North Somerset Yeomanry

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North Somerset Yeomanry
North Somerset Yeomanry badge.jpg
Badge of the North Somerset Yeomanry
Country Kingdom of Great Britain (1798–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–present)
Branch British Army
Part of4th Yeomanry Brigade
1st South Western Mounted Brigade
4th Cavalry Brigade
Royal Corps of Signals
Royal Armoured Corps
EngagementsSecond Boer War
First World War
France and Flanders 1914–18

Second World War

Syria 1941
North Africa 1942–43
Sicily 1943
Italy 1943–44
North-West Europe 1944–45
Battle honoursSee battle honours below
Thomas Strangways Horner
Sir William Miles, 1st Baronet
Richard Boyle, 9th Earl of Cork and Orrery
Charles Boyle, Viscount Dungarvan

The North Somerset Yeomanry was a part-time cavalry regiment of the British Army from 1798 to 1967. It maintained order in Somerset in the days before organised police forces, and supplied volunteers to fight in the Second Boer War. It served on the Western Front in World War I. At the outbreak of World War II it continued to operate in the mounted role, and then as a specialist signals unit. Postwar it joined the Royal Armoured Corps and later became infantry. Its lineage today is is maintained by 93 (North Somerset Yeomanry) Squadron 39 (Skinners) Signal Regiment.

French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars[edit]

After Britain was drawn into the French Revolutionary Wars, the government of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger proposed on 14 March 1794 that the counties should form Corps of Yeomanry Cavalry that could be called on by the King to defend the country against invasion or by the Lord Lieutenant to subdue any civil disorder within the county.[1] A meeting of householders at Frome in Somerset on 2 May 1798 resolved to form a military association to defend the town. Its services were accepted on 2 June, and the Frome Troop of Cavalry was formed. A condition of service was that it should not be required to march more than 10 miles from the town. Other troops were formed at about the same time at Road, Wolverton, Mells, Beckington and Bath.[2][3][4]

These independent troops all served until the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 when they were disbanded. The peace was shortlived and Britain declared war on France again in May 1803, beginning the Napoleonic Wars. The Frome Volunteers offered their services again in July and were accepted on 17 August as the Frome Selwood Troop of Volunteer Cavalry. The volunteers formed two troops, becoming a squadron in June 1804 when they united with the East Mendip Cavalry to become the Frome and East Mendip Regiment of Volunteer Cavalry. The regiment became the North Somerset Yeomanry in 1814 with six troops:[2][3]

Further troops were then added:[2][3]

19th Century[edit]

Although the Yeomanry generally declined in importance and numbers after the end of the French wars,[5] the North Somerset unit continued at strength, and was regularly called out to suppress riots, in 1810, 1812 and 1817 at Bath, among miners at Radstock in 1813 and 1817, and weavers at Frome in 1816 and 1822.[2][6] The actions of the Yeomanry in the 'Battle of Frome' in 1816 were discussed in Cobbett's Political Register.[7][8]

In 1817 the regiment adopted a squadron organisation, with the Bath and Keynsham Troops forming the Right Squadron, the two Frome Troops the Frome or Right Centre Squadron, Ston Easton and East Harptree the Centre Squadron, the Mells Troops the Mells or Left Centre Squadron, while the Shepton and Batcombe Troops formed the Left Squadron. Two years later this organisation was abandoned in favour of two divisions:[6] Bath Division:

  • A Bath
  • B Ston Easton
  • C Keynsham
  • D & E East Harptree
  • F Bedminster

Frome Division:

  • G & H Frome
  • I & K Mells
  • L Shepton
  • M Batcombe

From 1820 to 1840 the regimental headquarters was at Mells Park, home of Thomas Strangways Horner, commanding officer (CO) from 1804 to 1839, when he was succeeded by his son.[6] Another long-serving CO was Richard Boyle, 9th Earl of Cork and Orrery, Lt-Col Commandant 1867–93, who afterwards became Honorary Colonel, while his son, Viscount Dungarvan, took over as CO.[9][10]

For some years the Keynsham Troop was without any officers, and although its members were keen and turned out promptly when required, their appearance and discipline had deteriorated to the point where they were known locally as 'The Cossacks'. It was disbanded in May 1842, but many of its members transferred to other troops of the regiment or joined the Gloucestershire Yeomanry Cavalry.[11]

By the late 1890s the North Somerset and West Somerset Yeomanry together formed the 4th Yeomanry Brigade, headquartered at Taunton.[9]

Imperial Yeomanry[edit]

The Yeomanry was not intended to serve overseas, but due to the string of defeats during Black Week in December 1899, the British government realised that it was going to need more troops than just the regular army to fight the Second Boer War. On 13 December, the decision to allow volunteer forces serve in the field was made, and a Royal Warrant was issued on 24 December. This officially created the Imperial Yeomanry (IY). 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 force.[12][13][14][15][16]

The first contingent of recruits contained 550 officers, 10,371 men with 20 battalions of four companies.[14][17] The first company left Southampton on 31 January 1900, bound for Cape Town,[18] and the whole first contingent arrived in South Africa between February and April. Upon arrival, the IY battalions were sent throughout the zone of operations.[19]

The North Somerset Yeomanry raised the 48th (North Somerset) Company for the IY, which arrived in South Africa on 23 March 1900 and served in 7th Battalion, IY.[2][17][19][20][21] The company served until 1901, earning the regiment its first Battle honour: South Africa 1900–01.[2][9][22] The regiment's CO, Viscount Dungarvan was already serving in South Africa in February 1900 and was seconded to the IY as second-in-command of the 22nd Battalion in 1901–02.[23][24][25][26]

The Imperial Yeomanry were trained and equipped as mounted infantry. After the Boer War all Yeomanry regiments were termed Imperial Yeomanry until 1907, with an establishment of HQ and four squadrons with a machine gun section. In 1903 the North Somerset Imperial Yeomanry had HQ and A Squadron at Bath, B Squadron at Wells, and C Squadron at Bristol, while D Squadron was being formed.[2][9][27]

Territorial Force[edit]

1st South Western Mounted Brigade
Organisation on 4 August 1914
  • Source
  • Conrad, Mark (1996). "The British Army, 1914".

The Imperial Yeomanry were subsumed into the new Territorial Force (TF) under the Haldane Reforms of 1908.[28][29][30] The North Somerset Yeomanry (TF) was organised as follows:[2][9][31][32][33][34][35]

The North Somerset Yeomanry formed part of the TF's 1st South Western Mounted Brigade.[31][34]

World War I[edit]


The North Somerset Yeomanry were mobilised on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914 under the command of Lt-Col G.C. Glyn, DSO, who had taken command on 10 March.[9][32][33] Under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw. 7, c.9) which brought the TF into being, it was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, after the outbreak of war, TF units were invited to volunteer for 'Imperial Service'. On 15 August 1914, the War Office issued instructions to separate those men who had signed up for Home Service only, and form these into reserve units. On 31 August, the formation of a reserve or 2nd Line unit was authorised for each 1st Line unit where 60 per cent or more of the men had volunteered for Overseas Service. The titles of these 2nd Line units would be the same as the original, but distinguished by a '2/' prefix. In this way duplicate battalions, brigades and divisions were created, mirroring those TF formations being sent overseas. Later, a 3rd Line was formed to act as a reserve, providing trained replacements for the 1st and 2nd Line regiments.[37][38][39]

1/1st North Somerset Yeomanry[edit]

The 1st Line regiment mobilised at Bath in August 1914 as part of the 1st South Western Mounted Brigade. In October 1914 it moved to Sussex with the brigade, but left it shortly afterwards.[33][40] It landed in France on 3 November and joined the 6th Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division, on 13 November, replacing the 10th Hussars who moved to the newly formed 8th Cavalry Brigade[41] [42][43] As such, it was one of only six yeomanry regiments to be posted to a regular cavalry division in the war.[a]

Trench warfare meant there was little scope for cavalry operations. Nevertheless, in 1915 the brigade and division took part in the Second Battle of Ypres (Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, 11–13 May) and the Battle of Loos (26–28 September). 1916 saw no notable actions, but in 1917 the division saw action in the Battle of Arras (First Battle of the Scarpe, 9–12 April).[47] At other times, the regiment served in the trenches as part of a dismounted regiment under the command of the brigade commander.[48]

The regiment left 6th Cavalry Brigade on 10 March 1918. Originally it was slated to become a cyclist unit, then to form a machine gun battalion with the Leicestershire Yeomanry. The German Spring Offensive forestalled this plan, and the regiment was remounted and returned to the Cavalry Corps. From April 1918 it was split up with a squadron joining each regiment in 6th Cavalry Brigade (3rd Dragoon Guards, 1st Dragoons and 10th Hussars).[32][40]

2/1st North Somerset Yeomanry[edit]

The 2nd Line regiment was formed in 1914 and in January 1915 it joined 2/1st South Western Mounted Brigade. In May it was in the Calne area, it moved in September to the Canterbury area and to the Colchester area in March 1916.[32][33][40] On 31 March 1916, the remaining Mounted Brigades were ordered to be numbered in a single sequence;[49] the brigade became the 15th Mounted Brigade and joined 4th Mounted Division.[40][50]

In July 1916, the regiment was converted to a cyclist unit in 6th Cyclist Brigade, 2nd Cyclist Division (4th Mounted Division redesignated). In November 1916 the 2nd Cyclist Division was broken up and the regiment was merged with the 2/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry to form 10th (Wiltshire and North Somerset) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment in 4th Cyclist Brigade in the Ipswich area. In March 1917 it resumed its identity as 2/1st North Somerset Yeomanry, still in 4th Cyclist Brigade at Ipswich. In July it was at Wivenhoe and in November at Walton-on-the-Naze. Early in 1918, the regiment moved to Ireland with 4th Cyclist Brigade and was stationed in Dublin; there was no further change before the end of the war.[32][51]

3/1st North Somerset Yeomanry[edit]

The 3rd Line regiment was formed in 1915 and in the summer it was affiliated to a Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Tidworth. In the summer of 1916 it was affiliated to the 11th Reserve Cavalry Regiment, also at Tidworth. Early in 1917 it was absorbed in the 6th Reserve Cavalry Regiment, still at Tidworth.[32][33][52]

Between the wars[edit]

Postwar, a commission was set up to consider the shape of the Territorial Force (Territorial Army from 1 October 1921). The experience of the First World War made it clear that there was a surplus of cavalry. The commission decided that only the 14 most senior regiments were to be retained as cavalry (though the Lovat Scouts and the Scottish Horse were also to remain mounted as "scouts"). Eight regiments were converted to Armoured Car Companies of the Royal Tank Corps (RTC), one was reduced to a battery in another regiment, one was absorbed into a local infantry battalion, one became a signals regiment and two were disbanded. The remaining 25 regiments were converted to artillery brigades[b] of the Royal Field Artillery between 1920 and 1922.[55] As the 11th most senior regiment in the order of precedence, the regiment was retained as horsed cavalry.[37][56]

World War II[edit]

The regiment was still mounted at the outbreak of the Second World War. On 15 November 1939, it joined the newly formed 4th Cavalry Brigade[57] in 1st Cavalry Division. It departed the United Kingdom in January 1940, transited across France, and arrived in Palestine at the end of the month where it served as a garrison force under British Forces, Palestine and Trans-Jordan.[58] In June and July 1941, it took part in operations against the Vichy French in Syria.[2] On 1 August 1941, the division was converted into the 10th Armoured Division[58] but the regiment remained in Syria with the 5th Cavalry Brigade until December 1941 when it returned to Palestine.[59]

4th Air Formation Signals (North Somerset Yeomanry)[edit]

In 1938 the War Office and Air Ministry had agreed that the Army would provide all communications (except wireless) for the Royal Air Force (RAF) deployed overseas. The units concerned were termed 'Air Formation Signals' (AFS), and their number expanded rapidly as World War II progressed. Ideally there would be one AFS regiment assigned to each RAF Group or higher formation, but the fluid nature of air operations in the Middle and Far East theatres led to difficulty in meeting this target from Royal Signals resources, and the North Somerset Yeomanry was converted to the role.[37][60][61] On 'Black Friday', 13 February 1942, the regiment lost its last horse and proceeded to the Royal Signals Base Depot, where it was retrained and absorbed part of 4th AFS Regiment, which already supported the RAF in the theatre. 4th Air Formation Signals (North Somerset Yeomanry) subsequently provided signal support (telephone and telegraph landlines, and despatch riders) for the Desert Air Force in the highly mobile fighting that characterised the North African Campaign. It served through the operations in the Western Desert, Alamein, the advance into Tunisia, the Allied invasion of Sicily and the greater part of the Italian Campaign. In August 1944 the unit was relieved by 8th AFS Regiment and the Yeomanry were sent home under the 'Python' scheme having served overseas for four and a half years. After home leave, the majority were then drafted to 14th AFS Regiment serving in in North West Europe until the end of the war.[62][63][64]


After the War the regiment reverted to the Royal Armoured Corps and became the Armoured Regiment of 16th Airborne Division and joined with the 44th Royal Tank Regiment to become The North Somerset and Bristol Yeomanry in 1956.[2][37][63] Although the Regular battalions of the Somerset Light Infantry and the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry merged to become the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry in 1959, the Territorial battalions kept their county names. In 1967, the Territorial battalion (Somerset Light Infantry (TA)) and elements of the North Somerset Yeomanry and West Somerset Yeomanry merged to form the Somerset Yeomanry and Light Infantry.[2][37][65]

In 1969, it was reduced to a cadre of eight men [2][37] [66] but in 197, two companies, A (Somerset Yeomanry Light Infantry) Company and B (Somerset Yeomanry Light Infantry) Company, 6th Battalion The Light Infantry (Volunteers), were re-formed.[2][37][65] A Company was subsequently disbanded and B Company evolved to become B (Somerset Light Infantry) Company, The Rifle Volunteers in 1999.[2][65]

39th Signal Regiment 'Skinners'[edit]

In 2000, the North Somerset Yeomanry designation was revived for the Headquarters Squadron of 39 (Skinners) Signal Regiment[2] and, in 2008, that squadron, as 93 (North Somerset Yeomanry) Squadron, became the Regiment's Support Squadron.[67]

Battle honours[edit]

The North Somerset Yeomanry was awarded the following battle honours (honours in bold are emblazoned on the regimental colours):[2]

Second Boer War South Africa 1900–01
First World War Ypres 1914 '15, Frezenberg, Loos, Arras 1917, Scarpe 1917, Amiens, Hindenburg Line, Beaurevoir, Cambrai 1918, Pursuit to Mons, France and Flanders 1914–18
Second World War Jebel Mazar, Syria 1941

Honorary Distinction: Badge of the Royal Corps of Signals with year-date "1942–45" and four scrolls: "North Africa", "Sicily", "Italy", "North-West Europe"


The following served as Colonel or Honorary Colonel of the unit:[9][68]


A memorial in the form of a wooden camp letter box with inscribed bronze panels listing 99 members of the North Somerset Yeomanry who died in World War I and 28 from World War II is preserved at the Bishops Hull Army Reserve Centre at Taunton Deane.[69]

Popular culture[edit]

The Hollywood motion picture War Horse (2011) featured a fictional depiction of the regiment in France in 1914.[70]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The other five were
  2. ^ The basic organic unit of the Royal Artillery was, and is, the Battery.[53] When grouped together they formed brigades, in the same way that infantry battalions or cavalry regiments were grouped together in brigades. At the outbreak of the First World War, a field artillery brigade of headquarters (4 officers, 37 other ranks), three batteries (5 and 193 each), and a brigade ammunition column (4 and 154)[54] had a total strength just under 800 so was broadly comparable to an infantry battalion (just over 1,000) or a cavalry regiment (about 550). Like an infantry battalion, an artillery brigade was usually commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel. Artillery brigades were redesignated as regiments in 1938.


  1. ^ Rogers, p. 145.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p North Somerset Yeomanry at
  3. ^ a b c Barlow & Smith, p. 2.
  4. ^ "North Somerset Yeomanry". Hussards Photos. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  5. ^ Spiers, p. 79.
  6. ^ a b c Barlow & Smith, p. 3/
  7. ^ Accounts of the 'Battle of Frome' in Cobbett's Political Register, Vol 31, 20 July 1816.
  8. ^ Rule.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Army List, various dates.
  10. ^ London Gazette, 30 May 1893.
  11. ^ Barlow & Smith, p. 4.
  12. ^ Rogers, p. 228.
  13. ^ Spiers, p. 239.
  14. ^ a b Dunlop, pp. 104–18.
  15. ^ "Boer War Notes". Retrieved 11 June 2007.
  16. ^ Mileham 1994, p. 27
  17. ^ a b Imperial Yeomanry at
  18. ^ "The War - The Auxiliary Forces, Departure of Yeomanry from Southampton". The Times (36054). London. 1 February 1900. p. 10.
  19. ^ a b "Boer War - Imperial Yeomanry Battalions". Retrieved 3 July 2007.
  20. ^ "Anglo boer war". Archived from the original on 14 July 2008.
  21. ^ Barlow & Smith, p. 11.
  22. ^ Leslie.
  23. ^ London Evening News, 24 February 1900.
  24. ^ London Gazette, 2 April 1901.
  25. ^ London Gazette, 12 April 1901.
  26. ^ London Gaztte, 21 February 1902.
  27. ^ Barlow & Smith, p. 12.
  28. ^ London Gazette, 20 March 1908.
  29. ^ Dunlop, Chapter 14.
  30. ^ Spiers, Chapter 10.
  31. ^ a b Barlow & Smith, p. 15.
  32. ^ a b c d e f North Somerset Yeomanry at Long, Long Trail.
  33. ^ a b c d e North Somerset Yeomanry at Regimental Warpath.
  34. ^ a b Conrad, British Army 1914.
  35. ^ Somerset at Great War Centenary Drill Halls.
  36. ^ Bath at Drill Hall Project.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g Barlow & Smith, p. 16.
  38. ^ Becke, Pt 2b, p. 6.
  39. ^ Rinaldi 2008, p. 35
  40. ^ a b c d James 1978, p. 27
  41. ^ a b c Becke, Pt 1, p. 20.
  42. ^ 3 Cavary Division at Long, Long Trail.
  43. ^ 3 Cavalry Division at Regimental Warpath.
  44. ^ Becke, Pt 1, p. 4.
  45. ^ Becke, Pt 1, p. 12.
  46. ^ Perry 1993, p. 14
  47. ^ Becke, Pt 1, p. 22.
  48. ^ Becke, Pt 1, p. 19.
  49. ^ James 1978, p. 36
  50. ^ Becke, Pt 2a, pp. 27–30.
  51. ^ James 1978, pp. 27–28
  52. ^ James 1978, p. 28
  53. ^ "The Royal Artillery". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  54. ^ Baker, Chris. "What was an artillery brigade?". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  55. ^ Mileham 1994, pp. 48–51
  56. ^ Mileham 1994, p. 73
  57. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 189
  58. ^ a b Joslen 1990, p. 33
  59. ^ "Cryer, Ronald William (Oral history)". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  60. ^ Bellis 1994, p. 19
  61. ^ Lord & Watson, pp. 310–1.
  62. ^ Mileham 1994, p. 109
  63. ^ a b Nalder, p. 629.
  64. ^ Jackson, p. 373.
  65. ^ a b c "4th Battalion, The Somerset Light Infantry". Archived from the original on 18 October 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  66. ^ Hodge, Jonny. "Somerset Light Infantry". Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  67. ^ "39th (Skinners) Signal Regiment". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  68. ^ Burke's.
  69. ^ IWM War Memorials Register ref 46356.
  70. ^ "War Horse Costumes Set to Excite Museum Visitors". National Army Museum. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2014.


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External links[edit]