The Berkshire Yeomanry

Key Dates

1794 - First Troop of Berkshire Yeomanry raised at Abingdon

1853 - Hungerford Troop of Yeomanry Cavalry augmented to a Corps of three Troops

1900 - Two Imperial Service Companies raised for service overseas in Second Boer War

1914 - Berkshire (Hungerford) Yeomanry (Dragoons) mobilised for service during World War One

Formation and early history

Under threat of invasion by the French Revolutionary government from 1793, and with insufficient military forces to repulse such an attack, the British government under William Pitt the Younger decided in 1794 to increase the Militia and to form corps of volunteers for the defence of the country. The mounted arm of the volunteers became known as the "Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry". The first yeomanry in Berkshire was the Abingdon Yeomanry, raised on 20 April 1794. Other corps followed so that eight were in existence by the end of 1800.[b] The brief Peace of Amiens in 1802 saw a number of corps disbanding, to be re-raised in 1803 with the resumption of hostilities.

The 1st Regiment of Berkshire Cavalry was formed on 21 March 1804 by the regimentation of five independent troops (seven by 1814). Despite the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the Yeomanry was retained by the government "for Military Service in aid of the Civil Power"[5] in the absence of organised police forces. Indeed, the Eastern Berkshire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry was formed on 14 January 1820.

The unwillingness of the government to pay for the Yeomanry led to many corps being disbanded in 1827?8. Twenty two corps were authorised to continue officially, and another sixteen were allowed to continue to serve without pay (until 1831). The Berkshire Yeomanry was not amongst them: the 1st Regiment was disbanded in January 1828 and the Eastern Regiment in April.

Re-formed

Four independent troops of yeomanry were re-formed in Berkshire in 1831, but these had dwindled to just the Hungerford Corps of Yeomanry Cavalry by 1838. In 1853, this had grown to three troops and was designated Berkshire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry (Hungerford). On 1 April 1893, the troops were reorganised into two squadrons, and the Headquarters was at Hungerford.

Boer War

On 13 December 1899, the decision to allow volunteer forces serve in the Second Boer War was made. Due to the string of defeats during Black Week in December, 1899, the British government realized they were going to need more troops than just the regular army, thus issuing a Royal Warrant on 24 December 1899. This warrant officially created the Imperial Yeomanry.

The Royal Warrant asked standing Yeomanry regiments to provide service companies of approximately 115 men each. In addition to this, many British citizens (usually mid-upper class) volunteered to join the new regiment. Although there were strict requirements, many volunteers were accepted with substandard horsemanship/marksmanship, however they had significant time to train while awaiting transport.

The first contingent of recruits contained 550 officers, 10,371 men in 20 battalions of 4 companies, which arrived in South Africa between February and April, 1900. Upon arrival, the regiment was sent throughout the zone of operations. The Berkshire Yeomanry sponsored the 39th Company, 10th Battalion and the 58th Company, 15th Battalion.

Re-organisation

On 17 April 1901, the regiment was renamed as the Berkshire Imperial Yeomanry and reorganised in four squadrons and a machine gun section. On 1 April 1908, the regiment was renamed for the final time as the Berkshire (Hungerford) Yeomanry and transferred to the Territorial Force, trained and equipped as dragoons. Its organisation was:

HQ Yeomanry House, Reading

A Squadron Windsor
(detachments at Maidenhead, Wokingham)

B Squadron Reading
(detachment at Wallingford)

C Squadron Newbury
(detachments at Hungerford, Lambourn)

D Squadron Wantage
(detachments at Abingdon, Faringdon, Didcot)

It was ranked as 26th (of 55) in the order of precedence of the Yeomanry Regiments in the Army List of 1914.

Battle honours

The Berkshire Yeomanry has been awarded the following battle honours:

Second Boer War
South Africa 1900?1

World War I
Arras 1918, Scarpe 1918, Ypres 1918, Courtrai, France and Flanders 1918, Suvla, Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli 1915, Egypt 1915?7, Gaza, El Mughar, Nebi Samwil, Palestine 1917?8

World War II
The Royal Artillery was present in nearly all battles and would have earned most of the honours awarded to cavalry and infantry regiments. In 1833, William IV awarded the motto Ubique (meaning "everywhere") in place of all battle honours.

Badge
The regiment's badge features the Uffington White Horse in the Vale of White Horse, historically in Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes when it was transferred to Oxfordshire.

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2010 - Present © Frank Toogood (Design) and Potts VC Trust (Content)
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