Unit History: Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry

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Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry
Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry Raised on 4 June 1794 and consisted of 10 Troops.
In 1797 the independent troops were amalgamated into a unit called The Regiment of Wiltshire Yeomanry Cavalry, the first of such units to be embodied in Britain.
The regiment was called to deal with civil disorders known as the 'machine riots' and the restoration of order after the rioting in Bristol which followed the rejection of the 1830 Reform Bill. In recognition of this the Regiment was awarded the title 'Royal' in 1831 and was re-titled Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry.

Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry during the Boer War

Although Yeomanry Regiments were not liable for service overseas, having been raised to protect the UK from invasion from France, units were ask to raise Troops for overseas service after a disastrouse week of defeats in South Africa.

The UK Government realised that the Regular Army alone would not secre victory. A Royal Warrant was issued allowing Yeomanry Units to serve overseas.

Those units raised for service in South Africa were named the Imperial Yeomanry

The RWY provided three companies to this force, 1st, 2nd and 63rd and in 1900 the regiment represented the Yeomanry cavalry at the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry during WW1

During WW1 the Regiment raised 3 Units, these being listed below:

1/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry

This was the Regiments Front or First Line Regiment, mobilising in September 1914. The Regiment dispersed amongst the following Command Formations:

HQ and D Sqn joined 38th (Welsh) Division at Winchester in early 1915, then deployed to Le Havre in February 1915, once there they were attached to 1st Cavalry Division.

They left the division and became 3 Corps Cavalry Regiment for the period 1 to 20 May 1916, then on 21 May, became 15 Corps Cavalry Regiment with A and B Sqns of the South Irish Horse.

A Sqn joined 40th Division at Aldershot in 1915 and then deployed to Le Havre in June 1916, by 21 June 1916 they had left this division and joined 9 Corps as the Cavalry Regiment, Bsqn rejoined A Sqn during this period.

In November 1916 they moved to rejoin RHQ and D Sqn with 15 Corps as the Corps Cavalry Regiment.

B Sqn joined the 41st Division in November 1915 and deployed to Le Havre, in May the following year they were redeployed and were placed under the command of 2nd cavalry Division.

In June 1916, B & A Sqns joined together and by the 25 November 1916 both Squadrons moved to rejoin RHQ and D Sqn as 15 Corps Cavalry Regiment.

In September 1917 B Sqn again split from the Regiment and re-roled to Infantry, moving to No 3 Infantry Base Depot at Rouen and by 26th September were posted to 6th Battalion, the Wiltshire Regiment, which was renamed as the 6th (Wiltshire Yeomanry) Battalion.

2/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry

Raised as a Second-Line regiment in September 1914 the Regiment had by May 1915 moved to Calne. here they came under the command of 2/1st South Western Mounted Brigade

By March 1916 the 2/1st South Western Mounted Brigade came under the command of 4th Mounted Division in Colchester area and was re-titled 15th Mounted Brigade.

By July 1916 the 2/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry had re-trained to a cyclist unit, with its higher formation commands re-titleing to 6th Cyclist Brigade and 2nd Cyclist Division.

By November, the Regiment now trained in its new role as a cyclist Battalion, was amalgamated with 2/1st North Somerset Yeomanry to form the 10th (Wiltshire and North Somerset) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment and was placed under the command of the 4th Cyclist Brigade at Ipswich.

The Regiment then re titled to 2/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry in March 1917and remained under the command of 4th Cyclist Brigade.

In early 1918 the Regiment deployed to Ireland and remained in Dublin area until the end of the War.

3/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry

Raised as a Training Unit around May 1915.

1916 affiliated to the 11th Reserve Cavalry Regiment and early 1917 they were merged intothe 3rd Reserve Cavalry Regiment

Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry during WW2

The regiment began to mobilise in August 1939. Initially assigned as Divisional Cavalry under the command of 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, then reassigned and under the command of 4th Cavalry Brigade as part of the 1st Cavalry Division deploying to Palestine.

The regiment served in Palastine and Syria, North Africa and Iraq.

Whilst in North Africa the unit served as a searchlight regiment in ports such as Tobruk and Benghazi. In January 1941the regiment became a Motorised Regiment.

In June they were involved in the successful campaign against Vichy French forces in Syria, in spite of being desperately short of equipment and serviceable machine-guns and then in July 1941, 4th Cavalry Brigade became 9th Armoured Brigade and participated in the expedition into Persia, with the regiment fighting as motorised infantry.
In December, they received their first Honey tanks, finally becoming an armoured regiment, under the Royal Armoured Corps.

The regiment moved to Egypt in May 1942, with the 9th Armoured Brigade, which became an independent brigade placed under the operational command of 2nd New Zealand Division.

The brigade was in reserve during the Battle of Alam el Halfa and in October began training for the Battle of El Alamein.

The 9th Armoured Brigade was withdrawn after El Alamein, first to Cairo and then to Syria for internal security duties, where it remained throughout 1942 and 1943.

In May 1944 the Regiment deployed Italy and was placed under the command of 78th Division. The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry was to support 36th Infantry Brigade, with one squadron in support of each of the brigade's three infantry battalions.

In May–June 1944 it took part in the advance on Rome, working its way between the central mountains and the sea to the west. At one point, 78th Division withdrew but outlying elements of the regiment did not get the message and continued forwards.

In July and August 1944, 9th Brigade was placed in support of 4th and 10th Indian Divisions in the central mountains south east of Florence, on the approach to the Gothic Line. In August the order was received that all men with over 4½ years service overseas should be repatriated, and this reduced the regiment's strength by half. This made it impossible to function as a fighting unit and it was withdrawn from the line of battle.

The Regiment re-deployed in October 1944 and returned to England to train reinforcements for Armoured Regiments still fighting in Europe. It continued in this role until 1946, although the pace slowed after victory in Europe in May 1945.


In 1947, the regiment again ceased to exist but the following year was re-established as a heavy tank unit in support of 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, equipped with Cromwell tanks and Charioteer tank destroyers.

In 1958 the regiment converted to a light reconnaissance role equipped with armoured cars such as the Daimler, Humber, Saladin and Ferret.

In 1967 it was decided to reduce the TA and the regiment was disbanded as an independent unit.

A new TA unit, the Royal Yeomanry, was formed from five differing predecessor units and the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry was reborn as:

A Squadron, The Royal Yeomanry.

During the Cold War its role in the event of war would have been as a medium reconnaissance unit for the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).

In the 1970s a second RWY-based squadron was raised, as B squadron, Royal Wessex Yeomanry. This was initially a home defence unit trained as infantry but later equipped with stripped down Land Rovers to perform reconnaissance duties.

The Royal Yeomanry’s role changed in the 1990s to providing both main battle tank crews and soldiers for the Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear Regiment.

In January 2003 the Royal Yeomanry deployed two of its squadrons for the Iraq war as part of the Joint NBC Regiment. It was the first mobilisation of a Territorial Army unit as a formed body (TA soldiers under TA command) for combat operations since the Suez Crisis in 1956.

Overall over 200 members of the regiment have deployed on operational tours to Iraq since 2003. In recognition of its service in the liberation of Iraq, the Royal Yeomanry was presented with the battle honour ‘Iraq 2003’ on 11 November 2005, the only battle honour presented to a TA unit since the Second World War.

Since the Iraq war, the importance of the CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) role, as it is now called, has been acknowledged and in 2005 all five of the RY’s squadrons adopted it.

The Royal Wessex Yeomanry operates as a training regiment providing reinforcements for Regular Army regiment fielding the Challenger 2 main battle tank.

B (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry) squadron retains its Prince of Wales feathers capbadge and (with A squadron, Royal Yeomanry) its place as the senior Yeomanry unit of the Territorial Army.

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