DEFENCE NOTES

13th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers

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 union in 1923 of the 31st Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers and the 32nd Lancers to form the 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers should not have been an unhappy one. Both regiments had had a common origin in the old Bombay Squadron of Cavalry, raised for service under Lord Lake with whom it served at the siege of Bhurtpore in 1805.

The Squadron was split in 1817 and, with two troops each as a cadre, the 1st and 2nd Bombay Light Cavalry were formed.

The 1st saw service in the First Afghan War in 1839 when, with a detachment of the 2nd, they were at the capture of Ghuznee and in the march to Kabul returning to India in 1840.

Eight years later, the Second Sikh War saw the 1st in action when they were at the storming of Mooltan where they remained as garrison for the remainder of the campaign.

May 1857, the start of the Great Mutiny, saw the 1st at Nasirabad where they were the only ones to remain loyal. Artillery and infantrymen urged them to go over to them but the sowars refused and, under their officers, charged in an attempt to take the guns. They failed to do so but successfully disengaged and took part in the campaign of pacification in Central India.

In 1862, Mahrattas joined the 1st Bombay Light Cavalry, the only Indian cavalry regiment to enlist the class. It was alleged that the Mahratta was averse to the silladar system then obtaining in the cavalry and so, if he joined the army, he opted for the infantry where he was not required to advance his own money. The 1st, and, later, the 31st Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers, continued to maintain a Mahratta Squadron until the amalgamation in 1923. Thereafter, the squadron was reduced and the class was not recruited again until some forty years later when Mahrattas were accepted into the armoured cavalry of an independent India.

In 1846, the 1st had formed a mounted band. This was not unique, of course, but most of the other regiments with such bands had had to close them down during the Great War. However, the band of the old 1st continued through with the 13th DCO Lancers until the Second World War.

During the summer of 1878, the 1st were sent to Malta and Cyprus together with a troop of the 2nd. The object of this was to exert gentle pressure on the Russians.

Burma was their next overseas posting in 1885, a campaign no more attractive then than sixty years later.

The Duke of Connaught, then Commander-in-Chief of the Bombay Army, became their colonel-in-chief in 1890. He still held the appointment in the 13th DCO Lancers on his death in January 1942.

Their third spell of service abroad was a brief stay at Suakin on the Red Sea in 1896 when, as the 1st Bombay Lancers - in consequence of the issue of the lance - they formed part of a mixed brigade sent out from India.

The 2nd Bombay Light Cavalry, as already recorded, sent a detachment with the 1st to Afghanistan in 1839.

In 1857, they were stationed at Neemuch and saw service in the pacification of Central India. One of its subalterns, later General Sir James Blair, won a Victoria Cross during these operations.

Afghanistan in 1878-80 found the balance of the 2nd (one troop was in the Mediterranean with the 1st) where they were part of the force under General Phayre which went to relieve Kandahar.

In 1903, Bombay cavalry had thirty added to their numbers and, thus, the 1st (Duke of Connaught's Own) Bombay Lancers became the 31st Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers and the 2nd Bombay Lancers became the 32nd Lancers, the old Presidency designations being abolished.

During the Great War, the 31st remained on the Frontier but the 32nd went to Mesopotamia late in 1916 and were alleged to be first Imperial troops to enter Baghdad.

In April 1917, at the battle of Istabulat, a detachment led by the commanding officer, charged an entrenched Turkish position resulting in all the officers and most of the men becoming casualities.

Having remained in India throughout the war, the 31st served in the Third Afghan War and then went to perform garrison duties in Palestine, being the last Indian cavalry regiment to serve there, as they did, until 1923 when, on their amalgamation with the 32nd Lancers in September of that year, they were the last two regiments carrying their old titles. This particular merger, of course, was simply a reunion of two regiments separated more than a hundred years before. The new badge was to be crossed lances with '13' on the intersection and a crown above: across the lancebutts was a scroll reading 'Duke of Connaught's Own.'

The 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers were one of the first two Indian cavalry regiments nominated for mechanisation. Converted at Sialkot following their last horsed parade on 9 Apr 38, one squadron was equipped with Vickers light tanks and two with Chevrolet armoured cars. Thereafter, they took over Frontier duties from companies of the Royal Tank Corps but, in April 1941, they traded their tanks for one squadron of Scinde Horse armoured cars and left for Iraq with 10 Indian Division. The 13th was the only Indian cavalry regiment to receive an honour for Frontier Service during the war. Thereafter, they served against the Vichy French in Syria and then proceeded to see much of Iran and Iraq before joining the Eighth Army. Before the battle of El Alamein in October 1942, however, the 13th were back in Persia. Finally, after a frustrating visit to Egypt where they were re-equipped with Staghound armoured cars in anticipation of going to Italy, they returned to India and prepared to land in Malaya. Despite Japanese surrender, there was still action to be had in South East Asia and they moved on to Java in support of 5 and 23 Indian Divisions in their holding-action there. In August 1946 the 13th returned to Secunderabad as the reconnaissance regiment of 1 Indian Armoured Division.

On Partition in August 1947, the 13th DCO Lancers were allotted to Pakistan. No details would appear to be available of any squadron transfers.

BATTLE HONOURS

Ghuznee, Afghanistan 1839, Mooltan, Punjaub, Central India, Afghanistan 1878-80, Burma 1885-87, Kut al Amara 1917, Baghdad, Sharqat, Mesopotamia 1916-18, North West Frontier, India 1917, Afghanistan 1919, North West Frontier 1937-40, Damascus, Deir es Zor, Raqaa, Syria 1941, Gazala, Bir Hacheim, El Adem, Gambut, Sidi Rezegh 1942, Tobruk 1942, Fuka, North Africa 1940-43.

BOOKS

'A brief historical sketch of His Majesty's 31st Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers, Indian Army' by Colonel G F Newport-Tinley CB. (Pub. Bombay Gazette Electrical Printing Works, Bombay 1910)

CHANGES OF TITLE

pre 1903 1st (Duke of Connaught's Own) Bombay Lancers           2nd Bombay Lancers

1903 31st Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers                               32nd Lancers

1921 31/32nd Lancers

1922 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Bombay Lancers

1927 13th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers

previouspagebackhome