge that 390 Battery were charged by about 60 Eritrean cavalry, almost certainly the last cavalry charge on the British Army. The Regiment returned to Egypt with the division before being attached to the 70th Infantry Division during the Siege of Tobruk in September 1941. After being withdrawn from Tobruk they were briefly attached to the 4th Indian Division in early 1942 and the British 1st Armoured Division in February to April 1942. In May 1942 they were sent to Iraq with the 10th Army attached to the 17th Indian Infantry Brigade and then to 31st Indian Armoured Division. They remained with this formation until the end of the war serving in Syria, Persia, Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon.
In 1947 98th (S&SY) Field Rgt was reformed as the 298th (Surrey Yeomanry, Queen Mary's) Field Regiment, while 144th Field Rgt reformed as 344th (Sussex Yeomanry) Light Anti-Aircraft/Searchlight Regiment. The 298th amalgamated with 263rd (6th London) Field Regiment, 291st (4th London) Field Regiment, and 381st (East Surrey) Light Regiment to form 263rd (Surrey Yeomanry, Queen's Mary's) Field Regiment in 1961. The unit was disbanded in 1967 but reformed as B (Surrey Yeomanry) Troop, 200 (Sussex Yeomanry) Field Battery, 100 Medium Regiment RA (V) in 1969.
In April 1971 the unit was re-designated D (Surrey Yeomanry) Battery, 6th (V) Battalion, The Queen's Regiment. In April 1975 the battalion amalgamated with the 7th (Volunteer) Battalion to form 6th/7th (Volunteer) Battalion but the Surrey Yeomanry lineage was discontinued at that time.
In October 1992 2 (Surrey Yeomanry) Troop, 127 (Sussex Yeomanry) Field Squadron, 78th (Fortress) Engineer Regiment, RE (V) was formed; in July 1999 this unit was transferred to 579 Field Squadron (EOD), part of 101 (London) Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) (Volunteers) at Reigate Army Reserve Centre.
Uniforms and insignia
Following the South African War yeomanry regiments were encouraged to discard their expensive and colourful 19th century uniforms in favour of the newly introduced khaki service dress of 1902. While understandable as an economy measure this policy overlooked the importance of "the peacock factor" in attracting volunteer recruits. Accordingly, most long-established yeomanry regiments reverted to simplified versions of their traditionally elaborate parade and off-duty uniforms within a few years. A notable exception was the Surrey Yeomanry, which adopted the khaki uniform of the New South Wales Lancers as a model from 1901. Even this was ornamented by the addition of a detachable scarlet plastron and facings for parade, together with green feather plumes on the slouch hats. In 1912 a compromise dark blue full dress of simple design was adopted, while the standard khaki service dress of British mounted troops was worn for training and ordinary duties.
Between 1922 and 1930, 98th Field Brigade is believed to have worn an embroidered arm badge with '98' over 'Bde' in a circle in red. on a dark blue background. The RA cap badge was at first worn by all batteries of 98th Field Bde, but after 1930 the batteries wore their Surrey or Sussex Yeomanry cap and collar badges as appropriate. This continued during World War II, with both regiments also wearing an embroidered shoulder title with 'SURREY & SUSSEX' over 'YEOMANRY Q.M.R.' in yellow on navy blue. In the Middle East they wore brass shoulder titles on khaki drill jackets, with 'S&Sx.Yeo' for 98th Field Rgt and 'SSY' for 144th Field Rgt. After World War II, both regiments retained their respective Surrey or Sussex Yeomanry cap badges and yellow on navy shoulder titles, 'SURREY YEOMANRY Q.M.R.' for 298th Field Rgt and 'SUSSEX YEOMANRY' for 344th LAA/SL Rgt.
- St John Brodrick, 1st Earl of Midleton, appointed (to Surrey Yeomanry) 28 September 1901 (joint Hon Col from 1922)
- Charles Wyndham, 3rd Baron Leconfield, appointed (to joint regiment) 13 December 1922
- No battle honours were awarded. It is tradition within artillery units that the Regiment's guns represent its colours. The Royal Regiment of Artillery has but one battle honour 'Ubique', meaning 'Everywhere'.
- Although one source suggests that each regiment had one Surrey and one Sussex battery, the last detailed Monthly Army List published before the war (May 1939) confirms that 389 and 390 Btys (144th Fd Rgt) were titled 'Sussex Yeomanry' and 391 and 392 (98th Fd Rgt) were 'Surrey Yeomanry'.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Surrey Yeomanry.|
- Baker, Chris. "The Surrey Yeomanry". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- Surrey Yeomanry (Queen Mary's Regiment) at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 July 2007)
- Royal Artillery 1939–1945 (archive site)