The 16th Battalion was formed in Egypt
on 21st December 1916 by the amalgamation of two yeomanry regiments, the Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry and the Royal North Devon Hussars. Both had mobilised in August 1914 and had landed, as part of 2nd South West Mounted Brigade, at SuvlaBay
, Gallipoli, on 8th October 1915. Here, dismounted as infantry, they had suffered shelling and high rates of sickness until they were evacuated in late December. They arrived in Egypt
in early 1916.
In the spring of 1917, after the amalgamation, the 16th Devons were sent to the front at Gaza
, where they patrolled and skirmished with the Turks. After intensive training, they played a part in Allenby’s advance on Jerusalem
and, on 3rd December, suffered 286 casualties in an unsuccessful attack on El Foka. After the capture of Jerusalem
the 16th helped push the Turks northwards before being returned to Kantara under orders for France
By 26th June 1918 the 16th were in the line at Norrent-Fontes and repulsed a German raid. Following up the retreating Germans, they advanced two miles in two days. During the heady advances of the last hundred days of the War, the 16th Devons were on the Somme
sector. With fierce actions at Ronssoy and Epehy their casualties in September exceeded 200.
In October they moved north and advanced from Neuve Chapelle, around Lille
and towards Tournai. In the suburbs of Lille
they encountered strong resistance from machine guns along a railway embankment but a concerted drive by all four companies forced the Germans back across a river towards the Scheldt
. By 8th November, after some heavy shelling to cover their retreat, the Germans had evacuated Tournai. The 16th Devons were a day’s march from Tournai when they received news of the Armistice.
In their campaign in Palestine the 114 men of the 16th Devons had lost their lives. Their brief but successful time in France cost another 99. Their long service earned them eight battle honours: four from each campaign.