6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers)



In the turbulent years following the restoration of Charles Stuart to the throne in 1660 as Charles II, king of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and (troubled) Ireland, it was prudent for the new monarch to maintain a 'regular army' of professional soldiers. 'Regulations of Charles II' published in 1663 state that cavalry troops should wear a metal helmet, or 'pot', under their broad brimmed hats, and a cuirass of polished steel front and back. They were armed with a sword and two pistols "not to be under fourteen inches in length".



Clothing and equipment for these 'troops of horse' were often subsidised by wealthy noblemen, the mounted troops representing some social standing. These noblemen would be designated 'Colonel' of the regiment, although practical day-to-day command was entrusted to a lieutenant-colonel, usually an officer with considerable experience of war.

On the outbreak of war with Holland in 1672, a regiment designates 'dragoons' was raised. Regarded as mounted infantry rather than true cavalry soldiers, the rate of pay for dragoons was lower than the rate of pay for troops of horse. Similarly, common soldiers in the dragoons were referred to as 'privates', in the infantry fashion, rather than 'troopers'. The dragoon regiment was composed of twelve troops of 48 men, a total of some 600 men. The men were armed with a matchlock musket and bayonet rather than pistols. This Regiment of Dragoons was placed under the direct command of Prince Rupert.

When Charles II, a Protestant, died in 1685, and was succeeded by his brother, James II, a Roman Catholic, the new king ordered something in the region of 80 individual 'troops of horse' to be raised to supplement his existing army of infantry and dragoons, this at a time when his reign was threatened by open Protestant rebellion (the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685). Of these 80 independent troops, 57 were subsequently formed into 9 'regiments of cuirassiers' which were named after their respective Colonels. One such Colonel was Richard Lumley, Earl of Scarborough.

Lumley's Regiment of Horse was formed in 1685 and quartered at Guilford, Godalming and Weybridge. Lord Lumley petitioned the king to rename the Regiment, however, in honour of the late king's consort, Queen Catherine, and the name changed to the Queen Dowager's Regiment of Horse. The Regiment wore sea-green facings on their scarlet livery and were under the practical command, initially, of Lt. Col. Sir John Clobury and later Lt. Col. Henry Verman.

Disillusioned by James II's Roman Catholic principles, Lord Lumley resigned his commission in 1686 and transferred his allegiance to William of Orange, although the Queen Dowager's Regiment of Horse retained their name. After an unsuccessful attempt to force Roman Catholic officers on various regiments, James II abandoned the throne, which William and Mary then took over unopposed in 1688.

Sent to Ireland in 1689 to meet the threat of a Roman Catholic uprising in support of James II, the Queen Dowager's Regiment of Horse suffered acute sickness at their camp in Dundalk, losing 5 senior officers and 40 troopers. Reinforced, the Regiment fought on the right-wing of William's army at the battle of the Boyne (1690) and with distinction at the siege of Limerick the same year. In the months of confusion which followed the Battle of the Boyne, the Regiment was heavily involved in policing lawless roving bands and elements of James's defeated army.



In 1691, in recognition of its services in Ireland the Regiment was awarded the title the 1st Regiment of Carabineers - a 'carabin' being an Elizabethan weapon described as 'a large pistol with a barrel three feet long', the antecedent of the carbine.

1692 saw the Regiment shipped across the Channel to take part in the Nine Years' War (1688-97), returning to England in 1698 where their strength was reduced to 240 officers and men. Within four years, however, their numbers were increased again as the Regiment moved to Holland on the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), fighting amongst many actions the Battle of Blenheim (1704), regarded as Marlborough's greatest victory. (The Carabineers suffered severe casualties at Blenheim, including 86 horses killed). With little respite, the Regiment fought throughout the war until the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713, at which time they shipped to Ireland.

In 1715, the Regiment's facings changed from sea-green to pale yellow. Thirty years later, in the re-organisation of 1746, the Regiment was designated the 3rd Irish Horse (The Carabiniers).

In 1760 the Regiment was in action on the Continent again fighting the Seven Years War (1754-63). After three years of continuous fighting, they returned to Ireland in 1763. (The outcome of the Seven Years War had ramifications for British interests in North America, the West Indies and India).

Stationed in Ireland from 1763, the Regiment recruited heavily from the local population. At the same time, the Regiment was ordered to re-mount with long-tailed horses, where previously the horses' tails had been docked. On the Irish establishment, the Regiment's title changed slightly to 3rd Regiment of Horse (Carabineers). Regulations published in 1767 state that to purchase a commission as a cornet in a 'regiment of horse' in England would cost £1,600, but because rates of pay were lower for regiments in Ireland, a commission on the Irish establishment would cost £1,067. (Although laid down by regulation, these rates often fluctuated and were negotiated by agents).

In 1768, the Regiment's facings changed from pale yellow to white. When the army was re-organised in 1788, many cavalry regiments changed from 'Horse' to 'Dragoon Guards' as a measure of economy, and the Regiment became the 6th Regiment of Dragoon Guards (Carabineers). The establishment, at this time, was some 200 officers and men, but as troubled brewed in France after the Revolution of 1789, the strength of the Regiments was doubled, with the size of a 'troop' increasing from 20 men to 40 men. As war seemed inevitable, the troop size was increased again to 70 men per troop, there being nine troops in the Regiment.

In November 1793 the Regiment shipped across the Channel to fight with allies in the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802). The Regiment was conspicuous at the Battle of Tournay (1794) and throughout the war.

When the Irish rebelled in 1798, the Regiment returned to Ireland, and thence to England in 1803.

In 1806, the King of Spain allied himself with Napoleon Bonaparte and four (dismounted) troops from 6th Regiment of Dragoon Guards joined an abortive expedition to South America, where they attacked Spanish dominions in Uruguay. Faced with opposition from the local population, the expedition was a disaster for Britain.

The year 1810 saw the Regiment quartered in Scotland, and in 1812 the soft hats were replaced by new pattern helmets with horse-tail plumes. Also, in 1812 a school was established for the soldiers' children. In 1813, the Regiment returned to Ireland and spent some years travelling backwards and forwards across the Bristol Channel in response to civil unrest.

In March 1823, dragoon guards were issued helmets with the distinctive bearskin crest. The Regiment took part in the ceremonial proceedings for the coronation of the youthful Queen Victoria in 1838. At some point between 1844 and 1853, the uniform for the Regiment changed from the traditional scarlet jacket to an Oxford blue jacket and overalls.

The 6th Dragoon Guards were shipped to the Crimean Peninsula in 1854 but saw little action, and thence to India when the Mutiny occurred in 1857. They returned to England in 1861, but shipped back to India in 1877 just prior to the outbreak of the Second Afghan War (1878-80). During the war they were engaged in constant action against the Afghan guerrillas in and around the Khyber Pass.

On the outbreak of the Boer War, the Regiment shipped to South Africa where they joined General French's 1st Cavalry Brigade. They fought with distinction at Kimberley (1900) and Bloemfontein (1900) and throughout 1901.