Westminster Dragoons

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2nd County of London Yeomanry
Westminster Dragoons
Pre-2006 capbadge of the Westminster Dragoons (other ranks)
Active 24 August 1901 – present
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Yeomanry (World War I)
Royal Armoured Corps (World War II)
Army Reserve cavalry
Role Light cavalry
Size Three Regiments (World War I)
One Regiment (World War II)
One Squadron
Part of Royal Yeomanry
Garrison/HQ Fulham, London
Motto Fear Naught
March The Westminster Dragoon
Mascot The Gallipolian Cormorant
Anniversaries Jerusalem, Normandy

World War I

Gallipoli 1915
Egypt 1915–17
Palestine 1917–18
France and Flanders 1918

World War II

North-West Europe 1944–45
Iraq 2003 (as part of the Royal Yeomanry)
Current commander Maj A Alderson
Honorary Colonel Lt-Gen Sir Andrew Ridgway KBE CB
Squadron Stable Belt 100px
Regimental Tactical Recognition Flash 100px

The Westminster Dragoons (WDs) are central London’s only Army Reserve cavalry unit. One of the Royal Yeomanry's five squadrons, their current role is light cavalry: to provide a rapidly deployable force with fast mobility and substantial firepower in support of operations.

Formed in the aftermath of Second Boer War as part of the County of London Yeomanry, the WDs fought in the Battle of Gallipoli and led British forces onto the beaches during the Normandy Invasion in 1944. The squadron most recently saw action on Operation Telic, when was it was mobilised for the 2003 war in Iraq and again in 2006 for peace support operations there. Since 2007, soldiers and officers of the squadron have deployed as individual reinforcements on Operation Herrick in Afghanistan.

Current Role

As light cavalry, the regiment provides reconnaissance, reassurance, security and, if the situation demands it, decisive tactical effects by raiding and attacking the enemy. Soldiers of the Westminster Dragoons now train to patrol and fight in armoured landrovers (RWMIKs) which carry heavy machine guns, seeking out the enemy, reporting their positions and fixing them in place so that they can be destroyed.



The Westminster Dragoons were formed in 1901 as the 2nd County of London Yeomanry, to meet the need identified during the Second Boer War for a body of trained mounted infantry (see dragoon).

File:Westminster Dragoons officers' capbadge (pre-2006).jpg
Westminster Dragoons officers' capbadge, pre-2006

The unit was from the start a smart regiment filled with wealthy gentlemen from the City and the West End. Their attitude and attire was such that, as they strutted across West London, members became known as the 'Piccadilly Peacocks'. The unit's first officers were posted to the WDs from the 1st Royal Dragoons, one of the forerunners of the Blues and Royals; one of the first troop leaders was the Maharajah Shri Raj Rajeshwar. They brought with them the Royals' then-current capbadge, which was later adopted by Colonels and Brigadiers, which is why, until a common Royal Yeomanry capbadge was adopted in 2006, young WD officers often found themselves amused at being saluted by officers of higher rank. The WD stable belt (worn in barracks) bears the Royal racing colours – the imperial hues of purple, gold and scarlet as a result of the personal friendship of its first commanding officer, Colonel Charles Burn, with King Edward VII.[1]

Even at this time the WDs were at the forefront of using new equipment, being the second unit in the British army to be equipped with mobile wireless. In 1910 Lord Howard de Walden presented two Marconi pack sets to the Westminster Dragoons, the first sets in the army being those of the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry.[2]

World War I

London Mounted Brigade
Organisation on 4 August 1914

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.[3]

1/2nd County of London Yeomanry

In 1914, the regiment consisted of four squadrons and was Headquartered at Elverton Street, Westminster, attached to the London Mounted Brigade for training.[4] The First World War broke out while the WDs were on annual camp and they were immediately mobilised.

View of Suvla from Battleship Hill.

The regiment was posted to Egypt, arriving at Alexandria on 25 September 1914, thereby being one of the first Yeomanry regiments to go overseas on active service. On 19 January 1915 they joined the 1/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry to form the Yeomanry Mounted Brigade.[5] The brigade joined the 2nd Mounted Division on 13 August and was redesignated as 5th (Yeomanry) Mounted Brigade. It was dismounted to take part in the Gallipoli Campaign;[6] the regiment left a squadron headquarters and two troops (about 100 officers and men) in Egypt to look after the horses.[7]

The regiment landed at "A" Beach, Suvla Bay on 18 August and moved into reserve positions at Lala Baba on the night of 20 August. On 21 August it advanced to Chocolate Hill and was in reserve for the attacks on Scimitar Hill and Hill 112.[8] 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 1st Composite Mounted Brigade was formed from 1st (1st South Midland), 2nd (2nd South Midland) and 5th (Yeomanry) Mounted Brigades.[9] Each dismounted brigade formed a battalion sized unit, hence the regiment was amalgamated with the Hertfordshire Yeomanry to form 5th Yeomanry Regiment.[10]

5th Yeomanry Regiment left Suvla on 31 October 1915 for Mudros. It left Mudros on 27 November, arrived Alexandria on 1 December and went to Mena Camp, Cairo.[11] The brigade left the 2nd Mounted Division on 7 December, was reformed and remounted, and joined the Western Frontier Force. The Yeomanry Mounted Brigade was broken up by March 1916, and the regiment was attached to the 6th Mounted Brigade, still in the Western Frontier Force.[4]

The regiment was split up at the beginning of 1917:[4]

In August 1917, the regiment was concentrated and formed XX Corps Cavalry Regiment.[4]

They were transferred to Egypt and then to Palestine where they served in the campaign against the Turks. The WDs were involved in fierce fighting, both mounted and dismounted.

Brigadier General Watson of the 60th (2/2nd London) Division enters Jerusalem. Two Westminster Dragoons can be seen on the left.

As they were the first formed body of troops to enter Jerusalem, they bear the liberation of that city as a battle honour. See General Allenby's account of the fall of Jerusalem and Battle of Jerusalem (1917).

In April 1918, the regiment left XX Corps and was reformed as F Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. F Battalion, MGC was posted to France, arriving on 1 June 1918.[4] On 19 August 1918 it was renumbered[12] as 104th (Westminster Dragoons) Battalion, Machine Gun Corps.[13] They remained on the Western Front for the rest of the war. At the Armistice, it was serving as Army Troops with the Second Army.[14]

2/2nd County of London Yeomanry

The 2nd Line regiment was formed at Westminster in August 1914. Early in 1915 it went to Feltham and in the summer to Harlow. There are three versions of its subsequent history:[4]

  • Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2A. The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42-56) says that the regiment joined the 60th (2/2nd London) Division at Harlow on 24 June 1915, transferred to 61st (2nd South Midland) Division on 24 January 1916[15] until February when the division moved to Wiltshire.[16] On 20 February it joined 59th (2nd North Midland) Division and was with the division until April.[17] There is no further mention.
  • the official Commanders Home Forces shows the regiment with the 58th Division in June 1916. It is then listed as overseas up to April 1918 and in August 1918 as with the Tank Corps.[4]
  • the regimental history, 2nd County of London (Westminster Dragoons) Yeomanry: The First Twenty Years says that the regiment went to France, dismounted, at the end of 1915 for guard duties. It then returned to Wool in the summer of 1916. Most of the other ranks were posted to the infantry and the officers and senior NCOs joined the Tank Corps.[4]

There are no battle honours to support overseas service in France.[lower-alpha 1] It appears that the unit was absorbed into the Tank Corps.[4]

3/2nd County of London Yeomanry

The 3rd Line regiment was formed in 1915 and in the summer was affiliated to a Reserve Cavalry Regiment in Eastern Command. In 1916, it was with the 9th Reserve Cavalry Regiment at The Curragh and in early 1917 it was absorbed into the 4th Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Aldershot.[4]


After the first world war the WDs once again embraced new technology, making the decision to become an armoured car unit at a time when many yeomanry units were determined to remain mounted. In War Office letter 9/Yeomanry/964 dated 5 May 1920 concerning the conversion of all bar the fourteen most senior Yeomanry regiments from cavalry, the Westminster Dragoons are shown as having elected to convert immediately. The decision to accept immediate conversion was that of its then commanding officer, Lord Howard de Walden. On 11 March 1920 the regiment reformed with the title 4th Armoured Car Company (Westminster Dragoons).[18][lower-alpha 2]

It was at this time, as well, that the Regiment formed its link with the Royal Tank Regiment. In 1922 the regiment, now styled 22 (London) Armoured Car Company (Westminster Dragoons) became affiliated to the Tank Corps which, in turn, was created the Royal Tank Corps on 18 October 1923. The black beret became the official headgear of the Royal Tank Corps in 1926 and was thereafter also adopted by the Westminster Dragoons, which became (and remain to this day) the only other unit in the British Army to wear the black beret. The two units worked closely together in the interwar years as new armoured tactics were developed, a relationship which continued into the 21st Century in the nuclear, biological and chemical reconnaissance role.

Just before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the Westminster Dragoons became an Officer Cadet Training Unit, with over 90 per cent of pre-war WDs gaining their commissions and transferring into units throughout the British Army before the Regiment reverted to an armoured role in 1940. Among them was Captain Philip John Gardner VC MC, who had joined as a trooper before the war, commissioned and then transferred to the Royal Tank Regiment, going on to win the Victoria Cross for saving the life of a badly wounded officer of the King's Dragoon Guards whose armoured car was out of action and under heavy fire.

Second World War

Sherman Crab under test. The flail has been lowered to work in a dip in the ground.

The Germans planted over four million mines along the French coast to hinder the Allied landings in 1944. To break through these defences at the start of the Normandy Invasion, the British produced a number of novel armoured fighting vehicles under the ingenious direction of Major General Percy Hobart, including the Sherman Crab. The Crab bore a rotating drum with dozens of chains attached; these detonated mines in its path to produce a beaten passage through the thickest of minefields. The WDs were trained in this vital task, as part of 79th Armoured Division, led by Hobart. Along with 81 and 82 Squadrons of 6 Assault Regiment Royal Engineers, B and C Squadrons of the Westminster Dragoons were the first units to land on Gold Beach on D-Day in the British sector,[20] clearing paths off the beach and using their tank guns to destroy defences holding up the assault;[21] some three hours later further flail tanks of A Squadron landed in support further east on Sword Beach. The regiment went on to fight across Northwest Europe and into Germany.

The Cold War

Fuchs CBRN Reconnaissance Vehicle

During the Cold War the WDs' role evolved. At first, the Regiment was equipped with tanks, later with armoured cars and tracked reconnaissance vehicles. As the threat facing the United Kingdom altered, the WDs underwent a number of changes, including being temporarily amalgamated with the Berkshire Yeomanry and being reduced from regiment to squadron size to become HQ Squadron of the Royal Yeomanry.

In 1995 the Royal Yeomanry became the first NBC (Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defence) unit in the British Army. In 1998 this role was taken over by a combined Army and RAF unit, the Joint NBC Regiment (Jt NBC Regt).

However, the WDs (now renamed W (Westminster Dragoons) Squadron) and their counterparts in A (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry) Squadron of the Royal Yeomanry retained their NBC role and continued to train closely with the Joint NBC Regiment, including supporting them on exercise in Kuwait in 2001.

Operation Telic – Iraq 2003

File:WDs at SLB 2003.JPG
WDs at SLB near Basra, May 2003

In January 2003, the WDs and A (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry) Squadron were mobilised (along with augmentees from the Royal Yeomanry's three other squadrons and from the Royal Logistic Corps) for the impending war in Iraq, the first call-out of a formed unit of the Territorial Army (TA soldiers under TA command) for combat operations since the Suez Crisis in 1956. Together, these mobilised elements became a much-enlarged squadron of the Jt NBC Regiment. WDs found themselves serving with 16 Air Assault Brigade, 7 Armoured Brigade (the Desert Rats) and 3 Commando Brigade as NBC specialists, before switching roles to infantry “peace support” operations once Saddam Hussein’s regime had collapsed.

On Armistice Day 2005, the Royal Yeomanry received the first battle honour awarded to the Territorial Army since the Second World War as a consequence "of all that the Regiment and soldiers achieved in fighting in Iraq in 2003." (Major General S J L Roberts OBE)

Six WDs were mobilised for the eighth roulement of Operation Telic (OP TELIC 9) in November 2006.

Operation Herrick – Afghanistan

Two members of the WDs were mobilised in July 2007 for service on Op Herrick 7 with C Squadron of the Household Cavalry Regiment. They returned from a successful tour of duty in May 2008. A further three WDs deployed on Op Herrick 8, two with the Queen's Royal Lancers and one (as infantry) with A Company of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Three went with the Queen's Dragoon Guards on Op Herrick 9 and four with the Royal Tank Regiment on Op Herrick 18.

Future Army Structures 2006 and Future Reserves 2020

As a consequence of the FAS review, all five squadrons of the Royal Yeomanry adopted the formation CBRN reconnaissance role: providing CBRN detection capability to the British Army's formation reconnaissance regiments. In addition to their existing link with the Jt NBC Regiment (renamed the Joint CBRN Regiment in 2005), the WDs acquired formal affiliation with the Light Dragoons and the Household Cavalry. To reflect the expanded role and variety of potential taskings, the established size of each squadron of the Royal Yeomanry was increased to 90 soldiers and officers.

In 2010, the Westminster Dragoons re-roled from a "sabre" squadron to become a headquarters squadron. Under FR20 it will keep that role, with the Royal Yeomanry changing from CBRN reconnaissance to light cavalry.

Battle honours

The 2nd County of London Yeomanry (Westminster Dragoons) have been awarded the following battle honours:[22]

Second Boer War

South Africa 1902

World War I

Courtrai, France and Flanders 1918, Suvla, Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli 1915, Suez Canal, Egypt 1915–17, Gaza, El Mughar, Jerusalem, Palestine 1917–18

World War II

Normandy Landing, Villers Bocage, Venraij, Meijel, Venlo Pocket, Roer, North-West Europe 1944–45

Iraq War

Iraq 2003 (as part of the Royal Yeomanry)

See also


  1. Had the 2nd Line served on the Western Front in 1915 and 1916, it would be entitled to the battle honour France and Flanders, 1915–16.
  2. The eight yeomanry regiments converted to Armoured Car Companies of the Royal Tank Corps (RTC) were:[19]


  1. CCP Wilson and N Huw-Williams, "A History of the Westminster Dragoons 1901-1967", p 21.
  2. CCP Wilson and N Huw-Williams, "A History of the Westminster Dragoons 1901-1967", p 43.
  3. Rinaldi 2008, p. 35
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 James 1978, p. 23
  5. Becke 1936, p. 15
  6. James 1978, p. 35
  7. James 1978, p. 34
  8. Westlake 1996, p. 267
  9. Becke 1936, p. 17
  10. Becke 1936, p. 13
  11. Becke 1936, p. 14
  12. Baker, Chris. "The 2nd County of London Yeomanry also known as the Westminster Dragoons". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  13. BEF GHQ 1918, p. 104
  14. BEF GHQ 1918, p. 13
  15. Becke 1937, p. 29
  16. Becke 1937, p. 35
  17. Becke 1937, p. 19
  18. CCP Wilson and N Huw-Williams, "A History of the Westminster Dragoons 1901-1967", pp 133-134.
  19. The Royal Tank Regiment at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 3 May 2007)
  20. CCP Wilson and N Huw-Williams, "A History of the Westminster Dragoons 1901-1967", p 184
  21. Westminster Dragoons at d-daytanks.org.uk
  22. The Westminster Dragoons (2nd County of London Yeomanry) at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 15 July 2007)


  • Becke, Major A.F. (1936). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2A. The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42-56). London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-12-4. 
  • Becke, Major A.F. (1937). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2B. The 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th–69th) with The Home-Service Divisions (71st–73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-00-0. 
  • Huw-Williams, Captain N. (1987). A Short History of the Westminster Dragoons 1901-1967 (pdf). Westminster: Westminster Dragoons. 
  • James, Brigadier E.A. (1978). British Regiments 1914–18. London: Samson Books Limited. ISBN 0-906304-03-2. 
  • Lawson, Captain C.C.P.; Huw-Williams, Captain N. (1969). Huw-Williams, Captain N., ed. A History of the Westminster Dragoons 1901-1967. London. ASIN B003PB00YM. 
  • Mileham, Patrick (1994). The Yeomanry Regiments; 200 Years of Tradition. Edinburgh: Canongate Academic. ISBN 1-898410-36-4. 
  • Rinaldi, Richard A (2008). Order of Battle of the British Army 1914. Ravi Rikhye. ISBN 978-0-97760728-0. 
  • Westlake, Ray (1996). British Regiments at Gallipoli. Barnsley: Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-511-X. 
  • Order of Battle of the British Armies in France, November 11th, 1918. France: General Staff, GHQ. 1918. 

External links