THIS is the moment the first English soldier rode into a small Belgian town nearly 95 years ago.
For the residents of Erquelinnes, this arrival heralded the beginning of the end of the First World War, as soldiers from the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars – also known as the Oxfordshire Yeomanry – liberated the town on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.
Now 11 members of the regiment, including two who had fathers who fought in the First World War, will be returning to the town on Friday, September 6.
One of their fathers was part of the regiment’s D Squadron that went to Erquelinnes on the Belgian border with France.
Organiser Michael Cross, volunteer and researcher for the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust who will be accompanying the group, said this is the first-known return for the regiment since the First World War.
Former soldiers from the regiment travel every year to somewhere on the Western Front where the Yeomanry served.
Mr Cross, from Eynsham, said: “It is an opportunity for us to reflect on a very important bit in history.”
The 65-year-old, who is not a former serviceman, said the previous 100 days had seen the German soldiers retreating as the Armistice was about to take place.
Of the regiment, he said: “They were seen to be the liberators of Erquelinnes.
“There is an account of a German machine gunner who continued to shoot after 11am. And he was killed by the Yeomanry.”
Mr Cross was sent the photo of the first English soldier in Erquelinnes by Alain Brootcoorens, owner of Angelus Biere d’Erquelinnes and organiser of the Hops Festival, which is taking place over the weekend of the trip.
Mr Cross said: “Quite by chance that same weekend is their Hops Festival in the hops growing area being run by a brewery.
“The brewery have now invited us to participate in the festival.
“We are going to be part of the opening ceremony and we are doing a wreath laying ceremony in Erquelinnes.
“They have organised a welcoming ceremony to greet us.”
He added: “The most exciting thing at the moment is that they sent me a photo of the first soldier in Erquelinnes in 1918.
“It is hard to be 100 per cent, but he wears all the regalia and weapons of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry. It is a wonderful thing.”
Colonel Tim May, a veteran of the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars and president of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust, said: “I think it is quite extraordinary.
“I think it has a certain amount of poignant significance when you think about it.”
He added that the soldiers carried a sign which had ‘D Squadron’ on one side and the Banbury Arms, which had been painted on, on the other side during the war.
Mr May said: “We are going to take it with us.
“They are having another dance in the town hall so we are going to exhibit it in there.”
Mr Cross added: “Erquelinnes is always a place I have wanted to go to. I have always known the connection to Erquelinnes, but I hadn’t ever researched it before. We wouldn’t have known about the photo.”
Queen's own Oxfordshire Hussars.
The Hussars were among the first territorial soldiers to arrive in France in September 1914 and were soon engaged with the enemy, writes Michael Cross.
Their primary role as cavalry was never really fulfilled until perhaps 1918 when the German retreat provided the right circumstances for them to both support the infantry and also the opportunity to scout ahead to monitor the retreat.
During 1914-1918 they spent many hours waiting in readiness for an old-fashioned cavalry attack but also endured several periods in front-line trenches alongside the infantry.
They were also required to provide working parties to assist in various trench-building and repair operations, plus support in recovering wounded men on occasions.
The liberation of Erquelinnes was perhaps a high point in their efforts and was their last taste of combat in the Great War.
The Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars is also known as the Oxfordshire Yeomanry.
The Yeomanry regiments were formed for home defence during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century and the first Oxford unit was the Oxfordshire Fencible Cavalry, which was the forerunner of the Yeomanry.
Sir Winston Churchill was the commander of the Henley Squadron for several years.
During the First World War there were three squadrons: A based in Oxford, C based in Henley and D based in Banbury.
The next turning the pages ceremony.
THOSE who served in the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars and lost their lives in the two world wars will be honoured at the next Turning The Pages Ceremony.
The bi-monthly gathering to read out 20 names of men from the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars and the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry will be read out on Saturday, September 7, at 11am at Christ Church Cathedral.
The names to be read out are:
- Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars.
- First World War, 1914-1918: William John Lewington, Henry Lindsay, Ralph Lines, Joseph Lovejoy, Ernest Lovell.
- Second World War, 1939-1945: James Edgar Taylor, Sydney William Taylor, James Thornton, Henry Arthur Wisker, Harold Percy Brown.
- Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
- First World War, 1914-1918: Ashley William Neville Ponsonby, Percy Edgar Baxter, John Edward Allder, Frederick George Hames, Harold Victor Thomas.
- Second World War, 1939-1945: Albert John French, Frank William Keeping, William Boyd Murray, George Francis Purchase, David William Wallis.