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4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards

Last updated: 1 July 2014

Other ranks’ cap badge of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, c1900Other ranks’ cap badge of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, c1900
NAM. 1964-04-85-3


Like many other cavalry regiments formed in 1685, this unit was created by merging several existing troops of cavalry. It was established to shore up King James II's powerbase in London less than a month after the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion, but three years later it went over from James to King William III.

It fought for William at the Boyne and in the Low Countries and rose from the 6th to the 5th Regiment of Horse in 1691. The regiment was placed on the Irish Establishment in 1699 and remained there for over a hundred years, other than a brief period spent raiding the French coast in 1795. In 1798 the regiment faced the Irish Rebellion, fighting at Naas, Arklow and Vinegar Hill. The following year they came off the Irish establishment and moved to England, where they spent all but one of the next 12 years.

In 1811 the unit was posted to the Peninsula as one of the three regiments in the brigade commanded by John Le Marchant, but disease meant that it was soon short of both men and horses, whilst poor decisions by Le Marchant's successor, John Slade, meant that the brigade rarely saw action. Finally the 4th Dragoon Guards had to leave its few remaining horses behind and take ship for home in 1813. From then until 1894 the unit alternated between English and Irish garrison duties.

Soldiers of the 4th Dragoon Guards talking with French troops in the Crimea, 1855Soldiers of the 4th Dragoon Guards talking with French troops in the Crimea, 1855
NAM. 1964-12-151-6-31

Two rare instances of action during this period were the unit's participation in the charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaklava in 1854 and in the battle of Tel-el-Kebir in Egypt in 1882. At the latter action, it did not suffer a single casualty.

The unit's first experience of India only came in a fourteen-year posting in 1894. It deployed from England to France with the British Expeditionary Force's 1st Cavalry Division in 1914. Indeed, on 22 August 1914 the regiment's 'C' Squadron charged a German cavalry column just east of Mons, in what was the British Army's first action of the First World War. It briefly deployed to Ireland in 1919 as it slipped towards civil war, then to England later that year and finally to Secunderabad in India, where in 1922 it amalgamated with the 7th (The Princess Royal's) Dragoon Guards to form the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards.

Key facts


  • 'Quis Separabit?' (meaning 'Who Shall Separate Us?')


  • The Blue Horse (after the colour of its uniform facings)
  • The Mounted Micks
  • The Buttermilks (the regiment stayed in Ireland so long that many of its men bought land and became dairy farmers)

Titles to date:

  • Earl of Arran's Regiment of Cuirassiers
  • Arran's Cuirassiers
  • Duke of Hamilton's Regiment of Cuirassiers
  • 5th Horse
  • 6th Horse
  • 1st Horse, Irish Establishment
  • 1st Regiment of Horse, Irish Establishment
  • 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards
  • 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards
  • 4th/7th Dragoon Guards
  • 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards
  • A Squadron, The Royal Dragoon Guards
  The Royal Dragoon Guards
  4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards
  5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards
  7th (Princess Royal's) Dragoon Guards
  The Inniskillings (6th Dragoons)
  5th Dragoon Guards (Princess Charlotte of Wales's)

Find out more

Regimental Museum

National Army Museum Collection


Brian Blackman
13 February 2012, 2.11pm

My grandfather, Walter

My grandfather, Walter Blackman, joined the 4th Dragoon Guards on 15-4-1882 and was moved between the 3rd and 5th until the 4th came home. He was posted to various places in the British Isles and was subsequently discharged on 26-6-1888 and put on the reserve.

He reinlisted (aged 52!) on 21-12-1914 into the 4th but was not sent to France (four of my uncles were but all came back, unlike my mother's side when three went and only one came back - I know this was not untypical). He was posted as a Shoeing Smith to Monmouthshire to what was, I suppose, a remount depot but I would love to know where this barracks was as I have photos of him carousing. He was finally discharged on 24-3-1916 with the Silver War Badge.

Also, just an anecdote re the current film 'War Horse' - one of the above four, my uncle William, related that the worst times for him was in the retreat from Mons. He was in the Royal Field Artillery and he had to shoot his horse - he never forgot this.

George W Stillman Sr
26 August 2013, 1.11am

I am proud to mention that my

I am proud to mention that my ancestor, William Stillman, served in the 4th RIDG Regiment between 1793 to 1808. He is my Gr. Gr. Gr. Grandfather. While in the service, it appears he had a wife and 8 children. He was born in Enniscorthy around 1776 and died near Campbellford, Ontario in 1851. He also served in the 7th Royal Veteran Battalion between 1808 to 1811. He sailed with his family in 1827, first landing in Quebec. He and his son Robert were granted 200 acres of land (Seymour Twsp.) in 1834. Thusfar, I have not discovered the names of his other children or his wife's maiden name.

Helen Thomas
26 March 2014, 12.58pm

I believe my uncle Cornelius

I believe my uncle Cornelius Glue was stationed at Brighton with the 4th Dragoons in 1879 but am finding it impossible to prove it either way, can anyone help?

Don McMahon
1 December 2014, 3.44pm

I am trying to trace where

I am trying to trace where the 4th Dragoon Guards were billeted when they went to India in 1894, so that I can find children born to my great Aunt and her husband during their time in India. Can anyone help please?

8 September 2015, 8.42am

I believe my great

I believe my great grandfather was in the Dragoons and saw service in Ireland. He met his wife whilst stationed, according to the family in London, but records show that they married in 1895 in Baldock, Herts. Does anyone know where the guards might have been stationed at this time ie just prior to 1895?

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