Tag Archives: 17th Lancers

The (Amalgamated) Lancers Paying Homage

Located at Cambrai Barrack in Catterick is The Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeths’ Own) of the British Army, a fairly new regiment, only being formed in 2015. Nonetheless, it was created via an amalgamation of several other Lancer regiments to include the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’s) and the Queen’s Royal Lancers, the latter of which had been formed by a 1993 amalgamation of the 16th/5th Lancers and the 17th/21st Lancers, carrying the history of those two regiments (which had also been amalgamated in 1960 and 1922, respectively). Hence, today’s Royal Lancers tend the history and lineage of no less than a half-dozen old Napoleanic and Crimean-era “pole cavalry” regiments.

The coolest of which, the 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) (the original skull head “Death or Glory Boys”) has lingered on in the center of the unit’s cap badge and banners, along with the traditional black beret of the Tank Corps.

A battalion-strength unit, today’s Royal Lancers are built around four Sabre Squadrons (A, B, C, and D) with CVR(T) Scimitars (but are converting to Jackals) and Panthers to perform an armored scout/recon role in 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade.

The Royal Lancer’s daily driver, the CVR(T) Scimitar, includes light armor and a fearsome 30 mm L21 RARDEN cannon. A design that dates to the 1970s and saw combat in the Falklands and against Saddam, Scimitar is supposed to be retired by 2023 and the British are giving them away to the Ukrainians.

Of course, the Lancers are moving to the lighter and faster, but almost totally unarmed and unarmored, Jackal, but hey…

Still, with an amalgamated lineage that dates to 1759, the Lancers have a certain cavalry record to uphold.

They provide dismounted lance-wielding marching platoons for events such as the Queen’s Jubilee, the only unit authorized to do so.

And there are always Lancer wedding parties.

Note the red caps, a throwback to the lining of the old Lancer czapka of the 19th century

The officer’s dress mess uniform (augmented by the retiree-standard bowler hat and pinstriped suit with umbrella) is a throwback to Wellington. For reference, today’s RL’s mess dress tunic runs a paltry £2,285, showing that, while times may have changed since the old days, they haven’t changed all that much.

A contemporary Royal Lancer officer in mess dress flanked by the original constituent lancer regiments: from left to right: 17th, 9th, 16th, RL, 12th, 5th, and 21st Lancers. Note the czapkas on the legacy uniforms

This all brings us to this week where the Colonel of the Regiment, Commanding Officer, Padre, and other Lancer representatives traveled to Montreuil-Sur-Mer, France, for the unveiling of the renovated statue of the iron-hearted Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from 1915 to the end of the First World War.

Haig, born seven years after Balaclava, had commanded the 17th Lancers and was Colonel of the Regiment of the 17th/21st Lancers. His Lancer uniform is in the IWM.

“Soldiers from the Regiment conducted a Lance Guard for the unveiling ceremony and the church service afterward, performing admirably in ceremonial dress despite the extreme 34-degree heat!” noted the regiment.

Last Sleep of the Brave

Lieutenants Nevill Josiah Aylmer Coghill (aged 26) and Teignmouth Melvill (aged 36) of the 1st Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot, were killed attempting to defend their unit’s Queen’s Colour in the aftermath of the British defeat at Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. They were caught by the Zulus as they attempted to carry the color to safety across the Buffalo River. Their bodies were found on the banks sometime later by follow-on British forces– reports range from 10 days to a fortnight– and the flag retrieved from the river.

“Last Sleep of the Brave,” Isandlwana, Zulu War, 1879. Oleograph after Alphonse de Neuville, 1881. This no-doubt much-romanticized work depicts a patrol from the 17th (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Lancers discovering the bodies of Melvill and Coghill on the banks of the Buffalo River. The depiction of the 17th Lancers as being the unit to recover their remains is incorrect as when the bodies were retrieved the lancers had yet to leave England for South Africa. NAM Accession Number NAM. 1956-02-284-1

The two officers were buried at and interred at Fugitive’s Drift, below Itchiane Hill.

Melvill’s son, Charles, who was four years old at the time of his father’s desk, went on to become a major general in the British Army, leading NZ troops in the Great War. Coghill’s brother, the respected painter Sir Egerton Coghill, named his second son Nevill in honor of his lost brother.

As noted by the National Army Museum, “although 23 Victoria Crosses were won during the Zulu War (1879), Coghill and his fellow officer had to wait until January 1907 to receive their posthumous awards.”

Hard to give VCs in a crushing defeat, but it should be noted that their posthumous awards were some of the first for the VC. Their Crosses are displayed at the Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh in Brecon, Powys, Wales.

Cpl Andy Reid / © MoD Crown Copyright 2019

The medals, and others related to the much more touted stand at Rorke’s Drift, were reviewed by King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu Nation in 2019 on the 140th anniversary of the Anglo-Zulu War.

Of that meeting, Colonel (Retired) Tim Van-Rees, of the Friends of The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, said: “it’s an absolute privilege to welcome him here.”

“Zulu King reveals the display of VCs held temporarily at The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh. A selection of original Victoria Cross medals dating back to the 19 Century have been put on public display for the first time. The eight original 1879 Anglo-Zulu War VCs belong to The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, based in Brecon. The eight original VCs on display are those that were awarded to Lieutenants Teignmouth Melvill, Nevill Coghill and Gonville Bromhead, Corporal William Allen and Privates Frederick Hitch, Henry Hook, Robert Jones, and John Williams.” Cpl Andy Reid / © MoD Crown Copyright 2019

The kebab of the 1520s

A fine British cavalryman of the 17th (Glory or Death) Lancers in the early 20th Century. Swagger for days.

Of course, the Brits used lances going back to the days of old-school 100 Years War heavy cavalry.

With that in mind, the Royal Armouries has been doing a great series on Tudor-period tournaments. The below, featuring historian, jouster, and expert lance maker Mark Griffin from Griffin Historical, holds class on how to make a tournament lance so that “You don’t kebab your opponent.”