15th (The King’s) Hussars

This article on the 15th (The King’s) Hussars will provide you with an overview of the Regiment’s activities during the First World War and will help you to research a soldier who served with the unit. I have also written a series of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the British Army during the war:

The 15th (The King’s) Hussars in the First World War

The 15th (The King’s) Hussars was stationed at Longmoor, Hampshire when Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914. Quickly mobilized, the Regiment was split up to be used as divisional cavalry. At the time, a British cavalry regiment serving outside of India had three squadrons with the 15th Hussar’s lettered A to C. A Squadron was sent to the 3rd Division, B Squadron to the 2nd Division and C Squadron to the 1st Division. These Squadrons landed in France during August and served with their respective divisions for the next eight months on the Western Front. The Squadrons saw considerable fighting during the opening months of the war and Corporal Charles Ernest Garforth was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry:

At Harmignies on 23rd August volunteered to cut wire under fire which enabled his squadron to escape. At Dammartin he carried a man out of action. On 3rd September, when under maxim fire, he extricated a sergeant whose horse had been shot, and by opening fire for 3 minutes enabled the sergeant to get away safely.

During the First Battle of Ypres (19 October – 22 November 1914), the 15th Hussars’ Squadrons suffered heavy casualties dismounted in the trenches. Trench warfare meant that the Regiment could no longer be used in its mounted role until 1918 but this didn’t mean that the 15th Hussars stood idly behind the front line. Like other cavalry regiments, the 15th Hussars spent time dismounted in the trenches and there was a constant stream of casualties from snipers and shell fire throughout the war.

It wasn’t until April 1915 that the 15th Hussars was reformed. During the month, the Regiment joined the 9th Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division in which it served for the duration of the war. The best sources of information for the 15th Hussars in the First World War are its regimental history and war diaries which I have discussed below. The 15th Hussars also took part in the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May 1915) but it wouldn’t be until the 25 November 1917 at Bourlon Wood during the Battle of Cambrai that the Regiment sustained heavy casualties again. Between 23 and 30 March 1918, the Regiment was once again in the thick of the action during the opening of the German Spring Offensive. Heavy fighting also followed during the summer with the unit taking part in the Hundred Days Offensive. When the Armistice came into effect on 11 November 1918, the Regiment was at Maffle, Belgium fifteen miles away from Mons. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission recorded that between 23 August 1914 and 10 November 1918, 171 soldiers of the Regiment died.

Researching a Soldier of the 15th Hussars who Served in the First World War

I’ve written a number of generic guides to researching those who served in the British Army during the war. Those on service and medal records will be of most use, as will my page on abbreviations and acronyms you’re likely to encounter. The best sources of information on the Regiment are its war diaries and regimental history, both of which are discussed below.

Officers: There’s usually a lot of information available regarding officers who served in cavalry regiments. Start by seeing if there is a service record but not all have survived. If a record has survived it will either be at the National Archives or if an officer served past April 1922 at the Ministry of Defence. The following link is for an article on my Second World War website which will help you order a file: Ordering a Service Record from the MOD. It’s a straightforward process as no death certificate or permission from the next of kin is required. Officers are often named in the Regiment’s war diary but not all of them are. For promotion dates, and honours and awards, you can check the London Gazette. Though, its search engine is very unreliable. For pre-war officers, Hart’s Army List is a good resource. Due to the social class of most cavalry officers, newspapers are a good resource, especially if you’re trying to find a photograph of an officer or information regarding a casualty.

William Andrew Nugent 15th (The King's Hussars)

The portrait of Captain The Honourable William Andrew Nugent, the second son of the 10th Earl of Westmeath who died of wounds on 29 May 1915. This photograph was taken from The Sphere which is an excellent newspaper to search if you’re looking for a portrait of an officer who died during the war. The newspaper can be searched on FindmyPast.

Other Ranks: Try to find a service record for the soldier, however, many were destroyed in the Blitz. If a soldier served past January 1921, then their service record should still be with the Ministry of Defence and I’ve written a guide to ordering them on my website Researching WW2: Ordering a Service Record from the MOD. It’s a straightforward process as you won’t need to supply a death certificate or provide the next of kin’s permission. If the soldier’s service record has been lost, you will usually be able to find out some information, often from medal records. If a soldier served outside of Britain and Ireland, then there should be at least two medal records for you to check. The date a soldier joined the regiment or Corps of Hussars can often be worked out from their regimental number. However, there are two numbering systems so you have to be careful. Prior to 1907, all Hussar regiment numbered their men separately. From 1907, all regiments drew their regimental numbers from the same number series. Casualty lists and prisoner of war records are another two important sources of information.

To research a soldier who served in the 15th Hussars during the war you’ll need to search the records on FindmyPast and Ancestry. The sites offer a free trial period and if you live in Britain, you can often access them at your local library. Clicking on the banner below will take you to FindmyPast.

War Diaries of the 15th (The King’s) Hussars

There are five war diaries available for the 15th Hussars and they have all been digitized by the National Archives. A war diary was written by an officer of a unit and recorded its location and activities. To download the war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below which will take you to the National Archives’ website. The war diaries are also available on Ancestry. I’d recommend combining the war diaries with The History of the 15th The King’s Hussars, 1914-1922 by Lord Carnock if you’d like to find out as much information as possible.

  • Date: 16 August 1914 – 31 March 1915
  • A Squadron, 15th Hussars, Divisional Troops, 3rd Division
  • Reference: WO 95/1399/1
  • Notes: This war diary provides a good overview of A Squadron’s activities between August and December 1914. The entries from January 1915 consist of a few lines.
  • Date: 16 August 1914 – 14 April 1915
  • B Squadron, 15th Hussars, Divisional Troops, 2nd Division
  • Reference: WO 95/1324/1
  • Notes: A very good war diary with very detailed entries which includes a roll of officers, non-commissioned officers and men that embarked with B Squadron, 15th Hussars on 16 August 1914 along with notes regarding those killed, wounded, and sent to hospital etc.
  • Date: 16 August 1914 – 16 March 1915
  • C Squadron, 15th Hussars, Divisional Troops, 1st Division
  • Reference: WO 95/1248/1
  • Notes: A poor war diary which contains very brief entries.
  • Date: 19 April 1915 – 31 March 1919
  • 9th Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
  • Reference: WO 95/1114/2
  • Notes: A good war diary with a variety of appendices. There is a roll of officers both serving with and away from the Regiment after April 1915.
  • Date: 01 April – 31 August 1919
  • Hussar Brigade, Rhine Cavalry Brigade
  • Reference: WO 95/1166/9
  • Notes: A slightly more detailed war diary than is usually found during the post-war period. British officers are mentioned frequently throughout.

Regimental History of the 15th Hussars

There is a very good regimental history which I would recommend: The History of the 15th The King’s Hussars, 1914-1922 by Lord Carnock which has been reprinted by the Naval and Military Press. The history contains an appendix which records the movements of the Regiment from July 1914 – September 1919, a roll of honour of all officers and other ranks (with their regimental number) who died while serving with the 15th Hussars along with the area where they died Nr. Ypres, Roisel etc. Also, a very valuable list of those wounded divided into wounded three times, wounded twice, wounded, with regimental numbers. Unfortunately, the dates the soldiers were wounded aren’t recorded but my article on casualty lists may be able to help you work out a date. An appendix covering awards and honours including Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, a list of officers who served with the 15th Hussars, as well as other ranks who were commissioned and finally the strength of the Regiment at various dates throughout the war. There is an index.


Extracts from the War Diaries of the 15th Hussars

19 April 1915 – 31 March 1919, 9th Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division WO 95/1114/2

Account of actions of dismounted company of 15th Hussars in Bourlon Wood, from 23rd -25th November 1917

A dismounted company of 15th Hussars consisting of Captain Henry Ferguson Brace, Lieutenant Hon. Alick George Cubitt, Lieutenant Leon Joseph Souchon, Lieutenant W. J. M. Lowe, Lieutenant William P. Alcock, Lieutenant Lionel Nassau Kindersley, Lieutenant David Herbert Hamund Clerke, S. S. M. William Blishen (acting as Company Sergeant Major) with 190 other ranks drawn equally from the 3 Squadrons, was placed at the disposal of 119th Infantry Brigade, on the evening of November 1917. The Company marched from Flesquieres at 9 pm November 23rd and reported at Battalion H.Q. of the 12th Battalion, South Wales Borderers at Anneux Chapel at 2 am on November 24th and received orders to remain in reserve in Sandpit at south east corner of Bourlon Wood, which it reached at 3.15 am and where it bivouacked for the night.

At 7 am 24th November Lieutenant Leon Joseph Souchon and Lieutenant William P. Alcock were sent in charge of a patrol of 2 Non-commissioned officers to find out the position of the support line of the 119th Infantry Brigade. This was found to run east and west just south of the centre of the wood, with firing line roughly parallel to and 400 yards north of this. At 9 am 24th November orders were received to reinforce the centre Battalion (19th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers) of the Brigade and came under the orders of Lieutenant Col. Plunkett (the Battalion Commander). During the remainder of the day the enemy was keeping up a continual pressure all along the front of the wood and fighting went on backwards and forwards the whole time. He also made several counterattacks in force, especially down the flanks of the wood.

The 2nd Battalion Scots Guards came up at 8 pm to reinforce the line and having taken up a line in rear of the troops of the eastern front of the wood, at 2 pm on the 25th attacked through them, in conjunction with the troops on the left, in order to clear the wood. This attack was unsuccessful owing to the troops on the left being held up. Captain Henry Ferguson Brace was wounded early in the day on the 24th whilst on a reconnaissance but carried on till 3 pm when he was evacuated to the Dressing Station. Lieutenant Hon. Alick George Cubitt having been killed, the command was taken over by Lieutenant Leon Joseph Souchon. The dismounted party 15th Hussars was split up into detachments and it will be more convenient to follow each in detail.

Account of A and C Squadrons

At 10 am 24th November “A” Squadron under Lieutenant William P. Alcock and 1 Troop “C” Squadron under Lieutenant W. J. M. Lowe received orders to advance and clear the wood as far as the northern edge. This party succeeded in advancing to within 150 yards of the edge of the wood, but the enemy fire became so heavy that further advance was checked. Later the troops on the right fell back causing the line to recede 50 yards.

This party afterwards received further orders to advance to within 50 yards of the edge of the wood. A Squadron came in contact with the enemy strongpoint in northeast corner of wood while C Squadron attacked strong point in centre getting to within 20 yards of it where they were held up by tremendous rifle and machine gun fire, suffering heavy casualties. 2 platoons of 14th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were sent up to take this strong point but failed.

At the same time the enemy counterattacked in large numbers supported by heavy machine gun fire. The troops on the right of the 15th Hussar party fell back and 15th Hussar party had to retire about 250 yards through a High Explosive barrage. At this point the enemy advance was checked by rifle and Hotchkiss gunfire and he retired behind his strong points. 15th Hussars then pushed forward about 150 yards and took up their position ? the right.

Meanwhile about 11 am 24th November 25 men and 2 Hotchkiss guns of C Squadron under Lieutenant Leon Joseph Souchon were ordered to reinforce a weak platoon of 17th Battalion, Welsh Regiment and attack a strong point of the eastern edge of the wood. They advanced to within 20 yards of their objective and were held up by heavy machine gun fire being enfiladed from both flanks and suffering many casualties. They then fell back and held their original position.

At about 2 pm 2 platoons of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders attacked the strong point but failed to take their objectives and fell back upon the 15th Hussars party. The enemy then counterattacked from the front and right flank but were held up by rifle and machine gun fire. At about 5 pm 2 platoons of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the C Squadron party took up a position facing northeast about 300 yards in length, which was held for the night and up to 2 pm on the 25th when the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards attacked through 15th Hussars who went back to Battalion HQ in reserve.

At 6:30 am 25th November Lieutenant W. J. M. Lowe reported to Lieutenant L. J. Suchon that Captain Henry Ferguson Brace had been wounded and Lieutenant Hon. Alick George Cubitt killed and that he was to take command of the Regiment. At 6.30 pm, the regiment received orders to march back to Flesquieres where it arrived at 9 pm and billeted for the night. At 10:30 am 26th Brigadier-General D. A. Legard addressed the regiment and congratulated it for the fine work it had done. At 12 noon the dismounted company marched to Metz-en-Couture where it rejoined the regiment at 3 pm.

Account of B Squadron

At 12 noon November 24th B Squadron which had been waiting in reserve on the eastern side of the hunting box (in centre of wood) received orders to take up a position in northwest corner of wood passing through the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. They reached the track running east and west of the crest of the wood and taking up position opened rifle and Hotchkiss gunfire on the enemy position in front of them. The enemy fell back over the crest, the squadron then advanced and took up the enemies’ original position with the right thrown back to form a defensive flank.

About 3 pm the left flank was brought up to the edge of the wood facing Bourlon Village, where they remained till 6 pm. Casualties had been continuous and only 18 men were left. At 6 pm the enemy counterattacked and was beaten back by machine gun fire. Everything was quiet till 10 pm when the enemy counterattacked with bombs and machine guns and was repulsed.

The squadron remained in position till 6 am when relieved by Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, then joining the remainder of the Company at the hunting box. It was then sent up with all men present from other squadrons, some 18th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers and men from other Welsh Regiments to take up a line on northwest edge of wood.

They were attacked again at 8 am during which attack Lieutenant Lionel Nassau Kindersley was killed. Owing to the retirement of the infantry on the right, that flank became exposed but the party remained in position till all ammunition was spent. The party finally fell back on the hunting box, the men of the Welsh Regiments holding the line. All 3 squadrons were held in reserve behind the hunting box during the Scots Guards attack at 2 pm and were eventually relieved at 6 pm.