Wednesday, 20 May 2015

4th "Queen's Own" Regiment of Dragoons

The 4th "Queen's Own" Dragoons could trace their history back to 1685 and the Monmouth Rebellion, the first campaign of a series that could be grouped together as the Jacobite Wars in Britain that culminated with the the last battle fought on British soil at Culloden in 1746.

I covered the details of the Monmouth Rebellion and the Battle of Sedgemoor in my post from December 2014.

The 4th Dragoons therefore have a link to the South West of England where they were raised and merged with other troops raised in Bradford as a single regiment of dragoons named, Princess Anne of Denmark's Regiment of Dragoons, in honour of Princess Anne, daughter of King James II.

The regiment fought in Portugal and Spain during the War of Spanish Succession, was back at home during the Jacobite risings of 1715 and was present at Dettingen in 1743, the last time a British monarch, King George II, personally led his troops.

Battle of Dettingen

Returning to home duties in 1748 the regiment gained its rank of forth in the listings in 1751 and gained its prefix "Queen's Own" in 1788 after Queen Charlotte, King George III's wife.

Queen Charlotte 1744 - 1818
The 4th Dragoons were landed between the 22nd and 27th of April 1809 at Lisbon and were brigaded with the more senior 3rd Dragoon Guards under Major General Henry Fane forming the first British Heavy Cavalry brigade in the Peninsular War.

Their commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Lord Robert Edward Henry Somerset who would go on to command a cavalry brigade in the Peninsula and the Household Cavalry Brigade at Waterloo.

The dress of British Heavy Cavalry and the 4th Dragoons in particular as illustrated by Histofig

Like their French counterparts, the British heavy cavalry spent the Battle of Talavera held as an exploitation/covering force, moving from the British centre to the left flank to cover threatened areas. The casualties of three men killed and nine wounded indicate that they were drawn close enough to the action in the latter sector, when Anson's brigade charged the French squares in the northern valley.

This rather modest start to their participation in the war doesn't give any hint to the pivotal role they would have in shifting the moral ascendancy British cavalry would achieve over their French opposite numbers as the war progressed. On the 25th May 1811, at a little hamlet called Usagre, they were in the lead of the charge of General Lumley's cavalry force that completely surprised and ambushed the French cavalry rearguard, under the very experienced but very shocked General Latour Maubourg, following the Battle of Albuera. Things would never quiet be the same following this action and we have it and others to look forward to in future posts.

The 4th Dragoons would go on to become a veteran Peninsula regiment serving at Talavera, Busaco, Albuera, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees and Toulouse.

British heavy cavalry regiments were subject to regulations on horse colours, although I take the view that peace time regulations soon gave way to campaign reality and regiments involved in a war as long the Peninsular campaign would have struggled to keep to them. That said I'm sure, given the choice, commanders would attempt to apply the regulations and with newly arrived regiments such as the 4th Dragoons would probably have been equipped accordingly.

The other peculiarity with British cavalry, in general, was the docking of tails (nag-tailed), although the heavy regiments may well have moved away from that style during this period. The Household Regiments didn't dock and it seems that other heavy regiments might have followed suit. The docked tail certainly became a recognition peculiarity that helped to distinguish British cavalry at distance from their French counterparts particularly after the 1812 uniform changes that introduced shakos and helmets very much like the French style.

13th Light Dragoon illustrating the docked tail

So the General Orders for horse colours issued on the 10th August 1799 from Horse Guards has been my guide, with the caveats mentioned above. Note the direction that trumpeters were not to be mounted on greys.


The heavy cavalry, with the exception of the two regiments of Life Guards and Royal Regiment of Horse Guards, are to be mounted on nag-tailed horses. 
  • The First, or King's Regiment of Dragoon Guards; the First, or Royal Regiment of Dragoons; the Third, or King's Own Regiment of Dragoons, are to be mounted on black nag-tailed horses.
  • The Second, or Queen's Regiment of Dragoon Guards, are to be mounted on nag-tailed horses of the colours of bay and brown.
  • The Second, or Royal North British Regiment of Dragoons, are to be mounted on nag-tailed grey horses.
  • All other regiments of heavy cavalry on the British establishment are to be mounted on nag-tailed horses of the colours of bay, brown, and chestnut.
  • The custom of mounting trumpeters on grey horses is to be discontinued, and they are in future to be mounted on horses of the colour or colours prescribed for the regiments to which they belong.
Harvey Calvert,

Horse Guards

10th August, 1799."

My 4th Dragoons are composed of figures from the AB range, appropriately mounted on browns, chestnut and bay horses.'sCavalry/c_4thDragoons.html

Other sources used in this post
Wellington's Military Machine - Philip J Haythornthwaite
British Napoleonic Uniforms - C.E. Franklin
Osprey, Wellington's Heavy Cavalry - Bryan Fosten


  1. They look sharp. Nice job!

    1. Thanks Adam, you can't beat an AB figure to work with. They still set the standard in the scale.

  2. Lovely!
    I do 28mm, and the research you've posted here is really going to help me.

    1. Thank you Anna E. Yes I checked out your blog. And saw your very nice Perry French dragoons. JJ's is all about "sharing the love" so more than happy to answer questions and help out.

    2. Cheers :)

      I'll be starting British fairly soon, for Waterloo. I'm kind-of waiting for the new Perry Light Dragoons in plastic to be released.

      And thanx. :)

  3. Whether bearheaded, wearing a bicorne or ashako, each of them is fantastic...excellent job!

  4. Lovely looking unit jonathan, I always wondered if units continued to dock horses when on campaign . When you look at the wear and tear on infantry units during the campaign I can't see them docking tails (well not all the time ) you would think just keeping the horses fed and in condition would be enough .
    Nice post as always .
    Regards Furphy .

  5. Great work as usual Jonathan. I've always loved the dragoons with bicornes, they are on my to get list.
    @Furphy, Interesting point. I haven't done any research on the subject but possibly military discipline would enforce the docking of tails to keep the soldier busy & out of trouble. You know the devil makes work for idle hands?
    Jonathan have you come across anything about this topic in your research?

  6. Thanks chaps, I really appreciate your comments.

    Furphy/Gozza, you might find the following link interesting reading;

    Greystreak makes some interesting points about the problems of infection following the severing of the tail vertebrae and cauterisation with hot irons plus the increased risk of fly borne diseases to nag tail horses.

    In addition the fashion element is mentioned in that nag tailed horses were used for draught work and hackney carriages to avoid the tails getting caught in the harness. Heavy cavalry regiments were right at the top of the tree when it came to having a fashionable commission and he notes that the Horse Guards didn't nag tail.

    I think the point is well made that would a Colonel of a heavy cavalry regiment want him or his men to be seen riding about on horses fit for towing hackney carriages?

    If you add in the campaigning factors, the fashion of tail docking is open to question hence my comment on its continued practice.

    I won't be docking my AB horses just yet but it would be nice to have some nag tailed sculpts.

  7. Lovely work as usual Jonathan, and I too appreciate the notes from Horse Guards.

  8. Awesome as always jonathan and the additional reading is really interesting.

    1. Thanks Paul, the 3rd Dragoon Guards should be up this weekend.

  9. Next cavalry unit on my to do list, awaiting order from Front Rank.

    1. Great stuff,mTony, nothing quite like British heavies in bicornes.

      Should be putting up the pictures of the Talavera set up in a few days. Just finished off the last seven French and two British general officers today so the whole thing is done. Just got to play with it now.

  10. Thanks so much for this information, JJ. I spent hours on the internet searching for information on the British heavy cavalry in the Peninsula before I thought, "Why not my go-to, JJ's Wargames?" I found the information on the horse colours especially useful (I was just about to paint my trumpeter's horse grey!!) I was curious about the white uniform of the 4th trumpeter. I have been unable to find much for the heavy trumpeter's at this point, and was curious about that. Not reverse colours I guess, but rather it was white?

    1. Hi Bill,
      My pleasure and I'm glad you found it useful. From recollection I found the best source on the trumpeters dress in Franklin's, British Napoleonic Uniforms, as listed in the sources and I know that it was a constant resource throughout my Talavera project.


    2. Thanks, JJ. I will look for that. And I thought you might like to know we're playing your first Rolica scenario this weekend.

    3. Oh great, I'll keep an eye out for your AAR.

      That was one of my favourite scenarios, especially for the French having to manage their orders and getting units to pull back just at the right time, especially challenging if the British look to get up close and try and pin them before they can get away. We had a few tense moments with orders going astray at the worst possible time.