The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI), formerly the 51st Regiment, was raised in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1755 and has had the strongest possible association with that area ever since. It was in the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) that, at the Battle of Minden (1759) the Regiment gained its first, and perhaps most well known, battle honour. The victory at Minden is celebrated every year on 1st August when white roses are worn in the headdress, symbolising the roses allegedly plucked by soldiers of the Regiment at Minden.
From 1771 to 1782 the Regiment was in Minorca, and it was there in 1777 that the young Ensign John Moore joined the Regiment. After service in Ireland, Gibraltar and Corsica the 51st returned to England for a brief stay before embarking for Spain in 1807. The Regiment distinguished itself at Lugo and Corunna and, in tribute to their former commander General Sir John Moore, the 51st was formed into a Light Infantry Corps in 1809 fighting with immense distinction in the great battles of the Peninsula War including Fuentes d’Onor, Salamanca, Vittoria and Badajoz. It was at the storming of Badajoz in 1811 that Ensign Dyas won instant glory for himself and the Regiment by twice leading the storming party on the San Christoval Fort. Ensign Dyas is toasted by Officers of the Regiment whenever they dine together.
In 1815 the Regiment was in Portsmouth and sailed to join the allied army near Brussels. The Commanding Officer, Colonel Mitchell, was appointed to command the 4th Brigade in which the 51st was destined to fight the Battle of Waterloo. The 51st was on the extreme right of the line and was engaged early in the battle when the French attacked Hougoumont Farm.
In the peace which followed the 51st settled to a period of garrison duties in England, Ireland, the Greek Islands, Australia, Tasmania, India and Burma. In 1821 the Regiment became a “Royal” Regiment — the 51st King’s Own Light Infantry — and changed its facings to blue. The 51st next saw action in the Second Burmese War (1852) gaining the battle honour “Pegu” and subsequently, in the late 1870s, on the North West Frontier in the Second Afghan War.
In 1839 the East India Company raised a new regiment — the Second Madras European Light Infantry which, after the Indian Mutiny, changed its name to 105th Foot (Madras Light Infantry) which, from Minden Day 1878, shared a Depot at Pontefract with the 51st. As a result of the Cardwell reforms, the King’s Own Light Infantry (South Yorkshire Regiment) was formed in 1881 with the 51st and 105th as the first and second battalions of the Regiment, the 105th bringing with it the motto “Cede Nullis”. The 1st Battalion saw service in Burma in 1885 and the Tirah Expeditionary Force (1897). The 2nd Battalion formed part of the Zhob Valley Field Force (1858) and in 1897 the Regiment became The King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry). The 2nd Battalion moved to South Africa in 1899 and fought with great distinction in the South African War (1899-1902).
In the Great War the Regiment fielded 13 battalions on active service and lost a total of 9947 men. The 2nd Battalion was the first to go into action at Le Cateau, taking some 600 casualties, half of whom were killed. Although the 1st Battalion was in Singapore at the outbreak of the war it did reach France by January 1915, moving to Salonika later that year and only returning to France to take part in the final advances in 1918. Battalions of the Regiment served with both 49 (West Riding) and 62 (West Riding) Divisions throughout the war. After the war the 1st Battalion served in Mesopotamia before assuming duties with the army of occupation in Germany, returning to England in 1924 where it remained until moving to Gibraltar in 1935.
The 2nd Battalion, after a brief spell in Ireland, moved to India in 1922 for an overseas tour which was to last 24 years.
In the Second World War the Regiment fielded battalions which were subsequently converted into Light Anti-Aircraft Regiments (5 KOYLI and 8 KOYLI), a Royal Armoured Corps regiment (7 KOYLI) and one battalion (9 KOYLI) was formed from The Yorkshire Dragoons. The 1st Battalion served in France, Norway, India, Iraq, Persia and Syria before taking part in the invasion of Sicily and subsequent fight up through Italy with the 8th Army. After the fall of Rome the Battalion moved to Palestine and, in March 1945 to Europe for the final battles of the war. In 1946 the Battalion celebrated Minden Day in Minden! The 2nd Battalion was in Burma when the Japanese invaded in January 1942 and spent the next five months covering the withdrawal of the Army into upper Burma and finally India. By the time the Battalion arrived in India, having fought actions of great gallantry at the Sittang and Salween rivers, only three trucks were needed to lift the entire Battalion. The 1st/4th and 2nd/4th Battalions fought in Norway, France, North Africa, Italy and Greece. In 1947 the 2nd Battalion sailed for Malaya and, as a consequence of post-war reductions in the Army, the 1st Battalion was placed in suspended animation and the 2nd Battalion became the 1st Battalion The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (51st & 105th) in April 1948.
The 1st Battalion staged briefly in England in 1951 before seeing service in Germany and Berlin, the campaign against the Mau Mau in Kenya (1952-53), Aden (1955), the EOKA campaign in Cyprus (1956), Germany (1958-61) and Malaya (1961-64), during which it was flown to Sarawak to combat Indonesian insurgency in Sarawak and Brunei. In 1964 the 1st Battalion became part of the Strategic Reserve Division (3rd Division) in Tidworth; the first home posting for the Battalion — originally the 2nd Battalion — since 1922! Apart from an emergency tour in Aden (1965-66) the Battalion remained in England until moving to Berlin in 1967 where, in 1968, it became a battalion of The Light Infantry.