The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment), known as the Yorkshire Regiment until the 1920s, was a line infantry regiment of the British Army, in the King’s Division.
Raised in 1688, it served under various titles until it was amalgamated with the Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire and the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding), all Yorkshire-based regiments in the King’s Division, to form the Yorkshire Regiment (14th/15th, 19th and 33rd/76th Foot) on June 6, 2006
Formation to end 18th century
Soldier of 19th regiment, 1742
The regiment was formed during the 1688 Glorious Revolution from independent companies raised in Devon by Colonel Francis Luttrell, to support William III.
In 1690, it supplied detachments for Ireland and Jamaica, incurring heavy losses from disease, including Luttrell who was replaced by Thomas Erle. Transferred to Flanders in early 1692 during the Nine Years’ War, it was present at the battles of Steenkerque and Landen, as well as the Siege of Namur.
After the 1697 Peace of Ryswick, it escaped disbandment by being made part of the Irish garrison, where it remained until the War of the Spanish Succession began in 1702.
In 1703, it was part of an expeditionary force in the West Indies and Newfoundland, losing many men to disease before returning to Ireland in 1704. Sent to Flanders in 1710, it took part in the sieges of Douai and Bouchain, and when the war ended in 1713, it returned to garrison duties in Ireland. With the exception of the 1719 Vigo expedition, it did not see action again until 1744.
When the War of the Austrian Succession began in 1740, the regiment was based in Edinburgh. By 1744, many of its men were Scots, and recruiting officers warned to exclude ‘Jacobites and Irish Papists.’
The unit was then commanded by Charles Howard, and was known as ‘Howard’s Regiment’. When it joined the army in Flanders, this designation clashed with that of another regiment, also commanded by a Howard. To avoid confusion, the regiments were referred to by the color of their facings, one becoming the ‘Green Howards’ and the other, the ‘Buff Howards’.
The Green Howards fought at the Battle of Fontenoy in May 1745, with a short period in England during the 1745 Jacobite Rising. The regiment took part in the Battle of Rocoux and the Battle of Lauffeld before the 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the war.
The regiment was then sent to Gibraltar, and became part of the garrison of Gibraltar. While in Gibraltar, the 1751 army reforms renamed it the 19th Regiment of Foot. The next year, in 1752, the regiment returned to Britain, and spent most of the next decade on garrison duty in Scotland and Northern England.
During the 1756 to 1763 Seven Years’ War, it took part in the capture of Belle Île in April 1761, where it suffered over 200 casualties.
The next 20 years were spent on garrison duty in Gibraltar and Scotland.
In 1781, the regiment sailed for America, where it served in the disastrous southern campaign in the closing stages of the American Revolutionary War.
In 1782, all foot regiments without a special designation were given a county title “to cultivate a connection with the County which might at all times be useful towards recruiting” and so the regiment was renamed the 19th (1st North Riding of Yorkshire) Regiment.
With the end of the American Revolutionary War, the regiment was stationed in Jamaica, a notoriously unhealthy posting, where it was common for units to lose 100% of their strength to disease every two years. It remained there until 1791, when it returned to Britain. In 1796, it was posted to India, where it saw action at the Siege of Seringapatam in April 1799 during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
The Two Howards
The regiment was known as the Green Howards from 1744. At that time, British regiments were known by the name of their colonel. The 19th Regiment of Foot was commanded by its colonel, the Hon. Sir Charles Howard. However, since 1737, the 3rd Regiment of Foot was commanded by its colonel, Thomas Howard.
To tell the regiments apart (since they both would have been known as ‘Howard’s Regiment of Foot’), the colors of their uniform facings were used to distinguish them. In this way, one regiment became known as the ‘Howard’s Buffs’ (eventually simply The Buffs), while the other regiment became known as the Green Howards.
The 19th Regiment of Foot was referred to, from then on, unofficially, as the Green Howards. It was not until 1921 that the regiment was officially renamed as the Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment).
Under the Childers Reforms, all non-royal English infantry regiments were to wear white facings from 1881. In 1899, the regiment was able to reverse this decision with the restoration of the grass green facings formerly worn by the 19th Regiment of Foot.
In April 1801, the regiment was deployed to Ceylon for service in the Kandyan Wars. The regiment lost six officers and 172 other ranks in a massacre there in June 1803, and then remained on the island to enforce British rule. The regiment did not return to England until May 1820.
The Victorian era
During the Crimean War, the regiment fought at the Battle of Alma in September 1854, and at the Siege of Sevastopol in the winter of 1854.
The regiment saw action again during the Indian Rebellion.
In 1875, Princess Alexandra, Princess of Wales presented new colors to the 1st Battalion at Sheffield, and consented to the regiment bearing her name, thus becoming the 19th (1st Yorkshire North Riding – Princess of Wales’s Own) Regiment of Foot.
The regiment adopted a cap badge with the cypher “A” of Princess Alexandra, combined with the Dannebrog, the Danish cross, and topped by her coronet. Upon the death of Queen Victoria, the Princess became Queen Alexandra in 1901, and was the regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief from 1914 until her death in 1925.
The regiment was not fundamentally affected by the Cardwell Reforms of the 1870s, which gave it a depot at Richmond Barracks in North Yorkshire from 1873. Neither was the regiment affected by the Childers reforms of 1881, as it already possessed two battalions. There was no need for it to amalgamate with another regiment.
Under the reforms, the regiment amalgamated with the militia battalions and rifle volunteers in its designated regimental district, and became The Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) on July 1, 1881.
The 1st battalion was stationed at Nova Scotia from 1884. In 1888, it moved to the Mediterranean, where it was stationed at Malta. The regiment saw action in Egypt, and then moved to Jersey in 1895, followed by Ireland in 1898.
After a brief spell in Gibraltar in 1899, the battalion was posted to South Africa as reinforcement for the Second Boer War, where it was involved in the Relief of Kimberley and the battles of Diamond Hill (June 1900) and Belfast (August 1900). The battalion returned to the United Kingdom in September 1902.
The 2nd battalion was in Ireland from 1881 to 1886, when it returned to its garrison back home in England. From early 1890 the battalion was stationed in British India, where it took part in military campaigns on the North-West Frontier. The battalion had various postings, including at Sitapur and Benares until late 1902, when it was posted to Cawnpore.
A 3rd (Militia) Battalion, formed from the 5th West York Militia in 1881, was a reserve battalion. It was embodied in December 1899, and 700 men embarked on the SS Assaye in February 1900 for service in South Africa during the Second Boer War. Many of the officers and men returned home in May 1902 on the SS Sicilia.
The 4th (Militia) Battalion, formed from the North York Rifles in 1881, was also a reserve battalion. It was embodied for service on May 5, 1900, disembodied on July 2, 1901, and re-embodied again for service during Second Boer War in South Africa.
The regiment (555 officers and men) returned to Southampton by the SS Tagus in October 1902, following the end of the war, and was disbanded at the Richmond barracks.
In July 1902, the regiment was renamed as Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment).
In 1908, the Volunteers and Militia were reorganized nationally, with the Volunteers becoming the Territorial Force, and the Militia the Special Reserve. The regiment now had one Reserve and two Territorial battalions.
First World War
The 1st Battalion remained in India as part of the 2nd (Sialkot) Cavalry Brigade in the 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division throughout the war, and then took part in the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919.
In October 1914, the 2nd Battalion landed at Zeebrugge as part of the 21st Brigade in the 7th Division for service on the Western Front. The 2nd Battalion held the Menin crossroads for 16 days during the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914, sustaining heavy casualties.
In April 1915, the 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the York and Durham Brigade in the Northumbrian Division for service on the Western Front. Both battalions saw action at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.
In August 1915, the 6th (Service) Battalion landed at Suvla Bay in Gallipoli, as part of the 32nd Brigade in the 11th (Northern) Division. The battalion was evacuated to Egypt in January 1916, and then moved to France in July 1916 for service on the Western Front.
In July 1915, the 7th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 50th Brigade in the 17th (Northern) Division for service on the Western Front.
The 8th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 69th Brigade in the 23rd Division in August 1915 for service on the Western Front.
The 9th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 69th Brigade in the 23rd Division in August 1915 for service on the Western Front. It moved to Italy in November 1917, and then returned to France in September 1918.
The 10th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 62nd Brigade in the 21st Division in September 1915 for service on the Western Front.
The 12th (Service) Battalion, formed as the “Middlesbrough Pals” by the Mayor and Town of Middlesbrough, landed at Le Havre as pioneer battalion to the 40th Division in June 1916 for service on the Western Front.
The 13th (Service) Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 121st Brigade in the 40th Division in June 1916 for service on the Western Front. After returning to the United Kingdom in June 1918, it moved to Murmansk in November 1918.
Second World War
Men of D Company of the 1st Battalion, Green Howards, occupy a captured German communications trench during the breakout at Anzio, Italy, May 22, 1944.
During the Second World War, the regiment was again increased in size, although not to as large an extent as in the 1914–1918 conflict. In all, twelve battalions saw service:
1st Battalion, with 15th Infantry Brigade of the 5th Infantry Division, seeing action in Sicily and Italy.
2nd Battalion, initially stationed in India, fought in Burma as part of the 26th Indian Infantry Division and the 82nd (West Africa) Division.
4th and 5th Territorial Army Battalions, both serving with the 150th Infantry Brigade of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, saw service in France and North Africa, where they were captured during the Battle of Gazala.
6th and 7th Battalions (both formed as 2nd Line duplicates of the 4th and 5th, when the Territorial Army was doubled in size in 1939). They served with 69th Brigade, originally with the 23rd (Northumbrian) Division, but later the 50th Division. They saw service in France, North Africa, Sicily, and North West Europe.
8th Battalion was formed for home defense.
9th Battalion was formed for garrison duty. It was later converted into the 108th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery. It served with the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division from March 1942.
10th Battalion was formed by the conversion of the 2nd East Riding Yeomanry (a war-time duplicate of this yeomanry unit) in 1940. Subsequently, it became the 12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion attached to the 5th Parachute Brigade as part of the 6th Airborne Division.
The 11th, 12th and 13th Battalions were all formed in 1940.
Men of the Green Howards mopping up German resistance near Tracy Bocage, Normandy, France, 4 August 1944. A knocked out half-track is visible on the left.
In 1942, the 12th Battalion was converted to armor, as the 161st Regiment Royal Armored Corps. It retained its Green Howards cap badge on the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps, as did all other infantry units converted in the same way.
In October 1943, it was then converted again, this time to the reconnaissance role, as 161st (Green Howards) Regiment in the Reconnaissance Corps. It never went into action as a regiment, but provided a replacement squadron to the 43rd (Wessex) Reconnaissance Regiment. The 43rd (Wessex) Reconnaissance Regiment had suffered heavy losses when its transport was sunk on the way to France to fight in the Battle of Normandy.
From 1949 to 1952, the regiment took part in the campaign against Chinese and Malayan Communist Insurgents in Malaya.
Over the next 30 years, it served in Afghanistan, Suez, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Libya, Belize, Berlin, and Northern Ireland.
While serving with the Special Air Service (SAS), a former officer of the regiment, Gavin Hamilton, was killed in action during the Falklands War in 1982.
The regiment also saw action during the First Gulf War in 1991, and during the Bosnian War from 1996 to 1997.
Green Howards Memorial, Crépon
In March 2006, at a farewell dinner at Dunster Castle in Somerset, the regiment paid farewell to HM King Harald V, its retiring Colonel-in-chief.
Until the regiment’s rebadging, the Green Howards was one of five remaining line infantry regiments that had not been amalgamated in their entire history, a claim shared with The Royal Scots, The 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment, The Royal Welch Fusiliers, and The King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
However, on June 6, 2006, the regiment amalgamated with the Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire and the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding), all Yorkshire-based regiments in the King’s Division, to form the Yorkshire Regiment (14th/15th, 19th, and 33rd/76th Foot).
The official rebadging took place on June 6, 2006, while elements of the regiment were stationed in Bosnia and Kosovo.
A and B (Green Howards) companies of the Tyne-Tees Regiment, based in Scarborough and Middlesbrough, respectively, merged with the Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment and Duke of Wellington’s Regiment companies of the East and West Riding Regiment to form the 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment.
Following further mergers, in 2012, the 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) was removed from the order of battle.
Each year, all companies in the battalion took part in a competition, consisting of sports and military skills tests, to win the right to be named ‘King Harald’s Company’, after the regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief.
The winning company was given a special flag bearing the King’s personal cypher, the Company Sergeant Major was presented with a special pace stick, and all members of the company were permitted to wear a special red badge on the arm of their uniform.
The Green Howards Regimental Museum is located in the old Trinity Church in the center of the market place in Richmond, North Yorkshire.
The regiment’s battle honors were as follows:
Relief of Kimberley
South Africa 1899–1902
The First World War
Ypres 1914, 1915, 1917
Langemarck 1914, 1917
Arras 1917, 1918
Canal du Nord
France and Flanders 1914–18
Landing at Suvla
The Second World War
Defense of Arras
Tilly sur Seulles
St Pierre La Vielle
North West Europe 1940, 1944–45
Defense of Alamein Line
North Africa 1942–43
Landing in Sicily
Victoria Cross recipients
Soldiers of the Green Howards awarded the Victoria Cross (VC)
Sergeant Alfred Atkinson, VC (February 18, 1900)
Corporal William Anderson, VC (March 12, 1915)
Second Lieutenant Ernest Frederick Beal, VC (March 22, 1918)
Second Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell, VC (July 5, 1916)
Corporal William Clamp, VC (October 9, 1917)
Private Tom Dresser, VC (May 12, 1917)
Private Samuel Evans, VC (April 13, 1855)
Captain David Philip Hirsch, VC (April 9, 1917)
WOII Stanley Elton Hollis, VC (June 6, 1944)
Private John Lyons, VC (June 10, 1855)
Sergeant William McNally, VC MM and Bar (October 27– 29 1918)
Lieutenant Colonel Derek Anthony Seagrim, VC (March 20– 21, 1943)
Major Stewart Walter Loudoun-Shand, VC (July 1,1916)
Private William Short, VC (August 6, 1916)
Lieutenant William Basil Weston, VC (March 3, 1945)
Captain Archie Cecil Thomas White, VC MC (September 27 – October 1, 1916)
The precise date on which the regiment adopted the green facings from which it derived its name is uncertain, with yellow known to have been the color of the lapels in 1709.
However the official Clothing Book of 1742 shows full green facings being worn on the standard red coats of the era. Thereafter the actual shade of the regimental color changed at various times from yellow-green to a dull green.
White facings were worn from 1881 until 1899, when green was restored.
The remaining features of the Green Howard’s uniform followed the normal British infantry progression from red coat to scarlet tunic to khaki service dress and battle dress.