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
It is, perhaps, appropriate that the senior cavalry regiment to go to Pakistan in August 1947 had its origins in two regiments raised in Lahore (now in Pakistan) in 1857 by order of Sir John Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner of the Punjab. The 1st and 2nd Sikh Irregular Cavalry came into being with no difficulty: there were plenty of ex-soldiers of the Khalsa's war against the British and the 1st, under Captain Wale of the 18th Bengal Irregular Cavalry were despatched to what became the United Provinces, the then seat of operations against the mutineers. Sadly, Wale was shot by a sniper on the 1 Mar 1858, being replaced by Major Dighton Probyn who had been awarded the Victoria Cross the previous year. The Regiment was to bear his name unofficially until formally granted in 1904.
The 2nd Sikh Irregular Cavalry, raised by Captain Hockin of the 17th Bengal Irregular Cavalry, reached Delhi too late to join in its relief but were employed in Oudh where some sixty sowars charged a formed body of 1,200 mutineers and drove them from the field:
In 1859, the Chinese Imperial Government had seized a Hong Kong ship and an expedition was sent from India to put things right. A cavalry brigade was included. The British regiment was the 1st King's Dragoon Guards whilst the 1st Sikh Irregular Cavalry and Fane's Horse were the two Indian units. Fane's had been raised especially for the task, employing many of the men from the newly-disbanded third regiment of Hudson's Horse. The campaign was good for its, cavalrymen and the 1st newly armed with the lance, won a good reputation.
Returning to India, they found that they had become the 11th Bengal Cavalry whilst the 2nd became the 12th. Neither regiment had been exclusively Sikh but had admitted men of other Punjab martial classes.
The 12th found themselves in 1867 in Abyssinia whence an expedition had been sent against King Theodore III, in an attempt to teach him to respect foreigners. It was not cavalry work but involved road patrols and protection. In 1876, the 11th had been honoured by becoming the 11th Prince of Wales's Own Bengal Lancers.
Both 11th and 12th Bengal Cavalry saw service in the Second Afghan War but, after that, the 12th did not see further active service for forty years.
The 11th, however, took part in the Black Mountains Expedition, went to Chitral and formed part of the Malakand Field Force.
Neither regiment was to see service in France in the Great War but both went to the Middle East.
Major General the Right Honourable Sir Dighton Probyn VC who gave up his command of the 11th in 1866, was appointed their honorary colonel in 1904 when his name was officially restored to their title. He retained this post until his death in 1924 at the age of 92.
The first title of the combined regiment in 1921 was the 11/12th Probyn's Horse, promptly changed the next year to incorporate the 11th's royal style when they became the 5th King Edward's Own Probyn's Horse. The new badge was crossed lances with the Prince of Wales' plumes on the intersection and scroll across the lance-butts reading 'Probyn's Horse'.
In Risalpur in 1940, the Regiment was mechanised as part of 1 Indian Armoured Brigade, whereupon it moved to Quetta. By mid-1942 it was equipped with one squadron of Stuart tanks and two of Lee tanks. Two years later, now fitted out with Shermans, the move was made to Imphal as part of 255 Indian Tank Brigade. Their part in the reconquest of Burma was significant and they finished the campaign in Rangoon. May 1946 found them back in Secunderabad as part of 1 Indian Armoured Division.
Partition in August 1947 saw Probyn's Horse allotted to Pakistan. Their Dogra squadron was exchanged for the Punjabi Mussalman squadron of the Royal Deccan Horse. The Sikh Squadron went to the Scinde Horse whilst Probyn's received a Kaimkhani squadron from the 18th King Edward VII's Own Cavalry.
Lucknow, Taku Forts, Peking 1860, Abyssinia, Ali Masjid, Peiwar Kotal,Charasiah, Kabul 1879, Afghanistan 1878-80, Chitral, Malakand, Punjab Frontier, Mesopotamia 1915-18, Meiktila, Capture of Meiktila, Defence of Meiktila, Taungtha, Rangoon Road, Pyawbwe, Pyinmana, Toungoo, Pegu 1945, Burma 1942-45.
'A history of the XI King Edward's Own Lancers (Probyn's Horse) by Capt E L Maxwell. (Pub: A.C. Curtis Ltd. Guildford 1941)
'A history of Probyn's Horse (5th King Edward's Own Lancers)' by Major C A Boyle DSO. (Pub: Gale & Polden Ltd. Aldershot 1929)