The Queen Victoria’s Rifles
The Queen Victoria’s Rifles was the designation of the 9th Battalion, London Regiment, a Territorial Army infantry battalion of the British Army. This was formed in 1908 in order to regiment the various Volunteer Force battalions in the newly formed County of London, Queen Victoria’s Rifles were one of twenty six units brought together in this way.
The Queen Victoria’s Rifles could trace their origins back to the old volunteer regiments of the Napoleonic Wars when the Duke of Cumberland’s Sharpshooters were formed as a Corps of Riflemen on the 5th of September in 1803.
Many transformations occurred over the next century until the passing of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act came into effect on April 1, 1908 and the old volunteer regiments were reorganised into the new Territorial Force. In this way the QVRs were formed by the amalgamation of:
1st Middlesex (Victoria and St George’s) Volunteer Rifle Corps (previously 4th Volunteer Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC)
19th Middlesex (St Giles and St George’s, Bloomsbury) Volunteer Rifle Corps (previously 6th Volunteer Battalion, Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own)
World War I
The QVRs arrived in Le Havre on November 5 1914, one of the first Territorial battalions to serve in France; they were attached to the 13th Brigade of the 5th Division.
On April 17 1915, an attack was mounted on Hill 60 by the 13th Brigade which included:
2nd Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers
2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment
1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment
2nd Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Queen Victoria’s Rifles (9th Battalion, London Regiment)
The Hill was a small promontory on the edge of the Ypres Salient that afforded good views for the Germans across the British lines and in to Ypres. It was therefore of great tactical significance to both sides who “fought with great gallantry”.
Prior to the attack, the hill had been undermined for days with five galleries being driven under the German positions. The plan was to detonate large mines under the hill to destroy the enemy and their positions, then the 13th Brigade would occupy the area. The Hill was captured on April 17th and on April 20th, two and a half companies of the QVRs were ordered up to the front line as the enemy made a counter-attack.
At dawn on the 21st of April, the Germans began bombarding the QVRs with hand grenades. Casualties were heavy, including two officers, Major Lees and Lieutenant Summerhays who were killed. It was then that Lieutenant Geoffrey Harold Woolley left a position of safety to take command of the soldiers on the Hill. Only 40 QVRs were left in the front line, but by rallying the troops with encouragement and letting the men know that reinforcements were on the way, Woolley helped repulse the counter-attack by throwing bombs (grenades) at the advancing Germans. For his gallantry Lieutenant Woolley was awarded the Victoria Cross, the first to be won by the Territorial Force.
The QVRs remained in France for the rest of the war. Their losses are remembered at Hill 60 by the QVR memorial and at the nearby QVR café and museum.
Post-World War I
Between the wars, the Queen Victoria’s Rifles was affiliated to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and re-constituted as two motorized infantry battalions and became the Territorial Army units of the KRRC.
At the outbreak of World War II, 1/QVR and 2/QVR were formally made part of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, becoming the 7th and 8th KRRC Battalions respectively. The 7th KRRC (1st Queen Victoria’s Rifles) were designated a motor-cycle reconnaissance battalion and armed with revolvers instead of rifles. As part of the 30th Infantry Brigade, they were hurriedly sent across the English Channel, but due to an error, their motor cycles and sidecars were left in England. They fought in the desperate operation at Calais between 23rd and 26th of May 1940, which bought valuable time for the main Battle of Dunkirk. All were either killed or captured and the battalion had to reconstitute from scratch.
Both battalions served with distinction throughout the rest of the war.
Queen Victoria’s Rifles were merged with the Queen’s Westminsters to form the Queen’s Royal Rifles on May 1st in 1961.
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