The Light Cavalry concept
The Westminster Dragoons are part of the Army Reserve Light Cavalry.
Their full title - Command and Support Squadron (Westminster Dragoons) The Royal Yeomanry - and the idea of "Light Cavalry" both take some explaining.
Comd & Sp Sqn RY (the official short name for the Westminster Dragoons) is one squadron among the six which make up the Royal Yeomanry, Britain’s most prestigious volunteer cavalry regiment.
The Royal Yeomanry is one of four yeomanry regiments in the Army Reserve. Of those four, one (the Royal Wessex Yeomanry) is is Heavy Cavalry (tanks). The other three yeomanry regiments train and operate in the Light Cavalry role:
Every Westminster Dragoon is a Light Cavalry soldier in the Army Reserve. Each one trains to be Royal Armoured Corps crew and also an infantry soldier capable of conducting front-line dismounted operations. In addition, every member of the Royal Yeomanry specialises in conducting reconnaissance against a variety of threats, in R-WMIK and Jackal vehicles in the United Kingdom and when deployed overseas.
In recent years, Comd & Sp Sqn RY’s soldiers have done all three jobs - armoured fighting vehicle crew, infanteer and recce soldier - on operations as part of the British Army in Iraq, Afghanistan and Poland.
This flexibility has been Comd & Sp Sqn RY’s hallmark since the Westminster Dragoons were formed during the Boer War more than a century ago.
Light Cavalry is a developing capability with unique usefulness. Mounted on a light, wheeled platform which can be deployed by air and which requires little by way of logistic support, but with the ability to operate dismounted, Light Cavalry can deliver tailored tactical actions to combat operations, stabilisation efforts, counter-insurgency and peace support.
Light Cavalry provides strategically deployable ground manoeuvre forces which enable an early demonstration of political intent and early reconnaissance of the deployment area. It uses speed and low profile to enhance understanding of the enemy's locations and intentions, as well as being capable of the discrete application of force if required.
In longer-term stabilisation and counter-insurgency operations, Light Cavalry can exploit its ability to manoeuvre swiftly in both urban and non-urban areas, plus its less threatening posture on the ground when compared with armour, to deliver security and reassurance to the people and to enhance understanding of them and their needs.
Soldiers in Comd & Sp Sqn RY train in all of the skills needed to perform the Light Cavalry role on operations, including use of encrypted Bowman communications systems, heavy machine gun (HMG) and general purpose machine gun (GPMG) gunnery, cross-country driving, tactics and situational awareness, the ability to "live off the vehicle" away from base for long periods, as well as dismounted close combat (which includes rifle marksmanship and physical fitness training).
Training is provided within the unit by Army Reserve soldiers and also by Regular Army instructors in centres of excellence such as the Armour Centre.
As the Royal Yeomanry's pairing with the Queen's Dragoon Guards matures, it is anticipated that integrated training on field exercises will become more frequent.
The training commitment for the Army Reserve Light Cavalry is around 40 days per year, normally consisting of a two-week consolidated training period plus weekends throughout the year and one weekday evening per week. Army Reserve soldiers are required to undertake physical fitness training in their own time in addition to what is provided to them by instructors.
Army Reserve Light Cavalry
on exercise in Morocco
A Westminster Dragoon on operations in Afghanistan with the Desert Rats,
in the dismounted role
An officer of the Royal Yeomanry (on left), mentoring the Afghan police
A soldier of the Royal Yeomanry describes his role as
an R-WMIK gunner
Army Reserve Light Cavalry Equipment
Every soldier and officer of the Westminster Dragoons trains to operate a range of vehicles, weapon systems and communications equipment necessary for their Light Cavalry role. The following information on the key equipment used by the Westminster Dragoons today is taken from the official British Army website.
Jackal 1 is a high mobility weapons platform, with a unique air-bag suspension system allowing rapid movement across varying terrain.
It is designed to protect personnel against roadside explosions and mine attacks (the chassis is heavier than its predecessor to give additional protection). Jackal 1 is armed with a General Purpose Machine Gun for crew protection and can carry either a Heavy Machine Gun or a Grenade Machine Gun as the main weapons system in the fire support role.
RWMIK (Revised Weapons Mounted Installation Kit) is a lightly-armoured, highly-mobile fire support and force protection Land Rover. It is manned by a crew of three, commander, driver and gunner, and it can carry a range of weapons including; the General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), the Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) and Grenade Machine Gun (GMG).
The RWMIK's maneuverability, firepower and relatively low profile make it suitable for a range of roles including reconnaissance, convoy escort and fire support.
The Army Reserve Light Cavalry workhorse -
detailed Armour Centre specifications
The powerful L1A1 12.7mm (.50) Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) is an updated version of the Browning M2 Fifty-cal - recognised as one of the finest heavy machine guns ever developed.
The HMG provides integral close-range support from a ground-mount tripod or fitted to a Land Rover using the Weapon Mount Installation Kit (WMIK) and a variety of sighting systems. The performance of the HMG has recently been enhanced with a new 'soft mount', to limit recoil and improve accuracy, and a quick-change barrel.
The HMG provides the commander with added capability at greater ranges (1500-2000m) when support from armoured vehicles is not available.
A Westminster Dragoon on operations
with the Scots DG shows off his HMG
The Heckler & Koch 40mm Grenade Machine Gun (GMG) provides unrivalled infantry suppression combining the best characteristics of the heavy machine guns or light mortars usually employed in this role.
Conventional rifle ammunition provides no fragmentation effect and is largely not effective enough against advancing armoured infantry fighting vehicles and battle tanks. On the other hand, mortars have the disadvantage of a relatively low rate of fire.
The GMG combines the advantages of both of these two types of weapons delivering high flexibility and firepower combined with the fragmentation effect of mortar ammunition.
The GMG is usually mounted on WMIK (weapons mount installation kit) Land Rovers but can also be used from ground-based tripods.
A Westminster Dragoon and a
soldier of the paired Regular
unit he deployed with
make use of the GMG
The L7A2 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) is a 7.62 x 51mm belt-fed general purpose machine gun which can be used as a light weapon and in a sustained fire (SF) role.
In the SF role, mounted on a tripod and fitted with the C2 optical sight, it is fired by a two-man team who are grouped in a specialist Machine Gun Platoon to provide battalion-level fire support. In SF mode, the GPMG, with a two-man crew, lays down 750 rounds-per-minute at ranges up to 1800 metres.
The GPMG can be carried by foot soldiers and employed as a light machine gun (LMG), although it has largely been replaced by the lighter 5.56 x 45mm Minimi in this role, in most regiments. A fold-out bipod is used to support the GPMG in the LMG role.
Versions of the GPMG are mounted on most Army vehicles and some helicopters.
A soldier of the Royal Yeomanry with
GPMG mounted on RWMIK
SA80 A2 rifle
Each member of Comd & Sp Sqn is equipped with the L85A2 (SA80A2) assault rifle. This comprises the Individual Weapon (IW) and the Light Support Weapon (LSW).
These are the British Army's standard combat weapons. Made by Heckler and Koch, they fire NATO standard 5.56 x 45mm ammunition. The SA80 can be fitted with the SUSAT sight and a Common Weapon Sight, which is a third generation Image Intensification (II) night sight.
Both weapons have been modified in light of operational experience. A major mid-life update in 2002 resulted in the SA80A2 series - the most reliable weapons of their type in the world. This reliability is combined with accuracy, versatility and ergonomic design. It is considered a first-class weapon system and world leader in small arms.
Glock 17 pistol
The Glock 17 Gen 4 pistol is much lighter than the current Browning pistol, and more accurate. It also has an increased magazine capacity of 17 9mm rounds, compared to 13 rounds for the Browning. Each squadron in the Royal Yeomanry has an allocation of Glock 17s for marksmanship training.
MAN Support Vehicles
Support vehicles built by MAN provide logistic and recovery capability to C&S Sqn RY.
They provide much greater mobility to their predecessor vehicles and have the ability to be fitted with increased armour, depending on the operational threat.
The 6-tonne variant is in use in the Royal Yeomanry. The cab can be fitted with a 7.62 general purpose machine gun.
BOWMAN encrypted battlefield communications
BOWMAN exploits the latest developments in radio and computer technology. It provides an integrated digital communications network interfacing with higher level systems and networks.
Commanders at all levels are given secure voice and data communications as well as an integrated Global Positioning System (GPS).
Comd & Sp Sqn RY is equipped with Bowman Personal Role Radios, PRC355 manpacks, VRC357 (16 W vehicle clip-in radios) and VRC359 (50 W vehicle-mounted high-power radios). The regiment also uses Battlefield Information System Applications running on ComBAT using the Bowman infrastructure.