Colonel Oliver Cromwell’s Regiment of Horse

Flag Illustration 11)
Flag Illustration 22)
Flag Illustration 33)
Flag Illustration 44)
Active1642 to 1645
ConflictsFirst Civil War
ColonelOliver Cromwell
Area RaisedEast Anglia
Flag ColourVarious
Flag DesignA selection known
Field ArmiesEssex 1642
Manchester 1643-4
Waller 1645

Oliver Cromwell’s famous regiment of Ironsides, the unit that arguably contributed most to Parliament's decisive victory

Service History


  • Captain Oliver Cromwell raises a troop of harquebusiers in Huntingdonshire
  • August: Confiscation of silver plate at Cambridge
  • 23rd October: Battle of Edgehill (one troop, arriving too late to see action)
  • 13th November: Standoff at Turnham Green


  • February: Cromwell commissioned Colonel
  • March: Suppression of rising at Lowestoft?
  • March: Suppression of rising at Crowland?
  • April: Storm of Crowland
  • May: Battle of Grantham
  • June: Skirmish at Sleaford?
  • July: Storm of Burleigh House
  • 28th July: Battle of Gainsborough
  • August to September: Siege of King’s Lynn?
  • October to November: Siege of Bolingbroke Castle
  • 11th October: Battle of Winceby


  • January: Cromwell appointed Lt General of Horse for the Eastern Association
  • February: Repulsed from Hillesden House
  • May: Storm of Lincoln
  • May to July: Siege of York
  • 2nd July: Battle of Marston Moor - 14 troops
  • July: Siege of York
  • October: Siege of Banbury Castle
  • October: Second Battle of Newbury
  • November: Standoff at Donnington



Originally a single troop forming part of Earl of Essex’s Regiment of Horse, Oliver Cromwell's troop campaigned with Essex's army in 1642, but arrived too late to play a part at Edgehill. Over the winter Captain Cromwell returned to East Anglia, by March he was promoted to Colonel and succeeded in expanding his troop to a regiment of five troops. In 1643 they suppressed local Royalist risings and took their strongholds, then were involved in winning a string of small cavalry battles at Grantham, Gainsborough and Winceby, alongside forces of Willoughby, Meldrum and later Sir Tom Fairfax and the Earl of Manchester. By September 1643 the regiment had expanded to 10 troops.

At the start of 1644 Cromwell was promoted to Lieutenant General of the Horse in the Earl of Manchester's Army of the Eastern Association and expanded the regiment to 14 troops. By this stage it was not only one of the largest Parliamentarian cavalry regiments, but also one of the most successful, remaining undefeated in battle. Cromwell led the horse of Manchester's army to Lincoln, then to the siege of York, where he was in charge of the covering force of cavalry protecting the besiegers from the Northern Horse. At Marston Moor on the second of July 1644 Cromwell led the left wing of horse, including his own regiment, which overcame the Royalist right wing commanded by Sir John Byron after an epic struggle. Notably Cromwell managed to retain his wing of horse under control after this initial victory, rather than letting them stream off in pursuit of the beaten enemy. This allowed him to defeat Prince Rupert's reserve of horse, then turn on the Royalist foot and repel uncoordinated attacks by elements of Lord Goring's Northern Horse. The nickname Ironsides was apparently bestowed on the regiment by Prince Rupert, in recognition of his enemy's fortitude. The discipline of Cromwell's regiment and wing of horse effectively won the battle and gave Parliament control of the North.

After the victory at Marston Moor, Manchester's army marched south to link up with the remains of Essex's and Waller's forces, who had both suffered defeats by the King's Oxford Army over the summer. Despite surrounding the Oxford Army at the Second Battle of Newbury, the combined Parliamentarian armies could not overwhelm the King's forces, indeed Cromwell's regiment appears to have suffered its only battlefield defeat when it was bested by Lord Goring, now leading a brigade of Oxford Army horse. Recriminations now began in the Parliamentary camp, with divisions between the Prebyterians and Independents coming to the fore and Cromwell criticising his superior, the Earl of Manchester. When the Royalists returned to Donnington to collect their artillery the Parliamentarians could do nothing to stop them, refusing battle.

In the early months of 1645 Cromwell's horse was attached to Waller's forces in Wiltshire and the West Country, where they won a number of skirmishes and perhaps suffered a reverse at Dorchester, again versus Lord Goring. In April Cromwell led a brigade including his regiment in an extended raid on Oxford's satellite garrisons, scattering Royalist cavalry at Islip and depriving the Oxford Army of draught horses. After taking Bletchington and Bampton-in-the-Bush Cromwell's force were repulsed from Faringdon and returned to the army, where they were split up to form Sir Thomas Fairfax’s, The General’s Regiment of Horse and Colonel Edward Whalley’s Regiment of Horse, with single troops each joining Sir Robert Pye’s Regiment of Horse and Colonel Nathaniel Rich’s Regiment of Horse of the New Model Army.

The successor regiments of Cromwell's Ironsides had a long and illustrious career in the New Model Army serving up until the Restoration.

Flags and Equipment

A number of cornets belonging to officers of Cromwell's regiment were recorded. The fields of these flags are of different colours, red, yellow, blue and white. While the ideal was for all troops of the same regiment to carry cornets with the same field colour, this was not strictly adhered to in the army of the Eastern Association, as Manchester's horse also carried cornets of different colours. It is also possible that some of the recorded cornets relate to officers' service prior to joining or after leaving Cromwell's regiment.

In a contemporary manuscript of flag illustrations Colonel Oliver Cromwell's cornet design is left blank, implying either that it was plain white, or that the illustrator didn't get around to completing it. A plain white cornet is plausible, as Cromwell's favoured colour when later commanding the army in Ireland was white (whether this refers to infantry or cavalry flags or sashes is unclear, but Cromwell was painted wearing a white sash). Additionally, colonels and more senior officers often chose a plain design for their own troop's cornet, sometimes made of patterned fabric (for example Sir Thomas Fairfax and Lord Grey of Wark). There is no contemporary evidence for the troop carrying a black flag with white lion derived from Cromwell's coat of arms, which is a modern 'reconstruction'. Blount noted that: Sir Thos Fairfax….. and Gen. Cromwell, both bear plain colours for their own troups, without any devise5), though this may refer to Cromwell's cornet in the New Model Army. A white cornet is illustrated above (Illustration 1) though the black and white fringing is conjectural.

Captain Henry Ireton's cornet was red with a red and white fringe and a complicated white scroll PRO (used for both lines) DIVINIS QUI AMITTIT SERVAT and HUMANIS VIM VI6). (Illustration 2). Again though this may be from his NMA regiment.

Captain James Berry's cornet was red with a red and yellow fringe with a diagonal motto in white with no scroll Pro Rege et Lege Parati7). (Illustration 3)

Captain Robert Swallow's cornet of the 'maiden troop' was red showing a city and hearts afire with the motto ASCENDIA CURA SIONIS (or incendia?) “burning with the care of zion” (Illustration 4).

Captain Samuel Porter's cornet was yellow with a yellow and white fringe featuring an arm wielding a sword emerging from a cloud (all proper) and a four-part scroll with the motto PRO FIDE SEMEL TRADITA8).

Captain John Grove's cornet was white with a white fringe, showing an armoured arm wielding a sword (proper) and a three-part scroll FOR TRVETH AND PEACE9).

Notable Officers

Lists of the regiment’s officers are shown in Laurence Spring’s Regiments of the Eastern Association10) and in Laurence Spring's Waller's Army, The Regiments of Sir William Waller's Southern Association The Pike and Shot Association 2007 ISBN 978-1-902768-34-2

Oliver Cromwell

Lt Col Edward Whalley

Edward Whalley was a Captain in February 1643, Major in May, became Lieutenant-Colonel in October 1643 and led half of Cromwell's old regiment in the New Model Army as Colonel Edward Whalley’s Regiment of Horse.

Maj John Desborough

John Desborough was Cromwell's quartermaster in 1642, captain by April 1643 and Major in October 1643. He was major of Sir Thomas Fairfax’s, The General’s Regiment of Horse in the New Model Army, and later led his own regiment Col. John Desborough's that had originally been Vermuyden's.

Capt Oliver Cromwell

Second son of the Colonel, he died of smallpox in March 1644 and was succeeded by Capt. John Browne.

Capt William Packer

William Packer replaced Captain Valentine Walton (junior) who died of wounds sustained at Marston Moor. Packer went on to serve in and later command Sir Thomas Fairfax’s, The General’s Regiment of Horse and became one of Cromwell's Major Generals.

Capt Henry Vaughan

Previously of Col. Nathaniel Fiennes’ Regiment of Horse, he was succeeded by Capt. John Grove.

Capt Samuel Porter

Served from September 1643 to April 1645 when the troop passed to Capt William Evanson.

Capt Adam Lawrence

His troop raised in autiumn 1643, he continued into the New Model Army in Sir Thomas Fairfax’s, The General’s Regiment of Horse

Capt James Berry

James Berry was Cromwell's original Captain-Lieutenant, but took over William Ayres' troop either in 1643 or 1644. He was replaced as Captain-Lieutenant by John Gladman.

Capt Robert Patterson

Replaced by Capt Edward Horsman in 1644.

Capt William Patrick

Briefly captain from August to September 1643

Capt Robert Swallow

Led the 'maiden troop' raised with £240 donated by the young women of Norwich in summer 1643. He was promoted to Major in Colonel Edward Whalley’s Regiment of Horse of the New Model Army.

Capt Christopher Bethal

From spring of 1644. Bethal became Major of Colonel Edward Whalley’s Regiment of Horse of the New Model Army, where he was killed at the Storm of Bristol.

Capt Ralph Margery

Raised in Suffolk late 1643, in 1645 he transferred with his troop to Sir Robert Pye’s Regiment of Horse of the New Model Army. He was the captain of whom Cromwell declared I had rather a plain russet coated captain that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman, and is nothing else.

Capt Henry Ireton

Henry Ireton raised his own troop in 1642 and fought at Edgehill before joining Colonel Francis Thornhaugh’s Regiment of Horse as Major in 1643. In August 1643 he transferred with his troop to Cromwell's regiment, then in April 1645 was given command of Livesey's old regiment of Waller's army which he led as Colonel Henry Ireton’s Regiment of Horse in the New Model Army.

Capt William Poe

Poe's troop was raised in Suffolk in February 1643 and left the regiment in February 1645, following which Poe was arrested.

Capt Zachery Walker

Cashiered in March 1644 for malignancy.


  • 1642: 1 troop
  • March 1643: 5 troops
  • September 1643: 10 troops
  • 1644: 14 troops

See Also

1) , 2) , 3) , 4) Original artwork by Tony Barton, shown by kind permission of Tony Barton and Charles Kightly. Previously published in Military Modelling magazine
5) The Art of making Devises 2nd Ed, Thomas Blount, London, 1655
6) , 7) , 8) , 9) , 10) The Regiments of the Eastern Association Vol. 1, Laurence Spring, Stuart Press 1998 ISBN 1 85804 119 8