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Unit History: Life Guards

Life Guards
Following the English Civil War (1642–1651), Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1653.  The exiled and impoverished Charles II was unable to obtain sufficient support to mount a serious challenge to Cromwell’s government and turned to Spain for aid.  He was able to raise 80 cavalry troops as ‘His Majesty's Own Troop of Horse Guards’ recruited from his loyal exiled subjects as well as 5 Infantry Regiments with Spanish money.
 
Following Oliver Cromwell’s death in 1658 and the abdication of his son as Lord Protector in 1659, Charles II was invited to return to England and the monarchy was restored in 1660.  The Regiments he had raised in exile and some Parliamentary Regiments went on to form the nucleus of the English and Scottish Armies.
 
In 1660 the cavalry troops were formed into three Troops of Horse Guards and commanded by Lord Gerard of Brandon, Sir Charles Berkeley and Sir Philip Howard.  The Regiment saw its first action during the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-74).
 
Charles II died suddenly in 1685 and was succeeded by his unpopular brother James II who was quickly plunged into suppressing mounting discontent. During the Monmouth rebellion of 1685 James Scott the 1st Duke of Monmouth (the illegitimate son of Charles II and the King’s nephew) unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the unpopular King and the Regiment fought at the Battle of Sedgemoor were James Scott was captured.
 
In 1688 Prince William of Orange was invited to take the throne by the English Lords and upon his arrival in England James II abdicated.  The Regiment went onto serve during both the First (1715) and Second (1745) Jacobite Rebellions, in which James II son (James Francis Edward Stuart) and his grandson (Charles Edward Stuart / Bonnie Prince Charlie) attempted to regain the English throne to the Stuart family.
 
In 1778 the Troops of Horse Guards were reformed as the 1st and 2nd Life Guards and fought during the Peninsula War (1808-1814) and at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) were the Regiment formed the front charging line of the Household Brigade against the French Cuirassiers which saved the British centre from being overrun.
 
The Regiment went on to serve during the Egypt Campaign of 1882 fighting at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir and taking part in the famous Moonlight Charge at Kassassin.  The Regiment also served during the Nile Expedition (1884-85) and the Second Boer War (1899-1902) fighting at the Relief of Kimberley and the Battle of Paardeburg.  The Regiments also served in two World Wars.
 
In 1922 the 1st and the 2nd Life Guards were amalgamated into The Life Guards (1st and 2nd) and then simply became The Life Guards in 1928.  In 1992 the Regiment was joined with the Blues and Royals forming the Household Cavalry Regiment (armoured reconnaissance) and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (ceremonial duties). Both maintain distinct regimental identity.

Life Guards during WW1

Since 1815 the balance of power in Europe had been maintained by a series of treaties. In 1888 Wilhelm II was crowned ‘German Emperor and King of Prussia’ and moved from a policy of maintaining the status quo to a more aggressive position. He did not renew a treaty with Russia, aligned Germany with the declining Austro-Hungarian Empire and started to build a Navy to rival that of Britain. These actions greatly concerned Germany’s neighbours, who quickly forged new treaties and alliances in the event of war. On 28th June 1914 Franz Ferdinand the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated by the Bosnian-Serb nationalist group Young Bosnia who wanted pan-Serbian independence. Franz Joseph the Austro-Hungarian Emperor (with the backing of Germany) responded aggressively, presenting Serbia with an intentionally unacceptable ultimatum, to provoke Serbia into war. Serbia agreed to 8 of the 10 terms and on the 28th July 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, producing a cascade effect across Europe. Russia bound by treaty to Serbia declared war with Austro-Hungary, Germany declared war with Russia and France declared war with Germany. Germany’s army crossed into neutral Belgium in order to reach Paris, forcing Britain to declare war with Germany (due to the Treaty of London (1839) whereby Britain agreed to defend Belgium in the event of invasion). By the 4th August 1914 Britain and much of Europe were pulled into a war which would last 1,566 days, cost 8,528,831 lives and 28,938,073 casualties or missing on both sides.

The Regiment were converted to Machine Gun Battalions during the course of the war but reverted to their former titles following the Armistice. The 1st and 2nd Life Guards received 28 Battle Honours losing 173 men (1st Life Guards) and 139 men (2nd Life Guards) during the course of the war.

1st Life Guards
04.08.1914 Stationed at Hyde Park. Once mobilised one squadron formed Household Cavalry Composite Regiment with a squadron of the 2nd Life Guards.
01.09.1914 Moved to Ludgershall to join the 7th Cavalry Brigade of the 3rd Cavalry Division.
07.10.1914 Mobilised for war and landed at Zeebrugge and engaged in various action on the Western Front including;
1914
The Antwerp operations, The Battle of Langemarck, The Battle of Gheluvelt, The Battle of Nonne Bosschen.
1915
Winter Operations 1914-15, The Battle of Frezenburg Ridge, The Battle of Loos.
1916
No major engagements.
1917
The First Battle of the Scarpe, The attack on Monchy le Preux.
10.03.1918 Left the 3rd Cavalry Division to form the No.1 (1st Life Guards) Battalion of the Guards Machine Gun Regiment.
April/May 1918 Trained at Etaples.
24.05.1918 Transferred to the First Army as Army Troops until the end of the war.

2nd Life Guards
04.08.1914 Stationed at Regent’s Park. Once mobilised one squadron formed Household Cavalry Composite Regiment with a squadron of the 1st Life Guards.
01.09.1914 Moved to Ludgershall to join the 7th Cavalry Brigade of the 3rd Cavalry Division.
07.10.1914 Mobilised for war and landed at Zeebrugge and engaged in various action on the Western Front including;
1914
The Antwerp operations, The Battle of Langemarck, The Battle of Gheluvelt, The Battle of Nonne Bosschen.
1915
Winter Operations 1914-15, The Battle of Frezenburg Ridge, The Battle of Loos.
1916
No major engagements.
1917
The First Battle of the Scarpe, The attack on Monchy le Preux.
10.03.1918 Left the 3rd Cavalry Division to form the No.2 (2nd Life Guards) Battalion of the Guards Machine Gun Regiment.
April/May 1918 Trained at Etaples.
24.05.1918 Transferred to the First Army as Army Troops until the end of the war.

Household Cavalry Composite Regiment
Aug 1914 Formed on mobilisation with one squadron from each of the Household Cavalry Regiments as part of the 4th Cavalry Brigade of The 1st Cavalry Division.
16.08.14 Mobilised for war and landed in France engaging in various actions on the Western front including;
1914
The Battle of Mons, The Battle of Le Cateau, The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne, The Battles of Ypres 1914.
1915
Winter Operations 1914-15, The Battles of Ypres 1915.
1916
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette.
17.11.16 Transferred to the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division;
1917
The First Battle of the Scarpe, The Third Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of Polygon Wood, The Battle of Broodseinde, The Battle of Poelcapelle, The First Battle of Passchendaele.
10.02.18 Disbanded in France and remaining drafts sent to the Household Cavalry and the Foot Guards.

Guards Divisional Cavalry Squadron
July 1915 Formed by the 1st Life Guards Reserve Regiment.
04.08.15 Mobilised for war and landed in France, joining the Guards Division in the Lumbres area and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
1915
The Battle of Loos.
19.06.16 Broken up at Rouen and remaining personal transferred to the 1st Life Guards.
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Active From: 1788 - 1992

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