In Collaboration With Charles Griffin

Origins of the Regiment
The 20th Hussars were raised in 1861 as an indirect result of the Indian Mutiny which was finally quelled at the end of 1859. The rule of the East India Company over India came to an end and their military forces either disbanded or transferred to the British Government. These forces were, for the most part regiments of native Indians with Indian and British officers. But there were regiments of infantry and cavalry made up of European troops. The three European Cavalry regiments converted to the British establishment were the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Bengal European Light Cavalry which became the 19th, 20th and 21st Hussars.

The 20th were formed in 1861 as the 20th Light Dragoons but later that year the title was changed to 20th Hussars. This was the fourth time that the 20th cavalry regiment of the line had been raised and although it was 43 years since the previous incarnation it was deemed appropriate to link them historically so that the battle honour PENINSULA could be emblazoned on their sabretaches and drum banners. For some reason the battle honour VIMIERA was not granted until 1890 even though other regiments who fought there in 1809 had been awarded it sooner. The 20th Light Dragoons had distinguished themselves on that occasion and it was a serious injustice to deprive the regiment of the award, and then to add injury to insult by disbanding them in 1818.

India 1861 - 1872
20th Hussars
Ambeyla 1863
The regiment was formed on 2 May 1862 at Muttra, out of volunteers from the 2nd Bengal European Light Cavalry. The officers were more keen to serve the Crown than the men so there was a high proportion of officers in 1863 when they marched to Sialkot; 23 officers and 375 men. Of this number, 100 were from other cavalry regiments leaving India. The first active service of the 20th Hussars was in the Ambeyla Expedition of 1863 led by Major-General Neville Bowles Chamberlain (the inventor of snooker) but the regiment were employed in protecting the lines of communication. They remained on the north-west frontier for 7 years, and took part in the Hazara Campaign of 1868, again without a chance to prove themselves. At the end of the campaign they moved to Ambela until 1872. In that year they were ordered to go to Bombay, by rail, in preparation for embarkation to sail to Britain. They were probably the first British regiment to travel by rail in India. On arrival in England, they were stationed at Colchester, then Aldershot.
Gordon Relief Expedition 1884-5
The expedition under Sir Garnet Wolseley was split into two main sub divisions, the River Column and the Desert Column. The latter column was made up of camel mounted troops which were divided into 3 regiments made up from detachments from various units. The Light Camel Regiment consisted of men from the 3rd, 4th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 15th, 18th, 20th and 21st Hussars. The 20th supplied 2 officers and 43 men but they and the other hussar detachments must have been hugely disappointed when they were informed that they had to remain at Korti to guard the supplies. Thus the Light Camel Regiment took no part in the desert crossing and the battle at Abu Klea.

Suakin, Mar 1885

In February 1885, two squadrons of the 20th Hussars embarked at Portsmouth and landed at Suakin in March. The force being gathered there, under the command of General Sir Gerald Graham, consisted of British, Indian, Australian and Egyptian troops.There was a reconnaissance in force which took them out into the desert but nothing was found and they returned to Suakin. Another recce led by the 20th went out with the objective of establishing the prospects for building a railway from Suakin to Berber on the Nile. But the hinterland was dominated by the Hadendowa Beja tribesmen led by the slave trader Osman Digna. It was decided to break his control and on 20th March Sir Gerald went out to Hasheen, 10 miles west of the port, with the Suakin Field Force in square formation. A series of fierce battles were fought in which the tribesmen suffered heavy casualties but the results were inconclusive. The Empire troops suffered 45 casualties, and when they returned, the 20th embarked for Cairo to join the rest of the regiment.

Ginnis, 30 Dec 1885

Having concentrated at Cairo, the 20th Hussars moved up the Nile to Wadi Halfa to join General Sir Frederick Stephenson's Frontier Field Force of British and Egyptian troops. The Dervishes, led by the Mahdi's successor, Khalifa Abdullahi ibn Muhammad, were preparing for an invasion of Egypt so in December the Field Force marched out to do battle. The confrontation occurred at Ginnis which is a battle famous in British history for being the last time troops fought in red uniforms, although this only applied to some of the units. The main fighting was carried out by the infantry in the streets of the town and in the Dervish camp but when the enemy retreated to the Atab Defile the cavalry under Colonel Benjamin Blake, CO of the 20th, attacked and pursued them. One detachment of 50 men and one officer chased them for 50 miles upstream as far as Absarat. The 20th were dressed in khaki for this battle.

Handub, 17 Jan 1888

The 20th remained on the Egyptian frontier for two years, and were then sent home, apart from one squadron under Lieut-Colonel Fraser which was sent to Suakin. There the garrison was commanded by Colonel Herbert Kitchener who had strengthened the defences since the 20th were last there. Osman Digna had set up camp at Handub, 15 miles away, to blockade the port. On 17 Jan 1888 Kitchener led a sortie against Osman's camp.The Egyptian infantry invaded the camp but the dervishes surrounded them so that things looked very bleak, until the cavalry arrived and charged the enemy three times. The situation swung back in Kitchener's favour so that the day was saved and the garrison could return to Suakin. Soon after, the squadron returned to Cairo.

Gemeizeh, 20 Dec 1888

20th Hussars
Gemeizeh, also spelt Gemaizah, was fought between the British/Egyptian troops against Osman Digna's Mahdist tribesmen. It is also called the Battle of Suakin. Digna was attempting to capture the Water Forts, and moved his army towards the port, so Sir Francis Grenfell made a sortie and led the army in a battle at Gemeizeh lasting one and a half hours. The Dervishes lost 1,000 in casualties while Grenfell's men suffered only twelve. During the battle the 20th experienced deficiencies with their armaments. When they charged against Digna's cavalry the slashing and hacking caused three of their swords to break. This was taken up by the press in England and it was brought up in Parliament. Hansard of 21 Dec 1888 had the title, 'Army - The Battle of Suakin - The Broken Swords of the 20th Hussars.'

Toski, 3 Aug 1889

The squadron of the 20th Hussars was the only British unit at the battle of Toski which was led by Sir Francis Grenfell, Sirdar of the Egyptian Army. In 1889 the Dervish army crossed the Nile frontier and advanced on Aswan. The 20th squadron was brought forward by river transport and disembarked a Toski on 1 Aug. They immediately rode out to keep an eye on the Dervishes who numbered 6,000, led by the Khalifa's Emir Wad-el-Nujumi. When Grenfell's Egyptians attacked the tribemen at their camp near Toski, the battle was hard fought and lasted 5 hours. The Emir was killed whilst trying to rally his men. The squadron made a successful charge against them and helped put them to flight. This battle effectively ended the Mahdist threat to Egypt. The men of the 20th were shipped home and rejoined the rest of the regiment at Aldershot in 1890. The battle honour SUAKIN 1885 was awarded soon afterwards, along with the belated award of VIMIERA.

The Boer War 1901-02

From India to South Africa, Dec 1901

The 20th were posted to Mhow near Bombay in 1895, and when the Boer War broke out in Oct 1899 they were frustrated at being left out of the fighting. Some of the officers like Major Norton Legge and Lieutenant H R Lee volunteered for service with other units to reach the war zone before the 20th was mobilised. The orders finally came on 22 Nov 1901, two years later than most other regiments, and they set sail from Bombay on two ships, the Saint Andrew and the Custodian. They had a strength of 666 rank and file, 20 officers, 71 officer's chargers, and 668 troop horses. Christmas was spent at sea, and they disembarked at Durban before the end of the year. They entrained for Newcastle and from there, as soon as the horses were fit, trekked by a roundabout route to Perdekop.

Harrismith Drive, Feb 1902

The first operation that involved the regiment was a drive in Orange River Colony beginning on 21 Feb 1902 from Perdekop advancing south with 2 squadrons forward in extended line and 10 paces between each man. The third squadron was concentrated in support. At the southern end of the drive, at Harrismith, the way was blocked to the Boers by blockhouses and entrenched men of the 14th Hussars so it was not possible for the enemy to escape. In this way 650 prisoners were collected when Lukas Meyer's commando surrendered. Fifty Boers were killed and thousands of cattle and horses rounded up as well as 200 wagons.

Strathnairn 2 April 1902

There were still the commandos of Christiaan De Wet and De la Rey to deal with and the 20th were sent on more drives and sweeps to hem them in. These involved riding up to 60 miles a day with frequent skirmishes, and night time sweeps which ran the risk of men going missing. The worst disaster since Black Week befell a column in March 1902 when Lord Methuen was attacked by De la Rey and the force of 1,200 men was destroyed. On 2 April 1902 another column commanded by Colonel Nixon was attacked at Strathnairn. The 20th had one Troop in this column, acting as rearguard. They were surrounded but managed to fight on until they were relieved.

End of the War, 31 May 1902

A peace conference assembled at Vereeniging on 15 May and lasted a fortnight as the war continued. There was final agreement on 31st May and a treaty signed in Pretoria. The 20th had arrived in camp at Heilbron after a lengthy drive. The war had cost the regiment the lives of eight men and one officer, Lt-Col Norton Legge DSO who commanded mounted infantry and was killed in action at Nooitgedacht on 18 Dec 1900. They camped near Pretoria after the peace and spent several months there during which leave was granted. In March 1903 they were ordered to sell their horses, mostly to Boers, and prepare for embarkation. The 20th embarked at Durban on the Dunera which had come from Cape Town with the 14th Hussars on board. The two regiments sailed together until the ship reached Suez where the 20th disembarked. They had a tour of duty in Egypt and then in 1904 sailed for England.

1904 - 1914
The regiment was stationed at Brighton in 1904, with a detachment at Canterbury, then moved to Shorncliffe in 1906 to relieve the 14th Hussars who went to India. In 1908 they sailed over to Ireland, barracked at the Curragh. While there they were ordered to test out a new scheme whereby 50 trained Troop horses at a time were loaned to farmers and other civilians free of charge, but subject to regular inspections and an annual return for one month to the regiment. This meant that the cavalry stables would be less crowded, and enabled them to have a reserve of horses. In 1911 the 20th returned to England, stationed at Colchester. They sent a detachment of 100 hussars to the Coronation of George V. At Colchester they were brigaded with the Greys and 12th Lancers but already had a connection with the 14th in India which received regular drafts of trained men from the 20th.
World War One


The telegram arrived at the barracks in York at 5.30pm on 4 Aug 1914, ordering the 20th Hussars, to mobilise. On 17 Aug the regiment along with the rest of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, crossed the channel with a strength of 24 officers and 519 men, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Edwards. The first four cavalry brigades made up the Cavalry Division under Allenby, but the 5th was directly under General HQ. The BEF, commanded by Sir John French, concentrated on the left bank of the Sambre between Mauberge and Le Cateau.

First Shots of the War, 21 Aug 1914

On the night of 21 Aug the 20th bivouacked near Binche. At 4 a.m. two patrols of 12 men each were sent out, one under Lt Thompson towards Godarville and the other under Lt Goodhart towards Seneffe. Thompson's patrol found itself surrounded by vast masses of Germans and had to beat a hasty retreat. Private O'Shaughnessy's horse was shot and he only managed to escape by finding some civilian clothes and pretending to be deaf and dumb. Goodhart's patrol exchanged fire with enemy cavalry at Seneffe and noted the time which was well before 8 a.m. on 21 Aug 1914 when the 4th Dragoon Guards claimed to be the first to fire shots in anger, at Soignies. On the way out of this situation Goodhart mistook a party of Uhlans for British cavalry and approached them alone. When they saw him they pursued him as he dashed back to his patrol. Looking behind him he 'saw an ugly hun with a lance not more than two horse's lengths behind me' He tried to shoot him with his revolver but had made the mistake of not loading it before going on patrol. Luckily he was riding a polo pony which was faster than the German horse. A skirmish followed between the two groups, in which the British came off best and three horses were captured. The capture of this booty was another first in the war.

Battle of Mons, 23 Aug 1914

When the Germans began to appear before Binche on 22 Aug they were driven back by the Scots Greys, but the British cavalry were covering a front of 18 miles against 325,000 Germans. Sir John French moved the four cavalry brigades to the left of the line while the 5th Brigade remained on the right. But they had to cover a large gap in the line between the right of 2nd Corps at Mons and the French left on the Sambre. This had to be protected until the 1st Corps were brought up to complete the front extended along the Mons canal from Conde to Mons. The British cavalry made a good impression on the Germans and the French. When General Spears escorted a senior French officer around the British lines he noticed how impressed he was, '..really splendid, perfectly turned out, shining leather, flashing metal, beautiful horses, and the men absolutely unconcerned, disdaining to show the least surprise at or even interest in their strange surroundings.'

But the French 5th Army was being driven back from the Sambre and the British agreed to stand fast at Mons for 24 hours to protect the French flank. On the morning of 23 Aug the Germans arrived and attacked 2nd Corps who were able to beat them off with steady fire. The 20th Hussars were off-saddled in Brigade reserve but received news of enemy movement on the right flank. One squadron of the 20th was sent to Peissant on the Sambre and a patrol under Lieutenant Harold Soames ran into trouble when faced with a large force of Germans. Soames was killed, another man wounded and two were unhorsed and missing. The Germans were continuing to advance in heavy columns, too numerous to withstand, and the French allies were in retreat leaving the BEF exposed. So the decision was made to join the retreat from Mons.

Covering the Retreat, 25 Aug 1914

When the two divisions of 1st Corps began their retreat on 25 Aug the rearguard consisted of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, the Guards and artillery. The 20th took up a position on the road to Maubeuge and sent out patrols. The enemy were wary of the cavalry and kept their distance but fired shrapnel at them all morning. They fell back to another position 4 miles away and then on to Hargnies. The roads were jammed with demoralised French soldiers making the movement of the British troops difficult. There was skirmishing with the Germans at Andigny on the 27th which resulted in casualties.

St Quentin, 28 Aug 1914

On 28 Aug there was a battle between German cavalry and the 5th Brigade at St Quentin. The Germans dismounted on a forward slope and fired on the brigade from a range of 500 yards but they had their horses stampeded by J Battery RHA, and the dismounted troops were successfully charged by the Greys and 12th Lancers. Meanwhile an enemy battery were about to go into action and Colonel Edwards ordered the 20th forward to divert attention from the rest of the brigade. C Squadron dismounted but their horses came under shrapnel fire and had to be taken away. A mounted charge was made by Lieutenant Sparrow's Troop against dismounted German cavalry which covered the withdrawal of C Squadron. The enemy attack had been halted and the 20th covered the continuing retreat of the brigade.

Skirmishes on the Aisne, 31 Aug 1914

The 20th crossed the Aisne below Soissons on 31 Aug, and sent out patrols under Lieuts Hall and Sparrow on 1 Sep. Hall's patrol ran into a car full of German officers and there was an exchange of shouts but little else. They were later stalked by Uhlans but Private Hayhurst took it upon himself to deal with the situation and single-handedly charged the enemy lancers with his sword out and halted them in their tracks. The Germans assumed it was a diversionary attack and stayed away.

Fighting on the Marne, 3 Sep 1914

Sir John French was under pressure from his divisional generals to make a stand against the Germans but he could get no support from the French commanders. When they crossed the Marne on 3 Sep the BEF flank was exposed and it was decided to hold the high ground north of the river. The 20th were allotted a sector west of Avernes and C Squadron held a crossing over the River Ourc. They were shelled by enemy artillery and had to retire with Lt Sparrow's Troop being nearly cut off. The squadron took up a position in front of the village of Jaignes and exchanged fire at 600 yards range. The brigade was ordered back from the river, having achieved some success in delaying the German advance. The final retirement of the 20th Hussars was covered by B Squadron which sustained several casualties as well as losing their commander Captain Cristy who was killed. The CO, Colonel Edwards remained until the end to make sure all the patrols had returned, then crossed the river himself, the last man of the regiment.

Battle of the Marne, 6 - 9 Sep 1914

The retreat from Mons was over and the tide turned against the Germans so Sir John French led the BEF back north. The 20th were the advance guard of the 5th Cavalry Brigade and the pace quickened so that the transport wagons were unable to keep up. These wagons were horse-drawn but heavy laden, so the Quartermaster Bill Adams decided to throw out unnecessary stores, including picks and shovels which later proved to be a big mistake. On the road, the regiment came across stragglers, two of which were Uhlans whose lances were captured by Corporal Goring who managed to have them shipped home to his family as souvenirs.

The BEF at this stage consisted of three Army Corps, and the French now fielded a Sixth Army commanded by General Franchet d'Esperey, someone with whom Sir John could cooperate. The allies advanced to the Marne but first had to cross the Petit Morin. Here there was a major battle, fought by the infantry while the cavalry waited impatiently. When it was over the 20th advanced, crossing the Petit Morin, the Grand Morin and finally the Marne on the 9th Sep. The brigade had been on the right wing which saw little fighting. On 10 Sep they were ordered to pursue the Germans, riding through Marigny, and Veuilly where the infantry fought the German rearguard, much to the annoyance of the 20th who felt they could have dealt with the enemy at that point.

Crossing the Aisne, 14 Sep 1914

The Germans made a stand on favourable ground at the River Aisne where the infantry again took the brunt of the fighting. The 5th Cavalry Brigade was ordered to cross the river at Vailly via a pontoon bridge. This was a tricky job as the pontoons swayed about, making it difficult to lead the horses across. The heavy artillery fire must have caused the commanders to change their minds because once they reached the other side they were ordered back again. In the course of this procedure the 20th lost an officer and ten others killed or wounded. More men and horses were hit when crossing the Vesle River at Conde a few days later. The BEF disengaged from the Aisne in secrecy and the Cavalry Corps marched north of Ypres as part of the Race to the Sea. The 5th Brigade was now in the 2nd Cavalry Division commanded by Brigadier-General Gough.

First Battle of Ypres, 15 Oct - 30 Nov 1914

The BEF was deployed in Flanders and fought a series of battles that brought about heavy casualties on both sides but especially for the Germans who used dense attack formations. The 20th, at Wytschaete, saw much action, starting on 15 Oct when two Troops of C Squadron drove the German picquets from the villages of Hollebeke and Houthem, while A and B Squadrons dismounted and pushed skirmishers back along the line of the Kortekeer Beck. On 18 Oct, B and C Squadrons captured and held the village of Tenbrielen losing Corporal Charlotte, but clearing out snipers in the process. The regiment then took up defensive positions at Warneton and the horses were sent to the rear. Trenches had to be dug with knives, forks and mess tins because the picks and shovels had been thrown out by the QM on the road to the Marne.

Sergeant Bassinthwaite's Troop, 30 Oct 1914

On 30 Oct the 12th Lancers were forced to retire leaving the 20th's flank exposed to enfilade fire. As a result the withdrawal of the regiment was ordered, covered by the machine-gun section under Lieut McConnel. Also covering the retirement was the 4th Troop of B Squadron commanded by Lieut Carew, but when he was killed by sniper fire command fell to Sergeant Bassinthwaite. The Troop sacrificed itself and fought until only one man came out after the others were killed or captured.

Oostaverne, 31 Oct 1914

The regiment moved to a prepared position at Oostaverne where the 4th Cavalry Brigade was driven back by a concerted attack so that Captain Little's B Squadron was facing an exposed flank and the line became very extended. Some French troops and the 12h Lancers made a counter-attack which was joined by B Squadron who were keen to avenge Carew's 4th Troop. They were unused to the bayonet but were highly motivated and did not hold back.

Retirement from the Front Line, 1 Nov 1914

The 2nd Cavalry Division's position was taken over by French troops on 1 Nov under a heavy bombardment from the German artillery. McConnel's machine-gun section again covered the withdrawal, earning him a DSO. Captain Little, who became CO in 1918, was also awarded the DSO for his squadron's action the previous day. The cavalry was sent back to be reunited with their horses and were ordered to ride about plugging gaps in the line. This kept them busy for most of November. One relief operation occurred at a place in the line occupied by Frenchmen who had lost all their officers. The soldiers were ashamed to have British officers in their trenches which they considered to be un-chic. But the 20th had never seen such sophisticated dug-out accommodation before. The regiment came out of the action on 22 Nov and went into billets at Steenwerk until 15 Jan 1915.

Dismounted Cavalry Division 1916

At the beginning of 1916 there were preparations for the formation of a Dismounted Cavalry Division which was to be used in close support of the infantry, to relieve them or plug gaps in the front line. Each of the two Cavalry Divisions contributed one dismounted brigade of 3 battalions. Each of these battalions was made up of 3 companies, one from each regiment in a brigade. The officers were detailed in rotation for periods of duty with the Division. The idea behind this was presumably to impress upon the infantry that the cavalry were doing their bit in the trenches, even though that is what they had been doing already. The dismounted company provided by the 20th Hussars for the 5th Brigade's dismounted battalion consisted of two platoons from each squadron, commanded at first by Captain W H Micholls, but relieved by other officers as time went on. Duty in the trenches consisted of local raids, mining, mortaring and sniping. The British high command were keen to keep the infantry busy to maintain morale. This contrasted with the French whose trenches were much quieter and more relaxed by comparison.

Bombing Raids

A favourite activity of the 20th was the bombing raid, usually to clear Germans out of an enfilade position. Subalterns received special training for this and one such officer, Lieutenant Jeffrey, known as 'Iron Man' was adept at grenade throwing, having devised a special sling to project it further. In one attack in February 1916 he and 7 others were killed although the enemy casualties were much higher.

The Somme Offensive, July - Nov 1916

The mounted cavalry continued to move from one gap to another, and to make this movement easier constructed cavalry tracks which were a larger version of duck-boards to pass over craters and waterlogged ground. The organisation had changed so that the 2nd Cavalry Division was attached to the 2nd Army near Boulogne and the regiment was billeted at Licques. When the Somme offensive began the Division was moved to the Hazebrouck area as mobile reserve. The 20th Hussars spent the time patrolling and supplying working parties, but at the beginning of September they went up to the front and bivouacked at Bray. Throughout the offensive they had been ready to ride through any breach in the enemy line and they were still hoping for that chance at this late stage. Dismounted parties went forward and prepared cavalry tracks for the breakthrough. But these tracks proved to be of little us after the incessant bombardments and heavy rain had turned the land into a crater-poked morass. The rain eventually brought the whole offensive to a soggy halt in November.

Monchy-le-Preux, 10 April 1917

20th Hussars
Arras 1917
The British and French armies planned a joint effort in early 1917 with the British concentrating around Arras. The Germans were falling back on the Hindenburg Line having lost Vimy Ridge and the Scarpe Valley. The Cavalry Corps assembled south of Arras to exploit a breakthrough at Monchy-le-Preux. The weather was very cold and the rain turning to sleet as they were ordered forward to Telegraph Hill west of Tilloy. The sleet turned to snow making visibility difficult, and the Germans bombarded them as they tried to make their way forward. They halted for the night and resumed the advance on 10 April. The cavalry were told that Monchy had been taken by the infantry, but there had been a delay which meant that the Germans were still in place. An attack had to be made by the 8th and 5th Cavalry Brigades but this was fraught with difficulty as the snow was falling thickly and visibility was restricted to a few yards. The 20th Hussars came through Tilloy Les Mouflains at the trot with the Greys on their right and the 12th Lancers in support. However, the regiment became trapped in a maze of barbed wire and they had to cut themselves out with wire-cutters. When the snow stopped they found themselves on the ridge, their original objective. The Germans had abandoned their forward positions and Monchy was captured. The regiment spent a wretched night in shell-holes, with no food or forage. The battle of Arras ended on 20 April and the cavalry taken out of action. The 20th had lost 37 horse killed or died of exposure. One man had died and 7 were wounded, 2 of which were officers.

Bourlon Wood, 25 Nov 1917

There were no mounted actions for most of 1917 although the 20th relieved infantry units for periods of time in the trenches. A mounted action was expected when the 3rd Army attacked at Cambrai with 400 tanks on 20 Nov. The cavalry rode up to the Scheldt Canal but there was nowhere to cross and the shattered countryside was too difficult for horses. The 20th had turned back at Masnieres, and on 25th they provided a company of 5 officers and 218 for the 5th Brigade's battalion. They went into trenches along the north side of Bourlon Wood. Here there was heavy fighting in which 2 officers and 5 men were killed, and 25 men wounded.

Gouzeaucourt, 30 Nov 1917

The Germans counter-attacked on 29 Nov with different tactics. They sent forward specially trained storm troops who were able to by-pass the forward positions and attack the rear areas, backed up by aircraft. The Brigade was ordered to hold on to Gouzeaucourt. The 20th rode forward and took over trenches thinly manned by the Royal Engineers. The Guards Brigade arrived and together with them the regiment attacked, gaining 1,000 yards and inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy storm troops. There was now a gap between the 20th and the Coldstream Guards but this was filled when Major Little rallied 3 infantry companies whose officers had been killed, and brought them into line to fill the gap. A C Little was second in command of the 20th, and later became CO in March 1918 when Colonel Cook was killed. Major Little had won the DSO at Wytschaete in 1914 and now won a bar to that medal. The regiment was relieved from the Gouzeaucourt sector later after a tank attack stabilised the situation.

The Great German Offensive, 1918

In February 1918 the cavalry were moved to an area between Peronne and the Oise, behind the 5th Army. It was known that the Germans planned a huge offensive so preparations to meet it were intense. As well as recce patrols and training there was a dismounted company of the 20th numbering 224 commanded by Captain D'Arcy Hall, which spent a week constructing trenches and wire defences northwest of St Quentin. On 14 Mar the 5th Brigade was organised in an even more dismounted role, as a Dismounted Brigade Group, although it had about the same strength as a battalion. When the German bombardment began on 21 Mar the brigade was in the line at Montescourt. The offensive pushed the British army back to the Somme, and organisation broke down so that the units became mixed up. The story of the regiment becomes confused here but one officer made a name for himself; Major Little DSO was given the task of organising broken groups from different units and organised them as a battalion to take up a position along the Faillouel to Flavy-le-Martel road. They came under a strong German attack in late March and had to fight hard for two hours to thwart a flanking movement.

Cook's Detachment, March 1918

The cavalry were forced back to a point where they were reunited with their horses. The various small groups were unable to find their regimental headquarters so officers formed squadrons out of mixed cavalrymen, and two regiments were formed this way that came under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel George Cook, CO of the 20th. They were referred to as Cook's Detachment and were in great demand where gaps need to be filled and trench positions needed relief. They were in dismounted action at Lagny and received orders to go to the relief of dispirited French troops at Cattigny in late March 1918. The French were quick to leave their trenches, having been reinforced by the detachment, so the two regiments had to face a concerted attack by vastly superior numbers of Germans. They became surrounded and fought bravely, losing many men, including Colonel Cook who was killed on 26 March. The survivors retreated to Thiescourt, mounted up and rode to Compiegne where the 5th Cavalry Brigade was re-formed and sorted out. The remnants of the 20th Hussars paraded as a regiment once more under the command of Major A C Little.

Rifle Wood, 1 April 1918

On 31 Mar the 20th Hussars, who were in the Bois de Hangard near Amiens, organised a dismounted company of 138 men led by Captain Walter D'Arcy Hall. Other officers in the company were Lieutenants Taylor, Austin and Fairbrother. The next morning they supported the 4th Dismounted Battalion in an attack against Rifle Wood near Domart-sur-Luce. They came under enfilade fire as they entered the wood and suffered heavy casualties including the three subalterns. But the company continued on into the wood and engaged in fierce hand-to-hand fighting. They were successful in capturing the position and held on to it until relieved by the infantry. As well as the 3 officers, there were 3 more men killed, 39 wounded and one man missing.

The 1st Army, April 1819

20th Hussars
Mounted Patrols 1918
At the beginning of April 1918 the 20th were reduced in size to 13 officers, 150 other ranks and 245 horses. The German offensive had petered out but General Ludendorff saw a thinly held gap at Neuve Chapelle, and another attempt brought about a breakthrough, reaching Armentieres so that British divisions on either side were now outflanked. On 11 April the 2nd Cavalry Division were ordered to reinforce the 1st Army. They rode the whole way, using roads crammed with refugees, vehicles and marching men. They had to travel at night across country and reached their destination on 13 April by which time the Germans had been halted by the infantry. The division was moved to the left flank around the Foret de Nieppe. The 20th Hussars received drafts of men from the yeomanry and now had 19 officers and 442 other ranks. For some weeks there was patrol work to be done and then they went into billets at Aiz-en-Issart.

Beaucourt, 9 Aug 1918

It was now the turn of the Allies to launch their Hundred Days Offensive and, under the leadership of Douglas Haig the attack began on on 8 August 1918. The cavalry supported Australians and Canadians east of Amiens and success was achieved so that the cavalry were able to keep the enemy on the run. The 20th Hussars went into action near Beaucourt on 9 Aug. They had to pass through the Canadians to prevent the retiring Germans from taking up intermediate positions. This was fraught with difficulty because of the open nature of the ground and the danger of machine-gun fire from pockets of resistance. They were not able to move fast as barbed wire was everywhere. The lead Troop of C Squadron led by Lieut Mann came under fire from a machine-gun. They headed for a gully to avoid the fire, but their way was blocked by wire. They had to turn into the direction from which the Germans were firing, and within 500 yards of the gun turn off again to reach the gully. Several horses were hit on this occasion. The rest of C Squadron were able to take a different route to work around the enemy gun crew.

Gas Shells, Aug 1918

The regiment was given the task of patrolling along the flanks of the advance to keep touch with neighbouring formations. This was unspectacular work that brought them little appreciation but it was essential and caused them many casualties.The ground was saturated with liquid mustard gas which was sent towards them in the form of artillery shells along with high explosive and shrapnel. The horses suffered most because of their lack of protection, lack of uncontaminated food, and poisoned water.

Joncourt, 1 Oct 1918

By 1Oct the Hindenburg Line was almost completely in the hands of the Allies, and the cavalry were now more free to advance with speed and take part in mounted actions. At Joncourt the 32nd Division had made a successful attack and C Squadron was split into three for patrolling the area. Lieutenant Mann, SSM Adams and Sergeant Brook led the patrols. Adams's section came into contact with a pocket of resistance and every man was hit and wounded. The Germans counter-attacked the next day near Montbrehain and Lt Mann was killed. Another officer, Lieut Jackson, was killed on patrol near Le Cateau.

The Sambre and Oise Canal, 5 Nov 1918

When, on 4 Nov the 32nd Division attacked across the Sambre and Oise Canal, the regiment was under the orders of the 97th Infantry Brigade in reserve. The 97th passed through the leading brigades on 5 Nov with C Squadron on the left flank and the rest of the regiment following. The squadron lost 2 men killed and an officer and 2 men wounded. Two Troops under Lieutenant Bland reached Favril capturing 2 heavy guns and 50 prisoners. They were mobbed by overjoyed French people who were now liberated.

Avesnes, 6 Nov 1918

The regiment was leading the advance of the 97th Brigade until there was a hold-up at Avesnes on 6 Nov. SSM Adams led a brave charge against enemy machine-guns despite having a wounded leg from the attack at Joncourt on 1 Oct, and also suffering from mustard gas poison. He was wounded again in this attack. Other casualties of the regiment were two men killed, one of whom was the medical officer, Captain Clark, and 7 men wounded.

The Last Actions of World War One, Nov 1918

The regiment was riding 5 miles ahead of the infantry on 9 Nov, and came in contact with the Germans at Touvent. They were out of touch with any British formation. The next day they mopped up some enemy emplacements and were about to deal with machine-gun crews on a spur beyond Eppe Sauvage. But they were ordered to join Bethell's Force of the 5th Cavalry Brigade and two infantry brigades marching on Renlies. They had been living on iron rations for two days but wagons were on their way on 11 Nov. Patrols were still being sent out while everyone was expecting the armistice at any moment. The regiment were operating in the area of Sivry when they received the news that the war was over. At 11am all trumpeters of the 20th Hussars assembled outside the regimental HQ at Clair Fayts and sounded the ceasefire.

Post War 1918 -1919
20th Hussars
After a stand-fast on the Armistice line to allow the vanquished enemy to get clear, the British advanced guards crossed the German frontier on 1 Dec 1918. The 20th were quartered at Beg Reuland and, after demobilisation and drafts to other units, were reduced to a cadre of 135 all ranks. They returned to the UK in March 1919, posted to Colchester. In July 1919, after being brought up to the strength of 16 officers and 433 other ranks, they embarked for Egypt and went into camp at Tel-el-Kebir. There they were inspected by General Allenby who presented the Mons Star to the 24 'Old Contemptibles' still serving.
Turkish War of Independence 1920
The Treaty of Sevres partitioned Turkey after World War One so that Greece was given Eastern Thrace and part of western Turkey, while France and Italy had spheres of influence in the region. This provided fuel to the fires of nationalism and increased popular support for Mustapha Kemal. Open rebellion broke out and the nationalists occupied the Izmit area on the eastern end of the Sea of Marmara. Britain responded by sending a force under the command of General Sir Edmond Ironside. The 20th Hussars, who were already stationed in Egypt, made up the cavalry element. On 28 June they embarked with 13 officers and 523 other ranks, commanded by Lieut-Colonel M C Richardson who had led A Squadron for most of WW1. They joined Ironside's force at Deringe on 20 July and were informed that the Nationalists had advanced along the coast and occupied the village of Gebze. The bridge had been destroyed and it was deemed necessary to stop further damage and repair the bridge. For this task the 20th were sent, along with the 2nd Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles, a field battery, and some Royal Engineers.

Gebze, 13 July 1920

The battle of Gebze is important in British military history as the last time that a British cavalry regiment made a mounted charge as a complete regiment. The situation occurred when the Turks took up position in front of Gebze in open ground. The Garhwalis faced them as the Royal Artillery fired into the Turkish ranks. On a ridge to the north the Garhwalis saw the whole of the 20th Hussars appear on the crest, two squadrons abreast with a third in support, 300 men in all. With swords out and trumpets sounding they moved slowly forward under the command of Colonel Richardson. The charge was aimed at the Turkish flank, and gathered speed as the thousand yard distance decreased. The artillery ceased fire and the Turks huddled together in small groups to face the onslaught. An officer of the Garhwal Regiment witnessed and wrote about this action:

'Now the Hussars reached the Turkish flank. We could see their sabres flashing in the sun as they struck, withdrew, and struck again. All the time the trumpets echoed, fierce and thrilling, lifting one's spirits in some form of savage exultation. The charge swept clean through the Nationalists' line. Beyond it the squadrons rallied, regrouped, turned and charged back through the bewildered Turks, now making off for the cover of the vineyards round the village itself. Not more than thirty minutes after appearing over the ridge the Hussars had vanished whence they came, leaving huddled bodies on the plain to bear testimony to their passage.'

The infantry advanced to complete the job begun so effectively by the cavalry. But the enemy put up no resistance. The casualty figures for the Nationalists as a result of the charge is not fully stated. The 20th got off very lightly, having only one officer wounded. Some accounts claim that it was Lieutenant Lesly Groves, wounded in the knee, others that it was Lieutenant J T Way. Several horses were injured. The regiment had some small skirmishes later on in the campaign, in which an officer and two men were wounded. They were then quartered in Turkish barracks at Soglani.

Amalgamation 1922
Following their great moment of glory the 20th Hussars were informed that they had been earmarked for disbandment. They were relieved in Turkey by the 3rd Hussars in October 1920, and 225 men were transferred to that regiment. Another 118 went to the 11th Hussars in Meerut. The remainder returned to the UK for disbandment. However, the government realised that their drastic measures to save money may have been unwise where the army was concerned. The many trouble spots in the British Empire still needed soldiers, so they had second thoughts and came up with a compromise. Cavalry regiments would be paired and amalgamated. The new idea was conceived just in time to preserve the title of the 20th Hussars who, in Jan 1922 consisted only of the CO, the second in command, Adjutant, QM, RQMS, one SQMS and the Officer's Mess Sergeant. On 29 Mar 1922 the CO received the order to resuscitate one squadron for amalgamation with the 14th Hussars, to be known as the 20th Hussars Squadron (A Squadron). It was to retain its regimental badges.
20th Hussars Badges
Nobody's Own
The Xs
Commanding Officers
1861 - 1922
1861 - 1922
1861 - 1922
1861 - 1922
Musicians and Drumhorses
1861 - 1922
Sabretaches and Pouchbelts
1861 - 1922
1861 - 1922
Battle Honours
Peninsular War 1808-14


Egyptian Campaign 1885


South African War 1899 - 1902


World War One 1914-18


MARNE 1914
AISNE 1914
YPRES 1914 1915
CAMBRAI 1917 1918
SOMME 1918


ARRAS 1917

186120th Light Dragoons
186120th Hussars
Predecessor Titles
175920th Inniskilling Light Dragoons
(disbanded 1763)
177920th Light Dragoons
(disbanded 1783)
179120th Jamaica Light Dragoons
180220th Light Dragoons
(disbanded 1819)
18582nd Bengal European Light Cavalry
Successor Units
192214th/20th Hussars
193614th/20th King's Hussars
1992The King's Royal Hussars
14th/20th Hussars Museum
Museum of Lancashire
Stanley Street
tel: 01772 534075
Suggested Reading
British Forces in the West Indies 1793 - 1815
by Rene Chartrand (Osprey 1996)

The Hussar (1845 Edition)
by Sergeant Norton Landsheit (Pickle Partners Publishing )

The Emperor's Chambermaids The Story of the 14th/20th King's Hussars
by Lt-Col L B Oatts DSO (Ward Lock 1973)

The Hawks, A Short History of the 14th/20th King's Hussars
by Bryan Perrett (Picton 1984)

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