History of the regiment
The regiment was raised, by Sir Edward Hales in 1685 by order of King James 2 and was one of the nine new regiments of foot, raised to meet the Monmouth Rebellion, and was termed “Hales’s Regiment”. The regiment served in Flanders between 1693 and 1696, gained its first Battle Honour at Namur in 1695 and, in 1694, the regiment took precedence as the 14th Regiment of Foot.
In 1715, the regiment moved to Scotland to fight the Jacobite Rebellion and in 1727 played a major part in defending Gibralter against the Spanish, where it remained garrisoned for the next 15 years. The regiment was in Fontenoy, Flanders, in 1745, before being recalled to Scotland to fight in the 1845 Rebellion, at Falkirk and Culloden. They became the 14th of Foot in 1751 when they returned to Gibraltar for another eight-year stay. In 1759, when stationed at Windsor, it was granted royal permission to wear the White Horse of Hanover, signifying the favour of the King.
In 1768, the regiment under Lieutenant Colonel William Dalrymple arrives in Boston via Halifax, during the crisis surrounding the Townshend Acts. In a show of force, the 14th and 29th were marched though the town to erect a tent city on Boston Commons. Detachments of the two regiments were sent to take possession of Faneuil Hall, the “unofficial” headquarters of the Sons of Liberty where they seized all of the firearms stored there.
In 1770, the 14th was to play a part in the “Boston Massacre”. Captain Thomas was the officer of the day that was in charge of the detail that faced the crowds outside of the Customs House. The crowd that gathered began taunting the detail until a shot, then a volley, was fired into the crowd, resulting in three civilians killed outright, and two more died later.
Captain Preston and the detail went to trial and were successfully defended by Lawyer John Adams, thus ending tensions between the crown and the citizens of Boston, for the time being. The 14th would remain part of the Boston Garrison until 1772.
In 1782 the title was changed to, ‘The 14th (Bedfordshire) Regiment’.
In 1793, at the Battle of Famars, the Regiment “stole” the march “Ca Ira” from its French adversaries. After this war against the French, the regiment returned home in 1803 and raised a 2nd Battalion, which went to the Peninsular, while the 1st Battalion went to India, and later, the short-lived 3rd Battalion which formed part of Wellington’s Army. After several successful actions in India, the 1st Battalion was, on returning home in 1831, granted the badge of the Royal Tiger, superscribed “India”. After service in the West Indies, Canada, and Malta, the Regiment went to the Crimea in 1855 and took part in the capture of Sevastopol. In 1858, the 2nd Battalion was re-formed and sent to New Zealand.
The 14th then were posted to the West Indies, Canada, Malta and in 1855 the Regiment the served in the Crimean War. In 1876 the Prince of Wales, presented new Colours to the 1st Battalion and conferred on the 14th the honoured title of “The Prince of Wales’s Own”. 1858 saw a second battalion raised once more and took part in the Maori Wars of 1860-6 and the Second Anglo-Afghan War 1879-80.
During 1881, the British army saw major changes and the “Cardwell Reforms,” changed the name to “The Prince of Wales Own (West Yorkshire regiment)”.
1899 saw The 2nd Battalion of The West Yorkshire Regiment sent to South where two members of the Battalion were awarded the Victoria Cross, Captain, later Colonel Mansell-Jones in February 1900 and Sergeant Traynor in February 1901.
The 1st Battalion was part of the original Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of the First World War and the Regiment rapidly grew to 37 battalions, including Territorials, of which 24 saw action overseas and received many decorations. Among these was the French Croix de Guerre, awarded to the 8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion for gallantry in the capture of Bligny Ridge. The Roll of Honour including over 13,000 names, may be seen in the Regimental Chapel, in York Minster.
During WW2, the 2nd Battalion served in Africa and subsequently in the Far East. Various other battalions served in Iceland, France, Antwerp, the Scilly Isles, the Falkland Islands and as Home Defence.
The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire was formed 25th April 1958 by the amalgamation of The West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Own), being the 14th of Foot, and The East Yorkshire Regiment (The Duke of York’s Own), the 15th of Foot. The stories of these two famous Regiments are, therefore, part of the history of The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire.
The 2nd Battalion sailed on the Roslin Castle on 19th October 1899, arriving at the Cape on 8th November and at Durban on the 11th November. Along with the 2nd Queen’s, 2nd Devonshires, and 2nd East Surrey regiments, they formed the 2nd Brigade under Major General Hildyard. At Willow Grange on 22nd November, when Hildyard made the night attack on Joubert’s people, the West Yorkshires had the place of honour and did well. In his report, dated 24th November 1899, General Hildyard said, “Colonel Kitchener, West Yorkshire Regiment, led the assaulting force with energy and judgment, and all ranks of the 2nd
Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment behaved admirably”. The losses of the battalion were 11 killed, 2nd Lt Ross and 49 other ranks wounded, of the latter two later died of their wounds. Owing to his anxiety to bring in all those who were wounded, Major Hobbs was taken prisoner.
At the battle of Colenso, on 15th December 1899, the West Yorkshire regiment moved up to Chieveley, where they were held in reserve. On 15th January 1900, the regiment moved out from Frere to march to Springfield, arriving the following day, where they were used as the advanced guard. On 19th, they marched to Venter’s Spruit where they built a road over the drift, seeing some very severe fighting on the left of Warren’s force, particularly on 21st January. One company got so far in advance of the
general line that they had to remain isolated until nightfall and that day the battalion lost Captain Ryall and 5 men killed, with 2LT. Barlow and 42 men wounded.
At Vaal Krantz, on 5-7th February, the battalion held the right of the hill and were badly bothered by rifle and shellfire, but held their ground without a murmur with just 5 men slightly wounded. After Vaal Krantz the regiment, along with the balance of Buller’s force, moved back to Frere to regroup and prepare for the next move which, as it turned out, would be the ‘key’ as Buller referred to it, that would unlock the way to Ladysmith.
In the final push for Ladysmith, followed the Tugela river passed Hart’s, Wynne’s and Railway Hills to the final successful attack on Pieters Hill after which the Boers fled the area
leaving the way free for Buller to relieve Ladysmith. During this final combat, between 13th and 27th February, the West Yorkshires were constantly in the thickest. The 2nd Brigade, which included the West Yorkshire regiment, moved from Frere to Hussar Hill on 14th February, crossed the nek and assaulted Monte Cristo, the steep crags of which were brilliantly carried after considerable resistance by the West Yorkshire and Queen’s Regiments. On 17th the Brigade moved out, with the West Yorkshires forming the first line and, on reaching Cingolo Hill they formed up on a spur, under Major Fry, and opened fire on the Boers.
The battalion’s magnificent attack on Railway Hill on the afternoon of the 27th greatly assisted to set the long doubtful issue at rest. That day the Battalion, was temporarily attached to the Lancashire Brigade, the Brigadier being their own former colonel, F W Kitchener, and the capture of Railway Hill will always be one of the proudest of the regiment’s feats. The attack, led by Major Watts and Captain
Mansell-Jones carried successfully however, although the task was designed for two battalions, by an accident, it was left to this
battalion alone. Captain Conwyn Mansell-Jones, was awarded the VC for “his self-sacrificing devotion to duty at a critical moment.” In the action, seven officers, nine NCO’s and men, were mentioned by General Buller, for exceptional gallantry, with four of the latter, being
recommended for the distinguished conduct medal.
At Alleman’s Nek, 11th June 1900, the battalion supported the two Surrey regiments, but got in fairly close at the finish. Two officers, a sergeant, and a private were mentioned in General Buller’s despatch of 19th June 1900, and 5 officers and 4 non-commissioned officers in his final despatch of 9th November 1900. For a time the Natal Army was largely employed on garrison work and in occupying the
south-east of the Transvaal, but soon it had to assist Lord Roberts in other ways, and the West Yorkshire did a lot of trekking and hard fighting under different generals. In August 1900 the West Yorkshire were placed under Smith-Dorrien, along with the 1st Royal Scots, 1st Royal Irish Regiment, and
1st Gordons. They were railed from Pretoria to Belfast, whence the brigade, exclusive of this battalion, moved north towards Lydenburg in order to assist General Buller, who had found a position near Badfontein too strong to attack frontally.
In September 1900 the battalion was withdrawn from their garrison duties on the Delagoa line and placed along with the 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders under Brigadier
General Cunningham, who commanded the infantry of a column under Broadwood. The column marched from Pretoria to Rustenburg; the mounted troops did the clearing of the country, and the infantry garrisoned the town and posts.
On 3rd December 1900, two companies of the battalion were part of the escort of a convoy travelling to Rustenburg, which was attacked by a large Boer force. After very stiff fighting, the Boers were driven off, but not before they succeeded in destroying half of the wagons. In this affair, the battalion lost 9 killed and 13 wounded. In his despatch of 8th March 1901, Lord Kitchener said the escort made a very gallant stand.
On February 1901 a portion of the battalion was with General Smith-Dorrien in the Eastern Transvaal. Before dawn on 6th February, he was very heavily attacked at Bothwell, near Lake Chrissie, by a big force under Louis Botha. On that occasion the West Yorkshires had extremely hard fighting, and lost 19 men killed and 7 wounded. Sergeant Traynor was awarded the Victoria Cross for bringing in a wounded comrade, after he had himself been wounded, and then returning to the command of his section. The battalion accompanied Smith-Dorrien to Piet Retief and were afterwards brought to the Western Transvaal, to do blockhouse work.
The battalion was not again so heavily engaged as at Bothwell, although they were still to see a great deal of marching and not a little fighting. In September and October 1901, they were with Brigadier General Bullock, along with the 2nd Scots Guards, and under him erected a line of blockhouses between Wakkerstroom and Piet Retief. Until the close of the
campaign, they were chiefly located in the extreme east of the Transvaal, and had many skirmishes in the difficult country close to the Swazi border, in which work they gained several commendations during the war.