The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

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The 1st, 2nd, 1/4th and 2/4th (4th Battalion doubled as 1/4th and 2/4th) Battalions of the Regiment served throughout the war as Infantry. 5th Battalion converted into 53rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery but later doubled forming 553 (K.O.Y.L.I. Light A.A. Regiment R.A. (T.A) and 557 (K.O.Y.L.I.) Mixed Heavy A.A. Regiment R.A. (T.A.). In 1955 these were merged with 323 L.A.A. Regiment R.A. (T.A.) but allowed to retain the title K.O.Y.L.I. by the battery remaining in Doncaster. The 6th Battalion was disbanded in 1944. The 7th Battalion became the 149th Regiment R.A.C. The 8th Battalion became the 94th L.A.A Regiment, R.A. in November, 1941, and served with the Guards Armoured Division throughout the 1944/45 Campaign in North West Europe. In 1943 the Yorkshire Dragoons were converted for a short while into the 9th Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. There were also various holding and training battalions. Twenty-five battle honours were awarded to the Regiment for ''The Second World War".

1st Battalion

The 1st Battalion moved to France at the beginning of October, 1939, and so began its travels which were to take it to many different parts of the Eastern hemisphere before the war was over.

The winter of 1939-1940 was bitterly cold, and was spent mainly near Lille, though the Battalion went into position in front of the Maginot Line. In April, 1940, the Battalion was moved at short notice to Scotland and thence to Norway. After landing at Aandalsnes, advancing more than a hundred miles down the Gudbrandsdal Valley, the Battalion became involved in a series of rear-guard actions.

At Kvam the Battalion, entirely on its own, held up the German advance for two days. After a severe action at Dombaas, a railway accident and a long march, the Battalion was withdrawn to Scotland.

After intensive training in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, in 1942 the Battalion embarked at Liverpool and sailed for India, by way of South Africa. Four months were spent in India and then came a move to Syria, stopping for a while on the way in Iraq and Persia.

As part of the Eighth Army the 1st Battalion was one of the assault battalions in the landing in Sicily near Syracuse in July, 1943. Villas Mundo, the River Semento and an attack on the enemy some 8,000 feet up the slope of Mount Etna were the main engagements in this two months' campaign.

The Battalion was again one of the first to land when the mainland of Italy was invaded in September 1943. It was involved in a large number of very tough engagements during the advance up Italy. Its outstanding actions were at the crossing of the Garigliano River, Minturno, and in the Anzio Beachhead. After the fall of Rome the Battalion was withdrawn in July 1944, to Palestine to rest. 1st Battalion in 15th Infantry Brigade at Sicily.

1944 - Jan. - Apr. - 1st Battalion at Anzio as part of 15th Infantry Brigade, 5th Infantry Division.

Late in 1944 the Battalion moved to Italy and then to France, landing at Marseilles to join the British Army of Liberation in Northern France. It came in for the tail end of the fighting in Germany and completed the final advance to Lubeck, including the crossing of the River Elbe.

The 186th Anniversary of the Battle of Minden, in 1945, was celebrated at Minden.

2nd Battalion

The 2nd Battalion remained in Burma until the outbreak of the war against Japan in December 1941. When the Japanese invaded Burma, the 2nd Battalion formed part of the pitifully small and ill-equipped force which tried to hold them up; it was the first British Battalion to engage the Japanese in Burma. During the retreat from Moulmein to Rangoon, the Battalion lost heavily in a number of engagements, particularly at the Battles of Bilin and Sittang, in the latter battle the river bridge being blown before the Battalion reached it. The Battalion was then withdrawn, but during the retreat northwards through Burma to India was fully engaged again, notably in the actions in the Yenangyaung oil-fields. On reaching Imphal in India the Battalion was only eighty strong; it had been forced to abandon all regimental property, including the silver place, which was buried at Pyingyaing and never recovered.

After being re-formed the Battalion was stationed in Eastern India and on the Burma frontier until December 1943, when it was moved to Delhi. It was chosen to take part in the assault on Malaya in August 1945, and underwent training in the Mysore jungles for this purpose.

1/4th Battalion

The 1/4th Battalion was first in action in Norway in April and May 1940. It had been stationed at Northallerton prior to Norway. On June 22, 1940 the battalion sailed from Glasgow on the transport Andes as part of the 49th Infantry Division for Iceland, to hold that island in case the Germans attempted to seize it. On August 26, 1942 the battalion returned to England and were quartered at Ross-on-Wye. After a period of training in England the Battalion landed in Normandy - Gold Beach - as part of the 49th (West Riding) Division, 146th Brigade, Division was under command of Major General Evelyn Barker. From then onwards until the Germans surrendered in May 1945, the Battalion was almost continually in action. The first full-scale Divisional assault carried out by the 49th Division at Cristot, the capture and holding of Tessel Wood during the battle of Fontenay le Pesnil, and the capture of Le Havre were the outstanding actions of the Battalion in France.

The severest fighting took place during the autumn and winter in the Low Countries. Four months of cold, wet weather were spent in close contact with the Germans near Nijmegen. In April the Battalion advanced into Holland, capturing Arnhem, and ended the war in Utrecht.

2/4th Battalion

Throughout the war the 2/4th Battalion served with the 46th Division, and was the first in action in France in 1940. It was then a partially- trained L.of C. unit, armed with rifles and a few Bren guns, but fought a rear-guard action on the Seine before eventual evacuation from Cherbourg and St. Nazaire. In the B.E.F. the 2/4th were in the GHQ Reserve where Major-General H. C. Curtis had the 46th Infantry Division. The 2/4th were in the 138th Infantry Brigade.

In January 1943, the Battalion sailed for North Africa, and took part in a number of engagements before the Germans were finally defeated in Tunisia in May 1943. At Salerno, in Italy, the 2/4th Battalion was one of the earlier units ashore, and fought all through the first winter campaign, crossing in turn the Volturno and the Garigliano, and fought against the German 90 Light Division at Celle.

Three months' rest in Egypt, Syria and Palestine, and then the Battalion returned to Italy in 1945 and moved into Austria with the Army of Occupation.

In WWII the regiment's nine battalions represented the new age of warfare. 5 and 8 KOYLI were anti-aircraft units, 7 KOLYI were armoured, and 9 KOYLI (formerly the Queens Own Yorkshire Dragoons) was motorised. The Second battalion served in Europe and the Mediterranean, the First fought as a rearguard in the retreat through Burma. The 1/4 battalion participated in the Battle of Normandy in 1944 and subsequently in the Netherlands.

Reduced to one battalion, the KOYLI took part in peace-keeping and counter-insurgency operations post war. The battalion moved to Berlin in 1967, where it joined the Light Infantry Regiment.



Tuesday, 29 May, 2007 9:11

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