The East Yorkshire Regiment: From the West Indies to the Western Front

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Raising a Regiment

The East Yorkshire Regiment was formed on the 22 June 1685 and took part in the battles of Blenheim, Ramillies, Malpaquet, and Oudenarde before fighting in the American War of Independence from 1776 to 1778. It was at the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 that they gained their nickname 'The Snappers' - men snapped small powder charges to confuse the enemy into thinking they had more ammunition than they actually had, helping them win the battle.

Over the next 100 years the Regiment served in the West Indies; holding off the French from Martinique and Guadeloupe, saw action in the Afghan War and suffered many casualties in the Boer War.

With the outbreak of the First World War the Regiment grew to 19 battalions including four 'Pals Battalions'. The Regiment won four VC's and many other decorations. At the end of war in 1918 some of the battalions served in Iraq, India and North China and in 1935 the Regiment was granted the title of 'The Duke of Yorks Own'.

With the outbreak of the Second World War battalions served in France, the Middle East and Sicily. The 2nd and 5th battalions took part in the initial assault on the Normandy beaches where they made up a third of the total British Force in the first assault wave. 65 men were killed and 141 men were wounded on that first day. The Regiment were also involved in the final advance to Burma prior to the Japanese surrender in August 1945.

The Regiment was combined with the West Yorkshire Regiment in 1958.

Recruitment poster for the East Yorkshire region

Pals battalions

At the outbreak of the First World War Lord Kitchener was faced with the task of encouraging men to join the British Army. Sir Henry Rawlinson suggested that more men would enlist if they knew that would be serving with someone that they knew.

With the promise that men could serve with their friends and work colleagues a battalion was formed in London with over 1,500 men. The success of this led to battalions forming in Liverpool and Derby. It was in Derby that the term a 'battalion of pals' was first used.

Towns and cities all over Britain were then encouraged to organise recruitment campaigns that promised men that they could serve with people they knew and during the next month over fifty towns in Britain formed pals battalions.

Postcard of John Cunningham V.C

Hull Pals

The first Hull Pals battalion was formed on the 29th August 1914 at Wenlock Barracks and formed part of the East Yorkshire Regiment. Within three months Hull had four 'pals' battalions. All 'pals' battalions had their own nickname. The 10th (Service) battalion called themselves the Hull Commercials. The three battalions that followed were called the Hull Tradesmen (11th (Service) battalion), the Hull Sportsmen (12th (Service) battalion) and the T'Others (13th (Service) battalion).

The Hull Pals also won two Victoria Crosses in the First World War. They were awarded to Pte John Cunningham of the Hull Sportsmen battalion on the 13th November 1916 for his heroic actions in the Battle of the Somme and 2nd Lt. John Harrison of the Hull Tradesmen in Oppy, France on the 3 May 1917. 2nd Lt. John Harrison was tragically killed in the assault that led to his award. His wife Lillian was presented with his Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace by King George V in 1918.

Further reading