Churchill Tank Churchill Tank Churchill Tank

A North Irish Horse Churchill Mk III



The problems revealed by the Boer War were recognised and among the initial steps taken to remedy the deficiencies was the enactment of The militia and Yeomanry Act 1901. This Act, among other things, removed the restriction on the employment of an embodied yeomanry outside the United Kingdom. It altered the conditions of enlistment, discipline and service, and authorised the raising of new Yeomanry Regiments. It decreed that rifles would be issued in lieu of carbines, and that swords and lances would be carried only on ceremonial occasions.

The raising of the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry and the South of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry resulted directly from these decisions. King Edward VII approved the formation of both regiments on 20th December 1901 and this decision was transmitted to the GOC Ireland, HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, on 31st December 1901. Their formation was sanctioned and gazetted on 7th January 1902.

Recruiting did not start until February 1903 and four squadrons were raised in the Spring of that year. The Honorary Colonel was the Duke of Abercorn, the Commanding Officer was the Earl of Shaftsbury - then aged 33 - and the Second in Command was the Marquis of Hamilton. RHQ and 'A' Squadron were located in Skegoneill Avenue, Belfast - near Dunmore Park Camp - 'B' Squadron in Londonderry, 'C' Squadron in Enniskillen and 'D' Squadron in Dundalk.


Valentine Tank Valentine Tank Valentine Tank

A North Irish Horse Valentine Mk III


Ths first training camp was held at Blackrock Camp, Dundalk, in 1903 from 28th July to 10th August, theRegiment being organised into two composite squadrons due to low numbers.

Thereafter, camps were held every third year at the Curragh and other years at Ballykinlar, Dundrum, Magilligan and Bundoran. They were inspected annually by the Inspector General of Cavalry.

They became a special reserve regiment in July 1908 and the name was changed to the North Irish Horse on 1st September following the formation of the Territorial Force. Annual Camp was extended to 24 days and one squadron - 6 officers and 134 other ranks - was designated an expeditionary squadron on 48 hour call in case of war. They served with this squadron on an annual basis before handing on to others within the Regiment. The normal peacetime establishment for each squadron was 6 officers and 112 ORs.

In December 1912 the Earl of Shaftsbury relinquished command and succeeded the Duke of Abercorn on his death in 1913, as Honorary Colonel; he retained his post until 1946.

On 4th August 1914, the outbreak of war, the North Irish Horse received mobilisation orders and the expeditionary squadron - to become 'A' Squadron - commanded by Major Lord Cole, left Ulster on the 7th August, proceeding to Dublin from where they sailed on the 17th to Le Havre in France, arriving on 19th August.They immediately became GHQ troops attached to General Sir John French's Headquarters at Le Cateau. A second squadron commanded by Major Lord Massereene & Ferrard DSO - to become 'C' Squadron - was rapidly formed in Belfast, sailed from there on 20th August and arrived at Le Havre on 22nd August. From there they acted as rearguard to 4 Division in the retreat from Mons before being attached to 5 Division.

Regimental Headquarters moved to Antrim, and proceeded to enlist and train personnel for further squadrons and reinforcements. three more squadrons went to France, as divisional cavalry squadrons sailing respectively on 3rd May 1915, 17th November 1915 and 11th January 1916.


AEC Armoured Car AEC Armoured Car AEC Armoured Car

A North Irish Horse AEC MkIII Armoured Car


In june 1916, three squadrons, 'A', 'D', and 'E' were formed into one regiment. The regiment was subsequently commanded by the newly promoted Lt Col Viscount Cole. Two squadrons, 'B' and 'C' together with the divisional cavalry Squadron of 36 Division - 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons - were formed into a second regiment. Both regiments became Corps Cavalry Regiments.

On 20th September 1917, the second regiment was dismounted and its personnel were attached to battalions of The Royal Irish Rifles and The Royal Irish Fusiliers of 36 Ulster Division. The first regiment was re-roled as a Cyclist Regiment in March 1918. Its establishment was reduced to become a major's command; one man in four, no longer being required to hold the horses while fighting dismounted.

The total numbers of personnel of the North Irish Horse who served during the First World War were 70 Officers and 1,931 other ranks of whom 27 officers and 123 other ranks were killed.

The North Irish Horse and its sister regiment the South Irish Horse were the first non-regular troops to land in France and be in action.

The North Irish Horse was demobilised in August 1919, was re-established in 1921 as a dismembodied cavalry militia regiment and continued to appear in the Army List until the Second World War with an Hon. Colonel, one officer - Major Sir Ronald Ross Bt MC MP - and an Hon Chaplin. This somewhat unusual situation was later described by Mr Duff Cooper MP, then Secretary of State for War as a "state of suspended animation".

The South Irish Horse was disbanded at the end of July 1922 on the establishment of the Irish Free State.


Sherman Tank Sherman Tank Sherman Tank

A North Irish Horse Sherman M4 Tank



Early in 1939, approaches were made to the War Office to see if the would consider re-embodying the North Irish Horse as an armoured car regiment. On 4th May 1939 the Prime minister announced in Westminster thet the North Irish Horse would be reconstituted; a simultaneous announcement was made in Stormont. The War Office authorised the re-constitution on 30th August.

On 11th September 1939, a special army order was issued approving the transfer of the North Irish Horse from the Corps of the Cavalry of the Line to the Royal Armoured Corps and reconstituting the unit as a light armooured regiment of the supplementary Reserve. On 15th September 1939, a recruiting office was opened in Belfast. Major Sir Ronald Ross Bt MC MP was appointed Commanding Officer and Major the Earl of Erne second-in-command.

The Regiment moved to Enniskillen in November and recruiting proceeded. Sir Ronald Ross relinquished command following a severe illness. The Regiment suffered its first casualty in May 1940, when Major the Earl of Erne was killed in action in the Battle of France whilst on attachment to the 12th Royal Lancers. In June 1940 the Regiment was ordered to Portrush for coastal defence work which was carried out with 1920 vintage Rolls Royce armoured cars and modern Humber reconnaissance vehicles. The battle role was changed from an armoured car regiment to an Infantry Tank Unit, and in July 1941, on moving to Ballykinlar, training commenced with Valentine tanks. In October of the same year the North Irish Horse moved to England where it was equipped with the new Churchill tanks. Following intensive training in Wiltshire an anti-invasion function was undertaken in Norfolk and Suffolk.

In January 1943, under the command of Lt Col David Dawnay, the Regiment in 25 Tank Brigade sailed for Algeria. It joined the First Army in Tunisia, was immediately rushed into action at Hunt's Gap and Sedjenane and took a decisive part in the halting of the enemy's northern offensive. The North Irish Horse played a prominent part in all the ensuing battles, culminating in being the first tanks to enter Tunis on 8th May, supporting in turn, four different divisions. The German and Italian forces surrendered on 13thMay, 250,000 being taken prisoner. The assault on Longstop Hill was perhaps the outstanding exploit in a campaign in which the North Irish Horse came through with flying colours. Considering the severity of the fighting, casualties both in personnel and tanks were remarkably light. It established the reputation of the Churchill as a magnificent fighting vehicle in the infantry support role.

In April 1944 the Regiment under the command of the Lord O'Neill joined the Eighth Army in Italy. Its first action was in support of 1 Canadian Infantry Division in a frontal attack on the Hitler Line, one of the strongest defensive positions ever constructed. The line was pierced and heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy, but in the process the Canadian infantry suffered grievously and the North Irish horse lost 36 officers and men killed and 36 wounded, as well as the loss of 32 tanks. In appreciation of the support they received, the Canadians asked the Regiment to wear the Maple Leaf. During the engagement the Regiment was temporarily under the command of Lt Col EV Strickland. Lord O'Neill rejoined the Regiment on 3rd June and continued in command until 24th October when he was killed in action.


Stuart Tank Stuart Tank Stuart Tank

A North Irish Horse Stuart M3A3 Light Tank


Following the breaking of the Hitler Line, the Regiment took its part in the unsuing persuit. It played a vital role in the slower advance against fierce opposition, to the River Arno south of Florence. The transfer of the Eighth Army to the Adriatic coast in August was followed by the successful battle to break through the Gothic Line; a line which the Germans had planned to hold throught the ensuing Winter. The Autumn was spent in relentless fight to reach the River Lamone, in atrocious weather over inhospitable country. Lt Col AWA Llewellan-Palmer DSO MC assumed command in early November. The Regiment was transferred to 21 Tank Brigade, commanded by Brigadier David Dawney DSO in December, and was responsible for the holding of the army's right flank, until the starting of the Spring advance which resulted in the German surrender in Italy; the Regiment's tanks were the first to reach the river Po.

When the Regiment was formed in 1939. it consisted largely of men from Ulster, with a good sprinkling of volunteers from the South of Ireland, but as the war progressed, it embraced men from most parts of the British Isles and few from much farther afield. Some came by choice, others by random direction of a vast war machine, but war-time comradeship welded by battle and Regimental pride lasted long beyond the end of hostilities, and encouraged growth of a strong Regimental Association. Casulties during the North African and Italian Campaigns included 9 officers and 64 other ranks killed. there are Memorial Windows to the dead of both World Wars in the entrance chamber of Belfast City Hall.

In 1947 the North Irish Horse reconstituted as an armoured car regiment of the Territorial Army equipped with Daimler armoured cars and Dingo scout cars, and recruited all over Northern Ireland with TA centres in Belfast, Londonderry, Lurgan, Ballymoney and Enniskillen.

The North Irish Horse survived the major re-organisation of the TA in 1956 and 1961 and from 1961-1967 was one of the only three armoured car regiments to be retained.

The TA was comprehensively re-organised in 1967 and a new Yeomanry Regiment was formed with squadrons allocated to the regiments with the best record for recruiting, efficience and commitment. The Royal Yeomanry consisted of sabre squadrons from the North Irish Horse, the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, the Sherwood Rangers and the Kent & County of London Sharpshooters Yeomanry. Headquarters Squadron was raised from the Westminster Dragoons. The new regiment was equipped with Saladin armoured cars, Ferret scout cars and Saracen personnel carriers; these vehicles were eventually superseded by fox armoured cars, Spartan APCs and Sultan Command Vehicles.

From 1967 to 1969 those not in the Royal Yeomanry became part of the North Irish Horse (T). In 1969 'B' Squadron in Londomderry was re-badged as a signal squadron and became part of 32 (Scottish) Signal Regiment.

In 1993 after 'Options for Change' the Horse lost its position with the Royal Yeomanry and became an independent light recce squadron equipped with Land Rovers under command of 107 (Ulster) Brigade. the signal squadron survived and became part of 40 (Ulster) Signal Regiment.


Rolls Royce Armoured Car Rolls Royce Armoured Car Rolls Royce Armoured Car

A North Irish Horse Rolls Royce Armoured Car


The Strategic Defence Review took place in November 1998 and the North Irish Horse was redifined as follows:

B (NIH) Sqn Queens Own Yeomanry - a support squadron equipped with CVR(T) Spartan and based at Dunmore Park Camp, Antrim Road, Belfast, with RHQ in Newcastle Upon Tyne, and

69 (NIH) Sqn 40 (Ulster) Signal Regiment at Edenmore Road, Limavady with RHQ in Belfast.


Under the Army 2020 plans, B (North Irish Horse) Squadron has come under command of the newly established Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry Regiment, while 69 (North Irish Horse) Signal Squadron is now 40 (NIH) Signal Squadron.



The drawings of the military vehicles on this page have been expertly created by Bracken Anderson.



All military vehicle graphics on this page are ©2001 Bracken Anderson and North Irish Horse Regimental Association