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1st RNSWL


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The number one comes from the designation of the 1st Light Horse Regiment in World War 1.

Under the rules that the British then applied to their dominions when the Australian colonies federated in 1901.  All armed forces fell under British control once they left dominion shores.  Thus when the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia passed the Defence Act in 1903 to regulate the Australian Armed Forces, no provision was made for forces to operate outside Australian territory.  There had been some incidents during the South African war, in particular the judicial murder of Australian soldiers by the British.  The new Commonwealth wanted its citizens to be dealt with by their own.

Thus when , in 1914 it was decided to send an expeditionary force first to New Guinea to wrest control from the Germans, and then to Europe to aid what was then considered to be the mother country, there was no provision in law to send existing units.  In particular, the Army was augmented with conscripts (universal service conscripts served in the militia 1912-1929 and there had been no agreement struck with the people that their sons could be forcably sent to fight overseas.

Soldiers in local Queensland units were asked to join a new force the ANMEF (Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force) for New Guinea.  This force served under the auspices of the British Army Act of 1888.  The task in New Guinea proved to be able to be completed quickly.

For Europe, something much larger was required.  The British had asked for sub-units to augment their units.  The Australian Government insisted on Australian units serving in Divisional groupings, agreed to the application of the British Army Act, but with one exception, the death penalty was not to apply.  Australian soldiers would no longer be able to be murdered for doing their duty (at least without first being taken prisoner by the enemy).  The new force was called the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).  The use of the word "imperial" adding the dimension of defence of empire to the name of the Australian military.

Colour patch of the 1st Light Horse RegimentThe 1st Light Horse was formed in Sydney.  Members of the existing militia 7th Australian Light Horse (New South Wales Lancers) based in Sydney, and on the south coast of New South Wales volunteered to join, they formed Regimental Headquarters, A Squadron and B Squadron of the 1st.  The New South Wales Lancers included veterans of the New South Wales Lancers who had fought in the South African War.  The 1st wore the blackened rising sun badge of the AIF, emu plumes and the square colour patch light blue over white as illustrated to the left.

The 1st Light Horse fought in Turkey and Palestine.  You can read about their exploits (mostly in their own words) by using the dropdown menus.

When World War 1 ended in 1918, the battle honours won by the AIF were transferred to militia and senior cadet units for safe keeping.  As the existing New South Wales Lancers had formed the bulk of the 1st Light Horse, it was only fitting that it be awarded the 1st's battle honours and become the 1st Light Horse (New South Wales Lancers).  These honours were added to the honour granted  for South Africa.

The Regiment continued as the 1st until 1929, its ranks augmented with conscripts.  The uniform was that of the Light Horse in WW1.

In 1929 universal service ended, the Regiment was joined with the 21st Light Horse to become the 1st/21st Light Horse (New South Wales Lancers), regimental badges returned, and the uniform was spruced-up as a recruiting incentive.  It was depression, there was no money to pay the soldiers, so it was thought a snappy uniform might help.  In 1935 the Regiment became the1st/21st Light Horse (Royal New South Wales Lancers) and the badge adopted the form it has today.

The 1st and 21st were uncoupled in 1936, and ac city boys could no longer ride, it was mechanised with trucks becoming the 1st Machine Gun Regiment (Royal New South Wales Lancers).

Badge of the Royal New South Wales Lancers Introduced 1935War came again in 1939.  An AIF was formed along the same lines as in 1914.  The Statute of Westminster 1931 permitted dominions to control their troops beyond their shores, but the Australian Government had not ratified the document, thus nominally our soldiers again fell under British command when they sailed out side the territorial limit.  Many members of the 1st Machine Gun Regiment resigned to join the 2nd/2nd Machine Gun Regiment (AIF) and left to fight in the Mediterranean theatre.  A number stayed, there was a rumour that militia units would be allowed to join the AIF as a unit not just as individuals.  In 1942 this happened, and the Regiment was equipped with Matilda Tanks.  It fought as the 1st Army Tank Battalion (Royal New South Wales Lancers) in New Guinea (armoured units in support of infantry were regarded as infantry, and thus designated "battalions" rather than "regiments").  And as the 1st Armoured Regiment (Royal New South Wales Lancers) in Borneo.  It was the only armoured unit with a history that dated back to WW1 and the South African War to be sent into battle in WW2.  The collection of battle honours making it the most decorated unit in the Australian Army.

After the War, the unit was first designated the 1st Armoured Regiment (Royal New South Wales Lancers), then in 1949 the title 1st Armoured Regiment was taken for the Tank Regiment to be established in the new Australian Regular Army. The unit was designated 1st Royal New South Wales Lancers and was an armoured Regiment equipped with Matilda tanks.

In 1956 the15th Northern Rivers Lancers was disbanded, and its number linked with the 1st.

The unit has been equipped with Centurion Tanks, M113A1 APCs and is now motorised with light reconnaissance vehicles.  It has not seen action as a unit or sub-unit since WW2, but its members and former members have served as individuals in most of the conflicts where armoured vehicles have been present.

Battle honours

 

New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated
ABN 94 630 140 881 - - - Site Updated August 2014
Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, Parramatta NSW 2150, Australia
Telephone +61 (0)405 482 814, Facsimile +61 (0)2 4733 3951 E-mail: enquiries@lancers.org.au
For Regimental enquiries call: +61 (0)2 9635 7822