The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment), frequently known as the Yorkshire Regiment until the 1920s, was an infantry regiment of the British Army, in the King’s Division. Raised in 1688, it served under various titles until it was amalgamated with The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire and The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, all Yorkshire-based regiments in the King’s Division, to form The Yorkshire Regiment on 6 June 2006.
The regiment was formed in 1688 from independent companies of infantry in Devon. It was known by the names of its various colonels until 1751, when it became the 19th Regiment of Foot. In 1782, all regiments of foot without a special designation were given a county title “to cultivate a connection with the County which might at all times be useful towards recruiting”. The regiment became the 19th (1st North Riding of Yorkshire) Regiment of Foot, and its main recruiting efforts continued in this area until 2006, particularly in Middlesbrough, Redcar, Northallerton and Scarborough.
===The Two Howards===
The regiment was known as the Green Howards from 1744. At that time, regiments were known by the name of their colonel. The 19th regiment’s colonel was Hon. Sir Charles Howard. However, at the same time, the 3rd Regiment of Foot had been commanded by its colonel Thomas Howard, since 1737. To tell them apart (since they both would have been known as ‘Howard’s Regiment of Foot’), the colours of their uniform facings were used to distinguish them. In this way, one became ‘Howard’s Buffs’ (eventually simply The Buffs), while the other became the Green Howards. Although the Green Howards were referred to unofficially as such from then on, it was not until 1921 that the regiment was officially retitled as the Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment). Under the Childers reforms, all non-royal English infantry regiments were to wear white facings from 1881. In 1899, the regiment was able to reverse this decision with the restoration of the grass green facings formerly worn by the 19th Foot.
===Princess of Wales’s Own===
In 1875, Princess Alexandra, Princess of Wales presented new colours to the 1st Battalion at Sheffield, and consented to the regiment bearing her name, thus becoming the 19th (1st Yorkshire North Riding – Princess of Wales’s Own) Regiment of Foot. The regiment adopted a cap badge consisting of the Princess’s cypher “A” combined with the Dannebrog or Danish cross and topped by her coronet.
The Princess became Queen Alexandra in 1901, and was the regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief from 1914 until her death in 1925.
In 1881, the infantry of the line were reorganised. The regular regiments of foot lost their numbers, instead taking on a territorial or county title, and amalgamating with the militia battalions and rifle volunteers in its designated regimental district. The regiment was renamed as the Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment), with its recruiting area continuing to be the North Riding. In 1902, the regiment was redesignated as Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment).
==World War I==
In common with all other infantry regiments, the regiment was greatly expanded in size for the duration of the war by the formation of extra battalions: either by the duplication of existing Territorial Force (TF) units or by the raising on new “service” battalions. The following battalions saw active service:
==World War II==
During the Second World War, the regiment was again increased in size, although not to as large an extent as in the 1914–1918 conflict. In all, twelve battalions saw service: the 1st and 2nd regular Battalions, the 4th and 5th Territorial Army (TA) Battalions, the 6th and 7th Battalions (formed as duplicates of the 4th and 5th, when the TA was doubled in size in 1939), the 8th was formed for home defence, the 9th was formed for garrison duty, the 10th was formed by the conversion of the 2nd East Riding of Yorkshire Yeomanry (a war-time duplicate of this yeomanry unit) in 1940 and subsequently becoming the 12th (Yorkshire) Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, the 11th, 12th and 13th were all formed in 1940. In 1942, the 12th Battalion converted to armour as 161st Regiment in the Royal Armoured Corps, but retained its Green Howards cap badge on the black beret of the RAC. It then converted in October 1943 to the recce role as 161st (Green Howards) Regiment in the Reconnaissance Corps. It never went into action as a regiment, but provided a replacement squadron to 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment, which had suffered heavy losses when its transport was sunk on the way to the Normandy Landings.
==Post World War II tours of duty==
From 1949 to 1952, the regiment took part in the campaign against Chinese and Malayan Communist Terrorists in Malaya. After 1952, it served in Afghanistan, Austria, West Germany, Suez, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Libya, Belize, Berlin and Northern Ireland.
In 2004, as part of the re-organisation of the infantry, it was announced that the Green Howards would merge with the Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire (PWO) and the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (DWR) to form the new Yorkshire Regiment. The official rebadging took place on 6 June 2006, whilst elements of the regiment were stationed in Bosnia and Kosovo.
From May 2006 until the regiment’s rebadging, the Green Howards was one of five remaining line infantry regiments that had not been amalgamated in their entire history, a claim shared with:
A and B (Green Howards) companies of the Tyne-Tees Regiment, based in Scarborough and Middlesbrough respectively, merged with the PWO and DWR companies of the East and West Riding Regiment to form the 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, with the official rebadging date, 10 June 2006, being four days after their regular counterparts.
As amalgamation drew ever nearer, on 19 March at a farewell dinner at Dunster Castle in Somerset, the regiment farewelled its Colonel-in-Chief after HM King Harald V chose to end his role with the end of the regiment’s independent existence, while on 28 March, the 1st Battalion held their final parade on British soil. The Colonel of the Regiment, Brigadier JSW Powell OBE, took the parade and took the opportunity to award various service medals to members of the battalion. Almost all personnel of the regiment had deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo.
===King Harald’s Company===
Each year, all companies in the battalion took part in a competition, consisting of sports and military skills tests, to win the right to be named ‘King Harald’s Company’, after the regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief. The winning company was given a special flag bearing the King’s personal cypher, the Company Sergeant Major was presented with a special pace stick, and all members of the company were permitted to wear a special red badge on the arm of their uniform. The last company to hold the title was B (KH) Coy; the tradition was retained on rebadging to the new regiment.
The Green Howards Regimental Museum is located in the old Trinity Church in the centre of the market place in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The former Green Howards Regimental Headquarters, located within the museum, has now taken on the role of an Area Headquarters for the Yorkshire Regiment.