CHARGE! 200 years on, the Greys ride again

Army in spe­cial trib­ute to brav­ery at Water­loo

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Comment - By Fiona McWhirter Pic­tures by Les Wil­son

WITH a thun­der­ous roar, they charged into battle – de­feat­ing Napoleon and earn­ing them­selves im­mor­tal­ity in the glo­ri­ous an­nals of Bri­tish mil­i­tary his­tory.

In 1815, the massed cav­alry of the Royal Scots Greys spear­headed Welling­ton’s de­feat of the French em­peror at the Battle of Water­loo.

To cries of ‘Scot­land For­ever!’, around 400 Scots sol­diers – rid­ing grey horses and clad in vivid red tu­nics – gal­loped to victory with swords drawn.

Now, as the bi­cen­te­nary ap­proaches of a con­flict that helped shape mod­ern Europe, the Army has pre­pared a pow­er­ful and sym­bolic trib­ute.

The Scot­tish Mail on Sun­day can re­veal that a spe­cial cav­alry unit has been cre­ated, named the Water­loo Squadron.

Mounted on the same grey horses and wear­ing the same cer­e­mo­nial scar­let, the troop of rid­ers and horses will go on pa­rade around Scot­land later this month.

Our ex­clu­sive pic­tures show mem­bers of the squadron train­ing in Lon­don’s Hyde Park last week. The rid­ers tak­ing part are all serv­ing sol­diers with the Royal Scots Dra­goon Guards – di­rect suc­ces­sors of the Royal Scots Greys.

All are fiercely proud of the part they will play in mark­ing the battle’s an­niver­sary.

Cor­po­ral Mike Craw­ford said: ‘When you look back at the courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion shown by the sol­diers in­volved in con­flict 200 years ago, you see th­ese are qual­i­ties that all of us should aim to have.’

Although the Royal Scots Dra­goon Guards are still tech­ni­cally re­garded as a cav­alry unit, they have spe­cialised in re­cent decades in tank war­fare. The new squadron rep­re­sents their re­turn to horse­back for the first time in 80 years.

Cpl Craw­ford, 30, of Lochwin­noch, Ren­frew­shire, con­tin­ued: ‘When you look at the men in the past, you think it’s just a guy on a horse, any­body could do that, but it’s not that easy.

‘Horses tend to talk back, tanks don’t and ve­hi­cles you can turn off – this is much harder.

‘The level of dis­ci­pline must have been harder be­cause the reg­i­ment fought with hun­dreds of horses – when we’re do­ing th­ese smaller ex­er­cises with four or five horses you re­alise how hard it must have been to keep a bat­tle­field to­gether.’

Along with march­ing bands of pipes and drums, the squadron will take to the streets of Kil­marnock, Ayr­shire, Ed­in­burgh and Jed­burgh, Roxburghshire, on June 20, 27 and 28 re­spec­tively.

Trooper An­drew Bur­gen said com­mem­o­rat­ing the oc­ca­sion came at a sig­nif­i­cant time for the Dra­goons, who are mov­ing from their cur­rent base in Falling­bostel, Ger­many, to the for­mer RAF base at Leuchars, Fife – and the leg­endary troops also play a part in his per- sonal her­itage. The 19-year-old from Balerno, near Ed­in­burgh, said: ‘It’s a mas­sive thing, not just for the reg­i­ment but for the coun­try as a whole – see­ing Scot­land’s most se­nior reg­i­ment go through the 200th an­niver­sary of one of the big­gest wars this side of Europe has ever seen.

‘It’s an in­cred­i­ble achieve­ment. If you trace my his­tory back on my mother’s side, it turns out I had an­ces­tors in the Royal Scots Greys.

‘I didn’t know this un­til a cou­ple of weeks ago when my mum spoke to par­ents and grand­par­ents and one came back and said their fa­ther was among them, and now that’s come for­ward to me.

‘With the Water­loo 200 pa­rade and our home­com­ing, it’s a big year for the reg­i­ment.’

Bri­gadier Mel Jame­son, chair­man of the troop’s Water­loo 200 com­mit­tee, said: ‘The heroic ac­tions of the Scot­tish cav­alry who fought, died and pre­vailed at Water­loo still res­onate with our sol­diers of to­day.

‘It is im­por­tant that their valiant deeds should still be re­mem­bered.’

‘Im­por­tant their deeds should be re­mem­bered’

MAR­TIAL TRA­DI­TION: The troop­ers are proud to up­hold the rep­u­ta­tion of the Royal Scots Greys, 200 years af­ter the reg­i­ment made its brave charge at Water­loo

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