The inter war years saw the Regiment still equipped as horsed cavalry, but facing a gradual reduction of resources available for defence, until realisation of the threat posed by Hitler at last dawned late in the 1930’s. In 1939, the Regiment was mobilised and posted to Palestine as part of the 1st Cavalry Division where it carried out internal security tasks and whilst doing so ‘A’ Squadron charged down the main street of Haifa . In July 1940, it lost its horses on conversion to coastal artillery, and, in this role, it took part in the famous and successful first Siege of Tobruk and in the battle for Crete.
Converted in 1941 to an armoured regiment and now under command of the charismatic Lieutenant Colonel Edward “Flash” Kellett DSO M P, it formed part of the 10th Armoured Division effectively the formation which had been previously the 1st Cavalry Division and therefore predominantly consisting of former Yeomanry and Cavalry regiments and saw action for the first time in tanks in the defensive battle of Alam el Halfa. On the 24th October, 1942, it headed the armoured attacks in the battle of El Alamein. Rommel later stated that the Sherwood Rangers were the only unit to breach his defences in the first 24 hours of the battle. They then played an important part in Operation Supercharge, the final breakout battle, which clinched the victory. As had been anticipated by Montgomery 10th Armoured Division had been sacrificed to the victory and to preserve the battle hardened 7th Armoured Division as his key reserve.
What remained was reformed into 8th Armoured Brigade, an independent armoured brigade and the Regiment was rewarded for the fierceness with which it had fought by being selected as one of the three armoured regiments to be preserved. The role of the Brigade remained the same namely to punch the initial holes in any enemy defensive stop line through which 7th Armoured Division could then be passed. The Brigade proved very good at its task and as a result the Regiment played a leading part in the long advance to Tunis, notably the attack on and fall of Tripoli and in outflanking the Mareth Line at the bitterly fought battle of Tebaga Gap. The price was paid in heavy casualties.
By the time that victory in North Africa had been finally secured with the fall of Tunis the Regiment had gained such a reputation for their ability to spearhead attacks that they were specially brought back to England to become one of four armoured regiments tasked to lead the assault landings on the two British Beaches on D Day in amphibious DD (duplex drive) tanks, a very hazardous task. After four months training to bring them up to the standard of the other three regiments that had been practicing for over a year they were the first Yeomanry Regiment to land in France on D-Day, swimming ashore on Gold Beach two minutes before H hour, Eight of their tanks foundered in the rough seas on the way in. They took part in the liberation of Bayeux the next day, the first town to fall to to the Allies and were in the thick of the tank fighting around Caen.
They were still part of 8th Armoured Brigade, but its role had changed from acting as a spearhead for the armoured divisions as they had in North Africa to supporting the infantry divisions, when they were ordered to carry out an attack since such divisions had little or no integral armour of their own. The word “support” was an euphemism because, due to the extreme vulnerability of infantry in this environment, the Regiment was always ordered by the Divisional commander to lead the attack. They learned to maximise their ability to get forward in the country of NW Europe, which was no less difficult for tanks, by a process of fire and movement in which they made sure the fire from their guns was weighty, accurate and directed at every possible enemy ambush location. The price was that exhausted tank crews had to spend a significant part of each short summer night painstakingly bombing up tanks empty of ammunition. So successful did they become that infantry formations learned to ask for them by name. Such a reputation was won at a great price as is illustrated by the fact that in the battle for Normandy alone they were in action for 50 of the 60 days that it took to win, losing 50 tank commanders and many more tanks in the process.
Following the break out, the Regiment played a relatively lesser role in the operation by the Allies to overcome further determined resistance and secure
crossings over the Seine.
The Regiment, temporally unshackled from their supporting role and back as pure armour, was part of the rapid advance which followed across Northern France, covering 140 miles in three days, one of the fastest rates of advance by armour in history. An euphoric advance which was brought to a sudden halt by the renewed and fanatical resistance by the enemy in Belgium and Holland, particularly at Geel where the Sherwood Rangers played a major role in the fighting to secure the start line for Operation Market Garden, the failed attempt by airborne forces to seize crossings over the Rhine. The Regiment having suffered heavy casualties at Geel played a relatively minor role in Market Garden itself. However whilst supporting 82nd US Airborne Division, its Reconnaissance Troop became the first British unit to enter Germany. After taking part in more fighting around the Rhine, particularly when breaching the Siegfried Line at Geilenkirchen, the Regiment took part in the final breakthrough into Germany and, having ended the war beyond Bremen, was temporarily disembodied on the 1st March 1946.
By the end of the campaign the Regiment had supported every British infantry division in theatre and, in addition three US infantry divisions, Another telling statistic was that 8th Armoured Brigade, a formation with an establishment of approximately 200 tanks, had received over 1000 replacements from the armoured delivery regiments during the campaign. In the light of the foregoing it is understandable that General Sir Brian Horrocks who had the Regiment under his command from August 1942 to May 1945 wrote on the occasion of the Regiment being disembodied “I can hardly imagine a British Army without the Sherwood Rangers and there is no doubt no armoured regiment can show a finer record of hard fighting”. He later added, “I still maintain that the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry took part in more fighting than did any other armoured regiment during this period.”
Its success in the Second World War can be gauged by its 30 battle honours, its 159 awards including 78 for gallantry, and above all, the valour of the men, remembering particularly the 827 casualties killed, wounded and missing.