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YEARS 1902 - 1914

With the conclusion of the end of war in South Africa Colonel burn was concerned to find, on raising the volunteer Regiment, a permanent establishment for them.

With the review of what uniform, the regiment should adopt underway. It was noted that of the County of London Imperial Yeomanry regiments, the 2nd County of London is the only one not also bearing a title. Colonel Burn with this in mind and with our recruiting office in Westminster wrote to Westminster City Council in June 1902 asking for the regiment to be affiliated to the City of Westminster and to use the arms of the city as a regimental badge, with a title of the Westminster dragoons.

The council and the mayor, decided to make inquiries of other regiments in the city to see if there were any objections and as an outcome of the inquiries received a letter from Colonel Sir Howard Vincent, who commanded the Queens Westminster volunteers submitting that the above application be refused.

This was on the grounds that the Queen's Westminster volunteers have constituted the civic regiment for over a century and that now consisting of horse, foot and guns etc, there is no occasion to vary the arrangements in favour of a new corps and suggesting that this decision of the council be conveyed officially to the general office command in the home districts and Under Secretary of state for war.

However the council stated they do not see any objection to acceding to Colonel Burns request, as his application is on behalf of an Imperial Yeomanry regiment as distinct from a volunteer regiment, and we recommend that Colonel C. R Burn be informed that the Westminster City Council are very glad to consent to the 2nd County of London Imperial Yeomanry using the arms of the city as a regimental badge and the title of Westminster Dragoons and that the decision of the council be conveyed officially to the general officer commanding the home districts and the Under Secretary of state for war.

Submission was therefore made to His Majesty to approve, the approval given via army order 5 dated January 1902.

So popular was the regiment in these early days, we're told that in 1906 it was within 24 hours of its complete establishment [then 24 officers and 572 men] and commissioned ranks are at full strength, this excellent record has been attained despite the difficulties under which the regiment labours, in having no suitable headquarters or drill station. The headquarters consists merely of an office and the QM stores 102 Victoria St, Weekly drills on horsemanship were conducted at a riding school in Peckham, whilst squadron and regimental drills took take place in Woolwich and in St Stephen’s Hall.

This entails great inconvenience and expense but before long they were happy to learn that regiment would be provided with suitable headquarters with a riding school, stabling, drill hall and other amenities in what may be termed its territorial district.

Colonel Burn had been fortunate enough to secure a site just behind the Army Navy stores in Horseferry Rd, where a building is to be erected over the course of the next few months.

It is estimated that the work will cost about £10,000, off this sum no less than £7000 has been subscribed by Colonel Burn and the officers of the regiment.

ANNUAL CAMP - 1902

The first annual camp took place at churn in Berkshire in 1902 and again in 1903 on the estate of Lady Wantage who was a friend of Colonel Burn who generously offered to present the campsite to the regiment. Lady Wantage was thanked for the generous offer and for her regard of the regiment, but there was a wish to be free to be able to change the camp venue from year to year and the offer was declined.

A picture of what camp looked like in those days is remembered from the recollections of a serving soldier at the time.

"We went to camp in August, the regiment going by train taking their own sixteen horses with it. The rest of the horses arrived three days later; these hired horses were from the London bus companies. At the start there were only bridles of sorts to exercise horses to begin with. Then, after the arrival of the bus horses and saddlery, training could begin in earnest.

The saddles were of the colonial type, practical and comfortable but there was a day's work grooming the horses and getting the grease off the leather work and the rust off the steel work, the latter with a burnisher."

The view of the War Office at that time was that the Yeomanry were to be the cavalry of the Territorial Army, but they won't give us swords, not even bayonets to put on the end’s the rifle, the only cavalry weapon we had therefore was the horse and we are going to learn to use our horses, to learn to charge in close order.

The troops practised hard and the sound of the hooves of 100 or so horses galloping as fast as they can off the centre guide could manage was very impressive.

It was desperately uncomfortable though, weapons, the long Lee-Enfield hung from the right shoulder to a short 10-inch bucket. Charging in close order the bolt of the next man's rifle in one's leg was very painful and, furthermore the cavalry saddle has great advantages over the colonial saddle in a gallop with very long leathers, an untrained and clumsy horse, and knee to knee with two others. 

We also carried out mounted infantry training too, dismount, tie up, “heads & tails” in pairs (the reins of one to the strap at the back of the saddle of another). One man in four to look after the horses and the rest crawling forward with a rifle. We did a musketry course somewhere on shingle, I believe, we went to Hythe by train.”

One of the major features of the annual training was their regimental sports. Sports played important part in the year's training curriculum. The pattern was the same at all annual camps held in the period prior to the First World War before the regiment lost its horses.

This would include 100 yards flat race combat, tilting at the ring, sword versus sword on horseback, friendly competitions between inter squadrons and with other units.

Other mounted sports included lemon cutting, the heads and post contest where each rider had to ride a good pace, thrust his sword through a ring, slice off 2 heads [one about 9 feet, another three foot 6 inches from the ground] and thrust at a ball on the turf. Also, tent pegging never failed to arouse sustained interest.

There were more lighted and enjoyable sports as local dignitaries and people would be invited to enjoy the spectacles. These included a costume race over jumps, the riders had to open bags, put on night caps and night shirts and open Japanese umbrellas, and then ride back. Wrestling on horseback was also undertook, which normally took its toll of the clothing

THE SERIOUS SIDE OF ANNUAL CAMP

Annual camp, had however, a more serious side. Having got men, animals an equipment fit, work would begin in earnest. Troop drills, squadron exercises, maxim machine gun instructions, troop and squadron manoeuvres were undertaken.

It was this combination of hard work and hard play that stood the regiment in good stead, and that enabled it to be said by those reporting and attending the camps, they could take the field at a moment’s notice. The corps, possesses a galloping maxim, ambulance, transport waggons, all already for instant service. 

Colonel Burn relinquished command in 1906 and was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel J M Rogers D.S.O. from 1906 to 1908, and later by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Simeon Stuart-Bart. 

The Westminster Dragoons continue to serve as Imperial Yeomanry until the 1st of April 1908.

The effects of this were slight with two notable exceptions. As far as dress was concerned T.Y replaced I.Y brass numerals which had previously been worn on all rank’s epaulettes.

Then on Saturday June the 19th 1909 at Windsor Castle King Edward VII set the seal on his official approval of the newly formed Territorial Army by presenting 108 of its units with Guidons and colours. 


Not a year was to pass from the presentation ceremony before the Westminster Dragoons, being dismounted were lining the route in the vicinity of Marble Arch for the funeral cortege of King Edward VII. The day itself was very wet, and that damage to the scarlet uniform was caused by the purple dye from the plumes running down the backs of tunics.

It was consequently due this event that the plume was changed from purple to white, the white plumes being issued during the first months of 1911 to ordinary ranks, officers already wore the white plume.

Indeed, in the succeeding year the regiment was represented on the coronation of His Majesty King George V, this time mounted and lining the route to the monument for their Majesties drive through the city. 

Around this time, the first Marconi Field wireless section pack sets used in the army were those of the Westmoreland and Cumberland Yeomanry, in 1910 Lord Howard the warden presented 2 pack sets to the Westminster Dragoons., later instead of packs, light 2 wheeled carts were used. These were drawn by two horses harnessed-pole draft and having a mounted driver.

In company with other London volunteer units, the Westminster Dragoons took their training very seriously. In 1913 the first large scale army manoeuvres were held in England since the Boer War.  

Although forming part of General Gough’s Yeomanry division, on arrival at Lutterworth on the first evening the regiments were ordered to join the 3rd Cavalry Brigade at Newport Pagnell the next day.

For three or four days the Brigade fought General de Lisle’s Tidworth brigade consisting of the 4th Dragoon guards, 9th Lancers and the 18th Hussars.

In the final stages of the exercises the Westminster Dragoons were under command of General Allenby's 1sf Cavalry Division, finishing the exercise at rugby. The WD's (as they had now become known) had been out altogether for about 17 days.

In company with other London volunteer units, the Westminster Dragoons took their training very seriously. In 1913 the first large scale army manoeuvres were held in England since the Boer War.

Although forming part of General Gough’s Yeomanry division, on arrival at Lutterworth on the first evening the regiments were ordered to join the 3rd Cavalry Brigade at Newport Pagnell the next day.For three or four days the Brigade fought General de Lisle’s Tidworth brigade consisting of the 4th Dragoon guards, 9th Lancers and the 18th Hussars. In the final stages of the exercises the Westminster Dragoons were under command of General Allenby's 1sf Cavalry Division, finishing the exercise at rugby. The WD's (as they had now become known) had been out altogether for about 17 days. 

In 1914 as the lamps were going out all over Europe, training and exercising carried on as normal and on the 25th of July 1914 the regiment entrained at Addison Rd station for its annual camp at Goring on Thames. As has already been seen, the pre 1914 camps were usually quite hectic affairs for much of the time, and this had certainly been absolutely true of the previous year’s camp in 1913. Which had been partly spent on army manoeuvres with the regular army and thus the more peaceful setting of the 1914 campsite by the side of the river Thames in its upper reaches at Goring was the most popular choice. Training soon got underway and the first week of the camp finished with a sports meeting which was conducted with much enthusiasm. However, on Sunday the 2nd of August the regiment was suddenly, if not altogether unexpectedly ordered to return to Elverton street where, on arrival everyone was immediately given leave in readiness for general mobilisation.

ANNUAL CAMPS - 1902 to 1914
  • 1902 - Churn, Berkshire

  • 1903 - Churn, Berkshire

  • 1904 - Eastbourne

  • 1905 - Eastbourne

  • 1906 - Churn, Berkshire

  • 1907 - Churn, Berkshire

  • 1908 - Eastbourne

  • 1909 - Salisbury Plain

  • 1910 - Salisbury Plain

  • 1911 - Salisbury Plain

  • 1912 - Crowborough, Sussex

  • 1913 - Streatley, Bedfordshire

  • 1914 - Goring on Thames

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