West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Years in Focus 1959



October 1959

The long association with Pontefract of two well-known Yorkshire regiments is to be ceremonially acknowledged this weekend, when the Town Council will confer civic honours on the York and Lancaster Regiment. the Pontefract Barracks have been the regimental home of 'The Tigers'.  They were also the home of the K.O.Y.L.I. from the same year until 1938, when the regiment moved to Strensall. It returned last May but shortly both are to sever the long connection

The histories of the regiments are outlined below:

Yorks and Lancs Record

126 Battle Honours since 1794. The York and Lancaster Regiment now consists of Regimental Headquarters at Pontefract; the 1st Battalion [Regular] which is an amalgamation of the 1st and 2nd Battalions; and the Hallamshire Battalion [Territorial] at Sheffield.  Allied Regiments in the Dominions are Les Fusiliers Mont Royal, at Montreal, Canada, the Wellington Regiment, New Zealand, and the 7th Battalion of the Malay Regiment, in Malay.

One Hundred and twenty-six battle honours tell the story of its long and active history. The first was won at Martinique as long ago as 1794. Lucknow and the relief of Ladysmith also figure among the dozen won before 59 were secured in the First World War - the majority in France, and others in Macedonia and Gallipoli. The total in the Second World War was 55. During the Indian Mutiny, six members won the Victoria Cross. The Pontefract Barracks were completed three years before the two battalions of the York and Lancaster's were organised, when Mr. H.C.E. Childers, the Member of Parliament for Pontefract, was the Minister of War. The barracks were  occupied first by the 3rd West Yorks Militia, but when the York and Lancaster battalions were formed the Militia became the 3rd battalion of a Territorial regiment.

It was the second battalion that gave to the regiment one of the two days which it commemorates annually. On 14th January 1897, half the battalion was on board the Royal Marine Transport Ship. 'Warren Hastings' which, bound from the Cape of Good Hope to Mauritius, was wrecked during a heavy storm off the coast of the Island of Re-Union. The ship, altogether carrying 1,060 passengers, had to be abandoned, but thanks to the discipline of the soldiers, not a life was lost. For gallantry, two Officers and two  Privates were awarded the silver medal of the Royal Humane Society.

It is a tribute to a First World War action fought by the 1st Battalion that the regiment annually observes St. George's Day.  On 2nd April 1915, at the beginning of the second battle of Ypres, the Germans used gas and broke through at the junction of the French and German lines. On the next day, St George's Day, the 1st Battalion was among troops sent to stop the gap. Under heavy fire on a ridge about 500 yards from the enemy, it attacked over open ground, was pinned down, and decimated. At nightfall it withdrew to the ridge, and though reduced to less than company strength, held out for three days.

At the end of the First World War, the 1st Battalion formed part of the Army of Occupation in Germany; and then back home, won the Army Athletic Championship and the Army Fencing Championship in 1928 and 1929 respectively. In 1936 it was drafted first to Alexandria and then to Palestine but returned home before the year was out and remained at York until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

It was the Hallamshires in the person of Cpl J.W. Harper, of Doncaster, who won the only V.C of the regiment in the Second World War; the 13th of its history.  They attacked a workhouse in Holland which was surrounded by an earthen wall and dyke. The platoon commander was seriously wounded and Cpl Harper took control.  Throwing grenades, he climbed over the wall, shot several of the enemy, and took four prisoners. Despite intense cross-fire,  he crossed the wall twice more, alone, and found some empty German weapon pits. Himself providing covering fire, he encouraged his platoon to scale the wall and get to the pits.  Covering fire from the pits enabled the rest of the company to cross the open ground and surmount the wall for the loss of only one man.

Again in the face of heavy fire, Cpl Harper contacted a battalion on his right; returned across the open ground; and was directing his Company Commander when he was fatally wounded. The citation describes it as superb self-sacrifice inspiring gallantry, magnificent courage, fearlessness. Cpl Harper by his heroism, ensured success for his battalion in a most important action.

In 1927 the Regiment was honoured by the appointment of the Queen Mother, then the Duchess of York, as Colonel-in chief, and in 1928 she inspected the Regimental Depot at Pontefract Barracks and a number of local people were presented to her.

In 1948 when infantry strength, the 51st and 105th were amalgamated to form the 1st Battalion, stationed in Malaya, where exacting jungle operations were undertaken. Returning to England in 1951, by which time its Colonel in chief had become the Queen, it was inspected by her, and in 1952 joined the British Army of the Rhine for two years.  A brief spell in England again, and then it was to Kenya to help in the Mau Mau troubles.

In 1946 the Regiment received the Freedom of Leeds, Wakefield, Doncaster, Dewsbury and Batley. The Depot of the K.O.Y.L.I. established at Pontefract on Minden Day 1878, remained there until 1939, when it moved to Strensall.  When the Y & L left the Barracks, the return to the Depot and headquarters of the K.O.Y.L.I. was a popular move. The regiment is to move to Shrewsbury in 1962 as part of the Light Infantry Brigade, but it is understood that the regimental headquarters will remain at the Barracks and that the Territorial Army headquarters may be established there.


The regiment changed its cap badge and lost from it the traditional white rose at a ceremonial parade at the Pontefract Barracks on Tuesday.  All light infantry regiments received new cap badges upon absorption into new brigades, but though the K.O.Y.L.I. lose the rose from the cap badge, it is retained on their collar-dogs. And in any case, the new badge is an old friend, for the Light Company of the regiment adopted  it as far back as 1770.  After Corunna, when the 51st foot became the Light Infantry in 1809, the whole regiment adopted the bugle horn with strings as its badge. In the Peninsular War the K.O.Y.L.I. adopted the French hunting horn as their badge but the English horn continued to be worn on belt plates and other accoutrements. At Tuesday's parade, a tribute was paid to the old badge by Colonel J.C. Preston who commanded the K.O.Y.L.I. in Malaya. As the troops marched past their commanding officer they discarded their white rose badges and replaced them with the new badge. They saluted the old badge and a bugler sounded the Last Post. Major Wood Commanding Officer of the Depot handed the old badges to Major A.C. Elcombe for "safe keeping in the years to come". The Yorkshire Brigade Junior Infantry Unit played ''Auld-Lang-syne. The troops then saluted the new badge as the bugler sounded the Reveille.

1959 INDEX


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