Yeomanry Cavalry

  • yeomanry cavalry
    drawing of a yeomanry cavalryman on horseback
    yeomanry cavalryman in a 1798 painting
    by thomas rowlandson
    active1794–1908
    country great britain
     united kingdom
    typeauxiliary cavalry

    the yeomanry cavalry was the mounted component of the british volunteer corps, a military auxiliary established in the late 18th century amid fears of invasion and insurrection during the french revolutionary wars. a yeoman was a person of respectable standing, one social rank below a gentleman, and the yeomanry was initially a rural, county-based force. members were required to provide their own horses and were recruited mainly from landholders and tenant farmers, though the middle class also featured prominently in the rank and file. officers were largely recruited from among the nobility and landed gentry. a commission generally involved significant personal expense, and although social status was an important qualification, the primary factor was personal wealth. from the beginning, the newly rich, who found in the yeomanry a means of enhancing their social standing, were welcomed into the officer corps for their ability to support the force financially. urban recruitment increased towards the end of the 19th century, reflected in the early 20th century by increasingly common use of hired mounts.

    the yeomanry was first used in support of local authorities to suppress civil unrest, most notably during the food riots of 1795. its only use in national defence was in 1797, when the castlemartin yeomanry helped defeat a small french invasion in the battle of fishguard. although the volunteer corps was disbanded following the defeat of napoleon in 1815, the yeomanry was retained as a politically reliable force which could be deployed in support of the civil authorities. it often served as mounted police until the middle of the 19th century. most famously, the manchester and salford yeomanry was largely responsible for the peterloo massacre, in which some 17 people were killed and up to 650 were injured, while policing a rally for parliamentary reform in manchester in 1819. the yeomanry was also deployed against striking colliers in the 1820s, during the swing riots of the early 1830s and the chartist disturbances of the late 1830s and early 1840s. the exclusive membership set the yeomanry apart from the population it policed, and as better law enforcement options became available the yeomanry was increasingly held back for fear that its presence would provoke confrontation. its social status made the force a popular target for caricature, particularly after peterloo, and it was often satirised in the press, in literature and on the stage.

    the establishment of civilian police forces and renewed invasion scares in the middle of the 19th century turned the focus of the yeomanry to national defence, but its effectiveness and value in this role was increasingly questioned. it declined in strength, surviving largely due to its members political influence and willingness to subsidise the force financially. a series of government committees failed to address the force's problems. the last, in 1892, found a place for the yeomanry in the country's mobilisation scheme, but it was not until a succession of failures by the regular army during the second boer war that the yeomanry found a new relevance as mounted infantry. it provided the nucleus for the separate imperial yeomanry, and after the war, the yeomanry was re-branded en bloc as the imperial yeomanry. it ceased to exist as a separate institution in 1908, when the yeomanry became the mounted component of the territorial force. yeomanry regiments fought mounted and dismounted in both the first world war and the second world war. the yeomanry heritage is maintained in the 21st century largely by four yeomanry regiments of the british army reserve, in which many 19th century regiments are represented as squadrons.

  • background
  • origins
  • support to the civil power
  • role in national defence
  • recruitment
  • popular perception
  • funding, remuneration and terms of service
  • heritage
  • see also
  • footnotes
  • references
  • bibliography
  • external links

Yeomanry Cavalry
Drawing of a yeomanry cavalryman on horseback
Yeomanry Cavalryman in a 1798 painting
by Thomas Rowlandson
Active1794–1908
Country Great Britain
 United Kingdom
TypeAuxiliary cavalry

The Yeomanry Cavalry was the mounted component of the British Volunteer Corps, a military auxiliary established in the late 18th century amid fears of invasion and insurrection during the French Revolutionary Wars. A yeoman was a person of respectable standing, one social rank below a gentleman, and the yeomanry was initially a rural, county-based force. Members were required to provide their own horses and were recruited mainly from landholders and tenant farmers, though the middle class also featured prominently in the rank and file. Officers were largely recruited from among the nobility and landed gentry. A commission generally involved significant personal expense, and although social status was an important qualification, the primary factor was personal wealth. From the beginning, the newly rich, who found in the yeomanry a means of enhancing their social standing, were welcomed into the officer corps for their ability to support the force financially. Urban recruitment increased towards the end of the 19th century, reflected in the early 20th century by increasingly common use of hired mounts.

The yeomanry was first used in support of local authorities to suppress civil unrest, most notably during the food riots of 1795. Its only use in national defence was in 1797, when the Castlemartin Yeomanry helped defeat a small French invasion in the Battle of Fishguard. Although the Volunteer Corps was disbanded following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the yeomanry was retained as a politically reliable force which could be deployed in support of the civil authorities. It often served as mounted police until the middle of the 19th century. Most famously, the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry was largely responsible for the Peterloo Massacre, in which some 17 people were killed and up to 650 were injured, while policing a rally for parliamentary reform in Manchester in 1819. The yeomanry was also deployed against striking colliers in the 1820s, during the Swing riots of the early 1830s and the Chartist disturbances of the late 1830s and early 1840s. The exclusive membership set the yeomanry apart from the population it policed, and as better law enforcement options became available the yeomanry was increasingly held back for fear that its presence would provoke confrontation. Its social status made the force a popular target for caricature, particularly after Peterloo, and it was often satirised in the press, in literature and on the stage.

The establishment of civilian police forces and renewed invasion scares in the middle of the 19th century turned the focus of the yeomanry to national defence, but its effectiveness and value in this role was increasingly questioned. It declined in strength, surviving largely due to its members political influence and willingness to subsidise the force financially. A series of government committees failed to address the force's problems. The last, in 1892, found a place for the yeomanry in the country's mobilisation scheme, but it was not until a succession of failures by the regular army during the Second Boer War that the yeomanry found a new relevance as mounted infantry. It provided the nucleus for the separate Imperial Yeomanry, and after the war, the yeomanry was re-branded en bloc as the Imperial Yeomanry. It ceased to exist as a separate institution in 1908, when the yeomanry became the mounted component of the Territorial Force. Yeomanry regiments fought mounted and dismounted in both the First World War and the Second World War. The yeomanry heritage is maintained in the 21st century largely by four yeomanry regiments of the British Army Reserve, in which many 19th century regiments are represented as squadrons.

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