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One Hundred Years of the Army in York

David R reports... Our speaker on May 28th was Major-General Murray Naylor, who joined the Scots Guards as a national serviceman, decided to make a career in the Services and 36 years later retired as Major General in command of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Army.

Murray observed that York had a long association with the Army going back to Roman times - Constantine was declared Emperor in the city when the 9th Legion was stationed here in AD 303. Much later the Parliamentary Army besieged York in the Civil War and it was only thanks to its commander General Fairfax, a York boy, that the Minster and city churches were spared vandalism by the Roundhead troops.

Murray concluded that throughout all the years of occupation and garrisoning the attitude of York citizenry must have been pretty ambivalent: mostly hostile to the presence and behaviour of troops but glad of their protection during times of civil unrest.

Even as late as the C20th the behaviour of troops towards their civilian neighbours was very mixed and it was only in the 1970s that concerted efforts were made to encourage greater civilian mixing.

Even that was frustrated for a time by the heightened security resulting from the troubles in Northern Ireland.

1st Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment 1927

Murray remarked that in his time in York in command of the 2nd Infantry Division, where he was responsible for peacetime relations of some 18,000 troops across the North of England, whilst their presence was generally welcomed by the civic authorities it was firmly on the basis of reciprocity of behaviour.

Murray went on to remark that most of the well known Yorkshire regiments had at one time or another been stationed at Imphal Barracks in Fulford. During his time in York he had worked hard to forge good relations with both York City Council and the Minster, and it was no coincidence that over the years all these regiments bar the Green Howards had established memorial chapels in the Minster. He felt it true to say that their personnel cherished their links with York.

1st Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment York 1944

The 2nd Infantry Division was formed at the time of the Peninsular War and fought its most notable action at the battle of Kohema in 1944 when after 6 weeks of hand-to-hand fighting the Japanese were prevented from entering Northern India, proving a turning point in the war in the East. The division played a vital part in the battle which is still commemorated in an annual service of remembrance in York. The Kohema Trust distribute support to families in need with links to those who fought.

Today the Commander of the 2nd Division has responsibility for troops stationed all over the country and the close links with York are diminished. 2nd Division was moved to Edinburgh in 2000 (for political reasons) and disbanded in 2012. Murray noted that sadly both Imphal and Strensall barracks are scheduled to close in 2024 bringing to an end the long association between the Army and the city.

1st Battalion The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire Freedom Parade 1988

Second Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment - Flood Defence work in York

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