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Royal Tank Regiment
ROYAL TANK REGIMENT.png
Cap badge of the Royal Tank Regiment
Active 28 July 1917–present
Country United Kingdom
Branch Army
Type Armoured
Role Armoured
Size Regiment
Part of Royal Armoured Corps
Motto(s) Fear Naught
March Quick: My Boy Willie
Slow: The Royal Tank Regiment Slow March
Anniversaries World War I
*Cambrai, 20 November
World War II
Korean War
Iraqi War
Battle honours see Battle Honours
Commanders
Colonel-in-Chief HM The Queen
Notable
commanders
Hugh Elles
Percy Hobart
Insignia
Tactical Recognition Flash 75px
Tartan Hunting Rose (1st Regt pipers kilts and plaids)
Arm Badge Tank
Abbreviation RTR

The Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) is an armoured regiment of the British Army. It was formerly known as the Tank Corps and the Royal Tank Corps. It is part of the Royal Armoured Corps and is made up of two operational regiments, the 1st Royal Tank Regiment (1RTR) and the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment (2RTR). On 5 July 2012, it was announced that these two regiments would be amalgamated to form a single regiment, to be called simply The Royal Tank Regiment. The official regimental motto is Fear Naught; while the unofficial motto (signified also by the colours of the tactical recognition flash) is "From Mud, Through Blood to the Green Fields Beyond."

NomenclatureEdit

Since the 19th century, an infantry regiment in the British Army has been a purely administrative unit, raising several battalions, which were more often deployed separately. In the First World War for example, it was common to see twenty or more battalions with a single regimental title. However, traditionally, a cavalry regiment did not have subordinate battalions; a "regiment" in the cavalry was in fact a battalion level operational unit, as well as a ceremonial and administrative one. This was not as confusing as it may seem, since where other armies would use "regiment" for a unit of two to four battalions, the British Army used "brigade". Hence, an infantry brigade could consist of three battalions of infantry but a cavalry brigade of equivalent size would have three regiments.

In the inter-war period the British Army began to mechanise, with cavalry regiments giving up their horses in favour of armoured cars or light tanks. The first to do so was the 11th Hussars in 1928; the last was the Royal Scots Greys in 1941. As a result, it became common to refer to any armoured unit as a "regiment" rather than a "battalion" - the 11th Hussars were not merely an armoured-car battalion but the whole of the regiment. In 1945, this usage became formal; all armoured battalions were henceforth referred to as regiments.

The Royal Tank Regiment is itself a regiment of the British Army, part of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC). However, as a result of the above, both of its "battalions" are formally titled regiments. This can cause some confusion, with the regiment currently being composed of two regiments. When the Royal Tank Regiment is reduced to only one battalion strength unit in the upcoming arm restructuring, this will cease to be a matter of confusion.

Recruiting Areas Edit

Former Regiments:

  • 1st Royal Tank Regiment
    • Merseyside, Blackburn, Burnley, Oldham, Leeds, Halifax, Wakefield, Scotland
  • 2nd Royal Tank Regiment
    • Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Greater London, South-East London, Somerset, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall
  • 3rd Royal Tank Regiment
    • Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Avon
  • 4th Royal Tank Regiment
    • Scotland

UniformEdit

The Uniform of the Royal Tank Regiment is unique in many ways to the rest of the Royal Armoured Corps and British Army:

The Black BeretEdit

Much of the uniform and equipment of soldiers during World War One was quite impractical for use inside a tank. In particular, the vision apertures in a tank were so small that it was necessary to keep the eyes very close to them in order to get even a limited vision. Thus, any headdress with a peak was entirely unsuitable.

In May 1918, General Elles and Colonel Fuller were discussing the future of the Tank Corps and its uniform and General Elles tried on a beret of the 70th Chasseurs Alpins who were billeted nearby. A black beret was selected as it would not show oil stains.

No change in uniform was possible during the war, but after a prolonged argument with the War Office, the back beret was approved by King George V on 5 March 1924.

The black beret remained the exclusive headdress of the Royal Tank Corps until its practical value was recognised by others and its use extended to the majority of the Royal Armoured Corps in 1940. On the introduction of the blue beret in 1949, the Royal Tank Regiment reclaimed its right to the exclusive use of the black beret, which may not be worn by any other Regiment or Corps with the exception of the Berkshire and Westminster Dragoons Squadrons of The Royal Yeomanry.[1]

Black CoverallsEdit

The wearing of black overalls is a custom reserved to the Regiment by Material Regulations for the Army, volume 3, Pamphlet No 4 (Code 13251). It stems from the Royal Review held at Aldershot in the presence of King George V on 13 July 1935 on which occasion black overalls were worn on parade by all ranks of the Royal Tanks Corps. The practice lapsed during World War II but was re-introduced in the 1950s.[2]

The Ash PlantEdit

During World War I walking sticks were often carried by officers. Such sticks came to have a new and greater use with the introduction of tanks which often became 'bogged' on battlefields, particularly in Flanders. Officers of the Tank Corps used these sticks to probe the ground in front of their tanks testing for firmness as they went forward. Often the commanders led their tanks into action on foot. To commemorate this, officers of the Regiment carry Ash Plant Sticks instead of the short cane customary to other Arms.[3]

World War IEdit

The formation of the Royal Tank Regiment followed the invention of the tank. Tanks were first used at the battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme in World War I. At that time the six tank companies were grouped as the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). In November 1916 the eight companies then in existence were each expanded to form battalions (still identified by the letters A to H); another seven battalions, I to O, were formed by January 1918, when all the battalion were changed to numbered units. On 28 July 1917 the Heavy Branch was separated from the rest of the Corps by Royal Warrant and given official status as the Tank Corps. The formation of new battalions continued and by December 1918, 26 had been created though there were only 25 battalions equipped with tanks, as the 17th had converted to armoured cars in April 1918. The first commander of the Tank Corps was Hugh Elles. The Corps saw much action in 1917 and 1918, with special note being given to the Battle of Cambrai, where Arthur George Griffiths's tank squadron became the 5th Royal Tank Regiment after the huge success of the tanks. The regiment continues to commemorate this annually. During the war four members of the Corps were awarded the Victoria Cross. Losses and recurrent mechanical difficulties reduced the effectiveness of the Corps, leading the Bovington Tank School to adopt a doctrine that emphasized caution and high standards of maintenance.

Interwar periodEdit

After the war, the Tank Corps was trimmed down to a central depot and four battalions: the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Battalions.

During the early 1920s, the Tank Corps was augmented by 20 Armoured Car Companies: twelve Regular Army, created using MGC elements; and eight Territorial Army (TA) created by the reduction and conversion of Yeomanry Regiments. Eight of the Regular Army Companies were later converted into independent Light Tank Companies; all twelve Companies had been disbanded by the outbreak of the Second World War.

On 18 October 1923,[4] it was officially given the title Royal making it the Royal Tank Corps (RTC) by Colonel-in-Chief King George V. It was at this time that the motto, "Fear Naught", the black beret, and the unit badge were adopted.

In 1933, the 6th Battalion, RTC was formed in Egypt by combining the personnel of the 3rd and 5th Regular Army Armoured Car Companies. In 1934, the 1st (Light) Battalion, RTC was formed in England with personnel drawn from the 2nd, 3rd & 5th Battalions.

With the preparations for war in the late 1930s, two more Regular Army Battalions were formed: the 7th in 1937 and the 8th in 1938. In the latter half of 1938, six TA Infantry Battalions were converted to Tank Battalions; with a further six created in 1939 following the "duplication" of the TA.[5]

Territorial Army Battalions of the Royal Tank Corps Origin
40th (The King's) conversion of 7th Btn, The King's (Liverpool) Regiment
41st (Oldham) conversion of 10th Btn, The Manchester Regiment
42nd (7th (23rd London) Btn, The East Surrey Regiment) conversion of 7th (23rd London) Btn, The East Surrey Regiment
43rd (6th (City) Btn, The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers) conversion of 6th Btn, The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
44th conversion of 6th Btn, The Gloucestershire Regiment
45th (Leeds Rifles) conversion of 7th (Leeds Rifles) Btn, The West Yorkshire Regiment
46th (Liverpool Welsh) duplicate of 40th RTC
47th (Oldham) duplicate of 41st Btn
48th duplicate of 42nd Btn
49th duplicate of 43rd Btn
50th duplicate of 44th Btn
51st (Leeds Rifles) duplicate of 45th Btn

On 4 April 1939, the Royal Tank Corps was renamed the Royal Tank Regiment and became a wing of the newly created Royal Armoured Corps.

The eight Yeomanry Armoured Car Companies of the RTR were activated and transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps.

Before the Second World War, Royal Tank Corps recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 4 inches tall. They initially enlisted for six years with the colours and a further six years with the reserve. They trained at the Royal Tank Corps Depot at Bovington Camp, Dorset for about eight months.[6]

World War IIEdit

At the outbreak of war, the regiment consisted of 18 battalions, 8 regular and 10 territorial.

During the course of the war, four "hostilities-only" battalions were formed: the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th.[7]

11 RTR formed part of 79th Armoured Division (a specialist group operating vehicles known as "Hobart's Funnies"), initially equipped with "Canal Defence Light" tanks, it converted to "Buffalo" (the British service name for the US Landing Vehicle Tracked) not long after D-Day and participated in the assault crossing of the Rhine. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was ferried across the Rhine in a Buffalo from 'C' Squadron, 11RTR.

The Regiment's numerous units took part in countless battles in World War II, including the Battle of Dunkirk, El Alamein and D-Day. Field Marshal Montgomery would frequently wear the regiment's beret, with his Field Marshal's badge sewn on next to the regimental cap badge, as it was more practical whilst travelling on a tank than either a formal peaked hat or the Australian slouch hat he previously wore.

Post-war periodEdit

After service in the Korean War, the RTR was reduced through various amalgamations, firstly, in 1959-60:

  • 3RTR and 6RTR amalgamated as 3RTR
  • 4RTR and 7RTR amalgamated as 4RTR
  • 5RTR and 8RTR amalgamated as 5RTR

In 1969, 5RTR was disbanded, while, under Options for Change, 4RTR amalgamated with 1RTR, and 3RTR amalgamated with 2RTR.

Current statusEdit

Today, there are two regiments, the 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments (1RTR and 2RTR). Currently, half of 1RTR is located with No. 27 Squadron RAF Regiment) at RAF Honington after recently handing over their CBRN role, with the other half as a training unit at Harman Lines, Warminster; while 2RTR retains its role as an armoured regiment as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade at Aliwal Barracks, Tidworth. This CBRN role has shifted solely to the RAF as of 2011.

The Royal Tank Regiment has continued to see action, including missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. Elements of 1RTR were deployed to Afghanistan in 2002; and both regiments were involved in the invasion of Iraq, with the 2RTR battlegroup playing an important role in the capture of the city of Basra. Squadrons of both Regiments have continued to deploy in Afghanistan and Iraq carrying out both Armoured and Infantry taskings.

In July 2012, under the Army 2020 reorganisation following the SDSR, it was announced that 1RTR and 2RTR would merge to form a single Royal Tank Regiment in 2014. This would bring the RTR into line with the structure of the rest of the Royal Armoured Corps, i.e. having the administrative and operational parts as a single regiment. The regiment will be equipped with Challenger 2 tanks and based at Tidworth and slated to be part of the Reaction Force, coming under 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade.[8][9]

Under the furthur Army 2020 Refines, the regiment was reduced in size, but barely, and assigned to the 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade and remained at Aliwal Barracks based in Tidworth Camp.

VehiclesEdit

The Royal Tank Regiment uses a variety of vehicles, including:

Battle honoursEdit

Royal Tank Regiment memorial

Royal Tank Regiment memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum.

The Great WarEdit

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