On 13 December 1899, the decision to allow volunteer forces serve in the Second Boer War was made. Due to the string of defeats during Black Week in December 1899, the British government realized they were going to need more troops than just the regular army, thus issuing a Royal Warrant on 24 December 1899. This warrant officially created the Imperial Yeomanry.
The 18th, 21st, 23rd and 25th Battalions were raised in early 1900 and designated as "Sharpshooters". Unlike most battalions, which were formed from the existing Yeomanry regiments providing service companies of approximately 115 men each, the Sharpshooters were selected from volunteers who could prove their skill with a rifle and their horsemanship.
On 23 July 1901, the 3rd County of London Imperial Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) was formed from South African War veterans to perpetuate the 18th, 21st and 23rd Battalions, Imperial Yeomanry. Headquarters was at Cockspur Street, London, and the regiment was organised in four squadrons and a machine gun section. In 1902, the HQ moved to Regent's Park. On 1 April 1908, the regiment was renamed as the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) and transferred to the Territorial Force, trained and equipped as hussars. In 1912, the regiment moved to St John's Wood.
It was ranked as 48th (of 55) in the order of precedence of the Yeomanry Regiments in the Army List of 1914. It was assigned to the London Mounted Brigade.
In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw. 7, c.9) which brought the Territorial Force into being, 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 were split in August and September 1914 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.
The 1st Line regiment mobilized with its brigade and concentrated in Berkshire at the outbreak of war. It joined 2nd Mounted Division on 2 September and moved with the division to East Anglia in November 1914.
On 14 April 1915, the regiment departed Avonmouth for Egypt, arriving at Alexandria on 27 April. It was posted to the Suez Canal Defences (near Ismaïlia) by the middle of May and its parent brigade was designated 4th (London) Mounted Brigade. The regiment was dismounted in August 1915 for service in the Gallipoli Campaign. It left a squadron headquarters and two troops (about 100 officers and men) in Egypt to look after the horses.
The regiment landed at Suvla Bay on the morning of 18 August and moved into reserve positions at Karakol Dagh. It moved to "C" Beach, Lala Baba on 20 August. On 21 August it advanced to Chocolate Hill under heavy fire and took part in the attack on Hill 112. Due to losses during the Battle of Scimitar Hill and wastage during August 1915, the 2nd Mounted Division had to be reorganised. On 4 September 1915, the 2nd Composite Mounted Brigade was formed from the 3rd (Notts and Derby) and 4th (London) Mounted Brigades. The regiment formed part of a battalion sized unit 4th London Regiment. The regiment embarked for Mudros on 2 November and, in December 1915, returned to Egypt, where it was reformed and remounted.
The regiment (and its brigade) left the 2nd Mounted Division on 18 January 1916 and was sent to Abbassia. It once again served as part of the Suez Canal Defences. In March 1916, the brigade was redesignated as 8th Mounted Brigade. From November 1916 to June 1917, the regiment took part in the Salonika Campaign, serving as GHQ Troops with the British Salonika Army.
The regiment arrived back in Egypt from Salonika with its brigade on 8 June 1917. It moved forward and joined the newly formed Yeomanry Mounted Division on 21 July 1917 at el Fuqari. From 31 October, it took part in the Third Battle of Gaza, including the Battle of Beersheba and the Capture of the Sheria Position. It took part in the Battle of Mughar Ridge on 13 and 14 November and the Battle of Nebi Samwil for 17 to 24 November. From 27 to 29 November, it withstood the Turkish counter-attacks during the Capture of Jerusalem.
In March 1918, the 1st Indian Cavalry Division was broken up in France. The British units (notably 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, 17th Lancers, 1/1st Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons and A, Q and U Batteries RHA) remained in France and the Indian elements were sent to Egypt. By an Egyptian Expeditionary Force GHQ Order of 12 April 1918, the mounted troops of the EEF were reorganised when the Indian Army units arrived in theatre. On 24 April 1918, the Yeomanry Mounted Division was indianized and its title was changed to 1st Mounted Division, the third distinct division to bear this title.
On 24 April 1918, the 8th Mounted Brigade was merged with elements of the 8th (Lucknow) Cavalry Brigade: the Sharpshooters and the City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) left the brigade on 7 April and were merged to form E Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. They were replaced by 29th Lancers (Deccan Horse) and 36th Jacob's Horse from 8th (Lucknow) Cavalry Brigade.
E Battalion, MGC was posted to France, arriving on 1 June 1918. On 17 August 1918, it was renumbered as 103rd (City & 3rd Cty. of London Yeo.) Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. It remained on the Western Front for the rest of the war. At the Armistice, it was serving as Army Troops with the First Army.
The 2nd Line regiment was formed in London in August 1914. By March 1915, it was with 2/1st London Mounted Brigade in 2/2nd Mounted Division and was at Norwich in Norfolk. On 31 March 1916, the remaining Mounted Brigades were ordered to be numbered in a single sequence; the brigade was numbered as 12th Mounted Brigade and the division as 3rd Mounted Division.
In July 1916, the regiment was converted to a cyclist unit in 4th Cyclist Brigade, 1st Cyclist Division and was stationed at North Walsham. In November 1916, the division was broken up and regiment was merged with the 2/1st County of London Yeomanry to form 6th (1st and 3rd County of London) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment in 2nd Cyclist Brigade, probably at Reepham. In March 1917, it resumed its identity as 2/3rd County of London Yeomanry and was at Worstead near North Walsham. By July 1917, the regiment moved to Overstrand and in 1918 to Coltishall. In May 1918, the regiment moved to Ireland and was stationed at The Curragh and Athlone, still in 2nd Cyclist Brigade, until the end of the war.
The 3rd Line regiment was formed in 1915 and in the summer it was affiliated to a Reserve Cavalry Regiment in Eastern Command. In the summer of 1916, it was affiliated to the 9th Reserve Cavalry Regiment at The Curragh. Early in 1917, it was absorbed into the 2nd Reserve Cavalry Regiment at The Curragh.
On 7 February 1920, the Regiment was reconstituted in the Territorial Army with HQ still at St John's Wood. Following the experience of the war, it was decided that only the fourteen most senior yeomanry regiments would be retained as horsed cavalry, with the rest being transferred to other roles. As a result, on 29 September 1920, the Regiment was one of eight converted and reduced to 5th (London) Armoured Car Company, Tank Corps. In June 1922, it was renumbered as he 23rd (London) Armoured Car Company, Royal Tank Corps and on 30 April 1939 it was transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps.
By 1939, it had become clear that a new European war was likely to break out, and the doubling of the Territorial Army was authorised, with each unit forming a duplicate. The Sharpshooters was expanded to an armoured regiment and on 24 August 1939 regained its original title as the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters). On 29 September, it provided a nucleus for its duplicate 4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters).
The two regiments had very similar histories during World War II up until September 1942 as the battle honours earned by both regiments atest. and In September 1939, the 3rd and 4th CLY were assigned to the 22nd Heavy Armoured Brigade – 22nd Armoured Brigade from April 1940 – along with the 2nd Royal Gloucestershire Hussars (2nd RGH). Initially in Southern Command, the brigade joined the 2nd Armoured Division in January 1940 and the 1st Armoured Division in October 1940. The regiment remained in the United Kingdom until moving to North Africa in October 1941.
Both regiments took part in Operation Crusader (18 November–30 December 1941), the Battle of Gazala (26 May – 21 June 1942), and the First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942) as part of the 1st and 7th Armoured Divisions. On 16 September 1942, the 3rd CLY left the 22nd Armoured Brigade and was placed under command of GHQ, British Troops in Egypt. It was posted to Mareopolis and then Khatatba where it underwent training and was refitted. The regiment spent the early part of 1943 in routine training and conversion to the Sherman tank.
The 3rd CLY joined the 4th Armoured Brigade on 13 July 1943 in Sicily: it was to remain with the brigade until amalgamation. With the British Eighth Army, the regiment took part in the landing and Allied invasion of Sicily, before moving on to take part in the Italian Campaign, notably the advance across the Sangro. In January 1944, the regiment left Italy for the United Kingdom, where it prepared for the upcoming invasion of Northern France.
The regiment landed in Normandy on 7 June 1944, the day after D-Day. In the following two months, it took park in Operation Epsom (26 June – 2 July) and the Battle for Caen, the attempts by the British Second Army to seize the German-occupied city of Caen.
Due to losses sustained, particularly by 4th CLY at Villers-Bocage, the two Sharpshooters regiments were amalgamated on 1 August 1944 at Carpiquet to form 3rd/4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters).
The 4th CLY was formed on 27 September 1939 as a duplicate of – and from a nucleus of – the 3rd CLY. It shared its title with an earlier regiment, but was otherwise unconnected.
On formation, it was assigned to the 22nd Armoured Brigade and its early actions mirrored that of the 3rd CLY, taking part in Operation Crusader, the Battle of Gazala, and the First Battle of El Alamein as part of the 1st and 7th Armoured Divisions. In September 1942, 3rd CLY and 2nd RGH left the brigade and were replaced by the 1st and 5th Royal Tank Regiments. 4th CLY remained with 22nd Armoured Brigade and 7th Armoured Division until amalgamation.
The regiment particularly distinguished themselves in the Second Battle of El Alamein (23 October–11 November 1942) and took part in the subsequent advance into Tunisia (17 November 1942 – 13 May 1943). It did not take part in the Sicilian campaign but landed in Italy in September 1943. It participated in the capture of Naples and the crossing of the Volturno. In December 1943, the regiment left Italy for the United Kingdom where it prepared for the upcoming invasion of North West Europe.
The regiment landed in Normandy on 7 June 1944, the day after D-Day. During the Battle of Normandy, 4th CLY served as part of the 7th Armoured Division. On 13 June, they advanced with the 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own) by road from Villers-Bocage and were ambushed by a detachment of Tiger tanks. A single Tiger, commanded by SS-Obersturmführer Michael Wittmann, knocked out the CLY's lead Cromwell and then took out the rest of the column, trapped in the embanked road. This was the prelude to a counter-attack by the Panzer-Lehr-Division which forced the British out of Villers-Bocage. 4th CLY lost its commander, Lieutenant Colonel The Viscount Cranley, and second-in-command; "A" Squadron was practically destroyed. Losses for the day amounted to 20 Cromwells, four Fireflys, three Humber Armoured Cars, three Stuarts and a half track.
Due to losses sustained, particularly by 4th CLY at Villers-Bocage, the two Sharpshooters regiments were amalgamated on 1 August 1944 at Carpiquet to form 3rd/4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters). The 4th CLY was replaced in 22nd Armoured Brigade by the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards from the 28th Armoured Brigade in the United Kingdom.
3rd/4th CLY was formed on 1 August 1944 at Carpiquet (near Caen) by the amalgamation of the existing Sharpshooters regiments – 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) and 4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters). Amalgamation was necessitated by the shortage of manpower constraining the British Army at that stage of the Second World War, coupled with the losses sustained thus far in the Normandy campaign.
The combined regiment replaced 3rd CLY in 4th Armoured Brigade, and served with it (under Brigadier – later Field Marshal – Michael Carver) for the remainder of the Second World War. It took part in the Battle of Mont Pincon (30 July – 9 August), The Nederrijn (17 – 27 September), The Rhineland (8 February – 10 March 1945), and The Rhine (23 March – 1 April).
In September 1946, the regiment was placed in suspended animation in Germany. It was reconstituted as 3rd/4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) on 1 January 1947 in the Territorial Army with HQ and three squadrons in London. In 1956, B Squadron moved to Croydon and C Squadron to Harrow.
The Sharpshooters initially served as an armoured regiment in the 56th (London) Armoured Division. It changed role in 1956 as a result of TA reorganisation and became the reconnaissance regiment for the 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division. In 1959, the affiliation with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment ended and the 1st Royal Dragoons became the parent regiment.
In 1960, the number of Yeomanry Regiments was halved, and on 1 May 1961 the Sharpshooters was amalgamated with the Kent Yeomanry – descended from the Royal East Kent Yeomanry and the Queen's Own West Kent Yeomanry – to form the Kent and County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters).
The 3rd, 4th and 3rd/4th County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) have been awarded the following battle honours:Second Boer War
South Africa 1900–02World War I
Pursuit to Mons, France and Flanders 1918, Macedonia 1916–17, Suvla, Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli 1915, Egypt 1915–16, Gaza, El Mughar, Nebi Samwil, Palestine 1917–18World War II
Awarded to 3rd/4th CLY other than where designated: 3 awarded to 3rd CLY and 4 awarded to 4th CLY.
Villers Bocage,4 Odon,3 Defence of Rauray,3 Caen,4 Bourguébus Ridge,4 Falaise, Lower Maas, Rhineland, Hochwald, Rhine, Aller, North-West Europe 1944–45, Tobruk 1941,3,4 Gubi I,3,4 Gabr Saleh,3,4 Sidi Rezegh 1941,3,4 Chor es Sufan,3,4 Gazala,3,4 Cauldron,3,4 Hagiag er Raml,3,4 Mersa Matruh,3,4 Minqar Qaim,3,4 Defence of Alamein Line,4 Deir el Shein,4 Ruweisat,4 Point 93,3 Ruweisat Ridge,3 Alam el Halfa,3 El Alamein,4 Akarit,4 Djebel Roumana,4 Tunis,4 North Africa 1941–43,3,4 Landing in Sicily,4 Lentini,4 Simeto Bridgehead,4 Sicily 1943,4 Termoli,3 Sangro,3 Fossacesia,3 Volturno Crossing,4 Italy 19433,4