In Collaboration With Charles Griffin

On 28th January 1693 a commission was given to Colonel Henry Cunninghame (or Conyngham) to raise a regiment of Protestant dragoons for service in Ireland. They were sent to Spain and Portugal in 1704 and fought in the War of the Spanish Succession, notably at the siege of Barcelona and Almanza. At the battle of Almanara they famously routed superior forces of Spanish cavalry and removed the enemy's crossbelts to wear as trophies, thus earning their nickname of 'The Crossbelts'.

They were converted to Light Dragoons in 1775 and became a Royal regiment two years later, adopting the Harp and Crown as their badge. In 1794 they suffered badly in Flanders. Two squadrons were employed at Bousbeque but only two officers and 14 men survived. Further service in South Africa and Egypt followed, and then they went to India where they earned their first Battle Honour at Leswarree on 1st November 1803. They served 20 years in India, returning to the UK in 1823.

Four regiments of light dragoons (7th, 10th, 15th and 18th) had been converted to hussars between 1805 and 1807, and the 8th Light Dragoons were converted on their return to Britain in 1823. They received their new uniforms the following year. They were stationed in Ireland between 1827 and 1831 and were in Leeds in 1839, Norwich in 1840 and Manchester in 1841. Various other English postings followed before a further spell in Ireland in 1844. The Potato Famine occurred while they were there and they had deal with much civil unrest. After six years hard service they returned to England in 1850.
Crimean War
The Crimean War
The regiment spent the next few years in various parts of the country before being shipped to the Crimea in 1854. Twenty-three officers and 293 other ranks were formed into 4 service squadrons. They arrived at Constantinople on 20th May and were sent to Varna to form part of the advance guard of Sir George Brown's Light Division. Later they were brigaded under Lord Cardigan with the 11th Hussars, 4th and 13th Light Dragoons and the 17th Lancers. His Lordship led a futile reconnaissance to the Danube and Silistria which resulted in 80 of the regiments horses, out of 121, being sent to the sick lines for 3 months.

Charge of the Light Brigade

Apart from sick horses, the men also suffered from dysentery and cholera. In October the army sailed across the Black Sea to confront the Russians and the 8th numbered 104 men. They first saw action at Balaklava where they famously charged the Russian guns in the Charge of the Light Brigade. The lack of communication between Lord Raglan, the British Commander-in-Chief, Lord Lucan, the cavalry commander, and Lord Cardigan, the Light Brigade commander led to a heroic but reckless action that caused heavy casualties amongst the five cavalry regiments. The 8th suffered the death of 2 officer, 3 NCOs and 15 men. Almost the same number were wounded, and half that number were taken prisoner. There were 68 casualties from wounds and the harsh winter that followed, including the CO, Colonel Shewell, who was shipped home to die. After another year of trench warfare the rest of the regiment, numbering 154, finally returned home in April 1856.

Indian Mutiny
Whilst in England the regimental strength was increased by 3 troops and they were issued with Sharpes breech-loading carbines. In October 1857 they sailed to Bombay on the steamship Great Britain, 28 officers and 489 other ranks. They received horses on their arrival which had to be broken in but by March 1858 they were involved in the siege and capture of the fortress of Kotah.


Charge at Gwalior
The mutineers had gained control of the strong fortress of Gwalior, which lies more than 100 mile south of Delhi, and two separate British columns advanced towards them. The 8th Hussars were in a column led by Brigadier M W Smith. They arrived at nearby Kotah-ke-Serai on the morning of 17th June. On emerging from a narrow defile they were faced with the rebel army deployed over a large plain. It was decided to send a squadron of the 8th against them under covering fire from the 95th.

The squadron of nearly 100 men was led by Captain Heneage and they charged with great bravery but they advanced too far without support. However they managed to capture several guns and bring them back under heavy fire. The commander's report stated that: 'Captain Heneage was certainly quite black in the face and unable to speak, although still on his horse. It was a gallant charge.' In the course of the action one of the hussars killed the Rani of Jhansi, an Indian heroine who was leading her troops in battle. Seven men were killed and seven wounded while one officer died of sunstroke. Many acts of great bravery occurred that day. It was laid down in the 1856 Royal Warrant instituting the Victoria Cross that the medal could be awarded by election. With some difficulty, four men were chosen by the men of the 8th Hussars. Captain Heneage, Sergeant Ward, Farrier Hollis and Private Pearson.

On 5th September the regiment was in action again at Beejapore against a force of 800 rebels. A further VC was won by Troop Sergeant Major James Champion who received a severe gunshot wound but fought on with his pistol, killing several of the enemy. The regiment's service in India was fraught with difficulty due to the intense heat. Battles like this one and Gwalior in June were so exhausting that the men could barely sit in their saddles. There was also plenty of hard marching in pursuit of Tantia Topee in Sir John Michael's force, which involved 10 days coverage of 241 miles.

On top of this, the men suffered from a complaint called guinea worm which affected the legs and feet causing great pain. They also risked catching Cholera and dysentery. When the 8th was transferred to the Bengal presidency after the Mutiny, reaching Meerut in February 1861, they very soon lost 2 officers and 31 men in a cholera epidemic.

The regiment received orders to embark for England in November 1863. They had 500 horses amongst seven Troops. It would be natural to assume that they were all glad to go home, but in fact more than 200 opted to stay in India. They mostly joined the newly formed 19th and 20th Hussars. The commanding officer Rodolph de Salis received the CB while the rest of the regiment received the Indian Mutiny medal and the battle honour CENTRAL INDIA.

Afghan War 1878-80
Campaign Dress 1879
The regiment landed at Portsmouth in May 1864, first going to Brighton, then East Anglia, and after two years were posted to Ireland. This lasted up to 1875 when they were stationed at Aldershot, then Hounslow in 1877. When war broke out in Afghanistan the regiment marched to Shorncliffe Camp and then to Portsmouth. They were now armed with Martini-Henry carbines and their strength was 395 privates, 73 NCOs and 20 officers. They sailed for India in December 1878 arriving in Bombay the following month.

They were quartered at Muttra where disease and sunstroke claimed many lives. Twenty men died of sunstroke in the first summer, and a quarter of the regiment were in hospital at any one time, suffering from malaria or enteric fever. But they left this unhealthy place in December 1879 to reinforce Lord Roberts at Kabul. They arrived in Peshawar in January and two months later were attached to the Khyber Line Force to maintain lines of communication and escort convoys. This meant that they saw little action, but they were moved to Nowshera.

Before they reached Nowshera, they were diverted to take part in an expedition against the Shinwarries. On the 18th May the left wing of the regiment were part of a force under Brigadier-General Gib that fought against 4,000 tribesmen at Mazina. Although outnumbered they defeated them, inflicting 200 dead and 400 wounded. The British suffered 6 men wounded and 2 killed.

The posting at Nowshera proved as unpleasant as Muttra; dysentry and heat apoplexy claiming 16 lives. But they had better fortune when, in August, they were moved to Campbellpore in the Punjab, and then Rawalpindi. Their campaigning days were over but they remained in India until October 1889. Their strength had increased to 1,259 other ranks and 35 officers. This was despite 53 opting to stay in India, dispersed amongst other regiments.

South African War 1900-1903
South Africa 1900
South Africa 1900
The regiment were again moved around Britain and spent three years in Norwich in the mid 1890s. In 1897 they were posted to Ireland where they stayed until they sailed for Capetown in early 1900. The men were now armed with the magazine-fed Lee Metford rifle which replaced the Martini-Henry carbine.

The 8th Hussars were in the 4th Cavalry Brigade commanded by General Dickson with 7th Dragoon Guards and 14th Hussars as well as O Battery RHA. They took part in the battle of Wepener, Zand River and the two day battle of Diamond Hill on 11th-12th June. They also took part in the Battle of Belfast in August.

October was a bad month for the 8th as A Squadron was overwhelmed by a stronger force of Boers. They lost Lieut Wylam and 4 NCOs killed, 2 officers wounded and the rest taken prisoner. The remainder of the regiment were on arduous outpost duty night after night in very bad weather, suffering from cold and lack of food.

Cold and hunger were to be constant problems for the 8th through to spring 1901. The regiment was split into detachments posted to various columns, involved in independent actions. One of the columns was commanded by Lt-Col Duff the 8th's CO so that when the regiment was re-united in 1902 they were commanded by Major Henderson. They formed part of a hussar column with the 18th and 19th which engaged in great driving actions that helped bring about the eventual downfall and surrender of the Boers in may 1902.

The 8th then marched to Pretoria where they stayed until 28th October 1903 when they sailed home. The regiment was awarded the honour SOUTH AFRICA 1900-02. Lt-Col Duff and Major Clowes received the CB, and 4 DCMs were given to members of the rank and file. The Queen's South Africa Medal for all ranks bore the clasps for Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Belfast, Orange Free State and Cape Colony.

India 1909-1914
India 1910
India 1910
The regiment spent six years in England after their return from South Africa. By November 1909 they were back in India, stationed at Lucknow and Ambala Under the Command of Lt-Col H F Deare. The highlight of this tour of duty was the Delhi Durbar on 12th December 1911 to crown King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India.
World War 1
First World War
Trooper 1916
In October, after the outbreak of war in Europe, the 8th, by now commanded by Lt-Col F W Mussenden, embarked as part of the Ambala Cavalry Brigade, 1st Indian cavalry Division. The brigade consisted of 9th Hodson's Horse, 30th Lancers and the 8th. It was hard for the Indian troops to adapt to the cold wet weather in the trenches, and horses had to be left in the areas behind the battleground. The 8th spent the early years in reserve in case a big cavalry push was required. Much of their time was spent in digging trenches. In March 1918 when the Indian regiments left for Egypt, they joined the 15th and 19th Hussars as part of the 9th Cavalry (Hussar) Brigade.

The last mounted cavalry charge took place at Villiers-Faucon in 1917. D Squadron of the 8th Hussars charged and captured a village The squadron was commanded by Major Van der Byl who later became Colonel of the regiment. The two machine guns taken from the Germans remained as regimental trophies. C Squadron under the command of Capt Aldecron defended the village of Hervilly in 1918. They were forced to retreat but re-took it a few days later, sustaining 66 casualties. The regiment were heavily engaged in many of the battles as their battle honours testify. As well as the emblazoned honours they earned Accredited Battle Honours: Bazentin, Flers-Courcelette, St Quentin, Hindenburg Line and St Quentin Canal. They lost 105 officers and men and suffered many more wounded.

Last Mounted Parade
Trooper 1916
Mechanised Squadron 1936
Mechanised Squadron 1936
The regiment went back to India in 1919, then saw service in Iraq and Egypt. They held they're last horse-mounted parade in Egypt on Armistice Day 1935. They served in Palestine in 1936 after which they became a founder member of the 7th Armoured Division. Their first vehicles were cars used for scouting but later they were given armoured cars, then tanks. In 1938 the 8th Hussars were allied to the 6th Duke of Connaught's Royal Canadian Hussars and the 8th Light Horse Regiment of Australia.
The Cross-belts
The Twenty-Fives (with 17th Lancers)
Pristinae Virtutis Memores
(The memory of former valour)
The Galloping 8th Hussar
The Scottish Archers (Slow)
Regimental Anniversary
22nd July Salamanca Day
1822 - 1958
1822 - 1958
Commanding Officers
1822 - 1958
1822 - 1958
1822 - 1958
Drumhorses and Musicians
1822 - 1958
Battle Honours
Second Maratha and Pindari War 1816-18


India 1802-22


Crimean War 1854-5


Indian Mutiny 1857-8


Second Afghan War 1878-80


South African War 1899-1902


Great War

SOMME 1916 1918
CAMBRAI 1917 1918

Second World War


Korean War 1950-3

KOREA 1950-1

Predecessor Units
1693 Cunningham's Dragoons
1751 8th Dragoons
1751 8th Light Dragoons
1777 8th or The King's Royal Irish Light Dragoons
1822 8th The King's Royal Irish Light Dragoons (Hussars)
1861 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars
Successor Units
1958 The Queen's Royal Irish Hussars (Amalgamation with 4th Queen's Own Hussars)
1993 The Queen's Royal Hussars (Amalgamation with Queen's Own Hussars - 3rd and 7th)
Further Reading
The History of the VIII King's Royal Irish Hussars 1693-1927
(2 vols) by R H Murray
(Heffer 1928)

Campaigning Experiences In Rajpootana And Central India During The Suppression Of The Mutiny 1857-1858
by F. Duberly

Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe