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Remembered Today:

Gardner's Horse

Steven Broomfield

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On 12th May, 1809, Major William Linnaeus Gardner (late of the 74th Foot) raised a regiment of irregular horse for police and revenue duties in the newly conquered provinces between the Ganges and the Jumna. The regiment was known as Lt Col Gardner's Corps of Irregular Horse. Composition was almost exclusively Moslems from Hindustan, but with a few Brahmans, Rajputs and "inferior" Hindus.

The regiment fought in the Nepal War of 1814/15; in the Mahratta War of 1817/18, after which it was formally adopted as a unit of Irregular Horse with the title 2nd (Gardner's) Local Horse, in the Bengal establishment. In 1825 they went to Burma (winning the Battle Honour, "Arracan").

1846 saw them in the 1st Sikh War (Battle Honour, "Sobraon"); then in 1848, the 2nd Sikh War ("Punjab").

Through the Mutiny the regiment remained (in the words of the regimental history) "untainted and unaffected by the storm around it". It retaned its arms throughout, and was used as part of a Moveable Column in the Punjab, rounding up mutineers.

In 1861 they became the 2nd Bengal Cavalry, formed from a mixture of Sikhs, Moslems, Dogras, Jats, Brahmans, Rajputs and Mahrattas.

After various Frontier skirmishes, the regiment was in Egypt 1882/83 ("Egypt 1882" and "Tel el Kebir").

Following a successful inspection by Lord Roberts in 1889/90, the regiment was armed with the lance and renamed the 2nd Bengal Lancers, adding (Gardner's Horse) in 1903.

On the outbreak of war, the regiment was at Saugor; it was mobilised in the Mhow Brigade with the 7th Dragoon Guards and the Central India Horse. Proceeding the France from Bombay on 18th November 1914 (in the "City of Lahore" and the "Manora"), they arrived in Marseilles on 15th December.

Space forbids a fuller record of service, but suffice to say that the regiment played a full part: trench warfare round Bethune in the appalling conditions of the 1914/15 winter; hanging around at Neuve Chapelle for the breakthrough that never came; holding the line on the Somme in the summer of 1915 (bombing for fish in the Ancre ...); back up to Loos for another breakthrough; ready for the charge on 25th September, 1916, at Guedecourt (despite one officer galloping through the British front line, no charge could be made); trench digging; following up the German retreat of early 1917; and then Cambrai.

It was there that the regiment saw its stiffest test: a counter-attack against the enemy breakthrough. The regiment, at 11.00 a.m. on 30th November, called to arms despite most men away on a carrying job. Lances thrown to the men as they assembled behind the front. A desperate charge at Kildare Post (south of Pigeon Ravine). The Colonel killed. Lance Dafadar Gobind Singh (28th Cavalry, attached) crossing a bullet- and shell-swept ground three times with messages, three horses being killed underneath him (and volunteering for a fourth attempt) - awarded a VC. At Cambrai, 2 British officers were killed; one Indian officer killed and one missing, and over 40 Indian other ranks killed or missing, with a dozen captured, and over 50 wounded.

A VC, a DSO, a Bar to a DSO, three MCs, 2 Indian Orders of Merit (2nd Class)7 Indian Distinguished Service Medals and a Bar, and a Belgian C de G were awarded for the action.

Then to Palestine and a part in Allenby's campaign, ending the war at Beirut - from the mud and snow of Cambrai to the heat, scorpions and flies of the desert.

The regiment finally arrived hom in India on Christmas Day, 1920.

Amalgamated in 1922 with the 4th Cavalry, the regiment retianed its title and went on the serve as a Motor Battalion in the Western Desert, fighting as part of Eigth Army in a series of engagements until being overrun at Bir Hacheim in late May, 1942.

The rest of the war was spent in the Delta area, and latterly in Persia and Iraq.

In 1947 the regiment went to the newly independent India and still holds a place of honour in that country's army.

I ost this to remember those brave men who stayed true to their salt in all conditions, against all enemies, and in the face of all danger and fear. We owe them the debt of remembrance.

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Not that I have, although there is a very interesting report on the battle in the regimental history (plus map), and a good piece in the History of the 36th Jacob's Horse.

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Many Happy Returns of the Day to the 2nd Lancers

Then to Palestine and a part in Allenby's campaign, ending the war at Beirut - from the mud and snow of Cambrai to the heat, scorpions and flies of the desert.

Regarding their service under Allenby in September 1918,

'Pressing on all night in parallel columns, the 4th Cavalry Division on Megiddo… … …

Here the first opposition was met with; as the advanced guard of the 4th Cavalry Division debouched from the defile at Lejjun, a Turkish battalion with several machine guns was deploying in the plain below them. They were charged without hesitation by the leading regiment, the 2nd Lancers, and in few minutes the division was able to continue its advance; less prompt action might have caused fatal delay'

Although not spelled out as such [in 'The Advance of the EEF…etc…'] this action is as near as damn it at the ancient site of Megiddo, from which Allenby later took his title.

The OH gives a little more detail on the action

"The enemy kept three machine guns in action until the last moment, but the men serving them were unnerved by the pace of the cavalry, and their fire was high. The charge was driven home, and resulted in the complete rout of the Turks. Forty-six were speared and the remaining 470 captured, hardly a single man escaping. The Lancers had only one man wounded and twelve horses killed."

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