Military Doncaster

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Doncaster has a military history of no mean note, and there are on record several instances where the Government has thanked Doncaster for services at home and abroad. At present the town is the headquarters of two auxiliary regiments, viz., The Queens own Yorkshire Dragoons Imperial Yeomanry and the 2nd V.B. York and Lancaster Regiment, and it is only by the merest chance that a garrison has not been established here, for negotiations to that end were in progress some years ago, but the objection of the corporation saw Pontefract secure the choice.

To take the Yorkshire Dragoons first, this being the older regiment of the two associated with Doncaster, according to a booklet issued in 1893 by Mayor Somerville, of the Doncaster Volunteers, and from a pamphlet written for the Army and Navy Gazette in 1898 by Seargeant-Major Leach, of the Dragoons, the Dragoons were instituted in 1794 at a meeting at Pontefract, over which the Duke of Norfolk presided. A meeting to co-operate was held in Doncaster in May of that year when the corporation subscribed £525. Two regiments were formed; the first, or southern regiment, consisted of three troops for Strafforth and Tickhill, one for Doncaster, two for Rotherham and Sheffield, one for Barnsley and two for Pontefract. The second regiment consisted of five troops, the Earl Fitzwilliam being Colonel-commandant of the whole corps.

In 1796 as an intention was manifested of making descent on this kingdom, a levy of 15000 men from the parishes was made, and to this number, Doncaster contributed its quota. The title of the regiment at ths period was the Southern Regiment, West Riding Yeomanry Cavalry. In January 1795, the thanks of the magistrates were given to the Rotherham and Barnsley troops for their readiness in assisting the civil power at Wath.

On November the 8th, 1796, three standards were presented to the regiment – the Royal Standard, given by the Doncaster Corporation; the senond, or provincial standard, bearing the arms of York, by Earl Fitzwilliam and the third by the ladies of Rotherham. The regiment was mustered for 14 days’ training at Leeds in June, 1799, and attended drills in 1800 and 1801. In April 1802, orders were recieved for the disembodiment of the regiment, but on July 11th 1803, at a meeting convened by the Lord Lieutenant, it was resolved to raise it again. The accepted strength of the regiment was then 612, exclusive of officers, Lieutanant-colonel Foljambe in command. Considerable zeal was manifested, and the yeoman expressed their willingness to serve in any part of the kingdom. An opportunity for assembly was given on August 15th 1805, whe the Woolley beacon was set ablaze by mistake, and 3500 yeoman and volunteers were set in motion before the mistake was discovered. The Southern Regiment (Yorkshire Dragoons) had the creditable muster of 301 out of 342 on this occasion. In 1806 the regiment was reviewed by the Prince of Wales. In 1840-2 the regiment did considerable service in the supression of the Chartists riots for which it recieved the thanks of the Commander in Chief. In 1844 the designation of the regiment was changed to the First West Yorkshire Yeomanry Cavalry, and on August 27th 1851, four troops with the band had the honour of escorting Her Majesty on the occasion of her visit to Doncaster.

In 1871, the regiment as organised in 1803 ceased to exist, and the corps was formed of the following eight troops:

  • A. Sheffield
  • B. Kiveton Park
  • C. Doncaster
  • D. Barnsdale
  • E. Wentworth Park
  • F. Pontefract
  • G. Barnsley
  • H. Wakefield

On the death of Lord Wharncliffe, Dcember 19th, 1845, the command was taken over by the Viscount Milton, who became Earl Fitzwilliam in 1857. In 1887 Major the Hon. C. W. Fitzwilliam was gazetted to the command in succession to Earl Fitzwilliam. The present commanding officer, Colonel the Earl of Scarbrough, has seen nearly thirty years service, including seven in the 7th Hussars. He was promoted to the command in 1891.

During recent years the regiment has had the distinction of being inspected by the Duke of Cambridge and Viscount Wolseley, while in May, 1897, the Sheffield squadron had the honour of escorting Her Majesty at Sheffield, and the regiment was represented at the royal celebration of the year. The title of “Queens Own” was conferred in 1897. For many years the regiment assembled annually for training in Doncaster, whe the men were billeted in the town; when the brigade system came into vogue, the regiment was away often. This system lapsing, the regiment again returned to Doncaster, but this time for encampment, the scene of the camp being the race common, and the period of encampment, 16 days. This year (1903), the regiment will assemble at Wellbeck. The present strength is 640.

The recent war in South Africa gave volunteers the chance that they had long looked for, and during the time following the call for volunteers Doncaster was the scene of much military activity. All the Yorkshire Yeomanry with the exception of the first contingent being raised and equipped here. The Yorkshire Dragoons sent out 100 men and altogether no less a number than 1,702 men were sent out in the Yorkshire Imperial Yeomanry. All but the first contingent of about 300 were recruited and equipped in Doncaster. The officers who went on active service were the Colonel (The Earl of Scarbrough), Major Simpson, Major Brookes, Captain Smith, Lieutenant Jeffcock and Lieutenant Brooks. A number of men not previously belonging to the corps and who saw active service in South Africa, have recently joined, so that the regiment, as well as having the distinction of being one of the strongest yeomanry regiments in the country, must be very hard to beat in the direction of active service members.