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The 2nd Queen's Dragoon Guards (Queens Bays)
The 2nd Queen's Dragoon Guards (The Queens Bays) were first raised in 1685 by King James II.
In the Great War The Queens Bays formed a part of the original British Expeditionary Force ('The Old Contemptibles') and were heavily engaged throughout the War in France and Flanders. Seeing action in all the major battles; the Retreat from Mons, Le Cateau, the battle of the Marne, Messines, Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, Cambrai, the Scarpe, and in the final victorious advance of 1918 including their successful chase of the German cavalry at Montigny-les-Lens on the last day of the Great War.
14th Aug 1914 The Queen's Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) depart from Aldershot, marching to Farnborough station to entrain for Southampton.
15th Aug 1914 The Queen's Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) arrived at Southampton Docks and embarked for Le Harve on the SS Minneapolis.
16th Aug 1914 The Queen's Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) disembarked at Le Harve from the SS Minneapolis, having spent the night anchored in the bay. The horses were stabled in a large store at the docks until noon, then the regiment moved to a large cotton store near the railway. The men spent most of the morning conversing with French soldiers who were guarding the docks.
Lieutenant A. J. R. Lamb recorded in his diary:- "Sailed into Le Harve docks and began disembarking about 5:30 a.m., All the horses of the regiment were put into a large store shed, and stood there from about 6:30 a.m. till noon. A party of French soldiers are guarding the docks, and it does not take our men long to become on speaking terms with them. They seem to quite interest each other in spite of not being at all acquainted with each other’s languages. Left these docks about noon and then moved on to a huge store shed near the railway (the biggest thing of its kind I have ever seen), where the horses were fastened up in lines."
17th Aug 1914 The Queen's Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) having spent the night in a large cotton store near the railway, underwent exercise and grazed the horses by the coast. That evening Headquarters mess dined aboard the Dieppe of the Newhaven-Dieppe line, which was engaged in bringing ammunition across from Newhaven. A Squadron left at 9pm to entrain for the concentration area.
18th Aug 1914 The Queen's Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) left cotton store near the railway, with Headquarters minus the Machine Gun section departing just after midnight with ‘C’ Squadron and MG section following at 3:30am. They gathered at point ‘S’ entraining place, where there was an hour's wait to entrain then a further three hours before departing. They enjoyed a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, jam and tea and had a good wash in buckets beside the train before leaving at 8:15am for the concentration area. They traveled via Rouen where they stopped to water and feed the horses, and the men had hot coffee made by the French soldiers. The train moved slowly with frequent stops where the locals handed over flowers and cigarettes. They traveled via Amiens and Busigny to Mauberge on the Belgian frontier.
1st Sep 1914 Diary of Lieutenant A. J. R. Lamb, Queens Bays:- "Up at about 4:40 a.m. Saddled up ready to move. After breakfast all being quite we got the order to off-saddle. There was a heavy mist in the morning which gradually cleared off about 6 a.m. Shortly after 6 a.m. I was just going to shave! when a heavy fire was suddenly opened on us by German guns close up to us (within 700 yds of the village). We were thoroughly surprised and the first few shells got in amongst the horses of ‘C’ Squadron which were fastened up in the lines with them. The Machine Gun horses were further under cover, so these shells did not do very much damage to them. All my men ran towards the further end of the village under cover of a high wall. The horses of ‘B’ and I believe also ‘A’ Squadrons began to stampede.
As soon as we realized the direction of the enemy’s fire I collected some of my machine gunners, and brought my guns into action at the south end of the village on the Rully road. We were under heavy artillery and rifle fire from now until the end of the battle. Luckily none of the men who were with me were hit whilst getting the guns into position. I was very short handed as I could not collect my gunners, they had scattered during the first alarm and were in different parts of the village. However the six men I had with me showed great bravery, and the guns were soon fixed up on the side of the road which runs through a small cutting about two feet deep affording a certain amount of cover from the enemy’s fire. Various men and officers with rifles lined this bank and formed quite a good firing line. The enemy, under cover of the early morning mist had brought their guns up to a plateau commanding the village, and only about 700 yds away from it. Private Ellicock was hit in the shoulder whilst assisting with the ammunition boxes and about five minutes later was shot through the neck and was taken away on a broken down door.
We opened fire on the Germans and my number ones showed great gallantry under a withering fire. The Horse Artillery Battery (‘L’ Battery) were standing formed up just to our right front, and got the full brunt of the enemy’s artillery fire which killed off practically all their horses and a big percentage of their men within the first few minutes. However those that were left got some of their guns into action and did excellent work silencing the enemy’s guns. We continued to fire thousands of rounds both at their guns and their infantry who were advancing through standing corn, and also at another body who were trying to work round our right flank.
The battle lasted about two hours by which time the enemy seemed to have had enough. They made repeated attempts to get their guns away but owing to the heavy fire were unable to do so. Just before the end of the battle we were reinforced by the composite regiment of the Household Cavalry and also the 9th Infantry Brigade. An advance was now made on the retiring enemy and all their abandoned guns were captured (about 8 or 12 of them altogether) and several prisoners. Adrian Bethell came up with his regiment just at the end of the battle. Both my guns worked splendidly without a single jam and the men who with me working them have been noted by the Colonel for their good work and will probably be Mentioned in Dispatches. General Briggs was also pleased with the performance.
On returning to our lines we found a lot of our horses shot and missing, the valise in which I had slept last night was riddled with bullet holes, and my cap lying on the ground beside it had a bullet hole through the peak. I only had about 5 or 6 men with me and had to get fixed up somehow and on the move again. We managed to fix up enough horses to pull the wagons and everybody who was available at the moment had to drive them. Private Fogg is now riding an Uhlan officer’s charger. Retired about 11 a.m. and left the village and neighbourhood in the hands of our own troops. The casualties amongst our officers were pretty heavy: Cawley (Brigade Major) had the top of his head blown clean off. De Crespigney was badly wounded and died soon afterwards. Chance badly wounded in the head. Cardew wounded in the shoulder: Ing, Harman, Walker, Milne, White (K.D.G.’s) and Renton (K.D.G.’s) also wounded, but not so seriously. About 20-30 men killed and wounded, but it is impossible to tell at all accurately as so many are missing at present. Both my chargers are all right, and I have kept ‘Rose’ all right-thank goodness- A ‘C’ Squadron man is riding ‘Paddy’ for the time being. My gun numbers were as follows:- Lance-Corporal Webb and Private Goodchild No. 1. (Both distinguished themselves. Webb promoted to Lance-Sergeant after the battle). Private Phillips and Private Fogg No. 2. Private Emmett and Private Ellicock No. 3 (Ellicock wounded afterwards awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, but died in hospital) Private Horn (Normally a driver but did excellent work fetching ammunition and water for the gun under heavy fire). NOTE: All these men have been Mentioned in Dispatches. Being so short handed during the fight, I hadn’t any men available for working the belt filling machine so Emmett and I had to do it all by hand; and I divided my time by filling belts and directing fire.
After we had got the draught horses fixed up and all the various arms and equipment, that were left lying about, heaped up on my wagons, the regiment retired slowly with the rest of the Brigade to a point about two miles south west of Néry. Here we halted and had a good look around to see what men and horses were missing, and those men with minor wounds were dressed on the stop. I find I have 14 men missing including Sergeant Evans. They tell me that Private Smith (my first servant) was seen dead but I believe Newman (my second servant) is all right although he is still missing. We retired by small journeys across country. The Brigade is pretty well together again now but the regiment looks very short. I hear Colonel Ansell (5th Dragoon Guards) was killed during the battle, one of the few casualties amongst the 5th D.G. Grilling hot day and no shade in the open country. Could do with a drink. Moved on slowly across country to a village called Borest not very far from Senlis (about 7 kilometres) arrived about 6 p.m. Officers billeted in a country house and horses on the lawn behind it. Soon after arriving heard guns firing pretty close and one of our patrols reported the enemy in the next village. This information was forwarded to Brigade Headquarters who attached no importance to it. Probably only small patrols of enemy located. Several Machine Gun men coming in tonight and now I have only 5 missing and am only short 8 horses. I have made up my casualties amongst the horses by using 5th D.G. horses (borrowed) and several horse that belonged to ‘L’ Battery R.H.A. which was practically wiped at Néry. ‘I’ Battery R.H.A. which came up directly after the battle managed to get away all the ‘L’ Battery’s guns. Officers dined in a room in a country house. The meal was presided over by the lady who owns the house. She was either rather dotty or terribly excitable, for she talked and talked and ended by positively squeaking in the highest, shrillest voice I’ve ever heard and nothing could stop her. Very irritating when you are feeling weary. However she was very kind and made us all comfortable with mattresses on floors or sofas for the night."
13th Nov 1914 Lieutenant Claude Norman Champion de Crespigny, was killed on 1st of September 1914 at Nery, aged 26. Claude's body was buried on the battlefield but was brought home by his parents, Baronet Claude and Georgiana Louisa Margaret Champion de Crespigny. Claude was given a military funeral and interred in the family mausoleum at Champion Lodge, near Maldon in Essex. The Essex County Chronicle of 13th of November 1914 reported on his funeral:
"Lieut. Claude Norman Champion de Crespigny of the Queen’s Bays, son of Sir Claude and Lady Ch. de Crespigny, who met a hero’s death in what was described as a second Balaclava in an action at Compiégne on 1st of Sept., was buried yesterday at the Crescent (the private family mausoleum at Champion Lodge), near Maldon, with full military honours. The gallant young officer and a few men held an important tactical point until every man was killed or wounded. The deceased was buried at Néry, near Compiégne, but the body was disinterred and brought to England. The exhumation was a difficult matter, for the body was in a grave with 17 others, and all the military badges had been cut off his uniform. Identification was, however, established by the deceased’s name being on the neckband of his shirt. The body, enclosed in a coffin of polished oak, with silver-plated furniture, arrived in London on Monday, and was conveyed to Maldon by train on Tuesday. Major General Heath, of the South Midland Division, sent a gun carriage, on which the remains were conveyed to Champion Lodge. Sir Claude and Lady de Crespigny met the train and followed the coffin to their residence, Sir Claude walking behind the gun carriage.
For the funeral the 7th Worcestershires provided the firing party (H Company); band and escort (D Company); The Queen’s Bays the bearers and trumpeters; and the Warwickshires the gun, a 15-pounder. Capt. Grosvenor was in charge of the troops. A large and sympathetic crowd gathered round the Crescent, in the centre of which is erected the mausoleum of polished granite, and the appearance of the long procession, moving in front of Champion Lodge and across the meadow to the spot was striking in the extreme. The firing Party, with arms reversed, marched slowly at the head, followed by the band, including the drums and buglers, with drums draped with crêpe, and under Drum-Major Gale; the came the surpliced choir of Great Totham Church and the clergy; the gun and carriage, drawn by six jet black horses, the coffin being covered by the Union Jack; and the mourners and intimate friends, the escort bringing up the rear.
The solemn music of the Dead March, played by the band, and borne on the keen November Breeze for miles, was peculiarly impressive. At the Crescent eight stalwart N. C. O.’s of the Bays quietly and reverently shouldered their burden, and the Rev. H.T.W. Eyre, vicar of Great Totham, began the burial service. He was assisted by the Rev. R. Moseley, chaplain of the Royal Chapel, Chelsea. During the service the firing party stood at the present, and the other troops remained bareheaded. At the close of the service, which included the hymn, “God of the Living in Whose Eyes,” three volleys were fired, and the trumpeters sounded the “Last Post”."
23rd May 1915 “We have had a terrible time this last ten days. Thirty of my chums were killed in one day and a lot wounded. The General said it was the worst shell fire since the beginning of the war. Only yesterday we were in the trenches and a bullet hit my chum in the head. I had to bury him in a wood. We made a little wooden cross out of an old box. He was not a married man, but a lot of the others were. We had a message of praise from two or three Generals, praising us on the way we held the trenches against the Germans. I am going to the trenches again to-night; we shall be in them five days.”
An extract from a letter written 23rd May 1915 by D/3565 Private William Angell, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays), published in The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on 29th May.Can you add to this factual information? Do you know the whereabouts of this unit on a particular day? Which battles they took part in? Or any other interesting snipts?
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