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The Second World War
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The Second World War

The Life Guards and The Blues formed two composite regiments, 1st Household Cavalry Regiment (1HCR), which went to Palestine with horses in 1940, became 'motorised' with lorries in 1941 and was part of a force which fought in Iraq. They also fought the Vichy-French in Syria and operated in Persia.

Converting to armoured cars just before the Battle of El Alamein in October 1942, 1HCR was on the extreme left flank of 8th Army. In 1944 they joined the campaign in Italy seeing action near Arezzo in the advance on Florence, and finally fighting dismounted in Northern Italy.

The Second World War

The Marmon Herrington armoured car, used by The Royals and 1HCR, was notoriously poor at its job, being lightly armoured and armed.

After a brief spell in the UK, 1HCR fought in Germany, ending the war on the River Elbe. The 2nd Household Cavalry Regiment (2HCR) landed in Normandy in July 1944 and led the advance until September. Well ahead of the rest of the army, they took several vital river bridges from under the noses of the Germans. On 3 September 1944, 2HCR were the first British troops into Belgium and the city of Brussels. During the airborne operation, Market Garden, 2HCR led the race to Nijmegen and Arnhem (the 'Bridge Too Far'). In early 1945, the Regiment crossed the Rhine, later ending the war near Cuxhaven.

The Royals dispensed with horses in favour of armoured cars in 1941. They spent 18 months in the desert with 8th Army as divisional reconnaissance, led the breakout at Alamein, going deep behind German lines and creating chaos, and then played a major role in the subsequent pursuit. In northern Europe, the regiment was heavily involved in operations on the Rhine before ending the war in Denmark where they supervised the German surrender.

The Second World War

The Royals, map-marking in 1944.

The Household Cavalry and The Royals had distinguished themselves as reconnaissance regiments. 2HCR was described by General Horrocks, Commander XXX Corps, as the '... finest armoured car regiment he had ever seen'.

Colonel David Smiley Obe MC.

Smiley was one of the most famous soldiers of the Second World War. He served with 1HCR in Iraq and fought at El Alamein before joining the Special Operations Executive which 'set Europe ablaze' by helping partisans fight the Germans across the continent. He was parachuted several times behind enemy lines: to Albania to organise resistance; to liaise with guerrillas operating against the Japanese; and to eastern Siam. In 1946, he helped subvert the newly installed Albanian Communist regime and led two SAS squadrons to defeat insurgents in Oman, on the 10000ft-high (3050 m)Jebel Akhdar, never before successfully assaulted. Some reckoned he was Ian Fleming's model for James Bond. Others that John le Carre had taken the name of his MI6 hero from the real-life Smiley.

The Second World War

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