Congratulations To A Former Comrade

The Household Cavalry Museum extends its congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the date of their wedding.

Prince Harry served as a member of the Blues and Royals, joining the regiment upon completing his officer training at Sandhurst in 2006, joining the Blues and Royals as a cornet (second lieutenant), rising to the rank of lieutenant within the regiment in 2008, as well as serving in Afghanistan with the Household Cavalry Regiment. Although his career in the British Army came to an end in 2015, Prince Harry has remained close to the Household Cavalry and other regiments he served with during his time in the army, and has been a passionate supporter of promoting the welfare of those who are serving or who have served their country in the Armed Forces, as well as campaigning to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges facing service personnel making the transition to civilian life, working in particular to bring wider public attention to the support that wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women need through their entire rehabilitation process.

In recognition of Prince Harry’s service within the Household Cavalry, troopers of the Household Cavalry will form a 24-man staircase party outside St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, before giving a royal salute to the married couple as they exit the chapel, while a troop of 24 mounted troopers will be waiting to escort the couple’s carriage through the streets of Windsor as they return to Windsor Castle from the chapel.

The Battle of Abu Klea

132 years ago, between the 16th to 18th January 1885, the Household Cavalry fought at the Battle of Abu Klea, one of a series of battles in Northern Africa in a desperate race against time to reach a trapped contingent of British soldiers in the region.

The battle was one of several fought by the British Desert Column against Mahdist forces (the Mahdists were Sudanese fanatics loyal to Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah, a self-proclaimed Islamic messianic figure who took advantage of widespread resentment amongst the Sudanese population towards the oppressive policies of the Turco-Egyptian rulers, and capitalized on the messianic beliefs popular among the various Sudanese religious sects of the time).

The overall goal of the British forces was to push through the Mahdists to Khartoum and relieve General Charles Gordon, under siege there by Mahdist forces, with time swiftly running out to save their embattled comrades at Khartoum. Having spent the night before the battle taking continual fire from Mahdist snipers, when the British forces began advancing into the wadi of Abu Klea at first light, they came under attack from a Mahdist force concealed in the ravine that had been waiting to ambush them.

Despite being heavily outnumbered (approximately 1,100 British troops to supposedly 12,000 Mahdist warriors), in a bloody exchange that lasted little more than fifteen minutes, the British forces were able to push the Mahdists back. Unfortunately, despite having technically won the battle and inflicting serious casualties on the enemy (British losses were 76 dead, 82 wounded, in contrast to Mahdist casualties numbering at least 1100), Abu Klea was a phyrric victory, given that the overall British goal to reach Khartoum and relieve General Gordon failed (the city had fallen and Gordon killed two days before the British Desert Column arrived). The failure to save Gordon caused a major public backlash that effectively ended the political career of Prime Minister William Gladstone (most in British society, including Queen Victoria, blamed Gladstone for the delay in sending a rescue mission), as well as forcing a British retreat from Sudan that would leave the country under the control of the Mahdists for 13 years.

Among the losses suffered at Abu Klea was one of particular significance to the Household Cavalry: Lieutenant Fredrick Burnaby of the Blues, killed by a Mahdist spear through the throat while trying to rescue an injured comrade. This bombastic and swashbuckling soldier, a hero in the hearts and minds of the Victorian public, had rejoined his old regiment voluntarily to accompany them to Sudan, the War Office having denied him an official posting. When word of his death on the battlefield spread amongst the soldiers, the commanding officer of one detachment recorded that many of his men sat down and wept at the death of such a beloved figure.

Colonel Frederick Burnaby
Colonel Frederick Burnaby, a hero of the regiment and beloved figure in Victorian high society, died in battle at Abu Klea.

Among the artefacts contained in the Household Cavalry Museum’s collection, you can find a dagger of the sort that would have been wielded by the Mahdist warriors (also known as Dervishes) and the boots Burnaby was wearing when he met his end on the battlefield that day.

Some of the artefacts belonging to Colonel Burnaby, on display at the Household Cavalry Museum. Image belongs to L.Courtne,y 2017

The Guards at Christmas

As we approach the festive season, we should remember that as serving soldiers, the Household Cavalry have been required to serve on the front lines, often away from their families and home for months or even years at a time.

This altar, on display in our ‘Sacrifice’ cabinet at the Household Cavalry Museum (along with a Communion cup, wine vessel, wafer box, altar cross, Bible and priest’s stole), was used by Reverend R.K. Haines, a regimental Chaplain of the Household Battalion to perform services in the trenches from 1916-1918. In a letter to his wife written in late 1918, the Reverend Haines related that he performed two Masses in the trenches on Christmas morning 1918 in a section of the trenches that only allowed for 25 men in attendance at a time. The Reverend also remarked in his letter how unusual he found it to look out at the expanse of land between the trenches on both sides and not hear a single shot fire (although the war officially ended with the signing of the Armistice on November 11th, many of the soldiers deployed on the Western Front wouldn’t be demobilized and return home until early 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.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

– The Ode to the Fallen, from Lawrence Binyon’s poem, ‘For the Fallen’, published September 21st 1914.

To The Last Man…

A bloody last stand in the opening months of the First World War that saw nearly 300 men of the Household Cavalry give their lives in a desperate defence against increasingly furious enemy attacks.

103 years ago, October 30th 1914, a combined force of the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, as well as the Horse Guards, died fighting to the last man as they held off a German attack on their position at Zandvoorde, Belgium. On 29th October 1914, the village of Zandvoorde was being held by the dismounted cavalrymen of the 7th Household Cavalry Brigade from Major General Julian Byng’s 3rd Cavalry Division. To their left was the 1st Battalion, the Royal Welch Fusiliers of the 22nd Infantry Brigade, 7th Division. The Household Cavalry held the trenches that were located on the forward slope of the grassy knoll at the southern end of the village astride the Zandvoorde to Tenbrielen Road.

On their left was Captain Lord Hugh Grosvenor’s C Squadron 1st Life Guards, reinforced by Lord Grosvenor’s men was Lord Charles Sackville Pelham Worsley’s machine gun team from the Royal Horse Guards. Worsley and his men had already been in the line for seven days when the 1st Life Guards had replaced the Royal Horse Guards and they had been detailed to remain to support them as one of the Life Guard’s machine guns was out of action.

Lord Hugh Grosvenor, Commander of C Squadron, 1st Life Guards, who died fighting at Zandvoorde
Lord Lieutenant Lord Charles Sackville Pelham Worsley, who also died in action at Zandvoorde.

At 6am on 30th October 1914, the German guns opened fire, initially further to the left against the 1st and 2nd Divisions in front of Gheluvelt and Zonnebeke respectively. About 45 minutes later, 260 guns of the German artillery turned their attention to the defenders in the vicinity of Zandvoorde, their shells falling on the men of the Life Guards and the 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers. This artillery bombardment was followed at around 8am by an infantry attack by the German Infantrymen of the 39th Division.

The Germans attackers drove into the defending British. In front of Zandvoorde, the Life Guards were hit hard and Lieutenant Lord Worsley’s machine gun team was in the thick of the fighting. An order to withdraw to the second line of defences was issued, but this did not reach the two Squadrons to the left of the road or Lord Worsley’s machine gun team. The heavy shelling and sheer weight of enemy numbers being thrown against the Household Cavalry defending Zandvoorde resulted in Lord Grosvener’s C Squadron and Lord Worsley’s machine gunners being overrun as their fellow cavalrymen withdrew to their second line. The Household Cavalrymen who had remained at their posts were virtually annihilated; only 10 survived the battle to make it back to their own lines. The remaining other officers and cavalrymen, were listed as missing, Lord Hugh Grosvenor and Lord Worsley among them.

After the battle, a German officer, Oberleutnant Freiherr von Prankh, visited the British trench, interested in the British Machine Guns. In the trench, he came upon the body of Lord Worsley, and gave orders for Worsley’s personal effects to be gathered together and arranged a burial party. Oberleutnant von Prankh had intended to send the personal effects to Lord Worsley’s family, but he himself was tragically killed in action a few days later.

Following the report of his death, Lord Worsley’s family obtained a sketch showing where Lord Worsley had been buried. After the war, Colonel A. W. James MC, a family friend, with the aid of a 10th Hussar veteran who knew the area, went to Zandvoorde to try to locate the grave. At first they failed, but in December 1918, aided by the sketch they took a compass bearing from the crossroads that they followed to the spot where the grave was marked. A rough wooden cross had been put up by the German burial party and, although the cross piece had fallen off, the upright was still standing. Colonel James marked the spot with a pile of stones before returning to Ypres to have a replacement cross made; this was inscribed ‘RIP Lord Worlsey R.H.G. Oct. 30th, 1914’.

In January 1919, Colonel James returned to Zandvoorde with Lord Worsley’s brother to erect the new cross at the grave. They found the old cross piece, which they removed along with the old upright and erected the new cross at the grave. The old upright and cross piece was brought back to England, where they now hang together in All Saints Church, Brocklesby, Lincolnshire. Lady Worsley subsequently purchased the piece of ground in which her husband had been buried.

In late summer 1921, the decision to exhume Lord Worsley’s remains, as they were in an isolated grave, was made by the War Graves Commission as part of their concentration policy. This decision was communicated to Lady Worsley and Lord and Lady Yarboroguh, Lord Worlsey’s parents, who consented to the remains being reinterred in Ypres Town Cemetery Military Extension. A family friend, the Reverend R S Swann-Mason, travelled to Ypres to represent the family at the exhumation which took place on 8th September 1921. Lord Worsley’s remains were found five feet below the marker erected by Colonel James and positively identified by parts of the uniform markings and a gold filled tooth. They were placed in a rough timber coffin and transported to Ypres where they were reinterred the following day at 10:00 hrs. The coffin was draped in the Union Jack and a party of four officers and six private soldiers formed the carrying party; the Reverend Swann-Mason once again representing the family. The cross placed by Colonel James was used to mark his new grave until it was replaced by a CWGC headstone in 1923. The cross was then returned to the family and now hangs opposite the original in All Saints Church, Brocklesby, Lincolnshire.

Lord Hugh Grosvenor, who was the brother of the Duke of Westminster, was also buried in a grave at Zandvoorde in 1914, but the location of his grave was subsequently lost in the later shelling. He is remembered with honour on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Ypres.

The Household Cavalry Memorial now stands on the piece of land bought by Lady Worsley that was once the site of her husband’s grave. It was unveiled on 4th May 1924 by Lord and Lady Haig. The Household Cavalry Memorial is located up a narrow path off Komenstraat at the southern end of Zandvoorde. The memorial is a tall slender column topped by a cross. The face of the column is inscribed with the names of those members of the Household Cavalry Regiments, the 1st and 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards, who fell in that bloody battle in October 1914.

Ride to Khiva

A simple book that tells the story of a daring adventure made by one of the Household Cavalry’s best-loved figures.

This month, we look at one of the artefacts in our collection: a copy of “A Ride to Khiva”. This book may not seem like much, but in fact, it details the adventures of one of the great heroes of the Household Cavalry; Frederick G. Burnaby, Commanding Officer of the Blues, Burnaby always had a thirst for adventure, and his curiousity was piqued when he heard rumours that travel to the city of Khiva, in what is modern day Uzbekistan, at the time under the control of Tsarist Russia like much of central Asia, was off-limits to foreign travellers.

Burnaby took it upon himself to travel out there, at his own expense and great personal risk, recording the things he saw on his journey in meticulous detail. Upon his return to Britain in 1876 and the book’s publication, the tale of Burnaby’s journey became a best-seller; it was the sort of derring-do adventure that went over extremely well with the Victorians, and Burnaby, already a hugely beloved figure in London high society, became even more feted for his daring exploits in the wilderness of Central Asia.

“Copy of ‘A Ride To Khiva” by Frederick G. Burnaby. Image belongs to L. Courtney 2017

Later this month, ‘A Ride to Khiva’ will be republished, allowing present-day readers to also follow Burnaby on his adventures across hostile territory and read about the things he saw and did on this daring trek from the streets of London to the sands of Uzbekistan.


by James Jacques Tissot, oil on panel, 1870

Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby was one of the Household’s Cavalry’s most beloved and certainly most colourful heroes. 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 (one of the many stories about him is that when a few younger officers locked a couple of ponies in his quarters for a practical joke, the next morning he carried the animals down to the mess room, one under each arm!)

Burnaby’s adventurous spirit, pioneering achievements, and swashbuckling courage earned him quite 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, made numerous contributions to the Times and other publications, 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. Even after his time as commanding officer of the Blues came to an end, he remained close to and retained a place in his heart for his former regiment; after being denied the chance to officially accompany his regiment by the War Office, he accompanied the Blues to Sudan in a civilian capacity, where he was ultimately to die fighting alongside his former regiment, killed at the Battle of Abu Klea on 17th January 1885 during the ultimately thwarted expedition to save General Charles Gordon at Khartoum, while trying to rescue a wounded comrade.

The Household Cavalry Museum has a number of artefacts, besides the copy of “A Ride to Khiva”, that belonged to Burnaby, including a winter dress frock coat worn by him during his time as Colonel of the Blues that demonstrates his proportions, as well as the boots Burnaby wore when he met his end at Abu Klea.

Some of the artefacts belonging to Colonel Burnaby, on display at the Household Cavalry Museum. Image belongs to L.Courtne,y 2017


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!

In Memoriam, July 20th 1982

Today is a rather solemn occasion for the Household Cavalry. On this day 35 years ago, four members of the Regiment and seven horses lost their lives when the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a car bomb at 10:40am in Hyde Park. The Blues and Royals, riding down from Knightsbridge Barracks to perform the Changing of the Guard at horse Guards Parade were hit by the explosion.

The blast was one of two such attacks that day in London (a second bomb blast at 12:55pm in Regent’s Park claimed the lives of seven members of the Royal Green Jackets).

Four members of the Blues and Royals (Lieutenant Anthony Daly, Corporal Major Roy Bright, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young and Trooper Simon Tipper) were killed by the bomb, while seven of the Regiment’s horses (Cedric, Epaulette, Falcon, Rochester, Waterford, Yeastvite and Zara) either died in the blast or were put down due to the severity of their injuries.

The Museum has in its collection several items connected to this tragic event, including the helmet worn by Trooper Simon Tipper on that day, as well as the hoof and damaged bridle of horse Sefton.

Sefton wounds from bomb blast were so severe it was believed he would not survive. He endured 8 hours of surgery, a record in veterinary terms at that time, treating over 34 injuries, all of them potentially life threatening. After the surgery he was given a 50/50 chance of survival, but made an amazing recovery that turned him into a national symbol of defiance. He returned to active duty with the Regiment, being awarded Horse of the Year that October.

Sefton retired from active service on 29th August 1984 and lived out the remainder of his life at a rest home for horses in Buckinghamshire. He died at the age of 30 from health complications believed to be related to the injuries he sustained in the bombing.


Helmet of Trooper Simon Tipper of the Blues and Royals, who died 20th July 1982 in an IRA car bombing.

The Battle of Waterloo 18 June 1815

Today’s date, June 18th, marks a major day, not just in the history of the Household Cavalry, but in the history of Europe.

On a field in Belgium 202 years ago today, an allied army of British, Dutch and Prussian troops defeated the Imperial French army of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo, destroying the threat of a resurgence of French imperial power under Napoleon, and ushering in a lengthy period of peace across Europe.

When Napoleon escaped exile on the Italian island of Elba and returned to France in February 1815, the French army defected to him: Napoleon then marched on Paris, deposed King Louis XVIII and proclaimed himself Emperor once more. Britain, along with Russia, Austria and Prussia, all vowed to put 15,000 men in the field to defeat Napoleon after the Congress of Vienna declared him a outlaw four days before the Emperor entered Paris. Aware that he had no chance of diplomatically convincing his enemies against an invasion of France, Napoleon knew his only option was to take the initiative and destroy his enemies before they were in a position to defeat him.

In the military campaign that followed (known as the Hundred Days), a series of running battles across Belgium culminated on Sunday 18th June 1815 at Waterloo, where Napoleon faced an Anglo-led army under the command of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Aware that a Prussian army under the command of Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher was on its way, Napoleon chose to attack, hoping to defeat the British before the Prussians arrived to reinforce them. The battle was a savage and bloody affair, but the British held firm, fending off repeated attacks by the French throughout the course of the day at key points across the battlefield. With the arrival of Prussian troops in the early evening and the narrow defeat of his army’s elite, the previously invincible Imperial Guard, when a combined British and Prussian counterattack on his right flank and centre overwhelmed the French lines, Napoleon conceded defeat and quit the field, his army effectively destroyed (records indicate French casualties ranged from 24-26,000, in comparison to the combined Allied casualties of around 22,000, 15,000 suffered by the British, 7,000 by the Prussians). Returning to Paris, Napoleon hoped to convince the French government to back him in fighting on, but he was instead met with outrage at the disaster that was Waterloo and, under the threat of being deposed, abdicated on June 22nd 1815.

When he learned Prussian troops were marching on Paris with orders to take him dead or alive, Napoleon fled to the French port of Rochefort. His initial plan was to try and flee to America, but upon learning the British were blockading all ports, he surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland of HMS Bellerophon and demanded asylum from Britain. The British exiled Napoleon to the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic, where he remained a prisoner until his death of stomach cancer on May 5th 1821 (despite his claims to the bitter end the British were discreetly poisoning him).

The Household Cavalry and the Battle of Waterloo

The regiments of the Household Cavalry all fought at Waterloo 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…

Royal Oak Day

Today is of course the May Bank Holiday, but previously, it was celebrated as Oak Apple Day or simply Royal Oak Day, to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy in May 1660. Appropriately celebrated on the birthday of King Charles II (the founder of the Household Cavalry, who had been born on May 29th 1630), Parliament declared it a national holiday “to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day”.

Traditionally,  celebrations to commemorate the event often entailed the wearing of oak apples  or sprigs of oak leaves, in reference to the occasion after the  Battle of Worcester during the English Civil War in September 1651, when the then Prince Charles  escaped the Roundhead  army by hiding in the boughes of an oak tree near Boscobel House, Shropshire.  Anyone who failed to wear a sprig of oak risked being pelted with bird’s eggs or thrashed with nettles.

Although the holiday was formally abolished by the Anniversary Days Observance Accordance of 1859, it is still acknowledged in certain parts of the country, and the date is accorded some significance in local or institutional customs. It is, for instance, kept as Founder’s Day at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, which was founded by Charles II in 1681.

Image copyright: National Gallery