Military Units of Essex (4)

The Essex Yeomanry
An article from the Essex Countryside February 1966

by George Newark
MountedLance-Corporal Harold
Mugford, V.C. This brave
yeoman was awarded the
highest decoration for
valour for devotion to duty
at Monchy-le-Proux in
April 1917 as a member
of the 8th (Essex
Yeomanry) Machine Gun
Squadron, Machine
Gun Corps.


The Essex Yeomanry has its origin in the independent troops of volunteer cavalry raised throughout Essex in 1798 to resist Napoleon's threatened invasion of England. Prominent landowners and farmers provided the bulk of the personnel, and considered themselves the elite of the county volunteers. They were required to furnish their own horses and buy their own uniforms, the government supply¬ing arms, accoutrements and regular cavalry instructors.

These units thrived and rendered vital home defence service up to Wellington's victory at Waterloo in 1815, when apathy, and government economy, caused the gradual disbandment of the volunteer troops. In 1830 a new regiment was raised, known as the West Essex Yeomanry Cavalry, ostensibly to protect the government gunpowder mills at Waltham Abbey and Enfield Lock during the Reform Bill riots. This unit was disbanded in 1877, and from then until the turn of the century volunteer cavalrymen of Essex served in the Essex troop of the Loyal Suffolk Hussars.

The success of the yeomanry cavalry regiments during the Boer War, 1899-1902, led to the forming of more units throughout Britain. The Earl of Warwick, Lord-Lieu¬tenant of Essex, offered to raise a regiment in the county, and thus came into being the Essex Imperial Yeomanry, commanded by Colonel Richard Beale Colvin, C.B. Squadrons were raised in Colchester, Braintree, Epping and Southend in 1901.

The Yeomanry came first in order of precedence of Essex volunteer units and com¬petition was keen to join the regiment. In 1909 King Edward VII presented a guidon, a swallow-tailed cavalry standard, to the Essex Yeomanry at a ceremony at Windsor Castle. A popular feature of Essex agricul¬tural shows before World War I was a musical ride performed by sixteen troopers of D Squadron, resplendent in green uniforms with red facings, brass dragoon helmets with scarlet plumes, and carrying lances with fluttering red and white pennons.

When World War I broke out in August 1914 the Essex Yeomanry was mobilized and embarked from France in November to join the 8th Cavalry Brigade of the 3rd Cavalry Division. It was soon in action at Frezenberg Ridge (on May 13, 1915), where the regiment, having dismounted, made a gallant bayonet charge and succeeded in driving the Germans from trenches which threatened the flank of the 27th Infantry Division. Five officers, including the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Deacon, of Halstead, and sixty-five men were killed in the attack.
Lieutenant-Colonel F. H. D. C. Whitmore then took over command of the regiment and led it in further battles, notably the action at Monchy-le-Proux (April 1917). where the Essex Yeomanry fought tenaciously for three days and repelled a determined German counter-attack. In this savage encounter nineteen troopers were killed and 106 wounded.

In the latter months of the war the Essex Yeomanry was split up, but went on to win further honours as parts of other cavalry units, gaining for the regiment fifteen battle honours, including Ypres, Somme, Loos. Hindenburg Line, and Pursuit to Mons. Two draft-finding units were raised at Colchester during the war, with the title of 2/1st and 3/1st Essex Yeomanry.

In 1921 the role of the regiment changes from that of cavalry to artillery, and the title to the 104th (Essex Yeomanry) Brigade Royal Field Artillery. Headquarters were estab¬lished at Chelmsford, with 413th Battery at Colchester and 414th Battery at Harlow. The Essex Yeomanry was equipped with the ubiquitous 18-pounder field gun, used so effectively by the artillery during the war, The unit became a three-battery brigade to 1932 when the Essex Royal Horse Artillery: was absorbed into the Essex Yeoman Training continued despite disarmament agreements, industrial depressions and government economy, much to the credit of Essex Territorials, for soon another world. war was to test their courage and training.
in the ruinsThe commanding officer's Sherman tank of the 147th Regiment passing the ruins of Ecouche on the way to Argetan on August 20, 1944.

On September 1, 1939, the Yeomanry was mobilized and sailed for the Middle East in 1940, and a year later was in action for the first time against the Italian army at the battle of Bardia, where the Italians surrendered in droves. The regiment was next in action at the first siege of Tobruk, where the Afrika Korps met the Essex Yeomanry for the first time. For 242 days the besieged garrison remained a thorn in the side of the German army. The Essex men backed up the mainly Australian infantry with versatility. As anti-tank gunners they repulsed the Panzer attacks by firing their 25-pounder guns over open sights. As field gunners they broke up enemy infantry attacks with well-directed fire. As anti-aircraft gunners they used captured Italian ack-ack guns to deter Stukas from attacking supply ships in the harbour. Finally the garrison broke out and linked up with the Eighth Army.

In January 1942 the Brentwood battery was detached and sent to Burma, where it was urgently needed to harry the Japanese army throughout the long retreat from Rangoon to the Indian border. The batter was brought up to the strength of a regiment and renamed the 14th Regiment R.H.A.. but was disbanded in 1946. Meanwhile the 104th was carrying on the desert war. It took an active part in the battle of El Alamein. the operations in Syria, and hard fighting in Italy. The 104th was finally disbanded in Austria in March 1946. A second line regiment was raised in 1939 titled the 147th (Essex Yeomanry) Regiment R.H.A.

After intensive training in England it landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. and fought its way through France, Belgium and Holland, and finally on to German soil itself. The 147th fought as a self-propelled artillery unit using 25-pounder field guns mounted on Sherman tank chassis. A fourth unit to represent the Essex Yeomanry was raised in 1942 from a battery of the 147th and a battery of the Hertfordshire Yeomanry to form 191st (Herts and Essex Yeomanry) Field Regiment R.A. It landed in Normandy on D-Day plus three and took part in the battle of Caen and other operations before being disbanded in December 1944.

The present regiment was raised in 1947 and is now known as the 304th (Essex Yeomanry-R.H.A.) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (T.A.). Regimental headquarters is at Chelmsford, with batteries at Colchester, Brentwood, Southend and Harlow. The commanding officer is Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. L. R. B. Addington, of Boreham Manor, Chelmsford.



Sergeants of D Squadron at the annual training camp at Easton Lodge in 1905. From
left to right: Squadron Sergeant-Major F. E. Hitchens, Sergeants D. H. Burles, F. D.
Balfour, D. Morgan and W'. Sharpe. Farrier-Sergeant F. L. Pease.

Sergeants of D Squadron