ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MODERN BRITISH ARMY REGIMENTS
The Queen's Royal Lancers (QRL) were established in 1993 by the union of the 16th/5th Lancers ('The Vulgar Fraction') and the 17th/21st Lancers, both products of the 1922 mergers. The 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers were successors to the 5th (Royal Irish) Dragoons formed in the Siege of Enniskillen, honoured in Marlborough's wars, but disbanded in 1799 after insurgents had infiltrated its ranks during the Irish Rebellion of the previous year.
The Queen's Royal title came from the 16/5L, Queen's bestowed on the 16th Light Dragoons in 1766 for excellent service in Portugal. The Royal part was conferred on the 5th in 1704 for its part in the Battle of Blenheim. When the two were linked together in 1922 the 16th were given precedence in the new title because of the 5th Lancers' break in lineage, and therefore loss of seniority in the cavalry.
QRL headquarters are at the 17th/21st Lancers' Prince William of Gloucester Barracks near Grantham. The regimental museum is situated in nearby Belvoir Castle, once home to John Manners, who raised the 21st Light Dragoons in 1760.
17th Lancers re-enactment group in the review order of 1880-1900
The scarlet peaked cap, with its blue band and quarter welts (representing the four corners of the lancers' full dress cap), is 16/5 colouring. The cap badge is referred to as a motto - the skull and crossbones with the OR GLORY scroll of the 17th. It was first adopted for Hale's Light Horse as a memento mori, relating to the death of Gen Wolfe at Quebec in 1759. Col Hale was the officer entrusted with bringing the battle's dispatches back to the King, for which he was commissioned to raise his own regiment of light horse. Before long this became the 17th, the only cavalry unit in the Wolfe Society. The motto stands out among army badges and caused the 17th to be called 'The Death or Glory Boys'. Their nickname 'Tots' came in after the South African War of 1899-1902, from the Boer word for death's head - Totenkopf. Modern names for wearers of the motto range from 'The Boneheads' to 'Blackbeard's Mob'.
The collar badge is the same as that worn in the 16/5L from 1954, a C cypher within a Garter belt juxtaposed with a circle inscribed Quis separabit (Who shall separate us?) and containing an Irish harp and a crown, all on crossed lances. The C cypher belonged to Queen Charlotte, wife of George III and Queen of the 16th's title.
Except for the scarlet cap, No. 1 dress 'blues' are 17/21 in appearance: a double white stripe on the trousers/overalls and white gorget patches on the collar. Col Hale got the 17th into white facings from the outset to echo the facings of his former regiment, the 47th of Foot.
The scarlet mess jacket, an unusual colour for lancers to wear, dates back to 1832 when William IV attempted to have the whole army in red. The edict was rescinded in 1840 but the 16th Lancers were away in India and either missed or ignored the directive. When their tour of duty came to an end in 1846 Col Vandaleur asked permission of the Queen for his regiment to continue in scarlet and the 16th were known as 'The Scarlet Lancers' thereafter.
The regimental quick march, Stable Jacket, harks back to horse days, the slow march, Omdurman, to the battle where the 21st Lancers made their reputation in 1898.
Other marches in the QRL repertoire are The White Lancer and Wagner's Rienzi from the 17/21, and Queen Charlotte and Scarlet and Green from the 16/5. The Spanish National Anthem, Marcha Real, was played in honour of King Alphonso XIII, Colonel-in-Chief of the 16th Lancers from 1905 and of the 16th/5th until his death in 1941. During one memorable visit to the regiment the King arrived with his Sam Browne belt fastened with the cross-strap on back to front, and in order not to embarrass His Majesty all officers on parade were hastily instructed to change theirs to match. Ever since that occasion the officers have maintained the idiosyncrasy as a regimental custom.
The chief battle anniversaries are Blenheim (13 August), when the 5th remembered the prowess of their forebears in the 1704 conflict; Balaklava Day (25 October) for the 17th, the only lance regiment in the Charge of the Light Brigade; Khartoum Day (2 September), commemorating the battle of the 2nd Sudan War where the 21st fell upon a hidden horde of Dervishes, a much publicised episode at the time which resulted in their achieving the title 'The Empress of India's'.
Aliwal Day (28 January) celebrates the magnificent charge of the 16th Lancers on the Sikh artillery at the Battle of Aliwal on the Sutlej river in 1846, the culmination of the First Sikh War. After the battle lance pennons of the 16th were so encrusted with dried blood that they developed a 'concertina' effect, a symbol of the fighting the regiment exploited afterwards by crimping its pennons to simulate the effect. The QRL continue this custom and the Aliwal tradition of the 16th, who also held the reputation of having been the first to charge with the lance (at Bhurtpore in 1825) and the last (at Mons in 1918).
'Tankie' in the black beret and coveralls, his saffron cravat giving his regiment as 2 RTR. (Grenadier Publishing)
The Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) was born in the middle of the First World War as the heavy section of the Machine Gun Corps. The section specialised in armoured cars fitted with machine guns; these developed into tanks, and in the following year, 1917, the unit became the Tank Corps. In 1923 the corps received its royal title and, in 1939, on the formation of the Royal Armoured Corps, it became the Royal Tank Regiment. Headquarters are at Bovington Camp in Dorset.
The black beret, worn in all orders of dress, is the mark of the regiment. It was pioneered by the Royal Tank Corps in 1924 as the most convenient form of headgear for wearing in tanks, black to disguise oil stains. Other units were not permitted the beret at first, and when they were, colours other than black had to be worn. The regimental badge, a prototype tank on a crowned wreath with the motto Fear naught, was adopted in 1923.
The white tank badge worn on the upper left sleeve dates back to the First World War, when personnel volunteered to the Tank Corps could be united with a single badge.
Regimental work coveralls, jumpers, gloves, shoes and belts are all black, hence the nickname 'The Blacks on Tracks'. The stable belt is in regimental colours taken from Gen Elles's flag flown at Cambrai in 1917: brown, red and green, said to represent the regiment's struggles in the First World War, 'from the mud, through the blood to the green fields beyond'. A beret hackle of these colours is worn by regimental bandsmen on ceremonial occasions.
The Mark V arrived at the front in 1918 and was used in action at Hamel and Moreuil
The tank regiments within the RTR have always been distinguishable by their own coloured markings, on shoulder flashes at first, then lanyards and now cravats too.
The quick march, My Boy Willie, was adopted in 1922, an adaptation of the old Worcestershire folk song Billy Boy. The name connection was to the early tanks code-named Big Willie and Little Willie, after the Kaiser Wilhelm and his son. After the Second World War the air Cadet Roussel, from the Cambrai region of France, was added to the march to lend it more variety.
The regimental slow march, The Royal Tank Regiment, opens with the old Tank Corps call.
The various regiments of the RTR have a march additional to the above. Lippe Detmold recalls the German town where 1 RTR was stationed from 1946 to 1954; Saffron was inspired by the lanyards of the 2RTR; On the Quarterdeck celebrates the victory of 3RTR over the Royal Navy in the Portsmouth Whaler Sailing Championship in 1948; Blue Flash, the regimental distinction of 4RTR; on Ilkla Moor/Lincolnshire Poacher for 5RTR; and Waltzing Matilda, the unofficial march of 7RTR, chosen because of the Matilda tanks used by the 7th between 1940 and 1942.
Regimental Battle Honours Day is held on 20 November, the anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. It was at Cambrai the Mark IV tank was first used against the Germans en masse. The employment of the tank was instrumental in bringing the 1914-18 war to an end.
The ash plant stick carried by officers of the regiment today was first used in the First World War for testing the ground to take the weight of tanks.
A 105mm light gun, c. 1978
Under the Stuarts the army was supported by the Board of Ordnance, whose practice it was to hire civilians with their own teams to pull its guns in times of war. After the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, when the service broke down en route to the campaign in Scotland, the board recommended the formation of two regular companies of soldier gunners, which proved to be the basis of a regiment formed in 1722.
Space at the Arsenal barracks became inadequate for the growing regiment however, and extensive new buildings were erected on high ground above Woolwich town towards the end of the eighteenth century, to include a magnificent officers' mess, the first of its kind in the army.
The concept of fast-moving 'horse gunners', complete with their own teams and drivers, was realised in 1793 to improve the mobility of the arm in battle. The Royal Horse Artillery, regarded, then as now, as a Corps d'elite within the RA, was soon to prove its worth on the battlefields of Europe, and became famous as 'The Galloping Gunners'.
The regiment expanded throughout the Victorian era and reached a peak in the First World War. In the Second World War a quarter of all serving soldiers were gunners, and today the army's largest regiment provides 80 per cent of its firepower. Each of the Royal Artillery's fifteen regiments specialises in one of its sophisticated weapons: the self-propelled gun, the light gun, rocket launchers and air defence missiles. One regiment is responsible for unmanned air vehicles and another for surveillance and target acquisition.
In 2006, after 300 years in Woolwich, the RA moved its headquarters and principal messes to Larkhill, home of the Royal School of Artillery on Salisbury Plain.
His cap lines mark him out as belonging to an RHA regiment
The universal blue peaked cap bears the scarlet band of a royal regiment and the familiar gun badge. This 1902 design sites a cannon between two scrolls, the upper inscribed Ubique (Everywhere) and the lower scroll Quo fas et gloria ducunt (Whither right and glory lead). Cannons have been part of the regiment's insignia since the eighteenth century, originating with the three cannons on the shield of the Board of Ordnance. Senior NCOs wear the gun without motto scrolls as a sleeve badge. Trade badges are also worn on the sleeve.
The collar badge (a grenade with Ubique scroll), dates back to 1832 and, in the case of this regiment, represents an early mortar shell. NCOs and gunners of the Royal Horse Artillery' wear its own badge on the collar - the sovereign's cypher within an oval Garter belt above a title scroll.
No. 1 dress 'blues' show the regimental broad scarlet stripe on the trousers. RHA personnel wear half-ball buttons and gold or yellow cap lines around the neck, relics of their old full dress. Only the ceremonial King's Troop now wear RHA full dress.
RA full dress, issued to the regimental band, displays the regimental busby (with its scarlet bag and frontal plume) and the blue tunic with scarlet facings. The fur busby, confirmed for RA full dress in 1928, was first used in the regiment between 1857 and 1878 to complement its grenade badge.
Stable belts are red with a blue band in the centre divided by a yellow stripe. RHA have a light blue belt with a yellow stripe in the middle.
The regimental quick march, British Grenadiers, relates to the grenade badge. It was authorised to the regiment in 1882 and was adapted a hundred years later to include Alford's Voice of the Guns. The RA slow march, adopted in 1836, is The Duchess of Kent's March. The regimental trot past is The Keel Row, the gallop past, Bonnie Dundee.
Guest nights in the officers' mess have been marked by Kipling's Screw Guns sung to The Eton Boating Song.
Royal Artillery Day (26 May) celebrates the formation of the first independent companies of 1716. The date of 11 November marks the birth of the Royal Horse Artillery in 1793.
Bandmaster and trombonist of the South Notts Hussars TA Band in 2001. The uniform evolved by 1880. The SNH was one of twenty-one yeomanry regiments converted to the RA in 1920. It was first moved to RHA in 1938
St Barbara's Day is celebrated at Woolwich (and in some batteries and RA Association branches) on the Sunday closest to 4 December, with a church parade or old comrades' social. St Barbara, the patron saint of artillerymen everywhere, is said to have been avenged by a bolt of lightning, which is represented by a zigzag pattern on the regimental tie. She was invoked to grant safety in thunderstorms, and latterly the thunder of guns. The day is seen as an appropriate time to exchange greetings with artillery regiments of allied armies.
The prestigious spring and autumn dinners held at the main mess provide an opportunity to entertain guests. In the 1980s the autumn dinner was renamed Alamein Dinner in honour of the batteries which served in the desert victory of 1942. The regiment's annual Ceremony of Remembrance takes place at the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hvde Park Corner.
Hauling an 18-pounder field gun through the summer mud of Flanders, 1917. (IWM)
Individual battery anniversaries have adapted to recent amalgamations within the RA, but the better-known should be mentioned. At first light on 1 September, L (Nery) Battery would parade to fire a single round from a First World War gun in homage to Capt Bradbury, BSM Dorrell and Sgt Nelson, who bravely kept their gun firing when all others had been silenced at Nery, in the German offensive of 1914. Drivers' Day (5 May), celebrated by I Battery RHA, remembers the desperate gallop to save the guns at Fuentes d'Onor in 1811. Battle Axe Day was the province of 74 Battery, who held a parade on which the tallest gunner carried a French pioneer's axe taken in battle on the island of Martinique in 1809. Officers of O Batter)' (The Rocket Troop') RHA made a special toast to the King of Sweden, Commander-in-Chief of the Allies at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, where O Battery represented the British Army.
Joan Wanklyn's painting of RA trains in the Low Countries, 1740. (HA Institute)
Around the time of the formation of the regiment the head of the Artillery held the rank of captain general, a title later replaced by colonel-in-chief. In 1951 King George VI wished to revert to the old rank and it was duly reinstated for this appointment, which is traditionally held by the reigning monarch. In the officers' mess the loyal toast is made to 'The Queen, our Captain General".
The Master Gunner, St James's Park, head of the RA in all regimental matters, is the channel of communication between the regiment and the captain general. This appointment was instituted in 1678 as Master Gunner of Whitehall and St James's Park, responsible for the artillery defence of the palaces of Whitehall and Westminster. The Director Royal Artillery is the professional head of the regiment. At the other end of the scale the rank of bombardier (for corporal) was sanctioned in 1920 and gunner (in place of private) in 1933.
Colours are not carried in the RA, but its guns and guided weapons are accorded the same compliments as standards and guidons in the cavalry, and colours in the infantry.
Since 1880 the Royal Horse Artillery has been synonymous with royal gun salutes in Hyde Park. After the Second World War the King wished for the old ceremonials to continue and the RHA Riding Troop was formed. It moved to the old cavalry barracks at St John's Wood, was supplied with RHA full dress uniform and trained in the traditional duties of the saluting battery. In 1947 the King visited the barracks and altered its title to read King's Troop, a troop that went on to thrill the public with daring displays of horsemanship. Over the years the troop has been gradually integrated with high-profile duties normally associated with the Guards, and on the Queen's Birthday Parade it proudly takes its rightful place of honour (when on parade with its guns) before the Household Cavalry.
A gun team of the King's Troop RHA behind the scenes at a show in the 1990s. Gunners are seen in three orders of dress
In 1716 a corps of engineer officers was detached from the Board of Ordnance to oversee civilian tradesmen in the building of military works. The first permanent body of military tradesmen was formed on Gibraltar in 1772, though the Governor thought their reliability questionable and made a request for skilled men from the line regiments to replace them. These soldier-tradesmen proved themselves in the great siege of 1779-83 and led to the formation of the blue-coated Royal Military Artificers in 1787, the same year in which their officers were honoured as the Corps of Royal Engineers (CRE).
After years of siege operations in the Peninsular War the artificers were renamed the Royal Sappers and Miners to reflect their work in digging saps (trenches) and tunnels. The Rock of Gibraltar is a labyrinth of caves and tunnels dug out for defensive measures through the centuries.
Musicians of the RE Band waiting to go onto a bandstand, c. 1990
In 1856 the Royal Sappers and Miners were joined with their Royal Engineers officers in the CRE as one corps and a depot was established at Chatham. It now numbers around 9000 'sappers' in ten regular regiments (including an Explosive Ordnance Regiment and a parachute squadron), nine TA regiments, two training regiments and a Topographic Survey Squadron.
The blue peaked cap is distinguished by scarlet piping around the crown and the top of the band. The cap badge is the sovereign's cypher within a crowned Garter and laurel wreath. Like the gunners of the Royal Artillery, sappers wear on the collar a grenade badge with Ubique scroll, conferred in 1832 to show that they serve all over the world. Sergeants wear the grenade alone as a sleeve badge in addition to the various trade badges.
The corps stable belt is dark red with two blue stripes.
RE full dress is issued to musicians. It combines a busby (with a white plume out of a grenade socket on the left and a blue bag on the right), scarlet tunic (blue facings and yellow piping) and blue overalls with the broad scarlet stripe adopted in 1832. Busbies were first embraced after the 1856 amalgamation, a right that came with the grenade badge.
In 1870 the German folk melody, Path across the Hills, and the march, Wings, composed by 'Dolores' (Ellen Dickinson, the daughter of an artillery brigadier) were arranged by Bandmaster Newstead as the corps march. British Grenadiers was substituted by order of the Duke of Cambridge as being more correct for a grenade-badged corps but Lord Kitchener intervened to restore Wings in 1902. British Grenadiers is now recognised as the second corps march.
A sapper directing one of the Corps of Royal Engineers' versatile tractors. (MoD)
Members of the RE mess would be familiar with the singing of 'Hurrah for the CRE', the song of the sappers in South Africa. The rank of sapper in the RE equates with private in other corps.
RE responsibilities developed over the years to give engineering support to keep the army moving (armoured vehicles for breaching obstacles, earth moving, road building, bridging and mine detection); counter-mobility (impeding enemy movement with obstacles, minefields and demolition); defence (building, water supply, concealment and deception) and airfield construction and repair.
Officers new to the RE had to be 'gauged' through a heavy drinks cabinet as an initiation to the mess. Aspirant subalterns would be stripped of scarlet mess jacket, waistcoat and spurs, fed between the shelves of the 'gauge' and beaten with rolled newspapers until ejected back to their fellow subalterns.
The Corps of Signals was formed in 1920 out of the Royal Engineers' Signal Service, which had evolved over sixty-six years from cable telegraph, through Morse, flag and lamp signalling to heliographs, telephone, wireless and even pigeon post. It was the
Signaller with radio equipment installed in the back of a Land Rover
Duke of Wellington who first organised a system of dispatch riders during the Peninsular War. The Morse code and electric telegraph, invented in 1837, were used in the Crimea and perfected in the colonial wars that followed. During the First World War the RE Signal Service grew to 70,000 men, so necessary had the science of signalling become to modern warfare.
In the defence cuts of the 1990s the corps was reduced to ten signal regiments, an electronic warfare regiment and five independent signal squadrons, some 8,000 personnel in all. The Satellite Communications Regiment and the Tactical Communications Regiments employ a large range of equipment to provide essential information to commanders in the field and operations centres around the globe via voice, data and IT systems.
Corps headquarters were located at Catterick until 1967, when they were moved to the School of Signals at Blandford Forum in Dorset, the headquarters of the Telegraph Troop in 1872.