9th Queen's Royal Lancers

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9th Queen's Royal Lancers
9th Lancers badge.jpg
Regimental Badge
Active 1715-1960
Country  Kingdom of Great Britain (1715–1717)
 Kingdom of Ireland (1717–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1960)
Branch British Army
Type Cavalry of the Line/Royal Armoured Corps
Role Main Battle Tank
Size 550
Nickname The Delhi Spearmen
Motto Vestiga nulla retrorsum (Latin- we do not retreat)
Commanders
Notable
commanders

Field Marshal Richard Molesworth, 3rd Viscount Molesworth
Lieutenant-General Sir John Cope
General Philip Honywood
General James St Clair-Erskine, 2nd Earl of Rosslyn
General Sir James Hope Grant

General Sir David Campbell

The 9th Queen's Royal Lancers, or the Delhi Spearmen, were a cavalry regiment of the British Army. They are best known for their roles in the Indian mutiny of 1857 and for their part in the North African campaign of World War II including the retreat to and the battle of El Alamein in 1942.

Early history[edit]

The 9th Queen's Royal Lancers were originally formed during the Jacobite Risings in 1715. They were formed by Major-General Owen Wynne and were the second cavalry regiment in the British Army. They were initially known as the "9th Dragoons" or "Wynne's Dragoons". In 1717, the regiment embarked for Ballinrobe, in Ireland, and was placed on the Irish establishment.[1]

In 1783 they converted into Light Dragoons, becoming the 9th Light Dragoons, and served in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, Sir Samuel Auchmuty's expedition to the River Plate in 1803, the occupation of Montevideo and Wellington's Peninsula War between 1811 and 1813.

In 1816 they were constituted Lancers and in 1830 were given the distinguished title of "Queen's Royal", in honour of Queen Adelaide, consort of William IV, hence becoming the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers.

1715 9th Regiment of Dragoons[edit]

1717 in the Irish establishment

On 1 July 1751 a royal warrant provided that in future regiments would not be known by their colonels' names, but by their "number or rank" but in this case that order seems to have been "honoured in the breach".

1794 in the British establishment (from the Irish establishment)

1783 9th Regiment of Light Dragoons[edit]

Lightened armour

1816 9th Regiment of Lancers[edit]

Further lightened armour

1830 9th Queen's Royal Lancers[edit]

In honour of Queen Adelaide

1960 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales's).[edit]

A new regiment which merged the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers with the 12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales's)

Indian Campaign[edit]

The Lancers were first posted to India during the Gwalior Campaign of 1843. They subsequently took part in the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-46 and the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1848-49 where they were often led by Sir Hope Grant and were the first recipients of the Bronze Star Medal.

During the Indian mutiny of 1857, the 9th Lancers earned the name the Delhi Spearmen, a name which is believed to have been given to them by the mutineers themselves. 9th Lancers was present in all three of the most notable events associated with the Indian mutiny, namely, the seizure of Delhi, the seizure of Lucknow and the relief of Lucknow. For their actions the Lancers were awarded twelve Victoria Crosses, more than any other cavalry regiment. They were described by an ally as:-

"The beau ideal of all that British Cavalry ought to be in Oriental countries".

Prominent officers of the 9th Lancers who lost their lives during the Indian rebellion of 1857 include [1]:

  • Captain Robert Abercrombie Yule, killed in action in Delhi on 19 June 1857.
  • Captain Lucius John French, lost life in action at Agra on 10 October 1857, and
  • Captain Thomas Hutchinson, wounded in Lucknow on 19 March 1858 and died on 21 March.

Afghanistan[edit]

The bulk of this Afghanistan material is sourced from Hanwell. Please include inline citations with any subsequent additions.

The Lancers were posted to Afghanistan during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, 1878–1880 during which they were issued with Martini-Henry carbines in place of their pistols. On 19 October 1878 they left Sialkot, India and, under the command of Major R. Cleland, marched to the mouth of the Khyber Pass where they joined Sir Frederick Maude's division. The division then moved to Narkoo via Ali Masjid and Dakka where it was to remain until June 1879. In January 1879 one squadron left the regiment to join the Kurrum Valley Field Force under Sir Frederick Roberts. The Treaty of Gundamak was signed and on 2 June 1879 the regiment, less one squadron, returned to Sialkot.

Advance to Kabul[edit]

On 3 September 1879 the British Embassy to Kabul was massacred. Hostilities recommenced two weeks later and the Lancers were ordered to go to Kabul as part of the Kabul Field Force. Their detached squadron had entered the Kurrum Valley as early as March and now formed the advance-guard for this advance on Kabul, which started on 27 September.

At daybreak on 6 October, Captain Apperly took twenty Lancers from Charasia to reconnoitre the pass. They were almost immediately fired upon and so began the "Action of Charasia". The day ended with the British in possession of all of the main positions in the vicinity.

One hundred and two Lancers were sent in a cavalry force to cut off the retreat of the enemy who were thought to have abandoned Sherpur. The town was found deserted, with seventy five guns left abandoned by the enemy, who were spotted on the Asmai Heights overlooking Kabul.

On 9 October the Lancers set off in pursuit of the Afghans, who had left Kabul during the night leaving their guns, tents and camp equipment. The pursuit lasted twenty-one miles but, apart from a small band of twenty, the Afghans could not be caught.

Kabul was now in British hands and on 13 October 1879 the whole of General Robert's force marched into the city.

Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment[edit]

On 4 November 1879 the headquarters and two other squadrons of the regiment joined Captain Apperly's squadron at Sherpur cantonments. On 9 December one squadron accompanied a small infantry force under Brigadier-General MacPherson and took part in the defeat of Mir Butcha near Kila Karez.

On 10 December they escorted four-horse artillery guns and were rejoined by squadrons led by Brigadier-General Massy and Lieutenant-Colonel Cleland. On 11 December they encountered a 10,000 strong Afghan army near Kila Kazi which was led by Mahomed Jan. Roberts arrived and, deeming it to be of the utmost importance to delay Mahomed's advance on Kabul as much as possible, gave the order for a full cavalry charge.

The woefully outnumbered cavalry consisted of 126 men of the 9th Lancers and 44 of the 14th Bengal Lancers and they were met with ferocious fire from the 10,000 Afghans. General Roberts described the ensuing events:-

The charge was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Cleland and Captain Neville, the former of whom fell dangerously wounded: but the ground, terraced for irrigation purposes and intersected by nullahs, so impeded our cavalry that the charge, heroic as it was, made little or no impression upon the overwhelming numbers of the enemy. The effort, however, was worthy and that it failed in its object was no fault of our gallant soldiers.

Captain Stewart-Mackenzie was ordered to make a second charge but this had no better effect than the first. Losses were heavy and the 9th Lancers lost 18 men and 34 horses, with another 13 men and 37 horses wounded.

Two days later the men killed on the 11th were buried. During the burial ceremony orders were received to immediately turn out in the company of the Indian Cavalry. They fell upon the Afghans, who had been driven off the Takht-i-Shah Peak on the Siah Sung Heights, and hit them on both flanks, scattering them over the plain. One charge proved disastrous; Captain Butson, who was in command of the 9th Lancers, was shot through the heart; Captain Scott-Chisholme was shot through the thigh, the flash burning his clothes so close was the discharge of his rifle. Although most severely wounded, he remained in the saddle and brought the regiment out of the action. 5 Lancers and 4 horses were killed, and 8 men wounded. The regiment returned to cantonments at Sherpur after this battle.

On 15 December Mahomed's army reached Sherpur and started the Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment.

Charasiab[edit]

A squadron of Lancers took part in the Second Battle of Charasiab on 25 April 1880. They accompanied a column under the command of MacPherson to come to the aid of a British force that had been surrounded by the Afghans near Char Asiab. The enemy was routed and the British pursued the enemy for four miles.

Relief of Kandahar[edit]

The 9th Lancers under the command of Lieut. Col. C.A. Bushman on the march to Kandahar, painted by Orlando Norie. The troops would march in the early morning to avoid the full heat of the sun, halting a few minutes every hour. In this way, the column managed to cover up to 20 miles a day.

On 8 August 1880 the Lancers left Kabul to march to the relief of Kandahar. They were led by Lieutenant-Colonel H. A. Bushman, but were part of a much larger force of 10,000 men, headed by Sir Frederick Roberts.

The Lancer's headquarters reached Robat, 21 miles from Kandahar, on 27 August, and established communication with the garrison via heliograph. The rest of the British force joined them the next day and by 31 August the British were camped under the walls of Kandahar. 319 miles of extremely difficult terrain had been crossed in just over 20 days.

On 1 September the Lancers took part in the Battle of Kandahar and helped rout Ghazi Ayub Khan's army and capture his treasury, camp equipment and 33 guns. Ayub's army was pursued by the British cavalry for about 10 miles across the Argandat Valley and were 12 hours in the saddle.

End of the Afghanistan War[edit]

The Lancers were given the Afghanistan Medal with "Charasia", "Kabul" and "Kandahar" clasps.

Fifty-five Lancers were either killed in action or died of frostbite in the Afghanistan campaign.

After Afghanistan the Lancers returned to India for a few uneventful years, where they occupied themselves with polo matches, before returning to England in October 1885.

Boer War[edit]

During the Second Boer War, 1899-1902, the Lancers took part in the following actions: Belmont, Battle of Modder River, Magerfonstien, Relief of Kimberley, and the following Battle of Paardeberg which resulted in Cronje’s surrender. They provided Lord Roberts’ escort for his state entry into Bloemfontein. After the war, the 9th returned to Sialkot in the Punjab.[2]

Controversy in India[edit]

In the Delhi Durbar of 1903 the Duke of Connaught specially selected an escort from the 9th Lancers. This was popular with the regiment but not with all Indian spectators; the regiment had been forbidden to take part as punishment for refusing to disclose the murderers of an Indian cook. Before he died, the man had stated that his assailants were men of the 9th Lancers. It was suggested that the assailants may actually have been unsuccessful applicants for the post of cook.[2]

First World War[edit]

Memorial to the 9th Lancers action at Montcel à Frétoy

Although engaged in combat for the whole of the war the Lancers only operated as a cavalry unit during 1914. This was due to the widespread use of machine guns and shelling and also the advent of the tank. For the remainder of the war they operated as infantry in the trenches.

Notable events included a Victoria Cross for Captain Francis Octavius Grenfell for his actions in saving the guns of 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery on 24 August 1914 (he was later killed in action on 24 May 1915, as was his twin brother, Riversdale, a yeomanry officer who attached to 9th Lancers), and the regiment's participation in the final "lance on lance" action of the First World War on 7 September 1914 at Moncel in which Lieutenant Colonel David Campbell led a charge of two troops of B Squadron and overthrew a squadron of the 1st Guard Dragoons.[3] After Campbell left on promotion he was replaced as commanding officer by Desmond Beale-Browne.

Memorial board in the cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral to the officers and men of the 9th (Queen's Royal) Lancers who died during the First World War.

By the end of the war 274 Lancers had died.

Between the wars[edit]

The Lancers were involved in little action between the wars. They were stationed in Ireland during the Irish War of Independence and employed in a counter-insurgency role in counties Longford and Roscommon. A number died in small-scale actions such as the Scramogue Ambush of March 1921. In addition to the lack of conflicts, their relative inactivity was also due to the military high command struggling to decide what role cavalry regiments could perform in modern warfare. Eventually it was decided that the best use of cavalry regiments was to mechanise them, i.e. to replace their horses with tanks.

In spring 1936 the Lancers received a new commander, Major-General C. W. Norman, and conversion to tanks commenced. Existing NCOs received armoured training first and then passed on their knowledge to new recruits. Horses were either sold or transferred to other regiments, an event that obviously caused great sadness to a cavalry regiment. To soften the blow the officers were allowed to keep their horses for a period during which they continued to compete in horse trials and polo.

Initial training in 1936 used worn out weaponless Carden Lloyd carriers whose overheating engines scalded the occupants with super-heated steam and broke down with alarming regularity in the plains surrounding Tidworth.

In 1937 these were replaced with ancient light tanks which had been returned as unserviceable from Egypt and still contained desert sand. These actually carried both machine guns and radios and the Lancers almost began to feel like a functioning regiment again. The radios were primitive and it was said that "the tail of a column half a mile away could hear what the Commanding Officer was saying over the air, but not over the ether!". This was a source of great frustration and the War Office was obliged on one occasion to send the Lancers a letter complaining that civilians were complaining about the language which they were picking up on their receivers in their homes.

In 1938 it was decided that the Lancers had "had their share" of the training vehicles and most were transferred to other regiments. Trucks were used in their place and the Lancers continued their training "pretending to be tanks". No heavy gunnery training could be practiced, however machine gunnery and radio practice continued.

In the spring of 1938 the 1st Mobile Division, later to become the 1st Armoured Division, was formed. It was composed of the 1st Armoured Brigade at Aldershot and the 2nd Armoured Brigade at Tidworth. The 2nd Armoured Brigade was made up of the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers, Queen's Bays and 10th Hussars and remained unchanged throughout the war.

In October 1938 Christopher Peto took command of the Lancers. Training continued until the outbreak of war in 1939.

WW2[edit]

Training[edit]

B.E.F. Belgium & France[edit]

The Lancers landed in France to cover the retreating French, Belgian and British armies on 20 April 1940. Withdrawn to England, the regiment was initially issued with the new Tetrach tanks and were intended for service with the newly formed 6th Airborne Division. However the tanks were found to have technical problems, and still wearing the regimental tactical markings, were delivered to the Red Army as part of the Lend-Lease where they were temporarily used in training and some combat.

North Africa[edit]

The Lancers served as part of the famous Eighth Army and served a leading part in the Battle of El Alamein. They formed part of the 2nd Armoured Brigade of the 1st Armoured Division of X Corps.

Retreat to El Alamein[edit]

According to General Sir Richard McCreery:-

"The 9th Lancers took part in many decisive battles, none more so perhaps than the long withdrawal from Knightsbridge, south of Gazala, to El Alamein. Many think that Egypt was saved when the Eighth Army defeated Rommel's last big attack in the Western Desert at the end of August 1942. Actually, Egypt was saved earlier during those first few critical days of July when Rommel drove his tanks and self-propelled guns and trucks forward along the Ruweisat Ridge in close formations, to be stopped by the 25-pounders and the remnants of the 2nd Armoured Brigade with their "thin-skinned" Crusader tanks. In this critical action the 9th Lancers took the principal part. Throughout that long withdrawal from Knightsbridge, when the fluctuating Battle of Gazala had finally swung against the Eighth Army, past Sollum and Matruh to the Ruweisat Ridge, only seventy miles from Alexandria, the 2nd Armoured Brigade with the 9th Lancers always there but often reduced to only a handful of tanks, fought on skilfully and with gallant endurance and determination. Egypt was then saved indeed and with the arrival of the 9th Australian Division from Syria about the 6th of July, the tide of the whole war was turned." .[4]

Battle of El Alamein[edit]

According to General Sir Richard McCreery:-

"Right well did the intensive training of the 9th Lancers with the Sherman bear fruit in the great battle which followed. As the world knows, the breakthrough at El Alamein did not come quickly. Rommel had had two months to build up defenses and minefields in depth. However, in the ten days "dog-fight" tank crews with their new 75-mm guns were knocking out far more enemy tanks than our infantry appreciated at the time." [5]

Their marksmanship was renowned. Their best shot was Corporal Nicholls of B Squadron who was once personally congratulated by General Montgomery for knocking out nine enemy tanks in one day.

Italy[edit]

The Lancers landed in Italy in 1944. In September they saw action at San Savino in the battle for the Gothic Line.

Employed as infantry during the winter of 1944, the Lancers formed the spearhead of the 8th Army in the breakthrough to the River Po in the Spring of 1945. B Squadron was the first to enter Venice at the end of April 1945.

By the end of World War II 143 lancers had lost their lives.[6]

Post-war[edit]

The Lancers returned to England in 1947 and were stationed at Edinburgh for two years. They then moved to Detmold, Germany where they stayed until they moved back to Tidworth in 1960.

On 1 June 1953, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother became Colonel-in-Chief of the Lancers.

On 11 September 1960, the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers marched to church at Tidworth for one last time, together with the 12th Royal Lancers. The two separate regiments ceased to exist in their own right and merged to form a new regiment called the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales's).

Regimental postings[edit]

  • Scotland 1715
  • Ireland 1798
  • River Plate 1803
  • Montevideo
  • Peninsula 1808-14
  • Gwalior Campaign - Punniar 1843
  • First Sikh War - Sobraon 1845-6
  • Second Sikh War - Chillianwallah 1848-9
  • Second Sikh War - Goojerat
  • Second Sikh War - Punjaub
  • Indian Mutiny - Delhi 1857-8
  • Indian Mutiny - Lucknow
  • Second Afghan war - Charasiah
  • Second Afghan war - Kabul 1879
  • Second Afghan war - Kandahar 1880
  • Boer war - Modder River
  • Boer war - Relief of Kimberley
  • Boer war - Paardeberg


World War I

  • Mons
  • Le Cateau
  • Retreat from Mons
  • Marne 1914
  • Aisne 1914
  • La Bassee 1914
  • Messines 1914
  • Armentieres 1914
  • Ypres 1914,15
  • Gravenstafel
  • St. Julien
  • Frezenberg
  • Bellewarde
  • Somme 1916,18
  • Pozieres
  • Fleurs-Courcelotte
  • Arras 1917
  • Scarpe 1917
  • Cambrai 1917,18
  • St. Quentin
  • Rosieres
  • Avre
  • Amiens
  • Albert 1918
  • Hindenburg Line
  • Pursuit to Mons


World War II

  • France (B.E.F) - Somme 1940
  • France (B.E.F) - Evacuation from Dunkirk 1940
  • North Africa - The Gazala Line 1942
  • North Africa - Retreat to El Alamein 1942
  • North Africa - Ruweisat Ridge 1942
  • North Africa - The Battle of El Alamein 1942
  • North Africa - El Hamma 1943
  • Italy - San Savino - Coriano Ridge 1944
  • Italy - Defence of Lamone 1944
  • Italy - Bridgehead 1945
  • Italy - Argenta Gap 1945

Tanks used during WW2[edit]

Medals[edit]

  • 14 Victoria Cross (12 Indian Mutiny, 1 Boer war & 1 World War I).

See also

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Reynard (1904) p. 7
  2. ^ a b CABLE NEWS THE FESTIVITIES AT DELHI. THIS NINTH LANCERS. Evening Post, Volume LXV, Issue 3, 5 January 1903, Page 5 http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=EP19030105.2.37 accessed 13 September 2011
  3. ^ First World War Birmingham University
  4. ^ Bright p. xv.
  5. ^ Bright p. xvi.
  6. ^ Bright pp. 287–289.

References[edit]

  • Reynard, Frank H. (1904). Ninth (Queen's Royal) Lancers 1715–1903. William Blackwood. 
  • Hanwell (1949). A Short History of The 9th Queen's Royal Lancers 1715–1949. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. 
  • Bright, Joan, ed. (1951). The Ninth Queen's Royal Lancers 1936–1945. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. 

External links[edit]