1st Horse (Skinner's Horse)

The 1st Horse (Skinner's Horse) is a regiment of the Armoured Corps of the Indian Army. It traces its origins as a cavalry regiment from the times of the East India Company, followed by its service in the British Indian Army and finally, after independence as the fourth oldest and one of the senior cavalry regiments of the Armoured Corps of the Indian Army.[5]

1st Horse (Skinner's Horse)
1st Regiment of Skinner's Horse returning from a General Review, 1828.jpg
1st Regiment of Skinner's Horse returning from a General Review
Allegiance British India (1803-1947)
 India (1947-present)
Branch British Indian Army (1803-1947)
Flag of Indian Army.svg Indian Army (1947-present)
Nickname(s)Yellow Boys
Motto(s)‘Himmat e Mardaan Madad e Khuda’ (The bravery of man is by the help of God)[1][2]
EquipmentT-72 tanks
EngagementsFirst Afghan War
Battle of Ghazni
Battle of Jellalabad
Battle of Kabul
Bhurtpore 1842
First Sikh War
Battle of Moodkee
Battle of Ferozeshah
Battle of Aliwal
Battle of Sobraon
Second Sikh War
Battle of Ramnagar
Battle of Chillianwala
Battle of Gujrat
Second Afghan War
Kandahar 1878–80
Boxer Rebellion
Battle of Peking
World War I
France and Flanders
Defence of Gumboz
World War II
East African Campaign
Battle of Keren
Amba Alagi
Western Desert Campaign
Senio Flood Bank
Italian Campaign[3]
Post Independence
Operation Polo
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Colonel of
the Regiment
Maj Gen Dhiraj Seth[4]
James Skinner
1 Horse


After the Anglo-Maratha War of 1803, James Skinner ("Sikander Sahib") was dismissed from service by Daulat Rao Sindhia and was recruited by Lord Lake, who asked him to raise a regiment of ‘Irregular Cavalry’. On February 23, 1803 the regiment was raised at Hansi, Haryana in the service of the East India Company.[6] The initial contingent consisted of 800 men of Perron’s Horse, who were under service of the Scindia,[7][8] all of whom were old Muslims comrades of James Skinner.[9] Skinner's Horse was mainly composed of Ranghars(Muslim Rajputs),[10] Syeds, Moghuls, and localized Pathans from Delhi, Haryana and Western U.P.[11] Skinner was one of a certain group of officers, such as Gardner and Hearsay, who had become British leaders of irregular cavalry that preserved the traditions of cavalry of the Mughal empire, which had a political purpose because it absorbed pockets of cavalrymen who might otherwise become disaffected plunderers.[12]

A second regiment of Indian Cavalry was raised by Colonel James Skinner in 1814, which became the 3rd Skinner's Horse. On the reduction of the Indian Army in 1922, 1st and 3rd Regiments were amalgamated and became Skinner's Horse (1st Duke of York's Own Cavalry) and later the 1st Duke of York's Own Lancers (Skinner's Horse) until 1950, following which the regiment took its present designation.


Like many regiments of the Indian Army, the 1st Horse (Skinner's Horse) underwent a series of name changes in their history-[3][13]

  • 1803 Captain Skinner’s Corps of Irregular Horse
  • 1823 1st (Skinner's) Local Horse
  • 1840 1st Bengal Irregular Cavalry (Skinner's Horse)
  • 1861 1st Regiment of Bengal Cavalry
  • 1896 1st Regiment of Bengal Lancers
  • 1899 1st (The Duke of York's Own) Regiment of Bengal Lancers
  • 1901 1st (Duke of York's Own) Bengal Lancers (Skinner's Horse)
  • 1903 1st Duke of York's Own Lancers (Skinner's Horse).
  • 1921 1st Duke of York's Own Skinner's Horse.
  • 1950 1st Horse (Skinner's Horse)

The 3rd Skinner’s Horse also went through similar changes prior to its amalgamation with 1st Horse. [3]

  • 1814 Raised at Hansi by Lieutenant Colonel James Skinner as ‘Second Corps of Lieutenant Colonel Skinner’s Irregular Horse’
  • 1821 Baddeley’s Frontier Horse
  • 1823 4th Regiment of Local Horse
  • 1840 4st Bengal Irregular Cavalry
  • 1861 3rd Regiment of Bengal Cavalry
  • 1901 3rd Bengal Cavalry (Skinner's Horse)
  • 1903 3rd Skinner's Horse
  • 1921 Amalgamated to 1st/3rd Skinner's Horse.

Early historyEdit

Colonel James Skinner

After its formation in 1803, the regiment was involved in a number of the campaigns on the Asian sub-continent, notably the Siege of Bharatpur, the First Afghan War, the Second Afghan War, the First Sikh War and the Second Sikh War. In 1842, a detachment of the regiment lost 108 men out of 180 engaged in a clash at Kandahar. The 1st Skinner's Horse remained loyal during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, seeing service in the Ravi River district and distinguishing itself at Chichawatni.[2]

Skinner's Horse party, in a folio from the Delhi Book, or 'Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi’, an album by Sir Thomas Metcalfe, 1843

It was the first Indian Army regiment sent overseas during the Boxer Rebellion and participated in the Battle of Peking. During this campaign the regiment clashed with Tartar cavalry and served alongside United States units – the first occasion where British Indian and US troops served together.[14]

Skinner's Horse, by Ensign Bethune Donald Grant, 35th Bengal Light Infantry, c. 1845

World War IEdit

The 1st regiment remained throughout the war in the North-West Frontier. The 3rd regiment was at Meerut when the First World War broke out. The regiment was a part of the 7th (Meerut) Cavalry Brigade, 2nd Indian Cavalry Division. The brigade received orders to mobilise on 24 October 1914.[2] It sailed from Bombay and reached Marseilles port in France by 15 December 1914.[15]

The regiment was in France till August 1916. It saw extensive action in many parts of France. It was awarded the battle honours France and Flanders for its fine performance. It was sent to Mesopotamia as a part of the 7th Meerut Cavalry Brigade Headquarters. The regiment was then ordered back to India where it concentrated in Rawalpindi in August 1916 for operations in Afghanistan.[16] A detachment of the regiment was tasked to guard the post at Gumboz and held against the attack by the Marris on 17 February 1918.[2]

The regiment won the following gallantry awards –[17]

  • Companion of the Indian Empire : Risaldar Habibur Rahman Khan (1st regiment).
  • Military Cross : Jemadar Ami Lal (3rd regiment).
  • Order of British India : Risaldar Mardan Khan, Risaldar Nathe Khan, Risaldar Major Muhammad Akham Khan (1st regiment); Risaldar Major Balwant Singh (3rd regiment).
  • Indian Order of Merit : Risaldar Faiz Muhammad Khan, Jemadar Muhammad Umar Faruk Khan (1st regiment); Dafadar Lal Singh, Lance Dafadar Khem Singh, Jemadar Indar Singh, Dafadar Jawahir Singh (3rd regiment).
  • Indian Distinguished Service Medal : Sowar Nishan Ali, Jemadar Raknuddin, Trumpeter Abdul Majid Khan, Sowar Ghulam Muhammad Khan, Lance Dafadar Ali Hussain, Jemadar Muhammad Tagi Khan (1st regiment); Dafadar Gurdiyall Singh, Acting Lance Dafadar Pritam Singh, Sowar Chhaja Singh (3rd regiment).
  • Indian Meritorious Service Medal : Sowar Sabr Ali Khan, Sowar Abdul Shakoor Khan, Dafadar Hadiyar Khan, Dafadar Ashrafulla Khan (1st regiment); Dafadar Chhaja Singh, Sowar Pakbar Singh, Dafadar Nand Singh, Lance Dafadar Nahar Singh (3rd regiment).
  • Croix de Guerre (French) : Dafadar Zahur Ali (3rd regiment).
  • Bronze Medal of Military Valor (Italian) : Dafadar Kutab Khan (3rd regiment).
  • Crucea Servicul Credincois (Romanian) : Sowar Pretam Singh (3rd regiment).

Interwar periodEdit

After World War I, the cavalry of the British Indian Army was reduced from thirty-nine regiments to twenty-one. On 18 May 1921, the two regiments of Skinner's Horse were amalgamated at Sialkot with the new title of the 1st Duke of York's Own Skinner's Horse.[16] Formerly The 1st Duke of York's Own Lancers had been a class regiment made up entirely of Hindustani Mussalman (Muslim) troopers,[18] while the 3rd Skinner's Horse had consisted of one squadron each of Jat Sikhs, Jats, Rajputs and Ranghars (Muslim Rajputs). After the amalgamation, the new regiment would only consist of only three Squadrons: Rajputs, Rangars and Jats.[3] The Jat Sikh Squadron, which had been part of the 3rd Skinner's Horse for 72 years, was disbanded.[16]

Each of the squadrons was equipped with one Hotchkiss gun and with .303 Short Magazine Lee–Enfield rifles. The machine gun troops of the Headquarters Squadron were equipped with the .303 Vickers machine gun. The traditional sillidar-system of most of the cavalry was abolished shortly after World War I and Indian troopers were now provided with government horses rather than having to provide the animals themselves in return for a higher rate of pay. The Skinner's Horse accordingly acquired the status of a fully regular regiment of the British Indian Army and received standard government-issue equipment for all purposes.[16][19]

World War IIEdit

At the beginning of World War II the regiment was still mounted, but was quickly converted to act as a mechanised reconnaissance regiment and was attached to the 5th Indian Division and when the division was sent to the Sudan, formed part of Gazelle Force.[20]

During the rest of the war the regiment was attached variously to the 4th Indian Infantry Division; the British 10th Armoured Division, the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade and the 10th Indian Infantry Division. The regiment fought in East Africa, North Africa and Italy and was awarded battle honours for Agordat, Keren, Amba-Alagi, Abyssinia, Senio Flood Bank and Italy.[16] The senior Pakistani politician Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan (1915–1998), who served with Skinner's Horse in Sudan/Africa during the Second World War, has written a brief but memorable account of the regiment's service there, in his memoirs, "The Nation that Lost its Soul" (Lahore: Jang Pubs, 1995).

The regiment won the following gallantry awards –[21][22]

  • Distinguished Service Order (DSO) : Lieutenant Colonel IF Hossack.
  • Military Cross : Captain RP Prentice, Lieutenant RE Coaker.
  • Indian Order of Merit : Risaldar Mohd Yunus Khan.
  • Indian Distinguished Service Medal : Risaldar Amar Singh, Lance Dafadar Dip Chand, Lance Dafadar Mohd Sharif Khan, Lance Dafadar Bhure Khan, Sowar Munshi Singh, Sowar Raj Singh, Sowar Sardar Singh.
  • Mentioned in dispatches : Lieutenant Colonel IF Hossack, Lieutenant Colonel T Scott, Captain HT Adams Williams, Lieutenant RE Coaker, Risaldar Major Bhanu Singh, Risaldar Mohammed Yunus Khan, Lance Dafadar Bhure Khan, Lance Dafadar Abdul Hakim, Lance Dafadar Munshi Khan, Lance Dafadar Feroze Khan, Lance Dafadar Ikram-ud-din, Sowar Raj Singh.

Post WarEdit

1978 postage stamp on the 175th anniversary

The regiment was switched to tanks in 1946, receiving the Stuart tank, and a year later Churchills. In 1947 with the Indian independence, the regiment became part of the Indian Army Armoured Corps. The first Indian commander was Lieutenant Colonel RM Bilimoria, and the regiment was stationed at Ahmednagar. Post partition, the Hindustani Muslim and Ranghar squadrons of the Skinner’s Horse were transferred to the Pakistani Armoured Corps in exchange of a Sikh Squadron from 19th King George V's Own Lancers.[7] The present regimental composition is of Jats, Rajputs and Sikhs.[23]

The COAS General VK Singh, being presented a sword on being appointed Honorary Colonel of the Regiment of the Skinner's Horse, in Meerut on October 01, 2010
Hyderabad Police Action

The regiment took part in the annexation of Hyderabad in 1948, following which it stopped the use of Stuart tanks.[24][25] The Churchill tank remained in use until 1957, after which the regiment was equipped with Sherman Mk IV's.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

In 1965, equipped with Sherman tanks, the unit’s B Squadron supported 50th Parachute Brigade near Dograi and 2 troops helped 3 Jat in the epic battle of Dograi.[7] Eight years later, in 1965 the regiment converted to the T-54 and then to the T-55.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

The regiment with its T-55 tanks was part of the 2 Independent Armoured Brigade under 39 Infantry Division.[26] It took part in operations initially in Samba and then in Shakargarh sector and was awarded the battle honour Harar Kalan.[27][7][28]

The regiment won the following gallantry awards-

  • Vir Chakra : Captain Vikram Deuskar.[29]
  • Sena Medal : Dafadar Rup Singh, Lance Dafadar Gurdial Singh,[30] Sowar Nathu Lal
  • Mentioned in dispatches : 2nd Lieutenant Virender Kumar Jetley, 2nd Lieutenant A Khullar, 2nd Lieutenant Bhupinder Singh Mandare, Risaldar Bhan Singh[31]

In 1979, the regiment converted to the T-72 tanks. In 2003, a special service was held at the St. James' Church, Delhi, which was built by James Skinner, to commemorate the bicentenary of the regiment.[32]


The old 1st Lancers wore yellow uniforms (uniquely in the British Empire) and the old 3rd wore dark blue. The "yellow" was actually close to mustard in shade but led to the regiment being nicknamed "Canaries" or "Yellow Boys" from its formation.[33] Each regiment had the full-dress (mounted) long 'Kurta' worn with a turban and cummerbund for all ranks, also a full-dress (dismounted) or levee, dress for British officers only. These were not in general use after 1914 but could still be worn by officers on special assignments (e.g. as an aide-de-camp) or while attending court functions. The merged Skinner's Horse was assigned a dark blue full dress with yellow facings in 1922 but by 1931 the historic yellow and black had been restored. The yellow mess jacket and black waistcoat of the old 1st Bengal Lancers was adopted by the 1922 regiment of Skinner's Horse and was the cold weather mess dress until 1939. All six of these various uniforms are in the collection of the National Army Museum.

The cap badge of the regiment prior to independence consisted of a central rose over crossed lances, with a crown between the lance-heads. A scroll below bears the inscription, 'Himmat-I-Mardan Madad-I-Khuda'. The present cap badge replaced the crown by a horse mounted by a cavalryman.[34]

Battle and Theatre HonoursEdit

Bhurtpore, Ghuznee 1839, Khelat, Afghanistan 1839, Candhahar 1842, Maharajpore, Moodkee, Ferozeshah, Aliwal, Kandahar 1880, Afghanistan 1879-1880, Punjab Frontier, Pekin 1900, France and Flanders 1914-16, North West Frontier India 1915, Baluchistan 1918, Afghanistan 1919, Agordat, Keren, Amba Alagai, Abyssinia 1940-41, Senio Floodbank, Italy 1943-46, Harar Kalan, Punjab 1971.[3][7]

The regiment was awarded with the 'Guidon' on 31 March 1971 at Babina by the then President V. V. Giri.

Notable personnelEdit

Affiliate regimentsEdit


  1. ^ "A home in the hills for Col James Skinner". The Times of India. 15 October 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Jackson, Donovan (1940). India's Army. Sampson Low, Marston & Co Ltd. p. 26-34.
  3. ^ a b c d e The Indian Army List, July -1940. Defence Department, Government of India. 1940. p. 643.
  4. ^ "Gazette of India No 45" (PDF). 7 November 2020. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  5. ^ "Army chief visits Skinner's Horse". 2 October 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  6. ^ "Land deals by kin of James Skinner, founder of Skinner's Horse regiment, under ED scanner". 14 August 2020. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Yellow Boys - Skinner's Horse". 10 September 2020.
  8. ^ "James Skinner: From Half-Born Mercenary to Sikandar Sahib". 25 June 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  9. ^ The Marquess of Anglesey (1993). A History of the British Cavalry, 1816–1850. Vol. 1 1816–1919. Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 9781473814981.
  10. ^ J. Royal Roseberry (1987). Imperial Rule in Punjab: The Conquest and Administration of Multan, 1818-1881. Riverdale Company. p. 165. ISBN 9780913215234.
  11. ^ Sumit Walia (2021). Unbattled Fears: Reckoning the National Security. Lancer Publishers. p. 125. ISBN 9788170623311.
  12. ^ Christopher Alan Bayly, C. A. Bayly (1996). Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521663601.
  13. ^ "1st Duke of York's Own Skinner's Horse". Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  14. ^ Christopher Rothero pages 6–7 "Skinner's Horse"ISBN 0 85524 310 4
  15. ^ "Skinner's horse in the first world war 1914-18". 1 October 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  16. ^ a b c d e "global security". Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  17. ^ India, Adjutant General of (1930). List of Honours Awarded to the Indian Army August 1914 to August 1921. Committee Indian War Memorial Delhi.
  18. ^ Gaylor, John (1992). Sons of John Company. p. 5. ISBN 0-946771-98-7.
  19. ^ Gaylor, John (1992). Sons of John Company. p. 11. ISBN 0-946771-98-7.
  20. ^ The Fighting Fifth – History of the 5th Indian Division. Director of Public Relations, War Department, Government of India.
  21. ^ The Tiger Strikes. Director of Public Relations, India Command, Government of India. 1942. p. 148.
  22. ^ The Tiger Kills. Director of Public Relations, India Command, Government of India. 1944. p. 309.
  23. ^ Guatam, PK (2016). Indigenous Historical Knowledge: Kautilya and His Vocabulary, Volume III. IDSA/Pentagon Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-81-8274-909-2.
  24. ^ "Obituary: Lt-Col Michael Skinner". Independent.co.uk. 23 October 2011. Archived from the original on 1 May 2022. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  25. ^ "Operation Polo: The Liberation Of Hyderabad at Bharat Rakshak Volume 2-3, November-December 1999". Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  26. ^ Gill, JH (2003). An Atlas Of 1971 India Pakistan War - Creation of Bangladesh. National Defense University, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. p. 86.
  27. ^ "Skinner's Horse Commemoration Stamp Release". 25 November 1978. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  28. ^ "Harhar Kalan, The little known story of One Battle Honour". 12 July 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  29. ^ "Gazette of India, No 34" (PDF). 19 August 1972. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  30. ^ "Gazette of India, No 10" (PDF). 9 March 1974. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  31. ^ "Gazette of India, No 19" (PDF). 11 May 1974. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  32. ^ Bicentennial plaque at St James' Church
  33. ^ W.Y. Carman, page 176 "Indian Army Uniforms – Cavalry", Morgan Grampian: London 1968
  34. ^ "National Army Museum Online Collection". Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  35. ^ "Former Western Command chief dies of COVID in Delhi". 21 May 2021. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  36. ^ "Lt. Gen. Loomba new Military Intelligence chief". The Hindu. 31 August 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  37. ^ "Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi takes charge of army's Eastern Command". 11 July 2018.
  38. ^ "Desert Corps of Army celebrates Raising Day". 27 February 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  39. ^ "Mehta is 1st Sikh officer from Kashmir to become Lt General". 25 October 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  40. ^ "His Majesty King Abdullah II Al-Hussein of Jordan visits armoured regiment at Hissar". PIB - Press Information Bureau. 2 December 2006.
  41. ^ "Battle of Kabul 1842". Retrieved 10 March 2021.


Further readingEdit

  • Holman, Dennis (1961). Sikander Sahib; the life of Colonel James Skinner, 1778–1841. Heinemann, London.
  • Rothero, Christopher (1979). Skinner's Horse. Almark Publishing Co. Ltd. ISBN 978-0855243104
  • Skinner, Lt-Col M A R (1985). Sworn to Die. Lancer, India ISBN 978-1851270651
  • Roberts, Major H. A Short History of the 1st Duke of York's Own Lancers (Skinner's Horse),(1803–1908)
  • Mason, Philip (1980). Skinner's Horse. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-013036-9.
  • Skinner, James (2006). The Recollections of Skinner Of Skinner's Horse - James Skinner And His 'Yellow Boys' - Irregular Cavalry In The Wars of India between the British, Mahratta, Rajput, Mogul, Sikh & Pindarree Forces. Leonaur. ISBN 978-1846770616.
  • Daniels, Major A. M. (1925). Skinner’s Horse: The History of the 1st Duke of Yorks Own Lancers. N&M Press. ISBN 978-1845743154.

External linksEdit