Unit History: queen victoria rifles
The Queen Victoria’s Rifles were a London-based regiment of the British armed forces.
The 9th County of London (Queen Victoria’s) Regiment, (the Queen Victoria’s Rifles) could trace their origins back to the old volunteer regiments of the Napoleonic Wars when the Duke of Cumberland’s Sharpshooters were formed as a Corps of Riflemen on September 5, 1803.
Many transformations occurred over the next century until the passing of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act came into effect on April 1, 1908 and the old volunteer regiments were reorganised into the new Territorial Force. In this way the QVRs were formed by the amalgamation of:
* The Victoria and St George’s (1st Middlesex) Volunteer Rifle Corps
* St Giles and St George’s (Bloomsbury) 19th Middlesex Volunteer Rifle Corps.
World War I service
The QVRs arrived in Le Havre on November 5, 1914 and so became one of the first Territorial battalions to serve in France and were attached to the 5th Division.
On April 17, 1915, an attack was mounted on Hill 60 by the 13th Infantry Brigade which included:
* 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers;
* 2nd Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment;
* 1st Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment;
* 2nd King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the
* Queen Victoria’s Rifles (9th London Regiment)..
The Hill was a small promontory on the edge of the Ypres Salient that afforded good views by the Germans across the British lines and in to Ypres. It was therefore of great tactical significance to both sides who “fought with great gallantry”.
Prior to the attack, the hill had been undermined for days with five galleries being driven under the Hillock. The plan was to detonate large mines under the Hill to destroy the enemy and their positions, then the 13th Infantry Brigade would occupy the area.
The Hill was captured on April 17 and on April 20, two and a half companies of the QVRs were ordered up to the front line as the enemy made a counter attack.
At dawn on 21 April the Germans began bombarding the QVRs with hand grenades. Casualties were continually falling and the officers, Major Lees and Lieutenant Summerhays were killed.
It was here that Lieutenant Geoffrey Harold Woolley left a position of safety to take command of the troops on the Hill.
Only 40 QVRs were left in the front line, but rallying the troops with encouragement and letting the men know that reinforcements were on the way, Woolley helped repulse the Counter attack by throwing bombs at the advancing Germans.
For his gallantry Lieutenant Woolley was awarded the Victoria Cross, the first to be won by the Territorial Force. The QVR’s remained in France for the rest of the war.
Their losses are remembered at Hill 60 by the QVR memorial and at the nearby QVR cafe and museum.
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