This article on the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons has two aims with the first being to provide you with a brief overview of the Regiment’s service during the First World War. The second is to help you research a soldier who served in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons during the war. This article is one of a series of guides I have written to help you research soldiers who served in the British Army:
The 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons in the First World War
The 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons was stationed at Muttra in India when Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914. Muttra, now Mathura is a city thirty-six miles northwest of Agra and the unit had been stationed there since arriving from Mhow on 9 November 1911. On 24 October, the Regiment received orders to mobilize and concentrated the next month at Jubbulpore, now Jabalpur. Here, the 5th (Mhow) Cavalry Brigade was being assembled which the Regiment served in for the duration of the war. Also serving in the Brigade was the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse), 38th King George’s Own Central India Horse and X Battery Royal Horse Artillery. The Brigade initially served as part of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division.
At Bombay on 19 November, the Regiment embarked on board the SS City of Exeter and Ingoma which sailed the next day in convoy for France. After an uneventful voyage via the Suez Canal, the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons disembarked at Marseilles on 14 December. Its movements can be followed by consulting its war diaries which record where the Regiment served on the Western Front. These are discussed below. In September 1915, the Mhow Cavalry Brigade was transferred to the 1st Indian Cavalry Division which became the 4th Cavalry Division on 26 November 1916. When the 4th Cavalry Division was broken up on 10 March 1918 the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons was transferred to the 7th Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division and served with the formation for the remainder of the war. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission recorded 183 dead for the Regiment between 6 September 1914 and 14 November 1918.
6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron
In November 1914, the Regiment formed the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Enniskillen. This unit became the divisional cavalry of the 36th (Ulster) Division and landed at Le Havre, France on 6 October 1915. On 21 June 1916, the Squadron was combined with B and C Squadrons North Irish Horse to form the 10th Corps Cavalry Regiment. This unit was broken up in August 1917 with the Squadron’s soldiers posted to the 9th Battalion Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers). Medal records for soldiers who served in this Squadron and were later posted to the 9th Battalion will be key for identifying these men. There are two war diaries covering the Service Squadron.
Researching a Soldier who Served in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons in the First World War
Start by looking at my generic guides to researching soldiers who served in the British Army during the First World War. The best guides to start with are those concerned with service records and medals. You will come across a lot of military jargon so I’d recommend keeping my page on British Army abbreviations and acronyms open. If you’re looking for an officer or other rank who was serving in India in 1911, check the 1911 Delhi Durbar Roll which is free to download. There are also three war diaries for the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons which can be downloaded and two for the Service Squadron.
Officers: Have a look to see if a service record has survived but not all have. If an officer’s service record has made it to the present-day then it will either be at the National Archives, or if they served past April 1922 then it will still be held by the Ministry of Defence. I’ve written a guide on my Second World War website on how to order these files: Ordering a Service Record from the MOD. Many officers are recorded by name in the war diaries of the Regiment and they are linked to their National Archives catalogue entries below. If you are looking for promotion dates then my articles on the London Gazette and Hart’s Army List, the latter for pre-war officers, will help. Newspapers are an important source for researching officers and I have written an article to help you: Researching Soldiers Using Newspapers.
Other Ranks: A service record is the key document to try and find but many were destroyed when the warehouse in which they were stored caught fire in the Blitz. If a soldier continued to serve past January 1921, then their service record will still be kept by the Ministry of Defence and you’ll have to order a copy: Ordering a Service Record from the MOD. Even without a service record, you can usually uncover information, especially from medal records if a soldier served outside of Britain and Ireland. The date a soldier joined the Regiment can often be deduced from their regimental number, even if their service record has been lost. However, care has to be taken as there are two numbering systems. Until 1906, each regiment in the Corps of Dragoons numbered their other ranks separately, while from 1907 they all drew numbers from the same series.
To research either an officer or other rank who served in the 6th Dragoons you’ll need to search the records on both Ancestry and FindmyPast. Each site has different record sets which need to be searched. Both offer a free trial and they are usually available at local libraries if you’re in Britain.
This photograph of Private George Gardner of the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons who died of wounds on 17 June 1917. This portrait of George appeared in the Gloucester Journal and I would recommend reading my page on researching soldiers using newspapers if you’re looking for a photograph of a casualty. The image quality is poor because the scan is taken from a microfilm of the original paper.
War Diaries of the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons
There are three war diaries for the 6th Dragoons and all have been digitized by the National Archives. To download the war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below. I have transcribed an appendix from the Service Squadron’s war diary at the bottom of the page.
- Date: 24 October 1914 – 31 December 1916
- Mhow Cavalry Brigade, 1st Indian Cavalry Division
- Reference: WO 95/1176/3
- Notes: An average war diary at best when compared to the war diaries of other British cavalry regiments for this period.
- Date: 01 January 1917 – 12 February 1918
- Mhow Cavalry Brigade, 4th Cavalry Division
- Reference: WO 95/1160/4
- Notes: An average war diary which contains a variety of appendices.
- Date: 01 March 1918 – 31 March 1919
- 7th Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division
- Reference: WO 95/1155/4
- Notes: A poor war diary for the period it covers with brief entries with very little detail.
War Diaries of the Service Squadron
- Date: 05 October 1915 – 30 May 1916
- 36th (Ulster) Division
- Reference: WO 95/2496/1
- Notes: Overall a good war diary, though there are no appendices.
- Date: 01 June 1916 – 31 March 1918
- 10th Corps Cavalry Regiment
- Reference: WO 95/874/1
- Notes: This is a very good war diary up until October 1916, with many entries containing a lot of detail. After this date, entries are usually brief and repetitive. There are no appendices. The earliest and latest part of the war diary concern the North Irish Horse.
Further Sources for the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons
Unfortunately, there was no regimental history produced for the Regiment covering its service during the First World War. A good book to provide the context of the Regiment’s service on the Western Front during the war is David Kenyon’s Horsemen in No Man’s Land: British Cavalry and Trench Warfare 1914-1918. The Mhow Cavalry Brigade Headquarters’ war diaries should add more information regarding the movements and activities of the Regiment. The first covers the period between November 1914 and December 1916 (WO 95/1176/1) and the second between January 1917 and March 1918 (WO 95/1160/1).
Extract from the War Diary of the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons
Report on the operations of “C” Squadron, Inniskilling Dragoons, on December 1st 1917 WO 95/1160/4
This report may be divided into 3 headings:
- The advance to the German wire and the occupation of the trench.
- The holding and defence of trench.
- The withdrawal after dark.
1. The Squadron advanced at a gallop on the left rear flank of the 2nd Lancers from Peiziere to about X.22.c.central (sheet 57.c.1/40,000), a distance of about 3 kilometres – the last half of which was over a fire-swept zone.
The mounted advance terminated at the German wire at obstacle distance from a fire trench held by the 418th [?] Regiment, who left hurriedly on their wire being crossed. Here the Squadron dismounted for action, crossed the wire and gained the shelter of the trench just vacated by the enemy and already entered by the 2nd Lancers.
2. The trench occupied ran north and south, the direction of advance having been N.N.E. (ENE?). The Squadron held the northern and of this trench, which terminated in a sap-head commanded on three sides by a ridge under 100 yards distant; this ridge overlooked Villers-Guislain to the north, and enfiladed the trench to the south.
To hold this, the post nearest the enemy, a post was pushed out on the ridge, and a machine gun: all the men and the Machine Gun Officer soon became casualties, the machine gun had to be withdrawn, and it was not possible after this to leave the sap-head. Owing to lack of space, this sap-head could only be held by 2 machine guns, 2 Hotchkiss guns, and a few men. The enemy soon crawled up and enveloped this flank from three sides.
Fortunately, several boxes of ammunition and bombs were found in the trench – formerly a British one, and the machine guns with a party filling belts, were able to check the repeated attempts of the enemy to crawl through the scrub and rush the sap-head.
Unsuccessful in this, the enemy bombed his way down a communication trench from the north-west leading into the main trench 50 yards south of the sap-head. A counter-bombing party was organized, bombs were fortunately at hand, also many German grenades which were experimented with and timed. This party was gallantly led by a Corporal, who killed the leading German; bombs were at this time thrown with such good effect that one German was blown off his feet above the level of the parapet, and the remainder so hurriedly withdrew that they left the trench, came into the open under direct fire of the sap-head machine gun under which they were shot down.
The enemy did not again attempt to advance down this communication trench, but pressed their attack from the ridge. Had the enemy effected an entry into the sap-head, the whole length of the trench, untraversed, would have become untenable, and the five Squadrons would have been driven from its shelter into the open. It was thanks to the machine guns, the magnificent way they were served, and the supply of ammunition found, that the position was held for 12 hours.
Reinforcement, communication and removal of casualties was rendered more difficult owing to the trench being filled with the horses (some wounded) of about 2 Squadrons 2nd Lancers and a few of our leading troop.
In order to carry out the withdrawal after dark, in agreement with Major Knowles D.S.O., Commanding 2nd Lancers, the Squadron held the sap-head during the withdrawal of that Regiment. It was not found possible to withdraw under cover of the 2nd Lancers, owing to the necessity of their horses being led out in single file to the southern limit of the trench necessitating one man to each horse. Very lights were fired frequently from the sap-head and successive covering positions taken up, until the wounded and horses were withdrawn, when the Squadron withdrew, arriving back at Epehy at about 1 am.
I have brought to the notice of the Officer Commanding Inniskilling Dragoons the names of those who were conspicuous amongst all who showed devotion to duty, and have rendered a separate report to the Officer Commanding No.11 Squadron Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry).
Signed. A. R. Moncrieff. Captain. Commanding C Squadron. The Inniskilling Dragoons. 4/12/17.