12th Dragoons.

In 1715, eight new regiments of foot and thirteen of dragoons were raised for the fear of an uprising in Scotland. One such regiment was raised in Berkshire under Colonel Phineas Bowles. Once the rising in Scotland had been suppressed six dragoon regiments were disbanded but Bowles's regiment remained to become the 12th Dragoons. In 1718 the regiment was posted to Ireland, where it remained for seventy-five years.

12th Light Dragoons

In 1768 the regiment was constituted a corps of light cavalry, and the uniform and equipment were changed. The King bestowed the title of "The 12th Prince of Wales's Regiment of Light Dragoons", and the regiment was given the famous badge of the three ostrich feathers, and the motto "Ich Dien". In 1793 the regiment left Ireland to aid Admiral Hood at the siege of Toulon acting as dismounted dragoons. Afterwards, a single squadron was used by General Charles Stuart in Corsica. The remainder of the regiment sailed to Italy where it was blessed by Pope Pius VI. The 12th then returned to England in 1795 and were used to suppress a food riot in Nottingham. In 1797 the regiment under General Stuart was in Portugal, as the only cavalry regiment of a force of 2000 ranks defending Lisbon. Britain was now at war with France, and Napoleon was invading Egypt. Britain sent an army under General Sir Ralph Abercrombie in 1801, the 12th among them. The regiment saw action at Alexandria, capturing a complete French convoy in the Libyan desert without losing a single man or horse. In 1802 the regiment on its return to England was awarded its first battle honour of "Egypt" and thereafter were entitled to wear the sphinx badge on their caps. Apart from two years in Ireland from 1803 to 1805, the 12th remained in England until 1809 under Colonel Sir James Stuart. In July 1809 the regiment was part of a 40,000 strong force destined to assault the Walcheren Island off the coast of Antwerp. The campaign was designed to relieve the pressure on Britain's allies in the coalition against Napoleon by opening a front close to France. However, it was short lived, as poor leadership led to an inexplicable lack of any real moves to advance out of the low lying landing areas and, as a result, a miasmic fever (malaria) spread through the Corps forcing it to abandon its goal. Fortunately, the regiment did not suffer from the fever, as they were never landed.

XIILD - The Peninsular Campaign

In the spring of 1811 the 12th Light Dragoons were ordered to join the Army under the Duke of Wellington in the Spanish Peninsula. Six troops embarked at Portsmouth, now under the command of the dashing and extremely popular, Lt. Colonel (The Honourable) Frederick Ponsonby. Here the Regiment shone in all its tasks, from outpost duties to combat. Actions included skirmishes at El Bodon, Aldea da Ponte. Llerena and Villa Garcia. Battle honours were awarded for Salamanca, Vittoria, Nivelles and Nive. In 1813 the uniform again changed. The 12th now wore Shakos instead of Tarleton helmets and the jacket and belts of the men were modelled on the french/continental style of tailed jacket with 'plastron' fronts. In the winter of 1813, Wellington fought his way into the South of France. On the 12th March 1814, the Regiment was among the first British troops to enter Bordeaux. Lt. Colonel Ponsonby was awarded the honour of carrying the news of Napoleon's abdication to the Duke of Wellington, some 150 miles away in Toulouse, which he did in just nineteen hours. Of the service given by the 12th during the Peninsula Campaign, Sir John Vandeleur, brigade commander of the 12th perhaps sums up the professionalism and absolute reliability characterising the regiment: "The 12th can boast of what no Regiment in the army can, except the ones that came out the other day, that we never lost a single man by surprise, not a piquet or patrol has ever been taken, nor a man deserted or even tried by Court Martial". After the armistice, the Regiment marched through France to Calais and ferried to England. At Hounslow they were inspected and congratulated by the Prince Regent who awarded the honour of "Peninsular".

XIILD - The Waterloo Campaign

In early 1815 the Regiment made a brief excursion to Berkshire to quell a food riot. Soon after, at Ramsgate, they embarked six troops under Ponsonby en route for Ostend. Napoleon had escaped from his prison, the Island of Elba. At Outenarde the regiment was brigaded with the 11th and 16th Light Dragoons under their old Peninsular commander, Major General Vandeleur. It was here that the Duke of Wellington inspected them and remarked: "He was happy at having again under his orders a corps which had always been distinguished for its gallantry and discipline, and he did not doubt, should occasion offer, it would continue to deserve this good opinion: and he hoped every man would feel pride in endeavouring to maintain the reputation of the Regiment". From here they moved to Denderwinche. On the 16th June Napoleon crossed the Sambre River at Charleroi between the Prussian army under Blucher and the British under Wellington. At five o ' clock that morning the regiment with the rest of the brigade were moved to Enghien, from where they were called to Nivelles. Soon after their arrival they were ordered to proceed without delay to Quatre Bras, where sounds of battle could be heard. Unfortunately, they arrived at the very end of the battle and took no active part. On the 17th June it was learned that the Prussians had retired to Wavre. Wellington retired to a position he had noted some moths previously, south of the village of Waterloo. Vandeleur's Brigade was used, together with the rest of the Allied cavalry, in three rearguard columns, pulling back from the French advance and was engaged in running skirmishes with the pursuing French light cavalry and lancers.

On the night of the 17th it rained continually, turning the battle ground into a quagmire. The morning of Sunday 18th was clear and found the 12th Light Dragoons of Vandeleur's Brigade on the far left of the British line. In the early afternoon Napoleon's main attack came with four massive columns belonging to D'Erlon's Division, the columns rolling forward towards the centre left of the British line. The columns began to push the line back, but were held by the charge of the Household and Union Brigades of heavy cavalry. The Household Brigade checked and withdrew after defeating two Cuirassier regiments. However, the Union Brigade did not. After smashing its way through two of D'Erlon's columns, it attacked the massed French Battery of guns opposite. Their horses blown and the men scattered, they were caught and set upon by two fresh regiments of Jaquinot's lancers. Realising the only way to extract what remained of the heavy dragoons, the 11th Light Dragoons were ordered to stay in reserve and the 12th and 16th to charge, the 12th leading. The charge Wellington later called "beautiful". The two regiments tore through the rear of the only remaining French column and fell upon the flank of the French, but were in turn charged by a regiment of lancers. This action although 'beautiful' was costly . During the attack by French lancers, Ponsonby was lost on the field. Desperately wounded having been run through at least three times by lance and sword he was left for dead. Despite being robbed and used as firing cover by a French tirailleur, Ponsonby survived until he was made more comfortable by a major of the Imperatrice Dragoons of the Imperial Guard. Having being ridden over by the advancing Prussians late in the day he was eventually found by a private in the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) who stood guard over him all night. Ponsonby survived despite his injuries which left him with a useless left arm and severe limitations of movement.

As the Battle of Waterloo began to rise to its climax, the centre of the British line was stretching perilously thin. Wellington sent orders for Vandeleur's Brigade, the 12th among them, to move closer to the centre of the line but the aide sent with the message found Vandeleur already in the process of bringing his men over, having seen the dire situation developing to his right. Here they had a grandstand view of the massed French cavalry attacks in the late afternoon and repeatedly helped to see off the French cavalry that made its way past the infantry squares. At around four o'clock the Prussians could be seen approaching. The 12th Light Dragoons moved along in the line behind the right flank of Maitland's Brigade of Foot Guards. Once again they had a prime view of another French assault, this time by the Imperial Guard. As soon as the Imperial Guard were beaten back by Maitland's Guards and the Light Division, the cavalry were on the advance moving forward as best they could, hampered by the numbers of dead and wounded on the field. They charged the fleeing French capturing groups of French soldiers and guns. Further across the field they came face to face with the "Grenadiers a Cheval" who had been Napoleon's personal escort all day and therefore virtually untouched. The regiment prepared to charge, but badly obstructed by the fleeing French army they had little effect. As night fell, the exhausted British cavalry gratefully handed over the pursuit of the French fugitives to the newly arrived vengeful Prussians. Later the regiment moved into France, and in July entered Paris with the rest of the cavalry. So ended the Napoleonic era of the regiment, with the award of their proudest battle honour "Waterloo".

12th (Prince of Wales's Royal) Lancers

Having been practising with lances in the Peninsula and at home, in 1816 the regiment was converted into lancers and the name changed in 1817 to "The 12th, Prince of Wales, Royal Lancers". The regiment served with distinction in most theatres of war of the British empire including: South Africa 1852, The Crimea, The Indian Mutiny 1858 - 1860, The Boer War 1899 - 1902 and The Great War 1914 - 1918. In 1930 the horse had to make way for the automobile, as tanks and armoured cars took over. As an armoured regiment the 12th Lancers fought in several theatres of the Second World War.

9th/12th Royal Lancers

With the re-alignment of the British army during the 'cold war' the regiment was amalgamated with the 9th Lancers. Despite many regiments undergoing further amalgamations with some loss of identity, the 9th/12th Royal Lancers have remained a distinct regiment and still perform much the same tasks for the army of today armed with scimitar tanks, as their predecessors did on horseback. Most recently the 9th/12th ahve seen active service in the Gulf War of 1991 and the Balkans. The regiment is currently on station in Germany beginning a tour of duty as part of Nato forces.

The record of the Regiment has no ending. Its spirit can be seldom expressed in words only articulated in the bearing of officers and men in the fierce competitive brilliance of peace and the discipline and comradeship of war. This spirit has been created by generation after generation of soldiers, by men who fought in the Peninsula and at Waterloo, in South Africa and India, in the Transvaal and the mud of Flanders, in France, North Africa, Italy and Iraq.

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