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The First World War
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The First World War

War brought the formation of another Household Cavalry composite regiment, still horsed but now equipped with rifles and, for the first time, Vickers machine guns.

In 1914 the composite regiment and a Household Cavalry brigade found themselves near Ypres in Belgium. The trenches then were just a series of shallow holes running across the countryside and mounted operations were increasingly rare. Corporal Millin described one such mission: 'Shells were bursting all around me, and men and horses were falling right and left'. In general, therefore, cavalry regiments serving in the trenches left their horses several miles behind the line. In October and November 1914, German attacks near Ypres inflicted heavy casualties on The Household Cavalry and The Royals.

The First World War

Cavalry waiting for the breakthrough in 1917. (Household Cavalry Museum Archive)

In 1916, the Life Guards briefly formed bicycle companies, and the Household Battalion, an infantry unit, fought many actions, sustaining particularly horrific casualties at Passchendaele in 1917. The Household Cavalry finished the war as machine gun battalions. The Royals too fought in some of the war s major battles.
In 1922, 1st and 2nd Life Guards amalgamated and, in 1928, became The Life Guards.

The First World War

Training for the Vickers machine gun in 1914. The weapon's amazing reliability made it the army standard machine gun for 30 years. [Household Cavalry Museum Archive]

The First World War

A Household Cavalry cycle company in Vraignes in 1916. [Household Cavalry Museum Archive]

Lieutenant Johnnie Dunville VC.

The Royals were in the trenches in northern France. To deny the Germans the initiative, it was imperative to dominate 'No Man's Land', that area between the two lines of trenches. One way to do this was to raid enemy trenches. On 25 June 1917, a raid led by Lt.Dunville of The Royals took place over really difficult terrain. He helped the Engineers place explosives to blow up the barbed wire and then protected them from enemy fire by placing his body between them and the enemy. In the process he was badly wounded and later died of his wounds. He was awarded a posthumous VC, the highest award for bravery in the face of the enemy.

The First World War

Painting of Lt.Johnnie Dunville VC, courtesy of the Officers' Mess, Combermere Barracks, Windsor.

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