Scots Greys

Royal Scots Greys

The Royal Scots Greys was a cavalry regiment of the British Army from 1678 until 1971, when they amalgamated with the 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards) to form The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys).

Regimental name changes

The regiment's history began in 1678, when three independent troops of Scots Dragoons were raised. In 1681 these troops were regimented to form The Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons, numbered the 4th Dragoons in 1694. They were already mounted on grey horses by this stage and were already being referred to as the Grey Dragoons. In 1707 they were renamed The Royal North British Dragoons (North Britain then being the envisaged common name for Scotland), but were already being referred to as the Scots Greys. In 1713 they were renumbered the 2nd Dragoons, as it was established that only one regiment of English dragoons had existed prior to their creation. In 1877 their nickname was finally made official when they became the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys), which was inverted in 1921 to The Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons). They kept this title until 2 July 1971, when they amalgamated with the 3rd Carabiniers.

An album called Last of The Greys by the Royal Scots Greys regimental band was released in 1971 - from which the track Amazing Grace went, astonishingly, to top of the "Top 40" charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Up until at least the Second World War, The Greys also had a popular, if somewhat derogatory, nickname of "The Bird Catchers" which derived from both their cap badge and the capture of the Eagle at Waterloo (see below).


The Scots Greys had the motto "Second to none". It referred to their seniority in the British Army and their fighting prowess. Their official motto, however, was that of the Order of the Thistle; Nemo Me Impune Lacessit (No one provokes me with impunity). They were distinguished as the only heavy cavalry regiment to wear bearskins.

Battle honours

The regiment has many battle honours from Blenheim in 1704 through to the Second World War. Their most famous engagement took place at Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

The charge at the Battle of Waterloo

Ces terribles chevaux gris! Comme ils travaillent! Those terrible grey horses, how they strive! |20px|20px|Napoleon Bonaparte

At approximately 1:30 pm, the second phase of the Battle of Waterloo opened. Napoleon launched D'Erlon's corps against the allied centre left. After being stopped by Picton's Peninsular War veterans, D'Erlon's troops came under attack from the heavy cavalry led by the Earl of Uxbridge including Major General Sir William Ponsonby's "Union Brigade." The Scots Greys, commanded by Colonel Inglis Hamilton, were one of the three regiments of this brigade. The Greys were said by one eyewitness to have "walked over" a whole French infantry column. The French infantry were caught in a very poor formation for withstanding cavalry and suffered greatly, Uxbridge later claimed that 3,000 French infantry had been made prisoners as a result of the charge.

During the charge Sergeant Ewart, of the Greys, captured the eagle of the French 45th Ligne. The Greys charged the French Grande Batterie and, having cut the traces of the artillery's draught horse teams, came under a counter charge by lancers of Jaquinot's division. Ponsonby, who had chosen to ride one of his less expensive mounts, was ridden down and killed by the lancers. The Scots Greys' casualties, for the whole battle, included: 122 killed; 93 wounded; and the loss of 228 of the 416 horses that started the day.

This engagement also gave the Scots Greys their cap badge, the eagle itself. The eagle is displayed in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards museum in Edinburgh Castle, alongside the sword wielded by Ewart, who was later promoted to ensign, at the battle.

The charge of the Scots Greys in the painting "Scotland Forever!" by Lady Butler in Leeds City Art Gallery famously depicts the event and inspired the slow-motion shots of the charge in the film Waterloo directed by Sergei Bondarchuk in 1970.

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