18th (Queen Mary's Own) Hussars

The Regiment has its origins as one of five regiments of 'light dragoons' commissioned by King George II in 1759. (The new style of cavalry known as 'light dragoons' was proving extremely effective as gunpowder and small arms changed the way in which war was waged).

The Regiment was raised in Ireland and the first person to be appointed Colonel of the Regiment was Charles Moore, Marquis of Drogheda, who had formerly served with distinction in the 12th Dragoons. He was to remain Colonel of the Regiment for an astonishing 62 years, although practical command was obviously vested in a number of younger Lieutenant Colonels.

Known originally as the 18th Regiment of Light Dragoons, the Regiment was referred to informally as the Drogheda Light Horse. Arthur Wellesley, later to become the Duke of Wellington and the hero of Waterloo, served as a junior officer in the Regiment from 1792-93.

The early years saw the Regiment stationed primarily in Ireland, which was in a constant state of insurrection against British rule. When, as a consequence of the French Revolution in 1789, rebellion occurred in the West Indies, the Regiment (with an establishment of 24 officers and 463 other ranks) joined British troops sent to Jamaica in 1795. From Jamaica they sailed to St. Domingo to combat insurgents, where they remained for two years.

In 1797 they returned to England (Canterbury). In 1799, two squadrons crossed The Channel to join General Abercrombie's army for the brief expedition against the French in Holland, returning in November that year. In 1804, the entire Regiment moved to Ireland (Dublin) for a period of three years, returning to England in 1807.

Meanwhile, in 1805 the patronage of King George III was extended to the Regiment which became the 18th (King's Irish) Regiment of Light Dragoons. Shortly thereafter, in 1807 the Regiment was styled 'hussars' with a new uniform of blue jackets with silver lace, pelisses with fur trim and the hussar busby sporting a blue bag and white-on-red plume.

When Napoleon's army invaded Spain and threatened Portugal in 1808, the 18th Hussars (with an establishment of 672 officers and men) was amongst the regiments chosen to join Sir John Moore's army to fight the Peninsular War (1808-14). They embarked from Northfleet and landed at Lisbon in September, 1808, where they were brigaded under General Lord Paget. The Regiment was immediately in action, skirmishing in and around the small town of Rueda and charging the French at Benavente. 500 Frenchmen were captured (in addition to many killed and wounded), including a General (le Febvre).

The French army, however, far outnumbered the British and Portuguese troops, the latter fighting a controlled withdrawal to Corunna behind a covering screen provided by Paget's Hussar Brigade. In January 1810, the British Army embarked from Corunna for England. Sadly, the cavalry horses, which had served the British cavalry so loyally in covering the retreat to Corunna, were shot to prevent them falling into French hands.

After a respite in the south of England for three years, in January 1813 the Regiment embarked for Portugal once more, to serve in the army commanded by Wellington. Arriving in Lisbon, the 18th Hussars (together with the 10th and 15th Hussars) joined the Hussar Brigade commanded by Colonel Colquhon Grant. There followed a difficult march through mountainous terrain, and crossings of the rivers Esla and Almendra where infantry soldiers held onto the stirrups of the cavalry.

Weakened by Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, the French forces in Spain fell back before the combined efforts of the British and Portuguese armies and Spanish partisans. In the vanguard of Wellington's forces, the Regiment was engaged in constant skirmishing, with a major engagement at the village of Morales. At Vitoria in June, 1813, the Regiment lost 2 officers and a number of other ranks and horses killed, but nevertheless managed to capture the baggage train of King Joseph (puppet king of Spain) who was fleeing from the city.

Throughout late 1813, the Regiment continued in the vanguard of Wellington's advance, constantly skirmishing and repulsing occasional French counter-attacks. For example: "24th February 1814. Employed guarding all the fords on the Gave d'Oleron, between the bastide of Bearn and Picton's left." (Three days thereafter the Regiment joined the main army to fight the Battle of Orthes). Finally, in April 1814 the Regiment fought the Battle of Toulouse, which opened the way to Paris. After the exhausting campaign lasting 4 years, and having fought constantly over some 1,200 miles from Lisbon to Paris, the 18th Hussars finally returned to England (Dover) in July, 1814.

Stationed in Canterbury in 1814, the Regiment made a forced march to London in response to the Corn Law Riots. Shortly thereafter, in response to Napoleon Bonaparte's resurgence in France, the Regiment crossed the Channel in April 1815 to join the Hussar Brigade (1st Hussars King's German Legion, 10th and 18th) commanded by the Peninsular War veteran, Maj. Gen. Sir Hussey Vivian. The Regiment's establishment at the time was 29 officers and 435 other ranks under the practical command of Lt. Col. the Hon. Henry Murray.

Arriving late in the day at Quatre Bras on 17th June, elements of the Regiment were engaged in light skirmishing until the heavens opened and torrential rain poured down, accompanied by loud thunder. Thereafter the Regiment was kept busy covering the withdrawal ordered by Wellington and, on the night of 17th, the entire British army bivouacked in the open as the thunderstorm raged.

The Battle of Waterloo commenced at 11am on Sunday 18th June. Vivian's Brigade was drawn up on the left of Wellington's front line but was not committed to the fighting until late in the day, when they relieved the exhausted Scots Greys and the 3rd Hussars (K.G.L.) who had been in action throughout the day. In the heat and confusion of battle, some orders were misunderstood, with General Vivian himself galloping to rectify an error at one point. After a charge by the 10th Hussars, Vivian himself led a charge by the 18th against French guns protected by Cuirassiers and Lancers. (These charges, incidentally, being cheered on by the British infantry squares in close proximity). Elements of the 18th caught some French guns in limber, and these were captured and sent to the rear. A change of direction to the right brought the Regiment directly into contact with both guns and cavalry, all of which were totally overcome.

Vivian ordered his Brigade to halt and reform, an order which many of the hussars didn't hear in the confusion and excitement of battle. Criticism that the light cavalry were 'ill disciplined' in this respect would seem to be grossly unfair - in fact, many French historians have attributed Bonaparte's final defeat to the charges of the British light cavalry towards the end of the day, the British heavy cavalry having been exhausted by their efforts earlier in the day. During the battle, the 18th Hussars lost 13 other ranks killed and 2 officers, 72 other ranks wounded. Privates taking part in the battle were awarded L211s. prize money, NCOs and officers considerably more.

The days after the battle saw the Regiment in the vanguard of Wellington's army entering France, occupying Paris on 6th July. They remained in France for four months, returning to the UK (Dover and then Newcastle) in November. An unwelcome surprise greeted the officers on their return to England, as the Regiment's silver plate (a source of pride in every Officers Mess of the British Army, then as now) had been stolen from the Canterbury Cavalry Barracks. The silver was never recovered.

In 1821, with Napoleon Bonaparte no longer posing a threat to Europe, the 18th Hussars was one of a number of regiments disbanded by the Government. At the time, Sir Charles Drogheda (by now Marquis of Drogheda) was still Colonel, having held that appointment since the Regiment's formation in 1759, and in the same year he died. Many of the officers and other ranks found employment with other units.

Thirty-seven years later, in 1858, the Regiment was reformed with a cadre provided by the 15th Hussars. As the Crimean War was drawing to a close, there seems to be no obvious reason for the Regiment being reborn.

In 1858, the 18th Hussars' headquarters was established first at Leeds, then at York and then at Manchester under the practical command of Lt. Col. Richard Knox, and Maj. Gen. Edward Byam was appointed Colonel. Curiously, the Regiment's busbies were changed to display both busby-bags and plumes of Lincoln green. Again, there seems to be no obvious reason for this change.

In 1861 the Regiment was relocated to Aldershot (West Cavalry Barracks), then to Shorncliffe Camp and then to Preston Barracks in Brighton. In 1862 they took up Royal Escort duties at Hounslow and Hampton Court. After various other posting sin Southern England, they received notice of embarkation for service in India.

Embarking (without horses) in 1864, the 18th Hussars reached Madras in September. Traveling by train to Bangalore, they relieved the 17th Lancer and took over their horses. From Bangalore they marched to Secunderabad, where they relieved the 1st Dragoon Guards. After eleven years in India, the Regiment returned to England in 1875; this was a short respite, however, and the 18th Hussars were to spend most of the latter part of the 19th Century stationed in India.

The Boer War saw the Regiment shipped to South Africa, where they took part in the Relief of Ladysmith. On returning to England, the Regiment was granted Royal patronage and later, in 1910, assumed the title the 18th (Queen Mary's Own) Hussars in honour of Queen Mary, wife of King George V.