1939-1945 As I Remember
A fascinating account of life within a Yeomanry regiment during the Second World War, this book merits a place on the bookshelf of any serious student of Yeomanry units at war. Leslie Wheeler became the Quartermaster and senior non-commissioned officer of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry and tells the story of a unit that started the Second World War as horsed cavalry regiment before becoming motorised and finally issued with tanks shortly before the end of the War.
Wheeler’s story is unusual since it is told from the Quartermaster’s perspective. One is left in no doubt about the challenges of keeping a front line unit supplied adequately and how a Quartermasters role was anything but “back office”. The book is laced with the usual soldiers black humour, of the difficult “relationship” between young officers and map reading as a skill. It is also tinged with sadness as Wheeler recounts the loss of good friends and colleagues.
The book is edited skilfully by Stephen Keoghane, a retired Royal Wessex Yeomanry colonel and leading urological surgeon, who sets the historical context to each chapter of the book using the units regimental war diary. The result is a well structured and easy to read narrative as the reader follows the unit from England to Palestine, and through the fighting in Syria, Iraq, Persia (as Iran was then called) and finally Italy. Not much has been written about the British Army’s involvement in Palestine and the Levant during the Second World War so the book is also a welcome insight into that aspect of the War.
Whilst there are some excellent photographs within the book, unfortunately there are only two maps used; both extremely basic. That is an unfortunate detraction from what is a very readable account of life as a Quartermaster in a relaxed county Yeomanry unit. From anyone interested in the particular sub cultures of Yeomanry units, this book is an excellent insight into how a Yeomanry unit worked and the special relationships between the officers and men.
1939-1945 As I remember, The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry at War, by L.C.Wheeler, edited by Stephen Keoghane. You can read Stephen’s article on the RWY here.
Rupert Hague-Holmes is an amateur military historian, currently writing a biography about the life and career of Lieutenant General Sir George Lea KCB, DSO, MBE, one of the leading post WW2 British counterinsurgency warfare experts.