THE LEEDS RIFLES
- 1900-1902 (South Africa)
- 1915-1918 (France, Flanders)
- 1915, 1917 (Ypres)
- 1916, 1918 (Aubers, Somme)
- 1916 (Albert)
- 1917, 1918 (Arras, PoziÃ¨res)
- 1917, 1918 (Bullecourt, Cambrai, Poelcappelle)
- 1918 (Bapaume, Kemmel, Marne, Messines)
- Canal du Nord, Hindenburg Line, Sambre, Selle, Tardenois, Valenciennes
Honorary Distinction Badge:
- A Badge of The Royal Tank Regiment
With year dates 1942-1945
and two scrolls North Africa, Italy.
- The French Croix de Guerre avec Palme en Bronze
- The Emblem of the Canada (Maple Leaf)
The Award of the – Croix de Guerre avec Palme en Bronze
An extract from
The Leeds Rifles 1859-1993
produced for Bligny Sunday, July 16th 2000
Â© A. J. Podmore MBE, TD, July 2000
(reproduced by kind permission of the author)
THE LEEDS RIFLES (TERRITORIAL FORCE)
The Leeds Rifles were raised in the City of Leeds in 1859 when the Volunteer Force was formed. Before war was declared in 1914 the Leeds Rifles deployed two infantry battalions being the 7th Battalion and the 8th Battalion The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)(Leeds Rifles)(TF).
Both battalions, each with an establishment of 1,020 all ranks, had Headquarters in their traditional home of Carlton Barracks, Leeds. The Volunteer Force had become the Territorial Force in 1908.
At that time the West Riding Division was wholly formed by the Territorial units in the West Riding of York. It was composed of three Infantry Brigades and was self-sufficient in Artillery, Engineers, Transport, Medical Services – all those
Arms which would enable the Division to conduct operations in wartime. The two Leeds Rifles Battalions formed part of the 1st West Riding Infantry Brigade (TF) 
THE GREAT WAR
The West Riding Division was at Annual Camp on Yorkshire’s East Coast as war clouds loomed in the Summer of 1914. War Office orders came through whilst they were at camp and the Territorials were ordered back to their drill halls there to prepare for embodiment.
On 4th August 1914 the Territorial Force was embodied and the Leeds Rifles mustered at Carlton Barracks. Former Leeds Riflemen and new recruits flocked to enlist. As a result of the influx the two original Leeds Rifles battalions were designated as ‘First-Line’ units and were renumbered as the 1/7th and 1/8th Battalions.
Shortly after the Division was numbered as the 49th (1st West Riding) Division (TF) and the Brigade became 146th (1/1st West Riding) Infantry Brigade (TF).
Expansion was enabled by existing Leeds Rifles personnel forming a trained nucleus on which an additional two ‘Second-Line’ battalions, designated as the 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions, were raised. Together with the Second-Line units formed by the West Riding Division these two battalions became part of the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division (TF) and their Brigade became 185th (2/1st West Riding) Infantry Brigade (TF).
The First-Line units in the 49th (1st West Riding) Division (TF) began their active service in France and Flanders in April 1915. The Second-Line units of the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division (TF) at first carried out training and supplying reinforcement drafts to replace casualties in the 49th (1st West Riding) Division (TF), before proceeding on active service in France and Flanders in January 1917.
By 1918 the British Army had sustained high numbers of casualties. As one result only two of the four Leeds Rifles battalions still existed; the 1/7th Battalion with the 49th Division and the 8th Battalion with the 62nd Division
THE MARNE 1918
March and April 1918 had seen two massive German offensives on the River Somme and the River Lys. They then turned their attentions to the southern part of The Allied flank on the River Marne near Rheims. Here the third German attack in Late May forced a huge bulge into the French Lines.
Amongst the defenders were the Yorkshire Territorial’s of The Green Howards and The East Yorkshire Regiment in the 150th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division.
They had been sent to the French sector to rest, but the German offensive resulted in their Brigade being massively outnumbered, and completely overwhelmed.
An embattled French Fifth Army needed urgent help, and called upon the British Army to supply reinforcements. On 14th July 1918 two famous Territorial Force formations, the 51st (Highland) Division and 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division, were ordered to the Marne to act as a counter-attack force, and relieve a hard pressed French Army.
It was as a result of the French call that the 8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel N A England, began their attack along valley of the River Ardre on the morning of 20th July.
On their left flank were their comrades in York’s 2/5th Battalion. To their rear, in support, were Territorial’s of 1/5th Battalion The Devonshire Regiment who had recently replaced the 2/7th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) in the 185th (2/1st West Riding) Brigade.
The ground was totally unlike the muddy wreckage they were used to, the area was as yet unspoiled by war.
The Leeds riflemen steadily advanced through ripe fields of corn and rich woodlands:
“The valley of the Ardre varied from 2,000 to 3,000 yards in width. Much of it was gently undulating corn land, with the crops ripe for cutting, and of sufficient height to afford excellent cover for attacking or defending troops. The villages of Marfaux, Chaumuzy and Bligny lay on the slope to the river, bounded by steep ridges and spurs, and thickly wooded crests.”
“Fighting of a kind vastly different from anything they had previously gone through now faced the West Yorkshiremen and the 62nd Division generally. It could hardly be called open warfare for the attack would in places, have to be made through thick forests, and even to take up their assembly positions the attacking troops had to move up through almost impenetrable woods, in which the enemy still lurked. Guerrilla warfare was a more appropriate term.” 
A hail of enemy fire rapidly dispelled the seemingly peaceful illusion of their surroundings, and brought back the reality of war. Supporting artillery fire came from French and Italian gunners, whose barrage had fallen much too far ahead leaving countless German positions untouched:
“It was not long before the enemy’s machine-guns joined their barking to the scream of the shells of the French barrage passing overhead. And soon men began to fall rapidly. Cross-fire, from the edges of the woods high up above the right flank, and from Citron and Marfaux villages, swept the front of the attack and it was very evident that the barrage had affected the enemy not at all, for everywhere his machine-guns poured a perpetual hail of bullets into the waves of advancing Yorkshire men. The Lewis gunner was our first casualty. Birkell was killed by a sniper who seemed only a few yards away and somewhat in our rear. Connor was the next to be hit by another sniper just a few yards away who must have been hidden in a small clump of trees. Any slight move I made was immediately rewarded by a sharp crack from my attentive sniper and a neat little furrow curved along the rim of my shell-hole refuge. They suddenly began to shell this area of the copse. Heavies and gas shells followed each other in quick succession and I became covered with wet, muddy earth and almost choked with poison gas.” 
Within an hour the attack was held up, 43 Leeds Riflemen had been killed and 219 wounded or missing for little tactical gain. They attacked again on 23rd July, and succeeded in gaining the high ground above Marfaux from where they could dominate the enemy’s positions:
“There was no time for reconnaissance, and the troops were led to their assembly positions which were reached without loss. Almost from the outset of the advance at ‘Zero’ hour [6am] No. 2 Company, on the left, was held up by machine-gun fire, and suffered severe casualties.”
“Within half-an-hour all officers were out of action, and command of the company taken by Sergeant J Horne who, with great skill and gallantry, handled his men well, leading them after some stiff fighting to the outside of the wood and establishing a post which afterwards proved of great value. No 1 Company, on the right, was more fortunate. Advancing in small sections and keeping touch as much as possible, the company cleared the edge of the wood of hostile machine-guns thereby enabling 186th Brigade, on the left, to go forward without being enfiladed by murderous machine-gun fire.” 
This enabled the ‘Dukes’ Territorial’s of the 186th (2/2nd West Riding) Brigade to attack. The 8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) was relieved on the night of 26th/27th July and moved slightly back to Ecueil Farm where it was reinforced with a draft of 10 officers and 200 men. The 8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) was back in the attack on 28th July when their 185th Brigade had the task of recapturing the recently lost French front-line at the Montaigne de Bligny (Bligny Ridge).
The Battalion attacked with the 1/5th Devon;s on their right and the 2/5th West York’s in support. The 8th Battalion had only just absorbed a large reinforcement draft. Many of these were straight from England and had not experienced enemy fire. Amongst the ‘old hands’ Lance Corporals had been made Sergeants, and Lewis guns manned by the more experienced veterans.
The Germans were skilfully concealed deep in the woods, and the Riflemens’ advance soon encountered heavy enemy fire from numerous positions along the vital ridge:
“It was still dark when the 8th advanced with only the faintest suggestion of the approaching dawn. All went well until the foot of the Montaigne [de Bligny] was reached. But by this time dawn had broken. Suddenly the sharp report of a rifle rang out, and then from all sides rifles and machine-guns spluttered and cracked from scores of hidden emplacements on the hillside.” 
Tactics quickly changed from being a massed battalion advance into a series of rushes, in which section commanders steadily controlled the assault through a seemingly endless series of deadly enemy machine gun posts:
“Gradually progress was made and the line crept slowly up on the hill. Soon there was hesitation amongst the enemy troops and the West Yorkshires, rushing in with the bayonet, completed the discomfiture of the Germans for, though they gallantly tried to stay the advance of the British troops, they could not do so; eventually they turned and fled, and the whole line of attacking troops pressed on and drove the enemy from the crest of the hill Thus the Montaigne de Bligny fell to the victorious 8th West York’s of the 62nd Division. It was a grand fight. Nothing could have been finer than the way in which all ranks went forward and, after the first check, resolutely set to work to sweep the enemy from the side of the hill.” 
The 8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) losses were 14 killed, 96 wounded and 11 missing. It had captured 69 prisoners, 9 machine-guns, as well as the all-important Bligny Ridge. Their dash and gallantry was recognised by the Commander of the French Fifth Army who decorated the 8th Battalion with the Croix de Guerre avec Palme en Bronze .
The victorious 8th Battalion was relieved on the night of 30th July 1918 by Territorial’s of the 51st (Highland) Division. The grateful Commander of the Fifth French Army insisted upon reviewing the West Riding Territorial’s who had reversed the previously desperate situation of the French Army on the Marne.
The ‘Dukes’ Territorial’s of the 186th Brigade were selected to represent the 62nd Division, and all members of the Division set-to to make them something like presentable. The parade was so hastily prepared that only the gun-carriage, and transport, wheels on the side visible to the inspecting officer were polished; wheels on the other side remained crusted with the grime of battle.
Having achieved their task, the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division left the Marne on 31st July 1918, and moved north to the British sector between Amiens and Ypres.
The successful Allied counter-attack on the Marne brought about the collapse of the German Spring Offensive of 1918. The bold German plan had failed. The remainder of 1918 was to see the Allied advance to victory in which both Leeds Rifles battalions, and both their West Riding Divisions, were to play an active part.
Of the 1/7th and 8th Battalions (Leeds Rifles) few Territorial’s remained who could remember the idyllic annual camp spent at Scarborough over four years before. Some 2,050 Leeds Riflemen had been killed on active service in France and Flanders, thousands more wounded. Both Battalions later served as part of the Army of Occupation in Germany. The Pelican  of the West Riding Territorial’s at last placed its long poised foot firmly upon German soil on 15th December 1918.
The 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division was the only division of the Territorial Force to enter Germany. Whilst in Germany the 8th Battalion was formally decorated with the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme en Bronze. It was received on parade by Major W H Brooke MC, who had been commissioned with the Leeds Rifles in 1909, and who had served continuously with the 8th Battalion throughout the whole of its active service in France and Flanders.
In November 1922 the War Office recognised officially the award of the French Croix de Guerre to the 8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion. By 1922, only three  other British Infantry Battalions were entitled to bear the medal. All these Battalions bore the medal pinned upon a Cockade of the ribbon which was attached to the Battalion’s Regimental Colour. This was in line with the ruling that the award may only be borne by the successor unit, rather than by the Regiment of which the battalion formed part.
However, the Leeds Rifles had retained their ‘Rifles’ traditions in 1909 when the War Office authorised Territorial Force infantry battalions to bear two Colours, King’s and Regimental. In keeping with custom, the Leeds Rifles therefore declined Colours and chose to wear the French Croix de Guerre distinction in the form of an authorised ‘Cockade’  of the ribbon, which was worn on headdress. In time, the wearing of the Cockade was limited to ceremonial occasions alone, and the honour maintained by wearing the medal ribbon on shoulder straps, and later on the sleeve.
On the amalgamation of The Leeds Rifles into the Yorkshire Volunteers in 1969 the custom of wearing the Croix de Guerre ribbon on uniform was continued. In 1925, the 8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) was awarded the battle honours Marne 1918 and Tardenois  for its part in the action. These two battle honours were subsequently borne in the Regimental List of The West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Own) with ‘Tardenois’ also being selected by the Regiment as one of the ten Great War battle honours to be uniformly emblazoned upon the King’s Colour borne by each battalion of the Regiment. In keeping with its traditions as a Rifle Regiment The Leeds Rifles bore Tardenois on their cap-badge on a scroll on the lower arm of the Maltese Cross.
The original Croix de Guerre decoration and citation was laid up by the 8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion within York Minster in 1921. Subsequent years saw the decoration being taken out and Trooped by the Leeds Rifles during annual camp in order that succeeding generations might see the award whose ribbon they proudly wore.
The decoration is today in York Minster and is displayed in the Chapel of The West Yorkshire Regiment (now The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire).
AUTHORISATION OF THE CROIX DE GUERRE
Bureau de Personnel
QC le 1 Decembre 1918
Extract of General Army Order No. 430
The General Commanding the Fifth Army cites in General Army Orders the 8th Battalion The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) (Leeds Rifles).
This Ã©lite Battalion under the forceful command of Lieutenant Colonel Norman Ayrton England, from July 20th to July 30th, took a brilliant part in the heavy fighting that won us the Valley of the River Ardre.
On the 23rd July 1918, having cleared a path through the dense thickets of the Bois du Petit Champ, it captured a vital position despite continuous fire from enemy machine guns.
On July 28th 1918 with magnificent spirit it captured the Montaigne de Bligny, strongly defended by enemy forces superior in number, and maintained the position in spite of heavy losses and the desperate efforts of the enemy to regain the ground.
(GHQ Decision No. 22389 dated 16th October 1918.)
General Officer Commanding VÂ° Army.
WAR OFFICE ARMY ORDERS – NOVEMBER 1922
Army Order Number 431
Grant of Honorary Distinction
His Majesty The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the 8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Own) being permitted to wear in their headdresses on all ceremonial parades, a Cockade of the Colours of the French Croix de Guerre in commemoration of their exploits at La Montaigne de Bligny in 1918, for which they were ‘citÃ©’ in the Orders of the 5th French Army.
ARMY ORDERS – NOVEMBER 1968
Army Order Number 63
Honorary Distinctions T&AVR
Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve that the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve units named below may be allowed to wear distinctive emblems of dress to denote honorary distinctions awarded to their predecessors as set out below:
- The Ribbon of the French Croix de Guerre 1914/1918
- The Light Infantry Volunteers
- Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company (Shropshire)
- The King’s Shropshire and Herefordshire Light Infantry (Territorial’s)
- The 51st Highland Volunteers
- Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company
- 3rd (Territorial) Battalion The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
- 211 (Wessex) Casualty Clearing Station, Royal Army Medical Corps (Volunteers)
- The Leeds Rifles Territorial’s
- The capture of Bligny and Montagne de Bligny
 The establishment of the 1st West Riding Infantry Brigade was completed by the four TF Infantry Battalions of The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment):- 5th Battalion (Headquarters at York); 6th Battalion (Headquarters at Bradford); 7th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) and 8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) (Headquarters at Leeds).
 [Source: The West Yorkshire Regiment 1914-1918. E Wyrall. Published by John Lane The Bodley Head Ltd. 1923.]
 [Source: The 62nd (West Riding) Division 1914-1918. E Wyrall. Published by John Lane The Bodley Head Ltd. 1920.] An account by Officer Commanding ‘ D ‘ Company – probably Captain T P Reay. Oddly, neither Birkell nor Connor is listed as casualties in the Appendix to Wyrall’s History of The West Yorkshire Regiment, nor in ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War – The West Yorkshire Regiment’.
 [Source: The West Yorkshire Regiment 1914-1918. E Wyrall. 1923.] The ‘Sergeant J Horne’ mentioned might be 303966 Sergeant J Horner MM.
 [Source: The West Yorkshire Regiment 1914-1918. E Wyrall. 1923.]
 [Source: The West Yorkshire Regiment 1914-1918. E Wyrall. 1923.] The Croix de Guerre was established on 8th April 1915 by the French Government to commemorate Mentions in Despatches, both to individuals and to units. The different class of Despatch may be recognised by the emblem on the ribbon:- Army despatch – Palme en Bronze; Army Corps despatch – Silver gilt star (etoile en vermeil); Divisional Despatch – Silver star; Brigade/Regimental/Unit Despatch – Bronze Star. The medal ribbon for the 1914-18 Campaign was green with seven narrow red stripes but for the 1939-45 Campaign was changed to green with two broad red stripes on the outer edges and three narrow stripes between. The Croix de Guerre is a common award to individuals and units of the French Army. However, it is the comparative rarity of the collective award to units of the British army which is the source of pride to the select few which received it. So far as it is possible to trace only twelve units of the British Army received the award. [Source: The Award of the Croix de Guerre to units of the British Army. G Archer Parfit. Gale and Polden. November 1973.]
 The Pelican was adopted as the badge of the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division (TF). It was depicted with one foot poised and the Division vowed that the Pelican would not place its foot flat until it was on German soil.
 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment (2nd Battalion at Bois des Buttes, Aisne, 27th May 1918); 4th Battalion The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (TA) (1/4th Battalion at Montagne de Bligny, 6th June 1918); 6th/7th (Perth and Fife) Battalion The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)(TA) (1/6th (Perthshire) Battalion at Chambrecy, 20th-30th July 1918).
 Cockade authorised by War Office Officers Dress and Equipment, Pattern Room No 0137/5/1816 (QMG7) dated 1st January 1923.
 Although the Regiment refers to the battle of ‘Bligny Ridge’ (as termed in the Croix de Guerre citation) the ‘War Office Battles Nomenclature Committee’ named the battle as Tardenois with qualifying dates of 20th-31st July 1918. The Battle Honour Bligny was awarded by the War Office but with the qualifying date of 6th June 1918 as part of the Battle of the Aisne 1918 (27th May – 6th June 1918). Only one battalion qualified for Bligny – 1/4th Battalion The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (TF)
The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire
The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire was formed 25th April 1958 by the amalgamation of The West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Own), being the 14th of Foot, and The East Yorkshire Regiment (The Duke of York’s Own), and the 15th of Foot. The stories of these two famous Regiments are, therefore, part of the history of The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire.
The West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Own)
Raised in 1685, the Regiment first saw active service in Flanders in 1693. It then served in Ireland and Scotland before going to Gibraltar in 1727 for a 15 year stay. The Regiment returned to Scotland in 1745 until Culloden and returned to Gibraltar in 1751 for another 8 years. In 1759, when stationed at Windsor, it was granted royal permission to wear the White Horse of Hanover.
1776 saw the Regiment in America. This was followed by duty as Marines and then in Jamaica.
In 1793, at the Battle of Famars, the Regiment “stole” the march “Ca Ira” from its French adversaries. After this war against the French, the regiment returned home in 1803 and raised a 2nd Battalion, which went to the Peninsular, while the 1st Battalion went to India, and later, the short-lived 3rd Battalion which formed part of Wellington’s Army. After several successful actions in India, the 1st Battalion was, on returning home in 1831, granted the badge of the Royal Tiger, and superscribed “India”.
After service in the West Indies, Canada and Malta, the Regiment went to the Crimea in 1855 and took part in the capture of Sevastopol. In 1858 the 2nd Battalion was re-formed and sent to New Zealand.
In 1876, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, presented new Colours to the 1st Battalion at Lucknow and conferred on the Regiment the title “The Prince of Wales’s Own” and in 1881 the 14th was given the title “The West Yorkshire Regiment”.
In 1899 the 2nd Battalion went to the South African War where two V.C.’s were awarded.
The 1st Battalion was part of the original Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of the First World War, rapidly followed by the 2nd. The Regiment grew to 37 battalions, including Territorials, of which 24 saw action overseas and received many decorations. Among these was the French Croix de Guerre, awarded to the 8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion for gallantry in the capture of Bligny Ridge. The Roll of Honour, including over 13,000 names, may be seen in the Regimental Chapel in York Minster.
With a return to peace in 1918, the Regiment was reduced to two Regular and four Territorial Battalions.
The 1st Battalion spent much of the Second World War in Burma, while the 2nd Battalion served in Egypt, Cyprus and Tobruk before going to India and Burma, finally returning to UK in 1948 when it amalgamated with the 1st. This Battalion took part in the Suez operation in 1956 and was then stationed in Dover until amalgamation in 1958.
The East Yorkshire Regiment (The Duke of York’s Own)
The Regiment was raised 22nd June 1685 and soon saw service in Scotland and Flanders. In 1702 the 15th Foot formed part of Marlborough’s Army and took part in the battles of Blenheim, Ramillies, Malpaquet and Oudenarde. The Regiment served in the West Indies and, after a brief return to England, played a major part in the defeat of the French for the conquest of Canada. The mourning worn for the loss of General Wolfe at the Heights of Abraham was perpetuated in the black background to the silver rose of the collar dogs worn by The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire for many years.
The 15th Foot fought in the war of American Independence from 1776 to 1778. At the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 the 15th ran short of ball ammunition so all but the best shots fired small powder charges only. The bluff succeeded and the battle was won and the Regiment gained the nickname “The Snappers”.
In 1790 the Regiment returned to the West Indies for another six years; of 102 accompanying wives, only seven returned to England. In 1809 the Regiment returned to repulse the French from Martinique and Guadeloupe. More than sixty years passed before seeing action again in the Afghan War. Service in the Boer War of South Africa produced many casualties, commemorated in the south aisle of Beverley Minster.
At the outbreak of the First World War, the 1st Battalion went to France, followed by the 2nd in 1915. The Regiment grew rapidly to 21 battalions and won four VC’s among a large number of decorations.
Following the Armistice of 1918, battalions of the Regiment served in Iraq, India and North China, and in 1935 the Regiment was granted the title “The Duke of York’s Own”.
In 1939 the 2nd, 4th and 5th Battalions, the latter two being Territorial Units, were sent to France. Following this, battalions of the Regiment served in the Middle East and Sicily. The 2nd and 5th were in the initial assault on the Normandy beaches in 1944, while the 1st were in the final advance in Burma prior to the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
In 1958 the surviving 1st Battalion left Germany for Dover, and amalgamation with The West Yorkshire Regiment.
The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire
Formed in Dover, 25th April 1958, the 1st Battalion went to Aden in September. The following year to Gibraltar until 1961, and then to Germany until another tour in Aden in1965 and again in 1967. A short tour in Northern Ireland was followed by two years in Cyprus and then two more in Northern Ireland.
New Colours were presented in1984, while the Battalion was in Berlin and in 1985 they moved back to Northern Ireland for another two years. Also in 1985, HRH the Duchess of Kent was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment.
The 1st Battalion took part in “Desert Storm” in The Gulf and, more recently, with members of the 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion, formed an important part of the international force in Bosnia.
Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire
Regimental Headquarters and Museum,
3A Tower Street
phone: 01904 662790
Page prepared by Campbell Ricketts Market Communications Copyright Â© 1998 /2018
The West Riding Regiment Royal Artillery (Territorials)
In 1860, as the Government feared invasion from the continent, the Secretary at War recommended the formation of Volunteer Artillery Corps to bolster our coastal defences. One Corps was formed in August of that year in Leeds and another, in October, in Bradford. They began as Coastal Artillery with 32 pounder guns and in 1886 became Position Artillery with 40 pounders. In 1898 they changed again to Garrison Artillery with 4.7 inch guns drawn by steam tractors. During this time they raised a number of batteries in nearby towns; at times, each Corps having as many as eight batteries. This expansion caused new barracks and drill halls to be built and local training areas to be found.
After the end of the Boer War in 1902, a review of the Army took place and a Royal Commission reported on the Militia and Volunteers. The War Office was concerned over the different standards of efficiency but had to concede that this was in the hands of individual commanding officers. Secretary for War, Haldane, in the Liberal Government of 1905, was given the task of preparing legislation for reform. His Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, brought together volunteer units to form the Territorial Force (to become the Territorial Army in 1921) giving them the same role as before, but, in addition, giving them the capability of acting as backup to the Regular Army if the need arose. The result was that the Leeds and Bradford Artillery lost their Heavy Guns and became Field Brigades. In addition, the Act set up County Associations to help co-ordinate the work of the War Office and the new Territorial Force, and to recruit, house and administer the units.
Thus in 1908 there was the 1st West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery (T.F.) with its headquarters at Fenton Street, Leeds, and the 2nd West Riding Brigade Royal Field Artillery (T.F.) with its H.Q. at Valley Parade in Bradford. Each brigade had three batteries and an ammunition column and they were equipped with 15 pounder guns. With the change to the smaller guns, steam tractors were no longer required and the barracks had to be adapted to accommodate horses.
The Great War
In the Great War (1914 – 18) both brigades were part of the 49th (West Riding) Division, going to France in 1915, and each formed a second line brigade which then supported 62nd Division. In February 1920 the two brigades were reformed at Leeds and Bradford and the following year were redesignated 69th and 70th (West Riding) Brigades Royal Field Artillery (T.A.). Having been redesignated as Regiments in 1938, both remained as Field Regiments up to the Second World War, but the horses were replaced by Motor Transport.
In May 1939, the 69th formed a Second Line regiment at Bramley, Leeds (121 Field Regiment R.A. (T.A.) and 70th similarly gave rise to 122 Field Regiment R.A. (T.A.) in Bradford. During WWII 69th, as part of 49 (West riding) Division served in Iceland for two years and later, after their return to U.K., took part in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944.
121 Field Regiment went to Iraq in 1941, fought with the 8th Army in North Africa and the American 5th Army in Italy before returning to U.K. to take part in the Normandy invasion as a Medium Regiment with 5.5 inch Gun-Howitzers.
70th went to France in 1940 as part of the 52nd (Scottish Lowland) Division. When the British Expeditionary Force had to withdraw, 70th returned to U.K. via Cherbourg with all their guns, vehicles and equipment intact. They were later transferred to 46th (North Midland) Division and fought with them in the Tunisian campaign and in Italy and Greece.
122, after training in U.K., went out to the Far East, suffering war casualties of 13 until the naval base at Singapore surrendered in February 1942. Thereafter, more than 200 died, mainly as a result of their treatment as Prisoners of War.
An honour, unique at the time for a T.A. unit, was conferred upon the 70th in September 1945. They were granted the Freedom of the City of Bradford.
The 1st January 1947 saw the two Regiments renumbered as 269 (WR) Field Regiment R.A. (T.A.) in Leeds and 270 (WR) in Bradford. Both units were equipped with the 25 pounder self propelled gun (the Sexton). In 1956 they were re-equipped with 25 pounder (towed), familiar to so many. When Anti-Aircraft Command was abolished in 1954, 321 Anti-Aircraft Regiment at Bramley was incorporated into 269, whilst 270th incorporated 584 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment at Belle Vue Barracks in Bradford and moved their HQ from Valley Parade to Belle Vue.
November 1960 saw yet another reorganisation with 269 and 270 combined to form 249 (The West Riding Artillery) Field Regiment R.A., T.A. which, officially, came into existence on 1st February 1961, with Headquarters at New Carlton Barracks in Leeds and batteries at Leeds, Bramley and Bradford. So came together two regiments who started out alongside each other a hundred years earlier.
This new structure was not to last long. 1966 was, for 249, the last full year as a Gunner Regiment. Their final demise as a Regiment came in March 1969, surviving only as The West Riding Artillery Territorials (Cadre). In 1971 this cadre was expanded to become “A” (West Riding Artillery) Battery, 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Volunteers, later to become “B” Company 3rd/4th Battalion Yorkshire Volunteers.
This brief history of the West Riding Regiment Royal Artillery (Territorials) was prepared by the late Lt Colonel J.C.”Mitch” Mitchell T.D., who said the job was easy, as he was able to refer to the following works:
- The Bradford Volunteer Artillery – a Mini Archive 1914 – 1938, by RTP Peacock MBE
- The Leeds Volunteer Artillery by W Seddon
- The Bradford Volunteer Artillery – 70th(WR) Field Regiment RA TA 1939 – 1946 by J Douglas
- 121 Field/Medium Regiment 1939 – 46 by RW Morris
- The Bradford Volunteer Artillery – 122(WR) Field Regiment RA TA 1939 – 1942 by E Ackroyd also published in paperback under the title “A freedom dearly bought”.
The Leeds Volunteer Artillery 1947 – 1971 by JT Wyatt
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last update: February 2018 – The 45th and The 51st
45th (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Corps (TA)
51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Corps (TA)
In 1936 the 8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion was converted to Anti-Aircraft artillery. In 1938 the 7th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion was converted to the armoured rÃ´le, and redesignated ’45th (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Corps (TA)’ (45 RTR). In early 1939 the Territorial Army was doubled in size requiring that existing units each raised ‘duplicate units’. This resulted in ‘A’ Squadron of 45 RTR, at Morley, expanding to become a second regiment – ’51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA)’. Both units adopted the badges of the Royal Tank Regiment retaining the Leeds Rifles’ colours on their uniform shoulder-strap flashes. Both tank regiments served as such during the Second World War.
When the Territorial Army was reconstituted in 1947 45th (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA) reformed with Headquarters and two squadrons at Leeds, Carlton Barracks, and one squadron at Morley. In 1952 the Regiment was redesignated as 45th/51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA). In 1956 45th/51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA) reverted to the infantry rÃ´le and again became the 7th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) (TA).
By 1961 both the Leeds Rifles’ artillery and tank regiments had reverted to the infantry rÃ´le, and amalgamated to form one infantry battalion, The Leeds Rifles The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire (TA).
This is reproduced, with the author’s permission, from “The Fog of War” by the late A.J.Podmore, M.B.E., and T.D.
51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Corps (TA)
Following the conversion in 1938 of the 7th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion to 45RTR, in June 1939 a detached Company of 45RTR formed the basis of the 51st Bn Royal Tank Regiment in Morley, an ancient town to the south of Leeds.
The first years of the Second World War were spent in a combination of training for their new armoured role and Home Defence duties. In January 1943, however, they finally set off for overseas duties – disguised as Gunners, so as to confuse any enemy intelligence operations – in North Africa where they were soon in action. After a subsequent period of recuperation and repair, the Battalion took to the sea again, landing at Naples in Italy, 18th April 1944.
Moving to Lucera, near Foggia, the Battalion joined 1st Canadian Division. On 12th May, the 51st crossed the River Gari and joined up with 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade, prior to their part in the successful attack on the Adolf Hitler Line.
In the final attack on the Adolf Hitler Line on 23rd May 1944, the Battalion, less ‘B’ Sqn (which had suffered heavy losses in a previous engagement), supported their Canadian partners in an attack on the left of the line.
At 0600 hrs on 23rd May, behind a blinding barrage, the tanks and infantry advanced. The tanks quelled all enemy machine gun fire and the infantry reached their objective, but during the fierce battle, the 51st sustained many casualties – both tanks and men. Finally at 1215 hrs the tanks were withdrawn to re-fuel and re-ammunition while the infantry were able to complete the second phase without serious opposition.
After this battle, the Battalion reluctantly parted company with its Canadian friends and continued its rolling advance, slowly pushing back the enemy line, for another month before a break from front line action.
The following is a verbatim reproduction:
Special Order of the Day
BRIGADIER J.N. TETLEY, TD
Commander 25 Tank Brigade
24 May 44
The following messages have been received and replies sent:-
From Commander 1 Cdn Corps
To Commander 25 Army Tank Brigade. rptd Commander 1 Cdn Inf Div
Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to the 25 Tank Bde which has fought so magnificently with us today. The courage and determination of all ranks has been beyond praise.
From Commander 25 Tank Brigade
To Commander 1 Cdn Corps. rptd Commander 1 Cdn Inf Bde
All ranks 25 Tank Brigade thank you for your most generous message. This day has been a great one for all of us and we shall never ask for better comrades than 1 Cdn Inf Div
From 1 Cdn Inf Div
To 25 Tank Bde
Message from Comd 1 Cdn Corps to Comd 1 Cdn Div.
CANADA will be proud for ever of a battle which its 1 Cdn Div has today won. Through the courage and determination of all ranks of the Div and their British Comrades of the 25 Tank Bde, HITLER LINE has been broken in the face of bitter opposition and the enemy has been dealt a blow from which he will NOT soon recover. The final victory is nearer. Let us press on and complete our task.
From G.O.C.1 Cdn Inf Div.
To 25 Tank Bde.
Well done. We have won a resounding victory. This victory is the fruits of your magnificent courage, endurance and the will to win. Now we have the bastards on the run we must keep cracking. Good luck. I am the proudest man in the world
From 25 Tank Bde
To G.O.C. 1 Cdn Inf Div
All ranks 25 Tk Bde thank you for your kind message. We ask for nothing better than to fight with 1 Cdn Inf Div under your command and will help to make Kesselring run faster and farther yet.
The Bde Commander wishes these messages and the following to be read to all ranks.
By the great courage and determination which you have shown today and by the magnificent manner in which you faced the most difficult task you have ever met, you have made a great page in history. Many experienced soldiers might have thought your task impossible in such country and with such skilled and determined defence. I thank you all for the great job you have done.
General G.C.Vokes, DSO, Commanding 1 Cdn Inf Bde, has intimated that he would be pleased if all ranks of 25 Tk Bde would wear a Maple Leaf emblem in token of the part played by the Bde assisting 1 Cdn Inf Div to breach the ADOLF HITLER LINE.
Commander, 25 Tank Brigade, has accepted the offer with thanks.
Further instructions will be issued at a later date.
Commander, 25 Tank Brigade
This explains why the Leeds Detachment (Leeds Rifles), Imphal (PWO) Company, the East and West Riding Regiment, still wear the Maple Leaf.
This brief account of how the 51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA) came to wear the Maple Leaf is based on a Regimental publication, written when events were still fresh in the minds of those who returned.
Lieutenant Colonel J N Tetley, Commanding Officer of 45RTR in 1939, was one of many members of the Leeds family of brewers (Joshua Tetley and Son) who served with the Leeds Rifles since formation in 1859. As Brigadier J N Tetley he later commanded the 25th Armoured Brigade in which the 51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment served during the Second World War. He enjoyed the distinction of being the only TA officer in the Royal Tank Regiment appointed to command a brigade on active service during the war. Brigadier J N Tetley DSO TD became Honorary Colonel the Leeds Rifles after the war.
The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding)
A brief history of The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding)
The Regiment has been in existence for 296 years and today is one of the handfuls that have not been disbanded or amalgamated since the Infantry of the Line was reorganised in 1881. At that time the 33rd and 76th Regiments were amalgamated to form the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding).
The 33rd was raised at the outbreak of the Spanish war of Succession in 1702. It soon established a reputation for excellence and by the 1770’s was described as the best trained in the Army. This was due to the influence of Lord Cornwallis who was Colonel of the Regiment from 1766 – 1805. It was under Lord Cornwallis’s Colonelcy in 1782 that the Regiment was first formally linked with the West Riding of Yorkshire, in recognition of it’s then already long established practice of recruiting its soldiers from this part of the country. It became known as the 33rd (or 1st Yorkshire West Riding) Regiment.
In 1793 Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, purchased first his Majority and then six months later his Lieutenant Colonelcy in the Regiment. He was then 24 years old. He remained in command of the Regiment until 1802 taking it first to Holland and then on to India. In 1806 he succeeded Lord Cornwallis as Colonel holding the appointment until he relinquished it, with some reluctance, in1813 to take up the Colonelcy of the Horse Guards. T he 33rd subsequently also fought under him at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It was because of this long and particularly close relationship with the Duke that, after his death in 1852, the Regiment was granted the title of “The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment”, a unique distinction as it is the only regiment in the Army to be named after a commoner.
The 76th was raised in 1787 for service in India where it greatly distinguished itself in the wars against the Maharattas which led to the capture of Delhi and Agra amongst other major Indian cities. For its service in India it was awarded by the East India Company an honorary stand of colours, making the Regiment the only one to carry four Colours on parade, and the badge of an elephant circumscribed by the word “Hindustan”.
It was under the reforms of the Army in 1881, when the 33rd and 76th were linked together to become the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment West Riding, that their home barracks in Halifax were built for them. Though the barracks closed in 1957 the Regiment’s headquarters are still in the town.
During the 1st World War twenty one Regular, Territorial and Service battalions of the Regiment were raised with their men drawn almost entirely from the West Riding. Of these, fourteen battalions saw active service on the Western Front, Italy, and at Gallipoli suffering the loss of 8,000 men and officers. In the 2nd World War battalions of the Regiment took part in the campaigns of Dunkirk, North West Europe, North Africa, Italy and Burma.
Since then the 1st Battalion has seen active service in Korea, where at the Battle of the Hook it held the critical approaches to Seoul, Cyprus, Kenya, numerous tours in Northern Ireland and Bosnia where, in 1994, it was the first unit into Gorazde and played a critical role in helping to prevent a similar tragedy to that which befell Zepa and Screbrinica.
Within the Army the Regiment is particularly well renowned for its prowess on the Rugby field. The Dukes, besides having had many internationals in its ranks over the years, have won the Army Cup fourteen times – more than any other regiment – and been runners up seven times.
Until the consequences of 1998’s SDR were implemented, the Regiment had two battalions. The 1st Battalion was a Regular Army battalion who had recently moved to Hounslow, London, and the 3rd Battalion which was part of the Territorial Army. The 3rd Battalion had its Headquarters at Endcliffe Hall, Sheffield with Drill Halls across the Regimental recruiting area. (Please refer to other pages of the Yorkshire Volunteers site for more details of SDR.)
The Regiment continues to recruit nearly all its soldiers from the old West Riding, the recruiting area stretching from Settle in North Yorkshire through Skipton, Keighley, Halifax, West Bradford, Huddersfield, Barnsley and Rotherham to Sheffield. It is based on these long, historical ties to the people of the West Riding and the honest, straight forward, hard working qualities they bring with them that the Regiment’s reputation for quiet, but first class professionalism is founded.
Throughout 1998 the 1st Battalion carried out Public Duties in London. Soldiers from the Regiment were regularly seen performing guard duties outside Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.
This brief history is based on that provided by the Regimental Secretary, The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding), April 1998.
Enquiries may be sent by mail, to:
The Regimental Secretary
the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment
Telephone: 01422 361671
Page prepared by Campbell Ricketts Market Communications Copyright Â© 1998, 1999
last update: February 2018
The Hallamshire Battalion
The York & Lancaster Regiment (TA)
A meeting took place in Sheffield Town Hall on 24 May 1859 at which it was agreed to form an infantry volunteer unit and by 27 June the Hallamshire Rifle Volunteers were raised, being named after the Saxon manor of Hallam. Headquarters were established in Eyre Street, with Mr Wilson Overend DL being elected Major-Commandant. Drills were carried out at the Collegiate School and Bramall Lane cricket ground.
Approval for formation was received 30 September and shortly after the title of 2nd Yorkshire West Riding (Hallamshire) Rifle volunteer Corps was officially granted. Among others to enlist was John Brown, proprietor of Atlas Steel Works from where he raised two companies. At this time, John Brown was building Endcliffe Hall, the future home of the Hallamshire. In 1862, the Hallamshire Rifles were presented with Colours in the Botanical Gardens, Sheffield, before a crowd of 12,500 spectators, the Unit now commanded by the Earl of Wharncliffe.
Following the Cardwell reforms of the regular regiments of infantry in 1881, the 65th and 84th Regiments of Foot became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the York and Lancaster Regiment. On 1 February 1883, the War Office retitled the Hallamshire Rifles as 1st (Hallamshire) Volunteer Battalion, The York and Lancaster Regiment. Later that year the Hallamshire moved to Hyde Park barracks where they were to remain until 1914. Annual Camp had mostly been held locally but in 1883 it was held in Blackpool.
In common with most Volunteer Battalions, the Hallamshire raised two “Active service Battalions” for service with regular forces in the Boer War for which they were granted their first battle honour SOUTH AFRICA 1900 – 1902. In 1900 a new rifle range was opened at Totley on land that was purchased by officers of the battalion.
In 1908, on the reorganisation of the volunteers into the Territorial Force, the Hallamshire were redesignated 4th (Hallamshire) Battalion, the York and Lancaster Regiment TF. New Colours were presented at Windsor by King Edward VII on 19 June 1909 and the old Colours were laid up on 3 April 1910 in Sheffield Parish Church which, four years later, became Sheffield Cathedral. The Colours still hang in the York and Lancaster Regimental Chapel of Saint George.
World War I
The battalion was ordered home after only a week of annual camp at Whitby in July 1914 to prepare for war. It was to be April 1915 before the battalion moved to France and first saw action in the Ypres salient two months later where they were to remain, in and out of the trenches, for six months, losing 94 killed and 401 injured.
After a period of rest in the Calais area, the battalion moved to the Somme where, on 1 July 1916, they were in the follow-up assault wave. In the three months they were engaged in this battle, the battalion sustained 27 officers and 750 soldiers killed and wounded.
What is described as “wearying routine of six days in the line followed by six days in reserve” saw the battalion at Nieuport where they had the dubious honour of being subjected to the first use of mustard gas sustaining some 288 casualties in the last two weeks of July 1917. From here, it was back to the Ypres salient where they suffered further heavy casualties in the German spring offensive of 1918. In the final Allied Advance to Victory, the Hallamshire were ordered on 13 October to reach the line of the river Selle which was supposedly undefended on the western bank. They advanced across open ground without artillery support to find strongly defended enemy positions. They achieved their objective but with only 4 officers and 240 men present of the 20 and 600 who had started the advance.
Their last action of the war was 28 October 1918 when Commanding Officer, Lieutenant colonel D S Branson was severely wounded. His father was Commanding Officer when Douglas Branson joined the Hallamshire in 1910.He commanded the battalion from 1917 to 1925, became Honorary Colonel in 1940 (succeeding his father), and continued until 1965 by which time he had been knighted for his service to the Territorial Army, been ADC to four monarchs and won the MC and three DSO’s in ten months in the First World War.
The battalion returned to its new Headquarters at Endcliffe Hall in November 1919. In 1924, in recognition of their war service, King George V decreed that the “4th” be dropped from the title and henceforth they should be known as The Hallamshire Battalion.
World War II
Training between the wars saw many changes. It was 1938 before the battalion said goodbye to its horses and the Vickers and Lewis machine guns were withdrawn. Bren light machine guns and Boyes anti-tank rifles appeared followed by tracked Bren Gun Carriers. In 1939 the battalion went to camp in the Isle of Man, only to be mobilised on their return.
After moving to Thirst racecourse, the battalion took part in the ill-fated Norwegian campaign where they were ashore for all of twelve days. Although they saw limited action, the only casualties were on the way home when one of the ships in the convoy was sunk by German aircraft killing thirteen and wounding eleven.
The battalion spent the next two years “defending” Iceland before returning to Scotland for garrison duties and to prepare for the invasion of North West Europe. The Hallamshire landed in France on 9 June 1944 and moved into the front line four days later. Twelve days later the Hallamshire were involved in the attack on Fontnay-le-Pesnil against the 26th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. The attack was successful but at the expense of 123 members of the battalion killed or wounded. To this day, former members of the battalion at that time still celebrate the victory as the Fontenay Club.
The battalion was involved in the capture of the docks at Le Havre before the Germans could destroy the vital installations. Here they captured 1,005 prisoners, three Dornier flying boats and a submarine! In September, the Hallamshire crossed the Antwerp-Turnhout canal and for his part in a subsequent action, Corporal JW Harper was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. During the winter months, the battalion served in the Nijmegan salient and participated in the attack on Arnhem in April 1945, their final action in World War II. Eleven months had seen the battalion suffer 158 killed and 689 wounded.
The battalion came home in 1946 where it reformed in 1947. In 1950, the role was changed to a Motor Battalion equipped with armoured half-tracks. Each company was attached to an armoured regiment. National servicemen arrived the same year and for five years the Hallamshire trained in their armoured infantry role before reverting to traditional infantry.
1959 saw the Hallamshire’s celebrate their centenary in style with a parade in Sheffield, a service in the Cathedral and hospitality being offered by the Officers and Sergeants at Endcliffe Hall and by the City to the battalion in the Town Hall. In 1964 the Hallamshire’s paraded in Norfolk Park to be presented with new Colours by the Earl of Scarborough. The old Colours, in service since 1909, were laid up in St John’s Church, Ranmoor.
The final chapter
1967 saw the beginning of the last chapter in the Hallamshires’ service with the formation of the Yorkshire Volunteers, to which the Hallamshire’s provided a company, and the reduction of the role of the battalion which was finally reduced to a cadre of eight men in 1969. This cadre expanded in 1970 to form a company in the 3rd Battalion, Yorkshire Volunteers.
Subsequent changes to the Territorial Army saw the demise of the Yorkshire Volunteers and the loss of the Hallamshire companies. The last colours of the Hallamshire’s are now in the ballroom at Endcliffe Hall alongside a mural depicting the capture of Fontenay.
A period of military history has been completed.
Acknowledgements and many thanks are due to Colonel I G Norton TD JP DL for this history of the Hallamshire Battalion.
Page prepared by Campbell Ricketts Market Communications Copyright Â© 1998
last update: 24th October 1999
The Sheffield Artillery Volunteers
A brief history
In 1793 the judicial murder of the French king, followed by that country’s declaration of war against Britain and the Netherlands, caused great alarm in England. The state of the professional armed forces was lamentable and there was a wave of amateur recruitment to volunteer forces. One of these was the Sheffield Artillery Volunteers, in its first form, which was raised in April 1794, as the Artillery Company of The Loyal Sheffield Independent Volunteers. It lasted only as long as the immediate crisis and was disbanded in 1802. This is of interest today only because the two original bronze guns with which the force was armed are still extant. They are now in the possession of the Sheffield Town Trustees, and are known as the ‘Town Guns’. They are stored at Kelham Island Museum, in Sheffield. Another surviving artefact of that period is a portrait of Captain James Shemeld who commanded the unit at that time. It now hangs in the Gunner Room of the Officers’ Mess of the TA Drill Hall at Endcliffe Hall, Sheffield.
The ferment in Europe in 1848, followed by the election of Napoleon III as President of France and his declaration of war against Austria in 1859 precipitated the next wave of alarm and volunteer enthusiasm in Britain. Many units were raised or re-formed, including the 4th West Riding (Yorkshire) Volunteer Artillery in Sheffield in February 1861. The two Town Guns (6 Pounders) were brought out of retirement as their armament, until 32 pounders were delivered next year. There was some improvisation in accommodation, too. For a few months drills took place in Surrey Street at the ‘Music Hall’, before a move to Tudor Street. It was not until 1880 that a permanent purpose-built Drill Hall was opened at Edmund Road – Norfolk Barracks – where the Unit remained until 1965. Initially the organisation was strictly purist in its volunteer status: members paid an annual subscription of one guinea and were expected to provide their own uniform at a cost of four pounds. This period of local initiative and individual motivation did not last long. The Volunteer Act of 1863 introduced a degree of formality and standardisation to the volunteer forces for the first time, with some financial inducement.
Recruiting was brisk and by 1865 eight batteries had been formed, with an establishment of 640 soldiers. Apart from a brief foray into forming a Field battery in 1864 – an experiment which lasted only to1870 – the SAV remained Garrison Artillery until 1889, when the Unit was converted to Position Artillery. This involved a substantial increase to the establishment of horses, and the riding school, on the first floor of the Drill Hall with its wooden approach ramp, was established. Up to this time a variety of pieces had been served by the SAV, including 64 pounder and 10 inch muzzle loaders, and the conversion to Position Artillery did not involve the latest technology. But the unit worked effectively, for in 1867, 1872 and 1894 it won the Queen’s Prize at the National Artillery Association competition at Shoeburyness. (The cups won in 1872 and 1894 were loaned back to the National Artillery Association in 1999 as prizes in current Volunteer gunnery competitions.)
1899 brought more serious issues – the Boer War. Twelve officers and two hundred and fifty NCOs and men volunteered to serve, and the CO, Lt Col Allen, offered to provide ‘four guns of the most modern type’ at his own expense. Clearly he was not satisfied with the guns issued by the War Office. The offer of both men and guns was refused, after a delay which caused some frustration. Eventually only thirty-six soldiers volunteered for the Imperial Yeomanry, disappointed not to have been mobilised as an Artillery Unit. Nine did not return – two killed in action, one dead from enteric fever and six who settled in South Africa.
The ferment of military reform following the embarrassments of South Africa, combined with the perceived threat of another German invasion of France, produced the Haldane reforms, and the establishment of the Territorial Force in 1908. Clearly this was seen at the time as the end of an era. In the SAV there was a sentiment of congratulation that in the previous forty-seven years the Unit had experienced only three commanding Officers. More importantly 15 pounder breech-loading field guns were issued. The Unit was familiar with these, having trained upon them for some years past, thanks to the cooperation of the regular Royal Artillery. A new name was issued, too – 3rd West Riding Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (TA) – although the vernacular name had been The Sheffield Artillery Volunteers since 1864. By 1916 it was 247 Brigade, RFA (T), and later 71st West Riding Brigade, RFA (T).
The Brigade went to France early in 1915 as part of 49 Division, going into action firstly opposite Lille, close to Fleurbaix. In July it moved near to Ypres, where in October it was re-equipped with 18 pounder guns. In March 1916 it was in action on the Somme, where in the attack upon Thiepval it supported, amongst others, the Hallamshire Rifles. After the carnage of the Battle of the Somme, in December 1916 the reorganisation of artillery resulted in the unit being broken up, with batteries posted to other units. Those batteries fought the remainder of the 1st World War on the western front in France. It was characteristic of that campaign that during the whole of the period in France none of the batteries moved outside a frontage of sixty miles.
The Unit was reformed in 1920, much in the same form as in the early years of the century. But mechanisation was started, on an experimental basis, in 1928. By 1933 the whole Brigade was motorised, apparently with little regret. Horsemanship was a declining civilian skill, and motor engineering an increasing one: the management of horses in any number was becoming impossible for a volunteer unit. (This seems to have been regretted by Captain Orde Wingate, who became the regular Adjutant for a time. Riding appears to have been his only solace in what he saw as a dull and dead-end posting. Later he forged his own excitement and advancement as the founder of the â€˜Chindits’ in the Burma war of 1942 – 45).
By 1939 the Unit was titled ‘Regiment’ rather than ‘Brigade’, and was armed with18 pounders with pneumatic-tyred carriages, and 4.5″ howitzers, still with wooden wheels. These pieces were quickly replaced with 18/25s – the new 25pounder piece on the old 18 pounder pneumatic wheeled carriage. With these weapons the Regiment went to France in June 1940 as part of 52 (Lowland) Division, following the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk, in the unsuccessful attempt to stabilise a front in the area of the River Seine. Despite shortages of ammunition, fuel and rations it went into action against the Germans south-east of Paris before a long but orderly retreat to Cherbourg. On return to Britain the Regiment eventually became part of 46 (North Midlands) Division, with whom they fought until 1945. In late 1941 the issue of the new 25 pounders was complete, and the Regiment fought those guns through the remainder of that war.
In January 1943 the Regiment landed in North Africa and in the next four months experienced fierce and almost constant action in foul weather, including Hunt’s Gap, Longstop Hill and the Kasserine Pass, in the push to Tunis and the clearance of Axis troops from North Africa. The next action was at Salerno, on the Italian mainland, where the Regiment was part of the assault force which landed on the night of 8-9th September. For the next ten days the narrow beach-head was under fevered attack before a break-out was possible. The advance up the western coast of Italy was punctuated by well-prepared German positions, all resolutely defended – the River Volturno, the River Garigliano and the Gustav Line, with its fulcrum at Monte Cassino. After these battles the Regiment was withdrawn for refit. It returned to action in August 1944, to take part in the assault on the Gothic Line, and the subsequent bitter battles. Early in 1945 the Regiment was transferred to Greece, where despite the Germans already having retreated the unit was involved in patrolling and even a little gunfire from time to time. The return to Italy in April was too late for more action – the campaign had been won. The Regiment concluded that war in Austria, as occupying forces. During their campaigns members of the Regiment won 2 DSOs, 8 MCs, 10 MMs, 1 BEM, 1 Silver Star and 1 Bronze Star (American) and 31 Mentions in Despatches.
The Regiment was disbanded in March 1946. But the ‘Cold War’ with The Soviet Union smouldered into life soon afterwards, and the Unit was reformed as 271 Field Regiment (TA) in May 1947. The familiar 25 pounders were re-issued.
The following years were confident. Many of the volunteers were well trained, very experienced and tempered by war service, although the presence of unwilling conscripts was a slight problem at times: (these were national servicemen doing a portion of their service part-time with Territorial Army Units). The Regiment remained a field unit until 1961, when a reduction in the size of the Territorial Army precipitated an amalgamation with 323 LAA Regiment and 884 Locating Battery – the other Sheffield volunteer gunner units – as a light air defence Regiment. But that manifestation did not exist for very long – in 1965 the Unit ceased to be armed with guns, and left Norfolk Barracks. It remained a lightly armed general defence unit for only three years, after which it became a cadre of eight soldiers, merely a token to retain the identity and the name. But that token was worthwhile, for when 3 YORKS was formed in 1971 it was based upon four such cadres, and the Sheffield Artillery Volunteers formed B (SAV) Battery, at Rotherham. Later, as the Battalion identity became firmer, it became B (SAV) Company. With the reorganisation and formation of 4 YORKS in 1988 the SAV Company became part of the 4th Battalion. Subsequently, in 1992 the Company formed part of the amalgamated 3rd/4th Battalion. So it remained until The Yorkshire Volunteers were disbanded in 1993.
Grateful thanks to Lieutenant Colonel L H Tattersall TD JP for providing this history.
The author acknowledges with gratitude the assistance in preparing this history of:
- ‘History of the Sheffield Artillery Volunteers’ by Hon Major F. W. Hardwick, Sheffield 1911
- Personal records of Lt Colonel G. S. Willis OBE TD JP
- Personal records and reminiscences of Major J. Machin TD