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:
I offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.
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. The Regiment was quickly mobilized and landed in France the same month. The 15th Hussars was initially split up and used as divisional cavalry, with A Squadron serving with the 3rd Division, B Squadron the 2nd Division and C Squadron the 1st Division. In April 1915, the Regiment was reformed and joined the 9th Cavalry Brigade, 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 Regiment’s Squadrons saw considerable fighting during the opening stage of the war and Corporal Charles Ernest Garforth was awarded the Victoria Cross. In the First Battle of Ypres (19 October – 22 November 1914), the 15th Hussars 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. The 15th Hussars, like other cavalry regiments, spent time in the trenches and there were a constant stream of casualties from snipers and shelling throughout the war.
The 15th Hussars 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. The 15th Hussars were once again in the thick of the action on 23 and 30 March 1918 during the opening of the German Spring Offensive. The Regiment took part in the final Hundred Days Offensive and when the Armistice came into effect on 11 November 1918, the Regiment was at Maffle, Belgium.
Researching a Soldier of the 15th Hussars who served in WW1
I have a number of generic Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the British Army in the First World War which will help. Especially the guides on service and medal records. My page on British Army abbreviations and acronyms is one of the most important as documents from this period are full of military jargon. I would also recommend downloading the war diaries of the 15th Hussars which I have 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 (I offer a copying service) 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. The war diaries record the names of some officers so you should look through and also check promotion information in the London Gazette and Hart’s Army List. Newspapers are a good resource to use when trying to find a photograph of an officer or information regarding a casualty.
The portrait of Captain The Honorable 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 became a casualty. 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 will still be with the Ministry of Defence: Ordering a Service Record from the MOD. Even without a service record, you will usually be able to find out information, often from medal records. You should be able to work out an approximate enlistment date from a soldier’s regimental number if their service record hasn’t survived.
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. 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.
- Date: 16 August 1914 – 31 March 1915
- A Squadron, 15th Hussars, Divisional Troops, 3rd Division
- Reference: WO95/1399/1
- 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: WO95/1324/1
- 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 killed, wounded to hospital etc.
- Date: 16 August 1914 – 16 March 1915
- C Squadron, 15th Hussars, Divisional Troops, Divisional Troops, 1st Division
- Reference: WO95/1248/1
- Notes: A poor war diary which contains very brief entries.
- Date: 19 April 1915 – 31 March 1919
- 9th Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
- Reference: WO95/1114/2
- 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: WO95/1166/9
- 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 turn to my article on casualty lists. 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 WO95/1114/2
Account of actions of dismounted company of 15th Hussars in Bourlon Wood, from 23rd November 1917 – 25 November 1917.
A dismounted Company of 15th Hussars consisting of Captain H. F. Brace, Lt. Hon. A. G. Cubitt, Lt. L. J. Souchon, Lt. W. J. M. Lowe, Lt. W. P. Alcock, Lt. L. N. Kindersley, Lt. D. H. H. Clerke, S. S. M. Blishen (acting as Company Sergeant Major) with 190 other ranks drawn equally from the 3 Squadrons, was placed at the disposal of the 119th Infantry Brigade, on the evening of November 1918. The Company marched from Flesquieres at 9 pm November 23rd and reported at Battalion H.Q. of the12th Battalion, South Wales Borderers at Anneux Chapel at 2 am on November 24th and received orders to remain in reserve at 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 Lt. L. J. Souchon and Lt. W. 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 orders of Lt. Col. Plunkett (the Battalion Commander). During the remainder of the day the enemy
During the remainder of the day the enemy was keeping up a continual pressure all along the front of the week 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 H. F. 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. Lt. Hon. A. G. Cubitt having been killed, the command was taken over by Lt. L. J. 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 Lt. W. P. Alcock and 1 Troop “C” Squadron under Lt. 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 strong point 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 Lt. L. J. 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 Lt. W. J. M. Lowe reported to Lt. L. J. Suchon that Capt. H. F. Brace had been wounded and Lt. Hon. A. G. 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 Coy 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 m 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 Lt. L. N. 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.