History of the Lancers

‘The Lancers’ are an integral part of Australia’s military history and the history of the Parramatta community.

Lancer Barracks were built in Parramatta, NSW, between 1818 and 1820 to house the British troops who garrisoned the then colony of New South Wales.

The Royal New South Wales Lancers were originally formed as the Sydney Light Horse and other volunteer cavalry troops in 1885.  In 1912, the regiment was designated the New South Wales Lancers, and their ‘Royal’ title was granted in 1935.

Between 1899 and 1900, Parramatta Lancers volunteers joined British troops fighting the Boer War in South Africa.

The Parramatta Lancers formed the famous Australian 1st Light Horse at the beginning of World War 1, operating at the Gallipoli Campaign and later in Palestine, where they played a vital role in the legendary cavalry charge at the Battle of Beersheba on 31 October 1917, and the subsequent surrender of the Ottoman Empire on 30 October 1918.

The Parramatta Lancers returned to being militia at the end of World War 1. Having been mechanized in 1936, the Lancers reformed as an Army Tank Regiment in World War 2, seeing action in New Guinea.

In more recent years, the Reserve regiment has served in Peacekeeping missions in the South Pacific.

In 1956, the ‘1st’ Regiment was linked with the ’15th’ making the Regiment the successor to the 15th Light Horse Regiment AlF (Australian Imperial Force) which had been established in Palestine in 1918 when the Imperial Camel Corps disbanded.

In 1959 the Freedom of the City of Parramatta was granted to the Royal NSW Lancers in recognition of their long-standing association with the city.

In 2018, Army Reserve Regiment the Royal NSW Lancers mark the 125th anniversary of their designation as the “Parramatta ‘K’ Troop”, which formalised their association with the City of Parramatta.

Parramatta Lancers Timeline
Date Event Significance
1818 – 1820 Construction of garrison to house British troops in Parramatta construction is completed

From 1788, prior to the construction of the garrison, British colonial troops in Parramatta were quartered in temporary structures.

The building was transferred to the Lancers in 1885. Standing on Smith Street, the Heritage-listed building is still the Headquarters of the Royal NSW Lancers.

The traditional custodians of the land on which the Lancer Barracks stands are the Burramattagal people of the Darug Nation.

 1885 Sydney Light Horse volunteers are formed and Headquartered in the former British troops garrison This designation marked the beginning of the formal association between the Lancers and the City of Parramatta.
 1893 Regiment renamed the New South Wales Cavalry
1897 Parramatta Lancers travel to England to participate in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations – including a Royal procession through the streets of London, and military tournament competitions The Lancers generated a great deal of public interest during their visit to London in 1897. Two Parramatta Lancers, including Trooper ‘Ben’ Harkus, are awarded ‘Colonial’ medals granted by the Queen.
 1899 Parramatta Lancers are volunteered by their Commanding Officer to join British troops fighting in the Boer War in South Africa


The regiment, a voluntary militia, were not formally obliged to join the fighting in the Boer War, but many chose to do so out of a sense of duty and patriotism
1900 The first Parramatta Lancer is killed in action Trooper Kilpatrick – a teacher from Carlingford, NSW – is killed in action in the Boer War. His loss is mourned by the local community.
1912 Regiment renamed the Australian 1st Light Horse (NSW Lancers)


1914-1918 The Australian 1st Light Horse joins the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and serve in World War 1, seeing action at Gallipoli and playing a vital role in the famous cavalry charge during the Battle of Beersheba in Palestine


The Australian 1st Light Horse Regiment of the AIF formed at Roseberry Park, Sydney in 1914, and was made up from active NSW men in militia regiments (including the Parramatta Lancers) and men from other country districts who could ride a horse. The regiment played a vital role in two significant Campaigns during World War 1 (Gallipoli and Sinai/Palestine).
 1935 Regiment is granted a Royal prefix The contributions of the regiment are formally recognised by King George V by the granting of permission to use the Royal prefix.
 1939-45 Formed as a tank regiment for World War 2 and see action in New Guinea and Borneo
 1946 – Resumed Reserve status and join post-war Peacekeeping missions
1959 Granted the Freedom of the City of Parramatta The regiment is awarded the honour of the Freedom of the City of Parramatta in recognition of their ongoing connection with the city.
2014 The 100th anniversary of World War 1 is commemorated in Parramatta by a street parade outlining the history of the Parramatta Lancers.
2018 The 125th anniversary of the association between the Parramatta Lancers and the City of Parramatta, and the 1918 Armistice, is marked with a series of events.
Research by Michelle Goodman, Archivist, Research & Collection Services, City of Parramatta, 2018

Emergency food ration tin 3D scan

Emergency food ration tin, front and back view. Photography by Paolo Busato. Source: City of Parramatta Council, 2019. This cylindrical tin, soldered at both ends, was issued to Trooper Ash Whitney during the Boer War (1899-1902).  It has a metal opening key at either...

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Parramatta Lancers Film Night: 40,000 Horsemen (1940)

On 3 March 2018, we hosted a rare screening of the the classic Australian war film 40,0000 Horsemen, to commemorate 125 years of our city’s own Regiment – the Parramatta Lancers. The event was a great success, with more than 130 people joining us in the Lennox Theatre...

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World War One – Battle of Beersheba

Ride into History: The Charge of Beersheba. It is likely that the above photograph is of a re-enactment some weeks after the event (AWM: P03723_001) The Battle of Beersheba is one of the most notable mounted charges by the Australian Light Horse Regiments. On 31...

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