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.

Remembrance

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

Household Cavalry Regimental Associations Battlefield Tour 2017

Ypres Salient, 1914 and 1917

Under the brilliant guidance of our very own Curator, Pete Storer, the Household Cavalry Regimental Associations spent three packed days in Ypres Salient learning about not only the lost lives of the brave, but little known, Household Battalion, but about all those who fought valiantly in the Salient one hundred years ago.

Since being razed to the ground during the Great War, the beautiful town of Ypres has risen from the ashes and been rebuilt stone by stone. Since 1928, at the  Menin Gate   at 20:00hrs every evening, the Last Post, traditional final salute to the fallen, has been played by buglers in honour of the memory of the soldiers of the former British Empire and its allies, who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War.

Through seeing this ceremony, the area’s lovingly maintained cemeteries and painstakingly preserved trenches, as well as an incredible number of names recognising unknown graves, the full impact of the Great War truly hits home.

On behalf of the Household Cavalry Museum, the Regimental Associations and the entire Regiment, we thank the people of Belgium for their moving nightly vigil over the Menin Gate, their guardianship of these cemeteries and their work in striving towards being a beacon of hope for all our futures.

          

 

We highly recommend a visit to Ypres Salient. So to help you on your way, here is our itinerary and and recommended places for you to visit on your next trip:

 

The  Menin Gate  (Last Post, at  20:00hrs nightly)

Tyne Cot cemetery

Passchendaele Museum, Zonnebeke Chateau and trenches

Langemarcke-Poelcappelle and German Cemetery

Household Cavalry Memorial, Zandvoorde

Canadian Memorial on Hill 62

Hooge Crater Cemetery and the Menin Road

Zillebeke Church and the “Aristocrat’s Graveyard”

Hill 60  preserved trenches, bunkers and “The Caterpillar” crater

Ypres town extension cemetery

Walking the ramparts at Ypres to the Ramparts cemetery. More information on military  engineer and fortifications architect Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Seigneur de Vauban and later Marquis de Vauban (1633-1707) can be found here.

St Georges Church, Ypres