Dragoons of Angola

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Dragoons of Angola
Dragões de Angola
Active 1966–1975
Country Portugal (Portuguese Angola)
Allegiance  Portugal
Branch Army
Type Dragoons
Role Counterinsurgency
Size Battalion
Part of Military Region of Angola
Engagements Portuguese Colonial War

The Dragoons of Angola (Portuguese: Dragões de Angola) was a special horse unit of the Portuguese Army, that operated in the Angolan War of Independence against the independentist guerrillas. The unit started to be raised in 1966 and was disbanded in 1975 due to the events of the Carnation Revolution in Lisbon, the end of the Portuguese Colonial War and the independence of Angola. In military history, it was probably one of the last units of real dragoons (mounted infantry) to be used in combat operations, excluding the Rhodesian Grey's Scouts.

A similar unit was being raised to operate in the Mozambican War of Independence, when it ended in 1974.

The designation "Dragoons of Angola" was just an honorary title. The official name of the unit was "Reconnaissance Group of Angola" until 1968 and then "1st Cavalry Group".


Portugal had historically employed units of dragoons in its colonies from the 18th through to the early 20th centuries. Particularly in Angola, squadrons of dragoons fought in the pacification campaigns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as in the World War I.

In 1966, the Portuguese Army created an experimental horse platoon, to operate against the guerrillas in the high grass region of the Eastern Angola. Each soldier of this unit was armed with a G3 assault rifle to use in combat on foot, and with an automatic pistol to use while on horseback. The troops on horseback were able to operate in difficult terrain (unsuited for motor vehicles), were less vulnerable to landmines and had the advantage of being able to control the area around them, with a clear view over the grass (which foot troops did not have). Moreover, these unconventional troops created a psychological impact over the enemy, who were not accustomed to dealing with horse troops and had no kind of training or strategy with which to face them.[1]

The experimental horse platoon was so successful that its entire parent battalion (the Reconnaissance Group of Angola) was transformed from an armoured reconnaissance unit - equipped mainly with Panhard EBR armoured cars - to a three squadron horse battalion known as the "Dragoons of Angola". One of the typical operations carried out by the Dragoons of Angola, in cooperation with airmobile forces, consisting of the dragoons chasing the guerrillas and pushing them into one direction, with the airmobile troops being launched from helicopter in the enemy rear, getting it trapped between the two forces.[2]


  1. ^ ABBOTT, Peter, VOLSTAD, Ronald, "Modern African Wars (2) - Angola and Mozambique 1961–74", Osprey Publishing, 1988
  2. ^ CANN, Jonh P., "Counterinsurgency in Africa: The Portuguese Way of War, 1961-1974", Hailer Publishing, 2005