Unit History: Royal Horse Guards
The Regiment can trace its history back to 1650 during the English Civil War (1642-51), when Sir Arthur Haselrig 2nd Baronet of Noseley Hall, at the request of Oliver Cromwell, raised a Regiment of Cuirassiers (mounted cavalry soldiers equipped with heavy armour and firearms) in Newcastle to be dressed in dark blue uniforms.
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. Cromwell’s New Model Army was disbanded with the exception of 2 Regiments; Monck’s Regiment of Foot which later became the Coldstream Guards and the Regiment of Cuirassiers which would become the Royal Horse Guards in 1877. Following the Restoration the Regiment was appointed a new Colonel; Aubrey de Vere, 20th Earl of Oxford. He was a staunch Royalist and had been imprisoned in the Tower of London during the course of the English Civil War, the Regiment was renamed as the Earl of Oxford’s Regiment. This makes them the only Parliamentary cavalry unit still in the British Army, but places them second in precedence to The Life Guards, who were founded as a Royalist unit in 1658.
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 oldest 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. However James II remained popular in Catholic Ireland which continued to recognize him as their true King. In 1689 James II landed in Kinsale supported by King Louis XIV and a French Army, in an attempt to reclaim his lost throne. The Regiment were part of King William’s force which expelled James II and secured the throne for King William III fighting at Battle of the Boyne. As the Regiment’s uniform was blue it became nicknamed ‘the Blues’ and in 1750 the Regiment was renamed as the Royal Horse Guards (Blues).
In 1813 the Prince Regent George IV promoted the unit to the household cavalry and the Duke of Wellington was made the Regiments Colonel and served during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) fighting at the Battle of Vittoria and at the Battle of Waterloo. The Regiment also went on to serve during the Egypt Campaign (1882) fighting at Tel-el-Kebir, The Nile Expedition (1884-85) and the Second Boer War (1899-1902) fighting at the Relief of Kimberley and the Battle of Paardeburg as well as the First World War.
The Regiment was amalgamated in 1969 with the Royal Dragoons (1st Dragoons) to form the Blues and Royals and are best known for their ceremonial duties but also maintained an active service arm. In 1991 the Regiment was joined with the Life Guards, as part of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (ceremonial troops) and the Household Cavalry Regiment (operational troops) with both Regiments’ maintaining their separate identities. Both Prince William and Prince Harry were officers of the Blues and Royals from 2006 until 2008.
Royal Horse 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 received 23 Battle Honours and lost 99 men during the course of the war.
Royal Horse Guards
04.08.14 Stationed at Windsor. Once mobilised one squadron formed Household Cavalry Composite Regiment with a squadron of the 1st and 2nd Life Guards.
01.09.14 Moved to Ludgershall and joined the 7th Cavalry Brigade of the 3rd Cavalry Division.
07.10.1914 Mobilised for war and landed at Zeebrugge.
21.11.14 Transferred to the 8th Cavalry Brigade of the 3rd Cavalry Division and engaged in various action on the Western Front including;
The Antwerp operations, The Battle of Langemarck, The Battle of Gheluvelt, The Battle of Nonne Bosschen.
Winter Operations 1914-15, The Battle of Frezenburg Ridge, The Battle of Loos.
No major engagements.
07.11.17 Transferred to the 7th Cavalry Brigade of the 3rd Cavalry Division.
The First Battle of the Scarpe, The attack on Monchy le Preux.
10.03.1918 Left the 3rd Cavalry Division to form the No.3 (Royal Horse 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;
The Battle of Mons, The Battle of Le Cateau, The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne, The Battles of Ypres 1914.
Winter Operations 1914-15, The Battles of Ypres 1915.
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette.
17.11.16 Transferred to the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division;
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.