15th Light Horse

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Origin and History

The regiment was created on March 10, 1759 when King George II ordered Colonel George Augustus Eliott to raise a regiment of light dragoons. Eliott was seconded by the Earl of Pembroke as lieutenant-colonel. The unit was originally designated as the “15th Light Dragoons” although it was more commonly known as the “Eliott's Light Horse”. It has the honour of being the first British Regiment of Light Dragoons raised for permanent service.

The regiment counted 6 troops in 3 squadrons and consisted of 18 sergeants, 18 corporals, 12 drummers, 6 oboists and 360 troopers. They rode light dragoon horses standing 15 hands, of various shades of brown.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • from 1759 to 1790: Colonel George Augustus Eliott

In 1766, the regiment was renumbered the “1st (or King's) Regiment of Light Dragoons” but changed back to its original number in 1769.

Service during the War

As of May 30, 1759, the regiment was stationed in England and counted 3 squadrons for a total of 300 men. Acton, Knightsbridge, and other places in the vicinity of London, were chosen as the rendezvous of the several troops. Many respectable young men evinced great readiness to enroll themselves under its standards. The six troops were under the respective command of:

  • Colonel George Augustus Eliott
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Earl of Pembroke
  • Major William Erskine
  • Captain George Ainslie
  • Captain David Dundas
  • Captain Frederick Evelyn

In July 1759, several troops marched into Kent, with directions to “assist the civil authorities in suppressing disturbances and in apprehending rioters ; but not to repel force with force, unless in case of absolute necessity, or being thereunto required by the magistrates.” The headquarters were at St. Albans, from whence they were removed, in October, to the vicinity of Hounslow, and the regiment was reviewed by King George II on Hounslow Heath. It returned to its former quarters after the review, and was subsequently stationed at Dorchester, Blandford, etc. Before the end of the year, its numbers were completed to the establishment. On December 25, an augmentation of 1 comet, one sergeant, 1 corporal, and 43 private men per troop was ordered, bringing its total strength to 684 NCOs and troopers.

On June 10, 1760, less than a year after its creation, the regiment was among the second British contingent sent to reinforce the Allied army of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick in Germany. It embarked at Gravesend, under command Lieutenant-Colonel the Earl of Pembroke. On June 21, the regiment disembarked at Bremen. After a short halt, the regiment set off to join the Allied army. As the Earl of Pembroke assumed the charge of adjutant-general, the regiment was halted in Hesse Cassel, and effective command of the regiment passed to Major William Erskine. After remaining a short period in quarters, the regiment was suddenly ordered to march with all speed to Zwesten (present-day Bad Zwesten), to join a body of troops from the camp at Sachsenhausen, under the command of the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick, designed to attempt the surprise of a detachment of the French army under the command of Major-General de Glaubitz. On the evening of July 15,the regiment arrived at Treysa where it made a junction with the Allied detachment. On the morning of July 16, the regiment marched to Speckswinkel. In the ensuing 1760-07-16 - Engagement of Emsdorf, it charged the French and captured a complete battalion. In this engagement, the regiment suffered heavy casualties: Captain-Lieutenant Basil, Cornet Burt, 2 sergeants, 71 troopers and 116 horses killed; Cornet Parkyns, Cornet Fulford, 1 sergeant, 47 troopers, and 52 horses wounded. On July 20, Ferdinand of Brunswick issued a general order which referred to the action at Emsdorf saying:

“...His Serene Highness, therefore, gives his best thanks to these brave troops, and particularly to Eliott's regiment. His Serene Highness the Prince could not enough commend to the Duke, the bravery, good conduct, and good countenance, with which this regiment fought...”

For its conduct in this action, the regiment was awarded its first battle honour.

The regiment, having delivered up prisoners, halted a few days in quarters of refreshment. It then joined the main army and was employed on the Diemel during the rest of the campaign.

On February 11, 1761,the Allied army crossed the Diemel and advanced in four columns, through a heavy snow, into the enemy's cantonments. The regiment joined the leading column near Zierenberg, and subsequently advanced to Gudersberg, where a quantity of provision was captured. The French troops at Gudersberg threw themselves into an old castle. On February 16, they surrendered. The regiment then advanced to Treysa. It was subsequently employed in the blockade of Ziegenhain. Having been relieved from this duty, they proceeded to Kirchain, and the Castle Amöneburg, within cannon-shot of Kirchain, surrendered; the garrison, consisting of 2 officers and 50 soldiers of the Irish Brigade in the French service, becoming prisoners of war. From Kirchain the regiment advanced to Kleinselkeim, and was afterwards quartered between the rivers Lahn and Ohm. In March it retired passed the Lahn. On March 17, it retired behind the Lahn when the French advanced on its outposts. The regiment then withdrew to the Diemel. After resting for a short period, during which it received a remount from England, the regiment once more took the field, and was employed in the various operations of the army as part of the corps of Lieutenant-Colonel the Marquis of Granby. On July 16, the regiment took part in the Battle of Vellinghausen. On August 18, the regiment came to the rescue of a number of British Grenadiers and Highlanders who had attempted to cut off some French baggage, but had been charged by a body of cavalry. Lieutenant George Nangle, of the regiment, being in advance with 20 men, saw from some rising ground the perilous situation of the infantry, and galloped forward to their rescue. The French squadrons, startled at this unexpected attack, fell back re-formed their ranks, and the Grenadiers and Highlanders thus escaped from the sabres of their enemies. The regiment passed the night in the fields near Holtzhausen. On August 19, the French crossed the Weser and the regiment moved forward in pursuit, attacking the escort of a large train of waggons, laden with baggage and military stores, and capturing 30 waggons. On August 25, it was engaged in the surprise and capture of 300 French troops at Trendelburg. On September 17, the regiment passed the Diemel. On September 18, it advanced to Immenhausen where it was engaged in forcing a body of French troops, commanded by Lieutenant-General Stainville, from the heights near that place. The infantry and artillery having driven the enemy from his post, the regiment dashed forward in pursuit, broke the enemy's rear, cut down a number of men, and made some prisoners. On November 4, it took part in the capture of the outpost of Capelnhagen. On November 5, it was employed in preventing the march of a body of French troops through the defile between Escherhausen and Einbeck. On November 6 and 7, it skirmished around Einbeck. On the night of November 7 to 8, it marched through a heavy snow to Vorwohle where it drove back a French detachment. In the early part of December, the regiment marched into cantonments in East Friesland.

In March, 1762, Major William Erskine, who had repeatedly distinguished himself at the head of the regiment, was promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy, in succession to Major-General the Earl of Pembroke. In May, the regiment was again in the field. It was encamped at Brakel. On May 20, it marched from Brakel to Warburg. On May 21, it advanced to reconnoitre the enemy, but returned on the following day. On June 24, the regiment was engaged in the Battle of Wilhelmsthal. In this affair, the regiment lost 2 men and 2 horses killed; and 3 men and 11 horses wounded. On July 1, it was among the small force which set off from Hoff and drove the French out of their posts near Fritzlar. The Allied detachment then formed on some heights near Homburg the other regiments, under the Marquis of Granby, forming in its rear. At the same time Lord Frederic Cavendish's hussars began to skirmish with elements of Rochambeau’s Corps. The French struck their tents, and formed at the foot of the mountain, and behind the hedges near the town, and afterwards began retiring. The Marquis of Granby's Corps moved to the right, and the regiment along with four Hanoverian squadrons charged the French rear twice, with great bravery. A large body of French cavalry faced about, and dashed sword in hand upon the regiment; but the Royal Horse Guards came galloping forward, and overthrew the French horsemen. The two British regiments were exposed to very superior numbers; but the regiment skirmished with great spirit, and the Royal Horse Guards manoeuvring in squadron, the gallant bearing of the two regiments kept the enemy in check until the arrival of the brigade of British Grenadiers and Highlanders, when the French made a precipitate retreat. The Royal Horse Guards and the regiment pursued with great bravery, and charged the enemy's rear, taking some prisoners. Lieutenant-Colonel Erskine and Major Ainslie of the regiment, highly distinguished themselves on this occasion. On July 30, the regiment was detached from the Marquis of Granby’s Corps, and was employed in an enterprise under [[Luckner, Count Nikolaus|Lieutenant-General Luckner, taking part in several skirmishes. The regiment was subsequently attached to the troops under the command of the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick. On August 22, the latter tried to prevent the junction of the Prince de Condé with the main French army. On August 30, the regiment took part in the Combat of Nauheim. During the retreat, as the French cavalry pressing onward, the Hereditary Prince was nearly surrounded by French light cavalry. The regiment galloped forward, drove back the French and enabled the Prince to withdraw. The regiment was fiercely engaged for some time, and had several men killed or wounded; Major Ainslie receiving a dangerous wound in the head. The Hereditary Prince eventually retreated beyond the Wetter. In mid-September, the regiment took part in an action to drive the French from Wetter. A cessation of hostilities took place in the middle of November, and the British troops went into quarters in the Bishopric of Münster.

In January 1763, the regiment commenced its march through the Dutch Republic to Willemstad where it embarked for England. According to the embarkation return, the regiment counted 611 rank and file, and 577 horses. The regiment landed at Yarmouth and Gravesend, from whence it marched to Hounslow, Kingston, and neighbouring villages. On July 25, it was reviewed in Hyde Park by King George III when the sixteen stand of colours captured by the regiment in Germany were presented to him.

Uniform

The descriptions in this section are based on:

  • David Morier's painting depicting two troopers and a hornist of the 15th Light Dragoons reproduced in David Blackmore's "British Cavalry in the Mid-18th Century"
  • Brian Fosten's uniform plate
  • Malcolm McGregor and John Mollo: "Uniforms of the Seven Years War 1756-63", 1977, Blanford Press-Poole, Dorset, plates 152 and 153
  • Alix Baker: "AB8/1 Drummer, 15th Light Dragoons (or Eliott's Light Horse), 1760", Alix Baker, Hortus House, Old Coach Road, Bulford, Salisbury, Wiltshire

Privates

Uniform in 1759 - Source: Ibrahim90 from a template made by Frédéric Aubert
Uniform in 1759
Headgear black boiled leather jockey cap with enameled turned-up front plate edged white; silver crest decorated with a crowned GR cypher in white; silver rosettes on the helmet; red plume; deep green turban round the base of the helmet; white tassels.
Neck stock black
Coat short double breasted red lined white with silver buttons and double white lace for the buttonholes; a hollow diamond of lace at the lower seam at the back of the coat, where the left and right tails are joined
Collar deep green (without lace or buttons)
Shoulder strap left shoulder: white epaulet with fringes
Lapels deep green edged white with 6 silver buttons with double white lace for the buttonholes buttonholes arranged 2-2-2
Pockets vertical pockets with silver buttons and 3 chevrons of doubled white lace, pointing downwards below each pocket
Cuffs deep green (slashed in the British pattern) edged white with silver buttons and 3 chevrons of doubled white lace, pointing downwards, on each sleeve above the cuff
Turnbacks white
Waistcoat white with very narrow white buttonholes
Breeches white with white knee covers
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt buff leather slung over the left shoulder
Waistbelt buff leather
Cartridge Box buff leather pouch worn at the front
Scabbard n/a
Bayonet scabbard n/a
Footgear black boots
Horse Furniture
Housings deep green with rounded corners decorated with the designation of the regiment “LD” (for light dragoons) on a red ground within a small wreath of roses and thistles; bordered with a white braid with a red stripe
Holster caps deep green decorated with the crowned royal cypher; bordered with a white braid with a red stripe
n/a


Troopers were armed with a sword, a pair of pistols and a musket. The musket was hung over the left shoulder with a buff belt.

Officers

As per the regulation of 1751, the officers wore the same uniform with the following exceptions:

  • a narrow silver lace at the lapels, cuffs and pockets
  • a crimson silk sash worn over the left shoulder
  • crimson and silver striped sword knot
  • deep green housings and holster caps laced silver

NCOs

Sergeants were distinguished by a narrow silver lace on the lapels, cuffs and pockets; a silver aiguillette; a deep green worsted sash about their waist.

Corporals were distinguished by a narrow silver lace on the cuffs and shoulder strap; white silk aiguillette.

Musicians

The hornist rode a grey horse. He wore a deep green coat with white lapels, cuffs and collar, double red lace for the buttonholes (some sources show no lace for the buttons on the lapels), in pairs as for the troopers, and what appears to be a single red lace on each side of the collar, three white chevrons of lace, pointed downwards, on the sleeve above each cuff. A hollow diamond of red lace at the lower seam at the back of the coat. Red epaulettes with red fringe (or red with white fringe according to some sources). Hornist wore the same cap as the troopers. Red waistcoats and breeches (white breeches as per Funcken).

Drummers wore a mitre cap similar to the grenadier mitre cap but with a lower crown and the tassel hanging behind. Deep green front decorated with a trophy of guidons and drums; little frontal red flap with the White Horse and the the motto “Nec aspera terrent”; red backing, deep green headband with a drum and the initials of the regiment (LD) in the middle part behind. They wore deep green coats with hanging sleeves, heavily laced, with no lapels, a red collar and white turnbacks. The edges of the coat front and the collar have a white lace edging. The sleeves have pointed cuffs in red, with 5 chevrons, pointing up, consisting of bands of white lace with red lace in the center. The coat has swallow's nests, red with white lace, white epaulettes with fringes and a border of red lace or piping. On each side of the front of the coat, there are two vertical bands of the same white-red-white lace, from the shoulder seams to the hem of the coat tails. Between the inner band of lace and the edge of the coat, there are seven horizontal bands of the same white-red-white lace.

The drums were of brass with a deep green forepart carrying the initials of the regiment (LD) in silver characters on a crimson ground within a wreath of roses and thistles on the same stalk.

Colours

We have not found any primary source describing the colours of this regiment. Several part of our description are assumptions based on the colours of the regiments of dragoons.

The guidons were made of silk, fringed in silver and embroidered with silver. The tassels and cords were of crimson silk and gold mixed.

King's Guidon: crimson field decorated with the rose and thistle conjoined surmounted by a crown. Underneath the central decoration: the king's motto “Dieu et mon Droit”. In the first and fourth corners the White Horse in a compartment. In the second and third corners: the initials of the regiment (LD) in silver characters on a deep green ground.

Regimental Guidon: deep green field with its centre decorated with the King's Crest of the lion within the garter and with a crown over. In the first and fourth corners the White Horse in a red compartment. In the second and third corners: the initials of the regiment (XV LD) in silver characters on a red ground within a wreath of roses and thistles.

King's Guidon - Source: Richard Couture from a template by PMPdeL
Regimental Guidon - Source: Richard Couture from a template by PMPdeL

References

This article incorporates texts of the following source:

  • Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Fifteenth, or, The King’s Regiment of Light Dragoons, London: John W. Parker: 1841

Other sources

15th the King's Hussars Regiment Museum

Blackmore, David: British Cavalry in the Mid-18th Century, Partizan Press, 2008 (reproduction of David Morier's painting depicting two troopers and a hornist of the 15th Light Dragoons)

Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899

Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Mills, T. F., Land Forces of Britain the Empire and Commonwealth (an excellent website which unfortunately does not seem to be online any more)

Mollo, John and Malcolm McGregor: Uniforms of the Seven Years War 1756-63, Blanford Press-Poole, Dorset, 1977 (illustrations 152 and 153)

Reid, Stuart: Frederick the Greats Allies 1756-63, Osprey

Reid, Stuart: King George's army (3), Osprey

Wikipedia - 15th The King's Hussars

Woods, James: Armies and uniforms of the Seven Years War, vol. 1

Acknowledgements

Andrew J. Francis and Ibrahim90 for their researches on this unit.

TheBaron for the information on uniforms.