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About

The museum of The Royal Lancers in Derby is primarily dedicated to the history and legacy of one of its parent Regiments, the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, and its own antecedents from 1715 until the amalgamation with the Queen’s Royal Lancers in 2015: the 9th Dragoons, the 9th Light Dragoons, the 9th Lancers, the 12th Dragoons, the 12th Light Dragoons and the 12th Lancers. The museum was formed in the 1980s and is an Accredited Museum under the Arts Council England’s (ACE) Accreditation scheme.

In this section you will be able to explore many of the archives that survive, including Regimental Journals, full scans of published regimental histories (many of them now out of print) and other documents such as medal rolls and casualty lists, as well as many of the Victorian and Edwardian photographic albums containing many thousands of images, some never seen before by the public. You will also be able to search by name for your ancestors that served in the 19th and 20th centuries. The records here include nominal rolls, service lists and casualty lists of the First World War.

For opening times of the physical museum and further information please see the website of Derby Museums Trust:

https://www.derbymuseums.org/event/discover-the-royal-lancers

Please contact us if you have any questions not covered by the documents presented here, as we may have more information and other documents not yet digitised in the museum archive in Derby. We currently do not charge for answering general and simple enquiries, but welcome and encourage financial donations to help maintain our collections. A research visit to examine original material may also be possible, but only by appointment. Please contact the curator in the first instance to discuss. We generally charge for research visits £60 per half-day, but this can be negotiated.

The Museum in Derby

The Museum aims to inspire and satisfy public interest, particularly young people, by its portrayal of the history of the Regiment and its antecedents through the presentation of its exceptional collection. The Collection is currently displayed in the Military Gallery (The Soldiers Story) of Derby Museum & Art Gallery and plays an important part in allowing potential recruits to understand the history of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, to encourage them to explore the wider heritage of the British Armed Forces, and to keep up to date the relatives and friends of those already serving.

For opening times and further information please see the web-site of Derby Museums Trust

https://www.derbymuseums.org/event/discover-the-royal-lancers

We welcome donations of archive material such as documents and photographs relating to any of the parent Regiments of The Royal Lancers, particularly the 9th, 12th and 9th/12th Lancers, and physical objects such as uniform, equipment and weapons. We are particularly keen to collect material from the ‘modern’ era of post-Second World War (for example material relating to Northern Ireland and Malaya), but will consider material from any era. We occasionally may turn down material as we already have suitable examples, or cannot adequately look after it with the facilities we have.

A short history of the Regiment

In 1715, as a result of the Jacobite Rebellion against King George I, Brigadier-General Bowles and Major-General Wynn each raised a Regiment of dragoons. Shortly after, Wynn’s Dragoons became the 9th and Bowles’ Dragoons became the 12th. The Regiments were raised to combat the threat to King George I by the Jacobites who supported the exiled rival Stuart royal family. In 1768 the 12th were given the title of ‘Prince of Wales's’ and were granted the badge of the three ostrich feathers, and the motto ‘Ich Dien’ (I Serve). In 1816 the two regiments were issued with lances and renamed Lancers. In 1830 the 9th were given the name ‘The 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers’ in honour of Queen Adelaide the wife of King William IV.

Both Regiments served in the Napoleonic Wars against France and the Emperor Napoleon (1797-1815) as Light Dragoons. The 9th were in Ireland, South America and then the Spanish Peninsula. The 12th served in the Italian Papal States, Egypt, the Spanish Peninsula and were then at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

At Waterloo, the 12th charged the French forces as part of the Light Brigade. A third of the men were killed in ten minutes. The British Army saw that the French lancer regiments were very effective in battle. As a result it was decided in 1816 that the 9th and 12th Light Dragoons would be armed with the lance and renamed Lancers.

“The Indian Mutiny 1857-1858”

Both the 9th and the 12th were stationed in India when the mutiny of some Indian soldiers (sepoys) under British command in Bengal broke out in 1857. The Mutiny is known by many names, including ‘The First War of Indian Independence’ and ‘The Sepoy Rebellion’. The reasons for the mutiny were complex, and included the fear of forced conversion to Christianity, resentment of British rule and both Muslim and Hindu mutineers believed that the grease used to seal musket cartridges was made from those animals sacred to their religion. Many sepoys, both Sikh and Hindu, stayed loyal to the British.

The war was focused around the old capital of India, Delhi. It was believed that whoever held Delhi controlled India. The 9th Lancers was the only British Regiment present at all three main engagements, the Siege of Delhi, the Relief of Lucknow and the Siege of Lucknow. Thirteen men of the 9th Lancers won the new Victoria Cross for valour, justifying the unique honour of a Twenty-one Gun Salute on leaving India. The mutineers gave them the nickname ‘The Delhi Spearmen’, and this name was used by the combined regiment until the 2015 amalgamation.

“The Lancers in Africa and the Indian Sub continent”

The 12th Lancers went to British South Africa in 1851 and took part in the wars against the local Xhoas/Basotho peoples. During 1852 part of the Regiment was on board the ship ‘Birkenhead’ which sank off the South African coast. The discipline shown by the soldiers as the ship broke up is well-known. Amongst the few survivors was Cornet Ralph Bond, who awoke lying on the beach with his horse standing beside him.

The 9th Lancers took part in the Mahratta and Sikh wars of the 1840s and then the Afghan War of 1878-1879 to secure British India’s northern border against Russian expansion. In 1880 the Regiment famously marched from Kabul to Kandahar, where they surprised and routed the Afghan army.

Afghanistan was important to British interests in India, and rivalry to control it by European powers became known as ‘The Great Game’. Afghanistan gained its independence from Britain in 1919. The British Army went back to Afghanistan in 2001 as part of a force to provide security after decades of civil war, extremist government and resistance following the Soviet Union’s invasion in the 1980s. Hostile terrain along with uncertain loyalties of the local people means securing peace in modern times is as difficult as it was in the 19th century.

“The Boer War (The South African War 1899–1902)”

The war of 1899-1902 was the second time the British Empire had fought the Boers, the original Dutch settlers. The war prompted military innovations such as khaki uniforms, guerrilla warfare and the use of resettlement, or ‘concentration’ camps. Boer civilians suffered under British ‘scorched earth’ policies designed to deny them food and shelter.

Both Regiments deployed to South Africa in 1899. The 9th Lancers moved from India and the 12th from England. They took part in the Relief of Kimberley, a classic cavalry battle where victory was achieved by fast movement and the use of massed force.

The 9th Lancers was described as “a splendid Regiment” by Lord Roberts the commander of British forces. Both Regiments fought at the battle of Diamond Hill where the Commanding Officer of the 12th, the Earl of Airlie was killed leading a charge to save the field guns. At the end of the war, both the 9th and 12th Lancers shipped to India.

The First World War, “The Lancers go to War”

Within fourteen days of the outbreak of war, both Regiments were sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). They were heavily involved in the battle to halt the German advance into Belgium.

Unlike the trench warfare that followed, the early stages of the war saw more mobile battles involving cavalry and fierce pockets of street fighting.

On the 28th August the 12th Lancers were threatened by German Dragoons at Moy, and they charged with their lances. This was one of only two occasions that lances were used in the war. Supported by other regiments, the Lancers inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy.

On the 6th of September the 9th Lancers successfully charged opposing German Lancers at Moncel (Mons). This was the only lance versus lance charge in 1914. These battles were commemorated each year by the combined modern Regiment as Mons/Moy Day, and are still observed by The Royal Lancers in tandem with famous engagements from its other Regimental parents.

“The Cavalry Become Infantry”

Throughout 1915 and 1916 the 9th and 12th Lancers often fought as infantry, for which they were not equipped or trained. They had to adapt to the tactics of trench warfare.

In May 1915 the 9th Lancers fought on foot alongside infantry at Bellewaarde Ridge (Belgium) facing gas and German attack for days without relief. The 12th Lancers also learnt different techniques, fighting dismounted with fixed bayonets to take the Flanders village of Wytschaete.

Both Regiments suffered repeated heavy casualties; on one day in 1915 the 9th Lancers lost three quarters of the officers and a third of its men in one day.

“Calm Before the Somme”

1916 began with both Regiments resting and training behind the front lines. However, they soon began to prepare for the July Somme campaign. The cavalry, including the 9th and 12th Lancers, were to be used if the infantry broke through the enemy lines. Several times during the campaign they were called to stand ready to aid the infantry, and pursue the supposed retreating German forces, but were never used. They were aware they had escaped the horrors of the Somme.

“Standing in the Snow - the Battle of Arras”

The campaign near the French city of Arras was planned as a spring offensive in 1917 to break German lines. It failed and the 9th and 12th Lancers suffered many casualties waiting in the snow.

To support the planned breakthrough at Arras, both the 9th and 12th Lancers were reunited with their horses. They were to be used to support the infantry if they succeeded in breaking through the German lines. Under shell-fire, in blizzard conditions, both regiments suffered some of the heaviest casualties of the war as they waited for several days in one place. They also lost many horses to cold, exposure and lack of water. The night of 11th April 1917 is described as “the worst night of the war”. They suffered losses without engaging in direct combat with, or seeing, the enemy.

“1918: Lancer Wood and the last German Push”

The October Revolution (1917) and Russia’s withdrawal from the war enabled the Germans to transfer troops from the east to the Western Front. The Germans launched a massive offensive on the 21st March 1918. Both Lancer regiments supported the hard-pressed infantry. The 12th won praise at Bois de Hangard (France) which was renamed “Lancer Wood”. Casualties were heavy and the 9th lost more than a third of their men.

The cavalry then prepared for the Allied ‘Big Push’ of August 1918, exploiting forward as the war once became mobile again for the first time since 1914. When the Armistice was declared on the 11th November 1918, ending the war, the opposing forces were close to where they had started in 1914.

”The End of the traditional Cavalry?”

Trench warfare changed the cavalry forever. The future would be mechanisation.

After the war, both lancer Regiments kept order in occupied Germany; the 9th in Cologne and the 12th in Dusseldorf. From there they both went on to Ireland, which was in a state of armed republican insurrection against British rule.

“Mechanisation – the end of cavalry”

Despite the need for mechanisation, some still favoured the retention of the horse. 12th converted to Armoured Cars while in Egypt between 1928 and 1930. The 9th were mechanised in Tidworth 1936.

The 12th were initially equipped with Rolls Royce armoured cars. The Rolls was fast and reliable, but was not equipped with wireless radios. It was not until later that they were issued with Leyland Lorries with radios. During the early days in Egypt, Palestine and Libya the Regiment practiced Reconnaissance and desert warfare. This experience was to prove vital when the Second World War broke out in North Africa.

The 9th were initially equipped with Carden Lloyd carriers (open, weapon-less vehicles) with a few Mark V light tanks, which were equipped with machine guns. Ammunition was in short supply and training poor.

“The Lancers in France 1940”

In 1940 both Regiments went to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) against the Germans. The 9th were a Tank Regiment equipped with cruiser tanks. The 12th were equipped with armoured cars.

As part of 2nd Armoured Brigade the 9th Lancers took heavy casualties as their ill-equipped tanks were no match for the German panzers. Within a month of landing they had withdrawn to Rouen, and while nearly surrounded they headed back to the English Channel to escape for England from the French town of Brest.

The 12th acted as Reconnaissance force and were the first Regiment into Belgium. They covered the withdrawal of the BEF. It was an intense warfare, involving individual troops fighting to hold bridges and canals in the face of an overwhelming enemy. They destroyed their vehicles before escaping France at Dunkirk May 1940.

“North Africa and the Desert”

Both Regiments were sent to North Africa in 1941 to join the 8th Army in its battle against the German Afrika Corps. The most important battle was at El Alamein where the 9th used the new Sherman tank for the first time. They helped pursue German forces through Libya and Tunisia.

The armoured cars of 12th acted as a reconnaissance force, but often were caught up in major battles. Soldiers had to live for long periods in the desert with their vehicles. After El Alamein they led the pursuit towards Tunisia and the eventual eviction of the Germans and the Italians from North Africa.

“Italy and the fight North”

In 1944 both the 9th and 12th Lancers moved to Italy to fight against both Italian and German forces. The 12th were initially used as infantry at the battle of Cassino. At the battle for the “Gothic Line” the 9th Lancers fought at San Savino in Sherman Tanks. Both were used as infantry during the winter of 1944/1945. In the spring of 1945, the 9th Lancers led the 8th Army advance to the River Po in North Italy, while the 12th lancers in armoured cars headed the advance of the 2nd New Zealand Division. Men of the 12th Lancers were the first Allied troops to enter Venice.

“Post-war Operations and Northern Ireland”

After the Second World War both Regiments served in Palestine, Malaya and Germany. In 1960 the two Regiments were amalgamated to form the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’). The new Regiment was deployed to Aden (modern day Yemen), and other security duties in the Middle East, as well as serving in the British Army of the Rhine on tanks and on UN duty in Cyprus in scout cars.

The Regiment served in Northern Ireland seven times from 1972 to 1994, in the border areas of Armagh and Fermanagh, and in Belfast. In 1976/1977 they were the garrison Regiment in Omagh, and in 1983 and 1992 Squadrons from the Regiment guarded the Maze prison where prisoners convicted or interned because of terrorism were held. They were used as infantry in Belfast in 1993 / 94.

Armoured Reconnaissance

The Regiment became an Armoured Reconnaissance on return from Northern Ireland in 1977, using the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (tracked) (CVR(T) platform, and served in this role variously in the UK and Germany until amalgamation in 2015, with occasional operational involvement elsewhere.  Parts of the Regiment were deployed in Saudi Arabia as a reserve for the 1991 Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from the invading forces of Iraq, but apart from one Troop attached to the 16th / 5th Lancers did not see combat.

Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq

As part of United Nations (UN) peace keeping forces, and then under NATO, the Regiment served a number of times betweem 1992 and 2001 in Bosnia, and in Kosovo between 1999 and 2003. Both these civil wars in the former Yugoslavia were characterised by conflict between ethnic groups and claims of war-crimes.

In 2003 and again in 2005, the 9th/12th Royal Lancers were sent to southern part of Iraq near Basra as part of Operation ‘TELIC’. They supported British forces after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. They spent most of 2007 training in Canada and Germany for possible duties in Afghanistan. In 2008 they deployed again to Iraq in specialist support roles. In 2011/2012 they deployed to Afghanistan and again in October 2013, their last operational tour, in June 2014.

The 9th/12th Royal Lancers were amalgamated with the Queens Royal Lancers on 2nd May 2015, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and HRH The Duke of York, to form The Royal Lancers.  This historic parade to place in Richmond Castle, North Yorkshire.  

The new Regiment is currently based at Catterick.