The Life Guards are the senior regiment of the British Army. Just before the Restoration of King Charles II, a Royal Mounted Bodyguard was formed in Holland from eighty Royalists who had gone into exile with The King after the Battle of Worcester in 1652. In March 1660, The King appointed Officers to three Troops of Horse Guards.
These Troops were formed on The King’s return to England in May and were originally commanded by Lord Gerard of Brandon, Sir Charles Berkeley and Sir Philip Howard. A fourth (Scots) troop was raised in Edinburgh on 2 April 1661 commanded by James, Earl of Newburgh, and this Troop joined the English establishment early in the reign of Queen Anne.
The Regiment first saw action at the Battle of Sedgemoor (the Monmouth Rebellion) in 1665. Three Troops of Horse Grenadier Guards (Mounted Infantry) were added to the three English Troops of Horse Guards in 1678.
These were disbanded in January 1680 but raised again in 1684. They saw further action in both the Jacobite Wars and during the War of Austrian Succession (1742 -46).
In 1778 the Troops of Horse Guards were disbanded and re-formed as the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, a period from which the majority of today’s state dress originates.
They formed the front charging line of The Heavy Brigade at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, staging the famous charge against the French Cuirassiers that saved the British centre from being overrun.
During the nineteenth century, The Life Guards served in Egypt, as part of the Household Cavalry Regiment, taking part in the romantic Moolight Charge at Kassassin, and also in the Sudan and South Africa. During the First World War The Life Guards saw action at Mons, Le Cateau, The Marne, Ypres, Loos, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele and most notably at Zandvoorde where The Life Guards lost two complete Squadrons.
Early in 1918 they gave up their horses and were converted to Machine Gun Battalions, becoming the 1st and 2nd Guards Machine Gun Battalions respectively. They reverted to their proper names shortly after the Armistice.
In 1922 the 1st and 2nd Life Guards amalgamated and were called “The Life Guards (1st and 2nd)” until 1928 when they were renamed “The Life Guards”. During the Second World War, The Life Guards contributed men to both Household Cavalry Regiments, the second of which was described by General Brian Horrocks as “the finest armoured car regiment I have ever seen”.
They landed at Normandy in July 1944 and spearheaded the Guards Armoured Brigade advance through France to liberate Brussels and become the only forces to make contact with the Polish Free Forces during the advance to the bridge at Arnhem.
After the Second World War the Regiment saw service in the Canal Zone, Aden and Oman against the dissident tribesmen, including the assault with the SAS on the Jebel Ahkter and in Cyprus, Malaya, Singapore and Borneo. Since the early seventies the Regiment has undertaken seven tours of Northern Ireland and a number in support of the United Nations Forces in Cyprus.
The entire Regiment was deployed to the Gulf in 1990 and took part in the land war finishing up astride the Kuwait City – Basra highroad.
During the Defence Review in 1991 the regiment was reduced to two reconnaissance squadrons based in Windsor in a unionised regiment with
The Blues and Royals and one squadron commited to mounted ceremonial duty in London. The Regiment has recently had squadrons on operational deployments with the UN in Bosnia.