4th (Queen's Own) Hussars

When supporters of the Protestant nobleman James, Duke of Monmouth, rose in rebellion against the Roman Catholic King James II in June, 1685, parliament provided the king with a grant of £400,000 for the recruitment and training of troops.

Amongst the units raised were seventy troops of Horse (cavalry) and eleven troops of Dragoons (mounted infantry). The origins of the 4th (Queen's Own) Hussars lie with troops raised by the Hon. John Berkeley (1650-1712) of Wincanton (Royal Warrant of 27th July 1685) - a number of troops were raised in and around Somerset. Berkeley's Regiment of Dragoons was under the practical command of Lt. Col. Thomas Maxwell. Berkeley himself was, at that time, Master of Horse to James II's youngest daughter, Princess Anne, and the Regiment was immediately named the Princess Anne of Denmark's Regiment of Dragoons. (Anne was later to reign as Queen from 1707 to 1714.)

The Regiment's establishment in 1685 was six troops of 60 men, with 3 officers per troop. Training of both men and horses was intensive.

When the Prince of Orange arrived on the south coast of England to challenge James, Colonel Berkeley, a staunch Protestant, was promptly relieved of his command and Thomas Maxwell promoted Colonel. When it became apparent, however, that the majority of the king's soldiers, and especially the officers, would not support James, he fled to France, thereby avoiding the horror of another civil war.

The Prince of Orange (subsequently William III) restored Berkeley to the Colonelcy, removed Maxwell from command and appointed Lt. Col. Francis Hawley to command the Regiment. The name of the Regiment reverted to the normal practice of bearing the name of the patron/Colonel.

When the Scots rebelled in 1689 in support of the deposed king, the Regiment was sent north, where their baptism of fire occurred on 6th June beside the River Spey. A captain and six dragoons of the Regiment were killed. Thereafter, the Regiment was engaged in numerous skirmishes until the rebels were subdued in 1690.

1692 saw the Regiment join the army commanded by William III in Belgium, where their first major engagement was at Steenkirk. At this battle the men dismounted and fought as infantry, and during a bayonet charge the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Hawley, was killed. There followed an arduous campaign which included the Siege of Namur (1695). The Regiment returned to England in 1697 after the Treaty of Ryswick.

In 1707 the Regiment shipped to Portugal to join the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14) and, almost immediately upon landing, they fought the Battle of Almanza. In this battle the Regiment charged French guns and was severely mauled by a French counter-charge. The allied army lost the battle with a very large number of men killed and wounded.

Severely depleted, in 1708 the remnants of the Regiment returned to England for a period of intensive recruiting.

On the death of the Regiment's Colonel, the Earl of Essex, in 1710, some controversy arose when the youthful Queen Anne insisted on appointing the husband of one her favorites at court as Colonel. The army's commander, the Duke of Marlborough, threatened to resign in protest. The Queen relented, and Lt. Gen. Sir Richard Temple was appointed Colonel.

In 1715, on the outbreak of the First Jacobite Rebellion, the Regiment, at that time Temple's Dragoons, was sent to Scotland where they fought the Battle of Sheriffmuir. Thereafter they were involved in numerous skirmishes throughout the winter until calm was restored in 1716.

The next thirty years saw the Regiment stationed in various parts of England, including coast watch duties in Kent.

At the start of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the Regiment shipped to Belgium to join the allied army commanded by George II. The first major engagement of the war was at Dettingen, where the Regiment lost 4 men and no less than 39 horses killed. Shortly thereafter, the Regiment, together with a small number of infantry, was surprised in an ambush near Melle and virtually destroyed, with only 39 dragoons surviving and 255 horses either killed or captured by the French.

The remnants of the Regiment, at that time known as Rich's Dragoons, once again returned to England to recruit and reform.

Having been brought back to strength, Rich's Dragoons returned to Belgium in February 1747. They fought the Battle of Lauffeld (sometimes "Val") where the British cavalry, under command of Gen. Sir John Ligonier, earned signal honours. On the cessation of hostilities in 1748, the Regiment returned to England in November.

The Regiment was to remain on home duties for the next sixty years. A Royal Warrant of 1751 specified the Regiment as the 4th Dragoons with scarlet jackets and green facings. Their tri-cornered hats sported a black cockade. Horse decoration was green.

In 1755, in common with other dragoon regiments, a "light troop" was added to the establishment. This additional troop was made up of 100 men who, after the coronation of George III in 1760 , provided a royal escort and performed ceremonial duties in London at the express request of the new king. In 1779, the light troop was detached to form the 19th Light Dragoons.

When the Gordon riots broke out in London in 1780, the Regiment was called to suppress the rioters with considerable bloodshed on both sides (285 rioters were killed).

In June 1788, George III conferred the title 4th The Queen's Own Regiment of Dragoons on the Regiment. Throughout the period of home duties, the Regiment was constantly on the move - for example, 1797 saw them stationed at Ipswich, 1798 Stamford, 1799 Nottingham and then Birmingham, 1800 Manchester, 1801 Newcastle and 1802 Canterbury. The establishment in 1803, at a time when Bonaparte was massing troops for an invasion of England, was 640 rank and file.

In April 1809 the Regiment sailed to Portugal to fight the Peninsular War (1807-14) in the army commanded by the Duke of Wellington. They fought the Battle of Talavera and were then involved in the defence of Torres Vedras and the subsequent pursuit of the retreating French army, a pursuit which included the siege of Badajoz and the Battle of Albuhera, a battle notable for cavalry charge and counter-charge. At Albuhera, the loss to the Regiment was 4 men and 20 horses killed and 4 officers and 19 men wounded. Constantly in action, the Regiment's next major battle was at Salamanca, where they fought with conspicuous gallantry. Again, the Regiment was in constant action culminating in the Battle of Vittoria, which saw the collapse of Napoleon's army in Spain in June 1813.

Pursuing the French army into France, the Regiment fought the Battle of Toulouse, and with Napoleon defeated they returned to England in July. Travelling to Ireland in 1815, the Regiment was dispersed over no less than twenty six different stations.

In 1819, whilst still in Ireland, the Regiment was officially designated "light dragoons" as the 4th or Queen's Own Regiment of Light Dragoons. The scarlet jacket was discontinued and a new uniform, blue with pale yellow facings and silver trim, was issued.

In 1819, the 4th (Queen's Own) Light Dragoons returned to England and were stationed in the South West where, 140 years previously, the Regiment had formed. In 1820 they moved North - amongst civil unrest prevalent throughout Britain in the early 19th Century were riots in favour of George IV's estranged wife, Queen Caroline, who was popular whilst George was despised. When Queen Caroline died in 1821, the Regiment provided the guard of honour for her funeral procession.

In 1821 the Regiment shipped to India in service with the Honourable East India Company. 542 other ranks embarked under command of Col. Charles Dalbiac on the ships Dunira and Duke of York, whilst a Regimental Depot was established at Maidstone. They reached Bombay in May 1822 and subsequently moved to quarters in Kaira. (It seems that no horses were transported from Britain and that the Regiment sourced local horses in India - this practice would seem common and the Regiment were later to receive horses from 9th Lancers on the latter's embarkation for India in 1842.) They were to remain in India for twenty years.

Col. (later General) Dalbiac, in giving evidence before a Parliamentary Committee in 1832, stated that he considered Kaira to be "the most unhealthy district perhaps in India", with an attrition rate of 16% per annum of the Regiment's strength due to sickness. The losses were so bad that in February 1827 they moved to the healthier environment of Poonah. 12 officers and 500 other ranks had died from diseases such as fever and cholera between 1822 and 1827.

In 1830, at the request of the East India Company, the Regimental clothing reverted from blue to scarlet, and the facings changed from yellow to green.

In 1839, the Regiment joined the ill-fated Army of the Indus raised for the First Afghan War (1839-42) "The soldiers traversed sterile plains, desert regions and lofty mountains, suffering from a scarcity of water and exposed to the attacks of the predatory tribes of Beloochea." They crossed the Bolan Pass into Afghanistan and, after a brief engagement at Ghuznee, entered Kabul in July 1839. The Regiment returned to India in September of that year, thereby avoiding the disastrous retreat of 1842.

In 1841, after twenty years in India, the Regiment was relieved by the 14th Light Dragoons and they returned to England. 28 officers and 866 men had died in India, almost all from disease. In England the Regiment reverted to its blue jackets with pale yellow facings.

The Regiment served in Ireland from 1846 to 1851, and then back to England until the outbreak of the Crimean War (1554-55). They embarked on 19th July on the Simla bound for the Black Sea.

At Balaclava, in the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade, the Regiment charged with a strength of of 118 officers and men, of whom only 39 returned, 79 men from the Regiment being either killed, wounded or missing. Private Samuel Parkes was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the charge. The number of horses killed during the battle is not recorded, but the CO, Col. (later General) Paget records:

"What a scene of havoc was the last mile, strewn with the dead and dying and all friends. Some running, some limping, some crawling; Horses in every position of agony, struggling to get up, then floundered again on their mutilated riders!"

After their losses in the Crimea, the Regiment recruited in England. For twelve years the Regiment remained in England or Ireland.

As a consequence of the British Army reorganisation of 1861, the title of the Regiment changed to the 4th (Queen's Own) Hussars. The hussar regiments' uniforms at the time were similar to one another, essentially a blue jacket and overalls, but were distinguished by different coloured facings. The 'busby', or bearskin cap, was particularly distinguished by a plume of specific colour and associated flap, or 'busby bag'. The distinctive plume of the 4th Hussars was red, with a yellow busby bag.

In 1867 the Regiment returned to India, where they remained until 1879. Thereafter, they served throughout the British Isles and Ireland, with a small contingent of 45 officers and men joining the Egyptian Expedition of 1884-85.

In 1895, a lieutenant by the name of Winston Churchill joined the Regiment. Churchill was soon detached to work as a war correspondent with Kitchener's army in the Sudan , although his zest for adventure saw him attached to the 21st Lancers for their charge at Omdurman in 1898.

The Regiment was not sent to South Africa, but spent that period, once more, in India.