VE Day 75

Victory in Europe Day

On 8 May 1945 church bells rang and people cheered to share their joy- a national day of celebration for the end of the Second World War.

In 2020 instead of commemorating this joyous day with street parties and parades as planned, the world is in lock-down due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

This important moment will not go unacknowledged however, and for many this time of reflection and gratitude will be all the more poignant due to our temporary seeming loss of liberty. A small price to pay for the safety of our loved ones and to protect the NHS.

No matter how we each choose to commemorate the moment, we all join the world in thanking those who came before us; those who made possible the freedoms we currently miss so much.
To them we say thank you. To each other we say We’ll Meet Again.

There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy and acknowledge commemorations today. Once you’ve finished all our activities (and the 50hrs+ of swashbuckling audio adventures from our Regimental Historian Christopher Joll!) why not make the most of:

The National Army Museum’s Virtual VE Day Festival with art activities, classic cooking and amazing music;

The  BBC’s live radio and television coverage of the day (schedule below) which follows last nights wonderful documentary on Dame Vera Lynn featuring testimony from veterans whose lives she touched.

BBC live events scheduled on Friday

10.50am: A service in Westminster

11.00am: A national moment of remembrance and a two-minute silence

2.45pm: Extracts from Churchill’s victory speech to the nation will be broadcast

2.55pm: Solo buglers, trumpeters and cornet players are invited to play the Last Post from their homes

3.00pm: The nation are asked to raise a glass in a national toast, saying: “To those who gave so much, we thank you”

8.00pm: Music special featuring Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins and Beverley Knight, culminating with a national to sing along to wartime classic We’ll Meet Again

9.00pm: The Queen’s pre-recorded address will be broadcast on BBC One.

9.30pm: Spotlights will light up the sky in Portsmouth to recall the experience of blackouts during the war and to remind people “that lighter times will come again”


IMAGE SOURCES: BBC news website

 

Speedicut novels and Desert Island Disaster

It’s armchair adventure time thanks to our Regimental Historian, Christopher Joll.

Enjoy his a one-act play entitled ‘Desert Island Disaster’ and chapter-by-chapter recordings of his first two Speedicut novels: Flashman’s Secret and Love & Other Bloodsports. Over 50 hours of joyful listening entertainment.

Listen to the audio-books here.

History Hit with Dan Snow and Christopher Joll

History lovers will be well aware of the great work of Dan Snow, but did you know that as well as his hugely popular podcast series he also runs History Hit TV, the online video on demand service?

 

This positive Aladdin’s Cave of exciting content has now added a fantastic new episode- with our very own Regimental Historian Christopher Joll:

Loot? Spoils? Artefacts? What to Do with Our Museums

Our museums are full of stuff taken, bought, stolen and gifted from foreign countries. It feels like we face a reckoning. What shall we do with it? I talked to two authors of new books that wrestle with this. Christopher Joll is a former soldier who deals specifically with the spoils of war, while Alice Proctor thinks more generally about all objects and where they are best placed and how best to interpret them.

Watch the TV show  here  or listen to the podcast   here.

Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland interview

Museum Director, Alice Pearson appears in Leaders Council podcast alongside Geoff Hurst.

You can listen to the podcast in full here.

The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is currently in the process of talking to leadership figures from across the nation in an attempt to understand this universal trait and what it means in Britain and Northern Ireland today.

Alice Pearson, Director of The Household Cavalry Museum was invited onto an episode of the podcast, which also included an interview with Geoff Hurst. Host Matthew O’Neill asked both guests a series of questions about leadership and the role it has played in their careers to date.
Matthew O’Neill commented, ‘Hosting a show like this, where you speak to genuine leaders who have been there and done it, either on a national stage or within a crucial industry sector, is an absolute honour.’

Lord Blunkett, chairman of The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland said, ‘I think the most informative element of each episode is the first part, where Matthew O’Neill is able to sit down with someone who really gets how their industry works and knows how to make their organisation tick. Someone who’s there day in day out working hard and inspiring others. That’s what leadership is all about.’

Not a Lot of People Know This… podcast

A weekly series of podcasts about the Regiments of the Household Cavalry
written and recorded by the Regimental Historian, Christopher Joll, formerly of The Life Guards.

These anecdotes are drawn from Christopher Joll’s recently published books:

The Drum Horse in the Fountain: Tales of the Heroes; Rogues in the Guards

and

Spoils of War: The Treasures, Trophies & Trivia of the British Army

Both books are published by Nine Elms Books and are obtainable from www.nineelmsbooks.co.uk or www.amazon.co.uk

Downloads here (text PDF and audio MP3):

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 1 – text

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 1 – audio

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 2 – text

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 2 – audio

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 3 – audio 

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 3 – text

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 4 – audio 

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 4 – text

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 5 – audio 

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 5 – text

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 6 – audio 

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 6 – text

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 7 – audio 

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 7 – text

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 8 – audio

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 8 – text

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 9 – audio

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 9 – text

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 10 – audio

Not a Lot of People Know This – Podcast 10 – text

 

 

Armstice, 100 Years On

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armstice on the 11th November 1918 between the Allies and Germany, bringing the First World War to its end after four years of fighting and casualties numbering over 41 million worldwide.

Known as as the Armistice of Compiègne from the place where it was signed, it came into force at 11 a.m. Paris time (“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”) and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender.

The actual terms, largely written by the Allied Supreme Commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, included the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of German forces to behind the Rhine, Allied occupation of the Rhineland and bridgeheads further east, the preservation of infrastructure, the surrender of aircraft, warships, and military matériel, the release of Allied prisoners of war and interned civilians, and eventual reparations. No release of German prisoners and no relaxation of the naval blockade of Germany was agreed to. This would serve as the basis for the final peace deal negotiated and concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28th June 1919.

Although the fighting officially ended with the signing of the armstice, most of the soldiers still stationed on the Western Front would remain there until early 1919, due to the sheer number of men to be demobilized. There was little in the way of celebration; much like today, the 11th November 1918 was largely given over to contemplation over 52 months of conflict and the scale of death and destruction it had left in its wake.

“They shall not grow old as we that are left shall 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”

Welkom in Groot-Brittannië!

Today, Horse Guards plays host to the Dutch Royal Family; Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherland are to meet with the Queen, the first time in over 36 years that a Dutch Royal has visited to the UK.

From the 17th century to the present day, trade relations between our countries continue to flourish; The Netherlands is the UK’s third largest trading partner. King Charles II, the founder of the Household Cavalry regiment, spent much of his twenties following his father’s execution and his own exile following the end of the English Civil War in the Netherlands, and there were Dutch soldiers amongst the 500 soldiers that were the basis of the Life Guards that accompanied Charles back to England in 1660 to be crowned King. The Household Cavalry Regiment are to be part of events on Horse Guard Parade this morning to greet the Dutch Royals during their visit to the UK.

A True Cavalry Horse

On this day, 29th August 1984, one of the most famous horses of the Household Cavalry Regiment, Sefton, retired from the Household Cavalry Regiment. Sefton had gained fame for his miraculous survival from injuries sustained in a bomb blast in July 1982 that had killed four members of the Blues and Royals, as well as seven other horses of the regiment.

Sefton was being ridden to the Changing of the Guard on Horse Guards Parade on July 20th 1982 when the IRA detonated a car bomb in Hyde Park that claimed the lives of four men and seven horses. Sefton was one of eight horses left injured by the blast, but his injuries were the most severe, including a severed jugular vein, wounded left eye, and 34 wounds over his body. Sefton was the first horse to be removed from the scene and brought back to barracks, where he was treated in an emergency operation lasting over 90 minutes to save his life, and then an additional 8 hours of surgery (a record in veterinary terms in 1982); each of the injuries he’d sustained had the potential to be life threatening. He was given a 50/50 per cent chance of survival.

Sefton recovering from the injuries he sustained on July 20th 1982

Over the following months, he made continual progress; his nurse was quoted as saying “He took everything in his stride”. During his time in the hospital he received huge quantities of cards and mints from well-wishers, while donations exceeding £620,000 were received to construct a new surgical wing at the Royal Veterinary College which was named the Sefton Surgical Wing.

Sefton returned to his duties with his regiment, and he often passed the exact spot where he had received such horrific injuries. That year he was awarded Horse of the Year, and with Pederson back in the saddle took centre stage at the Horse of the Year Show, to a standing ovation. On 29 August 1984 Sefton retired from the Household Cavalry, and moved to the Home of Rest For Horses at Speen, Buckinghamshire where he lived to the age of 30 before having to be put down on 9 July 1993 due to incurable lameness as a complication of the injuries suffered during the bombing.

Even before he become a public name, Sefton had something of a notoriety amongst troopers; he was nicknamed “Sharkey” for his tendency to bite at troopers and horses he didn’t like. Despite ‘passing out’ in June 1968 (marked with the regimental number 5/816) also had something of a reputation for being something of a difficult horse, as he had a tendency for breaking ranks, fidgeting and napping. For these reasons, Sefton was sent with the Blues and Royals on deployment to Germany. He joined the Weser Vale Hunt, a bloodhound pack set up by Captain Bill Stringer, chasing volunteer runners. He quickly became the whipper-in’s mount, and excelled in this task, with a bold jump and fast pace. This made him a very popular horse, and due to his nature, he was not given to recruits to learn on, but offered as a prize for the best recruits to ride.

Sefton showing how he got his nickname of “Sharkey” amongst the troopers…

Sefton also competed in showjumping, and whilst on deployment between 1969 and 1974 won 1434 Deutschmarks of prize money, and made the army team competing for the British Army of the Rhine, as well as competing in and winning a point to point race.

In 1975, there was an outbreak of strangles at Knightsbridge Barracks, leaving a shortage of large black horses for ceremonial duties in London. At this time, Sefton had a suspect tendon, possibly due to being overridden, and was immediately chosen to return to England. Here, he worked for the Household Cavalry for the next four years, performing his guard duties, as well as appearing in Quadrilles, and tent pegging. He continued to showjump, including appearances at the Royal Tournament and other smaller shows, although from 1980 he was gradually retired from the sport as he reached the age of 18.

Sefton with Trooper Michael Pedersen of the Blues and Royals, who rode him on July 20th 1982

Waterloo

On this day 203 years ago, the Household Cavalry were soldiers on a battlefield where history was changed.

The regiments of the Household Cavalry all fought at the Battle of Waterloo, June 18th 1815, in the last battle of a brief military campaign to stop the return of Napoleon Bonaparte and all won great distinction in the fighting; over the course of the day, Napoleon sent successive cavalry attacks to try and swamp the British lines, and it fell to the British cavalry to fight them off, pushing the French back despite being outnumbered and pitted against an enemy with better training, mounts and equipment.

The Household Cavalry Museum contains many artefacts from Waterloo which tell the stories of the men who made names for themselves on that field in Belgium over two centuries ago, including:

The Eagle of the 105th Regiment of the Line, captured by members of the Royals at Waterloo: A French Regiment’s eagle, personally given by Napoleon, was mounted on top of its standard, and represented the honour and pride of the soldiers who fought under it. For the enemy to capture an eagle was a terrible blow to the French Army, and a great honour to the man who took it (as such commemorated on the left arm of the uniform of the Blues and Royals)

– A lock of hair and a snuff-box made from the hoof of Marengo, the horse ridden by Napoleon at Waterloo

– The sword wielded by Major Edward Kelly of the 1st Life Guards, with which he killed Colonel Habert of the 4th Cuirassiers during one of the savage cavalry clashes at Waterloo (winning him a knighthood of the Order of St. Anne, as well as the personal commendation of the Russian tsar), as well as the tail of Kelly’s favourite bay mare, which carried him to safety despite a fatal lance injury to the head.

– The uniform of Sir Robert Hill, commanding officer of the Blues at Waterloo, including the musket ball removed from his arm on the field.

– A cast of the skull of Corporal John Shaw of the 2nd Life Guards; a veritable Hercules of a man, over 6ft tall with a career outside the army both as a boxer and a life model for the Royal Academy, Waterloo was Shaw’s first and last battle; he died during one of the cavalry clashes, accounting for 10 French cavalrymen before he was cut down (when his sword shattered, Shaw resorted to clubbing enemies with his helmet and the broken hilt). Given a hero’s burial on the battlefield, Shaw’s body was later exhumed and casts of his bones made to feed the vogue in British society for souvenirs with a connection to the battlefield.

– The prosthetic leg of the Earl of Uxbridge. A musket wound sustained at Waterloo necessitated the amputation of his right leg below the knee; dissatisfied with the prosthesis provided for him, Uxbridge commissioned a fully articulated prosthetic leg which would be the standard of such until as late as 1914.

These artefacts and the histories attached to them are just some of the stories that can be discovered at the Household Cavalry Museum, tied to that grey, damp day in June where on a field in Belgium over 200 years ago, the course of history was changed…

Trooping The Colour

Trooping the Colour, in layman’s terms, is the Queen’s birthday parade, which has taken place since 1748. It’s annual – birthdays tend to work like that – and, since the 1950s, has always fallen on the second Saturday of June, the monarch’s official celebration.

This year, it falls on June 9. Although Her Majesty The Queen’s actual birthday is April 21st, her ‘official birthday’ is marked by Trooping the Colour, a ceremony which is always held in June. This was a tradition begun by Her Majesty’s great-grandfather, King Edward VII, who chose to set it in June to compensate for the vagaries of British weather, particularly given that his own birthday was in November! However, the history of Trooping the Colour is much older; on the battlefield, the principal purpose of a regiment’s Colours was to provide a rallying point in the chaos of battle. Given how easy it was for troops to become disoriented and separated from their unit during conflict, it was the habit to have the colours of the Regiment displayed for the troops so they could familiarise themselves with the colours. This was done by having young officers march in between the ranks of troops formed up in lines with the Colours held high. So, what today is a great tradition began life as a vital and practical parade designed to aid unit recognition before a battle began.

After travelling from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade, the Queen inspects around 2,000 members of the Household Division and Horse Guards, made up of 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians, who give Her Majesty the royal salute. Then the Colour is Trooped – that is, a regimental flag (the ‘Colour’) is paraded (‘Trooped’) in front of the Queen. Though the flag changes yearly, it will always come from one of the five regiments of the Foot Guards regiments (either the Scots, Welsh, Irish, Grenadier and Coldstream Guards). This year, the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards will be providing the Colour, the first time they have done so since 2009. Their Colonel is Prince William, who took the position in 2011. Back in the 1700s, the flag would be shown off so all troops would recognise it in battle.

This parade is not a simple wave, followed by a brisk dismissal however: it is an extravagant display of military prowess, involving over 100 commands, and following strict timings. Troops begin to form at 9.15am, but things begin properly at 10.45am when the Queen leaves Buckingham Palace to begin her grand birthday parade down to Horse Guards Parade, which she reaches at 11am. Her Majesty then reviews the soldiers before heading back to the palace. At 12.52pm, there is a cannonade of artillery, followed by a Fly Past over Buckingham Palace by the Royal Air Force at 1pm.

Until 1987, the Queen rode alongside the Guards – including in 1981, when she was shot at by a member of the crowd who was later arrested – but now watches the entire parade from a carriage. Her Majesty has attended the event every year bar one since taking the throne in 1953: in 1955, a National Rail strike necessitated the cancellation of the event.

Trooping the Colour is taken extremely seriously every year, with troopers participating in the display taking up to 12 hours to prepare their uniforms and a reported 1200 pots of polish used each year. The streets also need taking care of: a team of road sweepers is employed by the Royal Parks to clear up after the horses, which can leave up to 4.5 tons of manure behind during the event.

For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to get tickets for the event at Horse Guards, it will be possible to view the ceremony from along the Mall and within St. James’s Park.