The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment
Militia, Volunteers and Territorials
The Post War Years
In something of a state of euphoria, and as in 1918 the feeling in 1945 was that there would be no more wars or rumours of wars. Sadly, disillusionment soon followed. As well as minor “brush fire” confrontations in various parts of the world, threats of a major conflict with an increasingly powerful and aggressive Russia soon became obvious. If actual war was absent, the period known as “the Cold War” was definitely present. A thorough appraisal of the Army and its organisation and preparations had to be hurriedly undertaken.
As regards the Territorial Army, the 1947 defence plan was that there would be nine infantry divisions and two armoured divisions. The twenty-five Yeomanry Regiments were to be formed into two armoured brigades. A £12 tax free bounty could be paid subject to certain training commitments.
In 1950 a unique factor emerged which was not entirely welcomed as it was felt to strike at the very roots of the voluntary spirit of the Territorials. National Service conscripts, at the end of their two-year engagement in the Regular Army were to be required to serve a further three and a half years in the Territorials. One advantage of this system was that it brought TA units up to strength. By the end of 1952 the Territorial Army as a whole numbered 198,500 of whom two thirds were National Servicemen. Some of the initially involuntary recruits later became converted to the spirit of the thing and stayed on as volunteers in their units.
In the 1950s questions of defence, and the possibility of a major confrontation with Russian and Communist countries were matters for serious consideration. The Korean War was being waged on a massive scale, the Suez crisis flared and tension mounted in Europe as Russian obstructive tactics and threats increased.
The Home Guard was re-constituted, certain Reservist classes were recalled to the Colours and programmes of Civil Defence training, with nuclear warfare in mind, were undertaken. In all this the Territorial Army had an important part to play and vast reorganisations took place. Some units were given a NATO role while others became linked to the Civil Defence system and underwent specialist training.
Amalgamations took place, particularly in the Yeomanry Regiments who were converted into various roles, many of them as armoured units. Much to their disgust the Rough Riders, together with three battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment, were converted to Infantry.
In 1954 the Anti-Aircraft Command was disbanded, the age of the guided missile had made the anti-aircraft gun of war-time days obsolete. Further re-organisation took place in 1956 the idea being to produce “a reserve capable of dealing with any eventuality because it is impossible to predict with certainty what form a future war might take”.
The new organisation, now known as the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, mounted a recruiting campaign to attract more members. Increased bounties were offered for extra training duties and for undertakings to serve overseas if required.
In 1958 there came the Golden Jubilee of the Territorial Army and suitable celebrations were organised, the major review being in Hyde Park. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother reviewed 3,000 troops at Sydenham Airfield, Belfast, the Queen reviewed 3,000 troops in Edinburgh and thanksgiving services were held in Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.
By 1962 the Regular Army was fully stretched by reason of Britain’s various commitments so some Territorials who had opted for overseas service were called on to honour their obligations. The main contingent called were for reinforcements for The Royal Sussex Regiment who were being sent to Aden. Smaller detachments were required for the Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, REME and Intelligence.
More changes, this time of a serious and far reaching nature, were envisaged by 1965. Plans were for the Territorial Army to go, together with the Army Emergency Reserve. Even the titles would disappear. Replacement would be in the form of a newly designated Army Volunteer Reserve divided into various categories according to requirements. But the title of “Territorials” was not to be so easily lost. Stubborn resistance by influential organisation and people, including Members of Parliament, resulted in it being retained, the new organisation eventually being styled The Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve.
Succeeding years, regrettably, saw continued attempts to reduce or even disband the Territorials but thankfully the organisation survived, albeit in much reduced and altered form. Amalgamations, both for Regular and Territorial Army formations, became the order of the day. A new Queen’s Regiment was founded by the incorporation of the former Queen’s Royals and East Surreys (already amalgamated into The Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment), The Royal Sussex, The Queen’s Own Buffs, The Royal West Kent and the Middlesex Regiment (DCO). Even the elite Household Cavalry were affected, The Blues being amalgamated with the Royal Dragoons in 1969 to form the Blues and Royals.
The effects of all these changes were as great, or possibly greater, on the Territorials as on the Regulars. The situation was not improved by the gradual departure of the war veterans, the seasoned and experienced campaigners who heralded from a truly volunteer age. A really true veteran was RQMS George E Gander MBE, Cheshire Yeomanry who at the time of his retirement in March 1967 had completed 46 years continuous service.
The disappearance of the war-time members resulted in some units being commanded by officers with only National Service behind them or, no previous Army experience. The 1980s saw women officers being appointed to command some mixed major units.
Overseas service for committed members continued, Hong Kong, Cyprus and Gibraltar being some of the locations involved.
Gradually the difficulties of various changes were overcome and a newer slimmer and streamlined organisation emerged with enthusiastic efficiency. By 1967 the Territorials were forming a substantial form of support for the Regular Army at an economic rate which should have pleased the taxpayer.
Succeeding years were to see many political changes in the world, notably the end of the Cold War but active warfare in other regions. The style and form of Armed Services would change accordingly. The Territorials, all too frequently, were to realise that such problems were not new but recurring.