1938 to 1959
A Short History of 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards
At the outbreak of World War Two both regiments were in England. In May 1940 the Bays were sent as part of the 1st Armoured Division to France, and were heavily engaged on the Somme. In mid June, with the collapse of the French resistance, they were evacuated back to England through the port of Brest. In November 1939 the KDG were ordered out to the Middle East. On arrival in Egypt they were equipped with South African Marmon Harrington armoured cars, and fought subsequently as an armoured car regiment.
Queen’s Bays at Gazala
They arrived in the desert in time to take part in the last battle of Wavell’s campaign at Beda Fomm. The KDG were the first to come into contact with the German Afrika Corps under Rommel, and took part in the siege of Tobruk. They were engaged in all the major Desert battles, including the Relief of Tobruk, Gazala, Bir Hacheim, the defence of the Alamein Line, Alam Halfa, and then the advance to Tripoli, the Tebega Gap, El Hamma, the Wadi Akarit and the final push to Tunis.
KDG Marmon Harrington armoured cars – siege of Tobruk November 1941
The Bays arrived in the Middle East in November 1941, equipped initially with the 2 pounder Crusader Tank. They fought with great bravery at the Cauldron and Knightsbridge during the battle of Gazala, and were continuously in action for 19 days, a record for an armoured regiment in the Western Desert. They played a major part at the Battle of Alamein, the Tebaga gap, at El Hamma and the Mareth Line, and so on to Tunis.
The Marmon Harrington
The KDG landed at Salerno in September 1943 and were the first to enter Naples. They fought on the Volturno, at the battle of Monte Camino, and at the crossing of the Garigliano. During the advance up Italy during 1944, they took part in the capture of Perugia, and Arezzo, were in Florence, and at the Gothic Line. Whilst in the Po Valley in December they were ordered to Greece to combat the Communist attempt to take over that country. The Bays arrived in Italy in May 1944 and were engaged in the Gothic Line, and at the battle of Coriano Ridge they lost all but three of their tanks and suffered 98 casualties in a matter of minutes when they were sent against a screen of German anti-tank guns, including 88mms. They fought in the PO Valley at the Crossing of the Lamone, and at Rimini, Coriano Ridge and Cesena. The Bays helped force the Argenta Gap and found themselves at Ferrara when the Germans Surrendered. The end of the War found the KDG in the Middle East. Trouble soon broke out in Lebanon and Syria, and the KDG were employed to keep the peace. Then in September 1945 they were moved to Palestine, where they were engaged in aid of the civil power all over Northern Palestine. They returned to Britain in 1948. After the war the Bays remained in Northern Italy, Then moved to Egypt before returning to Britain in 1947. On November the 1st 1958 the Queen’s Bays paraded for the last time and were reviewed by their Colonel-in Chief, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The KDG had been ordered to Malaya in 1956, and served there throughout the emergency.
The King’s Dragoon Guards, on arrival in Malaya, found that they were one of two armoured car regiments, equipped with Daimler armoured cars and Ferret scout cars, operating in the peninsula. By June 1956 General Templer’s policy of fortified villages and curfews was starting to take effect. Chin Peng’s Communist guerrillas were finding it harder to operate, and although they had a plentiful stock of both British and Japanese weapons, supplies were becoming more difficult to obtain as rural villages became more secure. There was, however, plenty of fight left in the guerrillas and they still retained the element of surprise and choice of target.
Daimler Armoured Car Mk1
The KDG relieved their old friends the 11th Hussars, taking over operational control on 26 June 1956. Regimental headquarters with ‘B’ Squadron was stationed at Seremban in Negri Sembilan, with ‘C’ Squadron forty miles to the north in Kuala Lumpur, while ‘A’ was 200 miles to the south in Johore Bahru. The Regiment worked in support of the Gurkha Division, with each squadron operating as an independent unit, under its own brigade. In addition the regiment provided a training squadron on Singapore Island, which also had to be available for internal security duties and was heavily involved in containing serious rioting which broke out in Singapore city on 25 October.
The KDG were used to keep the main roads open, escorting convoys and VIPs, as well as setting ambushes, patrolling and carrying out village perimeter checks. ‘A’ squadron had a contact in Johore, and at the notorious village of Kulai made 47 arrests of suspected terrorists out of a total of 174 made during a search operation. The squadron also went into Singapore city with the training squadron during the rioting, keeping the main roads and the back streets clear. ‘C’ Squadron at Kuala Lumpur was even more dispersed, with troops detached at Kajang and Nee Soon, but the whole squadron had to pack up suddenly and drive to Singapore during the riots, when it was stationed at Kallang Airport. It made twenty-seven arrests before returning to Kuala Lumpur. During the six months of 1956 that the regiment was in Malaya, its vehicles covered 600,000 miles.
By May 1957 the situation in Malaya had been brought sufficiently under control for the number of armoured car regiments to be reduced, and when the 15th/19th Hussars went home in May. The King’s Dragoon Guards took over responsibility for road security for the whole of Malaya, except for Selangor and Negri Sembilan. These two states were covered by a newly raised Malaya Armoured Car Regiment to which a number of KDG Officers and NCOs were seconded. Regimental Headquarters and Headquarter Squadron moved to Ipoh, where they were joined by ‘C’ Squadron; ‘B’ Squadron moved into Kuala Lumpur until ‘Merdeka’, or self-government, which was granted on 31 August 1957, when it moved to Kluang in North Johore. Because of manpower problems the training squadron joined RHQ, and in spite of the regiment’s dispersal, the General carrying out the yearly administrative inspection commented, “I was most impressed with all I saw of the KDG”. Yet another detachment of ten Ferret scout cars was formed later to act as the Gurkha Division Escort Troop, staying at Seremban. So the KDG were scattered in packets over an area the size of England, which provided a nightmare for the RSM, but a paradise for the troop and squadron leader.
On the night of 6/7 March 1957 a party of ‘B’ Squadron, while still at Seremban under command of Corporal Derench, opened fire on three Communist terrorists who walked into their position. The next day the body of Cheong Fatt, a section leader of the so-called 3rd Independent Platoon for the Malayan Republic Liberation Army, was found; it later transpired that a second terrorist, Tak Lan, had been wounded, but had escaped. ‘C’ Squadron, supporting the Commonwealth Brigade, had a detachment 6,000 feet up in the Cameron Highlands, and was responsible for the security of a particularly hilly and winding road to surrender, and the KDG, by the end of March 1958 had accepted the surrender of a total of forty terrorists along it. On 27 September 1957 Lieutenant Colonel Selby took over command from Lieutenant Colonel Cairns. Sergeant Carter was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, and Captain Lidsey and Lieutenant Gibson were mentioned in despatches. The Regiment had by the end of 1957 traveled 1,851,094 miles since it arrived in Malaya.