Early references to the Regiment originate from 1759, when the 20th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Light Dragoons was raised because of the expansion of the ‘Light Troop’ of the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons. For some reason not entirely clear, this first incarnation of the 20th Light Dragoons was disbanded in 1763, only to be resurrected sixteen years later in 1779.
Curiously, after four years the Regiment was, once again, disbanded in 1783, but when war with the French expanded to include the West Indies, the Regiment was once more commissioned, in 1791, and was immediately sent to Jamaica where they fought the Maroon uprising of 1795. They formed part of the ill-fated British expedition to South America in 1806, and a squadron of the Regiment fought with the Alexandria Expedition (General Alexander Mackenzie-Fraser) in Egypt in 1807. Subsequently they fought with Wellington’s army on the Spanish peninsula (1808-1814) with a notable contribution to the British success at Vimiero. With the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo (1815), a number of regiments, including the 20th Light Dragoons, were disbanded in 1819.
The Indian Mutiny of 1857 provided a ‘wake-up’ call to the British Government regarding their military requirements for India, and the 20th Light Dragoons were reborn specifically for service on the sub-continent with a cadre of (somewhat inexperienced) men from the East India Company’s 2nd European Light Cavalry. Almost immediately the Regiment was re-designated the 20th Hussars, with the regulation blue hussar uniform and busbies sporting a scarlet busby-bag.
The Regiment remained in India until 1872, at which time it embarked for England, then serving in Ireland for five years from 1879 to 1884. Two squadrons from the Regiment joined the Egyptian Expedition of 1884 (the Mahdi War) and then the entire Regiment shipped back to India in 1895.
Towards the end of the Second Boer War, the Regiment embarked for South Africa in 1901, returning to England, by way of Egypt, in 1904.
Perhaps because of its on-again, off-again origins, the Regiment is notable in that no official patronage in the form of an Honorary Colonel was ever appointed, an independent spirit demonstrated by the unofficial appellation ‘Nobody’s Own’.