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Light Dragoons

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Origins

Light Dragoons have always been rather special troops. They were first raised in the middle of the eighteenth century for reconnaissance and patrolling - in other words scouting - but soon acquired a reputation for courage and dash in the charge.

Originally, each regiment of cavalry formed a light troop, but so successful was the idea that whole regiments were formed. The 15th Light Dragoons were the first ever (1759), and others quickly followed including the 18th and 19th. The 13th, raised as heavy dragoons (mounted infantrymen) as early as 1715, were also converted to the light role.

These light dragoon regiments fought all over the world in the half-century that followed, notably in India and North America. They distinguished themselves under the Duke of Wellington in Spain and Portugal in the Napoleonic wars, and three of them were present at the battle of Waterloo (1815).

History

In the Crimean War (1854-56), the 13th Light Dragoons were in the forefront of the famous Charge of the Light Brigade, immortalized by Tennyson's poem of that name ("Into the valley of death rode the six hundred"). The regiments adopted the title 'Hussars' at this time, and the uniform became very stylish, aping the hussars of the Austro-Hungarian army. But soon the blues and yellows and golds gave way to khaki as the British army found itself in skirmishes throughout the far-flung Empire, in India and South Africa especially.

In the Great War (1914-18) the four regiments fought in France, both mounted and in the trenches on the Western Front, and some of them on horseback in the Middle East. The 15th Hussars produced two field marshals - Sir John French, who was commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) which sailed for France in 1914, and Sir Philip Chetwode, who became commander in chief India.

After the war the army was reduced in size, and the first of the major amalgamations took place in 1922, the 13th and the 18th Hussars combining, and the 15th with the 19th.

As the war clouds gathered again in 1939, the regiments were hastily mechanized. Both the 13th/18th Hussars and the 15th/19th Hussars went to France that year in light tanks, in the same scouting role for which they had been raised two centuries earlier.

After Dunkirk and the evacuation of this second BEF, the regiments re-equipped and re-trained in England until in 1944, at the Normandy landings, the 13th/18th Hussars became the first Allied tanks to lay a track on French soil. They had swum for over two miles from their landing craft by means of special flotation equipment. Both regiments subsequently fought all the way through France, Belgium and Germany until the final Nazi surrender in May 1945.

In the 1950s and '60s, the regiments continued to see plenty of active service in what was to be the twilight of the British Empire - notably in Malaya and Aden. But the main effort was in the divided Germany as part of BAOR - the British Army of the Rhine. Along with other NATO allies, BAOR's role was to deter Soviet aggression during what became known as the Cold War. From time to time the regiments were also called on to assist in Northern Ireland, sometimes in armoured cars, sometimes on foot.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s - the end of the Cold War - the army faced reductions again, just as it had in 1922, and many cavalry regiments were amalgamated. The 13th/18th Royal Hussars and the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars, as they were then known, chose to amalgamate with one another since they shared much history and recruited from the north of England.

And so, in December 1992, The Light Dragoons were formed. Or perhaps we should say reformed, since the new name harked back to the original light dragoons. The Princess of Wales became their first colonel in chief. Almost immediately, the new regiment began a long series of operational deployments in the Balkans, prompting a former Chief of Defence Staff to describe them as the best regiment in the army - "consistently the best officered, best recruited and the most effective."

Today

Currently based at Catterick, having moved from Swanton Morley, Norfolk in 2015, they have deployed twelve independent squadrons and two complete battle groups to the former Yugoslavia since April 1993, initially as part of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) and more recently as part of the NATO Implementation Force and Stabilisation Forces (IFOR and SFOR) and in Iraq on Op Telic.


Alliances

The Royal Canadian Hussars (Montreal), Canadian Armed Forces

An armoured reservist unit, the RCH have an illustrious and distinguished history. They fought alongside British Forces in the American War of Independence, the Boer War as well as both World Wars. www.goldtech.com/rch

The South Alberta Light Horse, Canadian Armed Forces

Currently with squadrons located in Edmonton , Northern Alberta and Medicine Hat, South Alberta, this reserve force reconnaissance regiment has a rich history from breaking the Canadian West, to fighting alongside British Forces in both world wars. Currently the regiment supports a variety of peacekeeping missions around the world. [1]

The 2nd Royal Reconnaissance Regiment, Malaysian Armed Forces

The 13th/18th Hussars helped to train one of the original squadrons of the Malaysian Armed Forces in 1958. The squadron became the 2nd Regiment, Federation Reconnaissance Corps.

1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers, Australian Military Forces

An Armoured Unit of the Army Reserve, equivalent to the British TA, based in Sydney. Its history dates back to 1885, with thirty-one battle honours from South Africa, WW1 (on the Gallipoli peninsular, Sinai and Palestine), as well as WW2 (in Papua New Guinea and Borneo).

Skinner's Horse (1st Duke of York's Own Cavalry), Indian Army

The 13th Hussars were based in India prior to WW1 and often competed in sporting events against the Skinner's Horse. During WW1 both Regiments fought together in the Meerut Brigade in Mesopotamia. On deployment to Risaplur in 1932, the 13th/18th Hussars again found themselves stationed along side Skinner's Horse and the official alliance was formed. The Officers of the Light Dragoons today wear the Skinner's Horse turban silk as cummerbunds, whilst their officers carry 13th/18th crops.

6th (Duke of Connaught's Own) Lancers, Pakistan Army

The 16th Bengal Cavalry and the 13th Bengal Lancers were raised during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857. The 13th also took part in the Afghan war of 1878, and gained great distinction in the campaign against Arabi Pasha in Egypt.

The 16th fought in China, helping to relieve the siege of Peking. Both Regiments found themselves in Mesopotamia at the outbreak of the Great War, and were to gain distinction for their part in the conflict. Here they fought alongside the 13th Hussars for 2½ years, and the alliance was struck up. The 16th and the 13th amalgamated in 1921 to become the 6th Lancers. During WW2 they saw service in Iraq, Persia, Syria and Italy, finishing the war at Venice.

19th (King George V's Own) Lancers, Pakistan Army

Fought alongside the Regiment in Afghanistan.

Unofficial Alliances

Quatrieme Chasseurs d' Afrique (4th Chasseurs), French Armed Forces

Fought together in the Crimea, where at the Charge of the Light Brigade, the 4eme Chasseurs charged the batteries on the Fedioukine Hills, silencing them whilst the Regiment struggled back up the valley. The Regiments still visit each other today, most notably for the Alpine Ski Championships hosted by the 4eme Chasseurs in Gap each year. On the anniversary of Balaclava telegrams are exchanged in recognition of the service rendered by the 4eme Chasseurs on that day.

Bond of Friendship

HMS Northumberland


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