The King’s Colonials (KC) were a unique yeomanry Regiment in the British Army in the opening years of the 20th century. Although formed in the final stages of the Boer War the Regiment itself did not see service there although a number of its volunteer members did. They were comprised of Colonial volunteer’s resident in Britain initially from those living in London but in time extending to Cambridge, Oxford and Liverpool. A combination of colourful characters, rich and flamboyant uniforms, iconic badges reflecting proud Dominion heritages mixed with Royal patronage ensured that the King’s Colonials became a much talked about Regiment. The King’s Colonials bore many distinctions and among them that they were the only Colonial unit administered from Whitehall.
Re-named in 1910 as the King Edward’s Horse (King’s Overseas Dominions Regiment) (KEH) the Regiment went on to see active service in the Great War. Service in the King Edward's Horse proved to be a highly-regarded training ground for future Officers. Some 550 men were transferred from the King Edward’s Horse to become Officers in other units. The King Edward's Horse were demobilised upon their return to England in 1919 and were never re-embodied and were disbanded in 1924.
Much of the time in the Great War, the King Edward’s Horse were kept in reserve waiting for breakthroughs in the line which rarely if ever occurred. They spent much of their time foraging for themselves and their horses and delivering messages. The infantry took their abbreviated title of ‘KEH KODR’ and jeeringly called them the ‘King’s Own Despatch Riders’.
The truth is that the King Edward’s Horse had an exemplary wartime service record. During the war the Regiment lost ten Officers, two Staff Sergeants and 69 Other Ranks killed or died on service. They were awarded four Distinguished Service Orders, one with bar; eleven Military Crosses, one with bar; ten Distinguished Conduct Medals, one with bar; five Meritorious Service Medals and twenty-five Military Medals plus a number of Foreign service awards and Mentioned in Dispatches.
The King’s Colonials and later the King Edward’s Horse together, with nothing more than a namesake as a link, the 2nd King Edward’s Horse (2KEH) represent a tremendous topic for research. The badges of these Regiments in particular make a fascinating study. This was my initial interest in the Regiments which grew over time to a fuller appreciation of their uniform and place in history.
I am currently adding additional information about individuals who served in the King's Colonials from the Regimental history and other sources plus and a comprehensive King Edward's Horse Nominal Roll with medal entitlements from the Medal Index Cards and other sources together with photographs of individuals, gravestones and medals. Medals to the King Edward's Horse and 2nd King Edward's Horse are both named as K.Edw.H. which causes considerable confusion and hopefully the Nominal Rolls I have compiled on this website will aid in the identification of the actual regiment a medal recipient served in. These pages are being regularly updated and I welcome information on and photographs of any members of the King's Colonials/King Edward's Horse and 2nd King Edward's Horse. Please see the Contact page for getting in touch. Full acknowledgement will be given.
There are many myths, mistruths and misunderstandings regarding the history, uniforms and badges of the King’s Colonials, King Edward’s Horse and 2nd King Edward’s Horse. Their headdress badges have been heavily copied and I have set out to try and advise the reader as to how best to distinguish an original headdress badge from a copy. In attempting to do so I have purposely chosen not to disclose certain characteristics and images of badges which I believe would help copiers of badges "improve their game".
As this website is intended for research purposes only I have included several images from websites where I have been unable to make contact with the owner and apologise in advance should the owner not wish the image to be used. I would hope to hear from them and seek their permission to support this project. All images without a specific attribution are from my own collection. The hyperlinks are embedded in the text in blue to allow the original source and additional information to be accessed.
The set of King's Colonials badges I have shown here is the only full set I have seen to date of all of the Regimental and Squadron headdress and collar badges with shoulder titles and tunic buttons.
Contemporary photographs provide a unique insight into the uniforms and badges of the King’s Colonials, King Edward’s Horse and 2nd King Edward’s Horse and the manner in which they were worn. A friend and major collaborator on this project whom I met on the Great War Forum
, Darren O’Brien was very fortunate to have acquired a collection of photographs with annotations of the King’s Colonials by R. J. (Bob) Smith who made a detailed study of many of the British yeomanry regiments. The access to these photographs and notes was a turning point in being able to more critically detail the uniform and badges of the King's Colonials and King Edward's Horse. This material was supplemented through the purchase of a photograph album of the King’s Colonials on annual camp in the period 1902-04. I am indebted to Simon Jervis for sourcing this album.
I am deeply grateful to several friends and acquaintances who have generously provided copies of photographs, measurements and notes on the badges and uniforms of the King’s Colonials, King Edward’s Horse and 2nd King Edward’s Horse. My thanks to an unnamed Sydney collector, Robert Andrews, Ian Barker, Gardner Bell, Mike Bekkett, Pat Birley, John Burridge, Timothy Connolly, Steve Bosley, Iain Davidson, Michael T. Finchen, Rod Flood, Phil Garland, Luke Halls, Simon Jervis, Paul Liddell, Rob Miller, Jon Mills, Ray Mitchell, Griff Morgan-Jones, Geoff Newman, the late David Oldham, Laurie Osborne, the late Peter Parodi, Alex Rice, Paul Spellman, James Stevenson, David Stewart, Victor Taboika, Pierre Vandervelden and Garry White. Many of these friends I have met through the British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum
which is an invaluable resource for any badge collector.
I would like to thank and pay tribute to the following descendants and biographers of those who served in the King’s Colonials, King Edward’s Horse and 2nd King Edward’s Horse. They have all identified individuals in photographs and have generously assisted in providing biographical details, stories and additional photographs. Lest We Forget: Captain Frank Van Agnew MC, 1112, 2nd King Edward's Horse - Jamie Vans (Grandson and biographer)Second Lieutenant Walter Bolus, 1481, King Edward's Horse - Walter Stevens (Grandson). Captain William Ernest Horatio Bradburn, King Edward's Horse - Diane Moss (biographer).Private Alfred Capper, 433, King Edward's Horse and 2nd King Edward's Horse - Robert Cruickshank (Grandson).Second Lieutenant Leonard Arthur Carey, 2nd King Edward's Horse - Trevor Harkin (biographer).Serjeant Edwin (Ted) C. Cowley, 2nd King Edwards Horse - Bob Hakewill (Local historian)Lance Corporal Eric H. Cowan, 393, King Edward's Horse - Richard Daglish (biographer). Private Reginald John Daws, 595, King Edward's Horse - Nick Daws (Grandson).Private Charles (Charlie) Ernest Hakewill, 1553, 2nd King Edward's Horse - Bob Hakewill (Grandson and local historian).Serjeant Sydney Bywater Harris, King Edward's Horse - Carole McEntee-Taylor (biographer).Colonel Lionel James CBE DSO, King Edward's Horse - Michael James (Grandson).Private Carl Edward Jessop, 600, King Edward's Horse - Carl Hopkins (Great grandson).Private Frank W. Jones, 926, 2nd King Edward's Horse - Bob Hakewill (Local historian).Private Jack Fraser Mitchell MM, 1338, 2nd King Edward's Horse - Ray Mitchell (Grandson and biographer).Lieutenant Colonel George Gray Russell DSO, King Edward's Horse - Natalie Wilson (biographer).Regimental Quarter Master Serjeant Frederick Willet Skepelhorn, 388, King Edward's Horse - Jenny Willis, (Great grand daughter). Private Robert (Albert) Swinfen, 905, 2nd King Edward's Horse - Bob Hakewill (Local historian).Private Thomas (Tom) Tibbits, 911, 2nd King Edward's Horse - Bob Hakewill (Local historian).Private William (Billy) Jack West, 811, 2nd King Edward's Horse - Bob Hakewill (Local historian).
Peter Nemaric deserves special thanks for sharing several excellent photographs of the King’s Colonials and King Edwards Horse. Peter created and manages the King Edward’s Horse website
and I am deeply indebted to him for allowing them to be used.
I would also like to especially thank Carole McEntee-Taylor for her permission to use the photographs of Sydney Harris from her excellent biography of this remarkable man (From Colonial Warrior to Western Front Flyer: The Five Wars of Sydney Herbert Bywater Harris
. London: Pen and Sword, 2015). Similarly I would like to sincerely thank Jamie Vans for his permission to use photographs and the vivid biography of his grandfather Captain Frank Van Agnew, MC (Veteran Volunteer: Memoirs of the Trenches, Tanks & Captivity 1914-1918. London: Pen and Sword, 2014
Since this website went live an article by Keith Hook and David Knight entitled ‘The Badges, Titles and Buttons of King Edward’s Horse
’ was published in the Journal of the Military Historical Society. 251:70-78, 2018. This excellent article contains a number of additional pieces of information regarding the badges and uniforms of the King's Colonials and King Edward's Horse which I now reference on my site. I am appreciative of their efforts to document their research and for correspondence with Keith regarding their badges.
My heartfelt thanks go to my brother Stephen for his extensive and patient proof-reading, and encouragement. The badge photography was a considerable challenge and I would like to especially thank my father-in-law Michael for all his experimentation and technical tuition to overcome this.
I was encouraged to write this article by my close friend and mentor John Longstaff who has sought to teach me much about the badges of the British Empire. The learning continue and I sincerely thank John for his edits, guidance and friendship.
There is no doubt in my mind that this project would have been accomplished without the guidance and practical support of Ivan Machin. Having read Ivan’s tremendous book on the ‘Badges of the York and Lancaster Regiment’ I eagerly contacted him to seek his guidance on how to go about tackling the compilation of my notes and assemblage of photographs into something concrete that I could share with others. Ivan has been generous with his time in supporting me on this journey and has openly shared with me his own experience of converting to a badges of York and Lancaster website
so that fresh additions to a collection can be accommodated. As the project went on I was fortunate to be introduced to Michael Wood who has published a splendid and authoritative guide to the 'Badges and Insignia of the Essex Yeomanry'. Michael has also created a wonderful website to the badges of the County of Essex
. I encourage readers to click on the links to these two websites which provide terrific reference sources.
I am indebted to the love and support of Anna my wife and three wonderful children Cameron, Elisabeth and Alexander for their infinite patience and tolerance for their Father’s fascination with badges and their history.
Dr Dean Moss