The yeomanry were the Territorial Force’s mounted troops. The experience of the recent Boer War meant that, like all yeomanries, they were organised and trained to fight as mounted infantry rather than cavalry. In 1914 there were two regiments in Kent. Both were descendants of units raised in 1794 during the wars against revolutionary France and both had contributed companies of mounted infantry to the Boer War. When the TF was formed in 1907 both regiments formed part of its South Eastern Mounted Brigade.
The regiments and their drill hall locations were:
Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles
A Squadron Chatham
B Squadron Sittingbourne & Faversham
C Squadron Dover & Ramsgate
D Squadron Ashford
West Kent Yeomanry (Queen’s Own)
A Squadron Bromley
B Squadron Gravesend
C Squadron Tunbridge Wells
D Squadron Maidstone
The regiments mobilised for service on 5 August 1914, moving to Canterbury where they trained and provided a mobile force for the South East Defences. They first saw action in Gallipoli from September 1915, then serving in Egypt and Palestine, ending the war in France. The regiments were amalgamated on 1 February 1917 and re-roled as infantry to form 10th (East & West Kent Yeomanry) Battalion East Kent Regiment, The Buffs. They served as such until the battalion’s disbandment on 21 June 1919 when its colour was lodged in Canterbury Cathedral.
War service was extremely varied with the WKY history asking “Which of us reclining in the sun in June 1914 would have thought that in five years he would have been shot at by “Asiatic Annie” in the Dardanelles, that he would have fought a battle under the walls of Jerusalem, that he would have been gassed near Peronne or Lille, or that he would take part in a Royal Review by the king of the Belgians in Brussels?”
The regiments won the following Battle Honours: BAPAUME 1918 - EPEHY - SOMME 1918 - HINDENBURG LINE - PURSUIT TO MONS - FRANCE AND FLANDERS 1918 - EGYPT 1916-67 - PALESTINE 1917-18 - GALLIPOLI 1915 – GAZA
These were displayed on drum banners made in 1920 as light cavalry regiments did not then carry guidons. The honours are now held by the Kent & Sharpshooters Yeomanry.
Both regiments formed second and third lines (numbered 2/1 and 3/1) to absorb some of the many volunteers. These were used principally to train drafts for the first line units (now numbered 1/1) and other units, such as the Royal West Kents, and for home defence duties.
The regiments suffered fewer casualties than their counterparts in the infantry, although between August 1914 and February 1917 250 of the WKY alone left the regiment to take commissions, many of whom later became casualties with their new units. Detachments and disease took a further toll. At the Armistice only five WKY who had mobilised were still on strength and of the 540 who had sailed for Gallipoli only 2 officers and 63 men were still serving together in November 1918.