Sherwood Rangers

Nottinghamshire Yeomanry

'In the matter of dealing out cracks on the skull to wrongdoers, the men of Nottinghamshire have never been known to waste much time. The Chronicler tells us that they were serving with their county regiments in the time of King Alfred. When this Monarch performed his celebrated feat with the cakes, history's most memorable 'brew-up' was no doubt being reported by an early Notts. warrior over the Rear Link to Brigade. Men from this county fought with with King Harold at Stamfordbridge and licked the Norwegians; a week later, Harold went on to Hastings and got beaten - the Notts. men must have been left in reserve.'

Sherwood Rangers by T. M. Lindsay

Early History

In 1794 with Napoleon threatening, local volunteer cavalry units were recruited to replace regular horsed regiments serving overseas. Who would pay for them? Not the Government so the Duke of Newcastle, the Duke of Portland and Lord Middleton donated 300 each to start the ball rolling to provide uniforms. As volunteers the troops were not paid unless needed for invasion, or to suppress riots. For over a hundred years all they had to deal with was local riots till the Boer War began when they formed a squadron of the Third Imperial Yeomanry Regiment and fought their first action at Bishof in April 1900.

In the First World War the Regiment fought in North Africa and Middle East. After fighting as cavalry in the Struma Valley in 1916, they joined the Australian mounted division in the following year to take part the capture of Beersheba. In the Jordan Valley they shared in the famous raid on Es Salt and in 1918 joined in Allenby's great advance from Jaffa, covering 540 fighting miles to Aleppo. In Haifa they captured at sword point the Turkish batteries on Mount Carmel.

Second World War

Tobruk and Crete

In September 1939, the Regiment was mobilised as a horsed cavalry unit and arrived in Palestine at the end of January 1940 on security duties. In July they lost their horses and began training as motorised infantry but in January 1941 had to switch to coastal gunnery. Three batteries were sent to defend Tobruk and two to Crete. Utilising a variety of guns, the Sherwood Rangers stoically helped defend Tobruk for 6 months against Rommel's tanks and Luftwaffe bombers. When relieved by properly trained gunners from England, the Rangers withdrew to Palestine to train as part of the 8th Armoured Brigade.

In Crete two Rangers' batteries manned coastal guns during the German invasion till all British forces were ordered to evacuate. Captain Miles Hildyard and Captain Michael Parish were captured by German Alpine troops but they escaped and were aided by a Greek officer named Emmanuelle Vernicos, known as 'the Captain'. Helped by the local populace at great risk to all - all male members of four villages were shot by the Germans - they walked across the island and boarded a caique. Sixteen days in an open boat to the mainland and thence through to our Lines.

Western Desert

With tank training completed the 8th Armoured Brigade moved up to the Western desert in July 1942 where they made their name at Bir-Ridge when Rommel's bid for Alexandria was thrown back in disorder by foxy dispositons, adamant defence and deadlly gunning. The Prime Minister visited Africa and is seen pictured right with Capt. Whiting and Lieut. Col. Kellett.

Next came preparations for the Alamein assault. Four new tanks that arrived for the Brigade were named Robin Hood, (pictured right Lieut-Col. Kellet and his crew with 'Robin Hood'), Little John, Friar Tuck and Maid Marian. The Sherwood Rangers would head the attack through the minefield. As Colonel Kellet said to Captain McCraith who was to navigate the Regiment: 'Put on your white flannels, you're batting first for England.' After two days of fierce fighting against German tanks and anti-tank guns at Miteiriya Ridge they forced the Germans to withdraw. Casualties were high: 4 officers killed and 18 wounded; 8 other ranks killed and 40 wounded, and 15 missing.

When the Germans began a general retreat, the Regiment swept up to Galal station to cut the coastal road where they destroyed 26 enemy tanks. General Montgomery wrote: 'The Army Commander congratulates all ranks on their magnificent victory at Galal station which has done much to help in the final destruction of the enemy forces.' Colonel Kellet wrote: 'The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, after one year's training as an armoured regiment, won one of the most classic victories standing to the credit of any armoured regiment.'

When Tripoli was captured a small party of Sherwood Rangers took part in a Victory Parade where Winston Churchill took the march past. In his speech to the men he said: 'In the days to come when asked by those at home what part you played in this war, it will be with pride in your hearts you can reply: "I marched with the Eighth Army."'

The 8th Armoured Brigade moved out to El Uotia with new tanks ready to meet an attack by Rommel's Panzer Divisions at Metameur. After the Germans lost 52 tanks - the Allies lost none - they retreated behind the Mareth Line. During the fighting the Commanding Officer Colonel Kellett was killed. Lieut. Keith Douglas, who always referred to him as 'Piccadilly Jim' wrote: 'He had embodied in himself all the regimental characteristics he had been at pains to create: that assumption of superiority, that dandyism, individuality and disregard of the the duller military conventions and regulations that made the Regiment sometimes unpopular - the Australians could not understand men who polished their badges for a battle.'

The Mareth Line ran between the coast and the Matmata hills and after attempts to outflank it, Monty decided 'a left hook' was required. Three armoured regiments, including the Sherwood Rangers, led the assault followed by New Zealand infantry, and broke through after one day's fighting. It came at a price - many tank commanders were killed or wounded. The Allies swept on to Tunis where the Germans and Italians surrendered. After a rest the Sherwood Rangers left for home and began training on amphibious tanks for the invasion of Europe.

Normandy

The regiment embarked from Southampton and as dawn broke on the 6th of June 1944 the Rangers forged their way through five or six feet high waves in their amphibian tanks on to 'Gold' beach at Le Hamel. Leading the assault of the 50th Division, they began taking casualties before they were even out of the water. Despite tough German resistance, the Rangers broke through the beach head and pushed inland and were the first British unit into the town of Bayeux. The area was not suitable for tanks and the number of caualties rose. The bitter, wearying, ding-dong battle drew every S.S and Panzer division in France to the British sector while the rest of the front faced half a Panzer division and so eventually enabled the American troops to break through to the west of Cherbourg and stream into central France.

With the Germans in retreat the Sherwood Rangers crossed the Seine in support of the infantry. They then led the 8th Armoured Brigade across the Somme but in gaining a bridgehead over the Albert Canal in Belgium they ran into fierce resistance from the Germans and endured three bitter days of fighting. Casualties were the worst since the Normandy landings - 2 officers and 21 men killed.

During the Arnhem operation the Rangers supported the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division and Captain McKay Reconnaissance's Group (pictured right) were the first British troops to enter Germany - announced on the B.B.C. News. Although the Arnhem Bridge had to be given up, the Rangers helped the Americans hold the Nijmegen bridge. A memorandum of the U.S. 82nd Airborne said of the Sherwood Rangers: 'The Unit on its arrival rendered every possible support to our troops quickly, courageously and without the usual red tape connected with such support.' A brass cup, made from shell cases by regimental fitters, was presented to the Americans by the Rangers, an indication of the splendid spirit of co-operation between the two groups.

In support of the inexperienced 84th U.S. Division, the Rangers were first across the Seigfriend Line before the battle for the important town of Geilenkirchen (pictured right Umbrellas into battle for Holland) which was tenaciously defended by the Germans. Some of the Regiment were put up for American decorations.

To help the Americans combat the German counter-offensive through the Ardennes just prior to Christmas 1944, the Rangers joined in an attack on the Roer salient before fighting their way to the Rhine.

Crossing the Rhine on 27th March, the Rangers fought their way through Bremen before the Germans finally surrendered on 7th May 1945. General Sir Brian Horrocks later visited the 8th Armoured Brigade and told them: 'The Sherwood Rangers had seen more fighting than any other regiment, largely due to the fact the infantry always asked especially for their support in their operations - a sure sign of the Rangers' fighting qualities.' They won around 150 bravery awards, ranging from the Military Cross to the American Silver Star. It came at a cost of 34 officers and 213 other ranks killed in action.

Extract from 84th U.S. Infantry Divisional History

'One of the brightest aspects of the entire action, both in Prummern and in Geilenkirchen, was the tank infantry team work. (pictured right Sherwood Rangers with American infantry during battle for Geilenkirchen). It was made all the more interesting by the fact that the tankers were British and the infantry American. The Tankers were veterans and the infantry were going into battle for the first time. The British earned the admiration and enthusiasm of our men, even though they stopped for a bit of tea at the most unlikely moments. They were absolutely fearless and selfless even when they had to take heavy losses. The Siegfied Line was not a play ground for tanks. One of our officers who worked closely with them said: "I was sold on the British. Those boys were good. There's not a man in my company who will say there is anything wrong with a British soldier because of the support we got from these tankers."'

 
Peace

The Freedom of Entry into the City of Nottingham was granted to Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry on 21 September 1946. On the same day in a memorial address at St. Mary's Church, Nottingham, Rev. Canon Hughes, Chaplain-General to the forces told the Regiment: 'That journey of constant battle across desert, mountain, sea, land and river of over 3,000 miles is a record of endurance, steadfastness and achievement which has, I think, no equal. It is no shame to feel just pride in it . . . And you had gaiety: firmly based on a right purpose and a sound equipment you were carefree and gay, described by a visitor who saw many divisions as "the most cheerful troops I have encountered." There is laughter on almost every page of your diaries. You could halt from battle on Boxing Day, 1944, and tow your Father Christmas and your painted clown through Schinnen to a party at the village Hall. Let that same gaiety mark all Sherwood Rangers and pass like sunshine through the land till Merrie England is her happy self again.'

'Softly over Sherwood the south wind blows,
All the heart of England hid in every rose
Hears across the greenwood the sunny whisper,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?
 
. . . The dead are coming back again, the years are rolled away
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.'
 
Sherwood by Alfred Noyes

 

Acknowledgement to Sherwood Rangers by T.M.Lindsay

Sherwood Times