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The Berkshire Yeomanry has a long history of association with the town of Hungerford. A Hungerford Troop was first established in 1794 and for much of the nineteenth century the regiment was headquartered in Hungerford. Indeed for some years in the 1830s and 1840s the regiment was styled the Hungerford Troop of Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry. To this day the Berkshire Yeomanry officers still wear the Hungerford Star and Crescent as insignia.
The Berkshire Yeomanry is the County of Berkshire's senior volunteer unit, with over 200 years of voluntary military service. It was originally formed as a mounted cavalry unit, in 1794, and although most was disbanded in 1827, four troops, most notably the Hungerford troop, were reformed in 1830 following the Agricultural Riots of 1830. Only the Hungerford troop remained after further cuts in 1838.
In 1852 there were further expansions, with the Regiment renamed 'The Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry'. They went on to serve in the Boer War, and both World Wars.
The regiment has seen service as machine gunners, artillery, armour, infantry, and now signals, serving with the Royal Corps of Signals. In 1969 they became part of the Territorial Army (Signals), and has bases at Ayelsbury and Windsor, where there is the Regimental Museum.
- Hungerford c1790. From an aquatint engraved by F Jukes
- A Berkshire Yeomanry Soldier
- A mounted trouper, now been identified as Douglas Wilmott who lived at Plough House, 49 High Street (with thanks to his grand-daughter, Emma Mulder, Nov 2020).
- Henry Edward Astley's Uniform (thought to be the Drill Uniform)
- Henry Edward Astley's Mess Dress
- Detail of the waistcoat
- Henry Edward Astley's Mess Dress
- Detail of the Mess Dress
- Henry Astley's Commissioning Paper, upgrading from Cornet to Lieutenant 5th April 1861
- Rules & Regulations adopted in the Hungerford Troop of Yeomanry Cavalry.
- Hungerford Troop Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry, 1885. (Given by Miss Geraldine Richens, 2003)
Standing: G Andrews (hand in pocket); H Slade Richens; Lt Ricardo; Thos Fruen Snr; H J Beard; Bert Cundell; (?); F Jessels; (?)
Seated: Lt Col G S Willes (with cane)
- Hungerford Troop RBYC Church Parade, Summer 1913. The officer in front is Lieutenant CTJG Walmesley of Kintbury. (Given by Miss Richens, 2003)
- Berkshire Yeomanry uniform, 1914-18. [A Parsons]
- Berkshire Yeomanry cap badge
- Berkshire Yeomanry cap badge (kindly sent by Mick Hazell, Aug 2013)
- Hungerford Troop, Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry, helmet plate
- Hungerford Troop, Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry, cigarette card
- Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Pounch Badge.
- Certificate of Service (2 years) for A H Gosling, March 1908. (from Stewart Hofgartner).
We are very grateful to Dr Humphrey Hope for allowing us to include the photographs of Henry Astley's uniform and accoutrements. [We believe that the uniforms consisting of 3 dress jackets, 2 waistcoats, 3 trousers, hat plume in case, various spurs and harness, leather belts, belt with embossed wallet, leather dispatch bags (2), hat, letter of commission from the Earl of Abingdon appointing Henry Edward Astley to position of Lieutenant of Hungerford corps of Yeomanry, dated 1861, were all sold on the internet around Jan 2019 for £4,500.]
Formation of Yeomanry units:
The Victorian County History mentions that in 1759 there were 560 men from Berkshire, including 30 sergeants, 20 drummers, divided between 8 companies. The full force was out in Hungerford, Marlborough and Devizes during the panic of French invasion in July 1759.
These forces appear to pre-date the formation of the yeomanry, which was originally formed as mounted cavalry in 1794 to counter the threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars.
During the French wars of 1793-1815 auxiliary troops were raised for home defence, known as yeomanry, volunteers, or fencible infantry and cavalry. Of these only fencibles were regular troops. Most of the forces were volunteers, but some were paid. By 1800 there were about 100,000 men in these units and by 1805 there were 330,000.
The degree of public anxiety about what had become pan-European war can be judged by an item published in The Reading Mercury of 2 Jul 1798 listing local Hungerford contributors to the "Voluntary Subscription, For the Defence of the Country exclusive of Assessed Taxes". The 80 individuals (or small groups), had contributed various amounts (from £400 by John Willes (of Hungerford Park), to 1s by John Sawyer).
In the spring of 1794 the first troop of Berkshire Yeomanry, styled the Abingdon Independent Cavalry, was formed, and by 1804 eleven independent troops had been raised in Berkshire. In 1804 four of these troops were united to form 'The First Regiment of Berkshire Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry'.
On 10 Jun 1805 the Hungerford troop under Major Fowle joined "the whole of the Volunteers" from across Berkshire for a Royal Review by the King on Bullmarsh Heath. See Report in the Reading Mercury. (With thanks to Peter Quennell). See also his paper on the Military Review on Bulmarsh Heath in 1805, entitled "Call out the Cavalry".
Around this time (1813-14) a large Ordnance Depot storing 106,000 barrels of gunpowder was built close to the Barracks near Highclose Farm.
John Pearce of Standen Hussey was Captain Commandenet in the early 1800s: The Hereford Journal of 8 Jan 1806 reported "Died - Suddenly, aged 55. John Pearce esq of Standen Hussey, near Hungerford, Captain Commandant of the Hungerford Volunteer Cavalry: a gentleman universally esteemed but a nervous affection had brought on a despondency, and though he was possessed of £40,0000, he thought that he should become a parish pauper." [Kindly sent by Jerry Green, Feb 2012]
As a result of Government cutbacks in 1827 all yeomanry cavalry troops in Berkshire were disbanded. But following riots by agricultural workers in 1830, four troops were re-established and actively deployed in dealing with civil unrest.
Further Government economies in 1838 forced the disbandment of three troops leaving the Hungerford Yeomanry Cavalry as the sole troop in Berkshire.
The Captain Commandant appointed 31 Oct 1839 was William Honeywoord, Esq, taking over from Dundas who had resigned (Gazette).
On 7 May 1844, William Honeywoord resigned, and the post passed to George Willes, Esq.
The Hungerford Troop nominal roll of 6 May 1845 comprised:
Captain: George Willes
Liet: Henry Coe Coape
Cornet: John Mathews
QMaster: (1) Thomas Hutchins
Serjts: (2) George Blamires, (3) Daniel Taylor, (4) William Barnes, (5) Henry Cundell, (6) William Alexander, (7) Stephen Major,
Corpls: (8) Richard Allen, (9) Henry Moulding, (10) John Goading, (11) Edmund Hayter,
Tpter: (12) Josiah Truman
Farrier: (13) James Davis
Privates: (14) James Allen, (15) Thomas Atlee, (16) John Andrews, (17) F William Atherton, (18) H Edwin Astley, (19) William Bartt, (20) Richard Barker, (21) Charles Batten Senr. (22) Charles Batten Junr., (23) John Beard, (24) John Belcher, (25) George Bathe Cundell, (26) Joseph Cundell, (27) Francis Cundell, (28) Francis Church, (29) John Foster, (30) John Frampton, (31) J Townsend Gray,
(32) Richard Hill, (33) Edwin Harding, (34) Thomas Hutchings, (35) William Hambling, (36) William Keen, (37) John Kimber, (38) Joseph Langford, (39) Thomas Langfear, (40) Charles Loir, (41) John Langford, (42) H P Harry Major, (43) George Mathews, (44) Edwin Martin, (45) Joseph Neale, (46) John Fallow, (47) John Reeks, (48) Robert Read, (49) John Richens, (50) Thomas Smith, (51) William Toms, (52) George Wilson, (53) John Walker, (54) Thomas Winchcomb, (55) James Wentworth, (56) William Willes,
Supernumery: James Hireson
In 1847 a new guidon was presented by Mrs Willes, wife of Captain Willes. Cornet L Morris received it. The old standard which had been presented to the Troop by the Popham family was given to Mrs Willes.
During the 1840s the name of the unit slowly evolved by usage from the Hungerford Corps of Yeomanry Cavalry to the Royal Berks (or Berkshire) Yeomanry Cavalry. Without any record of official sanction, this Royal title properly refers to the County of Royal Berkshire - an honour awarded to the county by King George IV. The earliest mention of the RBYC name so far found is in the reading Mercury of 1846 (With thanks to Andrew French).
In 1852, following yet further fears of a French invasion, troops were again raised at Reading and Newbury, and some years later at Wantage, Wokingham and Windsor.
Henry Edward Astley:
One member of what was to become a very prominent family in Hungerford, became commissioned into the Royal Berkshire Yeomanry.
Henry Edward Astley, (born 1817, the 8th child of Rev. Wolvey Astley, Rector of Quenington, Gloucestershire) came to Hungerford in 1847 at the age of 30 years. He was a solicitor, and joined John Matthews, whose practice had been at Bridge House (now 132 High Street) since he bought it in 1826.
In 1853 Henry Edward Astley was commissioned into the Hungerford branch of Royal Berkshire Yeomanry as a cornet. He was promoted Lieutenant in 1861, aged 44 years. The adjacent photographs show his uniform and accoutrements.
[Cornet was originally the third and lowest grade of commissioned officer in a British cavalry troop, after captain and lieutenant. The cornet by tradition carried the troop standard, which was also known as a "cornet". The rank of Cornet was the equivalent of the infantry rank of ensign, and was one of the subaltern ranks (along with lieutenant). The rank had been in use by the time of the English Civil War, but was abolished in 1871, at the same time that the purchase of commissions in the army was abolished in the Army Reform Act of 1871 and was replaced by Second Lieutenant. In practice, the style "Cornet" is still used for Second Lieutenants in the Blues and Royals and the Queen's Royal Hussars.]
Two years later, in 1863 Henry Edward Astley, aged 46, resigned from the Yeomanry, and married a near neighbour, a widow, Mrs Benjamin Keen (who already had two daughters of her own), of Faringdon House, 128 High Street. Henry and his new wife had only one child, Henry d'Oyley Astley, born 1865, who went on to follow his father's profession as a solicitor in the town. His daughter, Barbara Astley married Mr W.K.T. Hope from Wellingborough. Henry Edward Astley died 1886.
Hungerford Troop cont'd:
Dr Richard Hemstead Barker was Surgeon to the Hungerford troop of Berkshire Yeomanry in the 1860s.
The 1869 Kelly Directory mentions that the Headquarters of the Royal Berks Yeomanry and Cavalry Store was in Park Street.
Andrew French kindly added (Dec 2019): "The Yeomanry headquarters was located either at Hungerford Park or Chilton Park; dependant on which of local gentry was then in command of the regiment. In this case Colonel Willes or Colonel Honywood.
The men of the Hungerford troop of yeomanry were recruited mainly from farmers and farmers’ sons supplemented by tradesmen from the Hungerford and surrounding villages.
During the Victorian period there was a Stores maintained in sometime in Park Street Hungerford and sometime Charnham Street. The only other premises needed was the house for the Drill Sergeant seconded from the regular cavalry. Any dismounted drills were carried out in the Corn Exchange.
Mounted drills of two day were carried out quarterly and a permanent duty of eight day annually. This permanent duty was carried out in rotation within the larger towns of Berkshire, the men being accommodated in the local hotels and their horses in the associated stables."
The Parish Magazine of October 1872 reports: "The Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry assembled for eight days permanent duty at Maidenhead, on Tuesday 24th September 1872. There are now four Troops, Captain Willes', Hungerford; Captain Tull's, Newbury; Captain Wroughton's, Wantage; and Captain Eykyn's, Maidenhead. The inspection takes place on 1st October."
In September 1874 it was announced in the Parish Magazine that "The Royal Berks Yeomanry Cavalry will assemble for their annual training, at Hungerford this year, on Tuesday, September 22; and the inspection will take place on Tuesday, September 29.". The October issue recorded "The Royal Berks Yeomanry Cavalry assembled at Hungerford for their annual eight days of permanent duty on Tuesday, September 22. In the absence of Col Honywood, Captain Willes took the command. The Regiment has been hard at work throughout the week on the Downs, and in the surrounding country. On Sunday morning officers and men attended the Parish Church in military state. The Review took place on the Downs on Tuesday the 29th, and attracted a great concourse of people from the town and neighbourhood."
The London Gazette of 24 November 1874 recorded that Captain George Shippen Willes had been promoted to Major of the Royal Berks Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry. A celebratory banquet was held on 13 September 1875 after he had been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.
The Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry had a field day on Hungerford Downs on Monday, 17 July (?1876), under the command of Colonel Willes, and in the presence of Colonel Riley, the Inspecting Officer, and Colonel Honywood, who for many years commanded the Regiment. The Regiment paraded in front of the Corn Exchange at half-past one and left for the Downs at two o'clock preceded by the regimental band. A smart drill was kept up for about two hours, at the conclusion of which Colonel Riley complimented the men on their appearance and efficiency. After the duties of the day the regiment was entertained by their Colonel at dinner in a large Marquee erected for the occasion at Hungerford Park.
The Yeomanry Cavalry assembled in Hungerford for ten days permanent duty on Friday 13 May 1887. "The Review will be held on the Downs on Monday, the 13th. Lieut Sloper has been promoted to Captain of the Hungerford Troop."
In June 1887 the Hungerford troop of the Berkshire Yeomanry were on parade in the town on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebration.
In May 1894 "Another link between Hungerford and the Royal Berks Yeomanry Cavalry is about to be severed by the resignation of Colonel Willes. It is understood that he will be succeeded in the command of the Regiment by Lieut-Colonel the Hon Osbert Craven."
The Boer War 1899-1901 and after: Volunteers from the Regiment saw service in the Boer War in the two volunteer Berkshire Yeomanry companies in the Imperial Yeomanry. The lessons of the Boer War led to a more recognised role for the Yeomanry as a whole which encompassed in the reforms of 1908 when the Regiment changed its title to the Berkshire Yeomanry.
A tribute medal was presented to local volunteers who had served in the Imperial Yeomanry and the Volunteer Service Company of the Berkshire Regiment. See The Hungerford Tribute Medal. Medals were presented at a Hungerford Patriotism Dinner in September 1901.
The Great War: Mobilised in August 1914 the Berkshire Yeomanry trained at Churn on the Berkshire Downs for three months and then proceeded to the East Coast to guard against a possible German invasion. In April 1915 the Regiment sailed for Egypt and from there a few months later they were shipped, this time without their horses, to the Gallipoli peninsular where, against the Turks, they first saw action. In a bloody battle on August 21, 1915, Private Fred Potts earned the first yeomanry VC for 'most conspicuous bravery in rescuing a comrade under heavy fire'. After three months in the trenches, the Regiment was withdrawn, their strength reduced by casualties and sickness to a mere 50 men.
Several Hungerford men served in the Berkshire Yeomanry during the First World War, and three gave their lives. Click each name below to find out more:
- Sgt William Horne
Another local man who served during the First World War (and survived) was
Returning to Egypt and brought up to strength, the Regiment campaigned during the spring of 1916 in the Western Desert. In 1917 the Berkshire Yeomanry joined the British advance on Jerusalem. After two unsuccessful baffles in March and April to evict the Turkish Army from Gaza, the British forces were reorganised under their new commander General Allenby and the third Battle of Gaza was a notable success culminating in the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917. During this campaign the Berkshire Yeomanry were involved in two successful cavalry charges against the Turks.
In April 1918 the Regiment was amalgamated into 101 (Bucks & Berks Yeomanry) Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. They reached France in July and saw action in support of 51st Highland Division and in the final battles in Belgium in the Second Army.
The Second World War 1939-1945:
In 1922 the Berkshire Yeomanry were re-established as part of the 99th (Bucks and Berks) Field Brigade RFA. With the doubling of the Territorial Army in 1939, the unit was split into two county regiments and 145 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment HA (TA) was born. Embodied at Newbury in September 1939 the Berkshire Yeomanry remained there until moving to Kingston Bagpuize in February 1940. The Regiment was deployed on airfield defence until July 1940 when it was moved to Northern Ireland until returning to England in July 1943. The Regiment was earmarked as one of the units to join the spearhead of the second front. Shortly before D Day, however, they were held back in order to serve as part of the breakthrough that was to follow the initial landings on the Normandy beaches.
Following better than anticipated progress with the invasion, and fewer casualties, it became War Office policy to make up units in France with individual reinforcements and within a few weeks the Berkshire Yeomanry provided more than fifty fully trained reinforcements. Late in 1944 many of those posted to France were returned to the Regiment and in January 1945 the Regiment sailed to India.
In July 1945 the Berkshire Yeomanry sailed with the invasionary force on Operation Zipper aimed at the recapture of Malaya. Landing on Morib beaches the Regiment was very soon occupied with wholesale rounding up and disarming of the Japanese, who had by then surrendered. After some time in Malaya the Regiment took ship once more for Java to help deal with the native Indonesian uprising against the Colonial Dutch. For a period of several months the Regiment was in the centre of bitter fighting almost daily in close support of Indian and Gurkha infantry brigades. Fighting continued into 1946 and it was not until May 1946 that most of the Regiment were en route back to England.
By May 1947 the Berkshire Yeomanry was reconstituted as two artillery regiments, later combined into 345th (Berkshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment RA (TA) and in 1957 they became part of 299th Field Regiment HA (TA). In 1967 the Territorial Army was reorganised and the unit at Windsor was re-roled to infantry and became 'A' (Berkshire Yeomanry) Company, Royal Berkshire Territorials.
In January 1969 with the further reorganisation of all TAVR units, the Berkshire Yeomanry were again re-roled and renamed 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron with troops at Reading, Windsor, and Southampton. In 1977 a detachment was formed at Chertsey and in 1991, further Government cuts led to the loss of the Troop location at Southampton.
94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron now forms part of 39 (Skinners) Signal Regiment. They are currently based in three locations. The Headquarters of the Squadron is based in Windsor along with 885 troop and a support troop. The 886 troop TA centre in Chertsey, Surrey, will close at the end of March 2010. A new troop 860 in Aylesbury, the remnants of 60 (Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars) Signal Squadron, has now become part of the squadron.
Berkshire Yeomanry soldiers train at home in the UK, but can also be found detached for short periods to locations as far away as the Balkans, Canada, the United States, and Iraq or Afghanistan.
The Berkshire Yeomanry has a number of battle honours won from Europe to the Far East, including a Victoria Cross won by Private Frederick Potts in the Gallipoli operation In recognition of its service, the Berkshire Yeomanry was granted the freedom of the Royal Borough of Windsor in 1994 on its 200th anniversary, and the freedom of the borough of Runnymede (borough) in July 2009.
The Regiment has its own dedicated museum in Windsor. Founded in 1974 the museum contains a modest collect of regimental artefacts covering the roles, arms and uniforms adopted since its foundation in 1794. The collection also covers the Regiment's activities during the Boer War and the First and Second World Wars.
The following sections on The Hungerford Tribute Medal, the Hungerford Patriotism Dinner and Presentations, and Hungerford and the Berkshire Yeomanry are derived from the Berkshire Yeomanry Journal 2002-2003:
The Hungerford Tribute Medal:
Dr PJS Dunn has provided the following information for the Military History Society:
In his seminal book, Boer War Tribute Medals published in 1982, Bill Hibbard proposed that three criteria be used to identify a true tribute medal:
(i) it must be clearly identifiable by the name of the town, county, regiment or other official issuing body;
(ii) there must be evidence, preferably in the form of an inscription, that it was presented by the issuing body; and
(iii) preferably it should be inscribed with the name of the recipient.
The total number of tribute medals remains unknown but since 1982 a small number of new ones have come to light, including the Hungerford Tribute Medal. The Hungerford Tribute Medal was struck to be presented to the local volunteers who had served in the Imperial Yeomanry and the Volunteer Service Company of the Berkshire Regiment. The medal can be described thus:
Obverse: A star and crescent, the arms of the town of Hungerford. Below HUNGERFORD in raised letters.
Reverse: Plain, engraved PRESENTED TO / name of individual I SOUTH AFRICA / 1900-1901.
Maker: The maker's mark V & S and the mint mark for Birmingham with the assay year 1901.
Suspension: A fixed loop with loose gold ring and clip for attachment to a watch chain.
Size: 25 mm diameter in 9ct gold.
Extracts from The London Gazette:
Commissions signed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Berks: Hungerford Corps of Yeomanry Cavalry:
29 April 1853:
- Captain George Willes to be Major.
Dated 20th April 1853.
- Lieutenant Henry Coe Coape to be Captain, vice Willes, promoted.
Dated 20th April 1853
- Lieutenant Capel Coape to be Captain.
Dated 20th April 1853.
- Henry Richmond Seymour, Esq., to be Captain.
Dated 20th April 1853.
- Cornet William Willes to be Lieutenant, vice Henry Coe Coape, promoted.
Dated 20th April 1853.
- Albert Richard Tull, Gent., to be Lieutenant, vice Capel Coape, promoted.
Dated 20th April 1853.
- Henry Edward Astley, Gent., to be Cornet. Dated 20th April 1853.
16 April 1861:
- Cornet Henry Edward Astley, to be Lieutenant. Dated 5th April 1861.
7 April 1863:
Lieutenant Victor William Bates Van de Weyer to a Captaincy, vice Willes, resigned.
Dated 27th March 1863.
The Old "C" Troop, by G C Ricardo (given to HHA by Miss Richens in 2003):
"Adeppa", she stood at the Squadron's head,
Champing her bit with glee
For she knew in her own little thoroughbred mind
There was none so handsome as she.
But she wished for the sake of her Captain bold
For the sake of his lady of course
That the Cup the Hungerford troop might win
For the best mounted man and his horse.
For the troop had formed a great resolve
And had sworn by their horses eyes
That back again to Hungerford town
They would carry the coveted prize.
They knew their Officers anxious were
When they carefully scanned the troop
Particular were as to breastplate and chain
and mindful of every look.
So out rode "Davis" and out rode "Dick"
and grimly others rode on,
And out went "Cundell's" Sergeant Platt
Determined the Cup should be won.
But a fear pervaded the old "C" troop
and clouded the Captain's face,
For the Lancer not with its smart young men
Were the favourites in the place.
Twas now the Lieutenant ground his teeth
and nervously tapped his boot
For "Davis" went out the very first man
and "Richard" soon followed suit.
But the old "C" Troop only grinned a smile
And watched for their champions all.
For Bathe Cundell's, Platt and Daniel Crook
Were the pick of the Hungerford Stable.
But now the officers brightened up
And their spirits rose every minute
For the walking was done and the trotting on
And their own troop still was in it.
The Lancers were tailing, the Newbury's beaten
The Wantage string led on,
And now was the time to make your bets
For the galloping had begun.
Tom Ward, he rode with a right cool seat
The Lancer was not yet out
And the Hungerford three had not yet moved
When up went a joyous shout
For they turned out the chestnut, they put out the black
Mr. Crook had next to retire
And Cundell of Chisbury and old John Platt
Were the only ones left to admire.
Suffice it to say the "Old in" won
But they both deserved the prize
And "Chisbury's son" was just beat a head
In spite of admiring eyes.
Now fill up a bumper, I'll give you a toast
And we'll drink it with three times three.
And here's to Capt. Wills and his own "C" troop
Long may they united be.
G.C. Ricardo (Col).
-"Adeppa" was the name of Capt. Wills' mare.
- Capt. Willes was the M.F.H. and lived at Hungerford Park.
- Davis was a huntsman, and Cundell and Platt were brothers-in-law.
- Charles Davis was also a Jockey, and there is a photograph of him on "Taverna"
(Miss Richens added a note saying that "I believe this Col. Ricardo used to live at Donnington Elms").
An article in the NWN on 1 Nov 1979 on motoring in Newbury mentioned the firm of Martin & Ricardo, Motor & Cycle Manufacturers. It changed soon after to Martin & Chaddleworth. See advertisement for Martin & Ricardo.
The presentations were recorded in The Marlborough Times and Wilts and Berks County Paper of 28th September 1901 from which it would seem that only eight medals were intended to be distributed, making this one of the rarest of tributes on record. The newspaper's account is as follows:
Hungerford Patriotism Dinner and Presentations
A public dinner in honour of the Hungerford men who have returned from the front was held in the Corn Exchange, Hungerford, on Wednesday evening last. The proceedings, which attracted considerable interest, included the presentation of a gold medal, in the form of a pendant, and an address to each of the members of the Imperial Yeomanry and of the Berks Service company of Volunteers who have served in South Africa; in addition to whom, the returned local reservists were entertained as guests.
Many of the inhabitants of the town decorated their houses and places of business with flags in honour of the event, while the interior of the Corn Exchange was also improved by means of flags and banners. An inspiriring programme of patriotic music was played outside the Corn Exchange by the Aldborne Brass Band, who also occupied the gallery in the Corn Exchange and contributed excellent selections during the dinner.
The guests of the evening were Quarter-Master-Sergt G Andrews (39th Company Imperial Yeomanry), Farrier-Sergt Clements (58th Company Imperial Yeomanry), Privates C Batchelor, Bray, and Palmer (Berks Volunteer Service Company), H Dobson (Hants Service Volunteers), Private J Gibbs (South Wales Borderers Mounted Infantry), and Private G Webb (Royal Berks Regiment). Each gold medal was inscribed with the name of the recipient, together with "South Africa" and the date, on one side; on the other side being the arms of Hungerford, consisting of the star and crescent.
The addresses were in the following terms: "We, the inhabitants of the Borough of Hungerford, offer you a hearty welcome home after your extended and meritorious services in assisting to maintain the honour and prestige of your country in South Africa. We also desire to place on record at the same time our high appreciation of the self-sacrificing and patriotic spirit you displayed, at the time of a great national emergency, in volunteering to face the dangers and difficulties of an arduous campaign in a distant land. We are proud to know that you and those associated with you have fully sustained the reputation gained by Berkshire men for bravery and endurance in their country's cause, and we are thankful that you have been spared to return to your home after such a prolonged experience of the trials, dangers, and hardships of war. We trust that, in the providence of God, you may be long spared to enjoy the honour of your loyal and devoted services, and that your noble example may ever prove an incentive to your fellow-countrymen to respond to the call of duty on behalf of King and Empire. Signed, on behalf of the inhabitants of Hungerford." (then followed the signatures of the Committee).
The ceremony of distributing the medals and addresses was then carried out. The men to receive them are Quarter-Master-Sergt George Andrews, Corpl W F Willes, Trooper J H S Burder, and Trooper Coombes, of the Berks Imperial Yeomanry; Pte T E Alexander, Pte Charles Batchelor, Pte E J Bray, and Pte J R Palmer, of the Royal Berks Service Volunteers. Of these Corpl Willes and Pte Alexander are still at the front, and Trooper Burder and Coombes were unable to be present.
Hungerford and the Berkshire Yeomanry
Hungerford stands on the banks of the Rivers Kennet and Dun. A picturesque arcaded town hall once stood in the middle of the road, but the Victorians pulled it down in favour of a new version, the very imposing red brick building with Byzantine style tower that exists today. The town is notable for its many old Inns and 200 acre common. In the 13th century the town was known as Hungerford Regis (Royal Hungerford) and it passed from the King to the Dukes of Lancaster. John of Gaunt, the great 14th century Duke, thus became associated with the town. He apparently gave the townsfolk the right to fish in the River Kennet, a jealously guarded privilege.
Hungerford has had a long association with the Berkshire Yeomanry, and these notes written by Colonel Willes, who commanded the regiment from 1875 to 1894, provide a flavour of the early years:
1 June 1798: The first Hungerford Troop was raised by Mr John Pearce of Standen Farm, a
wealthy yeoman. Officers: John Pearce, Captain, Francis Lovelock, Lieut, and
James Hall, Cornet.
26 July 1799: Reviewed at Bullmarsh Heath by His Majesty King George 3rd.
6 April 1802: Received the thanks of the House of Commons for their past services.
2 August 1802: Offered their services after the peace of Amiens but being under the number
of 40 rank and file were not accepted.
3 August 1803: The 2nd Hungerford troop was formed by Captain John Pearce who raised
the first Troop. His Officers were Lieutenant Lidderdale, late of the 15th King's
Dragoons, Cornet George Baxter, Mr Miller and Mr Michell entered as privates.
March 1804: Formed as a Troop of 1st Regt of Berkshire Yeomanry.
22 May 1804: The Troop joined the 1st Regt of Berkshire Cavalry at Chilton Pond and
marched into Quarters at Abingdon. Remained there until 26th and marched
from thence to Newbury. Remained there until 1st June when the whole
19 October 1804: 1st Regt of Berkshire Cavalry commanded by Lt Colonel Dundas inspected
by Sir C N Duckenfield Bart, IFO of the Home District, at the same time
reviewed by Major General Ludlow at Kates Farm.
30 November 1804: 1st Regt of Berkshire Cavalry inspected by Sir N Duckenfield, IFO of the
Home District, at the same time reviewed by HRH the Duke of Cambridge and
Brigadier General Prince.
30 April 1805: 1st Regt of Berkshire Cavalry commanded by Lt Colonel Dundas inspected by
Sir N Duckenfield at the same time reviewed by HRH the Duke of Cambridge.
Because of Government cutbacks in the 1830's the Hungerford troop became the only surviving troop of the Berkshire Yeomanry and was styled the Hungerford Corps of Yeomanry Cavalry. In the 1840's this title evolved through usage into the Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry. Later the Regiment expanded into other major Berkshire towns but Regimental Headquarters remained in Hungerford until 1895.
Today, as testament to this long association, the Star and Crescent from the arms of Hungerford continues to be worn on the uniform of 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron.
The Berkshire Yeomanry “servants”, 1887, and information on George Regan:
Martin Hockley kindly emailed the Virtual Museum (Sep 2021) having purchased a military photo print described as 'Berkshire Yeomanry "Servants" Hungerford 1887', asking for any further information about the photograph, what the occasion may have been and who may be in the photograph, in particular if the Yeomanry Sergeant is possibly George Regan, who was the Berkshire Yeomanry Drill Sergeant in the 1881 Hungerford census.
This enquiry launched a flurry of email correspondence with Andrew French at the yeomanry Museum.
Andrew replied “The photo was taken during the eight-days “permanent duty” of the Berkshire Yeomanry cavalry which took place at Hungerford in 1887. The original is in an album compiled by Colonel Ricardo.
The chap in the long cook's whites in Quartermaster John Staples of A (Newbury) Troop (he was a confectioner and caterer in civilian life), the other civilians being the mess staff.
The soldier at the front on the left is Troop Sergeant Major Michael Roach (permanent staff) newly appointed to the regiment. TSM Frank Smith is behind him.
The event was recorded in The Reading Observer of Saturday 21st May 1887 (p5 c7):
According to our Newbury contributor, "Argus," the Berkshire Yeomanry have had a merry time of it at Hungerford. One night, he hears, there was a night-shirt parade, while some of the lively spirits got a donkey to bed and charged a penny for those who wished to see the animal inside the sheets. The little town, he adds, is quite alive with the drilling of the troopers by day, end their larking by night.
Martin added “Thank you very much for the information relating to this 1887 Hungerford photo. Any details or dates of George Regan's service in RBYC would be very much appreciated.
My wife's family are from Hungerford and her great uncle Alfred Batt married George Regan's daughter Florence Mary Jane Regan born 1874 in Hungerford.
We do know that George Regan, born 20th April 1829 in Chinsurah, East India, enlisted into the 3rd Light Dragoons in Ireland in 1845 when he was just 15 years old. On 13th January 1849 (aged 19 years) he was present at the battle of Chillianwallah, Punjab in the North-West of India. His brother Owen was killed during the same battle.
At some point prior to 1881 George Regan was appointed as the Drill Sergeant of The Berkshire Yeomanry, and later he was a Chelsea Pensioner.
I've also enclosed a couple of images which may help to identify him in any photos you may have of the RBYC for this period.
One is a colour sketch on silk which I think shows him in the uniform of the RBYC and I'm guessing this was probably produced from an original photograph, and must date from 1884-85; the other is a photo from a locket which is thought to be him on his wedding day in 1859 when aged 30 years old.
A photo from a locket which is thought to be George Regan on his wedding day in 1859, aged 30 years
A colour sketch on silk thought to shows George Regan in the uniform of the RBYC
perhaps from an original photograph, and must date from 1884-85.
One of the medals may have been the Punjab medal:
"I'm guessing that you are probably already aware of the article from The Illustrated London News, dated 28 May 1881, that features sketches of The Berkshire Yeomanry, just in case you are not aware I've enclosed images of this article for your information".
Andrew replied: “Many thanks for "Out with the Yeomanry" article by Richard Caton Woodville from the ILN. We can be pretty sure of the accuracy of these as Caton Woodville was a Trooper in the Berks Yeomanry.
I am especially interested to see the painting of George in his uniform especially the coloured silk painting. The scarlet tunic depicted was introduced into the regiment from the early 1880s and that pattern of Dragoon helmet from 1884. The helmet had a silvered finish with brass fittings as per the attached photograph:
It also informs us what sword they had at this period - the 1882 cavalry pattern.
George Regan served as Troop Sergeant Major for the C (Hungerford) Troop of the RBYC from 1871 until 1885 when he left Hungerford and was replaced by Michael Roach, so you just missed out with the photo you bought.
You could follow his career by looking at the history of the 3rd Light Dragoons then 3rd Hussars.
I also mentioned a new tunic being issued in the 1880s, this is not the case – the tunic illustrated dates from the early 1860s.
Finally some updated biog notes:
He served successively o.c. Troop - Capts. George S Willes (-1874), W Hew Dunn (1874-1886), and GO Sloper (1886-).
I attach an extract from the 1881 census recording the house rented by the regiment for use by the George Regan and family.
Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry, headquarters, Park Street; stores, Little Church street, Hungerford; Col. G. S. WiIles, lieut.-col. commanding; Hon. 0. W. Craven, major; Capt. P. H. H. Massy, adjutant; R. H. Barker, surgeon; Newbury troop, Major E. H. Thurlow; Sergeant-Major F. Robinson, drill instructor, Newbury ; B, Reading troop. Major J. Hargreaves, capt. Reading; C, Hungerford troop, G. O. Sloper, capt.; Sergt.-Major Geo. Regan, drill instructor, Hungerford; D, Wantage troop, G. C. Ricardo, capt, Sergt.-Major W. Grist drill instructor Wantage. Kellys Berkshire Directory 1887
I add a report in Reading Observer - Saturday 31 May 1884 p2c6 recording a typical training:
The Berks Yeomanry
The usual eight days' training by the Royal Berks. Yeomanry concluded at Newbury on Monday with the annual inspection. On Saturday the usual competitions took place, when the troop prizes were won as follows :—
A troop (Newbury), Corpl. A. Hollands;
B (Reading), Trooper Stallworthy;
C (Hungerford), Trooper J. Beard;
D (Wantage), Corpl. Moore.
The regimental sword was won by Trooper Stallworthy, and the recruits' prize by Trooper Horton, D Troop, who, although a recruit, has the advantage of a military training, having been band sergeant in the King's Dragoon Guards.
At twelve o'clock the regiment formed up and gave a royal salute in honour of Her Majesty's birthday. The Regiment, together with a Battery of Artillery who were in the town, attended Divine Service at the Parish Church on Sunday. The Rector was the preacher.
On Monday, the Regiment paraded at half-past ten, and marched to the drill ground, where the annual inspection was held by Col. Mussenden. After the general salute, Col. Mussenden inspected the regiment, which was drawn up in line, and then came the marching pest to the strains of the band. The utmost steadiness was observed, and the distances well maintained. The Regiment then marched part in single file with the carbine, at the advance and then at the trot, in squadron. The men wore next put through the sword exercise in review order, after which Sergts -Major Robinson and Regan put their troops through a series of drills under the direction of the reviewing officer. A number of interesting field movements were next gone through, being closely watched by the reviewing officer, emulating of the dismounted drill with the carbine, &c., and then one squadron dismounted with carbines, laid down upon the ground and opened fire. Each man was served with several rounds of blank ammunition, and he was at liberty to load and fire as quickly as possible. The bugle gave the signal to cease firing, and the dismounted men retired to their horses, while the mounted squadron galloped acmes from the left flank cutting pursuing practice. The line was then reformed, and the competition for the best mounted trooper in the regiment took place. There were thirteen competitors. After a critical inspection of each, in which he was aided by Capt. Ridley and Col. Willes, the gallant colonel selected four. These were Sergt. Anger, Troopers Giles Ayres, T. Slatter, and Cottrell. The competitors, who all rode chestnut horses, were ordered to walk and trot their chargers around Col. Mussenden and the other officers, and it was some time before a decision could be arrived at. Eventually the prise was awarded to Pte. Giles Ayres, a selection which appeared to give general satisfaction, and especially to the members of the Reading troop, who loudly cheered their successful comrade. The distribution of prizes then took place, the winners of the troop prizes being called up to the carriage of Mrs. Willes, wife of the popular colonel, and received from her hands their prizes. Trooper Stallworthy was cheered on being called up to receive the regimental sword prize, and Trooper Ayres received quite an ovation as he rode up on his charger to receive his prize, a handsome sliver goblet. The regiment was then formed up in square and was addressed by Col. Willes. He said that Col. Mussenden had congratulated him on the exceedingly smart appearance of the regiment and especially the exceptional manner in which the men were mounted. To the non-commissioned officers and men be returned his thanks for the attention they had paid to their duties during the training and be had particularly noticed the punctuality on parade during the week. This was a great improvement, and one which he hoped would continue. He was of opinion with Col. Mussenden, that the new helmets were a great improvement to the appearance of the regiment, for which they were indebted to their old officer, Col Van de Weyer. Three hearty cheers were given for Col. Van de Weyer, and the regiment marched back into the town, preceded by the band, where the men were dismissed.
George Regan was first recorded in the RBYC in 1871. ’Due to the Cardwell army reforms the regiment had needed to form a 4th troop at Wantage and the current Sergt Major at Hungerford, William Grice, had moved to Wantage to be its new permanent staff troop sergeant major, and George Regan was appointed in his place.
Newbury Weekly News and General Advertiser - Thursday 20 July 1871 p5c
17th July 1871 MONDAY
ROYAL BERKSHIRE YEOMANRY.—
The first of a series of field days, preparatory to this regiment going into camp in September next, on the Berkshire downs, took place on Monday, at Hungerford-park. Proceedings commenced at 12 o'clock, and there mustered 69 non-commissioned officers and men, and the following officers,—Lieut.-Col. Honywood, Major Seymour, Capt. Tull, Capt. Willes, Lieut. Best, and Cornet Ricardo. The staff consisted of Acting-Adjutant King, Sergt.-Major Palmer, and Sergt.-Major Regan. The troops worked in double ranks, which they had not done for some time. The drill, which lasted four and a-half hours, was worked at the outset by the captains of each troop, and ultimately in squadron, Capt. Willes taking the command. The whole of the movements of the day were gone through very creditably, giving much satisfaction to the officers in command and eliciting the approval of the spectators, of whom there were a considerable number, both in carriages and on foot. A substantial and well-provided luncheon, through the kindness of Capt. Willes, awaited the squadron at the close, for which the day's fatigues had been an admirable preparation. The loyal and patriotic toasts followed, and the health of the officers was drunk with much enthusiasm. To those who had ridden from Newbury and Thatcham to Hungerford, gone through drill there at a period. of the day when the sun rays were intensely hot, and subsequently "done" the return journey, the day proved rather exhaustive, and especially to the recruits, of which there was a considerable number.
Reading Mercury – Regan Biog:
Military.—The following from the Broad Arrow will be of interest to many in Hungerford and neighbourhood :— " 3rd Hussars. Pensioner Troop- Sergeant-Major G. Regan, who served for nearly 27 years in the regiment, has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal with an annuity of £10 per annum. He joined the 3rd Light Dragoons in January, 1845, and served with the regiment in the Sutlej and Punjaub campaigns and was present at number of engagements, receiving the medal clasps. He also received the medal for long service and good conduct. He was discharged in October, 1871, and took over the duties of drill instructor in the Berkshire Yeomanry, leaving that position in 1885, after a continuous service of 40 years. At the Battle of Chillianwallah Regan and his three brothers went into action with the regiment, one of them being killed. The surviving three each served till discharged with the rank of troop-sergeant-major.
Reading Mercury - Saturday 16 May 1885 p4 c7
Royal Berks Yeomanry Cavalry
The Newbury and Hungerford troops of this regiment met on the downs on Friday, the 8th inst., for mounted drill previous to the assembling of the regiment at Wantage. In the evening, the officers and men to the number of about 40 dined together in the Town-hall. In the evening a presentation of a purse containing 49L was made to Sergeant Regan.
It's very interesting to learn that he had three brothers all serving in the King's Own 3rd Light Dragoons and that all were present at the battle of Chillianwallah on 13th January 1849, where Owen Regan Jnr was killed in action.
Reading Mercury - Saturday 10 September 1892 p8c2
I believe the seller still has another group image of The Berkshire Yeomanry listed on eBay but this one is dated 1895, therefore after the period I believe that George Regan would have been the serving Drill Sergeant as he was living in Dover, Kent by the time of the 1891 census, however, this photo may still be of further interest to Andrew? (Military Photo Print Berkshire Yeomanry Newbury Troop in Undress 1895 eBay item # 123846889551 - the seller's watermarked copy is also enclosed just for your information)
I knew about Owen but hadn't relised there were another two brothers there too. I also found some interesting details on-line of the sale of Owen Regan's actual medals in 2018, see enclosed document with a weblink to the sale details.
- Parish Magazine, esp Sep 1874, Oct 1874, Oct 1875, Aug 1876, May 1887, May 1894.
- The Berkshire Yeomanry 1794-2000, by Simon Frost on BFHS website
- Records of the Militia and Volunteer Forces 1757-1945, by William Spencer, published by the PRO, available from the BFHS Bookshop.
- "The Berkshire Yeomanry", Journal of Society for Army Historical Research, Autumn 1950 (from Stewart Hofgartner).
- The Berkshire Yeomanry Journal, 2002-2003 (Abstracts including The Boer War, The Hungerford Tribute Medal, Hungerford Patriotism Dinner and Presentations, 1901, Hungerford and the Berkshire Yeomanry, obituary for Philip Hugh Pinckney (1915-43).
- Worcester Yeomanry Cavalry website
- "The Berkshire Yeomanry" published by Alan Sutton [HHA Archive R10]
For more information contact:
Asst Hon Curator
The Royal Berkshire Yeomanry Cavalry Museum
Territorial Army Centre
Berkshire SL4 3JG