In Collaboration With Charles Griffin



The Raising of the Regiment 1688
When the Protestant Prince William of Orange replaced James II as King he faced a threat from Louis XIV of France and the Irish Catholics so he took James's army into his service and added new regiments. Lord Cavendish, the Earl of Devonshire, was appointed to raise and command a regiment of Horse. This commission was sent to his Lordship on 31st December 1688. Six other regiments of Horse were raised at this time but the 7th Dragoon Guards was the only one to survive.

The Earl of Devonshire (he became Duke later, in 1694) was not involved with the regiment after their first muster in Oxford in January 1689. He set a poor example with his absenteeism as most of the officers were not to be found when the men later suffered sickness and cold whilst wintering at Dundalk. The regiment went by the name of The Earl of Devonshire's Horse, or Lord Cavendish's Horse, and was made up of 6 troops of 50 men, each commanded by a Captain. Lord Cavendish, as Colonel of the regiment, commanded A Troop as Captain, the Lieutenant-Colonel, John Coke, commanded B Troop which he raised himself in Derby, and the remaining 4 Troops were commanded by Captains Francis Palmes, Purey Cust, John Charlton and John South. The men did not receive uniforms, accoutrements and weapons until the middle of March.

Battle of the Boyne, 1st July 1690
7th Dragoon Guards
Battle of the Boyne
The regiment went to Ireland a few months later and paraded outside Belfast for a review on 31st August 1689. William had become king on 13th February and had sent his army to Ireland under the command of the Duke of Schomberg. In April, The Earl of Devonshire had relinquished command of his regiment and it was now led by Schomberg's third son, Count Meinhardt Schomberg. When the army, now commanded by King William himself, caught up with James's Irish Catholic army on the banks of the Boyne near Drogheda, the regiment were placed on the right wing with the task of crossing at Slane Bridge and attacking the enemy flank. They confronted the Jacobite infantry and cavalry once over the bridge and began what turned out to be a pursuit more than a fight. There were no casualties amongst the regiment's two hundred and forty-two rank and file soldiers.
Change of Title 1692-93
The Colonel of the regiment, Meinhardt Schomberg, son of the old Duke of Schomberg was given the title Duke of Leinster on 8th March 1692, from which date the regiment changed from being Schomberg's Horse to Leinster's Horse. Meinhardt was the third son of the the old Duke, so when the father died at the battle of the Boyne the title went to Charles the eldest son, but Charles died at the battle of Marsaglia in October 1693 and the title passed once more, this time to his brother, Meinhardt. So from that time, the regiment reverted back to the title Schomberg's Horse.
Namur 1695
In the War of the League of Augsburg, or the Grand Alliance, Schomberg's Horse was brigaded with four cavalry regiments that were later to become The King's Dragoon Guards, 4th DG and 6th DG. The regiment was the only British cavalry unit at the battle of Dottignes on 18th July 1693. But the most notable battle of the war was the siege of Namur in which the cavalry was held in reserve in case the besieged French garrison attempted to flee. In the event Namur surrendered and the cavalry lined the road out of the city to salute them. Schomberg's Horse spent another two years in Flanders before sailing home.
The War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1715
When the Peace of Ryswick had been achieved the army was reduced in size, and Schomberg's Horse was cut down from 60 men per Troop to 36. But with the start of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701 they were brought up to strength so that each troop had 62 men. The regiment was now up to 372 rank and file, and 24 officers. The allied army under the command of the Duke of Marlborough and prince Eugene of Savoy performed a miracle of organisation by marching from Holland to the Danube without the usual tribulations of hunger, disease and pillage. The battle of Schellenberg was fought by the heroic infantry but some units were showing signs of retreat. The cavalry was brought forward to stand at the base of the hill and discourage such a tendency. Schomberg's were now within range of enemy guns and had to sit stoically as saddles were emptied.

Blenheim 13th Aug 1704

Marlborough confronted Marshal Tallard's French army at Blenheim in Bavaria, on the banks of the Nedel, a tributary of the Danube. The battle lines stretched for 3 miles. Schomberg's Horse were formed in two squadrons with the rest of the British cavalry on the extreme left wing, opposite Blenheim village. The regiment was led by their ablest commanding officer so far, Colonel Charles Sybourg. The battle started around mid-day and the cavalry were over the Nedel on the enemy side by 5 o'clock. Marlborough ordered them forward but would only allow them to trot, not gallop. They ploughed into the mass of French and Bavarian cavalry and infantry and cut their way through, creating panic amongst the enemy who turned and fled as well as they could. Many of them tried to cross the wide Danube on a pontoon bridge but it collapsed causing them to drown. Marshall Tallard was captured and Marlborough had won a 'Glorious Victory'. Schomberg's Horse lost 4 officers killed and 6 wounded. The figures for the rank and file loss are not properly recorded but Richard Cannon, who wrote the first regimental histories had access to their records in the mid 19th century and stated the figure as 56 killed.

Elixhem 18th July 1705

The regiment spent the autumn at the siege of Landau where the horses suffered a disease called glanders which reduced their numbers to 20 per Troop. Fresh horses were brought in and they wintered at Bois-le-Duc (they called it Boiled Duck). The following year Marlborough determined to force the famous Lines of Brabant, stretching from Antwerp to Namur. This was another of his brilliant victories in which the cavalry played a major part but it is little known and does not appear on the list of Battle Honours. The regiment were part of the same cavalry force that fought at Blenheim, forbears of the KDG, 3DG, 5DG, 6DG, 7DG, Scots Greys and 5th Lancers. A total of 17 squadrons, 2,500 troopers. They made a wide sweep at first light on 18th July 1705, arriving at earthworks between Elixhem and the River Gheete. They used fascines of straw to cross a swamp and defeated 3 French dragoon regiments in a surprise attack. The fortress of Elixhem was still to be captured, it was commanded by Villeroi who sent his horde of Bavarian and French cuirassiers to confront Marlborough's cavalry in the open.

Marlborough himself led the advance. Cadogan's Horse (5DG) hit the enemy first, at the trot, followed by Schomberg's. The enemy received the charge at the halt, firing their pistols, but the impetus took the British cavalry through so that the infantry placed behind were forced to flee. A counter-attack by fresh enemy squadrons drove the British back but the reserve cavalry of Danish, Dutch and Germans joined the British squadrons and swept the French and Bavarians away.

Ramillies 23rd May 1706

7th Dragoon Guards
Ramillies
This was mainly an infantry battle, although the Dutch and Danish cavalry made some effective charges, the British Cavalry were in reserve, placed on the right wing, impatient to get into the fight. The French and Bavarians were again commanded by Villeroi and the site of the battle was not far from Elixhem where they had fought the year before. It was not until 7 pm that the infantry in front of the regiments of Horse were let off the leash to attack Offuz and Autre-Eglise. The enemy were overwhelmed and ran away. This was the chance for the British cavalry. The pursuit carried on for most of the night and some squadrons rode 20 miles to capture and kill the fleeing enemy. Details of the actions of Schomberg's Horse are almost non-existant, so casualty figures are not available.

Oudenarde 11th July 1708

The battle of Oudenarde, in Flanders, was another occasion in which the British cavalry had to sit and watch. Schomberg's Horse were brigaded with Wood's Horse (3DG), the brigade commanded by their ex-CO, Brigadier-General Sybourg. The three other regiments of Horse were brigaded together as were the two dragoon regiments. Prince Eugene controlled the right wing of the army where the cavalry were placed, and he seemed determined that they should remain in reserve. The French forces under Marshal Vendome and the Duke of Burgandy numbered 85,000 against 80,000 Allied troops. Marlborough's men had marched 50 miles in 55 hours to reach the battlefield. It was a resounding victory for the Allies, helped by cavalry charges made by the Prussian and Hanoverian squadrons. But as darkness fell the British Cavalry had done nothing and there was to be no pursuit of the retreating French. During the rest of 1708 there were three sieges at Lille, Ghent and Bruges but little for the cavalry to do.

Malplaquet 11th Sep 1709

In this battle, the French, commanded by Marshal Villars, had increased to around 100,000 men. The Allies had a similar number and both armies had around 260 squadrons of cavalry. The British contribution to the Allied cavalry was relatively small at 14 squadrons. After the infantry had made contact with their opposite numbers, the Dutch cavalry went forward and found themselves in difficulty with the French Gendarmes. At this point the British regiments of Horse and Dragoons charged in with the Prussian cavalry but they were driven back by the Maison du Roi and Gendarmes. They re-formed and went in again. It was the greatest clash of mounted troops yet seen in Europe involving 30,000 cavalrymen from almost every country, hacking at each other. It had all started at 8am and by 3pm the French were admitting defeat. Both sides were exhausted and there was no pursuit.

Arleux 11th July 1711

The rest of the war was not eventful for the cavalry. The battles were mostly sieges, the greatest being at Bouchain in June 1711. The cavalry were, however, involved in an attack at the river crossing near Arleux on the night of 11th July. They were ordered, along with 10 battalions of infantry, to watch the approach to Bouchain. They set up camp but failed to post a guard with the result that they were taken by surprise when a strong force of French dragoons fell upon them in the early hours in thick fog. Many were killed and wounded amongst the cavalry, and their horses taken before the rest of the camp emerged to fight them off. The war ended badly for Marlborough who had to live in exile in Holland, having been shunned by his own country. The British establishment was controlled by people who did not have the country's best interests at heart. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 brought the war to an official end but all the gains for which Marlborough and his men had fought so hard were squandered. The regiment sailed home in March 1714.

Ireland 1714-1742
The regiment were sent to Ireland and did not take part in a major campaign for 28 years. The Troops were dispersed to billets around the country and were often required to police the districts. During their time there Lord Ligonier was appointed as Colonel, on 18th July 1720. He was a seasoned soldier who had fought through the same war as the regiment, but as an infantry officer. He encouraged an increase in the standard of smartness and discipline in the 'Black Horse' to such a degree that it was regarded as the smartest and best trained cavalry regiment in the army. In 1737 he appointed his brother Francis to be Commanding Officer, a move that may have looked like nepotism but was beneficial to the regiment. It was Francis who led the Black Horse at Dettingen, an important landmark in the history of the 7th Dragoon Guards.
War of the Austrian Succession 1740-48

Dettingen 27th June 1743

Ligonier's Horse, as they were called from 1720 to 1749, were shipped off to Ghent to join the army of Lord Stair in Sept 1742. Their Colonel John Ligonier was now a Major-General in command of an Infantry division and the regiment was commanded by his brother Francis. Lord Stair decided to put them in winter quarters and resume fighting the following summer. In the meantime they were ordered to polish all their equipment to present a smart appearance in front of their allies from Hanover, Austria and Holland. In May the regiment, 180 strong, marched from Brussels with the Horse Guards (Life Guards), The Blues and Pembroke's Horse (KDG) to join the allies on the banks of the Main between Aschaffenburg and Dettingen. The French commander Marshal Noailles had prepared a trap for the allies and it looked as if they had walked into it.

Dettingen itself was impassable because a force of 28,000 French infantry and cavalry were placed around the town under the command of the Duc de Grammont. To the north were the thickly wooded hills of Spessart and to their south the river. Across the river the French had lined their artillery along the banks and were able to fire at the British left flank. Fortunately for Ligonier's Horse and most of the cavalry, they were to be on the right flank but Bland's Dragoons (3rd D) were badly exposed to the flying cannonballs. The army had approached this uncomfortable place under the leadership of King George II who had put himself at the head of the army, to the embarrassment of the appointed commander, Lord Stair. The King was no stranger to battle; 35 years previously he had led a squadron of Hanoverian cavalry at Oudenarde and had his horse shot from under him. Perhaps his horse was aware of this because it suddenly decided to turn around and gallop off in the opposite direction. It was now the King's turn to be embarrassed and he decided to direct the battle on foot.

By midday the British artillery were able to struggle through and return fire. Meanwhile, Grammont the French commander of the static force at Dettingen, was growing tired of playing out his role of long stop and after four hours was no longer able to resist attacking the seemingly disorganised British army to his front. At first the infantry attacked and fought for an hour, then the Maison du Roi and Gendarmes charged Bland's Dragoons causing great loss. The rest of the British cavalry came to their aid. A fierce battle ensued during which the regiment became isolated and exposed to attack from all sides. They fought their way back after suffering heavy casualties, and reformed to charge again when the infantry had stopped the French cuirassiers and caused them to pull back themselves. The charge by Ligonier's Horse was a heroic act and played a decisive part in the eventual retreat of the French. An infantry officer of the 33rd Foot described an incident at this point of the battle:

7th Dragoon Guards
Cornet Richardson
'I came immediately behind the Blacks [Ligonier's] and then I saw an old veteran corporal and half a dozen comrades who had fought through the enemy, and covered with wounds: he addressed his companions with observing their present condition - that they began the day well and hoped they would end it so; and collecting their small squadron of heroes, they recharged the thickest of the enemy, and in a second of time not a man survived.'

In the melee Cornet Richardson distinguished himself in the defense of the Standard he was carrying. He received 37 wounds and shots through his clothes but managed to retain the regimental Standard which bore the emblem of the Ligonier family. The battle was at last going well for the allies and the French were forced to retreat. Many of the unfortunate men were drowned as they tried to cross the River Main. Noailles still had 20,000 men that had not been employed in the battle, but it was too late, panic had set in and the day was lost to him. The casualty list of Ligonier's Horse was 21 men killed plus Captain Robinson and a Warrant Officer. Thirty men were wounded along with the CO Lt-Col Ligonier, Captain Stuart, Lt Cholmondeley and 2 Warrant Officers.

Fontenoy 11th May 1745

So far, all the major battles that the regiment had fought in were British or Allied victories. The battle of Fontenoy was a defeat and does not appear as a battle honour on their appointments. Ligonier's Horse had spent the winter in Lessines near Brussels, and 1744 was an uneventful year, but in 1745 the Duke of Cumberland took command of the army and Colonel John Ligonier was promoted General of Foot. At Fontenoy the infantry regiments under Ligonier ran into difficulty being fired on from the front and the flanks. They were forced to retire and under cool leadership from Ligonier they retired in good order, the final units being covered by fine cavalry action. Up until then the regiment had had to sit and put up with a barrage from Marshal Saxe's artillery. Three men and 16 horses of the regiment were killed, with 4 men and a Warrant Officer wounded. A trooper called Stevenson had his horse shot and he went missing. When he later turned up at the camp in Ath he was accused of desertion but he demanded a court-martial. In the course of the hearing it emerged that he had fallen behind and joined up with the Welsh Fusiliers, fighting as an infantryman with grenadiers of the regiment. He and 8 others were the only men of the grenadier company to survive. He was restored to Ligoniers Horse with honour and given a commission.

The Jacobite Rebellion

Clifton Moor 18th/19th Dec 1745

Four troops of Ligonier's were recalled to England and sailed from Willemstadt on 22nd Oct 1745, arriving at Gravesend 3 days later. Prince Charles Edward and his Jacobite army had reached as far south as Derby but were retreating north. The regiment went to Lichfield and then had to make a forced march in 12 days to Clifton just south of Penrith, where contact was made with the rebel army. Ligonier's Horse and other mounted regiments fought on foot in this battle, or skirmish, which started at dusk and was mostly conducted in the dark. The moon breaking through the clouds gave the Jacobites an advantage and although casualties were few it was a defeat for the English and Irish dismounted cavalry.

Regimental Re-designation

4th Horse 14th Dec 1746

The unpopular decision to reduce the status of three regiments of Horse to that of Dragoons was announced in December 1746 'as a measure of economy'. At this time the cavalry regiments were numbered 1 to 8. Number 1 was the Royal Horse Guards Blue, and the 2nd 3rd and 4th were to become the King's Dragoon Guards, 2nd DG and 3rd DG. These were regiments on the English establishment. It was decided to leave the regiments of Horse in the Irish establishment as they were. This meant that the 5th 6th 7th and 8th Regiments had to be re-numbered as 1st 2nd 3rd and 4th. Ligonier's who had been the 8th Horse were now the 4th Horse. The three reduced regiments were outraged, so the order was modified to designate them Dragoon Guards instead of Dragoons. But they were still to be classed as dragoons leaving only the Household Cavalry and the 4 Irish regiments as true cavalry.

Seven Years War 1757-1763

Warburg 31st July 1760

The regiment were sent back to Ireland after the Jacobite rebellion ended at Culloden. Since the 4th Horse (aka Honeywood's Horse) was an Irish regiment made up of Irish Protestants this was probably a welcome move. But the Seven Years War reared it's head and the British, through it's Hanoverian connections, became involved. Six regiments of Horse and Dragoons along with 6 Infantry regiments took part in the battle of Minden in August 1759 but the 4th Horse did not reach mainland Europe until June 1760. The war was, again, a struggle between Catholics and Protestants, although this time the French had Russia as well as Austria on side.

7th Dragoon Guards
Warburg
The allied army of 60,000 was commanded by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, the British contributing 32,000 with 12 regiments of Horse and dragoons under the Marquis of Granby. The 4th Horse, with the Blues and 3rd Horse were in a brigade commanded by their Colonel Major-General Philip Honywood. The French army under the Chevalier de Muy were on the north bank of the River Diemel, their right flank was on the village of Warburg. Ferdinand sent two columns to attack the French left wing while the main body of his army, including the 4th Horse, was to attack the right. The main body, however, was held up at the river crossing and the two columns began their attack too soon. The battle had been going for 4 hours and Ferdinand was still 5 miles away so he sent Granby with the cavalry on ahead.

Granby had 22 squadrons, 2,000 men, anxious to wipe out the slur of Minden where General Sackville had forced them to remain inactive when their intervention could have made such a difference. Now, as they arrived at the field of battle they faced an array of 30,000 French infantry and cavalry. Granby formed them up with the regiments of Horse and Dragoon Guards in the first line and the dragoons in the second line. They trotted forward and then cantered, The Marquis leading, and encouraging by example. Then they started to gallop and Granby's hat and wig blew off. He was going at it bald-headed. The startled French cavalry received them at the halt and fell back with the irresistable force of the charge. All but 3 squadrons of cuirassiers turned and fled. The British then wheeled round and attacked the infantry. The cuirassiers attacked the KDG who had to be rescued by the Blues. Soon the whole French army was in retreat and the fleeing soldiers were streaming across the fords of the river. The British artillery who had managed to keep up with the cavalry, opened fire to encourage the enemy's flight.

This was a cavalry battle which brought great kudos for the regiments that took part. The casualty figures were relatively light. Although the French suffered 6,000 killed and wounded, the allies lost 1,200 from the two columns that had started too early and the cavalry charge. The 4th Horse lost 2 troopers and 28 horses. Their wounded included 3 troopers and 3 officers. The battle honour WARBURG was eventually awarded to the cavalry regiments, in 1909.

Regimental Re-designation

7th or Princess Royals Regt of Dragoon Guards 1st April 1788

7th Dragoon Guards
Princess Royal
After two more years of uneventful campaigning, the 4th Horse sailed home in February 1763. The peacetime establishment was reduced so that the strength of each Troop was 20, a total of 138 men, but keeping the usual 24 officers. They went back to Ireland and did not take part in any battles for the next 35 years. The change of title occurred in this period when the authorities in Whitehall decided to make further economies and down-grade the regiments of Horse to Dragoon Guards. The Adjutant-General's Office in Dublin issued the announcement on 14th Feb 1788, stating that the 1st 2nd 3rd and 4th Horse were to become the 4th 5th 6th and 7th Dragoon Guards, on 1st April. Their pay was to be reduced, although the officers were to receive compensation and reimbursement for the cost of new uniforms and accoutrements. The men were offered 2 guineas to re-enlist or be discharged if they chose to. For the last 42 years they had been technically senior to the three existing Dragoon Guards regiments but now reverted to being ranked below them.

For some reason that is not very clear the Colonel of the Regiment, Field Marshal Studholme Hodgson petitioned for the title of Princess Royal's to be conferred on them. The Princess was the 4th child of King George III, the eldest daughter, named Charlotte after her mother. This request was granted on 19th April 1788. Of course this Princess Charlotte is not to be confused with the Princess Charlotte of Wales who was adopted as the title for the 5th Dragoon Guards in 1804; she was the wife of the future George IV.

The Irish Rebellion 1798
The poorer Catholic people of Ireland were agitating for freedom from the Government of Britain, and organisations existed there for the purpose of encouraging the population to rise up in open revolt. The 'Defenders' and the 'United Irishmen' especially were looking for trouble. The loyalists had their own 'Peep o'Day Boys', and there were, of course, the Regiments of Horse and the Dragoons. These were made up of Irishmen, mostly Protestants, but also Catholics, some of whom were agitators encouraging the other soldiers to mutiny. There was a worry that the 7th Dragoon Guards, considered the finest of the regiments, may have been infiltrated and the removal of the regiment to England was discussed. But it didn't happen and the regiment remained loyal. There were agitators who were weeded out, including a James Weldon of the 7th DG, who was convicted and executed. The troubles began in earnest in May 1798 and soon turned into pitched battles, the worst being at Vinegar Hill in June. One Troop of the 7th DG under Captain Francis Dunne was part of General Lake's force in that battle but little is known of their action there.

Rathangan 29th May 1798

In May 1798 the regiment contained 9 Troops of 70 men per Troop. Four of the Troops and the RHQ were at Tullamore and the other five at Philipstown. On 29th May a force was sent to recapture the rebel town of Rathangan, two squadrons of the 7th DG under Lt-Col Mahon along with some militia and yeomanry. Mahon with one squadron went into the town while the rest took up positions around the outside. But they rode into a trap and only managed to escape with some casualties, 3 killed and 8 wounded. A pitched battle lasting two hours took place and as the rebels fled the cavalry pursued them, killing about 50. The total losses of the 7th DG may have been as high as 20 while the rebels had 300 killed and wounded. Cornet Malone had been captured and would have been killed but for a plea made by a rebel who used to be his father's servant. This was enough to save his life and he later escaped. However, when some prisoners were rounded up by the soldiers and sentenced to death, Malone recognised the man who had earlier pleaded for his life when he was a prisoner and it was now his turn to plead for him. The former servant had his sentence commuted to transportation for life.

Kilbeggan 18th June 1798

The garrison of Kilbeggan, manned by fencibles, was threatened by a mob of about 1,200, so a troop of 80 men of the 7th DG was sent from Tullamore on the 18th June. It was 7 miles away and when they arrived the rebels ran off for the safety of a nearby large bog where they knew cavalry could not operate. The Troop commander, Captain Head, dismounted the men and had them fix bayonets for the impending battle. They, along with the soldiers from Kilbeggan, killed 400 rebels and suffered one trooper killed and 2 wounded.

Taken off the Irish Establishment 1799

The 7th Dragoon Guards, as well as the other cavalry regiments were sent to England in July 1799 to be transferred onto the English Establishment. In Jan 1801 the Act of Union brought Ireland into Great Britain. The 7th were posted to Northampton and later went to Piershill near Edinburgh, but by 1805 they were back in Ireland, stationed at Dundalk. This lasted until 1810 when they went back to England, first Manchester then Birmingham. They did not take part in the Napoleonic war, although they were held in readiness for embarkation to Portugal. And the only Dragoon Guard regiment that took part in the battle of Waterloo was the 1st KDG.

Dismissal of the Officers 1823
In 1820 the 7th DG were in Piershill after a four year posting in Ireland. The Commanding Officer was Francis Dunne, a mild and easy-going officer but who nevertheless had done his job well since 1814. He had written a detailed set of Standing Orders laying out the duties of every specialist officer in the regiment. In May 1823 the regiment were sent back to Ireland again and split up to cover a large area, but based on Dundalk. Some men were at Enniskillen 50 miles to the west. They were busy through the summer raiding illicit stills and hunting down smugglers and dealers of contraband.

Dunne received a message from Major-General Sir Colquhoun Grant on 4th October that there would be an inspection of the regiment on the 10th Oct. This was shocking news to Dunne who knew that it would be nearly impossible to bring in all his scattered men, smarten them up and rehearse a parade within 6 days. The last time the regiment had paraded like this was 16 months earlier. On the 9th it would seem that the various Troops had gathered, and Grant inspected them the next day, first in Watering Order, then in Full Dress. They performed drill movements for him on Dundalk Sands, then he left them standing in the wind and rain for 4 hours while he went off to meet with Lord Combermere who wanted to inspect them himself.

Of course the regiment was hardly able to put on a good show, and a very unfavourable report was sent to the Duke of York. A month later, after the regiment had been sent to Newbridge to be drilled to a high standard, Lieutenant-Colonel Dunne was dismissed, along with Major Bunbury, Captains Younghusband, Power, Smyth and Bennet, and Lieutenant and Adjutant Dunwoody. So at a stroke, seven of the regiment's most senior officers were retired on half pay.

Seventh Kaffir War 1846-47

The Voyage to South Africa 1843

The so-called Kaffir Wars, or Cape Frontier Wars, were waged between the British and the Xhosa people who lived beyond the border of the Cape Colony. There had been 6 previous wars, the last being in 1835. It was decided to have a permanent garrison of regular troops in the Cape to reinforce the local forces, especially the Cape Mounted Rifles. The 7th Dragoon Guards had worked hard to acquire a reputation for smartness and efficiency since the debacle of 1823 and they were chosen to go out to the Cape for a 4 year period. They sailed on 10th April 1843 taking 23 officers and 309 other ranks along with their families, 83 wives and 78 children. Also on the boat were 44 foxhounds, but the Troop horses had been drafted to the KDG and 7th Hussars. The journey took 3 months, following the trade winds, and they landed on 14th July in Cape Town. From there they trekked 700 miles inland to Fort Beaufort where they were given new horses, mostly unbacked stallions which took many weeks to train up to standard.

Boer Confrontation, 6th May 1845

For two years the regiment had no fighting to do, and life was dominated by hunting and shooting parties. Whilst there the CO, Clark-Kennedy retired in March 1844 and was replaced by Lt-Col Robert Richardson but the soldiering did not start properly until a year later. Their first engagement was against Boers who were perpetrating 'acts of aggression and disaffection' just across the Orange River. In April 1845 Richardson took 5 Troops of the regiment, a Troop of Cape Mounted Riflemen and a company of the 91st Foot. They caught up with the Boers at Zwaart Kopjis and drove them off the hill with a volley of shots. As they fled they were chased by Captain Heaton's Troop who took 15 prisoners. After a month's campaigning they rounded up 240 Boers, disarmed them without a fight and settled the problem. There had been no casualties.
7th Dragoon Guards
Block Drift

Parley at Block Drift, 30th Jan 1846

When a survey party was menaced by Xhosas from a tribe headed by Chief Sandile in Jan 1846, the Lt-Governor of the Cape, Colonel Hare met with them at Block Drift to discuss a settlement of grievances. Hare's escort numbered 250 soldiers made up of a squadron of 7thDG, a Troop of CMR, a company of 91st and an artillery battery. They lined up opposite a force of 3,000 warriors in a tense day of talking. Sandile refused to allow a fort to be established in the area and insisted that no soldiers be allowed in his territory. The parley ended in disorder and Hare and his escort withdrew at nightfall.

The Death of Captain Bambrick, 16th April 1846

War was declared on the Xhosa on 21st March 1846. Two columns were organised under Lieut-Col Richardson and Colonel Henry Somerset, the CO of the Cape Mounted Rifles, consisting of the 7thDG, CMR, 91st Foot and artillery. They headed for Sandile's laager at Burns Hill but when they arrived the tribe had moved on towards the Amotola Hills. A detachment was left at Burns Hill with the baggage wagons, while the two columns carried on. This detachment was commanded by Major Gibsone and included Captain Bambrick's Troop of 7thDG. Bambrick was a veteran who had served 31 years in the army. He had been in the 11th Light Dragoons and was at the siege of Bhurtpore in 1826. Bambrick's Troop were sent off to the Keikama River to investigate the sound of shots. When he got there he found some stolen cattle but no tribesmen. He led his men into some dense scrub that enclosed the banks of the river but fell into an ambush. The Xhosa were armed with muskets and Bambrick was shot. He shouted to the NCOs to withdraw, which they did with great difficulty as the thorns tore at the horses and riders. Major Gibsone arrived with men of the 91st and two RA guns which dispersed the tribesmen and they ran off with the head of Captain Bambrick as a trophy to show Chief Sandile.

Attack at Keikama River, 17th April 1846

Major Gibsone was ordered to bring up the baggage and join Richardson and Somerset's columns. There were 125 ox-drawn wagons stretching 3 miles long. The first 6 wagons carried ammunition guarded by 15 men of the 7thDG, a Troop of CMR, a platoon of 91st and one gun. The other end of the column had a rearguard of another 15 men of the regiment and the rest of the CMR and 91st. When the front of the wagon train was crossing the River Keikama there was a hold up and the Xhosa took the opportunity to attack in force. Both the front and rear guard were in danger of being overwhelmed but they held them off. The rearguard soon ran short of ammunition and Sergeant George Gillam volunteered to ride forward and bring some back. He did this 3 times before being shot in the leg. The fight went on for 6 hours during which time the rearguard managed to join up with Major Gibsone. Reinforcements from the main body got through and the Xhosa were forced to retreat. The ammunition wagons were saved, but 52 wagons were removed by the enemy, including the wagon carrying the regimental silver. This was never recovered.

Gwanga River, 8th June 1846

7th Dragoon Guards
Gwanga River
The Xhosa had been clever enough to avoid being caught out in the open. There had been a courageous cavalry charge on 22nd May, near Fort Preddie, when Captain Sir Harry Darrell had led his Troop into a a mass of nearly 2,000 tribesmen with great success, and he was to have more success at Gwanga River on the 8th June. Colonel Somerset of the CMR was in command of some artillery, a Troop of his own men and two Troops of the 7th. They came across a large group of Xhosa heading towards Trompetter's Drift, and attacked them. But they disappeared into the Fish River bush and kept the soldiers at bay with musket fire. Somerset ordered a withdrawal as he was making no progress. However, as they went over the brow of a hill they came across another large force of Xhosa who were moving along the bank of Gwanga River. The tribemen were taken completely by surprise and ran away across the plain. This was ideal cavalry country and Colonel Somerset's men charged into them. The Dragoon Guards (Darrell's Troop of 38 men) slashed with their swords and the Cape Mounted Rifles fired at the fleeing enemy. Out of around 2,000 Xhosas 400 were killed. The 7th lost one corporal killed, seven men wounded, and two officers, Captain Darrell and Lieutenant Bunbury, were wounded.

End of the Kaffir War 1847

The 7th Dragoon Guards were the only cavalry regiment of the British Army to serve in this war. By the end of the conflict there were 16,000 troops involved, mostly infantry and artillery. For the rest of the time the 7th were employed with rounding up Xhosa cattle and capturing prisoners. Chief Sandile finally surrended on 7th Jan 1847, to the new Lieut-Governor Sir Harry Smith. The 7th then prepared to leave South Africa. They had lost 2 officers and 29 other ranks killed and 30 wounded. Out of the original 309 men that came to the Cape, apart from those that died, 138 chose to leave the regiment. 82 became 'military settlers', 19 transferred to the Cape Mounted Rifles, and 37 took their discharge at Grahamstown. The remainder embarked on 13th April 1847, having handed over their horses to the CMR, and arrived at Chatham on 7th June. They were given their first campaign medal, in 1854, the South Africa medal, and in 1882 the regiment was awarded the battle honour SOUTH AFRICA 1846-47.

India 1857
The 7th were stationed in Edinburgh and then Manchester but in September 1857, following the outbreak of the Mutiny, they were ordered to prepare for the voyage to India. Under the command of Lieut-Colonel Cavendish Bentinck, they had 9 Troops made up of 473 men and 23 officers, plus a surgeon, two assistants and a vet. The men were armed with their first breech-loading carbine, the Sharpes. They embarked at Gravesend in October and arrived in Karachi on 7th Jan 1858. They were given 400 Arab horses to train up but had to hand them over to the 8th Hussars. They then travelled by camel to Hyderabad, then to the Punjab by steamer up the Indus and then by bullock cart. They arrived at Lahore on 30th March and were given 468 fine horses. Within a few weeks they were moved to Sailkot but did not see any action. When the Mutiny ended the regiment were ordered to stay in India for the next 9 years, posted at Ambala, Muttra and Benares.
Egypt 1882
7th Dragoon Guards
Egypt
In August 1882 the 4th and 7th Dragoon Guards were brigaded with 3 squadrons of Household Cavalry, all under the command of Brigadier-General Baker-Russell, and arrived in Alexandria as part of the British expeditionary force to suppress a rebellion by Arabi Pasha. Sir Garnet Wolseley, the commander of the force planned to attack Tel-el-Kebir, the enemy's main base and then advance on Cairo.

Mahsameh, 22nd Aug 1882

The brigade was transported by ship to Ismailia, consisting of 4 squadrons of the 7thDG, 2 of the 4thDG and the 3 Household cavalry squadrons. They threatened the rebels at Mahsameh station who broke and ran under the fire of artillery and Mounted Infantry. The cavalry pursued them and cut them down. Huge quantities of guns and ammunition were captured. Five men of the 7th were wounded and Major Alfred Bibby was shot through the lungs.

Kassassin, 28th Aug 1882

Just 3 miles south of Mahsameh was Kassassin Lock on the Freshwater Canal that ran from Suez to Cairo. The British infantry held the Lock but sustained an attack by Arabi's force of 4,000. The cavalry were left waiting at Mahsameh and were not called upon until nightfall. The 4 squadrons of the 7thDG, the RHA and the Household Cavalry trotted to Kassassin and moved round in a wide sweep to attack the enemy position. The 7th were in the lead as they approached but were ordered to move aside to allow the 4 guns to take up position and fire. The Household cavalry then charged after 4 rounds were fired, and the 7th supported them. The Egyptians broke in disorder when the cavalry were within 20 yards. This was called the Moonlight Charge. Three men of the 7th were wounded and one officer attached from the 3rd DG was killed because his unruly horse ran in amongst the enemy.

Tel-el-Kebir, 13th Sep 1882

The attack on Te-el-Kebir was a well planned surprise attack that involved a 13-mile long silent march by night to launch a dawn attack on the enemy defences. The cavalry were to position themselves on the north-east of the enemy to cut off their retreat. When the infantry launched their attack, the cavalry were alerted and advanced towards the camp. The expected retreat was a complete rout. The cavalry were ordered not to kill any Egyptians who laid down their arms. The 7th trotted amongst them, coming to little harm as the enemy were all happy to give themselves up. The total Egyptian dead amounted to 2,000, most being killed in the short infantry battle. The British lost 57 killed, while the cavalry suffered no casualties. The next day Cairo was occupied by a small force of British mounted troops but this did not include the 7thDG. They rode to Cairo on the 15th Sep and stayed in the barracks at Kasr-el-Nil until Feb 1883 when they embarked for Portsmouth. The whole campaign had cost the regiment 2 (attached) officers killed and one wounded, one man killed and 9 wounded.

India 1884-1893
7th Dragoon Guards
India, 1891
The regiment were sent to India in 1884 where they were stationed at Mhow, and remained for 9 years. It was a less arduous existence for the men who had Indian servants to clean their kit and wash their clothes but the heat was very hard to bear and they soon realised that it was an unhealthy posting which by the end of their time there resulted in the deaths of 56 men and 3 officers from tropical diseases and heat apoplexy. They were sent to Egypt in 1893, and by 1894 were in Shorncliffe. The following year saw them in Norwich but when they received the order to make themselves ready for service in South Africa in January 1900 they were in Aldershot.
The Boer War 1899-1902
The commanding officer at the beginning of the war was Lieut-Colonel W H M Lowe and Major Charles Thompson was second in command. Thompson took over command later, and when he retired wrote his book on the 7th DG, The Story of the Regiment, which of course gave a full account of their time in the Boer War. There are also the letters of Sergeant-Major Frank Cobb which are kept in the National Army Museum, Chelsea.

Patrols nr. Bloemfontein, April 1900

The regiment sailed on 8th February, 24 officers, 565 men and 506 horses, reaching Cape Town on 3rd March 1900, then going by train to De Aar. Dressed in khaki, and armed with swords and carbines, they were placed in the 4th Brigade with the 8th and 14th Hussars under the command of Maj-Gen Dickson at Donker Hoek. They were employed in patrolling and reconnoitering near Bloemfontein. It was while they were out on these patrols that two men were killed in separate incidents, Private J Best and Corporal Taylor.

Roodikop and Thaba Nchu, 24th and 27th April 1900

By the end of April the regiment were bearded and dirty. They fought as mounted infantry because Boer tactics did not allow for set piece cavalry actions. A and B Squadrons fought a dismounted skirmish on a ridge at Roodikop near Dewetsdorp, along with the 9th Lancers and 14th Hussars. The latter regiments suffered heavy casualties and the 7th DG lost one man. On 27th April they covered an infantry attack. They became separated from the infantry and came under fire from a force of 1,200 Boers so they dismounted and returned fire as best they could with their carbines. Dickson had to order a withdrawal at dusk and the 7th retired under fire. As this was taking place Captain Roland Haig showed great bravery when he rescued 2nd Lt Vaughan who had been shot from his horse. He also saved a private who had become dismounted. These acts were carried out under heavy fire and should have brought him a VC but it was not to be.

Zand River, 10th May 1900

The 4th Brigade were in support of the 1st Union Brigade, all under French's command, in the advance to Pretoria. They were heading for Kroonstadt and had crossed the Zand River when the 1st Brigade were pinned down by 800 Boers. Two squadrons under Colonel Lowe occupied a hill to provide covering fire with carbines and a Maxim Gun. They then rejoined the regiment and they and the 8th Hussars were ordered to occupy a kraal on the enemy right. While heading towards the kraal some Boer horsemen came out of cover and fired on the two regiments. Since the enemy were out on the open plain, 1,000 yards away, they took the opportunity to charge them with drawn swords. This was a rare chance to effect a proper cavalry charge, but it had be be aborted halfway. Luckily for the British, they spotted a ravine running across their path which would have been fatal if they had all tumbled into it. The order came "Troops left wheel!" and the disappointed troopers turned away in time. It had been a trick to lure the two regiments on but the casualties were few compared to what might have been. Four injured men, of whom one, Sergeant Wilson, later died.

Diamond Hill, 11th June 1900

7th Dragoon Guards
Diamond Hill
Pretoria was occupied unopposed but the war went on. Louis Botha and a force of 6,000 Boers were massed for 30 miles, on the kopjes overlooking the plain to the west of Pretoria. The central kop, Diamond Hill, was the highest and rockiest and had to be assaulted by infantry. General French's cavalry were to contain the enemy on the left. The 7thDG had suffered a great loss of horses through sore backs, exhaustion and laminitis which meant that they only had 73 mounted men. The other cavalry regiments fared just as badly.

The battle began at 8am on 11th June and did not go well for the cavalry. A Squadron were fired on from a ridge 800 yards to their right and had to dismount. They took cover and were soon joined by B and C Squadrons as well as the 8th and 14th Hussars. They formed a line a mile long, 240 men, but the only effective reply to the Boer fire came from O Battery RHA. They made a heroic stand out in the open, firing shrapnel at the Boers with their 12-pounders and managing to silence the 2 Boer Krupp guns and pom-poms. Meanwhile the cavalrymen with their ineffective carbines were trapped all day. When night came they were still unable to get away, but were able to improve their sangars with more rocks, so on the 12th they had to endure another day of heat, thirst and lack of ammunition. At dawn on the 13th the enemy fired on them once more then departed. So ended one of the last set-piece battles of the war. The casualty figures were minimal, only 4 wounded, but the demoralising effect was devastating.

Onderste Poort, 11th July 1900

The 7th had been the luckiest of all the cavalry regiments at Diamond Hill in terms of casualties, but one month later C Squadron were ambushed by a force of 300 Boers near Onderste Poort. Captain Church, attached from the 6th DG, and Lieutenant MacKellar were killed along with four men. The rest, some of whom were wounded, were captured and 2 of them later died.

Guerilla Warfare

By October the Boers no longer fought in force but adopted guerilla tactics. The British cavalry were re-organised and dispersed to separate mobile columns to combat the fragmented way of fighting. They were issued with new rifles, the infantry pattern Lee-Enfield .303 calibre. And their swords were replaced by bayonets. Their tasks involved the destruction of farms in an effort to cut off the Boer's food supply, and the rounding up of Boer civilians suspected of aiding the fighters. In 1901 they spent much of their time chasing the elusive Christiaan De Wet and his commandos. The 7thDG had as their guide, none other than his brother ex-General Piet De Wet. When Christiaan himself finally surrendered, on 25th April 1902, he was invited into the mess of the 7th at Willowglen, to dine with the officers. Although he could not be tempted to drink anything stronger than lime juice.

Badge
Badges
Motto
Quo Fata Vocant
Nicknames
The Black Horse
Ligonier's
Straw Boots
The Virgin Mary's Body-Guard
Regimental Anniversaries
Dettingen Day 27th June
Uniforms
1688 - 1992
Colonels in Chief
1688 - 1992
Colonels
1688 - 1992
Commanding Officers
1688 - 1992
Soldiers
1688 - 1992
Pouchbelts/Sabretaches
1688 - 1992
Drumhorses and Musicians
1688 - 1992
Standards
1688 - 1992
Battle Honours
War of the Spanish Succession (1701-15)
BLENHEIM
RAMILLIES
OUDENARDE
MALPLAQUET

War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48)
DETTINGEN

Seven Years War (1756-63)
WARBURG

Seventh Kaffir War (1846-47)
SOUTH AFRICA 1846-7

Revolt of Arabi Pasha (1882)
TEL-EL-KEBIR

First Sudan War (1882-84)
EGYPT 1882

South African War (1899-1902)
SOUTH AFRICA 1900-2

World War 1 (1914-18)
LA BASSEE 1914
GIVENCHY 1914
SOMME 1916 1918
BAZENTIN
CAMBRAI 1917 1918
ST QUENTIN
AVRE
AMIENS
HINDENBURG LINE
PURSUIT TO MONS

Battle Honours (not emblazoned)

World War 1 (1914-18)
FLERS-COURCELETTE
LYS
HAZEBROUCK
ST QUENTIN CANAL
BEAUREVOIR
FRANCE AND FLANDERS 1914-18

Titles
1688 The Earl of Devonshire's Horse (10th Horse)
1690 Schomberg's Horse
1692 Leinster's Horse (8th Horse)
1693 Schomberg's Horse
1711 Harwich's Horse
1713 Sybourg's Horse
1720 Ligonier's Horse
1746 4th Irish Horse or The Black Horse
1788 7th (Princess Royal's) Dragoon Guards
1921 7th Dragoon Guards (Princess Royal's)
Successor Units
1922 4th/7th Dragoon Guards
1936 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards
1992 The Royal Dragoon Guards - amalgamation of 4th/7th with 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
Further Reading
History of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and their predecessors 1685-1980
by J M Brereton
(Catterick. Published by the Regiment 1982)

Seventh (Princess Royal’s) Dragoon Guards: The Story of the Regiment 1688-1882
by C W Thompson
(Daily Post 1913)

Seventh (Princess Royal's) Dragoon Guards: With the Regiment in South Africa
by N D H Campbell, W S Whetherly and J E D Holland
(Daily Post 1913)

Records of the Seventh Dragoon Guards (Princess Royal's) during the Great War
by J F Scott
(Bennett 1929)

The Narrative of Private Buck Adams, 7th Dragoon Guards 1843-1849
edited by A Gordon-Brown (1941)

Historical Record of the SeventhHistorical Record of the Seventh or Princess Royal's Regiment of Dragoon Guards
by Richard Cannon (1839)

Short History of the 4th, 7th and 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards
by Major J A d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (1943)

Links
7th Dragoon Guards Badges



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