On 28th August 1882, one of the most iconic moments in the history of the Household Cavalry unfolded; the Moonlight Charge of the Household Cavalry during the Battle of Kassassin Lock. It became the most celebrated action of the British military intervention in the nationalist revolt against the Khedive Tewfik.

Fought between British and Egyptian forces, the Egyptians led by Colonel Ahmed Urabi had attacked British troops under General Graham at Kassassin in order to recapture the Suez Canal. The outcome of the battle hung in the balance as night fell, whereupon reinforcements in the form of the composite regiment of the Household Cavalry, the 7th Hussars and the Royal Horse Artillery, arrived and went immediately into action. By moonlight, they cut their way through the Egyptian infantry to reach a battery of guns.

The Household Cavalry under the command of General Drury Lowe led the “Moonlight Charge”, consisting of the Royal Horse Guards and 7th Dragoon Guards galloping at full tilt into enemy rifle fire. Their ranks were whittled down from the saddle, but still they charged headlong, ever forward. Sir Baker Russell commanded 7th on the right, while the Household was led by Colonel Ewart, commanding officer of the Life Guards. They captured 11 Egyptian guns as they overran the enemy lines and the Egyptians hastily gave ground in the wake of the cavalry assault. Despite only half a dozen casualties, Garnet Wolseley (see below), commander of the British forces tasked with re-establishing order in Egypt, was so concerned about the quality of his men that he wrote Cambridge for reforms to recruiting. Nonetheless these were the elite of the British army and, these skirmishes were costly to the enemy.

The Moonlight Charge of Kassassin by the Household Cavalry, 28 August 1882 by G.W. Bacon:

Image is property of the National Army Museum.

The London Gazette reporting on the battle:

By this time the moon had risen. Squadrons showed up black, and flash answered flash as the opposing guns opened one on the other. The order now came to charge, and away went the Household Squadrons led by the gallant Ewart. Into the Egyptian infantry and up to the guns they went, the 7th following as a solid reserve in hand, but a little of this work was enough for the enemy, and they evaporated in all directions.


Did you know that Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley’s statue stands guard outside the Museum?

Don’t forget to salute him next time you pass by!