There are currently nine regular cavalry regiments of the British Army, of these two serve as armoured regiments, three as armoured cavalry regiments, three as light cavalry and one as a mounted ceremonial regiment. Soldiery has given me the opportunity to work with seven of these nine Regiments. Namely, The Household Cavalry, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Queens Royal Hussars, Kings Royal Hussars, Royal Tank Regiment, The Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeths’ Own) and The Light Dragoons.
They are probably the most famous of the mounted soldiers, symbolic due to their Buckingham Palace connections. The Household Cavalry now drive and operate both heavy and light tanks, and various other vehicles into battle. This is a Cavalry juxtaposing the old with the new; the ceremony with the duty.
When visiting Household Mechanised in Windsor, I was presented with the diversely mechanical contrast of the regiment. The Troopers I had seen parading in Knightsbridge, now have a duel role as both ceremonial soldiers and modern mechanised cavalry. Now I was photographing, reconnaissance light tank gunners and drivers, as well as armed troopers, and snipers.
Photographing these troops required meeting them on home turf, which in their case is both Knightsbridge and Windsor. The portraits needed to reflect these distinctions as well as allowing for the notable differences of technique in photographing mounted soldiers. Focusing on The Lifeguards and the Blues and Royal, I captured the soldiers mounted in their distinguished uniform. Conducting these portraits, whilst also witnessing the Guard Mount with its 350-year-long ceremonial history, was sharply in contrast with photographing the mechanised troops of the regiment.
They are the oldest and most senior regiments in the British Army split between two different units equipped to perform two quite different roles. The Household Cavalry Regiment (HCR) is an Armoured Cavalry regiment of the British Army based at Combermere Barracks in Windsor. It is the brother regiment of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR) based at Hyde Park Barracks in London – both regiments together form the Household Cavalry. The regiment presented me with a challenge, with the opportunity to capture both the Ceremonial Household Mounted Regiment, as well as the Armoured Cavalry Regiment. Both grooms of horses and armoured vehicles.
Being based in Hyde Park, must be a remarkable experience for a young soldier, given your own horse and stationed right the centre of Knightsbridge. Riding out into Hyde Park each day must be a remarkable experience. In contrast they then transfer to the modern, cavalry regimental Barracks in Windsor, employed for more modern military duties. My sitting with the Household Mounted Regiment in Hyde Park, gave me the opportunity to view the Guard Mount, those troopers charged with guarding the Queens Official Residence and the Horse Guards.
The Guard Mount occurs daily 365 days per year without fail. The Household Cavalry serve as the Queen’s official bodyguard. More than 350 Horses are occupants of the barracks, and it’s remarkable to see all the traditions of the regiment maintained. The uniforms of the Blues and Royals are remarkable to behold. When on duty soldiers wear the distinctive metal helmets, with a long plume of horses hair hanging on top, not seen on many other types of soldiers.
The Blues and Royals is the only regiment in the British Army to allow troopers and non-commissioned officers, when not wearing headdress, to salute an officer. The custom was started after the Battle of Warburg in 1760 by the Marquess of Granby, who commanded both the Royal Horse Guards and the Royal Dragoons. These were separate units at the time. During the battle, the Marquess had driven French forces from the field, losing both his hat and wig during the charge. When reporting to his commander, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, in the heat of the moment he is said to have saluted without wearing his headdress, having lost it earlier. When the Marquess of Granby became the Colonel of the Blues, the regiment adopted this tradition.
When the Household Cavalry mounts an escort to the Sovereign on State occasions, a ceremonial axe with a spike is carried by a Farrier Corporal of Horse, which I managed to capture. The historical reason behind this is when a horse was wounded or injured so seriously it could not be treated, its suffering was ended by killing it with the spike. The axe is also a reminder of the days when the Sovereign’s escorts accompanied royal coaches when English roads were very bad. Horses often fell, becoming entangled in their harnesses and having to be freed with the cut of an axe. It’s also said in those times, if a horse had to be killed its rider had to bring back a hoof, cut off with the axe. This proved to the Quartermaster the animal was dead and hence preventing fraudulent replacement. Today, the axe remains as a symbol of the Farrier’s duties.
From The Household Cavalry I moved onto The Royal Lancers, to focus on wonderful ceremonial dress, and an experience to relish. Lt. General Everard, himself of the Royal Lancers, had conveyed the Regiment’s History. There was also a personal connection, with my Brother-in-Law having served in the Regiment. The Regiment was formed following the amalgamation of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’s) and The Queen’s Royal Lancers on the 2nd May 2015. The Regiment has close family ties as my Brother In Law served in the 9th/12th during the Gulf War. General Everard, who helped to organise the sittings was former colonel of the Queen’s Royal Lancers, and it seemed fitting these sittings would be of interested to both.
The regiment is indeed iconic, with the Skull and Crossbones of the Queens Royal Lancers on each cap badge. The Regiment’s motto is ‘Death or Glory’. The Royal Lancers history stretches back more than 300 years, including Dragoons, Hussars and finally Lancers. The regiment’s distinctive cap-badge features the crossed lances with pennons of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, and the Death’s head of The Queen’s Royal Lancers.
The Death’s Head originates from the coat of arms of General Wolfe, in whose memory the 17th Light Dragoons were formed. One of Wolfe’s ablest commanders and close personal friend, was Colonel John Hale of the 47th Regiment of Foot. It fell to Col. Hale to bring back to the King, the mixed news of victory over the French paid for in part with the death of Wolfe.
In thanks to the role of Hale, the King granted him a commission to raise one of the five new regiments of Light Dragoons, being planned as part of preparations for the Seven Years War. With a rich and varied history, the modern Lancer regiments have fought in every major conflict of the last three centuries, and its soldiers are rightly proud of this heritage.
The Regiment has moved on from stables and horses, now being armoured cavalry soldiers instead. This armoured cavalry are now the frontline reconnaissance soldiers of the British Army. These soldiers are trained to operate in advance of lead combat units, specially prepared to deploy early in any combat. Their crucial role is to deliver up-to-date and accurate information and intelligence about the enemy, in order to shape and aid the relevant commander’s decision making process.
Rather pirate-like, but in far greater esteem, the Regimental badge of the Royal Lancers depicts a Skull and Crossbones, containing the words ‘OR GLORY’. This is a somewhat pertinent motto depicting the strength of character forming the tradition and history, making the British Army unique. Staggeringly, The Royal Lancers can in fact trace their lineage as far back as the Battle of the Boyne, American Independence, and the Napoleonic Wars.
From here to The Light Dragoons in Catterick where, once again, the horse of olden day Cavalry has been replaced by an armed vehicle – this time going by the name of Jackal. The Cavalry portraits still needed extending and broadening, so it was on to the Queen’s Royal Hussars in Paderborn, Germany, as well as the Royal Tank Regiment in Tidworth. Here, there was the opportunity to capture the powerful Challenger II Battle Tank, as well as the troopers who man this titan of a vehicle.
The Royal Tank Regiment is the oldest tank unit in the world, forged out of the adversity of the First World War. The regiment is equipped with Challenger 2 tanks and based at Tidworth. Soldiers of RTR wear a black beret and black overalls, a custom reserved to the Regiment unlike any other tank regiment in the British Army. A black beret was selected as it would not show oil stains. I felt quite at home as many of the soldiers of the Regiment appeared to be from Liverpool. In essence the regiment appeared to be half Liverpudlian and half Glaswegian. Two peoples of a similar sense of humour, the soldiers regiment seemed to get along swimmingly. Again I had the chance to photograph the Soldiers posing with the Powerful Challenger 2 Battle Tank, and create a series of remarkable portraits of all the regiments states of dress.
Based in Tidworth, Wiltshire, The King’s Royal Hussars is a British armoured regiment with a long history and great cavalry traditions. The regiment currently serves in the armoured role, equipped with Challenger 2 tanks. The regiment wears the iconic crimson trousers when in ceremonial, No. 1 or No, 2 dress. As you notice from the portrait the soldiers wear the crossed kukri of the Gurkhas as an arm badge. This relates back to 1945 when C Squadron, 14th/20th King’s Hussars assaulted the town of Medicina in Italy alongside the 2nd Battalion, 6th Gurkha Rifles, inflicting heavy losses on the German defenders despite being outnumbered. In commemoration of this action the 14th/20th King’s Hussars adopted the crossed kukri badge, a tradition maintained by the regiment.
My inspiration of the portrait, came from a portrait by Emanuel Leutze, an American Portraitist. Who painted, Washington Crossing the Delaware. My subjects, the Commanding Officer Colonel Porter and the two-highest ranking NCO’s posed, as poised for battle. Carrying the regimental Guidon with pride, just as Washington is depicted profile, tall, and with the Star- Spangled Banner behind him.