Essex Countryside October 1961
by Major J. E. L. Furney
In our last issue we told the story of Essex. volunteer forces from 1704 to 1921. We now continue to the present day.
In 1932,339 (Essex) Royal Horse Artillery Battery at Colchester was amalgamated with yeomanry and the regiment was reorganized as a Royal Horse Artillery regiment in 1938.
Orders were received in 1939 to raise a complete duplicate regiment, which involved the enlistment of thirty officers and 750 other ranks. The job was completed in seventeen days and 147 (Essex Yeomanry) Regiment R H.A, came into being.
Both regiments were mobilized in September 1939, and 104 (Essex Yeomanry) Regiment R.H.A. moved to Palestine in February 1940 and to the Western Dessert in December. The regiment took part in the advance
across the desert and then withdrew to Tobruk, where it was besieged for eight months, finally breaking out in December 1941.
In January 1942, 414 Battery was detached and sent to Burma, where it displayed great gallantry during the long retreat from Rangoon to India. This battery later formed nucleus of 14th Regiment R.H.A. The 104 Regiment, after a short rest, returned to desert and was in almost continual action, finally taking part in the battles of Alam Halfa and Alamein in 1942.
After a period in Syria and Egypt, the regiment moved to Italy in 1944 and fought its way through the north of the country until VE-Day.
147 (Essex Yeomanry) Regiment remained in England until D-Day on June 6, 1944. It landed in the first wave, the run-in bombardment being controlled by Major C. J. Sidgwick. who is the present commanding officer of the Essex Yeomanry. The regiment was armed with self-propelled 25-pounder guns and was continuously in action until the break-out on July 30. During this time the regiment supported the 8th Armoured Brigade.
On the break-out. the regiment moved with 8th Armoured Brigade. with many engagements, until on September 19 it reached Nijmegen. It took part in the effort to relieve the Airborne Division at Arnhem, and during this time its guns were the first British ones to fire on German soil.
After Arnhem the regiment took part in the crossing of the Siegfried Line and operation "Veritable" in the Reichswald; then came the crossing of the Rhine and the advance to Bremen and finally to Karlshofen by VE-Day.
In 1942 a new field regiment was raised in conjunction with the Hertfordshire Yeomanry, the 191 (Herts and Essex) Field Regiment R.A. This regiment landed on D-plus-four in support of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade and 46 Royal Marine Commando.
It took part in the battle for Caen and on the break-out supported various units, mostly Canadian and Royal Marine, in the advance up the coast, taking part in the crossing of the Seine and the capture of Harfleur, Le Havre and Dunkirk. On November 3, 1944, the regiment supported the 2nd Battalion the Essex Regiment in its attack over the River Mark.
On December 1, 1944, this regiment was disbanded as one of the eight junior Royal Artillery regiments whose men were to he drafted into the infantry.
In 1947 the Territorial Army was again reconstituted and the Essex Yeomanry was reborn as 304 Field Regiment R.A. (Essex Yeomany ) (T.A.). Since then it has seen the introduction of national servicemen and now their departure.
In 1951 the freedom of Colchester was bestowed upon the regiment ; and in 1955 the War Office granted the honorary title Royal Horse Artillery, so that now the full title of the Yeomanry is 304 (Essex Yeomanry - Royal Horse Artillery) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, Territorial Army.
The history of the yeomanry through some 250 years underlines the willingness of Essex men to give their leisure for the benefit of the country. That intangible thing " yeomanry spirit " which has overridden changes in arms and disbandments and re-raisings, and which has stood the country in good stead over the centuries, is still alive and strong.