Colonel Frederick Burnaby

Today’s fact: when officers of the regiment shut two small ponies in his bedroom for a joke, Colonel Frederick Burnaby, a hero of the regiment, reportedly carried them from his room, one under each arm. A veritable giant of a man, standing at 6ft 4in tall and weighing 20 stone, Burnaby was exceptionally strong and frequently worked out in a London gym, much to the bemusement of his fellow officers.

Burnaby’s adventurous spirit, pioneering achievements, and swashbuckling courage earned an affection in the minds of Victorian imperial idealists. As well as travelling across Europe and Central Asia, he mastered the art of ballooning, spoke a number of foreign languages fluently, stood for parliament twice, published several books, and was admired and feted by the women of London High Society. His popularity was legendary, appearing in a number of stories and tales of empire.

Among the artefacts related to Burnaby kept in the Household Cavalry Museum, we have a winter dress frock coat of Burnaby’s that demonstrates his proportions, Burnaby’s book ‘Ride to Khiva’, detailing his unofficial spying mission to the Russian-controlled city of Khiva, Uzbekistan, in spite of a ban on all foreigners entering (a story that won him much acclaim in Victorian high society) and a dagger used at the Battle of Abu Klea, where Burnaby was killed fighting Mahdist forces, having re-joined his old regiment voluntarily, the War Office having denied him an official posting.

Colonel Frederick Burnaby

Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava

Today’s fact: In 1854, the Royals were the first British regiment to deploy abroad as part of a joint Anglo-French army that journeyed to the Crimea in support of the Ottoman Empire in its war with the Russians. The Royals achieved military success in a display of what cavalry were capable of at the Battle of Balaclava where, in the engagement known as the ‘Charge of the Heavy Brigade’, a force of 800 British cavalry, with the Royals at their heart, routed a force of 3000 Russian light horseman in an engagement that lasted barely eight minutes. Unfortunately, this triumph has been somewhat overshadowed by the disaster at the same battle which was the Charge of the Light Brigade.

The image below is a reproduction of a watercolour depicting the Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava.

Image belongs to the National Army Museum.

Portable Altar

In concluding our theme of remembrance and sacrifice over the previous week, today we show from the Museum’s ‘Sacrifice’ cabinet this portable altar which, along with the items atop it (Communion cup, wine vessel, wafer box, altar cross, Bible and priest’s stole) were used by the Reverend R.K. Haines to conduct services in the trenches between 1916-1918.

In a letter written to his wife in late 1918, Reverend Haines related that he performed two Masses in the trenches on Christmas morning 1918 in a portion of the trenches that only allowed for 25 men in attendence at a time. The Reverend also remarked on how unusual he found to stare out at the expanse of land between the trenches and not hear a single shot fired. (Although the war officially ended with the signing of the armstice on November 11th 1918, due to the large numbers of troops that had to be demobilised following the war’s end, many soldiers did not return home until 1919).

portable altar

We will remember them

‘They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them’.- Laurence Binyon

We will remember them.

Death medal of 2nd Lieutenant Howard Avenel Bligh St George

From our ‘Sacrifice’ cabinet, today we show you the death medal of 2nd Lieutenant Howard Avenel Bligh St George of the 1st Life Guards. He died on Sunday 15th November 1914, just one month after his arrival at the Front, killed while assaulting a German position, aged only 19. Also on display is a framed newspaper clipping taken from the announcement of his death (kept, we believe, by a member of his family) as well as a memorial poppy (this particular poppy was one of the first to be used as a tribute to a fallen soldier).

 

Death Medal

©L. Courtney 2016

On display in our ‘Sacrifice’ cabinet

On display in our ‘Sacrifice’ cabinet, this French dictionary, pocket book and cigarette case proved instrumental in saving the life of Corporal of Horse Buckby of the Blues during the First World War. At 14.30 pm on the afternoon of May 13th,1915, the Blues and the Royals made a successful bayonet charge against German positions on Frezenberg Ridge. During the fighting, Buckley was hit by a sniper’s bullet that penetrated straight through the cigarette case, pocket book and a few pages of his French dictionary before being stopped.

 

©L.Courtney 2017

Remembrance Sunday

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, we should remember that it commemorates all servicemen who have died in conflicts across the world to ‘secure and protect our freedoms’. In recognition of that, today we show the helmet of Trooper Simon Tipper, one of four men of the Blues and Royals (Lieutenant Anthony Daly, Staff Corporal Roy Bright and Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young) who died on July 20th 1982 when the IRA detonated a car bomb in Hyde Park at 10.40am while they were en route to the Changing of the Guard here at Horse Guards. In our ‘Sacrifice’ cabinet here at the Museum, we have a number of artefacts that commemorate this tragedy, including a letter of condolence from the Queen Mother to Andrew Parker Bowles, Lieutenant Colonel of the Household Cavalry at the time, and the hoof and bridle of the horse Sefton, whose survival and near-miraculous recovery from injuries sustained in the bombing made him a national symbol.

©L.Courtney 2016