A Short History of 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards
Both the Bays and the KDG fought in South Africa (1899-1902). The KDG spent many months chasing the elusive Boer General De Wet, and the Bays arriving in 1901, captured Commandant Pretorius.
In 1914 the Bays formed a part of the original Expeditionary force, The Old Contemptables, and where heavily engaged throughout the War in France and Flanders, fighting in all the major battles from the Retreat from Mons, Le Cateau, the battle of the Marne, Messines, Ypres, the Somme, Cambrai, the Scarpe, and in the final Victorious advance of 1918.
The KDG were in India at the outbreak of the War and came to France as a part of the Indian Expeditionary Force. They fought in the trenches at Festuburg, Ypres on the Somme and at Morvel. In October 1917 they returned to India. In 1919 the 3rd Afghan War broke out and the KDG serving on the Northwest Frontier advanced into Afghanistan. At Dakka they made the last recorded Cavalry Charge of a horsed British cavalry regiment.
The End of The Horse In Military Service
In the 1930’s the British Army, like the armies of other nations, was making the painful transition from animal transport to mechanical transport. The procedure was known as ‘Mechanisation’. In ten years prior to World War 2 the British Army underwent the change from a service almost totally dependent on the horse for battlefield mobility to one totally committed to mechanical transport. Thus the accumulated skills and knowledge of hundreds of years of military horse management were made redundant.
To the very last the cavalry, despite the lessons of recent war, believed that the horse was more than just an aid to mobility.
It was also, they considered, a platform from which to fight, and they argued with passion the need for its retention in the service. Despite a powerful pro-cavalry lobby the order was given to dismount all the Regular cavalry except for a few regiments stationed abroad. There remaining only the problem of the employment of the horseless cavalry.
Horse meets Armour
It was therefore, to the Armoured fighting vehicle (a branch of the service with which they had no previous connections) that the cavalry turned for a role to justify their continued existence. They handed in their horses and emerged with the Royal Tanks to form The Royal Armoured Corps. The age of the British soldier on horseback in any but a ceremonial role was at an end.
In 1935 the Bays lost their horses, after 250 years, and became a mechanized regiment. In 1937 the KDG held their last mounted parade at Secunderabad in India, arriving home in 1938 to be mechanised.