Army Affiliated Service Unit

The Royal Dragoon Guards

The Royal Dragoon Guards has remained a busy regiment. Morale is high and all ranks continue to impress with the tenacity in which they approach the challenges set.

The Royal Dragoon Guards is at the forefront of change within the Army. It had the opportunity to shape some of the early work towards experimentation of the STRIKE concept, a central tenet of Army 2020 – the plan to transform the British Army for the 2020s and beyond, in response to the strategic challenges it is likely to face in the future.

Royal Dragoon Guards were forced to operate on intent and their wits as they were spread across BATUS – the British Army Training Unit in Alberta, Canada in late 2016; they acquitted themselves admirably and proved the worth of the mounted soldier.

During 2017 the regiment has been at high readiness and in addition to providing B Squadron to the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force has also been deployed on operations. Small numbers of Royal Dragoon Guards have also been mentoring local forces in Ukraine and Latvia. The focus in Ukraine has been on staff planning and dismounted skills, while in Latvia it is on helping its army understand the mechanics and employment of the CVR(T); a vehicle type recently bought by Latvia. Such tasks have proved extremely popular and worthwhile for those fortunate enough to deploy.

The future holds a move for the regiment to Warminster in 2020 as part of a STRIKE brigade, mounted on the new AJAX vehicle, at the cutting edge of physical and conceptual investment.

RDG’s sporting prowess remains high, with the current most popular sports teams being rugby and football; the latter winning the Cavalry Cup this year. It remains one of the best recruited Royal Armoured Corps regiments although there will be challenging times ahead as a majority Yorkshire-recruited regiment moves down to the south of England.

The Royal Dragoon Guards formed on 1st August 1992 after the amalgamation of the 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. As these were also the result of earlier amalgamations in the 1920s, the Royal Dragoon Guards now carries the traditions and history of four of the finest Regiments in the British Cavalry: The 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 7th Dragoon Guards and the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. All four were raised between 1685 and 1689, during the protracted contest between James II and William of Orange for the English throne.

History, customs & traditions

The Royal Dragoon Guards formed on 1st August 1992 after the amalgamation of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. As these were also the result of earlier amalgamations in the 1920s, the Royal Dragoon Guards now carries the traditions and history of four of the finest regiments in the British Cavalry; the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 7th Dragoon Guards and the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. All four were raised between 1685 and 1689, during the protracted contest between James II and William of Orange for the English throne.

Both the 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards were formed in 1685 from Troops of Horse raised by James to defend London from William’s expected invasion. The regiments were originally known as Arran’s Horse and Shrewsbury’s Horse, taking their names from their Commanding Officers, as was the custom. These regiments, together with the rest of James’s army, refused to support him and he fled to France, abandoning the throne to William of Orange. The next year however, still claiming the throne, James landed in Ireland. Only Carrickfergus, Londonderry and Enniskillen held out against him. The town of Enniskillen raised three regiments from protestants who had taken refuge there. One of these was Conyngham’s Dragoons, which became the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. On 11th June 1690 King William landed at Carrickfergus with a protestant army, which included the 4th and the 5th Dragoon Guards. On 1st July all three regiments earned their first battle honour, fighting side by side at the Battle of the Boyne. James was defeated and returned to France.

Back in England in 1668 Lord Devonshire raised six Troops of Horse to mark his support for the new king. Devonshire’s Horse, as they were known, became the 7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoon Guards. Within a few years they found themselves, together with the 5th Dragoon Guards, embarked for Holland and Marlborough’s campaigns; both regiments earning honours at Blenheim, Malplaquet, Ramillies and Oudenarde, as well as the celebrated cavalry action at Elixem in 1705, where the 5th Dragoon Guards captured four standards from the Bavarian Horse Grenadiers.

In 1720 King George I conferred the colonelcy of 7th Dragoon Guards on Colonel John Ligonier. His influence was profound, and during his 29-year tenure the regiment was to reach a peak of discipline and training. It was at this time they acquired the nickname ‘the black horse’ and, together with the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, took part in the 1742 campaign in the war of the Austrian Succession, gaining further honours at Dettingen and Fontenoy.

At Dettingen in 1743, Cornet Richardson, Standard of the 7th, suffered 37 wounds while defending the Regimental Standard. This standard, the oldest surviving in the army, can still be seen today in the Regimental Museum in York. Just 10 years later the 6th and 7th again found themselves marching side by side, this time through Paderborn to the battle of Warburg, where both regiments took part in the famous cavalry charge which won the day over the French for the allied forces under the Marquis of Granby.

During this period the two senior regiments, the 4th and 5th, were languishing in Ireland, clocking up a total of 180 years joint service. Both played a major role in Wellington’s Peninsula campaign and gained honours, including Salamanca, where the 5th Dragoon Guards captured the staff of the drum major of the French 66th Infantry Regiment. This staff is still carried today on parades by the RQMS. Colonel Sir William Ponsonby, who commanded the regiment at Salamanca, was later killed while leading the Union Brigade charge at Waterloo. The Inniskillings, who took part in this charge, were so praised by the Duke of Wellington that a statue of an Inniskilling Dragoon was erected on the Wellington Memorial Hyde Park.

In 1854 the 4th, the 5th and the 6th, who last fought together at the Boyne, rode together again in the charge of the heavy brigade at Balaklava. In this action, 800 men, commanded by Major General J Yorke-Scarlett, himself a past Commanding Officer of the 5th Dragoon Guards, routed nearly 3,500 of the Tzar’s finest cavalry, with minimal loss to themselves, and so demoralised the Russian horsemen that they did not dare follow up the subsequent disaster to the Light Brigade later the same day.

After the Crimean War came several years’ service at home and in India for all parent regiments. The peacetime routine was broken briefly for the 4th and the 7th in 1882, when they took part in the short but successful campaign to defeat the forces of Arabi Pasha in Egypt. The campaign culminated in the battle of Tel-el-Kebir when an Egyptian force of 38,000 men and 60 guns was defeated with the loss of only 57 killed; the 4th and 7th Dragoon Guards escaping without a single casualty.

Such one-sided success was not to be repeated however, when during the Boer War of 1899-1902 the 5th Dragoon Guards formed part of the forces besieged at Ladysmith, while the 6th Inniskillings and the 7th ‘Black Horse’ earned their spurs in innumerable skirmishes and many long patrols. Two officers serving at the time were later to achieve worldwide fame. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Baden Powell, who commanded the 5th Dragoon Guards, was to put his South African experience to good use as the founder of the Scouting movement, while Lieutenant L E G Oates, of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, became a legend of self sacrifice himself rather than impede the progress of his comrades.

The 4th and the 5th Dragoon Guards saw action from the outset of the First World War. History allows C Squadron, the 4th Dragoon Guards, the honour of the first action by the British army in the war, with Corporal Thomas firing the first shot and Captain Hornby the first officer to draw blood with his sword. Only a few days later the Commanding Officer of the 5th Dragoon Guards, Lieutenant Colonel G K Ansell, was killed in action at Nery. By October 1914 the Inniskillings and the 7th had arrived in France from India. All four regiments spent the next four years acting in the dismounted role, but the last weeks of the war found the 5th and 7th Dragoon Guards in action again on horseback; the 5th capturing or killing more than 700 German troops when they attacked a train at Harbonniers, and the 7th claiming the last cavalry action of the war when they captured the town of Lessines at 10.55am on the 11th November 1918.

In 1922 the large reductions in the strength of the army brought widespread amalgamations of cavalry regiments. The 4th Royal Irish was combined with the 7th Princess Royal’s Dragoon Guards to form the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards, while the 5th and 6th amalgamated to form the 5/6th Dragoons which became the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards in 1927. 1938 brought mechanisation for both regiments, which were equipped with the 4.5-ton two-man MK2 Light Tank.

A year after mechanisation came mobilisation and the start of World War II. The two regiments were the first armoured units to be deployed to France in support of the British Expeditionary Force, fighting side-by-side in the desperate but gallant withdrawal to Dunkirk.

Both regiments spent the next four years training and re-equipping with heavier tanks in preparation for the Normandy landings, and in 1940 men from both regiments formed a newly raised cavalry regiment, the 22nd Dragoons (the sum of the 4th, 5th 6th and 7th). The 22nd Dragoons were disbanded after the war. On D-Day the 4th/7th, as part of the 8th Armoured Brigade, were the first tanks to land on Gold Beach in Normandy, leading the advance on Caen; their tanks were also the first to cross the river Seine and they led the rescue column to Arnhem. The regiment still wears the same identification flash on the service dress that was first worn by the 4th/7th in 1939 prior to deployment to France. The Skins for their part were in almost continuous action from after Normandy to the end of the war, taking part in the successful action to capture S-Hertogenbosch and the break out from the Rhine bridgehead.

After the war, the 4th/7th were dispatched to Palestine to help with peace-keeping operations. The Skins completed tours in Korea and the Suez Canal. Since the mid 1950s both regiments have served in the Middle East, Aden, England, Germany, Northern Ireland and Cyprus.

The Royal Dragoon Guards, now equipped with Challenger, is a front line armoured regiment in the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps, continuing a tradition of service going back more than 300 years.

  • The recruiting areas are Yorkshire, Northern Ireland, Cheshire and Cumbria.
  • The Regimental Motto is ‘Quis Separabit’ which means ‘Who shall separate us?’
  • The regimental colours are maroon, gold and green.

Regimental competitions

There are two major competitions each year, the inter troop tactical and skills competition (the Ansell Cup) and the inter squadron sports competition (the Shamrock Cup). The Colonel-in-Chief also presented the regiment with a trophy for the sabre squadron which has performed best overall in both cups. The winning squadron will be known as the Prince of Wales’s Squadron for the year following victory and will be at the right of the line on parades. The tanks of the Prince of Wales’s Squadron carry the Prince’s feathers.

Regimental Council

The Regimental Council is the body of senior regimental officers which supports the Colonel of the regiment in the direction of regimental business and is the trustee of the Serving Officers’ Regimental Trust and the museum.

Officers’ Mess

Mess rules stipulate how the Mess functions. However there are certain traditions that are not included in the rules. The Loyal Toast is drunk only on specific occasions usually when royalty are present or when foreign guests are entertained and the health of their head of state is toasted. During guest nights the national anthem is played but officers remain seated and talk. Both the 4th/7th and the Skins observed the same custom which is thought to have started at the time of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745. The Springbok centrepiece faces the Commanding Officer or the senior officer present at dinner. Only the Commanding Officer can bring out the Shillelah and it should only go once around the table.

Regimental Days

Oates Sunday

Captain LEG Oates served with the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. In 1911 he joined Captain Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition and was put in charge of the ponies and dogs. He was selected to accompany Scott on the final leg of the journey to the South Pole. On the return journey Oates suffered from severe frostbite to his feet. The swelling and intense pain almost paralysed him and he began to handicap the team’s chances of survival. Oates realised that he was becoming a hindrance and on 17th March 1912, his 32nd birthday, he walked to his death. It was blowing a blizzard and Oates left the security of the shelter and said: “I am going outside and may be some time.” It was a selfless act of bravery that allowed his fellow adventurers a greater chance of survival.

St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in respect of the Irish traditions of the founder regiments, the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards and the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons.

Dettingen Day

In 1742 King George II decided on active intervention for the cause of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, acting under a pledge to support her accession as Elector of Hanover, when she came under attack from France and Bavaria. An allied army of British and Hanoverian troops led by the King himself defeated the aggressors at Dettigen in 1743. The 7th Dragoon Guards fought alongside the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons in this battle. The standard of the 7th was carried by Cornet Henry Richardson, who suffered 37 wounds in its defence. The Standard was presented by the ‘Black Horse’ to Cornet Richardson when the regiment received its new standard. When the 7th Dragoon Guards were in India in 1911 it was customary to hold a ‘Red Letter Day’, observed as a general holiday. The regiment selected 27 June, the anniversary of the Battle of Dettingen. It was also the last appearance of a king of England in battle at the head of his troops.

Dunkirk dinner

Warrant officers are invited to a stag dinner in June when the memory of the bonding that was so important in the desperate and gallant withdrawal to Dunkirk is recognised.


The Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess members and their wives are invited to lunch in the Officers’ Mess before Christmas . The officers serve the soldiers their Christmas lunch.

The Regimental Band of Pipes and Drums

The band formed at the formation of the regiment in 1992. Membership is voluntary and drawn from across the regiment. It is a part time organisation raised to retain an indigenous band prior to the loss of the brass band in 1993. The priorities for its engagements are regimental functions, events where it represents the regiment and private functions when fees are paid to the Pipes and Drums Fund.

Regimental home headquarters

The regiment’s headquarters is in Tower Street, York – the permanent base for the regiment and home for the regimental secretary and his staff. It provides a link between serving and retired members of the regiment, administers welfare funds for ex-comrades and is the focal point for the association. It also administers all potential officers.

The site also houses the Regimental Museum, which is managed by the trustees and the Regimental Secretary. Artefacts from the 5th Dragoon Guards can also be seen in the Cheshire Regiment Museum at Chester Castle and artefacts from the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons are displayed in the Museum of the Enniskillen Regiments at the Castle Barracks, Enniskillen.

Affiliated ships

  • HMS Superb (‘Swiftsure’ Class Submarine)
  • HMS Marlborough (Type 23 Frigate)
  • Allied regiments
  • The Fort Garry Horse (Canada)
  • The British Columbia Dragoons (Canada)
  • 4th/19th Prince of Wales’s Light Horse (Australia)
  • 3/9 Light Horse (South Australian Mounted Rifles) (Australia)
  • Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles (New Zealand)
  • 15th Lancers (Baloch) (Pakistan)
  • The Deccan Horse (India)

Affiliated regiments

  • Regiment des Guides (Belgium)
  • Territorial Army affiliations
  • C Squadron, The Queen’s Own Yeomanry
  • Y Squadron, The Queen’s Own Yeomanry
  • The North Irish Horse
  • Cadet force affiliations
  • Read School ACF, Selby
  • Mexborough Detachment,
  • Humberside and South Yorkshire ACF
  • Dunmore Detachment,
  • 1st (Northern Ireland) Battalion ACF
  • Runcorn Detachment, Cheshire ACF
  • Weaverham Detachment, Cheshire ACF
  • A and C Detachments,
  • Three Company, Merseyside ACF