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History of the Berkshire Yeomanry
By Andrew French
Assistant curator at the Berkshire Yeomanry Museum

Berkshire Yeomanry
In 1994, the 200th anniversary of the Yeomanry was marked by the Queen

Following the declaration of war by France in 1793, the first troop of Berkshire Yeomanry was formed in 1794.

By 1804 eleven independent troops had been raised in Berkshire.

In 1852, following fears of a French invasion, troops were raised at Reading and Newbury and some years later at Wantage, Wokingham and Windsor.

The Regiment became The Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry, and gained a strong County presence. Volunteers from the regiment served in the Boer War.

The Boer War led to a more recognised role for the Yeomanry as a whole, under reforms of 1908 which saw the title of the Regiment changed to the Berkshire Yeomanry.

Gallipoli

Mobilised in August 1914 the Berkshire Yeomanry proceeded to the East Coast, there to guard against German invasion. In April 1915 the Regiment sailed for Egypt and from there a few months later they were shipped, this time without their horses, to the Gallipoli peninsular where, against the Turks, they first saw action.

Berkshire Yeomanry
The Berkshire Yeomanry was formed in 1794

In a bloody battle on 21 August 1915 Private Fred Potts earned the first yeomanry VC for "most conspicuous bravery in rescuing a comrade under heavy fire".

After three months in the trenches, the Regiment was withdrawn, their strength reduced by many casualties and much sickness from 400 to a mere 50 men.

Returning to Egypt and brought back up to strength, the Regiment campaigned during 1916 in the Western Desert. In 1917 the Berkshire Yeomanry joined the British advance on Jerusalem.

Cavalry charge

After two unsuccessful battles in March and April to evict the Turkish Army from Gaza, the British forces were reorganised under General Allenby, and the 3rd Battle of Gaza was a notable success culminating in the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917. During this campaign the Berkshire Yeomanry were involved in two notable and successful cavalry charges.

The Berkshire Yeomanry
In 1915, Berkshire Yeoman Fred Potts earned a VC for his bravery

In April 1918 the Regiment was amalgamated into 101 (Bucks & Berks Yeomanry) Battalion, Machine Gun Corps and was sent to the Western Front where they saw action on the Somme and in the final battles in Belgium.

Reformed as an independent cavalry regiment in 1920, the Berkshire Yeomanry were given a new role as Artillery as part of 99th (Bucks and Berks) Field Brigade RFA. In April 1939, the unit was split into two county regiments and 145 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment RA (TA) was born.

World War II

On the outbreak of World War II the Berkshire Yeomanry were deployed on airfield defence until July 1940 and then sent to Northern Ireland on garrison duties where the Regiment enjoyed uninterrupted training, returning to England in July 1943.

Follow their posting to India, in July 1945 the Berkshire Yeomanry sailed with the invasion force to recapture Malaya.

The Berkshire Yeomanry in Reading in 1897
The regiment was named the Berkshier Yeomanry following the Boer War

Here the regiment was occupied with rounding up and disarming of the Japanese, who had surrendered.

After some time in Malaya the Regiment took ship for Java to help deal with an Indonesian uprising against the Colonial Dutch. Here the Regiment was in the centre of bitter fighting almost daily in close support of Indian and Gurkha infantry brigades. It was not until May 1946 that most of the Regiment were en route back to England.

The Berkshire Yeomanry since 1947

In 1994 the 200th anniversary of the Yeomanry was marked by a massed parade of all surviving Yeomanry units in front of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Windsor Great Park. Also in that year, 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron was granted the Freedom of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.

The Squadron are now part of 39th (Skinners) Signal Regiment (V) and is tasked in a national communications role.




SEE ALSO
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12 Feb 03 |  UK Politics
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27 Jul 09 |  England
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24 Nov 08 |  England
Watching the start of World War II
31 Aug 09 |  Europe


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