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The Queens Royal Lancers Part 1
Stephen Green delves into the history of the Queens Royal Lancers in the first of a two part series
I should start by stating that I gained a large amount of my information from ‘Regiment’ magazine, unfortunately this magazine is no longer being published, but if you can find old copies they are worth buying as they are an excellent source of reference material. I also dug into ‘Regiments at a Glance’ by Colonel Frank Wilson, a useful little book published in the 1950s as well as visiting the regiments website for the up to date information.
The Queen’s Royal Lancers were formed from a joining together of two, previously four, famous Lancer regiments at an amalgamation parade on June 25, 1993 at which Her Majesty presented a new Guidon. The ceremony joined the 16th/5th Lancers and the 17th/21st Lancers. The four regiments had been amalgamated into two following the First World War, when the roll of horsed cavalry was under review.
The first query to deal with is 16th/5th. Why not 5th/16th? This is all about seniority. The 5th had been raised first but had suffered disbandment, and so the 16th had longer, continuous service.
In numerical order I will deal with the 5th first.
Wynne’s Regiment of Dragoons was raised in Enniskilling in 1689. They took part in the ‘war of the two kings’ as it is known in Ireland. After James II was defeated by William III they went to Flanders, returning to Ireland in 1698 to help conclude actions against the Irish rebels.
Wynne died from a battle wound and so the regiment became Ross’s Dragoons. In 1704 they became the Royal Dragoons of Ireland. Under Marlborough they fought at four of his major battles, gaining battle honours for each, as well as three French kettle drums! The Regiment spent the rest of its years in Ireland and was disbanded in Chatham in 1799.
They were re-raised in 1858, and soon became the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. They served in England and India, as well as with the Gordon relief expedition in Sudan. They gained a fearsome reputation, charging against the Boers at Elandslaagte in 1899 during the Boer War.
In WWI they were the last troops, with the 16th, to leave Mons in 1914 and the first to enter again in 1918. They gained 11 battle honours fighting as infantry in the trenches. Private George Clare posthumously won a V.C. at Bourlon Wood in 1917 for his bravery in attending to wounded men under intense machine gun fire.
The 16th and 5th amalgamated in 1922.
The 16th were raised as Light Dragoons in 1759 in Northampton by Colonel (later General) Burgoyne. In 1761 they helped capture Belle Isle off the Brittany coast. They then saw service in Spain.
The Regiment became ‘The Queen’s’ in 1776.
Service in the American Revolutionary war saw them at White Plains, Brandywine Creek, Germantown and Monmouth. The Regiment then returned to England, minus a number of effective men and horses who were transferred to the 17th.
They gained two battle honours against the French revolutionaries at Beaumont and Willems in 1794. The Regiment took part in several of Wellington’s battles in Spain as well as their extensive service on scout and outpost duties.
The 16th charged at Waterloo in support of the heavy cavalry which had gotten into difficulties with the French Lancers after their famous charge. Learning from this experience against the enemy Lancers in Napoleon’s service, it was decided that the 16th should become Lancers.
In 1826 they used their weapon for the first time in action at Bhurtpore against Jat cavalry.
They campaigned in Afghanistan, then in 1846 in the Kingdom of the Five Rivers against the Sikhs. Their charge against the guns and accompanying infantry at Aliwal took a heavy toll in officers and men, but their action broke the Sikhs and helped conclude the war.
The Regiment was in Ireland for the Crimea War so they managed to avoid that experience, it being the only major war they missed. In 1900 they took part in the Boer War gaining three battle honours, and did not return to the UK until 1904.
In the Great War, after the initial retreat from Mons, the 16th fought as infantry with 10 battle honours to their credit, all in the Flanders area. As well as being the first regiment to use the lance they were also the last when, remounted by this time, they charged and silenced a German machine gun nest on November 11, 1918, losing five Lancers in the action.
They were posted to Syria and then India after the war, and were then amalgamated with the 5th in 1922.
The 16th/5th Lancers served in the UK, Egypt and India between the wars as horsed cavalry, returning to Britain and mechanisation in 1939.
They were brigaded with the Lothian and Border Horse and the 17th/21st Lancers, and stayed together throughout WWII.
After anti-invasion duties, the Brigade trained in Matilda tanks, going to North Africa in 1942 as part of the 6th Armoured Division. In 1943 they acquired Sherman tanks and headed to Italy. After Cassino they fought as infantry throughout the winter of 1944/45 and eventually linked up with the Americans fighting in the Po valley.
Postings to Austria and Germany followed the war. In 1948 the 16th/5th were posted to Egypt, then back to the Europe in 1953. They trained in Centurion tanks and as infantry. After various postings to the Far East and Germany, they were given Chieftan tanks in 1968.
Service was seen in Germany, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong and Cyprus, the latter on UN peacekeeping duties. The Regiment was re-equipped with Scorpion and then Scimitar vehicles, acting in their old reconnaissance role. Much service was seen in Northern Ireland during the troubles, as well as tours in Belize and the UK.
During the first Gulf War the regiment had a ‘seek and destroy’ role which they performed with their usual efficiency.
The 1991 defence cuts, made possible by the crumbling of the Iron Curtain, resulted in the amalgamation which created the Queen’s Royal Lancers but more on this next issue when I look at the history of the other two regiments which helped make up this modern fighting unit.
With special thanks to Dorset Soldiers who provided images and castings for use in this article.
Date Published Sun, 01/31/2010 - 08:44
Author: Stephen Green
Unit 112, South Way
Southwell Business Park
Tel: 01305 823003
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