Unit History: Queen's Westminsters
The Queen’s Westminsters was a regiment of the British Territorial Army (TA).
It was formed on 31 December 1921 as the 16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen’s Westminster and Civil Service Rifles), The London Regiment by the amalgamation of the 15th (County of London) Battalion (Prince of Wales’s Own Civil Service Rifles), The London Regiment and the 16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen’s Westerminster Rifles), The 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 Queen’s Westminsters
On 3 September 1939 -- two days after Germany had invaded Poland -- the British Empire, France, and their Allies declared war on Germany, beginning the Second World War.
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 and the 2nd, the 12th (Queen’s Westminsters) Battalion.
The Westminsters saw extensive service during the war. The 11th Westminsters, as part of the British 24th Armoured Brigade, saw service in North Africa in 1942, taking part in the Allied offensive during the Second Battle of El Alamein (23 November-3 October) against Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps; it was the first Allied victory against Germany on land, and Prime Minister 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 Regiment took part in the subsequent advance after the Germans and Italians went into full-retreat in North Africa.
The 11th Westminsters moved to Sicily the following year, taking part in the campaign on the Italian island -- begun on 10 July 1943. It later moved to the Italian mainland itself, 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, which was successfully quelled, and a cease-fire was signed on 11 January 1945.
The 12th Westminsters, having remained in the UK since the war began, took part in the Battle of Normandy in 1944, forming part of the British 8th Armoured Brigade. It saw extensive service in France, including action at Rauray on 26 June and at Mont Pincon and during the advance east to the Seine, which was crossed in late August. The battalion subsequently crossed the Somme -- scene of carnage during WWI, 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 VE Day came on 8 May, were in Germany itself.
Notable soldiers in the Westminsters during WWII include the journalist Bill Deedes who served in the North-West Europe campaign, and was awarded the Military Cross, the actor Ian Carmichael, and Lord Killanin, the former President of the International Olympic Committee.