In Collaboration With Charles Griffin


Regimental History
Although the Light Troop had been disbanded some years before, each troop of the regiment had elements of light cavalry for recconaisance work. But in 1783 the whole regiment changed from heavy to light cavalry. For the first year, the 11th Light Dragoons, as they were now called, wore their red coats cut short but in 1784 they were issued with the distinctive dark blue uniform that was to set them apart from the rest of the British Army. The head-dress was an improvement on the previous one, being a toughened black leather cap with brass edged peak and a large bearskin crest from front to back. The men and horses were slightly smaller than those of the heavy cavalry; the height for men to be between 5' 6" and 5' 8". Each troop consisted of a captain, a lieutenant, a quarter-master, 2 sergeants, 3 corporals, 2 drummers, a farrier and 60 men. Each man was armed with carbine, bayonet, pistol and sword.
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolution siganalled the start of 22 years of turmoil in Europe, with war spilling out to Egypt, Russia and North America. The 11th Light Dragoons sent two squadrons under Major George Michell to join the Duke of York's army in Flanders in April 1793. Very soon they were in action at the River Escaut, being ordered to attack a French baggage-train. The charged in, killed 50 and took as many prisoners along with 8 waggons and 30 horses. Although French cavalry counter-attacked they managed to make their escape with the loss of 3 men.

A great cavalry battle took place at Le Cateau on 26th April 1794. At one point a joint force of Austrian and British cavalry including the 7th Hussars and 11th Light Dragoons made a headlong chage into a large enemy column, killing many and capturing 10 guns and 11 waggons. at tourai on 10thMay they were involved with another cavalry charge that resulted in 4000 French deaths. Seven men of the 11th were killed that day. Following a bad winter in January 1795 the British pulled back through Holland to Germany and the 11th came home.

The regiment returned in September 1799 under Lt Col Childers to fight alongside Russian troops in an attempt to force the French out of Holland. It was an unsuccessful campaign resulting in the regiment's embarkation from Den Helder. Because of a lack of space on the ships 152 horses had to be left behind, either to be handed over to their Russian allies or destroyed. Sadly, relations with the Russinas was so bad that they chose to shoot them there on the beaches.

Egypt
The Regiment's first brush with Napoleon took place in Egypt. General Abercromby led an expedition there in 1800. His cavalry consisted of the 12th and 26th Light Dragoons and C squadron of the 11th. After a dreadful sea voyage their first battle, on 18th March 1801 was disastrous. At Beda they were cut down by French cavalry and had to retreat. Later Capt Money and Lieutenant Lutyens were sent on recce patrol to Cairo and made a good job of it. Both Cairo and Alexandra fell to the British and the 11th returned home. In recognition of their services they were given the honour of wearing the Sphinx on their appointments and C squadron has, ever since taken up position right of the line on parade.
Peninsula
Colonel Childers
After a spell in Ireland the 11th were sent to Spain and Portugal to reinforce Wellington's army. Their strength, normally around 300 in peacetime was raised to 725. They arrived in June 1811 and, as in Egypt, they had a bad start. A dawn attack by the French in woods between Elvas and the Guadiana forced the 11th to retire on to what they thought were friendly portugese lines. When they realised they were French, their commander Capt Lutyens ordered the charge. The shock tactic worked and they were able to drive their way through, but a second line of enemy troops was able to resist them. They lost 8 killed, 22 wounded and 77 taken prisoner.

The regiment had more success at El Bodon near Cuidad Rodrigo on 25th September. By this time they were commanded by Lt Col Cumming, a brave and efficient cavalry officer. A large force of French cavalry was threatening Allied infantry and artillery on the plain in front of the 11th and a squardon of the King's German Legion who were well placed on high ground. Although they were vastely outnumbered the 11th and KGL charged at the enemy again and again, 20 times in all.

The 11th were part of Wellington's great victory over Marmont at Salamanca on 22nd July 1812 but by 3rd April 1813 they had to give up their horses and embark for England much to the regret of Sir Stapleton Cotton who was in command of the cavalry in the Peninsula. It had been a hard two years for them having lost 417 men and 555 horses.

During their time in the Peninsula many changes had been made to the uniforms of the British Army. The Prince Regent had a keen eye for dress and with his newly acquired position of supreme power was determined to push through his ideas dased on continental military trends. The 11th exchanged it's light dragoon Tarleton helmet for a shako. The new jacket was still dark blue but had a buff plastron covering the chest, and white epaulettes, silver for officers.

Waterloo
With the return of Napoleon in March 1815 the war with France resumed and the 11th arrived at Ostend on 2nd April. They were in Vandeleur's brigade with the 12th and 16th and had an unprecedented strength of 947 men. They came under heavy attack at Quatre Bras but did not suffer badly. On the 18th June 1815 the Battle of Waterloo began after a terrible night of torrential rain. It was a frustrating morning for the British cavalry who had to stand and watch an infantry battle. Against Wellington's wishes, the heavy cavalry made a brilliant charge that was spoiled by it's failure to re-form. The 11th under the command of Lt Col Money were sent into action when it looked as if the enemy were breaking up. They broke a French infantry square and carried on with the pursuit of Naploeon's fleeing soldiers.

Wellington entered Paris in triumph on 7th July escorted by the 11th and others. The regiment bivouacked on the Champs Elysees and became part of the army of occupation in France and Belgium. On 20th November they eventually arrived home after 3 years on the continent. A new regimental depot was set up at Maidstone.

Bhurtpore
They did not have much time to enjoy their home country because in February 1819 they were shipped off to India. They were stationed at Cawnpore and Meerut and did not see serious fighting until 1825 when they took part in the siege of Bhurtpore. This was an apparently impregnable fortress garrisoned by 15,000 anti British Indians under the leadership of Doorjun Saul. The British, led by Sir Stapleton Cotton, now Lord Combermere, had 30,000 men. The enemy were aided by a British deserter, Bombadier Herbert who instructed the Indian artillery making them more effective. The cavalry was commanded by General Sleigh, an ex-11th officer, the brigade was commanded by Col M Childers, also ex-11th, and the regiment itself by Major Bellingham Smith.

After a five week siege, the mining endeavours of the engineers and bombardment by the artillery had weakened the defences enough for Combermere to order an attack. Bellingham Smith led 80 men and 2 Lieutenants into the fortress after an enormous explosion had created a breach big enough to storm through. The explosion killed many inside and some outsite the walls. Enemy resistance did not last long and large groups fled on horseback pursued by the 11th Light Dragoons. They took many prisoners and captured the unfortunate Herbert who was hanged from the nearest tree. The regiment's casualties were 2 men killed, one officer and 12 men wounded and 4 horses killed.

Lord Cardigan
Despite all the battles that the 11th had gone through, the most famous event of the regiment's existance was the arrival of a new Commanding Officer in October 1837. Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Brudenell, later to become Lord Cardigan, took over from Colonel Brutton who was considered the kindest and most popular commanding officer the regiment had ever had. By contrast Brudenell was arrogant and cruel. But he was also very rich (he paid 40,000 for the position) and was determined to have the smartest cavalry regiment in the army.

King William who came to the throne in 1830 was very fond of red and he took offence at any units dressed in blue. So the light dragoon regiments had to change their blue jackets for scarlet. The officers' lace in the 11th changed from silver to gold and the tall shakos worn throughout the 1820s were changed to the lower bell-topped variety. The change to red lasted as long as William did because Queen Victoria changed them back to blue. But for the 11th the change was even more startling.

Badge
Colonels
1783 - 1840
Lieutenant-Colonels
1783 - 1840
Sabretaches
1783 - 1840
Uniforms
1783 - 1840
Predecessor Units
11th Dragoons
1715 - 1783
Successor Units
11th Hussars
1840 - 1969
The Royal Hussars
1969 - 1992
King's Royal Hussars
1992 -




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by Stephen Luscombe