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First World War

First World war

The Territorial Force (TF) was created as part of the reforms of the British Army carried out by Secretary of State Richard Burdon Haldane. It came into existence on 1 April 1908 under the authorisation of the Territorial and Reserves Forces Act, 1907. 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 in August and September 1914 were split 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.

Oxfordshire Yeomanry Units which served in the First World War

          1/1st Oxfordshire Yeomanry, Territorial Force.

Formed on 4th August 1914. On mobilization the Brigade, which in peace time had been an independent formation under the direct orders of the Southern Command, was incorporated in the South Midland Mounted Division.

A word must be said here about an important reorganization in the Regiment caused by the change from peace to war establishments. Under the old peace establishment there had been four squadrons, with their Headquarters respectively at Oxford, Woodstock, Henley and Banbury, and a machine-gun section attached to Regimental Headquarters. But the war establishment of a yeomanry regiment was a Headquarters (including a machine-gun section) and three squadrons, and it therefore became necessary to break up one of the four existing squadrons and distribute its officers and men among the three other squadrons. The Woodstock Squadron was the one selected for sacrifice, and the distribution of the officers and men who had been trained in peace time, and had developed a strong feeling of esprit de corps and a legitimate pride in their squadron, naturally caused much disappointment and heartburning, besides disturbing the organization of the troops in the three other squadrons. The newcomers took some little time to settle down in their new surroundings, and in at least one squadron, if not in all, the troop formed from the old Woodstock Squadron never wholly lost its individuality of character.

       Headquarters – Oxford
       A Squadron – Oxford
       C Squadron – Henley-on-Thames
       D Squadron – Banbury.

In August 1914 the Brigade moved to Reading, coming under orders of 1st Mounted Division. By 15 August the Brigade had moved to Bury St Edmunds, Norfolk.

On 29 August 1914 the Brigade moved back to Churn, Oxfordshire and the Brigade transferred to 2nd Mounted Division.

The Regiment was detached from 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade and became attached to the Royal Naval Division. The Royal Naval Division was being sent to Flanders to prevent a German advance towards the Channel ports. They were sent to Dunkirk, France on the 19th September 1914. Due to Winston Churchill’s influence (then the 1st Lord of the Admiralty) the Regiment was placed in support to the Royal Naval Division (who in turn was supporting the Belgian Army at Antwerp). In so doing, the regiment became the first Territorial unit to embark for a theatre of war and the first to see action, coming under fire at Mont des Cats.

On 31 October 1914 the regiment joined 2nd Cavalry Brigade in the 1st Cavalry Division.
On 11 November 1914 the regiment transferred to 4th Cavalry Brigade in the 2nd Cavalry Division.

The Regiment soon hardened to the realities of war. Although disparagingly nicknamed by men of the regular army the ‘Queer Objects On Horseback’ or ‘agricultural cavalry’, the QOOH took part in many actions from Ypres in 1914 to Amiens and the final advance in 1918, winning many battle honours and the lasting respect of their fellow members of the 2nd Cavalry Division. As such it was one of only six yeomanry regiments to be posted to a regular cavalry division in the war.

As cavalry they spent frustrating periods waiting in readiness to push on through the gap in the enemy’s line, which never came. They toiled in working parties bringing up supplies, digging defensive positions, suffering the discomforts of appalling conditions, and frequently dismounting to fight fierce engagements on foot and in the trenches themselves.

          2/1st Oxfordshire Yeomanry, Territorial Force.

Formed in September 1914 at Oxford. In January 1915 it joined the 2/2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade.

In April 1915 it joined 2/2nd Mounted Division at King’s Lynn in Norfolk. On 31 March 1916, the remaining Mounted Brigades were ordered to be numbered in a single sequence; the brigade was numbered as 11th Mounted Brigade and the division as 3rd Mounted Division.

In July 1916, the regiment was converted to a cyclist unit in 9th Cyclist Brigade, 1st Mounted Division (3rd Mounted Division renamed). The brigade was renumbered as the 5th Cyclist Brigade at Bridge near Canterbury. In February 1917, it joined the 4th Cyclist Brigade at Ipswich; in July at Wivenhoe; in November at Frinton and then to Manningtree. About January 1918 it went to Ireland with the 4th Cyclist Brigade and was stationed at Dublin until the end of the war.

[The Regiment was based in King’s Lynn from early 1915 until June 1916 when there was a steady move of troops towards France. Initially set to join a Cyclist unit, but this got changed and were sent to the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (OBLI). Around 10% of the 200 men transferred had met with their deaths within a couple of weeks after going over the top with the 6th OBLI at Le Transloy (part of the Battle of the Somme), France.]

          3/1st Oxfordshire Yeomanry, Territorial Force.

Formed at Oxford 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 8th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry at the Curragh in Ireland. Early in 1917, it joined the 2nd Reserve Cavalry Regiment, also at The Curragh.

There are records of aged members of the OY being stationed at Lowestoft towards the end of the war.

Seventeen reserve regiments were formed when the army mobilised in August 1914. Most of them had two or more of the active cavalry regiments affiliated to them and the intention was for the reserve to supply drafts to the affiliated regiments. In June 1915 the 3rd Line regiments of the Yeomanry (the training units of the cavalry of the Territorial Force) were also affiliated with these reserve regiments. There was a major reorganisation in early 1917, reducing the number of regiments.

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