82: 5th Inniskilling & 6th Dragoons to 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards (1685)

This entry was posted by Tuesday, 23 November, 2010
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 5th Dragoon Guards (Princess Charlotte of Wales’s)


In 1685 various troops of horse were raised to defend James II against the Monmouth Rebellion. Later that year, several of these were merged to form a single cavalry regiment, ranked as the 7th Horse.

Its ranking rose to the 6th Horse in 1690, a year which also saw it fighting against James at the Boyne. It returned to Ireland in 1698 and 1715, fighting in Europe in the interim at Blenheim, Ramillies and Malplaquet. It went to Ireland yet again in 1746 after being shifted to the Irish establishment, this time for over 40 years.

The regiment returned to the British establishment in 1788 and five years later deployed to the Low Countries and Germany on the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1804 the regiment was named after Princess Charlotte, only child of the future George IV. In 1811 it deployed to the Peninsula, where it captured the drum major’s staff of the French 66th Line Infantry Regiment and fought at Salamanca and Vittoria. Yet from 1814 to 1893 the regiment remained in England, with the sole exception of the Crimea.

The regiment had several noteworthy colonels. One was Princess Charlotte’s widowed husband Leopold, from 1816 until he was made the first king of Belgium in 1831. His grandson Albert II became the regiment’s colonel-in-chief in 1915. Another was Sir James Yorke Scarlett, who went on to command the charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaklava, in which the 5th Dragoon Guards took part.

Yet another was Robert Baden-Powell, future founder of the Scout Movement. He took command of the regiment in India in 1897 during its first posting there and remained its colonel until he was sent to South Africa in 1899. The training he gave the unit proved invaluable when it too was posted to the Boer War, in which it formed part of the force besieged in Ladysmith.

One of the regiment’s officers in South Africa, George Kirkpatrick Ansell, later rose to command it, but he was killed on the Western Front on 1 September 1914. The regiment remained on that front throughout the First World War, serving as dismounted troops for all but a few weeks at the start and end of the conflict. It spent the post-war period in Palestine, where in 1922 it merged with The Iniskillings (6th Dragoons) to form the 5th/6th Dragoons.

Key facts


  • ‘Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum’ (meaning ‘We Do Not Retreat’)


  • The Green Horse (from the colour of its uniform facings)
  • The Old Farmers (during their long stay in Ireland, several soldiers acquired land and began to farm it)

Titles to date:

  • Duke of Shrewsbury’s Regiment of Horse
  • 7th Horse
  • 6th Horse
  • 2nd Horse, Irish Establishment
  • 2nd Regiment of Horse, Irish Establishment
  • 5th Regiment of Dragoon Guards
  • 5th (the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s) Regiment of Dragoon Guards
  • 5th (Princess Charlotte of Wales’s) Dragoon Guards
  • 5th/6th Dragoons
  • 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
  • 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
  • D Squadron, The Royal Dragoon Guards



Inniskillings (6th Dragoons)


In 1688 William III landed in Devon to seize the throne from his father-in-law King James II. In Ireland, the Protestants in the town of Inniskilling formed several regiments of cavalry to support William. These regiments were merged into one in June 1689, just three months after James landed in Ireland.

The new regiment was named Sir Albert Cunningham’s Regiment of Dragoons, after its first colonel, and immediately went to relieve Derry. It then linked up with William’s invasion force under Marshal Schomberg, which had landed in August 1689, guarded William himself at the Battle of the Boyne and also fought at Aughrim.

Until 1742 the regiment generally stayed in Ireland, though it did deploy to Scotland in 1715 to fight the First Jacobite Rebellion, charging at Sherrifmuir. It was also sent to Europe in 1742 for the War of the Austrian Succession and in 1758 for the Seven Years War. It joined decisive cavalry charges at Laffeldt in 1747 and Warburg in 1760 and served in several raids on the French coast during 1758. This period also saw it gain the designation 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons in 1751.

In 1763 the regiment began a 90-year period on garrison duties in the British Isles, frequently returning to Ireland from 1809 onwards. That period was only broken by two deployments to the continent. The first of these was a four-year spell in Flanders, the Netherlands and Germany, starting in 1793. The second came in April 1815, when it was rapidly embarked for Belgium less than a month after Napoleon escaped his exile on Elba. In June that year it was part of the decisive heavy cavalry charge by the Union Brigade at Waterloo.

The unit’s long garrison service finally came to an end when it was sent to the Crimea in 1854, losing all its horses en route in a fire on board its troop ship, but still managing to take part in the charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaklava. It then took on peacekeeping roles in India in 1857 after the Mutiny and in South Africa in 1880 after the Zulu War.

It fought as mounted infantry in the Boer War and one of its lieutenants, Lawrence Oates, was recommended for the Victoria Cross. Oates is best known for his last words – ‘I am going out, I may be some time’ – shortly before his death on Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1912.

The unit served mainly as infantry on the Western Front during the First World War, suffering heavy casualties on the rare occasions it charged as cavalry. With Ireland sliding towards civil war during the post-war period, the regiment was kept in Britain from 1919 onwards, until its 1922 amalgamation with the 5th Dragoon Guards (Princess Charlotte of Wales’s) to form the 5th/6th Dragoons.

Key facts


  • The Black Dragoons (after their black horses)
  • The Inniskillings
  • The Skillingers
  • The Old Inniskillings

Titles to date:

  • Sir Albert Cunningham’s Regiment of Dragoons
  • 6th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Dragoons
  • 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons
  • The Inniskillings (6th Dragoons)
  • 5th/6th Dragoons
  • 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
  • 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
  • C Squadron, The Royal Dragoon Guards



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