1st Royal Dragoons

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> British Army >> 1st Royal Dragoons

Origin and History

The regiment was raised on 21 October 1661 as a single troop of veterans of the Parliamentary Army. In December of the same year, this troop formed part of the expeditionary force sent to occupy Tangier which had recently been ceded to England by Portugal. From 1664 to 1666, it took part in the defence of Tangier against the Moors. In 1664, it suffered heavy losses in an ambush.

In 1679 and 1680, the troop once more took part in the defence of Tangier. In 1680, the unit, then consisting of single troop, was reinforced with five additional troops. In 1684, when these troops returned to England, they were formed in four troops of dragoons designated as the “Tangier Horse” because of their former service in this Moroccan town. They were soon combined with two recently raised troops of dragoons into a new regiment, the “King's Own Royal Regiment of Dragoons”. In 1690, the regiment became the “Royal Regiment of Dragoons”, but its usual nickname was "The Tangier Cuirassiers". It was initially quartered in Southwark and then at Newbury, Abingdon and Hungerford. At the death of King Charles II in 1685, two troops of the regiment were sent to Carlisle to quench any sedition. The same year, the regiment was increased to twelve troops to curb Monmouth's rebellion. Four of these troops took part in the Battle of Sedgemoor. After the suppression of the rebellion, the regiment was reduced to eight troops of 40 privates each. In 1686 and 1687, the regiment took part in the training camp on Hounslow Heath.

During the summer of 1688, the king fearing an invasion led by the Prince Of Orange, an encampment was formed on Hounslow Heath. In November, the army was ordered to assemble at Salisbury. However, the regiment left the camp and its commanders tried to join the forces of the Prince of Orange. The greater part of the men, however, resolved not to join the prince, and, when they observed what was taking place, they galloped back. When King James returned to London, the regiment marched into garrison at Portsmouth. When the king fled to France, the Prince of Orange ordered the regiment to march to Farnham and Alton.

In 1689, the regiment was ordered to proceed to the north. In August, it was sent to Perth to quench a Jacobite rebellion. Immediately after the dispersion of rebel Highlanders, the regiment was ordered to proceed to Ireland. In 1690, it took part in the blockade and capture of Charlemont, and in the Battle of the Boyne, before sailing back to England which was threatened with a French invasion. By October, the regiment was back in Ireland. In 1691, it took part in the storming of a fort near Scronclaird and in the siege and capture of Limerick.

In 1692, during the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment returned to England and was sent to Leicestershire soon afterwards. In 1694, it was sent to the continent. In 1695, it formed part of the army covering in the siege of Namur. In 1697, the regiment returned to England where it was quartered in Yorkshire where it was reduced to six troops for a total of 294 men.

In 1699, the regiment was quartered in Lancashire and Leicestershire.; in 1700, in Yorkshire and Cumberland; and in 1701, in Yorkshire with three troops in garrison at Hull. The same year, it was augmented to eight troops amounting to 532 officers and men.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the successive colonels of the regiment were:

  • from 30 May 1697 to 1715: Thomas Lord Raby (afterwards Earl of Strafford)

Service during the War

At the beginning of March 1702, the regiment embarked for the Dutch Republic and landed at Willemstad. It then went into quarters at Breda, where it was formed in brigade with the Scots Dragoons and Charles Ross' Dragoons, and was placed as a guard to the British train of artillery. In July, the regiment joined Marlborough’s Army and was employed in covering the sieges of Venlo, Roermond, Stevensweert. It later took part in the capture of the city of Liège. It afterwards marched back to Holland, and was quartered at Arnheim, the capital of the Province of Guelderland.

In April 1703, the regiment was reviewed by its colonel, Lord Raby, who was passing through the Dutch Republic on his way to Prussia as envoy extraordinary to that court. At the beginning of the campaign of 1703, the regiment was employed in covering the siege and capture of Bonn, and afterwards joined the army at Maastricht and was formed in brigade with the Scots Dragoons and Charles Ross' Dragoons. On 27 July, Marlborough proceeded, with 4,000 horse and dragoons, towards the enemy's entrenchments, and Lieutenant Benson, with 30 men of the regiment, who formed the advance-guard, charged and defeated a piquet of 40 French horsemen, and chased them to the barriers of their entrenchments with signal gallantry. In August, when the siege of Huy was undertaken, the regiment was encamped on the banks of the river Meuse, to secure the bridge, and to keep up the communication. It was subsequently engaged in the siege of Limbourg before marching back to Holland. During the summer, the regiment was selected to accompany Archduke Charles to Lisbon,and to take part in the attempt to place him on the throne of Spain by force of arms. In October, the Portuguese monarch having engaged to provide horses for the British cavalry, the regiment transferred its horses to the British regiments in Holland, and embarked, dismounted.

In March 1704, the regiment, as part of the Anglo-Dutch forces commanded by Duke Schomberg, finally landed at Lisbon after having been long detained by contrary winds and severe weather. The horses provided by the Portuguese authorities were of inferior quality and the British officers rejected the greater part of them, only 20 men per troop of the regiment were mounted. The dismounted men proceeded to Abrantes to await the arrival of horses while the mounted men advanced to the frontiers of Portugal, and encamped on a pleasant plain near Estremos. However, the Duke of Berwick, arriving from France with 18 bns and 19 sqns, took command of the Franco-Spanish forces and attacked the frontiers of Portugal before the Allies were prepared to take the field. The court of Lisbon was alarmed, the provinces were in consternation; the Duke Schomberg solicited to be recalled, and the Earl of Galway was sent with reinforcements to Portugal, and appointed to the command of the British forces in that country. 120 men of the regiment formed part of a body of cavalry, which crossed the frontiers and made a successful incursion into the Spanish territory. Extraordinary measures were adopted to procure horses, and at the close of the summer the regiment had upwards of 300 mounted men in the field. In the autumn, the army was enabled to act on the offensive, and the regiment was among the forces which penetrated Spain; but on arriving at the vicinity of Ciudad Rodrigo, the enemy was found so advantageously posted on the opposite side of the Agueda, that the Portuguese generals would not venture the passage of the river; and, after reconnoitring the hostile army several times, the Allies returned to Portugal, and the regiment went into village cantonments in the Alentejo.

During the winter and the spring of 1705, the regiment procured an additional supply of horses, and when it again took the field it was much better mounted than in the preceding year. It joined the army in April, and, advancing into Spanish Estremadura, formed part of the force which invested Valencia de Alcantara, which fortress was captured in the early part of May. Albuquerque was subsequently besieged and taken and the capture of Badajoz was contemplated, but that undertaking was abandoned until the summer's heat was abated. In June, the regiment joined the expedition against Barcelona, On 24 August, the regiment landed near a river called Bassoz, on the east side of the Barcelona, and encamped about 1,5 km from the walls, in a place well fortified by nature, where the army was joined by many of the country people, who were formed into bands, and acted as a guerilla force. On 14 September, a detachment of the regiment was posted between the Fortress of Montjuich and Barcelona to prevent a sally of Spanish cavalry. The garrison of the fortress surrendered after three days. On 9 October, Barcelona capitulated. The regiment was then placed in garrison at Tortosa, excepting a detachment which remained at Barcelona. In December, 200 men of the regiment took part in the relief of San Mattheo besieged by a Spanish force. By night marches among the woods and mountains, and by circulating false reports, the British succeeded in surprising their opponents; and the Spanish commander, not knowing the numbers of his enemy, and being deceived by spies, made a precipitate retreat, and his rearguard was pursued by the regiment over the mountains to Albocazar.

In 1706, four troops of the regiment formed part of the small body of men with which the Earl of Peterborough pursued a numerous army. The regiment accompanied the Earl of Peterborough to Valencia. The enemy brought forward a numerous army to besiege this important place; but the British commander issued from the city with his gallant horsemen, and surprised and captured the Spanish battering-train. He also penetrated, by a night march, to the rear of their army, and attacked and defeated their reinforcements. When a Franco-Spanish force laid siege to Barcelona, the Earl of Peterborough hastened from Valencia with the regiment and a select number of men from the other units, He constantly harassed the besiegers. On 12 May, when the Franco-Spanish raised the siege of Barcelona, a squadron of the regiment and some other cavalry were ordered to pursue the retiring army. The regiment then returned to Valencia. In July, the regiment marched from Valencia together with Pearce's Dragoons, a regiment of Castilian foot, and a regiment of Germans. On 8 August, they effected a junction with the Portuguese army and then marched to Chinchon some 30 km from Madrid. The allied army was finally forced to retire and the regiment took up its winter-quarters in Valencia, between Requena and Denia.

At the beginning of April 1707, the regiment joined the allied army after a long and difficult march. On 9 April, the regiment was detached to Denia, for its clothing, and to refresh its horses a short time in village cantonments. On 25 April, it was at Collera when the allied army was defeated in the Battle of Almansa. Soon after this disaster the regiment joined the wreck of the allied army, which had been collected by the Earl of Galway. It later formed part of the force assembled for the relief of Lerida, but the undertaking was found to be impracticable. The enemy gained possession of Aragon and Valencia.

During the winter and spring of 1708, the regiment was brought back into an efficient state in Catalonia. During the campaign, passed in defensive movements, it was encamped a short time in a valley near Monblanco, subsequently on a fertile plain near Cervera, and it passed another winter in cantonments in Catalonia.

The early part of the campaign of 1709 was also passed in defensive movements. The regiment was encamped with the army on the hanks of the Segré. In August, the army forded that river and captured the towns of Balaguer and Ager. After placing garrisons in these towns, it repassed the river, and the regiments went into cantonments.

In 1710, the regiment was initially encamped on the banks of the Segré. When King Charles joined the army, it was detached to meet him and to escort him to the camp. On July 27, the regiment took part in the Battle of Almenar. On 15 August, after following the retiring army many days, the regiment overtook the enemy's rearguard in the pass of Penalva. A sharp skirmish ensued, and Lieutenant-Colonel Colberg, who commanded the regiment, was wounded and taken prisoner. On 20 August, the regiment took part in the Battle of Saragossa where it was deployed in the cavalry of the left wing. About mid-day, Lieutenant-General Stanhope led the regiment and other British horsemen on the left against their adversaries, and a sharp cavalry action ensued, in which the French had the advantage but Stanhope's second line of cavalry repulsed them. The British dragoons rallied, returned to the charge. The Allies finally won a resounding victory. On 11 November, when King Charles withdrew form the army, he took with him the regiment and Starhemberg’s Imperialists and proceeded to Cienpoznelos. Then, when he retired to Barcelona, he took with him two squadrons of the regiment as a body-guard. The other squadron remained with the army, and during the retreat it formed part of the rear column on the left commanded by Lieutenant-General Stanhope. This retrograde movement was performed under great difficulties from the hostilities of the Castilians, inclement weather, and a scarcity of forage and provision. On 6 December, the column of which the regiment formed part arrived at Brihuega, a village of about a thousand houses, situate in the mountains of Castile, near the river Tajuna, where it halted on the following day. While the troops were reposing, the town was suddenly surrounded by the Franco-Spanish forces under the Duc de Vendôme. During the ensuing Battle of Brihuega, the British, including one squadron of the regiment, surrendered prisoners of war. The officers and men of the regiment who were thus made prisoners were sent to France. After being exchanged, they were removed to England, and subsequently to Scotland. The two other squadrons of the regiment continued in Spain, where they served under Lieutenant-General the Duke of Argyle.

In the summer of 1712, when negotiations for a general peace were commenced, the officers and men of the regiment quitted Spain and returned to England. They were mounted on Spanish horses; but before they quitted Catalonia their horses were sold, and the men returned home dismounted. After its arrival in England, the regiment was stationed in dispersed quarters in Yorkshire. Its establishment was fixed at 27 officers, 8 quarter-masters, and 328 NCOs and privates men.

During the summer of 1713, a detachment of the regiment proceeded to Dover and received a draft of 200 horses from Kerr's Dragoons, which regiment was ordered to proceed, dismounted, to Ireland where it was disbanded

Uniform

In 1684: scarlet coats lined with blue; hats bound with silver lace and ornamented with blue ribands, having a metal headpiece fastened inside the crown; also high boots; horse furniture made of scarlet cloth trimmed with blue, with the King's cipher embroidered in yellow characters on the housings and holster-caps.

The drummers and hautboys were clothed in splendid liveries. At the death of King Charles II in 1685, they were furnished with new liveries for which we have no description.

Standards

In 1684

  • Colonel's Troop: crimson standard embroidered with the King's cipher and crown.
  • Lieutenant-Colonel's Troops: crimson standard embroidered with the rays of the sun, proper, crowned, issuing out of a cloud, proper: a badge used by the Black Prince.
  • 1st Troop: crimson standard embroidered with the top of a beacon crowned, or, with flames of fire, proper: a badge of Henry V
  • 2nd Troop: crimson standard embroidered with two ostrich feathers crowned, argent: a badge of Henry VI
  • 3rd Troop: crimson standard embroidered with a rose and pomegranate impaled, leaves and stalk vert: a badge of Henry VII.
  • 4th Troop: crimson standard embroidered with a phoenix in flames, proper: a badge of Queen Elizabeth.

However, at the death of King Charles II in 1685, they were furnished with new standards for which we have no description.

References

This article incorporates texts of the following source:

  • Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the First, or The Royal Regiment of Dragoons, London: William Clowes and Sons, 1840