The Battle of the Somme was fought by The Royal Lancers of the British Army. This regiment was one of two regiments in the Army who were not to fight on the Western Front, yet the RLT became known as the 'Heroes of the Somme' when they arrived to rescue wounded troops.
The British Lancers became a close family group and many had adopted the nickname 'The Royals'. With the death of King George V, the regimental colors of white and blue were changed to green and gold respectively to reflect his golden hue.
The RLT fought the Germans all day long; and after a great many battles, the Royal Lancers did have the edge, but at night, German machine guns were a greater threat to the area. The loss of some more regimental horses caused further problems, so the Lancers decided to withdraw; this decision was greatly regretted, as the Germans moved in and attacked all of the Lancers, killing many men and horses.
The War was now drawing to a close and the cavalrymen of the RLT decided that they could not fight on their own. The senior officer, Major Walpole persuaded both leaders of the Highlanders to move with him into the Ciexelles. The Fusiliers were left behind and the retreating Lancers were separated from each other.
The enemy was waiting for them at the edge of the hills, they were separated, but somehow the officers managed to get in touch with the other regiments. Major Walpole quickly organized a team, formed of leading officers from each regiment, including the Highlanders, Royal Lancers, and Fusiliers.
The RLT, through the efforts of Major Walpole and the Highlanders, was able to rally the regiments together and join in a desperate attack on the German position. Some regiments volunteered to help the British regiments, but most of the men of the Fusiliers were killed in the first days of the battle. They made up for this by fighting courageously and many were captured, whilst the Lancers received a great many casualties.
The RLT was only one part of the Lancers force, the French Regiments fought bravely at the front of the Royal Lancers but soon became the worse for wear. Once the Fusiliers had been wiped out, the overall strength of the RLT was made up of Royal Lancers and French Regiments.
At first, the regiments were expected to draw back and gather in numbers, but after a time the Lancers with their leaders rallied and charged against the German line. The Germans became less determined to fight and withdrew to their trenches, though one brave officer fired a shot into the air as he passed in front of the German lines, shouting at them to surrender, it was too late.
It was now considered 'insufficient force' to hold off the Germans, so the Lancers were obliged to retreat. When the evacuation was completed, the RLT has left a bitter and broken regiment, after a number of them were killed or wounded in the retreat.
Legends after the war
After the War, the Lancers fought on as a reserve regiment. Their losses are still marked on the battlefield, but the Regiment's legendary courage and bravery are now a source of pride for many.
After many years, the Royal Lancers regiments were given new headquarters and redecorated; the brand-new building is now a fine museum, in the heart of London. So if you ever get the chance, be sure to visit the Great War Museum in London!
The Regimental Colors of the Royal Lancers of the British Army is now displayed proudly in the Lancers Museum, just off Westminster Bridge in London. If you are visiting London, be sure to visit the Lancers Museum, you might just fall in love with their history!