This article is about the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) and will help you to research the Regiment and soldiers who served with it during the First World War. I have written other guides to researching soldiers who served in the Indian Army which can be viewed by clicking on the link below:
The 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) in the First World War
Lineage: Originally raised at Furruckabad (Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh, India) and Mainpuri (Uttar Pradesh, India) in 1809 by Lieutenant-Colonel William Linnaeus Gardner as Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner’s Corps of Irregular Cavalry which was abbreviated into Gardner’s Horse. In 1823 became the 2nd Regiment of Local Horse, then the 2nd Bengal Cavalry in 1840 and then the 2nd Regiment of Bengal Cavalry in 1861. Then the 2nd Regiment of Bengal Lancers in 1890, then the 2nd Bengal Lancers in 1901 and the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) in 1903. Amalgamated with the 4th Cavalry to form the 2nd/4th Cavalry in 1921 and became the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) in 1922.
Composition in 1914: 1 Squadron of Sikhs, 1 of Rajputs, 1 of Jats and 1 of Hindustani Musalmans.
Location in July 1914: The 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) was stationed at Saugor having arrived from Fyzabad on 14 December 1908.
The 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) was stationed at Saugor when the First World War broke out in August 1914. The 2nd Lancers had been inspected by Major-General H. D. Fanshawe, Commanding Jubbulpore Brigade on 18 February 1914 who reported:
Turn-out: Regiment well turned out.
Drill and Manoeuvre: Efficient.
Signalling: Signallers have been carefully and practically trained.
Personnel: All British officers are keen and good sportsmen, the Indian officers follow suit, men of good class.
General efficiency: Regiment in every way efficient and fit for service: has carried out very useful reconnaissance work in connection with Cavalry School.
Confidential review reports on Indian Army units for 1913-1914: IOR/L/MIL/7/17023
The 2nd Lancers received orders to mobilize on 24 October 1914 and left India on board City of Lahore and Manora at Bombay on 20 November. The Regiment landed at Marseilles on 15 December and went into camp. The Regiment initially served with the 1st Indian Cavalry Division as part of the Mhow Cavalry Brigade on the Western Front. When the 2nd Lancers arrived in France the war of movement had come to an end as a system of trenches ran across France and the thin sliver of Belgium which remained in Allied hands. While the Regiment could not be used in its traditional mounted role it was often used dismounted as the regimental history explains:
During that long period in France, from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour, the regiment scarcely knew whether it was a cavalry regiment or an infantry company. In the twinkling of an eye, squadrons became platoons, regiments became companies, and a cavalry brigade would become a battalion, far separated from its horses and entirely engaged in infantry warfare of the most static nature.
There is a very good regimental history which I would recommend combining with the war diaries if you wish to learn more about the 2nd Lancers’ service during the war. The Regiment’s service in France was largely uneventful until the Battle of Cambrai on 1 December 1917 where the 2nd Lancers suffered its heaviest casualties of the war. The 2nd Lancers suffered over 100 casualties including their commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Turner.
In early 1917, the Mhow Cavalry Brigade moved to the 4th Cavalry Division where it served for the remainder of its time in France. In April 1918, the 2nd Lancers moved to Egypt serving briefly as part of the 6th Mounted Brigade, 1st Mounted Division until it moved to the 4th Cavalry Brigade, 10th Cavalry Division in August. The 2nd Lancers took part in the closing stages of the Palestine Campaign where it could return to its traditional mounted role.
The 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) returned to India on 25 December 1920 and in 1921, the 2nd Lancers was amalgamated with the 4th Cavalry to form the 2nd/4th Cavalry which was redesignated the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) in 1922.
War Diaries of 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse)
There are four war diaries for the 2nd Lancers but only the first two have been digitized. To download these two war diaries for a small fee click on the first two links below. The other war diaries can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have transcribed some entries from the war diaries at the bottom of this page.
- Date: 24 October 1914 – 15 December 1916
- 1st Indian Cavalry Division, Mhow Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/1176/2
- Notes: A good war diary for a cavalry regiment of this period for the first year after which entries become a lot shorter.
- Date: 09 January 1917 – 30 March 1918
- 4th Cavalry Division, Mhow Cavalry Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/1160/3
- Notes: A poor war diary with very little detail. There are longer entries for Cambrai.
- Date: 01 April – 31 July 1918
- 1st Mounted Division, 6th Mounted Brigade
- Reference: WO 95/5409
- Notes: A poor war diary with short repetitive entries. Each month is on a single page.
- Date: August 1918 – March 1920
- 4th Cavalry Brigade, 10th Cavalry Division
- Reference: WO 95/4513
Further Sources for the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse)
The best source of information for the Regiment and the British officers who served with it are its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. For information regarding British and Indian officers who served with the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse), the Indian Army List can be consulted.
Regimental History: A History of the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) from 1809 to 1922 compiled by Captain D. E. Whitworth. A good regimental history which is full of useful information. While the book covers over 100 years of Regiment’s history the vast majority of the book deals with the First World War. The history has been reprinted and can be easily obtained online.
Extracts from War Diaries of the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse)
24 October 1914 – 15 December 1916, Mhow Cavalry Brigade, WO 95/1176/2
24 October 1914: Saugor: 1.30 PM: Telegraphic mobilization orders received from Jubbulpore Brigade Headquarters.
25 October 1914: Saugor: Summonses recalling men on leave issued.
26 October 1914: Saugor: Instructions regarding organisation of “Indian Expeditionary Force “A” received.
27 – 31 October 1914: Saugor: Mobilization proceeding on 30th October, orders received to take over mobilization equipment from 16th Cavalry at Lucknow whither accordingly a party under Major G. Knowles D.S.O. proceeded on 31st October. On 30th October, also, intimation received from 5th (Mhow) Division H.Q. that a complete machine-gun section (under Lieut. V. H. S. Smith) with be supplied by 32nd Lancers.
1 November 1914: Saugor: Major Knowles telegraphed from Lucknow that the mobilization equipment of the 16th Cavalry already handed over to 17th Cavalry. Matter referred to Brigade H.Q. whence orders received following day that mobilization equipment would be supplied us by 32nd Lancers (Jubbulpore). Major Knowles directed to proceed thither, accordingly.
4 November 1914: Saugor: Telegraphic orders received from Simla for the regiment to proceed, at once, to Jubbulpore, to concentrate in brigade.
up to 10 November 1914: Saugor: Mobilization measures proceeding.