History, 3rd The King's Own Hussars
Of the four Regiments who make up our famous antecedents, the 3rd Hussars had the lion's share of Battles and Campaigns. As their number denotes, they were the senior of the four regiments and our seniority amongst the Cavalry and specifically the Light Cavalry has always been accorded because of them. Into the almost overwhelming plethora of privileges and traditions that The Queen's Royal Hussars have inherited, the regimental color of Garter Blue, The White Horse of Hanover, The Red Collar and the Fern Leaf have all been passed down from the 3rd Hussars.
Created at the very beginning of the first standing Army in 1685, as three independent troops of Dragoons led by three Captains of the Royal Dragoons, they had been forced to oppose Monmouth's Rebellion. Afterwards they were given another troop by the Royal Dragoons, two newly raised troops banded together and given their first title "The Queen Consort's Regiment of Dragoons".
Within four years the title of the Regiment had been modified, due in part to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in which half of the Regiment, including Leveson's Troop had changed over to William of Orange's side. For his shrewd decision, Leveson was made Colonel of The Queens Consort's Regiment of Dragoons by the new King. With all regiments popularly known by their Colonels name, it was therefore Leveson's Dragoons who went to Ireland to see their first action in 1689 the following year.
The War in Ireland was a sour and ill-provisioned conflict with disease and starvation taking almost half the Army as casualties. Leveson's Dragoons however had made themselves"Celebrated in the Army" because of their spirited conduct. This augured well for the future.
The Regiment returned to England in 1692 for two years home service before being sent to the Netherlands to campaign against the French, re titled as The Queen's Dragoons, the name they were to hold until 1714. As part of the garrison of Dixmude the Regiment was surrendered to the besieging French by a Danish General which, enraged the Dragoons who broke all of their weaponry, rather than hand it over. After the treaty of Ryswick the Regiment returned home for five years, then in 1702 took part in two minor scuffles at Cadiz and at Vigo, where at the latter they helped to destroy over 40 Spanish ships before returning home.
Five more years in England during Marlborough's great campaign against the French could not have pleased the Queen's Dragoons until they were sent to Spain and fought against the French themselves at the Battle of Almanza, with the forerunners of the 4th and 8th Hussars, in 1707. Despite the Dragoon's repeated charges, Almanza was a heavy defeat with over half the Regiment being killed. Little had been gained by the time the Regiment returned home the following year, and little was to happen for the next four years while the Regiment was in Scotland.
In 1714 the first Hanovarian, George I, Became King and as he had no Queens Consort the Regiment's Title changed once more to the King's Own Regiment of Dragoons. A year later they fought at Sheriffmuir alongside the forebears of the 7th Hussars, thus joining Battle with all their future partners within 30 years of their formation. From 1715 until 1742, The Kings Own Regiment of Dragoons soldiered at home, engaging in nothing more exciting than anti-smuggling duty. The uneasy peace in Europe was broken when the Emperor of Austria died and "The War of the Austrian Succession" broke out with Britain and Austria once again fighting France. This time there was one major Battle and one clear result. King George II led his Army into Battle on 27 June 1743, near the village of Dettingen where the King's Own endured three hellish hours exposed to French Artillery then Charged three times through nine squadrons of the French Household Cavalry and routed them. Private Thomas Brown rescued one of the Regimental standards in Glorious Fashion."He had two horses killed from under him; two fingers of ye bridal hand chopped off; and after retaking the standard from ye Gen D'Arms, whom he killed, he made his way through a lane of the enemy, exposed to fire and sword, in the execution of which he received 8 cuts in ye face, head and neck; 2 balls lodged in his back, 3 went thro his hat; and in this hack'd condition he rejoined his regiment who gave him three huzzas on his arrival"
For his bravery Thomas Brown, along with George Daraugh of the 4th, was made a Knight Banneret on the battlefield by King George II, the last time a British Monarch led his soldiers into battle. The King's Own also captured a pair of silver Kettle Drums from the French after the Battle, and although these were destroyed in 1847, a pair of silver replicas are still highly cherished by the Regiment today. At Dettingen all the Officers save two were wounded among the 148 Killed or wounded. When George II inspected the Regiment before it returned to England, he sharply asked whose Regiment it was because of its thin ranks, forcing General Bland to answer,
"Please your Majesty, it is my Regiment and I believe the remainder of it is at Dettingen".
With a shortage of troops in England the second Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 called some regiments home, including the King's Own, who were sent north to fight at Culloden in 1746. This preceded a long period of inactivity for the Regiment until 1808, excepting their participation in a limited raid on France in 1758 and in the Gordon Riots in London during 1780.
To appease political pressure yet another ill-fated expedition was sent to the low countries in 1809 to destroy French shipping on the Scheldt. Known as the Walcheren expedition the plan failed and disease took many casualties. Napoleon was in the ascendant throughout Europe and a year earlier had installed his brother on the throne of Spain, the country Britain had decided to make the focal point of it's struggle against French imperialism.
In 1811 the King's Own joined Wellington's Army in the Peninsula, talking part in the campaign of the following year including many unremarkable skirmishes until the major Battle of Salamanca. Wellington's perfect timing of his attack routed 40,000 Frenchmen in 40 minutes, with the cavalry being the chief instrument of destruction. The King's Own had earned their second Battle Honor. After wintering in Portugal, the British again had Wellington's Tactical mind to thank for pushing the French Army out of Spain with only one major decisive battle at Vittoria, at which both sides lost the same number of casualties but the French had been outflanked. The King's Own chased the fugitive French Army, which had been beaten by the infantry. In 1814 Napoleon had actually abdicated when Wellington fought and won the bloody encounter of Toulouse, the King's Own's final battle in addition to that of the whole campaign "Peninsula". Throughout the war the 3rd had fought in the same Brigade as the 4th, their future partners. In all 210 men had been killed, and it must have been with relief that they reached home in July 1814.
Between 1815 and 1837 the King's Own were stationed in England and Ireland performing the duty more of a gendarmerie than an Army during years of considerable social unrest. In 1818 the Regiment's name was changed once more to "3rd The King's Own Light Dragoons". In 1837 they set sail for India, bought up to the strength of 420 men, of whom only 47 would return to England in 1853. For four years the 3rd had no enemy except the intense heat; then in January 1842 they set out to avenge the complete slaughter of the British Garrison in Kabul, butchered on their attempt to return to India. Having recaptured Kabul it was decided by the Governor-general to abandon Afghanistan; thus the 3rd moved back to India. It was the turn of the Sikh Army to suffer in 1845 as they crossed into India, with 60.000 men on December 11th. Within sixty-two days the Sikh Army had been utterly defeated in four major Battles. The first of these was Moodkee, at which the 3rd and the second Brigade of Cavalry were present.
"With praiseworthy gallantry ...turned the left of the Sikh Army, and sweeping along the whole rear of its infantry and guns, silenced for a time the latter, and put their numerous cavalry to flight ...Their (the enemy's) whole forces were driven from position to position with great slaughter"
From the Regiment there were 61 killed and 35 wounded, but they could only rest for three days before being put into battle again, charging the Sikh guns at Ferozeshah on the 21st December, then repulsing a second Sikh Army from the very positions they had just taken on the 22nd, with the loss of another 55 killed and 100 wounded. Sir John Fortescue, the Military Historian, wrote of the 3rd as "heroes", Saying
"Few Regiments of horse in the world can show a finer record of hardihood and endurance".
The final battle in which the Regiment fought in this first Sikh War was on February 10th, 1846, at Sobraon which, because of the tremendous slaughter of the enemy and their ejection from India, became known as the "Waterloo of India". The 3rd suffered only minor casualties.
Three years later the Sikh's Mutinied again, and as before the 3rd were included in the force sent against them for the second sikh war. Battle was first joined by the rival Armies at Chillianwallah which was really a defeat for the British but for the 3rd, Captain Unett's Squadron cut a path half a mile deep in the enemy, losing half of his brave squadron in the process. It was only a month before the final battle in the war, which routed the sikh's at Goojerat, in which the 3rd pursued and cut down the fleeing enemy.
This was the final battle in India for the regiment who returned to England showered with praise by the Indian hierarchy, in 1853. In 1854 they were ordered to recruit men and buy horses for the 4th Light Dragoons in the Crimea providing 253 and 300 respectively. In 1861 the title of the Regiment changed once more to "The 3rd King's Own Hussars", during the fourth year of the six year tour in Ireland. In 1868 they sailed again for India spending eleven peaceful years there before another nineteen in England and Ireland, equally without incident. The 3rd provided it's share for the socially elite Camel Corps in 1884, three years it was once again sent for service in India. Disease disabled the Regiment as normal in India before finally it was sent to see active service in South Africa in November 1901. The hard fighting had already finished and the 3rd found themselves engaged in "driving", rounding up the Boars out on the veld with the only serious casualties being the horses who worked very hard. Within six months the war was over and the Regiment was sent back to India until 1907 where it spent four years policing the now peaceful South Africa, returning home to England in 1911.
Within the context of the 1914 - 1918 Great War the part played by any one unit among hundreds must be obscured by the grand strategy. The 3rd Hussars fought only in Northern France and Flanders, yet they gained twenty seven Battle Honors, double the amount they had won in the previous two centuries. None were on the scale of Moodkee or Dettingen, but the squalor and deprivation which epitomized the trench warfare, all were thoroughly earned.
The Regiment arrived in Rouen on 17th August 1914 and by the 21st was in action opposing the German Cavalry at Mons. For a fortnight the so-called Great Retreat saw the Regiment pushed back through Le Cateau over 200 miles until on the 5th September the British and French Armies turned, inflicting defeats on the Germans at the Marne and the Aisne. The struggle for Flanders began in October in Ypres with the Cavalry fighting as infantry holding the lines at Messines under intense pressure. On one day the Regiment lost fifty percent in Casualties. The War now developed into trench warfare with the 3rd employed around Ypres, St Julien and Bellewaarde lake until put into reserve in June 1915. Meanwhile they provided large squadrons for a Cavalry dismounted division fighting as infantry in the trenches. September 1916 and the battle of the Somme saw the regiment still providing labour behind the front, as well as their dismounted commitment, before wintering in Villeroy.
For the battle of Arras in April 1917, the 3rd were once again ready for "the gap" but it did not materialise. Another spell as a dismounted regiment followed until Cambrai in November when, ready to push through the right flank they were again let down, but fought on foot in the latter stages. In March 1918 the Germans put together their final assault in which the 3rd on 1st April were ordered to take rifle wood, the vital ground the Commander-in-Chief had chosen. An exposed assault, left once again fifty percent casualties. In July the Cavalry began to pursue the German withdrawal, acting as reconnaissance for the slower infantry. The 3rd ended the war where they had begun it in 1914, at Hautmont, having lost 107 killed and 385 wounded in the intervening four years.
In 1921 the title of the regiment changed for the final time to "3rd The King's Own Hussars" a few years before it embarked for two years in Turkey as part of the allied army of occupation. From there it proceeded to Egypt until 1927 when it moved to India. Lucknow was a quiet tour and in 1932 the 3rd hussars returned home to York.
On transferring to Tidworth in 1935 the regiment had been selected, and had itself approved the decision, to undergo the first experiments in Mechanization. Emotional the loss of the horse was, the British higher command had left the decision as late as they possibly could. The regiment cheerfully practiced with laughably unsuitable vehicles until the Second World War drew them once more against their foes of the last conflict, the Germans.
Initially during the "phony War" the Regiment was brigaded to the 1st Armoured Brigade alongside their old friends the 4th Hussars. After France had fallen the 3rd were sent to Cairo to join the 7th Armoured Brigade of the 7th Armoured Division, "The Desert Rats". General Wavell opened his offensive against the Italians in December 1940, and the 3rd saw their first action during the closing stages of the Sidi Barrani at Buqbuq where they sustained 25 casualties, but helped to capture with the allied units so many Italian prisoners that "there were about five acres of Officers and two hundred acres of other ranks". This success carried on to Beda Fomm when the Italians were driven out of Cyrenaica.
In April 1941 the Afrika Corps under Rommel attacked and pushed the Allies all the way back to the El Alamein Line in twelve months. Meanwhile the Regiment had been split up into two squadrons moving to Crete and Cyprus before they fell. "B" Squadron were sent to Java where they were all captured by the Japanese and put into the infamous prisoner of war camps. The remaining and reconstituted 3rd Hussars were re-equipped with Crusader, Sherman and Grant Tanks ready for the Battle ahead. In the first phase of El Alamein the regiment helped break through Rommel's Defenses but in the second phase it was given the crucial task of forcing a gap through the remaining de fences to enable the armoured reserves to break through. The "Moodkee Wallahs" succeeded and Alamein was won, at a cost of 21 Officer casualties and 98 other rank casualties whilst of their 51 Tanks, 47 were destroyed in the battle. So decimated was the Regiment that it was unable to join the pursuit. General Freyburgh granted the 3rd Hussars the Honor. of wearing the "Fern Leaf" on their vehicles because of their participation with the New Zealand Division during the Battle.
In January 1943, the Regiment moved to Aleppo in Syria, in August to Haifa and then to the Lebanon but it was not until April of 1944 that they were put back into action pushing the Germans out of Italy. In June and July the 3rd led the advance of the 78th Division up Italy reaching Citta Del Piave and fighting then at Ripa. Montone, Citta del Castello and Pistrino in the Tiber valley. The Regiment had led 130 miles of successful pursuit when an order came that all personnel who had served overseas for four and a half years were to be sent to England. This was disappointing as the Regiment had always suffered the brunt of the battles but rarely enjoyed the easier work of the pursuits. The 3rd Moved to Syria first and this is where they were for the capitulation of the Axis powers on 6 may 1945. When Japan surrendered in August "B" Squadron started to return to the Regiment. The inhuman Japanese Prisoner of War camps had Killed 54 of the Squadron.
In December 1945 the 3rd Hussars were selected to be the Reconnaissance Regiment for the only Airborne Division being retained in the Post War Army and thus moved to Sarafond in Palestine to join their Division. Three years of internal peacekeeping duties followed until the 3rd were evacuated to Germany via Durham in 1948. For the next Decade they moved around Germany providing the First Armoured Squadron in Berlin and enjoying the peaceful life until they came home to amalgamate in 1958 after 18 years of unbroken foreign service.
Major David Watts commanded the returning party and described poignantly the "Hollow Merriment" of the journey and the lowering of the Regimental Flag for the last time. Two Hundred and Seventy Three years of Valour, Sacrifice, Tradition and identity was to be lost.