The Fife and Forfar Imperial Yeomanry

In April 1901, with the 20th Company Imperial Yeomanry still serving in South Africa, the wind of change was in the air for the old Fife and Forfar Light Horse Regiments. A Royal warrant and special Army order was published stating

"all Corps of our Volunteer Light Horse and Volunteer Companies of Mounted Infantry shall be disbanded or merged into Squadrons of our Imperial Yeomanry."

As the Fife and Forfar Light Horse were the only surviving Regiments of this type out of the 30 or so that had existed at various times from 1860, the order could only refer to them. Colonel Sir John Gilmour applied for and recieved permission to convert the Regiments and The Fife and Forfar Imperial Yeomanry was born. The old Fife Light Horse Jacket, which had been such a familiar sight for over 40 years was now discarded in favour of a new drab service uniform. Officers still wore the old uniforms for "undress", mess kit and levee dress. Indeed the uniform was worn by Lieutenant Mitchell at King George V's coronation in 1911 and Captain Spencer-Nairn wore a slightly updated version of the old uniform when his wife was presented at Court in 1939.

The new khaki drab uniform had blue collars (with thane of fife collar dogs) and shoulderstaps (possibly with I.Y. embroidered or metal shoulder titles), general service Imperial Yeomanry buttons, breeches (with blue welt down the sides) lacing at the knee, putties and brown boots. A brick colour slouch hat with thane of fife badge was worn to complete the uniform. Officers wore leather gaiters instead of putties but otherwise their uniform was the same.

The annual training in June 1902 was the first time the regiment was fully kitted out in the new uniform.

For a more detailed look at the uniforms and equipment worn by the F.&F.I.Y. click here

Filling the regiment with enough troopers in peacetime was always a difficult task and just as the Fife Mounted Rifles and Fife Light Horse had survived under the threat of disbandment if the establishment was not full, the newly converted Imperial Yeomanry now received warnings from the War Office. In 1903 Colonel Gilmour called a meeting of officers when it was decided that a smarter uniform would help with recruiting. With a concerted recruitment drive over the now reduced recruiting area (the creation of the Scottish Horse and Lovat's Scouts as new Imperial Yeomanry Regiments had caused recruiting areas in Scotland to be redefined) a big influx of new recruits was secured by early 1904. Ironically no sooner had the recruits been found, the War Office decided to reduce the establishment of I.Y. Regiments by 20%. The Regiment, harrased for being under strength the previous year now had too many men!.

The Regiment was made up of 4 Squadrons "A" and "B" from Fife, "C" from Forfarshire and "D" from Aberdeenshire.

Like the Volunteer soldiers of the past, the Yeomanry spent time at training events and reviews. The National Library of Scotland holds details of one of their mock battles in 1902, a transcript of it is here.

It didn't always pay to be too good at these manouvers however, as a young Subaltern discovered in 1903. A scheme which had been carefully planned and prepared so that an inspecting Officer could witness the Yeomanry tactics and performance over the course of a morning was cut short. The eager Subaltern galloped his attacking troop around the flank of the enemy and captured the key position from the rear before the inspecting Officer was aware the action had even begun. However, instead of awarding tea and medals to the Subaltern for his zeal and tactics, the inspecting Officer set a new attack and defence scheme of his own. The last thing seen of our hero was him painfully walking uphill over a heavy grass field towards his led horse a mile away.

Annual summer camps at Annsmuir with mock battles fought over the hills and farmland of Fife was the staple for the Yeomanry for the next few years.

The dashing uniform of 1903-1908 is illustrated in the photo below. It would be worn until the army reforms in 1908 when the old volunteer regiments were converted into the new Territorial Force.

See the Fife Territorials page for more details.

"B" Squadron, F.&F.I.Y. commanded by Major Mitchell at Annsmuir Camp 1904

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