The “First” Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry
The Wiltshire Yeomanry have as their motto
“Primus in armis,” signifying that they were the first local body of
cavalry, chiefly drawn from the class of yeomanry, to be formed into a
regiment. In March 1793, the
Government issued a circular to the Lord-Lieutenants and high Sheriffs of
counties, suggesting, among other plans for the strengthening of the land
forces that volunteer troops of fencible cavalry be raised of from fifty
to eighty men per troop, to serve during the war in the United Kingdom.
In Wiltshire the idea was accepted with enthusiasm, and the first
troop of sixty men rose from Devizes, under the command of Mr. James
Sutton, It was resolved to raise nine more troops in the county as well;
but this did not take place to the following year, when a fresh start was
made with the formation of a Salisbury troop, which was placed under the
command of Henry Penniddocke Wyndham, Esq. The circulars inviting recruits
to join this troop announced that “Hunters, coursers, and other bold
riders would be particularly acceptable.”
The first official notice concerning the Wiltshire Yeomanry
appeared in the London Gazette of July 8, 1794, and the final arrangements
of the officers in the issue dated August 22 following, by which period
the county possessed its full complement of ten troops, namely, Devizes,
Salisbury, Warminster, Bradford, Chippenham and Calne, Malmesbury, Swindon,
Marlborough, Everley, and Hindon. The
uniform of each consisted of blue coatee, white leather breeches, long
black gaiters, and a black leather helmet, with black plume over the
ridge, and a small red feather plume at the side; while the Devizes troop
was allowed to have “Number 1” inscribed on its buttons, to denote the
fact that it was the first raised in the Kingdom.
In the year 1778 the Salisbury troop had the
honour of being inspected by George III. who broke his journey through the
county to the fashionable watering-place of Weymouth for the purpose.
In the following year the ten troops were formed into the regiment
of Wiltshire Yeomanry Cavalry, Lord Bruce being appointed Colonel. A medal was then struck to commemorate the banding together
of the troops.
In June 1798, all the ten troops for the first time paraded
together at Devizes for three days’ duty and marched to Beckhampton
Down, where Lady Bruce presented five standards.
The parade state of the regiment on this occasion showed 28
officers and 595 non-commissioned officers and men.
At the peace of Amiens in 1803 the Wiltshire Regiments was not
disbanded, as were others, and upon the renewal of hostilities in 1804 it
recruited up to 804 of all ranks. In
the following year the great strength and efficiency of the regiment
caused it to be called out for permanent duty, when it was also inspected
and praise by the Duke of Cumberland.
In 1810 the county Militia, quartered at Devizes, mutinied, and the
Yeomanry were summoned to quell the disturbances.
The two forces faced each other in the market square with loaded
firearms, and it seemed that nothing could avert a sanguinary conflict.
Just as the Yeomen were about to fire, however, the Militia
Between 1817 and 1830 Wiltshire was in a very disturbed and unhappy
state on account of labour troubles, and the Yeomanry were constantly
being requisitioned to quell riots. In
1831 the King bestowed the title of “Royal” upon the regiment, through
Lord Lansdowne, in recognition of its services during the critical period.
In 1835, when the precedence of Yeomanry regiments was established,
the Royal Wiltshire was given Number 1, both because it was the first
raised in 1793, and because it had preserved its continuity.
At a later date, when Light Dragoon regiments
were converted into Hussars, the Wiltshire followed suit, the uniform
adopted being-“Blue; facings, Busby-bag, and plume scarlet.”
In the light of passing events a noteworthy innovation appeared in
1859. The then colonel, Lord Ailesbury, introduced auxiliary
riflemen, who were not horsed, but transported in cars.
These riflemen were young townsmen, not having the same facilities
for equestrian exercise as the farmer class, but who proved themselves to
be better shots. The system
was maintained until 1876, when a war office order disbanded them.
In 1863 the Prince of Wales honoured Colonel the Marquess of
Ailesbury with a visit at Savernake, and, as might have been expected, the
Marlborough troop of the Royal Wiltshire supplied travelling escorts and
guards of honour. As this was
the first occasion on which His Royal Highness came into contact with the
Yeomanry force officially, he conferred upon the regiment the distinctive
title “Prince of Wale’s Own.” We
have nothing more to record of the regiment until 1872, when it took part
in the Salisbury manoeuvres, and, again, until the training of 1893, when
the century of its genesis was celebrated amidst great enthusiasm.
When in January, 1900, the Yeomanry were called upon to volunteer
service companies for South Africa, the Wiltshire promptly produced three,
forming the 1st, 2nd, 63rd Companies of
Imperial Yeomanry, which were the first to be ready, though for some
reason they were not the first despatched.
Two machine-gun detachments equipped with Colt automatic guns and
galloping carriages complete, accompanied the force, which was composed of
picked men-good shots and riders. In
South Africa the most notable engagements in which the Wiltshire companies
took part were the defence of Ladybrand-successfully maintained by the 2nd
company and some details-and the battle of Senekal.
The defence of Ladybrand was a brilliant affair, and Lord Roberts
specially mentioned the gallantry of the Wiltshire men in foiling a
greatly superior force of Boers in his cable to the war office announcing
the relief. The third company
had the honour of accompanying the present Commander-in-Chief when he
entered Pretoria in triumph. When
reinforcements of Imperial Yeomanry were called for at the commencement of
the present year, the Wiltshire regiment sent out an additional 100 men.
The corps has had no less than eleven officers and three members of
the permanent staff serving with the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa or
in other capacities, in addition to officers and non-commissioned officers
specially enlisted for special service.
Four officers have received the D.S.O., and several
non-commissioned officers and men the Distinguished Service Medal,
including Sergeant-Major Lyford, who at the siege of Ladybrand had the
whole of his lower jaw shot away by a shell.
The casualties suffered by the regiment were heavy, one officer and
over thirty non-commissioned officers and men having been killed or died
the 1890's regimental commander is Lieutenant –Colonel the right Hon.
W.H. Long, M.P. whose ancestor, Mr Richard Long, as High Sheriff of the
county in 1793, issued the original call to arms, resulting in the
formation of the “Number 1” Devizes troop.
Under the new regulations the best class of recruit is being
obtained-this year there have been 134 of them-and the influx of a quota
of town candidates is an agreeable feature.
In the person of Squadron Sergeant-Major Parrott, the Wiltshire’s
possess a veteran Yeoman who claims to be the oldest of any.
Since Sergeant Major joined the force, as far back as 1854, it is
hardly likely that this claim can be disputed.
The headquarters of the Royal Wiltshire’s is located at