East Riding Yeomanry posted to Egypt

Tinted postcard of Cairo sent home by Leonard May of the East Riding Yeomanry. © East Riding Museums and the May family.

The East Riding Yeomanry (ERY) was a cavalry regiment originally set up after the Boer War (1899-1902) to address the shortage of good quality mounted troops in the British Army. Yeomanry were volunteer cavalry units. The term ‘yeoman’ originally meant a moderately well-off independent farmer. The ERY had four squadrons, based at Hull, Beverley, York and Bridlington.

Studio portrait of Leonard May in his service uniform. (c) East Riding Museum Service and the May family.

Studio portrait of Leonard May in service uniform. © East Riding Museum Service and the May family.

Withernsea farmer’s son Leonard May was one of those who volunteered to join the ERY in 1915 when he was 20 years old. A yeomanry regiment was a natural choice for a farmer who was used to working with horses. After his initial training in Hull and Beverley, Leonard spent time at Seaham Hall in County Durham, then at Costessey near Norwich, before being posted to Egypt in October 1915.

The troops didn’t know exactly where they were going to be sent. On Monday 25 October May wrote home to his father:

“You will be rather surprised to hear that we are going out on Wednesday. We have been expecting it a bit… We did not know that we would be going really until today when the Colonel told us we were going at last but he did not know where… I am very pleased that we are going and get it over… Tell Mother not to be downhearted about it as I shall come through all right I think and I shall take no risks”.

The ERY spent most of 1916 in the Fayoum oasis guarding against possible attacks on caravan routes by a local tribe.

Learning resources

For downloadable images, teachers’ notes and activity ideas about the East Riding Yeomanry’s time in Egypt and Palestine, go to www.mylearning.org.

War Stories: the First World War in the East Riding

This film follows Withernsea farmer's son Leonard May through his experiences with the East Riding Yeomanry during the First World War.