Welcome to the Museum of The King's Royal Hussars
Visit HorsePower, the Museum of The King’s Royal Hussars, with its stunning displays of life size models, inter-active exhibits, medals, swords, magnificent uniforms and fascinating photographs which show how the Cavalry of horse and sabre developed into the modern armoured regiment of today.
Trace the history of three famous regiments over a period of 300 years and marvel at the great heroes who won the Victoria Cross for their valour. The dramatic exploits of men who fought in the Peninsula War, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the two World Wars are revealed and much more besides.
You will find all of this in Hampshire’s only museum of Cavalry, located within the grand setting of Peninsula Square, Winchester, a site full of military heritage.
Battle Honours and the Regimental Guidon
In the HorsePower museum are several guidons of the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s own), the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own), and of The Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own), which was formed by the amalgamation of the two regiments in 1969. Each guidon carries embroidered upon it the regiment’s Battle Honours.
Battle Honours are the living testimony of a regiment’s history: they represent the campaigns and engagements in which a regiment’s forebears won fame and often gave their lives. To the serving soldier and old comrade alike they are symbols of a tradition to be honoured and respected.
Today, the earliest Battle Honour of The King’s Royal Hussars, “Warburg”, dates from a battle of 31st July 1760, when the 10th and 11th Dragoons fought as part of an allied British-Hanoverian-Hessian-Prussian army under Prince Ferdinand of Hesse-Kassel against the French in the Seven Years’ War.
The last Honour, “Gulf 1991”, was awarded to the 14th/20th King’s Hussars for service in the war against Saddam Hussein, when the regiment formed part of the coalition forces liberating Kuwait. In total, the regiment has 165 Battle Honours.
In the 240 years between those battles, many other honours have been won, and 55 are emblazoned on the Guidon (pronounced Ghee-don) of the King’s Royal Hussars today. They represent hard-won victories against Napoleon, Russian Czars, Indian Princes, religious fanatics, South African farmers, the Kaiser, Hitler and our country’s enemies across the globe – so what exactly is a Guidon?
We are all familiar with the Trooping of the Colour, in which the monarch reviews a regiment of the Guards each year. During this ceremony, the Guards parade a flag – the Colours – displaying regimental distinctions and Battle Honours. Infantry regiments carry two Colours (one with the Union Flag, the other of a plain colour), whereas cavalry regiments have only one.
Heavy Cavalry (Dragoon Guards) have a Standard, which is rectangular, whereas Light Cavalry (Hussars, Lancers and Light Dragoons) carry a swallow-tailed guidon. This is emblazoned with the Battle Honours and also carries regimental devices.
In the case of today’s regiment, the badge of the King’s Royal Hussars takes pride of place in the centre, surrounded by a wreath of roses, thistles and shamrock, representing the three kingdoms of the United Kingdom, with the royal crown above.
In each canton (quarter) is another device: the white horse of Hanover commemorates the founding of the 10th, 11th and 14th Dragoons to serve the Hanoverian cause against the Old Pretender in 1715; this appears both on the front (obverse) and rear (reverse) of the guidon.
Also on the obverse are the badges of the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own) – the feathers of the Prince of Wales, the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own) is represented by the Prince’s crest, and the Royal crest in the top right hand canton is a badge of the 14th King’s Hussars.
On the reverse, the white horse is repeated, and the Welsh dragon also appears, with the red rose of Lancashire, and finally the crossed kukris of the Gurkhas. The right to wear this badge was granted to the 14th/20th after their close co-operation with the 43rd Gurkha Lorried Infantry Brigade in Italy in 1945. (This badge is also worn on dress uniforms, and a close connection is still kept with The Royal Gurkha Rifles).
One honour appears on both sides of the guidon – “Egypt”, above a representation of the Sphinx. This commemorates the service of C Squadron of the 11th Light Dragoons with General Abercromby, expelling Napoleon from Egypt in 1800. (As a footnote to this, it should be noted that the squadron did so well that C Squadron was always the Senior Squadron in the 11th Hussars, as is still the case in the King’s Royal Hussars today).
Initially, guidons were carried by units down to troop level, but over time they became standardised as regimental items, used to show a soldier where his commander was, where his comrades were and where help could be found in battle. In times when smokeless gunpowder was universal, the battlefield was a desperate place, and friends were hard to distinguish from enemies: a large, bright flag was a signal of safety. The ceremony of Trooping the Colour was originally designed to teach soldiers what their own Colours looked like.
Originally they were carried by the newest-joined Cornet (the most junior commissioned rank). In 1822 the responsibility passed to a Troop Sergeant Major, and today it is the role of a Warrant Officer.
As their role was as scouts and skirmishers, however, in 1834 it was decided that Light Cavalry would not carry Colours – as their soldiers would be divided into small groups on outpost duty, it was presumably not felt necessary for them to have a rallying-point. As a result, Hussars and other light horsemen carried their Battle Honours on drum banners – each regiment would have a large horse carrying two large drums, and the banners round them carried the regiment’s honours. Examples of these can be seen in the museum, and the photograph with this article illustrates the drum horse of the 14th King’s Hussars in late Victorian times.
In 1956, guidons were reinstated for all Light Cavalry regiments: as they were now mechanised, standards and guidons had only a ceremonial role and drum horses had disappeared, leaving no means of displaying Battle Honours and regimental distinctions. The current guidon was presented by The Princess Royal in June 2000 at Tidworth and represents nearly 300 years of service to Crown and Country.
A visit to HorsePower begins with the guidon of the Royal Hussars – see how many of the Battle Honours depicted you can identify!