HAC Journal Article, Spring 2006
Cavalry is a special arm. It is not on every occasion on which it can be used; but when it is wanted, it is wanted badly.
Field Marshal the Earl Haig 1921
My mole in Whitehall assures me that there is a Treasury-driven plan to acquire the property known as the Artillery Garden, so as to replace some of the deficits in YouGov's financial black hole. So far they have successfully trashed the football pitch, and are now moving in on supposedly the soft underbelly of the Company, the Light Cavalry. Thought, by them, to be both inefficient, unmilitary, impoverished, and a soft target to subvert the whole lot of us into giving up, and going away. As usual they got it wrong.
In furtherance of their cunning plan, YouGov spent a lot of money trying to overcome the intrepid cavalrymen. They sent a Task Force of men and horses, JuForce (or ‘Jump Force'), to the Cotswold Hunt Cross Country Team Chase on the 30th October to demoralise the Light Cavalry by wresting from them the prestigious Coxwell Rogers Military Cup, a solid silver trophy, already won twice previously by the Light Cavalry; in the words of a Defence ‘official', 'to teach them a lesson they will never forget'.
Juforce consisted of the Household Cavalry, supported by at least a section of guns [24 horses] from The Kings Troop, RHA, putting out seven teams in all. All young, fit, serving soldiers. All the Light Cavalry could muster, being denied funds, and lacking youth, and even a fourth team member, was a pensioner, a bus-pass holder, and a middle aged ex Gunner captain. The conditions reminded some of the older ones of Passchaendaele, and the going was hock deep (i.e. pretty yucky). By 12.20 it was apparent that the Household Cavalry were the clear leaders, with their Team 48 having a good time of 6 mins 22 seconds. By 12.31 they had all wasted their effort, and the taxpayers' money, as the geriatrics in Team 50 staggered through three miles of mud to bring home the bacon, and retain the Cup for the Company, with a strong time of 5 mins 44 seconds. Bad luck YouGov. Try again next year.
We had to cancel our Ladies Night in July, due to the terrorist atrocities, as mentioned earlier, and the resulting closure of the House. The Officer Commanding, ever resourceful, solved this problem by having a ‘Lady' Night on the 7th September. The only lady we could raise at short notice was our Yard Manager, Caroline. The idea of having one at a time to dinner seems to be that they can be very well looked after by about one hundred blokes. I think that was the idea; anyhow, it was so popular that our Mess evening, which normally takes place in the Queen's Room, expanded to fill the Long Room. We coupled this with a Board of Appointment, interviewing potential recruits, which was a pleasant task for those on the management team, as we didn't have to put on the horrid woolly pully and sweat on the Drill Square. We even got a free drink before dinner. We must be well thought of!
The recruits came and went, not a bad lot, some potential there. Let me explain to you, dear reader, how it works. If you are a member of the Company you can apply, and, generally, we accept you, after a bit of a look, and a think. You do not even have to know how to ride, nor do you have to, ever; however we can also teach you….
We have been warned off poaching Active Members. You will have to walk in the Lord Mayor's Show for a year or two more, folks, before you get to ride in it. If you are not yet a member of the Company, but have previous military service elsewhere, we look at you for about six months, and then, if suitable, make recommendations to the Court to the effect that the candidate is suitable for Non Regimental Membership of the Company, and then you can also join the Light Cavalry.
We had some splendid guests, and other people, on this Mess night, including ‘the Lady'; and a couple of Chelsea pensioners (only two this time, as the rest were apparently on their yachts in the Caribbean!). A lot of senior brass were there for some reason or other, with the Vice-President, who is also our Surgeon, and the Commanding Officer of the Active Unit. And, of course, a new member of the Company and recruit to the Light Cavalry, Major-General the Duke of Westminster. It should be said that we are looking for a better class of recruit now. One officer won't speak to anyone who is beneath the rank of Viscount, and the Drill Sgt, Tony Gray, was spotted practising in front of the mirror, repeating, 'You are an ‘orrible idle member of the Order of the Garter. What are you?'
Our annual General Inspection, by Major-General Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, an old friend, who reminded us during the Inspection - we having walked, trotted and cantered past him, and our dismounted gentlemen guarded and marched, all to perfection - that it was some seven or so years ago, when he was GOC London District, that he visited Armoury House and saw a notice pertaining to the Cavalry. 'If it's military, and under my command,' he said then, 'I had better inspect it.' Well, he came then, and was satisfied, and so started our Annual Inspections, by very senior soldiers. This time he said we were even better! The General, now a retired officer and Colonel of the King's Troop, paraded mounted on a King's Troop charger. He and his Lady stayed for the afternoon to watch the other events of the day: a mirror image Dressage Test well ridden by Gareth Thomas and Fred Southey; and our Mounted Musical Ride, which is very good, and a bit different from that of the Household Cavalry, as it contains ‘Ladies'! It is apparently going ‘on tour' this year, so you may get to see it. There was also good Skill at Arms and Tent Pegging, always a crowd puller. A good day out in the country.
You, the members of the Company, really should all come and watch this year, on 16th September. We put in a lot of effort on this, and there is virtually no audience. Do come and see us perform. It is free, and good fun! Really, and you will be proud of us. The Inspection day was an unqualified success. Sadly this always seems to coincide with the Regiment's Annual Camp, so they never get a chance to see us strutting our stuff either. Unfortunately the Band could not make it, so with the aid of modern technology, provided by Lt Col Laurie Evanson Goddard, who doubles as our excellent Trumpeter, we had martial music downloaded to us from the ether to help us bounce up and down in the saddle in time. The General, who brought a gaggle of French house guests with him, seemed pleased with all our efforts and signed us off as being ‘efficient', and enjoyed his picnic and his day out! According to Lady Webb-Carter, he would talk of nothing else the week beforehand, due to the excitement of his impending visit to us. Such is the effect of the arme blanche on the remainder of the world!
Having heard the war stories of those in the Regiment who served in Iraq, we thought we should send at least one representative. So we did - nearly. SSgt Stephen-Martin, formerly with the Royal Yeomanry and now doing something ‘frightfully secret' with Intelligence, applied to join the Light Cavalry, so we gave him the six months' trial. Just as we were planning to put him up in front of the Court, as we thought he was a nice chap, he was called up for Iraq, for the second time. We hope he will return this time unscathed, as on his previous tour he was severely wounded. We now hear he can proceed to the Court, so he will have a nice surprise on return to Blighty! So the Light Cavalry nearly succeeded in having a man in Iraq! However, we will achieve, as he tells us he may ‘have to go' to Afghanistan, later this year. Barking Mad! Come home safely, dear boy, and do a little light soldiering with us.
The Lord Mayor's Show is our biggest day of the year, when we ‘protect' the coach of the Lady Mayoress as her Travelling Escort, a duty that is no longer a joke, with the possibility of ‘an incident'. We again provided our own resources, without help from the Household Division. Our Surgeon alone provided four horses! We had twenty horses and riders; a good, strong dismounted guard at the Law Courts; and a gaggle of helpers and horse holders from our Supporting Riders, without whom we could not operate. This time we managed not to trash the HCMR band, although the State Trumpeters gave us a wobble, and a bit of a ‘blasting'. After the parade the Commanding Officer, Lt Col Simon Garrett, was kind enough again to come and observe our ‘Regimental Dismount', which gets better every year. So we must be nearly military! Thank you, Colonel. Keep coming, and bring your smart friends to watch as well.
The Christmas Party at the Bisley Hut, organised by the SQMS as ever, was an evening of unbridled debauchery, but the singing was thought to have improved slightly this year. Again, as usual, the catering and care we received from Tina was splendid, and we were pleased to see so many friends and helpers, as guests, having fun.
For any who may have read this far, we now have a splendid Military Riding and Skill at Arms evening at Windsor on Thursdays, and a Novice/ Recruit ride on a Friday. This is to comply with the demand from the Active guys to come and ride the Company's horses. The instruction is by the Household Cavalry, so you can be sure it is of a very high standard. DO COME and try. It is quite mild really, unlike the TV show on the Queens Cavalry. You can also put your name down for our Long Cavalry Course starting in the Spring. You won't regret it. If you are a beginner, we can also teach you, without frightening you, to be really good at it. Also, subject to availability of horses, you may bring a friend! Cheap way of giving a lady a thrill!!
A good evening out, with a visit to ‘The Rose and Crown', our local pub, at the end of it. Contact Caroline Quested on 01753 622291 or email@example.com for details and bookings, or contact the Adjutant, The Light Cavalry, CHRLONDON@aol.com.
Gentlemen - Make Much of Your Horses
Note: Pictures of some of these activities can be found in the Photo Galleries on the Light Cavalry website.