In June 1940, when Nazi invasion was a plausible threat, 2nd Battalion, Fife and Forfar Yeomanry arrived in Ulster as part of 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division.
53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division
2nd Battalion, Fife and Forfar Yeomanry arrived in Northern Ireland on 23rd June 1940. Although attached to 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division, most men were from Fife or Dundee in Scotland.
The regiment travelled to Northern Ireland from Scotland by train and in convoys of military vehicles. They had some Mark VI B Vickers Light Tanks and a large number of motorcycles.
We are to be a Scottish Regiment from England serving in Ireland with a Welsh Division.
Despite having lots of men trained in riding motorbikes, there was no one in charge of their organisation. Corporal Tommy Wilmott stepped into the role and devised a system for transporting troops and escorting convoys.
Wilmott enjoyed his time in Northern Ireland, embracing his love of motorcycles. He recalled taking scenic circuits from Belfast to Bessbrook, Co. Armagh through the Mourne Mountains. He also took part in competitive Reliability Trials, going through mud, water, and tackling obstacles in hilly regions alongside fellow motorcyclists Noakes and McKenzie.
Dungannon, Co. Tyrone was the first staging post for 2nd Battalion, Fife and Forfar Yeomanry on their arrival. They became the only Divisional Cavalry Regiment in the Ulster. A three man crew operated each tank armed with .5 and .303 machine guns.
Their main role was to patrol the border and they prepared to take the fight to Dublin if required. Some men fitted extra fuel tanks to the rear of the Vickers tanks to enable them to travel the extra distance across the border although it was never needed.
In Dungannon, the men stayed in houses and church halls while they undertook heavy training. They learned map reading, radio communications, and some travelled to camps like Ballykinler, Co. Down with infantry regiments to learn the use of hand grenades.
On 25th March 1941, 2nd Battalion Fife and Forfar Yeomanry took part in a training exercise in Co. Armagh after a short tea break at Derrymore House, Bessbrook.
2nd Battalion, Fife and Forfar Yeomanry kept out of local religious divides. They got along well with the people of Northern Ireland wherever their bases were. Their popularity was such that in Christmas 1941 when they departed Dungannon for Bessbrook, Co. Armagh, locals sent a telegram requesting they come back to Dungannon to celebrate Christmas. In the end, buses departed from Dungannon to bring those who were off-duty up to Co. Tyrone for a Christmas Day dinner and celebration.
2nd Battalion, Fife and Forfar Yeomanry would go on to see action in Europe and taking part in the invasion of Normandy in the summer of 1944.