Hunter River Lancers coat of arms

A brief history of the Hunter River Lancers

A volunteer cavalry regiment of bushmen was raised in June 1897 and was designated the 'Australian Horse'.

The sub‑units from this regiment were the forerunners of the New England Light Horse (NELH). In 1900 E Squadron was raised from Gunnedah, Boggabri, Tamworth and Armidale and rapidly mobilised a detachment to serve in the South African War. The origins of the Hunter River Lancers can be traced back to 1885 when cavalry enthusiasts in Sydney first obtained permission to form a Cavalry troop. Interest soon stirred and shortly thereafter troops were formed in many country areas, one of which was in the Hunter River area. All these Cavalry troops were to some extent independent and were known as the 'Cavalry Reserves'. In 1889 these troops were welded into a Regiment called, ‘New South Wales Cavalry Regiment’, which was subsequently renamed the ‘New South Wales Lancers’ in 1894.899-1902 (The South African War)

Sqns of the 1st Aust Horse and NSW Lancers saw action whilst serving with British Cavalry during the South African Boer War from 1899-1902. The Aust Horse Sqn, attached to the Royal Scots Greys, was engaged almost continuously from Mar-Oct 1900, taking part in over 40 actions. The 12/16 HRL retains alliances with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers & Greys) and the Queens Royal Lancers from the War. The NSW Mounted Rifles operated as an independent unit. Trooper D. Cameron (1st Aust Horse Scone), who was to figure in the post-Federation Hunter River Lancers and New England Light Horse, took part with distinction in the campaign.1903-1914 (Post Federation)

The Regiments that became the Hunter River Lancers (later 16th) and New England Light Horse (later 12th) were authorised to be formed from regional Squadrons of pre-federation units in General Order 296, with effect 1st July 1903. The 12th and 16th Light Horse Regiments and 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers are the one Regiment and Regimental family.

1915 (Formation of the 12th ALH & Gallipoli)

In 1914 with the formation of the Australian Imperial Force, Hunter River Lancers and New England Light Horsemen enlisted in the AIF Light Horse Regiments which were raised in NSW. Formed in Feb 1915, the 12th Australian Light Horse (ALH) Regiment, representing the Hunter and Northern NSW regions, drew the greatest number. The first Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel P.P. Abbott, a Glen Innes solicitor. After arriving in Egypt on 23rd July, the 12th was landed at Gallipoli on 29th August 1915. The Regiment was broken up and A (along with the MG section), B & C Squadrons were allocated to the 1st, 7th & the 6th Light Horse Regiments respectively as reinforcing Squadrons. Regimental Headquarters was attached to the HQ of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade and Colonel Abbott took command of the gallant Western Australian 10th Light Horse which had been decimated at the Nek. In the ensuing four months at Gallipoli, 600 men from the 12th Regiment endured great privations during a desperate phase of the campaign before evacuation in December. In all, 20 men were killed in action, died of wounds or died as a result of sickness at Gallipoli.

The 12th ALH Timeline during World War 1

1st Mar The 12th ALH formed, LTCOL PP Abbott the first CO.
9th Jun 12th ALH becomes part of the 4th ALH Brigade
13th Jun 12th ALH departs for Middle East.
11th Jul 12th ALH lands at Aden to help put down rebellion
23rd Jul 12th ALH arrives at Suez and moves by train to Heliopolis
29th Aug 12th ALH lands on Gallipoli and is broken up, with the sub-units being attached to other various Light Horse regiments whose numbers have been decimated by the various actions they have been involved in.
3rd Sep Trooper Albert Neaves becomes first member of the Regiment to be killed in action. He is the only member of the Regiment buried on Anzac under the 12th ALH. The rest are buried with the regiments they were serving with at the time of their deaths.
19th-20th Dec  All allied forces withdraw off Anzac.
22nd Feb Regiment reforms in Egypt, estimated casualties on Gallipoli, over four months, put at 60% including 20 known deaths. Colonel J.R. Royston CMG, DSO becomes new CO
22nd Jul  Lieutenant Colonel H. McIntosh becomes new CO
4th Aug Regiment provides right flank security of the British line protection during Battle of Romani
15th Oct  Regiment participates in raid on strong Turkish post in the Maghara Hills.
19th-23rd Apr As part of the offensive during the Second Battle of Gaza the Regiment is to attack the Atawineh Redoubt. LTCOL McIntosh dies of wounds. MAJ D. Cameron takes command and is promoted to LTCOL. After serious fighting, resulting in many casualties, the Regiment withdraws to Shaquth.
Jun  Sir Edmund Allenby takes over command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). Chauvel becomes Australia’s first Lieutenant General.
31st Oct  As part of Allenby’s plan to unhinge the Turkish defence at Gaza the Regiment advances to Beersheba. With daylight fading Chauvel decides to commit the 4th Light Horse Brigade in a last desperate attempt to take Beersheba before darkness. With the 4th ALH and the 12th ALH leading, the Brigade executes what has come to be known as the Charge at Beersheba, routing the Turks, unhinging the Gaza defensive line and thereby putting the British forces back on the offensive, opening the way into Palestine.
Nov - Dec Regimental activities consist of resting, patrolling and skirmishes with the enemy as the EEF advances into Palestine as the Turks conduct a fighting withdrawal.
Jan - Apr Regiment continues to participate in the advance
6th Apr Regiment now at Jaffa
24th Apr 4th ALH Brigade enters Jordan Valley and camps near Jericho.
29th Apr - 5th May  The Raid on Es Salt.
Aug The Regiment is equipped with cavalry sabres and leaves the Jordan Valley.
Sep Regiment participates in the offensive along the coast. Also involved in PW escort duties.
25th Sep The 4th Light Horse Brigade ordered to capture Semakh and then rejoin the Australian Division at Tiberias. Regiment then pushes on and elements of the regiment capture Tiberias and almost the entire garrison.
27th Sep The race to Damascus begins
29th Sep Regiment takes over the lead in the advance. Enemy is in disarray, with equipment abandoned all along the road. Enemy resistance is slight.
30th Sep Enemy force destroyed in the Barada Gorge, on the outskirts of Damascus, after being called upon to surrender. German elements refuse. 400 kilometres had been travelled in 12 days. Vanguard is handed over to the 3rd ALH Brigade. Troops watch as Turks destroy and burn stores in Damascus. The capture of Damascus marked the destruction and practically sealed the fate of the Turkish army in Syria, with only a remnant getting away to the north.
27th Oct Advance resumes towards Aleppo.
31st Oct  Turks sign armistice.
5th Nov Brigade moves to bivouac site at Tripoli.
Feb Regiment told they cannot take horses home due to quarantine restrictions of Australia.
5th Feb First troops repatriated to Australia.
23rd Mar Regiment moves to Port Said to help put down the Egyptian Uprising.
22nd May Uprising ends.
22nd Jul Regiment departs Egypt for Australia.
28th Aug  Regiment sails through Sydney Heads.

1919-1943 (Post WW1 & WWII)

 After WW1 the Light Horse was constituted to reflect the contribution made by districts to the Middle East Campaign. A significant number of Beersheba veterans served on after the war. The Hunter River Lancers, now designated the 16th Light Horse Regiment, were granted the battle honours for the sacrifice of the Hunter Valley light horsemen, most of who had also served with the 12th. The 24th Light Horse (Gwydir Regiment) was also raised. All three regiments were mobilised for WWII as Armoured Car or Motor Regiments but were not required for overseas service and were all suspended by 1943. However, most of their soldiers were posted to active service in the armoured, anti-tank, field artillery, infantry and service units of the second Australian Imperial Force.

1948-2007 (Re-Raising to the Present)

On the 1st May 1948 12/16 Armoured Regiment (Hunter River Lancers) was formed incorporating the traditions of the 12th, 16th, 24th Regiments, and their predecessors, and manned by pre-war members of the 12th, 16th and 24th Light Horse, 2nd AIF veterans and new soldiers and equipped with Matilda tanks. The Regiment held its first camp at Singleton in February 1948 and it was the first Citizen Military Forces (CMF) Armoured Unit to go into camp since the end of World War II. The disposition of the Regiment at this time was Regimental Headquarters at Muswellbrook with tank squadrons at Tamworth and Armidale. It was redesignated the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers in 1949.

During the 1950s the Matildas were was replaced with Staghound Armoured Cars and Ferrets Scout Cars and Regimental Headquarters moved to Tamworth. The Regiment also held the first Armoured Mounted Parade in Australia when it was presented with the second 16th Light Horse Guidon at Tamworth. Also during this period the Regiment won many competitive trophies, such as the Hutton Trophy, Lord Forster Cup and the 1st Armoured Brigade Sports Trophy.

In 1960 the Regiment's role was changed to that of an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) Regiment and equipped with Humber one ton trucks, White Scout Cars and Ferret Scout Cars. In 1966 these vehicles were all replaced with the M113A1 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).

Trooper Douglas Voyzey, who served with the Regiment as a reservist before transferring to the Regular Army, was killed in action in South Vietnam on 14th December 1969. The Voyzey Trophy is awarded annually in his honour to the outstanding junior non-commissioned officer promoted during the year in the Regiment.

In 1972 the role again changed to a Royal Australian Armoured Corps Regiment which included all three armoured roles of reconnaissance, APC and tank. Regimental Headquarters, Headquarters Squadron and Technical Squadron were located at Tamworth, 'A' Squadron (Reconnaissance) at Armidale, and 'B' Squadron (APC) at Muswellbrook. When raised, 'C' Squadron would become the Tank Squadron.

The Army was reorganised in 1976 and the Regiment's role was changed to that of a Reconnaissance Regiment and in addition to its existing M113A1s, now called Light Reconnaissance Vehicles (LRVs), it was issued with the Fire Support Vehicle (FSV) whose main armament was a 76mm gun. This vehicle was subsequently renamed the Medium Reconnaissance Vehicle (MRV).

The regiment’s role was altered once more in 1987 back an APC Regiment and on 31st October 1987, on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, the Regiment was presented with a new 12th Light Horse Guidon.

In 2000 a large number of the Regiment served as part of Op GOLD – the Australian Defence Force (ADF) support to the Sydney Olympic Games.

In 2003 CPLs Ian Hodgson and Kevin Toomey and TPRs John Bender and Nicholas Rutten, all part time soldiers, became the Regiments first veterans since the end of WWII, serving with 2/14 LHR (QMI) in East Timor, on peace support duties.

On 31st October 2003, on the 96th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, the Regiment was presented with a new 16th Light Horse Guidon at Muswellbrook.

In late 2005/early 2006 a section, commanded by CPL Simon Ball, served as part of Rifle Company Butterworth, and a section, commanded by CPL Richard Hardwick, served as part of Op RELEX II. Op RELEX II was the Royal Australian Navy operation in the Timor Sea to stop the passage of illegal immigrants. In 2006 members of the Regiment deployed on Op ACOLYTE – the ADFs support to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

In late 2006/early 2007 the Regiment was again re-roled to that of a Cavalry Regiment and equipped with the new Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV). What this also meant was that after 40 years service the M113A1 APC would no longer serve in the Regiment.

Later in 2007 twelve members of the Regiment commenced continuous full time service (CFTS) in order to serve with B Sqn, 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment (B/3/4), which was about to deploy overseas, as PMV crewmen. The following personnel subsequently served in either IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN or EAST TIMOR as Bushmaster PMV crewman: CPL Richard Hardwick; LCPLs Mark Bayliss, Peter Chapman, Steve Clayton, Jeff Philips and Tom Strudwick; TPRs Ben Bacon, Shane Dawes, Jonathan Hunter, Paul Sandilands and Shaun Van Roon.

On 31st October 2007, on the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, the M113A1 was officially farewelled during a parade at Armidale.

In early 2008 six more members of the Regiment deployed overseas, as Bushmaster PMV crewmen, with the Australian Army Training Team’s ninth deployment to IRAQ. These members were LCPLs Chris Linich, Daniel Thompson and Matthew Page; and TPRs Soloman Hanks, James McIntyre and Derek Whittaker.

Currently ten members of the Regiment are on CFTS with B/3/4 and may be deployed later in 2009.

In the current uncertain times, the Regiment continues to remain well trained and prepared to answer the call to serve our country in the future.

Freedom of Entry

Freedom of Entry is granted to the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers on the 28th April, 1991

The Council of the Shire of Muswellbrook being aware of the great record and splendid traditions of the Regiment and being desirous of recognising, cementing and fostering the intimate association which is now and has for so long been enjoyed, is proud to confer the privilege of Freedom of Entry to the Shire of Muswellbrook on the l2th/l6th Hunter River Lancers.

The history of 'Freedom of Entry'

The right, privilege, honour and distinction of marching through the streets of a shire or city on ceremonial occasions is one of the most interesting of military traditions.

The ceremony of the granting of the ancient privilege of the Freedom of the City dates back over three centuries to a time shortly after Charles II became King of England in 1660 and reflects the ritual which had to take place before armed troops were permitted to billet in a town for the night.

Armed bodies of troops were always suspect, for obvious reasons, by the city authorities. At this time cities still had walls and gates which were barred to friend and foe alike. To the foe, for obvious reasons, and to the friend until the city authorities were either assured that the soldiers of the Regiment would be on their best behaviour or told the purpose for which the Regiment required entry.

Though the City of London lost direct authority over its military forces in 1661, the practice grew up shortly after of notifying the Lord Mayor when parties from Regiments went into the city to ‘raise recruits by beat of drum’.

From this modest beginning developed, over the years, the suggestion that the City of London had the right to decide which Regiments could pass through its streets with “bayonets fixed, colours flying and bands playing”.

Discussions between the Secretary of War and the Lord Mayor in 1769 show that the city’s privileges in the matter at that date did not go beyond the right to receive, as a matter of courtesy, notification when troops were to pass through. The situation today remains little changed from 1769.

In Australia Freedom of Entry to a City or Shire is a ceremonial honour that became popular during the nineteenth century and draws some inspiration from the medieval history just mentioned.

Today a military or civilian unit accorded this privilege is granted the right of entry to the city “in full panoply, with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and Colours or Guidons flying”.

In Australia this award is restricted to military and civilian units, which have a significant attachment to the City and have enjoyed a long and happy relationship with the City.

It is conferred in recognition of their achievement while on active service or overseas duty or as a mark of respect and gratitude for their efforts in the defence or service of Australia.

The presentation scroll

The Scroll conferring the Freedom of Entry to the Shire of Muswelbrook presented to the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers was meticulously prepared by Mr. Ray Johnson of Mosman.

The Scroll is written by hand in old world lettering on parchment paper and is really an illuminated address in design and style.

It incorporates the Armorial Bearing of Corporation of the Shire of Muswellbrook and the official badge of the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers.

The Regiment’s Guidons

The Regiment has two Guidons - the 12th (New England) Light Horse Guidon and the 16th (Hunter River Lancers) Light Horse Guidon. The term ‘Guidon’ is derived from the old French guydhomme (which means the guide man) and is the flag carried by the leader of Horse. It has always been swallow-tailed.

In military organisations, the practice of carrying colours or standards, to act both as a rallying point for troops, and to mark the location of the commander, is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt some 5,000 years ago. In ancient days, rallying signs or standards were introduced to distinguish families, tribes and races and to show the position of the commander amid the confusion of the battlefield. The Roman Legions carried distinctive battle emblems, the Eagles, to which they rallied during the confusion of battle.

This procedure was formalised in the armies of medieval Europe, with standards being emblazoned with the commander's coat of arms. During the 13th Century when knights went into battle most of their body and their horses were covered in armour, making identification difficult. So distinctive badges and crests were placed on equipment. Mounted troops carried smaller battle flags called Guidons and Standards to allow them to be displayed while on horseback.

In the British Army the medieval standards developed into the Colours of the Infantry, the Standards of the Heavy Cavalry, and the Guidons of the Light Cavalry.

As armies became trained and adopted set formations, each regiment's ability to keep its formation was potentially critical to its survival, and therefore its army's, success. In the chaos of battle, not least due to the amount of dust and smoke on a battlefield, soldiers needed to be able to determine where their regiment was.

Colours were used in the British Army originally as a means of identifying the location of the headquarters of regiments in battle. In time the Colours became a focal point of regimental esprit de corps and there are many stories of exploits of great heroism by soldiers defending the colours from loss. Wellington, the architect of the British Regimental system upon which our traditions are based, engendered great pride and spirit in his Regiments and focused this spirit in the battle flag of the each Regiment.

As time passed, Regiments were awarded battle honours, which they emblazoned on their Colours, Standards and Guidons. They therefore became a link to the Regiment's past and a memorial to the fallen, and thus took on a more mystical significance than as mere identifying markers on the battlefield: they became the heart of the regiment, in which all of its history was woven. Such became the significance in this context that, for a regiment to lose its colours was (and still is) a major disgrace, with the capture of an enemy's colours (or equivalent) being seen as a great honour. This is why that, whenever the colours are paraded, they are always escorted by armed guards and paid the highest compliments by all soldiers and officers, second only to those paid to the sovereign.

When battle honours were added to Colours they became a record of the military achievements of a regiment and were held in even higher esteem by members of the regiment. The consecration of Colours was seen to add religious significance to them and, through the Colours, to the Regiment and its duties. Because colours are consecrated, they can serve as an altar for a drumhead service. They are never capriciously destroyed - when too old to use they are replaced and then laid-up in a regimental chapel to moulder unto dust. Many cathedrals carry old Colours. However, in most modern armies, standing orders now call for the Colours to be intentionally destroyed if they are ever in jeopardy of being captured by the enemy.

After 1881 Colours were no longer carried in battle because of the improving technology of weapons and the greater distances involved in warfare. However they remained a strong focal point for a regiment and continued to be held in great esteem and accorded great respect.

The original 12th Light Horse Guidon was presented to the Regiment  at Tenterfield in 1928.

The current 12th Light Horse Guidon was presented to the Regiment by General Peter Gration AO, OBE, the then Chief of the Defence Force, on 31 Oct 1987 at TAMWORTH.

The original 16th Light Horse Guidon was presented to the Regiment  at the Dungog Showground in 1931.

The current 16th Light Horse Guidon was presented to the Regiment by the Governor of NSW, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC, on 1st Nov 2003 at MUSWELLBROOK.


Guidon of the 12th (New England) Light Horse Regiment
Guidon of the 12th (New England) Light Horse Regiment


Guidon of the 16th (Hunter River Lancers) Light Horse Regiment
Guidon of the 16th (HunterRiver Lancers) Light Horse Regiment


The Guidons of the RAAC are patterned on those of the British Army and are only carried by an RAAC Squadron Sergeant Major with an escort of two Senior Non Commissioned Officers. The Sovereign personally approves the design of the Guidon and either presents it, or is represented, at the presentation.

The Guidon is rectangular with rounded swallowtails, is made of crimson silk damask and bears the Regimental crest, title and motto. These are surrounded by a wreath of wattle leaves under an Edwardian Crown. The regimental number is in the corner. The pike is a single length of Ashwood and is topped with a gilt crest.
The Guidons commemorate the Regiment’s history.

Regimental Badge

Regimental badges, like regimental titles, very often summarise a considerable amount of history. The predecessors of the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers at one time had their own badges. Their make up and history is a story on its own.

Original 12th Light Horse Regiment Badge

Original 16th Light Horse Regiment Badge

Original 12th Light Horse Regiment Badge Original 16th Light Horse Regiment Badge



When the 12th/16th HRL was raised in 1948 it was required to wear the Commonwealth Badge or Rising Sun. However, a new and distinctive badge was designed. It was, simply, an elephant's head and coronet with crossed lances and the unit title 'Hunter River Lancers' embossed on it.
Current Badge of the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers
Current Badge of the 12th/16th HunterRiver Lancers

The badge of the 12th/16th HRL can be traced back to the New South Wales Regiment of volunteer cavalry in 1867. The family crest of Lord Carrington, the first Honorary Colonel of the Regiment and a Governor of New South Wales, was adopted as the badge of this Regiment It consisted of an elephant's head and coronet with crossed lances and a spray of waratah around it.

Regimental Colour Patch

The colour patch system was used as a means of formation, unit, and arm of service identification on the uniform between 1915 and 1921 by Australian forces raised specifically for war service overseas, and then between 1921 and 1949 by the whole of the Australian Military Forces at home or abroad. Briefly summarised, the colour patch was a piece of cloth material, its geometrical shape identifying the formation to which the wearer's unit belonged.

Unit identity was indicated by, in the case of infantry, armour, and light horse, a colour combination identifying the numerical seniority of the unit within its brigade, and of that brigade within its division.

During World War I the 12th LH Regiment was part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade. The Brigade colour was dark blue. As the third regiment in the Brigade the 12th’s colour was black. Therefore we end up with the colour patch as shown below left.

While the 16th Light Horse Regiment did not serve overseas during WW I eventually it was awarded a colour patch in 1921. This colour patch is also shown below right.

12th Light Horse Regiment
12th Light Horse Regiment

16th Light Horse Regiment
16th Light Horse Regiment

Recommended reading

Military of the Hunter - Citizen Defence Forces of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley – A History: 1855 to 2005 (ISBN 9780646462370 (hbk.)) published in 2008.

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