The value of light cavalry having been fully
recognised in 1759, George II decided on increasing the establishment
by adding five new light dragoon regiments to the army. Of these,
the 17th Lancers was one, and was first numbered the 18th; but on
the reduction of Lord Aberdour's regiment in 1763 it took rank as
the 17th. Its first colonel was John Hale, who had carried home
the dispatches announcing the victory at Quebec; and in memory of
his late chief, General Wolfe, he obtained permission for the new
regiment to bear on its standard the Death's Head with the motto
"Or Glory", which it still retains.
sent a detachment to serve under the Marquis of Granby in 1761,
when it was dressed in scarlet coats with white epaulets and facings,
and a leather helmet ornamented with white metal and a scarlet horse
hair crest, it saw no serious service until 1775, when it was dispatched
to America. It volunteered to send a dismount detachment to assist
in the questionable victory at Bunker's Hill; landed in Long Island
with Sir William Howe, to follow the retreating Americans to New
York; and at "White Plains", "For Washington",
and Rhode Island took part in the very ineffective campaigns of
1776. Throughout 1777-78 it accompanied Howe in the equally abortive
operations which culminated in the evacuation of Philadelphia and
the retreat of the British Army to New York. Its work was undoubtedly
well done, and the history of the regiment shows no more harassing
and exhausting duty than that which the men had to perform in this
useless war. They were attached to Tarleton's "legion",
the one force of mixed "provincials" and regulars which
did good service, and with it accompanied Sir Henry Clinton in his
expedition to South Carolina. The whole history of the American
war is one of desultory and disconnected operations. This was one.
The siege of Charleston followed by its capture; and that by some
unimportant "affairs" at "Wacsaw" and "Camden",
where Gales was defeated, and at "Cowpens". It is somewhat
amusing to read in the official history that the "American
Colonel" Washington called out during the fight, "Where
is now the boasting Tarleton?" when Cornet Patterson of the
17th rode up to attack him, and was killed by Washington's orderly.
Even as late as 1841 there were men in England unwilling to give
to the first President of the United States the grade of General,
which he had earned by faithful service towards his native land,
and by winning with the rawest levies a wonderful success.
There were gleams of real heroism in this fateful war which are
worth recording. Corporal O'Lavery of the 17th was sent to accompany
the bearer of an important dispatch; attacked on the way, the latter
was killed, but the Corporal, hiding the paper in his wound, rode
on with it till he fell from loss of blood. But his message was
safe and was delivered, and the appreciation of his gallantry is
shown by the monument his chief, Lord Rawdon, raised to his memory
in his native county of Down.
In 1783 the 17th Lancers
returned home, and their uniform was changed from scarlet to blue.
After this they saw various but unimportant service in Ireland,
the West Indies, Holland, Monte Video, and Buenos Ayres, where they
acted as dismounted troops. The official history of the regiment
records a curious fact which, illustrating as it does the varied
service of the regiment before its present battle roll was tabulated,
is worth mentioning. In four successive years it celebrated the
King's birthday in the four quarters of the world. "In 1806,
in Europe, in England; in 1807, in America, at Monte Video; in 1808,
in Africa, at the Cape of Good Hope; and in 1809, in Asia, at Surat.
Meanwhile, from South America it had gone by the Cape to India.
The uniform, both "field day" and "review" order,
was striking at this time. The dress was still blue, with a scarlet
"girdle", but the head covering was, in the former, a
tall conical cap with a plume in the top; and in the latter case
a helmet with a ridge of wool apparently from front to rear, with
a tall white plume at the side. There is no apparent record of a
similar dress, so it was probably a "Colonel's fancy".
From 1810 to 1822, when it returned to England and was constituted
Lancers, it was continuously employed in minor operations against
Burding, Anjar (in Cutch), the Pindarees, and Bheels. No regiment
seems to have changed its uniform more. In 1817 the dark blue coat
and pale blue overalls with white facings was surmounted by a broad
topped shako with a tall plume in front; the Lancer dress of 1824
had a red and white plume in the lance cap, aiguillettes, and epaulets
on the coat; and in 1829 the general colour of the uniform was dark
blue, with a white top to the lance cap, in the case of officers,
and a black plume; in 1832 the coat was red, with epaulets, the
trouser stripe was also red, and the plume still black. Now, with
the uniform, both facings and plume are white.
In the Crimea
the regiment shared in the battle of the Alma, and still more in
the glory of the Light cavalry charge at Balaklava, where they were
in front line. Lieutenant-Colonel Morris led the regiment with nine
troop leaders and subalterns, but when the guns were reached five
of the subordinates had fallen, Winter and Thompson dead. the others
desperately wounded. With the shattered remnants of the regiment,
now broken up into groups, the wild charge continued. Morris ran
the leader of the Russian cavalry through, but unable to withdraw
his sword from the body of his adversary, was severely wounded,
and fell from his horse, to be wounded a second time by the Cossacks
who surrounded him. The he surrendered; but as no one remained to
make him prisoner, he attempted to retreat on a loose horse, which
fell with him, crushing his leg. Extricating himself, he fell senseless
by the side of his dead friend Nolan, to be rescued by Dr Mouatt
of the Inniskillings, as already related by Sergeant-Major Wooden,
both of whom won the Cross for Valour; the latter for "proceeding,
under a heavy fire, to his assistance when he was lying very dangerously
wounded in an exposed situation". Two other men of the 17th
won the same distinction in the campaign; the one, Troop Sergeant
Major John Berryman, who, present at the Alma, was engaged in the
pursuit at Mackenzie's farm, capturing three Russian prisoners;
and in the Balaklava charge, where his horse was shot, he "stopped
on the field with a wounded officer (Captain Webb of the 11th Hussars)
amidst a shower of shot and shell, although repeatedly told by that
officer to consult his own safety and leave him; but he refused
to do so, and on Sergeant John Farrell coming by, with his assistance
carried Captain Webb out of the range of the guns". For his
share in this cool and gallant action Quartermaster-Sergant Farrell
was also decorated, he having also had his horse killed under him
in the charge.
The 17th also bear on their appointments
"Inkerman", where they suffered the loss of one officer
and some men, forming at the time part of the Light Brigade, which
the numbered only about 200 men!
They served next in "Central
India" after the Mutiny was broken, and in 1879 proceeded to
South Africa with the reinforcements ordered by Lord Chelmsford.
They were brigaded with the Kin's Dragoon Guards, under General
Marshall, and were present at the reconnaissance in the direction
of the Erzungayan Hill, on the 5th June, where their adjutant, Lieutenant
E. F. Cockayne-Frith, was killed; and later on at Ulundi were represented
by two squadrons, commanded by Colonel Drury-Lowe. When, at 9.25am
on that day, Lord Chelmsford gave the order "Go at them, Lowe,
but don't pursue too far", they dispersed the broken fragments
of the last Zulu attack to meet a close mass of the enemy concealed
in a donga, under whose fire fell Captain Wyatt Edgell and several
men. But the charge continued and broke these also, though, strangely
enough, lances were slung, and the work done with the sword.
One Victoria Cross, in addition to those already named, has
been won by a former officer of the regiment, the Lieutenant H.
Evelyn Wood, now commanding the 'Aldershot' division. For in 1858,
during the action of Sindwaho, when in command of a troop of the
3rd Light Cavalry, he attacked with much gallantry, almost single
handed, a body of rebels who had made a stand, and whom he routed;
also for having subsequently, near Sindhora, gallantly advanced
with a Duffadar and Sowar of Beaton's Horse, and rescued from a
band of robbers a Potail; Chenum Singh, whom they had captured and
carried off to the jungles, where they intended to hang him.
Their several names are "The Death or Glory Boys",
from their regimental badge and their origin; "Bingham's Dandies",
from their colonel, who was punctiliously careful as to the fit
of the men's uniforms; and, lastly, the title "Duke of Cambridge's
Own" was conferred on them in 1876, in honour of the Commander-in-Chief,
who once served in the regiment.
Extract from "The
British Army and Auxiliary Forces" Colonel C. Cooper King,
R.M.A. , 1894
The 17th (Duke of Cambridge's Own) Lancers,
started life as the 18th Light Dragoons raised in 1759, in 1876
they became the 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge's Own ), the regimental
motto is "Death Or Glory".
1854 - 1855, Crimean War, Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman,
1857 - 1858 Indian Mutiny,
1877 - 1879
Zulu and Basuto War.
1899 - 1902 Boer War
1914 - 1918
The Great war, Festubert 1914, Somme 1916,1918, Morval, Cambrai
1917, 1918 , St Quentin, Avre, Hazebrouck, Amiens Pursuit to Mons,
Five members of the regiment have been awarded the Victoria
Cross; Three in the Crimean war, 1 during the Indian Mutiny, and
one during the Boer war.