In 1936 the 8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion was converted to Anti-Aircraft artillery. In 1938 the 7th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion was converted to the armoured rôle, and redesignated '45th (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Corps (TA)' (45 RTR). In early 1939 the Territorial Army was doubled in size requiring that existing units each raised 'duplicate units'. This resulted in 'A' Squadron of 45 RTR, at Morley, expanding to become a second regiment - '51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA)'. Both units adopted the badges of the Royal Tank Regiment retaining the Leeds Rifles' colours on their uniform shoulder-strap flashes. Both tank regiments served as such during the Second World War.
When the Territorial Army was reconstituted in 1947 45th (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA) reformed with Headquarters and two squadrons at Leeds, Carlton Barracks, and one squadron at Morley. In 1952 the Regiment was redesignated as 45th/51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA). In 1956 45th/51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA) reverted to the infantry rôle and again became the 7th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own) (TA).
By 1961 both the Leeds Rifles' artillery and tank regiments had reverted to the infantry rôle, and amalgamated to form one infantry battalion, The Leeds Rifles The Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire (TA).
This is reproduced, with the author's permission, from "The Fog of War" by the late A.J.Podmore, M.B.E., T.D.
51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Corps (TA)
Following the conversion in 1938 of the 7th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion to 45RTR, in June 1939 a detached Company of 45RTR formed the basis of the 51st Bn Royal Tank Regiment in Morley, an ancient town to the south of Leeds.
The first years of the Second World War were spent in a combination of training for their new armoured role and Home Defence duties. In January 1943, however, they finally set off for overseas duties - disguised as Gunners, so as to confuse any enemy intelligence operations - in North Africa where they were soon in action. After a subsequent period of recuperation and repair, the Battalion took to the sea again, landing at Naples in Italy, 18th April 1944.
Moving to Lucera, near Foggia, the Battalion joined 1st Canadian Division. On 12th May, the 51st crossed the River Gari and joined up with 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade, prior to their part in the successful attack on the Adolf Hitler Line.
In the final attack on the Adolf Hitler Line on 23rd May 1944, the Battalion, less 'B' Sqn (which had suffered heavy losses in a previous engagement), supported their Canadian partners in an attack on the left of the line.
At 0600 hrs on 23rd May, behind a blinding barrage, the tanks and infantry advanced. The tanks quelled all enemy machine gun fire and the infantry reached their objective, but during the fierce battle, the 51st sustained many casualties - both tanks and men. Finally at 1215 hrs the tanks were withdrawn to re-fuel and re-ammunition while the infantry were able to complete the second phase without serious opposition.
After this battle, the Battalion reluctantly parted company with its Canadian friends and continued its rolling advance, slowly pushing back the enemy line, for another month before a break from front line action.
The following is a verbatim reproduction:
24 May 44
|1.||The following messages have been received and replies sent:-|
|(i)||From Commander 1 Cdn Corps|
|To Commander 25 Army Tank Brigade. rptd Commander 1 Cdn Inf Div|
|Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to the 25 Tank Bde which has fought so magnificently with us today. The courage and determination of all ranks has been beyond praise.|
|(ii)||From Commander 25 Tank Brigade|
|To Commander 1 Cdn Corps. rptd Commander 1 Cdn Inf Bde|
|All ranks 25 Tank Brigade thank you for your most generous messaage. This day has been a great one for all of us and we shall never ask for better comrades than 1 Cdn Inf Div|
|(iii)||From 1 Cdn Inf Div|
|To 25 Tank Bde|
|Message from Comd 1 Cdn Corps to Comd 1 Cdn Div.|
|CANADA will be proud for ever of a battle which its 1 Cdn Div has today won. Through the courage and determination of all ranks of the Div and their British Comrades of the 25 Tank Bde, HITLER LINE has been broken in the face of bitter oposition and the enemy has been dealt a blow from which he will NOT soon recover. The final victory is nearer. Let us press on and complete our task.|
|(iv)||From G.O.C.1 Cdn Inf Div.|
|To 25 Tank Bde.|
|Well done. We have won a resounding victory. This victory is the fruits of your magnificent courage, endurance and the will to win. Now we have the bastards on the run we must keep cracking. Good luck. I am the proudest man in the world|
|(v)||From 25 Tank Bde|
|To G.O.C. 1 Cdn Inf Div|
|All ranks 25 Tk Bde thank you for your kind message. We ask for nothing better than to fight with 1 Cdn Inf Div under your command and will help to make Kesselring run faster and farther yet.|
|2.||The Bde Commander wishes these messages and the following to be read to all ranks.|
|By the great courage and determination which you have shown today and by the magnificent manner in which you faced trhe most difficult task you have ever met, you have made a great page in history. Many experienced soldiers might have thought your task impossible in such country and with such skilled and determined defence. I thank you all for the great job you have done.|
|3.||General G.C.Vokes, DSO, Commanding 1 Cdn Inf Bde, has intimated that he would be pleased if all ranks of 25 Tk Bde would wear a Maple Leaf emblem in token of the part played by the Bde assisting 1 Cdn Inf Div to breach the ADOLF HITLER LINE.|
Commander, 25 Tank Brigade, has accepted the offer with thanks.
Further instructions will be issued at a later date.
|Commander, 25 Tank Brigade|
This explains why the Leeds Detachment (Leeds Rifles), Imphal (PWO) Company, The East and West Riding Regiment, still wear the Maple Leaf.
This brief account of how the 51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment (TA) came to wear the Maple Leaf is based on a Regimental publication, written when events were still fresh in the minds of those who returned.
Lieutenant Colonel J N Tetley, Commanding Officer of 45RTR in 1939, was one of many members of the Leeds family of brewers (Joshua Tetley and Son) who served with the Leeds Rifles since formation in 1859. As Brigadier J N Tetley he later commanded the 25th Armoured Brigade in which the 51st (Leeds Rifles) Royal Tank Regiment served during the Second World War. He enjoyed the distinction of being the only TA officer in the Royal Tank Regiment appointed to command a brigade on active service during the war. Brigadier J N Tetley DSO TD became Honorary Colonel The Leeds Rifles after the war.
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