History Introduction

The Relevance of 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards and it’s History

Whilst 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards (QDG) is a thoroughly modern 21st Century reconnaissance regiment formed sixty years ago, it also one of the oldest regiments in the British Army. Its roots spread back well over three hundred years to 1685, before the formal formation of the British Army in 1707. Understandably all British regiments are proud of their heritage but the QDG significance takes a lot of beating. It is the most senior regiment of the line in the British Army however its relevance rests not only on seniority but also, more importantly, on historical significance. The two regiments from which it was formed, the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards (KDG) and The Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) (Bays), have won one of the largest number of battle honours in the British Army. Significant among them are the three most important victories won by the British Army since its creation, namely: Blenheim, Waterloo and El Alamein – a feat very few other regiments can boast and a good reason why all ranks in QDG should be both proud of their cap badge.


The British Army’s fighting components are called the teeth arms which are essentially the Infantry and the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC). The RAC comprises the Army’s cavalry regiments along with the Household Cavalry and Royal Tank Regiment. The British cavalry fought on horseback until the 1930’s when the Armoured Fighting Vehicle replaced the horse; the cavalry itself was split into the following types each with different roles: dragoon guards, dragoons, hussars and lancers.

Hussars and lancers had previously been called light dragoons and were part of the light cavalry made up of slighter, more lightly armoured men on smaller, faster horses. Their main tasks were: reconnaissance, raids, screening flanks and skirmishing with the leading elements of enemy which were normally their own light cavalry.

The heavy cavalrymen (the Heavies) were the descendants of the medieval knights and were bigger, more heavily armoured men on larger horses. Their job was purely to provide the shock impact of the mounted charge against the enemy. They used their straight, hefty swords for stabbing as opposed to the skirmishing style of fighting used by the light cavalry who were armed with agile curved sabres used for slashing. The three constituents of the heavies were: the Household Cavalry, the dragoon guards and the dragoon regiments. So, ironically, QDG are historically a heavy cavalry regiment by name but now employed in a light cavalry role.

QDG was formed in 1959 with the amalgamation of the 1st Kings Dragoon Guards (KDG) and The Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards). In the 18th century all the British cavalry regiments were mounted on black horses except the Scots Greys who rode grey (white) horses and the 2nd Dragoon Guards, who rode bay (brown) horses and were known as the Bays.

The KDG and Bays were the two senior cavalry regiments of the line. ‘The line’ refers to all the fighting elements in the British Army except the monarch’s household regiments (effectively bodyguard). The name changes of the Regiment’s antecedents are displayed below:

A QDG chronology showing the dates of the name changes of its antecedent regiments, The KDG and The Queen’s Bays since 1685

Origins of the Antecedent Regiments – The KDG and Bays

The origins of the KDG and Bays were identical. Both were raised on Hampstead Heath in June 1685 to help suppress the rebellion by King Charles II’s bastard son the Duke of Monmouth against his uncle King James II. When King James II came to the throne in 1685 the regular English Army was tiny with the cavalry comprising only three troops of Life Guards, the Royal Regiment of Horse (The Blues) and a regiment of dragoons, the Royal Dragoons. In order to suppress the Monmouth Rebellion, King James was motivated to triple the size of the cavalry by adding eight more Regiment’s, six of Horse and two of Dragoons. Two of these cavalry units were the KDG and Bays, which were respectively Lanier’s, or The 2nd Regiment of Horse, and Peterborough’s, or The 3rd Regiment of Horse. As is the case today the Army’s shape was dictated by the Government’s drive to cut costs.

In 1746 both regiments were reduced from the status of Horse to that of Dragoons which were paid less. There was an outcry and a new status in between Horse and Dragoons was created called Dragoon Guards. As the senior members of this category, the 2nd and 3rd Regiments of Horse then became respectively the 1st and 2nd Dragoon Guards.

Henry Mordaunt, 2nd Earl of Peterborough, first Colonel of the Bays