History - EY HistoryLT CDR K B HOOK RN (RETD)
Republished with permission.
Yeomanry, i.e. volunteer cavalry, first appeared in Essex in April 1797 as a result of French invasion threats, and by the following year 15 troops had been raised with and establishment of 640. Troops were formed by prominent landowners from farmers and others who owned their own horses and could buy their own uniforms. The government supplied arms, accoutrements and some instructors. The Loyal Colchester Volunteers was one of these troops.
After Waterloo, the Yeomanry regiments in great Britain in the absence of police forces I the counties until c.1840 had an important role in aid of the civil power where necessary. As there were no serious civil disorders in Essex the continuation of the yeomanry was discouraged by the government and the last troop was disbanded in 1828.
Owing to widespread agitation in support of the proposed reform bill the West Essex Yeomanry Cavalry was raised in 1830 to protect the government factories at Waltham Abbey and Enfield Lock. This unit suffered the usual official discouragement , being kept going from 1838 -1843 at its CO's expense, and it was finally disbanded in 1877.
In 1889 Captain R B Colvin raised an Essex Troop of the Loyal Suffolk Hussars. Many Essex men served in South Africa 1899-1902 in the Imperial Yeomanry, which had been raised as mounted infantry to deal with the highly mobile Boer Commandos.
Following the success of the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa new regiments were raised in Britain for Home defence. The Essex Imperial Yeomanry was raised by Lt Col Colvin in November 1902 with head quarters at Colchester and Squadrons at Colchester (A), Halstead (B), Epping ( C ) and Southend (D).
Uniform was dark green with scarlet facings for full dress and khaki for normal purposes (with green facings 1901-1905); red facings until 1908 and plain from 1908). Slouch hats with turned up left side were worn from 1901-1906 with both green and khaki uniform and in 1911 brass dragoon helmets with scarlet plumes, worn with white gauntlet gloves , were introduced for full dress in time for King George V's coronation.
The annual camp was held in May , most members having to use their annual holiday to attend, and also to perform other drills during the year in their own time. Recruits , who usually provided their own horses, were mostly drawn from rural areas but there was a Romford Troop in D Squadron which included Ilford and Stratford.
The Regiment was trained as mounted rifles, swords being carried by officers and staff sergeants only, until mobilisation in 1914. On 1st April 1908, the Essex Yeomanry became part of the newly -formed Territorial Force (TA from 1920) along with the various volunteer units. From this date the Yeomanry could no longer be called out as a military body in aid of the civil power.
In 1909 King Edward VII presented a guidon to the Essex Yeomanry at Windsor Castle. This bore the motto "Decus et Tutamen" (Shield and Protection) as used by the former West Essex Yeomanry Cavalry and this replaced the Colvin motto "Audacter et Sincere" which had appeared on the regiment's appointments from 1901-1909. [Note: The correct translation of 'Decus et Tutamen' is Honour and Protection].
Between 1911 and 1914 a popular feature of Essex agriculture shows was the musical ride performed by the Orsett Troop of D Squadron. The Regiment was mobilised in August 1914, and after further training in Suffolk joined the Royal Horse Guards and 10th Royal Hussars in the 8th Cavalry Brigade in the 3rd Cavalry Division in France in November , 1914.
On 13th May, 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, the Essex Yeomanry made a dismounted bayonet charge at Frezenburg Ridge which recaptured the front line trenches. The Commanding Officer, Lt Col E Deacon (of Halstead) and 69 were killed and 91 wounded; a total of 161 casualties from 302. Lt Col F H D C Whitmore (later Sir Francis and Lord Lieutenant of Essex 1936-1950) succeeded to the command.
Meanwhile 2nd and 3rd line regiments had been raised at Colchester to reinforce the 1st line. The 2nd regiment served in Ireland from 1918-1919 but the 3rd was absorbed into the 4th reserve Cavalry Regiment in 1917.
On 11th April 1917, during the advance from Arras, the 8th Cavalry Brigade was ordered to advance mounted over open country to occupy high ground east and north east of Monchy-le-Preux, a key position between the Scarpe and the Sensee. During an advance by bounds by the Essex Yeomanry, followed by the 10th Hussars, the leading two troops of C Squadron were mown down on crossing a ridge and the two regiments occupied Monchy and dug in. The two regiments, commanded by Lt Col Whitmore, held Monchy against determined German attacks for 18 hours until relieved by infantry. The Essex Yeomanry suffered 135 casualties and almost all the horses were killed. Many awards were made, in particular Lance Corporal H Mugford, late of the Essex Yeomanry, won the Victoria Cross for keeping his machine gun in action with both legs broken and other wounds.
In April 1918, the Essex Yeomanry was split up as reinforcements for three other cavalry regiments but was awarded the appropriate battle honours. Lt Col Whitmore commanded the 10th Hussars until 1919, the only Territorial Officer without previous regular service to command a regular cavalry regiment.
During the 1914-18 war over 200 soldiers of the regiment were commissioned into other units and many refused commissions to stay wit their friends.
The Essex Yeomanry was reraisd in 1920 as cavalry but was converted to artillery in 1921 as 104th (EY) brigade RFA with HQ at Chelmsford, 413 Battery at Colchester and 414 Battery at Harlow. In 1925, 413 Battery pioneered tractor draught for artillery at Okehampton and by 1933 the regiment was fully mechanised . In 1932, 339 Battery (Essex Royal Horse Artillery) which had been raised out of the Essex Yeomanry in 1908 , reunited and ball buttons were adopted.
Between the wars the usual economy drives affected the regiment, in particular the 1932 camp was held without any financial support. The Essex Yeomanry survived and on the doubling of the Territorial Army in April 1939, its second regiment , 147 , was one of the first in the country to complete to establishment.
104th (EY) Regiment RHA went to the Middle East in 1940 and took part in the North Africa campaigns, the Italian campaign and ended the war in Austria where it was disbanded. The highlight of its war was the siege of Tobruk from April to November 1941 when all Afrika Corps attacks were repulsed. Apart from its 25 pounders the regiment successfully used captured Italian howitzers and anti-aircraft guns.
147 (EY) regiment RA armed with 25 ponder guns on Sherman tank chassis landed in Normandy on D-Day and fought through France, Belgium and Holland into Germany.
In 1942, 414th Battery was detached from 104 Regiment RHA an sent to Burma to strengthen the forces retreating from Rangoon. It was then expanded to form the 14th Regiment RHA and took part in 14th Army's advance.
In December 1942 191 (Herts and Essex) Field Regiment RA was formed from 86th Herts yeomanry and 147 (EY) Field Regiment RA equally and after landing on D+3 in Normandy and fighting through to Belgium was broken up in December 1944 to provide infantry reinforcements.
The Essex Yeomanry was reraised on 1st June 1947 as 304th (EY) Field Regiment RA with HQ at Chelmsford and batteries at Colchester (P), Southend (Q), and Harlow ( R ). The title RHA was restored in February 1955 and shoulder chains were added to the green No 1 dress.
On 1st April 1967, a further economy drive struck the regiment with the disbandment of the territorial Army. The Essex Yeomanry lost its 25 pounder guns and was given a home defence infantry role in T A V R III. From 1st April 1968 to 31st March 1969 all official support was withdrawn, funds for the annual camp being raised by a Derby Draw and from further donations.
However on 1st April 1969, the Essex yeomanry was given a more active role as 70th (Essex Yeomanry) Signal Squadron of 71st (Yeomanry) Signal Regiment in TAVR II,. Squadron HQ and one trop at Chelmsford two troops in Southend and a fourth at Harlow. The Squadron wears Royal Signals cap badges but the green berets and other distinctions of the Essex Yeomanry are retained and encouraged. The guidon presented in 1949 to replica the 1909 guidon , destroyed by bombing in 1941 is paraded on ceremonial occasions.
Burrows J W Essex Units in the War Volume 3 1925
Whitmore F H D C Tenth (PWO) Royal Hussars and the Essex Yeomanry during the European War 1914-1918 1920
Rickword G O The West Essex Yeomanry Cavalry 1830- 1877, Essex Review LVII 1,87,135
Rickwood G O The Essex Yeomnry Records and Recollections 1901-1914 Essex Review LX 57
Gee F W (ed) History of the Essex Yeomanry 1919-1949, 1950
Other references are given in the Victoria County History of Essex Volume IV, Bibliography pp 37-38