The Royal Scots Greys was a cavalry regiment of the British Army from 1707 until 1971, when they amalgamated with the 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards) to form The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys).
The regiment's history began in 1678, when three independent troops of Scots Dragoons were raised. In 1681, these troops were regimented to form The Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons, numbered the 4th Dragoons in 1694. They were already mounted on grey horses by this stage and were already being referred to as the Grey Dragoons. In 1707, they were renamed The Royal North British Dragoons (North Britain then being the envisaged common name for Scotland), but were already being referred to as the Scots Greys. In 1713, they were renumbered the 2nd Dragoons as part of deal between the establishments of the English Army and Scottish Army when they were being unified into the British Army. They were also sometimes referred to, during the first Jacobite uprising, as Portmore's Dragoons. In 1877, their nickname was finally made official when they became the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys), which was inverted in 1921 to The Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons). They kept this title until 2 July 1971, when they amalgamated with the 3rd Carabiniers, forming the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
Origins of the Scots Greys
The Royal Scots Greys originated as three troops of dragoons. The first two were formed on 21 May 1678 under the commands of Captain John Strachan and Captain John Inglis. The third, under the command of Captain Viscount Kingstoun, was formed on 23 September 1678. These were the first mounted troops raised for the British crown in Scotland. Inglis, Stachan and Kingstoun's troops would spend their early years suppressing prohibited Presbyterian assemblies in Scotland.
In 1681, by Royal Warrant, these three troops were combined, with the addition of three further troops, into what would be named the Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons. Lieutenant-General Thomas Dalziel would be the regiment's first colonel. In its original configuration, the Scots Greys were configured as a true dragoon regiment. Although mounted, as cavalry regiments were, their armament was closer to that carried by infantry units. Troopers of the Scots Greys were authorized, during the late 17th century, to carry matchlock muskets with bayonets, while their sergeants and corporals carried halberds and pistols. Only the officers were authorized swords, though the lieutenants were to be armed with a partisan.Interestingly, the original uniform called for the troopers to wear grey coats, but there is no record that the regimental mounts had to be of any particular colour.
Between its formation in 1681 and 1685, the Scots Greys were employed primarily in keeping civil order in Scotland. The regiment participated in expeditions against various fractious clans which resisted the monarch's rule. In 1688, the regiment was quartered in London at the start of the Glorious Revolution. Upon the landing of William of Orange, the regiment took the side of William and Mary, being taken on into the new king's army. Ordered back to Scotland, the Scots Greys took part in the Battle of Killiecrankie against the Jacobites. For their service, the regiment's title as a Royal regiment was confirmed and they were ranked as the 4th Dragoons.
1693–1714: Grey Horses, Red Coats, and War of Spanish Succession
17th-century government dragoon, Edinburgh Castle
Prior to 1693, there is no record that the regiment used grey horses exclusive to others. However, when inspected in London in 1693 by King William III, people took note that the regiment was mounted on all grey horses. Some have offered the theory that the grey horses originated with the Dutch Horse Guards. When they left to return to the Netherlands, the horses were turned over to the Scots Greys. Although there is no definite reason, some of the men also wore either fur caps or broad-brimmed hats. By the time of their royal inspection, uniforms of the regiment had also changed. Gone were the dull grey coats they had initially worn, replaced with the red, or scarlet, coats with blue facings proclaiming the Scots Greys "Royal" status. After this first showing of an all grey horsed regiment, the regiment became increasingly known as the "Grey Dragoons" or the "Scots Regiment of Grey Dragoons".
Together with the Royal English Dragoons and Lord Fairfax's Dragoons, the Scots Greys were transferred to the Netherlands in 1694. There, they saw action during the Nine Years' Wardeployed in the traditional dragoon role of reconnaissance and security duties. However, other than a few minor skirmishes on the border with France, the Scots Greys did not see any significant actions during their three years on the continent.
After returning to Scotland on garrison duties from 1697 to 1702, the Scots Greys were sent to Holland to join the army under John Churchill, soon to become the Duke of Marlborough. TheWar of the Spanish Succession had begun a year earlier and the Scots Greys were to take part in his campaigns on the continent. During the first two years of the war, Marlborough's forces laid siege to a number of fortresses, including those on the Meuse, the lower Moselle and Rhine rivers. In the process, capturing Venlo, Roermond, Stevensweert, Liège, Bonn, Huy, andLimbourg. Under the command of Thomas Lord Tiviot, the Scots Greys would participate in the sieges. For most of the campaigns of 1702 and 1703, the Scots Greys performed the typical cavalry duties of reconnaissance and screening for Marlborough's forces. Their first notable action was the capture of a French convoy in 1703, including a large shipment of bullion.
The following year, with the Holy Roman Empire threatened by the success of Rákóczi's Hungarian revolt, Marlborough made his march to the Danube. During the campaign, the Scots Greys served as part of Ross's Dragoon Brigade. At the Battle of Schellenberg, on 2 July 1704, the Scots Greys were originally held as part of the reserve. With the failure of the first assault, the Scots Greys were ordered into the line as dismounted infantry. Once the breakthrough occurred, the Scots Greys were back in the saddle participating in the pursuit.
Part of the Battle of Blenheim tapestry at Blenheim Palace
byJudocus de Vos
. In the background is the village of Blenheim
; in the middle ground are the two water mills that Rowe had to take to gain a bridgehead over the Nebel. The foreground shows a British grenadier with a captured French colour. At the Battle of Blenheim, while most other cavalry regiments wore tricorn hats, the Scots Greys wore the mitre hat, similar to those worn by grenadiers.
A little more than two weeks later, the Scots Greys fought in the Battle of Blenheim. As part of Ross' Brigade, the Scots Greys again fought as dismounted infantry in the attack on Blenheim itself. On route to the village, the Scots Greys and the Wynne's Regiment of Dragoons had to fend off a charge by the French regiments of d'Artois and 1er Provence. With the help of the Hanoverians, the Scots Greys beat back the charge and then helped to clear the French from Blenheim. Despite being heavily engaged, at times in hand-to-hand combat, the Scots Greys did not have a single fatality, though they did suffer many wounded.
Following the Battle of Blenheim, the Scots Greys returned to the Netherlands. In 1705, they took part in Marlborough's campaign along the Moselle river. At the Battle of Elixheim, the Scots Greys participated in the massed cavalry charge which broke through the French lines. Although victorious, it was an incomplete victory as Marlborough had to follow up and complete the defeat of Duc de Villeroi's army.
The following year, the Scots Greys were once again in the field under Marlborough. With the French armies pressing the Alliance, Marlborough's forces had to remain in the Low Countries. The French armies were maneuvering to fight a battle that would allow them to dictate terms for a peace treaty. The two armies met near Ramillies on 23 May 1706. During the battle, the Scots Greys, serving in Lord Hays' brigade of dragoons, forced their way into the village of Autre Eglise, routing the French infantry defending the village. After passing through the village, the Scots Greys encountered French and quickly defeated the Régiment du Roi. The French quickly surrendered, with the Scots Greys capturing their colours. It was also at this battle that the Scots Greys discovered that one of its troopers was more than he appeared. Carried wounded from the battle to the surgeon, it was discovered that one of the dragoons was in fact a woman who had joined the regiment searching for her husband.
The Scots Greys spent the next year on outpost duty. However, in 1708, with the French once again advancing into the Low Countries, the Scots Greys' next significant action would be theBattle of Oudenarde. At the battle, the Scots Greys, now renamed the Royal North British Dragoons and were held in reserve until the French retreated. The Scots Greys took part in the pursuit until ordered off when it became too dark.
The following year, Marlborough's Allied Army took the offensive against the French. The Scots Greys, still part of Sybourg's Brigade, took part in the capture of the fortress as Tournai andYpres. With Marlborough's army heading towards Mons, the French Army moved to intercept. After a series of maneuvers, the two armies met at the Battle of Malplaquet on 11 September 1709. During the battle, the Scots Greys were brought up from the reserve but found themselves engaged with French cavalry almost as soon as they were ordered forward. After initially being driven back by the French cavalry, the Scots Greys rallied and reengaged the French. In a series of charges, the Scots Greys steadily drove back the French horse, until finally forcing them to retreat. In the process, the Scots Greys captured the standard of the French Household Cavalry.
1710 passed with the Scots Greys once again patrolling the frontier with the France. In 1711, the Scots Greys took the field once again with the Duke of Marlborough's army. This time, they helped force Marshall Villars' "ne plus ultra" lines defending Paris from the Allied Army operating from the low countries. As part of the covering force, they participated in the siege of Bouchain. This would be the last major battle of the war for both the Scots Greys and Marlborough. Marlborough would be stripped of his command, and the Scots Greys would be returned to Britain as the peace talks neared their completion.
As the Scots Greys were returning home, Britain was in the process of reorganizing the army in the aftermath of the Union of England and Scotland. The British government was trying to make it more uniform, as well as sorting out the question of which regiment took precedence over which. An examination of the records revealed that the designation of the Scots Greys as the 4th regiment of dragoons was improper. At the time they entered the service, in 1685, there had been only one other regiment of dragoons in service. However, the senior English dragoon regiment was raised after the Scots Greys was first formed. Although this would mean that the Scots Greys should be designated as the first dragoon regiment, there was a problem. The Royal Scots were already due to be redesignated as the first regiment of infantry. In order to blend the English and Scottish military establishments together, a compromise was reached. The English dragoon regiment would be designated as the first, and the Scots Greys would become the second. Therefore, the Scots Greys were redesignated as the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons (and hence the motto Second to None).