The Pembroke Yeomanry
LT-COL. R. L. HOWELL, M.B.E., T.D.
Part 5 – The Great War
In 1903 the enrolled strength was 550, the highest ever recorded in peace time, with the Regiment recruiting in three Counties. Five years later Mr. R. S. Haldane introduced his far-sighted reorganisation, welding the many volunteer units into the Territorial Force. It contained 14 Mounted Brigades, each of 3 Yeomanry Regiments and a Battery of Horse Artillery, the Pembroke Yeomanry being part of the South Wales Mounted Brigade. In 1914 came the first war with Germany, and the introduction of the machine gun to defeat the past mobility of mounted riflemen. The Pembroke Yeomanry raised three regiments, one short-lived. The 2nd/lst Pembroke Yeomanry spent the war in England as part of the East Coast defences. At one time it became a regiment of cyclists. It was manning the trenches at Southwold when Admiral Boedicker opened fire on Lowestoft with his battle cruisers in April, 1916. The 1st/1st Pembroke Yeomanry had sailed for Alexandria in March.
The need was now for infantry: the South Wales Mounted Brigade became the 4th Dismounted Brigade, then the 231st Infantry Brigade. In 1917 it joined the 74th (Yeomanry) Division, formed entirely from dismounted Yeomanry and taking as its sign a broken spur. Within it the Pembroke and Glamorgan Yeomanries combined to form the 24th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment, save for some 30 Pembroke Yeomen seconded to the Imperial Camel Corps.
The 74th (Yeomanry) Division assembled in time for the second attack on Gaza, fighting the Turks until withdrawn from the Middle East in April, 1918. During the campaign it encountered weather ranging from sandstorms to heavy rain and bitter cold, the latter during the winter spent in the Judean Hills. At one time the Pembroke Yeomanry found guards for Jerusalem and Bethlehem. But reinforcements were required for France, the 74th Division landing at Marseilles on May 7th. For a while they held the low, flooded ground before Merville, then entrained for the Somme to take part in the fierce fighting at the approaches to the Hindenburg Line. When the war ended, the Pembroke Yeomanry had new Battle Honours telling their own story:-
‘Egypt, 1916-17’, ‘Gaza’, ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Jericho’, ‘Tell Asur’, ‘Palestine, 1917-18’, ‘Somme, 1918’, ‘Bapaume, 1918’, ‘Hindenburg Line’, ‘Epehy’, ‘Pursuit to Mons’ and ‘France and Flanders, 1918’.