DEFENCE NOTES

6TH DUKE OF CONNAUGHT'S OWN LANCERS
(WATSON'S HORSE)

This chapter is being re-produced with thanks from JOHN GAYLOR'S fine book 'SONS OF JOHN COMPANY'. JOHN GAYLOR, first came to India with the Royal West African Frontier Force and served in India and in Burma with the 82nd (West African) Division. He subsequently served with the London Scottish and the Special Air Service. He is the Secretary of The Military Historical Society and lives in retirement in Kent. This book is available from JOHN GAYLOR directly at 19.99 (UK) plus postage. He can be contacted at 30 Edgeborough Way, Bromley, Kent BRI 2UA Tel 44 (181) 3251391

The two regiments which went to form the 6th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers (Watson's Horse) were the 13th Duke of Connaught's Lancers (Watson's Horse) and the 16th Cavalry.

The 13th was raised as the 4th Sikh Irregular Cavalry in 1858 but Lieutenant John Watson VC who had been appointed to its Command did not join until 1860. He had been serving with the 1st Punjab Cavalry and recovering from sickness. His command lasted for eleven years but his name was in common use until confirmed officially in 1904. Discounting his Victoria Cross, Watson was, perhaps, best known for his introduction of a change in cavalry riding-practice. It had formerly been customary for the rider to sit in the saddle and bump with - and on - the horse, to the obvious discomfort of both rider and mount. Watson's preference was, on non-ceremonial occasions, for the rider to rise in the stirrups at the trot. This change, however, was not officially introduced until 1875, by which time Watson was commanding the Central India Horse (CHI).

The 1861 changes saw the 4th Sikh Irregular Cavalry become the 13th Bengal Cavalry and, in 1864, the 13th Bengal Lancers. Their first battle-honour was awarded for service in the Second Afghan War and, shortly afterwards, they were off to Egypt to earn two more honours and harass Arabi Pasha into surrender. Their performance so impressed the Duke of Connaught that he asked his royal mother if he might become the Colonel of the 13th. Queen Victoria, ever the champion of her Indian soldiers, confirmed the appointment and the Duke's name was added to the regimental title in 1884.

The tribal rising on the North West Frontier in 1897 gave more opportunities for mounted action and was rewarded by the grant of that hard-won honour 'Punjab Frontier'.

In the 1903 changes, the 13th became the 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers and, in 1906, 'Watson's Horse' was added as a subsidiary title.

The Great War did not provide the opportunity for the 13th to distinguish themselves in Europe; their destiny was to remain on the Frontier until July 1916 when they reached Mesopotamia for the relief of Kut-al-Amara.

The 16th originated as the Rohikand Horse. Notices were posted by the Commissioner of Rohilkand, thus -

Whoever is willing to take service in a cavalry regiment under the Sirkar, let him come with his horse to the Pass Haldwani on the 1st September.

This was, of course, in the year 1857, the year of the Devil's Wind, when traditional loyalties were being challenged and when the men of the north were establishing their ascendancy in the Bengal Army. There was no shortage of volunteers and, on formation, the regiment received a European sergeant from the 4th Hussars who contrived for himself a permanent posting and rose to the rank of Risaldar, normally an Indian officer's rank.

The first two years were spent in subjugating Rohilkand and in 1864, being then the 16th Bengal Cavalry, they went off to join the Bhutan Field Force where they suffered not only from the climate but also from the terrain. Disbandment followed in 1882 when three regiments were broken up to provide an additional, fourth squadron for the other regiments. The other two which suffered were the 3rd Scinde Horse from the Bombay Cavalry and the 4th Punjab Irregular Cavalry. However, they were not to remain dormant for long; fears of Russian invasion grew and a strength increase of three cavalry regiments was approved. The 16th was re-raised in 1885 at Ambala. In 1900, as the 16th Bengal Lancers, they went to China to relieve the international legations in Peking which were being besieged by the Boxers. On relieving the American Legation, the 16th were presented with the US flag which had flown over the building and, for many years, the flag hung in the Officers' Mess.

In early 1915, the 16th Cavalry, as they then were, joined Indian Expeditionary Force 'D' as the Mesopotamia Force was styled and served under Townshend. Curiously, before setting out to defend Kut-al-Amara, Townshend sent most of his cavalry away and the Regiment returned to India, much under strength, in October 1916.

Both 13th and 16th were together in Waziristan in 1919, earning a joint honour for Afghanistan service.

Amalgamation took place formally in 1921 as the 13/16th Cavalry but renaming took place the next year when they became the 6th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers. The new badge was to be crossed lances with a figure '6' on the intersection and a generous scroll across the lance-butts, reading 'The Duke of Connaught's Own'.

Although cavalry was not ideally suited for work in the mountains, there was plenty of the North West Frontier Province in which they could operate very successfully. The 6th, serving in 1 Cavalry Brigade with the Guides Cavalry received commendation for their part in the action of the Khajuri Plain when the Afridi made to advance upon Peshawar in support of the Civil Disobedience movement then fashionable in India.

The outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 found the Regiment contemplating mechanisation after which they were intended to join 10 Indian Division as its divisional reconnaissance regiment but the Iraq crises in April 1942 changed that. Equipped with South African Morris armoured cars, the 6th DCO Lancers reached Iraq towards the end of the year to join the 8 Indian Division in Tenth Army. In September 1942, they were transferred to 6 Indian Division in Persia to meet a possible German threat through the Caucasus. The following year they were returned to 8 Indian Division for operations in Italy, equipped with tracked carriers. Landing in Italy in October 1943, they fought their way north, all set to race to Venice when they were stopped. The Italian campaign ended on 2 May '45 and the Regiment returned to India in June.

In August 1947. Partition saw the 6th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers allotted to Pakistan. Their Jat Squadron went to the 7th Light Cavalry in exchange for their Punjabi Mussalman squadron whilst their Sikh Squadron went to the 8th King George V's Own Light Cavalry in change for the 8th's PM squadron.

BATTLE HONOURS

Afghanistan 1878-80. Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt 1882, Punjab Frontier, China 1900, Shaiba. Kut-al-Amara 1915-17, Ctesiphon, Tigris 1916, Baghdad, Sharqat, Mesopotamia 1915-18, North West Frontier, India 1915, Afghanistan 1919, The Trigno, Tufillo, The Sangro, The Moro, Cassino II, Pignataro, Liri Valley, The Senio, Santerno Crossing, Italy 1943-45.

BOOKS

'The 6th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers in Italy' by Major F. Brock. (Pub: privately 1948)

CHANGES IN TITLE

Pre-1903 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Bengal Lancers 16th Bengal Lancers
1903 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers 16th Lancers
1906 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers (Watson's Horse) 16th Cavalry
1921 13/16th Cavalry
1922 6th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers

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