Yeoman work honours Shropshire soldiers

A Shropshire army unit has celebrated its 225-year history with a specially-commissioned painting which has taken pride of place at its base in Telford.

The specially-commissioned painting combines various symbolic features relevant to the unit’s traditions and history
The specially-commissioned painting combines various symbolic features relevant to the unit’s traditions and history

Artist David Thorp of Wellington overcame a hand injury caused by a bad fall to complete the work which reflects centuries of regimental tradition and history in a composition which includes The Wrekin, Monte Cassino in Italy – scene of a bloody battle in 1944 – and features with symbolic meaning, such as a fox and three rabbits.

And now Captain Nick Trevor, of D (Shropshire Yeomanry) Squadron of the Royal Yeomanry, based in Dawley Bank, has commissioned two further artworks from David which will complete a trilogy of paintings.

Nick, who is the permanently staffed administration officer (PSAO) for the squadron, who are reservists, said: "I commissioned the painting as part of the squadron’s marking of the 225th anniversary of the Shropshire Yeomanry in 1795.

"It hangs in the main hallway of the Army Reserve Centre as a constant reminder to the current Yeomen of their history and the enduring traditions of the Shropshire Yeomanry."

He said there had been many positive comments about it but because of Covid restrictions there had not yet been an opportunity for a ceremony for official receipt of the painting, which measures about 4ft by 3ft.

Sergeant Whitfield receives the Victoria Cross from King George V.

The work, he said, was an embodiment of the traditions and identity of the Shropshire Yeomanry.

"The soldiers on the left symbolise the World War One (Broken Spur) Yeoman on exercise near The Wrekin, reinforcing the Shropshire Yeomanry’s enduring connection with the county. The three rabbits embody the key spiritual pillars imbued within all Yeomen of ‘horses, Yeomen, self’.

"And the fox guarding over them represents the enduring character and loyalty embedded within all Yeomen.

"The Yeoman’s mount faithfully watching his master’s spirit entering the final stables parade with the rider’s boots reversed is the mark of respect due to all Yeomen upon their passing.

"The mount has his front legs on Shropshire soil and his back legs on Italian soil, again symbolising the Shropshire Yeomanry traditions and their inter-connectivity to the future by the linkage to the World War Two Yeomen preparing for battle at Monte Cassino on the right."

Shropshire Yeomanry soldiers on exercise in Scotland in the early 1950s.

David said doing the painting was enjoyable but at one stage he was unsure whether he would be able to take it on at all.

"At the beginning of last year I fell badly and damaged my hand and could not hold a pencil or pen or write my name for six to nine months. My hand was totally useless," he said.

However thanks to treatment he was able to paint again.

"I can now paint with no problem at all and am looking forward to tackling the next one."

A mounted soldier of the Shropshire Yeomanry just before the Great War. This is Private W C Pitchford at camp at Llangammarch Wells. It is thought that he may have hailed from Dawley area.

Nick has now commissioned two more works from David. One will depict Sergeant Harold Whitfield, of Middleton, Oswestry, who during the Great War won the only Victoria Cross awarded to a soldier from the Shropshire Yeomanry – in fact in 1917 the Shropshire Yeomanry became the 10th Battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, which meant both regiments could claim the honour.

The other will show Lieutenant Eric Keymer of the Shropshire Yeomanry who won the Military Cross in Italy on December 30, 1944. Ammunition dumps were hit and Keymer rushed out to separate the burning charges from others, preventing a large conflagration.

Nick said: "The trilogy of paintings will embrace the context of the Shropshire Yeomanry’s enduring traditions of loyalty, professionalism, history and comradeship via the spiritual painting and those actions of brave individuals from the history of the Shropshire Yeomanry who provide the inspiration to the modern Yeoman to embrace and maintain the ethos and high standard set by their predecessors."

And he added that they were looking for more to join them – contact Sergeant Adam Sefton on 07814623372 or at Adam.Sefton327@mod.gov.uk.

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