17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge's Own)
Active 7 November 1759-27 June 1922
Country United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army Army
Type Line cavalry
Role Lancer regiment
Nickname The Death or Glory Boys, The Horse Marines, The Tots, The White Lancers
Motto Death Or Glory
March Quick: The White Lancers
Slow: Occasional Overture
Anniversaries Balaklava (25 October)
Battle of Ulundi (4 July)
Ceremonial chief Prince George, Duke of Cambridge
Sir Drury Curzon Drury-Lowe
Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig

The 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge's Own) was a cavalry regiment of the British Army, most famous for its participation in the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War. Various amalgamations have resulted in its absorption into the Queen's Royal Lancers (which also incorporates the 5th Lancers, 16th Lancers and 21st Lancers).

The beginningEdit

In 1759 Colonel John Hale of the 47th Foot was ordered home by General James Wolfe just prior to the General's death, with the final dispatches and news of Wolfe's victory in the Battle of Quebec. For bringing news of the victory, Hale was rewarded with land in Canada and permission to raise a regiment of light dragoons. The new regiment was known as the 18th Regiment of (Light) Dragoons and was also known as Hale's Light Horse after its founder. The admiration of his men for General Wolfe was evident in the cap badge Colonel Hale chose for the regiment: the Death's Head with the motto "Or Glory".

In 1761 it was renumbered as the 17th. Also that year the regiment saw service in Germany. In 1766 the regiment was renumbered again, this time as the 3rd Regiment of Light Dragoons. In 1764 the regiment went to Ireland, where it was based for many years. In 1769 it regained the 17th numeral as the 17th Regiment of (Light) Dragoons.

The 17th was sent to North America in 1775, arriving in Boston, then besieged by American rebels in their War of Independence. The 17th fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill, a costly British victory. The 17th was withdrawn to Halifax. In 1776, the 17th served in the successful British Long Island campaign. In 1780-81, the 17th was deployed in the southern colonies as part of Tarleton's Legion, and fought in many successful minor actions. The American War of Independence was officially concluded in 1783. An officer of the regiment, Captain Stapleton, had the distinction of handing George Washington the final declaration of the cessation of hostilities.

The 17th returned to Britain, where they remained until 1795 and the French Revolutionary War. The 17th was then stationed in the West Indies, acting as marines . The 17th was split up into detachments and saw service on a number of islands there. At this time they gained the nickname the "Horse Marines", since they were acting as marines aboard a Royal Navy warship.

In 1806, the 17th took part in the disastrous expedition to Spanish-controlled South America, then an ally of France during the Napoleonic Wars. Sir Home Riggs Popham had orchestrated an expedition against South America without the British government's sanction. This invasion failed, but a second invasion was launched. The 17th was part of this second force, under Sir Samuel Auchmuty. The British force besieged and captured Montevideo. In 1807, the 17th were part of the force, now under John Whitelocke, that tried to capture Buenos Aires, but this failed abysmally. The British force (including the 17th) was forced to surrender, and did not return home until 1808. (Popham and Whitelocke were court-martialled.)

The 17th was sent to India shortly after returning home. In 1817 they took part in the 3rd Mahratta War. The 17th suffered greatly in India during their stay, not through fighting but through disease, which decimated the regiment. In 1822 its title was altered again when it re-roled as a Lancer regiment, becoming the 17th Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Lancer). The following year the 17th returned home and on its journey discovered this change.

Despite the seemingly archaic nature of the usage of the lance in preference to the carbine, the changes had been implemented by the Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, who had been impressed by the Polish Lancers participation in the Battle of Waterloo on the French side. In 1826 Lord Bingham (later Lord Lucan of Crimean War infamy) became the regiment's new commander when he bought a Lieutenant-Colonelcy commission. He was such a stickler for the immaculate appearance of the soldiers that the regiment became known as Bingham's Dandies.

A Charge Into DestinyEdit

The 17th had been stationed in the UK since 1823, and did not go abroad till the Crimean War in 1854. The 17th was part of a combined British and French expedition dispatched to assist the Ottoman Empire against Russia. This force was sent to invade the Crimea (in what is now the Ukraine), and capture the important naval base of Sevastopol.

The 17th was part of the Light Brigade, under the command of Major-General Lord Cardigan, which landed with the British forces at a place known as Calamity Bay. It took part in a minor skirmish at the Bulganek River and subsequently took part in the Battle of Alma on 20 September.

During the Siege of Sevastopol (which began in September) the 17th Lancers took part in the Battle of Balaklava on 25 October. During the battle the regiment took part in a cavalry charge that became known as the Charge of the Light Brigade, which spawned much controversy and indeed a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The Russians captured redoubts on the Causeway Heights, which held some British artillery. The army commander, Lord Raglan, issued an order for the Light Brigade to attack there before the guns could be taken away by the Russians. The order was sent via Captain Nolan to Lord Lucan, commander of the Cavalry Division. However, the order was misinterpreted as an order to attack Russian artillery in the valley between the Fediukhine Heights and the Causeway Heights.


Lord Cardigan then ordered his Light Brigade to began the advance at a trot, with the 17th and 13th Light Dragoons leading the Brigade, heading into a maelstrom of Russian artillery, infantry and cavalry. The Light Brigade advanced to their objective and came under heavy artillery fire from all sides, which inflicted heavy casualties. The Brigade upon nearing the enemy then went into a full charge. The 17th Lancers, commanded by Captain William Morris, drove through the Russian artillery before smashing straight into the Russian cavalry and pushing them back. The Light Brigade were unable to consolidate their position, however, having insufficient forces (the Heavy Brigade had not advanced further into the valley) and had to withdraw to their starting positions, coming under artillery and musket fire and cavalry attack as they did so.

Despite the mistakes that culminated in unnecessary loss, the charge reasserted the renown of the British cavalry, to such an extent that Russian cavalry refused outright to confront them in battle for the duration of the war. The 17th Lancers suffered quite heavily. Of the 147 men of the 17th, just 38 were at the roll call the following morning. The Light Brigade as a whole suffered 118 men killed and 127 wounded out of a total of 673 men, and 362 horses lost, effectively destroying the unit as a fighting force.

The 17th took part in the Battle of Inkerman on 5 November, though only in a minor role. It did not return home with the conclusion of the war in 1856.

After the inception of the Victoria Cross (VC) in 1856, three members of the 17th were awarded the VC for their bravery in the Charge. These were Troop Sergeant-Major John Berryman, Sergeant-Major Charles Wooden and Sergeant John Farrell.

Distant EmpireEdit


In December 1857 the 17th arrived in India to help quell the Indian Mutiny. By the time the 17th was ready to commence operations in 1858, the mutiny was effectively over. The 17th took part in the pursuit of rebel leader Tantia Topi. During the pursuit, the 17th gained its fourth VC: Lieutenant Henry Evelyn Wood was honoured for bravery at Sinwaho, where he commanded a cavalry troop that routed a large number of rebels. Tantia Topi was caught and hanged. The mutiny ended in June 1858 and the 17th returned home in 1863.

In 1861 the 17th's title was altered again, to the 17th Regiment of Lancers. In 1876 it gained Prince George, Duke of Cambridge as its Colonel-in-Chief and the 17th's name was duly altered to the 17th (The Duke of Cambridge's Own) Lancers.

The 17th was sent to Natal Colony for the Zulu War. On 4 July 1879 the 17th fought at the Battle of Ulundi under Sir Drury Curzon Drury-Lowe. The 17th was posted inside a large British infantry square during the attack by the Zulus, who surrounded the British. When the Zulus began to waver, the 17th Lancers were unleashed. Their charge routed the Zulu warriors with heavy loss. The battle was so decisive that the Zulus never took to the field to fight the British again. The 17th returned to India the same year, remaining there until about 1890 when they returned home.

File:All That Was Left of Them (17th Lancers at Moddersfontein).jpg

In 1900 the 17th returned to Southern Africa for the Second Boer War. They missed the large pitched battles but would still see substantial action during the war. In 1900, Sergeant Brian Lawrence won the regiment's fifth and final VC at Essenbosch Farm. The 17th's most significant action was at the Battle of Elands River (Modderfontein) in September 1901. C Squadron of the 17th was ambushed by Boers whom they mistook for British troops, was surrounded, and refused to surrender, which resulted in about 35 Lancers killed and many wounded. Most of their war service was in small actions against the Boers.

The 17th returned home in 1902 with the conclusion of the war. In 1905 the 17th went to India, where they stayed until the First World War in 1914.

First World WarEdit

File:17th Lancers advancing.jpg

The 17th was part of the Sialkot Cavalry Brigade, 1st Indian Cavalry Division, and arrived in France in November 1914. In the static warfare of the Western Front, the 17th was used as infantry, manning the trenches.

The 17th was finally used in its traditional cavalry role in 1917, at the Battle of Cambrai (1917). Cambrai also saw the first large-scale use of tanks, showing the stark contrast between the future of warfare and the 17th Lancers and the other horse regiments. In 1918 the 17th was transferred to the 7th Cavalry Brigade, part of the 3rd Cavalry Division. That year they got another chance to prove their worth as a cavalry regiment during the last-gasp German Spring Offensive. The Allies had fallen back in chaos and the 17th were used as mobile infantry, plugging gaps whenever the need arose, being used in the cavalry and infantry roles. The 17th also saw service in the British counter-attack, including the Battle of Amiens.

When the war ended in November 1918, the 17th went to Cologne, Germany, as part of the British Army of Occupation. In 1920 the 17th went to Ireland where it took part in the Anglo-Irish War. In 1921 the 17th's title was altered slightly to the 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge's Own).


In 1922 the 17th was amalgamated with the 21st Lancers (Empress of India's) to form the 17th/21st Lancers. This regiment was amalgamated with the 16th/5th Queen's Royal Lancers in 1993 to form the Queen's Royal Lancers.

Battle honoursEdit

Web SitesEdit

The home of the recreated 17th Lancers - The 17th Lancers

Preceded by
17th Lancers
Succeeded by
17th/21st Lancers

Template:British Cavalry Regiments World War Isv:17. lansiärkompaniet

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