RHG/D 1969-1992
Histories Button
RHG 1945-1969
HC Badge

BRIEF REGIMENTAL HISTORY OF

THE ROYAL DRAGOONS

(1st DRAGOONS) 1661-1992

HC Badge
Royal Dragoons Badge

The Royal Dragoons

(1st Dragoons)

1661 - 1969

Royal Dragoons Badge
1661
The Royal Dragoons trace their origins to a troop of horse
raised by proclamation of Charles II to form part of the
garrison at Tangier, a territory which had come into the
possession of the British Crown through the marriage
of Charles II to Katherine of Braganza.
1662 - 83
Known as The Tangier Horse, and later augmented
in strength to four troops, they were engaged in constant
patrols and skirmishes against the Moors who remained
in control of all but a strip of land around the town.
1683

The garrison was withdrawn on grounds of economy,
and on their return to England The Tangier Horse were
regimented as Dragoons, with between six and eight troops
according to the funds in the Exchequer and the state of
emergency in Europe.

The term 'Dragoon' was derived from the 'dragon' or
16th century musket suitable for mounted infantry.

Dragoons were originally highly mobile infantry
employed to capture a key feature ahead of an advance,
to cover an infantry withdrawal, or to support the Horse in
a pitched battle by firing dismounted from a flank. They
carried no armour, and so did not need large horses.

Although the difference between the tactical employment of
Horse and Dragoons fast disappeared, the difference in
equipment remained for many years.

Top Of Page Button

1689 - 1704
After campaigning against the dethroned James II
in Ireland, where they saw service at the Boyne and the
siege of Limerick, the Regiment was sent to the Netherlands,
and thence again to the Spanish Peninsula to take part in
the War of the Spanish Succession against France.
1705 - 1707

Here they fought a curious campaign of bluff in
Eastern Spain. Lord Peterborough won an entire province
almost bloodlessly by scattering his Dragoons in small
detachments to appear as the advance guard of a large army.

During this campaign The Royals' employment as Horse,
as distinct from Dragoons, was recognised by equipping them
with the iron skull caps and the long straight swords
used by the Horse.

1710

In spite of the victory at Saragossa, the war ended
tragically for part of The Royal Dragoons when they were
captured at Brihuega, after a gallant and prolonged defence.

Top Of Page Button

1742 - 1745

The Regiment went again to Flanders to take part in the
War of the Austrian Succession, in which they distinguished
themselves by a charge at Dettingen in 1743, and at Fontenoy
in 1745.

At Dettingen, the Regiment captured the Standard of the
2e Comp Des Mousquetaires de la Garde Du Roi - "The Black
Musketeers".

It was at Dettingen that The Royals defeated the Black
Musketeers, from whence appears to have come the source
of their black plume and the black backings to badges of rank.
However, a number of records point to the black backing to the
NCOs' arm badge (The Royals) being in memory of an Officer,
Lt Dunville VC, who died in 1917! After Fontenoy, they were
recalled to Britain for the Stuart rising of that year,
though the Regiment saw no action in it.

By now there was little to distinguish Dragoons from Horse,
except that the former still carried muskets.

1758

From 1755 to 1759, The Royal Dragoons had a light troop
with the same role and equipment as the original Dragoons;
in 1758, during the Seven Years' War, this troop took part
in two of the earliest 'Commando' type seaborne raids
on the coast of France, against St. Malo and Cherbourg.

1760 - 1763

The Royal Dragoons fought in Westphalia. This campaign
included the famous action at Warburg.

Top Of Page Button

1793 - 1795
Following the French Revolution The Royals campaigned
in Flanders, where they took part in the cavalry charges at
Beaumont and Willems.
1809 - 1815

The Royals served in the Spanish Peninsular under
Lord Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington. They acted as
rearguard during the retreat to the Torres Vedras lines
in 1810, and their charge at Fuentes d'Onor in 1811 was
a major contribution to that victory.

By the end of the war in 1814, The Royal Dragoons had
advanced into Southern France and, to save the expense
and casualties of a sea voyage, were given permission to
march through France to Calais.

The 'Hundred Days' campaign saw The Royals in Flanders
again, and their successful charge at Waterloo on 18th June,
1815, with the Union Brigade, was largely responsible for
maintaining the Allies' weakest flank until the belated arrival
of the Prussians.

During this charge, the 105 Eagle which is now part of
The Blues and Royals' dress, was captured from the
French 105th Infantry Regiment of the Line by
Captain K Clarke and Corporal Stiles - although some
some accounts point to Corporal Stiles playing no part
in the actual capture. It would seem that after it had been
taken, Corporal Stiles was ordered to remove it from the
field of battle by Captain Kennedy Clark (who had killed
the French Officer carrying the Eagle). It was probably
only because Corporal Stiles was seen removing the
Eagle by many senior Officers (including Wellington)
that it was thought he had captured it.

1854 - 1856

The Royal Dragoons saw action in the Crimea as part of
the Heavy Cavalry Brigade, with whom they charged
at Balaclava in 1854.

Quarters

Captain F Radford's House at
Shorncliffe c 1865, when 1 RD
were stationed there

1 RD Officers, Ireland c1868

Officers of 1 Royal Dragoons in
Ireland c 1868 - Capt F Radford
extreme left

H Scott, Esq (RD)

W Scott, Quartermaster

C G French, Esq (RD)

Hon. C G French

E Leigh, Esq (RD)

Egerton Leigh, Esq

Surgeon Major Joseph Jee VC CB

Surgeon Major
J Jee, VC CB

W G Williams, Esq

W G Williams, Esq

Sydney Gladstone

Sydney Gladstone

Johnnie Lee, Adjutant for many years

Johnnie Lee (Adjutant)

Captain Coleman

Captain Coleman

G L Harvey

G L Harvey

Captain Radford's SSM

Captain Radford's SSM

Captain F Radford

Captain F Radford

C L Lane

C Lane

N L Townshend

N L Townshend

George Cruse, Riding Master

G Cruise, Riding Master

Sydney Gladstone

Sydney Gladstone

The above images, which date from the 1860s, are just three from a collection kindly supplied
by Colonel (Retired) Charles Radford, 16/5 The Queen's Royal Lancers, to whom I am most
grateful - especially as he digitised them all first.

Top Of Page Button

1862

During this period, there were 7 Dragoon Guards Regiments,
and 3 Dragoons Regiments - all of whom were classed as
Heavy Cavalry.

In addition, the 7th Dragoon Guards had served in South
Africa during the Kaffir Wars, and the 1st Dragoon Guards
had served in China during the War in 1860.
1880 - 1886

While in Ireland, during the 'Boycott' agitation, they
experienced terrorist activities of the type with which
20th century service in the Middle East again made
them familiar.

Between 1884 and 1885, the 1st (Royal) Dragoons
provided a contingent for service with the Heavy Cavalry
Camel Corps in the expedition to relieve Gordon in Khartoum,
and took part in the battle of Abu Klea.
1899 - 1902

The Boer War was marked for The Royal Dragoons by
hard service with few highlights. After a conventional
campaign in Natal in 1900, which failed to provide the
opportunity for a cavalry charge, they spent the rest of
the war taking part in Kitchener's drives in the Transvaal
to round up Boer guerillas.

As a result of experience gained in the Boer War,
the rifle superceded the sword in importance, and the lance,
adopted in 1892 for the front rank, was discarded except
for ceremonial; khaki was retained as a working dress,
and the Regiment began the concentrated training in
dismounted work with fire-arms which was to stand them
in good stead in the First World War.

Top Of Page Button

1904 - 1911

The Royal Dragoons served in India, the distinction
between light and heavy cavalry having been abolished
in 1889, and The Royal Dragoons no longer being exempt
from foreign service.

Point Of Interest

Eagle Badge

The Eagle cap badge pictured above (known as "unofficial" 105th
Other Ranks Eagle cap badge) was worn from 1911-1919. The Royals
were in South Africa with the 10th Royal Hussars from 1911-1914.

Both Regiments returned home in August 1914, and spent the next
six months on Salisbury Plain together before joining the 3rd Cavalry
Division in France. At the end of the war the Royals were "ordered"
to wear the Royal Crown badge once more - ending the eight years'
use of the ORs 105 Eagle cap badge.

Incidentally, the badge was made by a company in Hythe.

1914 - 1918

The outbreak of the First World War found the Regiment
again in South Africa, where they had helped quell the
Johannesburg riots of 1913, earning praise for their restraint
and judgement in this unpleasant duty.

By October 1914, The Royal Dragoons were in Flanders,
where for a short time they saw service in their normal
cavalry role, during the intense activity which preceded
the First Battle of Ypres.

Thereafter the Regiment saw little mounted service -
at first, in their role of mobile reserve, they were available
to man trenches in their sector wherever the need was
greatest, and so had to keep their horses close at hand,
thereby suffering severe casualties among the horse holders
from shellfire.

Although throughout the war it was hoped to force a gap
for the Cavalry to exploit, The Royals were only able to use
the arme blanche twice. The first occasion was in a small
but brilliantly successful charge alongside the 10th Hussars.

The other occasion was during the final Allied offensive
in 1918, when the Regiment formed part of an advanced guard;
trenches, craters and wire restricted them, for most of the time,
to patrolling.

Their last action in the war was a charge, clearing positions
around Honnechy which had impeded the Allied advance.

However, for the greater part of the war The Royal Dragoons
did hard and uncongenial work in the trenches, and did it
with distinction, even though not properly equipped for
an infantry role.

The Regiment fought at the first and second Battle of Ypres,
at Loos in 1915, opposite the Hohenzollern line in 1916,
and against the Hindenberg line in 1917.

Top Of Page Button

1920 - 1927
After seeing further service in Ireland, consisting mainly of
security searches against IRA terrorists, The Royal Dragoons
returned to Aldershot, where Their Majesties The King and Queen
inspected the Regiment in 1923 and where, in 1925,
HM King George V presented a new Guidon.
1927 - 1929
The Royal Dragoons were posted to Egypt in 1927,
and then to India in 1929, being stationed first at
Secunderabad, and then at Meerut.
1935
The Regiment's return to England was delayed by the
Italian invasion of Abyssinia, so that they spent six months
standing by in Egypt, before continuing home in May 1936.
1938 - 1940

The Royal Dragoons were in Palestine, engaged in
internal security duties, during the troubles between
Arabs and Jews.

The Regiment's last mounted parade was on
Waterloo Day, 1940, and in December of that year they
moved to Egypt to become mechanised.

They then became an Armoured Car Regiment,
reviving at last their original reconnaissance role
as Dragoons.

Top Of Page Button

1940 - 1941

After mechanisation, 'A' Squadron went to join the
11th Hussars in the Western Desert, while 'B' Squadron
moved to Syria to take part in the campaign against
the Vichy French.

Shortly afterwards, R.H.Q. and 'C' Squadron went to
the Western Desert, but after a few weeks R.H.Q. and
'A' Squadron joined 'B' Squadron in Syria, leaving
'C' Squadron in the Western Desert.

On conclusion of the armistice in Syria, the Regiment
moved north to Aleppo to patrol the Syrian-Turkish border,
where they were later joined by 'C' Squadron.

1941

In December 1941, The Royal Dragoons joined the
Eighth Army in the Western Desert, advancing with it to
Benghazi - they were the first troops to enter the city on
Christmas Day, 1941 - and on to Agedabia.

During Rommel's counter-offensive of January 1942,
they acted as flank and rearguard for the withdrawal to
the Gazala line, and the subsequent retreat from Tobruk.

After the stabilisation of the line at El Alamein, apart from
a month's rest in order to refit, the Royals were on
constant patrol duty.

1942 - 1943

During the Battle of El Alamein in October 1942,
'A' and 'C' Squadrons slipped unobserved at night
through the enemy lines and spent two days behind
the front, causing chaos among the German supply
columns and the retreating Italian infantry.

Thereafter, during the rapid advance that followed
the victory of Alamein, The Royals led the southern flank
of the Eighth Army as a flying column frequently with
other arms under command.

By the middle of May 1943, the enemy had been driven
from North Africa, and the Regiment spent the period from
then until September resting - and training - in Tunisia.

In July, 'A' Squadron left Tunisia to take part in the
invasion of Sicily, where they saw hard service during this
short campaign.

In October, the remainder of the Regiment joined
'A' Squadron in Italy, but they saw very little of the Italian
campaign, as just before Christmas 1943, The Royal Dragoons
were sent home to train for Operation 'Overlord',
the invasion of France.

The main features of this training were the formation of
'D' Squadron, the waterproofing of vehicles, and the arrival of
half-tracks, mounted with 75 mm guns, for the heavy troops.

Top Of Page Button

1944 - 1945

After Crossing to Normandy at the end of July 1944,
the squadrons split up, all taking part in the rapid advance
north through France and Flanders, where they helped
to keep the axis open during the drive to join up with the
Airborne forces in Nijmegen and Arnhem.

By 27th September, 'D' Squadron was patrolling the
German border north of Nijmegen.

Then for three months the Regiment saw continuous action,
being responsible for watching a long sector of the Maas
with a number of other units, involving much dismounted work
and foot patrols.

During this period the gun troops were pooled to form an
effective battery. Only in January 1945 did the Regiment have
a month in reserve, when they were together for the first time
since landing in France.

The final phase of the war saw The Royal Dragoons doing
bank control for the Rhine crossing, from 23rd to 28th March,
and thereafter advancing to the Elbe, where 'B' and 'C' Squadrons
controlled the crossing in late April.

In the German collapse that followed, the Regiment took
10,000 German prisoners and freed 16,000 Allied POWs
on 2nd May, and on 3rd May they pushed north to the Baltic,
where they captured General Cuentzler near Lubeck.

Immediately following the German surrender on
5th May 1945, The Royal Dragoons had the good fortune
to drive through Denmark and, as representatives of the
Second Army, to liberate Copenhagen, where they received
a tremendous welcome.

Top Of Page Button

1945 - 1950
After returning to Germany in November 1945, they spent
five years as part of the British forces of occupation.
1950
In November 1950, The Royal Dragoons moved to Chester,
where H.M. King George VI inspected them.
1951 - 1959

The Royals then embarked for Egypt, where they spent
three years on internal security duties, necessitated by the
Egyptian attitude towards the British in the Suez Canal Zone.

After three months in England, marked by the presentation
of their last Guidon at Tidworth in April 1954, The Royals
returned to Germany.

There followed five years' peaceful soldiering, ending with
six weeks in England in the autumn of 1959, and so out
to Arabia.

Here they spent a year, based on Aden, but with troops
ranging from the Western Aden Protectorate hill forts,
the Trucial States and the Oman, to Kenya.

Top Of Page Button

1960 - 1962
In November 1960, The Royals moved to Malaya and
Singapore for a two-year tour.
1963
The Royals returned from the Far East, and converted to
Centurion tanks at Tidworth. In October 1963, the privilege
of the Freedom of the City of London was granted, being
marked by a march through the City.
1965
The Royals moved to Germany, as an Armoured Regiment
of the British Army of the Rhine.
1967
Following announced reductions within the British Army,
negotiations were concluded for an amalgamation of The Royals
with The Blues, to form a new regiment within the
Household Cavalry.
1969
Amalgamation of The Royals and The Blues.
  Top Of Page Button  

Amalgamation

1969

1969

In March 1969 the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues)
amalgamated with The Royal Dragoons (1st Dragoons)
to form a new Regiment of Household Cavalry known as
'The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)'.

This amalgamation came about as a result of Government
pressure on the Ministry of Defence to reduce the size of
the army. The Household Cavalry had received a previous cut
when the 1st and 2nd Life Guards were amalgamated in 1922.

  Top Of Page Button  
RHG/D 1969-1992
Histories Button
RHG 1945-1969