Unit History: Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons
The Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons was a Cavalry and Armoured unit of the British Army that operated from 1794-1956. In 1956 it was amalgamated with two other Yorkshire Yeomanry regiments to form the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Yeomanry Regiment. This regiment was in turn reduced in size eventually becoming the Yorkshire Squadron of the Queen’s Own Yeomanry in 1971.
The Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons have fought in several major campaigns undertaken by the British Army and hold battle honours from the Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War.
Inter War Years:
During the reforms of the TA in the Inter-War years, the 14 senior Yeomanry Regiments remained horsed cavalry regiments. The Yorkshire Hussars and The Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons formed, together with The Sherwood Rangers, the 5th Cavalry Brigade headquartered in York.
After the Second World War the yeomanry regiments in Yorkshire were amalgamated into The Queen's Own Yorkshire Yeomanry, which was formed on April 1, 1967 as a TAVR III unit. On April 1, 1969, they were reduced to cadre and finally reformed on April 1, 1971, as 'A' Squadron; The Queen's Own Yeomanry.
Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons during the Boer War
Volunteers from the Yorkshire Yeomanry Regiments were organised into the 3rd Imperial Yeomanry. The Yorkshire Dragoons being represented by 11th Squadron.
The 3rd Imperial Yeomanry Regiment joined with the 5th and 10th regiments to form the 1st Imperial Yeomanry Brigade.
The yeomanry regiments acquitted themselves well particularly the actions at Boshof on 5th April 1900 where they received high praise, prompting Lord Kitchener to describe 1st Yeomanry Brigade as “Better than regular cavalry.”
In 1909, King Edward VII presented a Guidon to the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons, at Windsor for their service in the Boer War.
Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons during WW1
The 1/1st Yorkshire Dragoons were split up upon being deployed to France and used as Divisional Cavalry. “A Squadron” were attached to the 17th (Northern) Division. “B Squadron” and the “HQ Squadron” were attached to 37th Division. “C Squadron” was attached to 19th (Western) Division.
In May 1916 the regiment was reformed and became Corps Cavalry for II Corps with whom they remained until November 1917. They were present at the battles of the Somme (1916), the Ancre (1916), the Somme (1917) and Ypres (1917). They were only able to operate as cavalry however during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (1917). In November 1917 the Regiment was transferred to the Cavalry Corps and then to the Lucknow Cavalry Brigade of 4th Cavalry Division where they took part in the Battle of Cambrai (1917).
In 1918, the regiment was dismounted and converted to a Cyclist Regiment, returning to II Corps as Corps Cyclists. From September to the end of the war they fought with 9th Division in the offensive East of Ypres.
The regiment was demobilised in July 1919 after being selected for the Army of occupation and being stationed in Cologne.
As with other Yeomanry Regiments, upon the outbreak of war the Queens Own Yorkshire Dragoons formed a second line regiment. In September 1914 the 2/1st Queens Own Yorkshire Dragoons were formed under the 2/1st Yorkshire Mounted Brigade. The 2/1st Yorkshire Dragoons served in East Yorkshire for much of the war, converted to a Cyclist regiment, and on April 1918 transferred to Cork, Ireland.
When officers and men of the 2/1st Yorkshire Dragoons learnt that the regiment would not be deployed overseas, they applied for transfers and were gradually replaced by soldiers recovering from wounds.
A 3rd Line Regiment was raised in early 1915 as a training unit and to supply drafts to the 1st and 2nd Regiments. In February 1917, the 3/1st Yorkshire Dragoons were absorbed into the 6th Reserve Cavalry regiment at Tidworth.
Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons during WW2
The 5th Cavalry brigade, attached to the 1st Cavalry Division, was sent to the Syrian Frontier when it became necessary to deny the use of Syria and Lebannon, French territories, to the Axis. They crossed the Syrian frontier in June 1941 and occupied the town of Kuneitra. The following month, the regiment moved to Ezraa as part of a task group to contain the Vichy French garrison at Jebel Druse. The regiment fought its’ first action here against French Druse Cavalry before Vichy France signed an Armistice and the regiment occupied Jebel Druse itself.
In February 1942 the regiment was re-roled and began conversion training to become an Armoured Regiment. Part of the regiment was moved into the Western Desert and took part in the battle for Gazala before joining the retreat to El Alamein. At El Alamein the regiment was used in various Camouflage and Deception plans particularly with representation of Dummy tanks. It was re-formed and assigned to Delta Force, the last line of defence if the El Alamein line was broken.
Owing to heavy armour losses it became impossible for the Regiment to be fully converted to Armour and as such they were re-equipped with Bren Carriers and re-roled again as a Motor Battalion of 2nd Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division along with The Bays, 9th Lancers and 10th Hussars. The regiment had just seven weeks to re-train its’ personnel for the new role before going into action at El Alamein again.
The initial attacks at El Alamein were partially successful but the Regiment failed to breach the last German minefield and suffered severe casualties in the fighting over the next 4 days. The German and Italian line was finally broken on November 2nd and British units exploited the opening. 1st Armoured Division led the pursuit as far as 90 miles west of Tobruk, to the small Libyan village of Timimi. The division were able to keep the enemy on the run but failed to catch them. At Tmimi, 7th Armoured Division continued the pursuit while 1st Armoured Division disengaged. They stayed at Timimi over Christmas, being refitted and reinforced, with many of those who had been wounded in the recent fighting rejoining the regiment.
In December the War Office decided that the Queens Own Yorkshire Dragoons should become a Battalion of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. They were summarily named the 9th Battalion K.O.Y.L.I. (Yorkshire Dragoons), remaining a part of 1st Armoured Division.
In January, the Regiment went straight into the line at Medenine for the frontal attack on the Mareth Line. The attack was repulsed however and the 1st Armoured Division were withdrawn to take part in a flanking manoeuvre with the New Zealand Division and 8th Armoured Brigade which proved successful, breaking the Mareth Line.
In March, an attack on the Akarit Line was successful and the 1st Armoured Division once again took up the pursuit. By early April, 1st Armoured Division came under command of the First Army, after combining with 8th Army, for the final phases of the battle for Tunis.
On April 23rd, 1st and 6th Armoured Divisions attacked German positions in the Goubellat Plain. On the second day, both Divisions met fierce opposition from tanks, anti-tank guns, and mines, and suffered severe casualties loosing much of their armour. The attack was called off and 6th Armoured Division moved north, while the 1st Armoured Division went into a holding role.
Early in May the main attack on Tunis began in the north and the Division advanced once more. On May 8th Tunis fell, and the Axis forces retreated into the Cape Bon peninsular—a highly defendable position.
1st Armoured Division was attacked along the Creteville Pass into the peninsular. This entailed crossing a wide plain, completely open to observation, and forcing a narrow defile through the mountains. While the remnants of the German 10th Panzer Division fought a last hopeless battle, they were by-passed by the 9th Lancers who pushed on through the hills to Grombalia. The 10th Panzer Division was mopped up by the 10th Hussars and surrendered on 12th May.
The regiment remained in North Africa to again re-role, this time as Lorried Infantry and became part of the 18th Lorried Infantry Brigade, before preparing to deploy to Italy. In February 1944, they landed at Anzio coming under the command of the 1st Infantry Division.
Fighting in the Italian campaign proved to be difficult and costly. The Regiment went into the line for the first time on March 6th, 1944, and from then onwards rotated on and off until the final break out at the end of May.
An attack was made on the night of March 13th-14th by the Regiment in conjunction with the 14th Foresters. Already suffering from casualties and with each squadron weak in number, they still reached their objective and dug in.
But partly owing to the difficult country, impossibility of securing their location properly, and an increase in enemy troop numbers, the attacking squadrons were cut off and, out of ammunition, had to surrender.
"A," "B," and "C" Squadrons suffered most severely in this action which cost them 170 casualties. It was a severe blow and replacements did not begin to arrive until May, two months later. The total strength of the Regiment fell as low as 475 and from this period onwards "C" Squadron ceased to exist. Throughout the whole period there was a steady drain of casualties.
230 Replacements arrived in late May, bringing the regiment back up to strength, by the time of the final break-out at the end of May.
By June 1st the enemy had pulled back to their last defence line before Rome—the Ardea Line. On June 3rd, the Regiment, with "A" and "B" Squadrons leading, attacked encountering resistance from a German paratroop (Fallschirmjager) battalion.
The attack was a complete success; a vital bridge on the “Road to Rome” was taken intact and 100 prisoners captured with few casualties to the attacking squadrons.
After a period of training the Regiment moved up to Florence coming under the command of 1st Armoured Division again for the attack on the Gothic Line. The original Yorkshire Dragoons who had served four and a half years abroad were sent home at the end of August, prior to the attack. 6 Officers remained behind until they could be replaced. These six returned to England in September.
The first attack on Coriano Ridge secured a precarious position but failed to achieve its objective. The Regiment, which was in reserve, stabilised the position and three days later launched an attack that took San Savino, taking 600 prisoners. Two days later they captured a further ridge. However such was the shortage of reinforcements that 18th Infantry Brigade was disbanded and the personnel sent to reinforce other units.
The Regiment was put in ‘suspended animation’ and the majority of the officers and men were posted to 2/4 King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.