298: The Household Cavalry, 1st & 2nd Life Guards,

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Life Guards  

The Life Guards (LG) is the senior regiment of the British Army and part of the Household Cavalry, along with the Blues and Royals.


The Life Guards grew from the four troops of Horse Guards (exclusively formed of gentlemen-troopers until the transformation of the last two remaining troops into Regiments of Life Guards in 1788)[1][2] raised by Charles II around the time of his restoration, plus two troops of Horse Grenadier Guards (rank and file composed of commoners),   which were raised some years later.

These units first saw action during the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672 and then at the Battle of Sedgemoor during the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685.

The 3rd and 4th troops were disbanded in 1746.In 1788, the remaining 1st and 2nd troops, along with the two troops of Horse Grenadier Guards, were reorganised into two regiments, the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Life Guards (from 1877, simply 1st Life Guards and 2nd Life Guards). From then on (1788), rank and file were mostly formed of commoners (pejorative nickname:”cheesemongers”).,the bulk of the gentlemen-troopers was pensioned off.

In 1815 they were part of The Household Brigade at the Battle of Waterloo.

In late 1918, after much service in the First World War, the two regiments gave up their horses and were re-roled as machine gun battalions, becoming the 1st and 2nd Battalions, Guards Machine Gun Regiment. They reverted to their previous names and roles after the end of the war.In 1922, the two regiments were merged into one regiment, the The Life Guards (1st and 2nd).In 1928, it was re-designated The Life Guards.

During the Second World War, the Life Guards took part in the Normandy landings and the advance through France to liberate Brussels.

In 1992, as part of the Options for Change defence review, The Life Guards were joined together with the Blues and Royals in a ‘Union’ – not an amalgamation – forming the Household Cavalry Regiment (armoured reconnaissance) and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (ceremonial duties). However, they maintain their regimental identity, with distinct uniforms and traditions, and their own colonel.

In common with the Blues and Royals, they have a peculiar non-commissioned rank structure: see the Household Cavalry page for details. (In brief, they lack sergeants, replacing them with multiple grades of corporal.)

Previous names

Names used by the regiment were as follows:


On ceremonial occasions the Life Guards wear a scarlet tunic, a metal cuirass and a matching helmet with a white plume worn bound on the top into an ‘onion’ shape, the exception to this is the regiment’s trumpeters who wear a red plume. In addition, the Life Guards wear their chin strap below their lower lip, as opposed to the Blues and Royals who wear it under their chin. On service dress the Life Guards wear a red lanyard on the right shoulder, as well as a Sam Browne belt.[9] The Life Guards, as part of the Household Division, does not use the Order of the Bath Star for its officer rank ‘pips’, but rather the Order of the Garter Star.

Battle honours

The battle honours are: [combined battle honours of 1st Life Guards and 2nd Life Guards, with the following emblazoned

  1. The regiment maintained the fiction of separate regiments until 1928, receiving in 1927 two separate sets of Standards with different (but almost identical) battle honours emblazoned.
  2. Revised combined list issued May 1933, omitting from emblazonment “Passchendaele” and “St. Quentin Canal” of the 1st Life Guards.
  3. Awarded jointly to The Life Guards and Blues and Royals, for services of Household Cavalry Regiment.


Household Cavalry

The Household Cavalry (HCav) is made up of the two most senior regiments of the British Army, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons). These regiments are divided between the Armoured Regiment stationed at Combermere Barracks in Windsor and the ceremonial mounted unit, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, garrisoned at Hyde Park Barracks (Knightsbridge Barracks) in London. The Household Cavalry is part of the Household Division and is the Queen’s official bodyguard.

Life Guards and Blues and Royals

The British Household Cavalry is classed as a corps in its own right, and consists of two regiments: the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons). They are the senior regular regiments in the British Army, with traditions dating from 1660, and act as the Queen’s personal bodyguard. The regiments are Guards regiments and form Britain’s Household Division with the five Foot Guards regiments.


Tunic colour

Plume colour

Collar colour

Quick March

Slow March


The Life Guards Red White Black Millanollo and
Men of Harlech
Life Guards
Slow March
Keel Row
The Blues and Royals Blue Red Red Blues and Royals and
Grand March from Aida
Blues and Royals
Slow March
Keel Row


Horse Guards building

The Household Cavalry as a whole is split into two different units which fulfil two very distinct roles. These are both joint units, consisting of personnel from both regiments. Like other Cavalry formations, the Household Cavalry is divided into regiments (battalion-sized units) and squadrons (company-sized sub-units). The whole corps is under the command of the Commander Household Cavalry (formerly Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding Household Cavalry), who also holds the Royal Household appointment of Silver Stick in Waiting. He is a Colonel, and is assisted by a retired lieutenant colonel as Regimental Adjutant. The current Commander is Colonel S H Cowen RHG/D.

The first unit is the Household Cavalry Regiment (HCR). It has an active operational role as a Formation Reconnaissance Regiment, serving in armoured fighting vehicles, which has seen them at the forefront of the nation’s conflicts. The regiment serves as part of the Royal Armoured Corps, and forms one of five formation reconnaissance regiments in the British Army’s order of battle. The HCR has four operational squadrons, three of which are traditional medium reconnaissance squadrons equipped with the combat vehicle reconnaissance (tracked) or CVR(T) range of vehicles (Scimitar, Spartan, Sultan, Samson and Samaritan) and the fourth is referred to as Command and Support Squadron and includes specialists such as Forward Air Controllers. One of HCR’s squadrons is assigned to the airborne role with 16 Air Assault Brigade as of 2003. The Regiment is based at Combermere Barracks, Windsor, one mile from Windsor Castle. The men of the Household Division have sometimes been required to undertake special tasks as the Sovereign’s personal troops. The Household Cavalry were called to Windsor Castle on 20 November 1992, to assist with salvage operations following the ‘Great Fire’.

The second unit is the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR), which is horsed and carries out mounted (and some dismounted) ceremonial duties on State and Royal occasions. These include the provision of a Sovereign‘s Escort, most commonly seen on The Queen’s Birthday Parade (Trooping the Colour) in June each year. Other occasions include State Visits by visiting Heads of State, or whenever required by the British monarch. The regiment also mounts the guard at Horse Guards. HCMR consists of one squadron from The Life Guards and one from The Blues and Royals and a squadron called Headquarters Squadron which is responsible for all administrative matters and includes regimental headquarters (RHQ), the Riding Staff, Farriers, Tailors and Saddlers. The Regiment has been based (in various forms) at Hyde Park Barracks, Knightsbridge, since 1795. This is three-quarters of a mile from Buckingham Palace.

Rank structure

The rank names and insignia of non-commissioned officers in the Household Cavalry are unique in the British Army:

Staff Corporal/Squadron Quartermaster Corporal = Staff Sergeant/Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant: Four chevrons, point up, with metal crown above, worn on lower sleeve

Corporal of Horse = Sergeant: Three chevrons, point down, with metal crown above

Lance Corporal of Horse = Corporal: Three chevrons with cloth crown above

Lance Corporal: Two chevrons with metal crown above

Privates in the Household Cavalry, as in several of the regiments in the Royal Armoured Corps, are called “Troopers

Technically, Lance Corporal of Horse is an appointment rather than a rank: a new Household Cavalry corporal is automatically and immediately appointed lance corporal of horse (LCoH), and is referred to as such thereafter.

The Warrant Officer ranks are the same as the rest of the army, but appointments include Regimental Quartermaster Corporal and Squadron Corporal Major (WO2) and Farrier Corporal Major and Regimental Corporal Major (WO1), again excluding the word sergeant.

Formerly, sergeant was exclusively an infantry rank: no cavalry regiment had sergeants. Only the Household Cavalry now maintains this tradition, possibly because sergeant derives from the Latin serviens (meaning servant) and members of the Household Cavalry, once drawn exclusively from the gentry and aristocracy, could not abide such a title. However this origin may be apocryphal, since serjeant was a title used by some offices of comparative seniority, such as Serjeants at Arms, and Serjeants at Law.

Uniquely, non-commissioned officers and warrant officers of the Household Cavalry do not wear rank insignia on their full dress uniforms (although officers do). Rank is indicated by a system of aiguillettes.

Second Lieutenants in The Blues and Royals are known as Cornets.

Recruits were required to have a very high moral character. Before the Second World War, recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 10 inches tall, but could not exceed 6 feet 1 inch. They initially enlisted for eight years with the colours and a further four years with the reserve.[1]

Army Farriers

There is a farrier on call “round the clock, twenty-four hours a day, at Hyde Park Barracks

Farriers traditionally combined veterinary knowledge with blacksmiths‘ skills. They were responsible for hoof trimming and fitting horseshoes to horses. They also dealt with the “humane dispatch of wounded and sick horses, accomplished with the large spike on the end of their axes. Then they used the sharp blade of the axe to chop off the deceased animal’s hoof, which was marked with its regimental number. This assisted in keeping track of animals killed in action.

Although the axes are not used any more, army farriers still carry these axes, with their characteristic blade and spike, at ceremonial events such as Trooping the Colour.

In the Blues and Royals, the farriers dress like their comrades in regimental uniform. The distinctive uniform and equipment of the farriers of the Life Guards — blue tunic, black plume and axe — is a historic reminder of the old British Army of the days of James Wolfe. Every cavalry regiment in the Army, other than the Blues, and the Royal Horse Guards, originally wore scarlet for all ranks, except the farriers. Farriers were garbed invariably in sombre blue and bore axes, worn at the side, like the swords of their comrades. When on parade, the troopers drew swords, the Farriers drew axes and carried them at the “Advance”.b

When participating in parades, the Farriers bring up the rear of the Household Cavalry, carrying their glinting ceremonial axes.

Following every parade is a duty horse-box, known as the Veterinary Aid Post, with a specialist emergency team in attendance.b

Musical Rideb



Many of the recruits have not even been on a horse before joining the Household Cavalry. Some of them only train for 18 weeks before performing their historic display, the Musical Ride, whose discipline and teamwork prepares them for operational duties.

The Musical Ride of the Mounted Regiments of the Household Cavalry was first performed at the Royal Tournament in 1882. The two trumpeters sitting on grey horses were historically intended to form a contrast with the darker horses, so that they could be seen on battlefields relaying officers’ commands to the troops. The troops weave around the trumpeters and the celebrated drumhorse, Spartacus.

The Ride is now performed annually at the Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo as part of the Windsor Royal Horse Show each May.

Order of precedence

In the British Army Order of Precedence, the Household Cavalry is always listed first and always parades at the extreme right of the line.

Preceded by
Royal Horse Artillery
(with guns)

Order of Precedence

Succeeded by
Royal Armoured Corps

Place in British society

The two regiments of the Household Cavalry are regarded as the most prestigious in the British Army, due to their role as the monarch’s official bodyguard. Historically, this meant regularly being in close proximity to the reigning sovereign. As such, the soldiers, and especially officers, of the Household Cavalry were once drawn exclusively from the British aristocracy. While this is no longer the case, the Household Cavalry still draws many of its officers from the upper classes and gentry, and maintains a close personal connection to the Royal Family; both Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry were commissioned into the Blues and Royals. On occasions, this has led the Household Cavalry to be accused of elitism.

Notable members


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