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

Christmas for the Cavalry…

While the rest of us are enjoying Christmas Day at home, it’s business as usual for the Household Cavalry on Christmas Day — after all, someone has to guard The Queen. The guards get up early as usual and muck out the horses, who have the day off. The regimental hierarchy serve the soldiers ‘gunfire’, a noxious mix of coffee and whisky that is not for the faint-hearted. They also tuck into mince pies and chocolates, kindly donated by local businesses, including Harrods among others. The soldiers then sort out the horses as quickly as possible before being dismissed for their family celebrations at midday. The 12 horses and riders who have drawn the short straw on duty for the Queen’s Life Guard are confined to their base at Horse Guards on Whitehall until 11am on Boxing Day.

The guards start the morning with a fancy dress parade where the commanding officer awards the least monotonous duties to those who have made the most effort. Notable examples in the past have included the Phantom of the Opera, the annual favourite, Ninja Turtles, and a Santa-clad trooper once transformed his horse into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The troopers then change into their state uniforms before taking up their positions, with the mounted guards rotating in one-hour shifts.

Between shifts, the soldiers are served a Christmas meal with all the trimmings, all in the spirit of trying to give the soldiers who are on duty at Horse Guards as good a time as possible in the circumstances.

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

Charge!

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.

FACT OF THE DAY

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!

The Marquis of Granby

On this day, July 31st, a great military tradition attached to our regiment was born… and the heritage of a great many pubs founded.

The Battle of Warburg, July 31st 1760: Fighting in the Seven Years War rages on between an allied coalition of British and Hanoverian forces against a French army.

Whilst leading the Blues in battle, the regiment’s beloved Colonel John Manners, Marquis of Granby, loses his hat and wig in a gallant charge and carries on until the battle is won. As the dust settles the hero is forced to salute his commanding officer bareheaded...

Though unheard of at the time, this moment gave birth to a tradition that continues to this day: still now, non-commissioned officers and troopers of the Blues and Royals are the only soldiers in the British Army allowed to salute without headdress.

John Manners, Marquis of Granby

One of the many notable figures in the Household Cavalry’s history, John Manners, Marquis of Granby was a prominent figure, known not just in the regiment, but throughout the whole British Army.

Born 2nd January 1721, eldest son of the 3rd Duke of Rutland, by the tender age of 20 he was serving as an MP for the borough of Grantham, and aged just 25 received a military commission as Colonel of a regiment raised by his father to fight the Jacobite uprising under Bonnie Prince Charlie. Whilst the regiment remained at Newcastle, Granby volunteered to accompany the Duke of Cumberland on the final stages of a campaign into Scotland and was present at the Battle of Culloden, 16th April 1746.

When Manners’s regiment mutinied due to lack of payment, he paid them out of his own pocket before they were disbanded. He retained his rank and campaigned in Flanders in 1747, serving as an Intelligence Officer for Cumberland and gaining an even greater reputation as a soldier and a leader of men.

By 1752, Manners was suggested for the position of Colonel of the Royal Horse Guards (the Blues) but it took a further 6 years of parliamentary advancement before he gained the Royal support required for such a position. On 18th March 1755 he was promoted to Major-General and finally appointed Colonel of the Blues on 27th May 1758.

Granby was one of the first officers to not only recognise the importance of welfare and morale amongst troops, but to address the issue. The impact of his leadership changed the character of British soldiering and thus so improved, the properly led army proved unbeatable in war. As a sign of respect, nearly all portraits of Granby depict him mounting a horse, or helping the wounded.

To this day, Granby is particularly remembered in the military for his custom of helping old soldiers from his regiment retire into sustainable work, ensuring they were able to support both themselves and their families. Subsequently, and perhaps more widely appreciated, he is believed to have more public houses in Britain named after him than any other person!

The Household Battalion: Passchendaele

An excerpt from the Household Cavalry Regiment Battlefield Tour of the Salient: the Household Battalion.

By mid 1917 The Russian army had disintegrated in Revolution and gone home, the French battered by unreasonable calls on their courage and endurance had mutinied and effectively removed themselves from the fight, or at least from any thoughts of further attacks for the time being and the Americans, although now in the war, had not yet arrived in any numbers. The weight of the 1917 offensives fell, disproportionately, on the shoulders of the British Expeditionary Force and Imperial troops.

Passchendaele, the 3rd Battle of Ypres began on 31st July 1917 with the initial aim, rapidly proved to be impossible, of breaking through the German lines and heading in strength towards the channel coast. It is depressing but needs to be said at this stage, that 3rd Battle of Ypres, although neither as long nor as bloody as the Somme in 1916, killed and wounded more British soldiers per mile of territory gained: 8,200 as opposed to 5,000 on the Somme.

The Household Battalion was not involved in the early part of the battle as they were still recovering from their mauling at Arras. On 12th October they went back into action at Poelcappelle against a few pillboxes and blockhouse marked on the maps as Requette farm where fighting had been going on since 9th October. The battle, if it can be called such, was a shambles and men were lost by drowning in mud and flooded shell holes. The farm was taken by part of a company, held briefly and lost again as the remnants of the Battalion fell back under its last three remaining officers all of whom had started the day in the Support companies. The Battalion was utterly exhausted and not a single NCO above the rank of Corporal remained unwounded.
The Battalion was relieved that night by their own reserve under the command of the CO, the Adjutant and the Battalion Corporal Major.

The reckoning was the loss of over 400 casualties for a temporary advance of 600 yards of shell shattered swamp. The Battalion went back into rest at Arras where it received its final draft of 400 reinforcements from Windsor.

Read more about the Household Cavalry Regimental Associations’ Battlefield Tour to Ypres here.