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North Somerset Yeomanry
North Somerset Yeomanry badge.jpg
Badge of the North Somerset Yeomanry
Active 1798–present
Country  Kingdom of Great Britain (1798–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–present)
Branch  British Army
Type Yeomanry
Size Regiment
Part of Royal Armoured Corps
Royal Signals

Second 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 honours See battle honours below

The North Somerset Yeomanry was a regiment of the British Army from 1798 to 1967. Its lineage is maintained by 93 (North Somerset Yeomanry) Squadron 39 (Skinners) Signal Regiment.


Formation and early history

The regiment was first raised in Frome in 1798. A condition of service was that it should not be required to march more than 10 miles from the town and it was soon disbanded in 1802. The Frome Troop was re-raised in 1803 and united with The East Mendip Corps in 1804, this new Yeomanry Regiment being designated the North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry in 1814.[1]

The Yeomanry were a select corps, with members accepted only on the recommendation of one or more serving members and usually paying an entrance fee. Their main employment in the early 19th Century was the suppression of riots, such as among miners in Radstock in 1817 and among weavers in Frome in 1822.[2]

Second Boer War

The Yeomanry was not intended to serve overseas, but due to the string of defeats during Black Week in December 1899, the British government realized they were going to need more troops than just the regular army. A Royal Warrant was issued on 24 December 1899 to allow volunteer forces to serve in the Second Boer War. The Royal Warrant asked standing Yeomanry regiments to provide service companies of approximately 115 men each for the Imperial Yeomanry.[3] The regiment provided the 48th (North Somerset) Company for the 7th Battalion in 1900.[4] The regiment move to a drill hall at Upper Bristol Road in Bath in 1912.[5][6]

First World War

1st South Western Mounted Brigade
Organisation on 4 August 1914
Assigned units
A Squadron at Warminster
B Squadron at Chirton
C Squadron at Chippenham
D Squadron at Swindon
  • North Somerset Yeomanry, Bath
A Squadron at Bath
B Squadron at Weston-super-Mare
C Squadron at Shepton Mallet
D Squadron at Bristol
A Squadron at Portsmouth
B Squadron at Winchester
C Squadron at Southampton
D Squadron at Bournemouth
  • Brigade troops
Hampshire RHA, Southampton
Ammunition column, Basingstoke
Transport and Supply Column, ASC,
Training attachments
A Squadron at Dorchester
B Squadron at Sherborne
C Squadron at Blandford
D Squadron at Gillingham

In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw. 7, c.9) which brought the Territorial Force into being, the TF was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many members volunteered for Imperial Service. Therefore, TF units were split in August and September 1914 into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units. Later, a 3rd Line was formed to act as a reserve, providing trained replacements for the 1st and 2nd Line regiments.[7]

1/1st North Somerset Yeomanry

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.[8] It landed in France on 3 November and joined the 6th Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division on 13 November,[9] replacing the 10th Hussars who moved to the newly formed 8th Cavalry Brigade[10] As such, it was one of only six yeomanry regiments to be posted to a regular cavalry division in the war.[lower-alpha 1]

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).[14] At other times, the regiment served in the trenches as part of a dismounted regiment under the command of the brigade commander.[15]

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).[8]

2/1st North Somerset Yeomanry

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.[8] On 31 March 1916, the remaining Mounted Brigades were ordered to be numbered in a single sequence;[16] the brigade became the 15th Mounted Brigade and joined 4th Mounted Division.[8]

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.[17]

3/1st North Somerset Yeomanry

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.[18]

Between the wars

Post war, 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 cavalry was surfeit. 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 brigades[lower-alpha 2] of the Royal Field Artillery between 1920 and 1922.[21] As the 11th most senior regiment in the order of precedence, the regiment was retained as horsed cavalry.[22]

Second World War

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[23] 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.[24] In June and July 1941, it took part in operations against the Vichy French in Syria.[5] On 1 August 1941, the division was converted into the 10th Armoured Division[24] but the regiment remained in Syria with the 5th Cavalry Brigade until December 1941. It returned to Palestine where, in April 1942, it was converted to a Royal Corps of Signals unit as 4th Air Formation Signals.[25] Its role was to provide communications between the Army and the RAF and as such it served in the North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. In 1944, it returned to the United Kingdom where it was redesignated as 14th Air Formation Signals and then served in North-West Europe.[26]

Post war

After the War the Regiment 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.[5] 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.[27]

In 1969, it was reduced to a cadre of eight men[28] and in 1971, two companies, A (Somerset Yeomanry Light Infantry) Company and B (Somerset Yeomanry Light Infantry) Company, 6th Battalion The Light Infantry (Volunteers), were re-formed.[27] A Company was subsequently disbanded and B Company evolved to become B (Somerset Light Infantry) Company, The Rifle Volunteers in 1999.[27]

39th Signal Regiment 'Skinners'

In 2000, the North Somerset Yeomanry designation was revived for the Headquarters Squadron of 39 (Skinners) Signal Regiment[5] and, in 2008, that squadron, as 93 (North Somerset Yeomanry) Squadron, became the Regiment's Support Squadron.[29]

Battle honours

The North Somerset Yeomanry was awarded the following battle honours (honours in bold are emblazoned on the regimental colours):[5]

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"

Popular culture

The Hollywood motion picture War Horse (2011) featured a fictional depiction of the regiment in France in 1914.[30]

See also


  1. The other five were
  2. The basic organic unit of the Royal Artillery was, and is, the Battery.[19] 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)[20] 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. "North Somerset Yeomanry". Hussards Photos. Retrieved 29 October 2017. 
  2. Rule, John (1986). "The Labouring Classes in Early Industrial England, 1750-1850". Routledge. ISBN 978-0582491724. 
  3. Mileham 1994, p. 27
  4. Imperial Yeomanry at by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 29 May 2007)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 The North Somerset Yeomanry at by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 July 2007)
  6. "Bath". The Drill Hall Project. Retrieved 10 December 2017. 
  7. Rinaldi 2008, p. 35
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 James 1978, p. 27
  9. "warpath.orbat". 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Becke 1935, p. 20
  11. Becke 1935, p. 4
  12. Becke 1935, p. 12
  13. Perry 1993, p. 14
  14. Becke 1935, p. 22
  15. Becke 1935, p. 19
  16. James 1978, p. 36
  17. James 1978, pp. 27–28
  18. James 1978, p. 28
  19. "The Royal Artillery". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  20. Baker, Chris. "What was an artillery brigade?". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  21. Mileham 1994, pp. 48–51
  22. Mileham 1994, p. 73
  23. Joslen 1990, p. 189
  24. 24.0 24.1 Joslen 1990, p. 33
  25. Bellis 1994, p. 19
  26. Mileham 1994, p. 109
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 "4th Battalion, The Somerset Light Infantry". Retrieved 29 October 2017. 
  28. Hodge, Jonny. "Somerset Light Infantry". Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  29. "39th (Skinners) Signal Regiment". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 29 October 2017. 
  30. "War Horse Costumes Set to Excite Museum Visitors". National Army Museum. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 


External links

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