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The 19th Century. From the ccrimea to the boer war.(part two)
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The 19th Century. From the ccrimea to the boer war.(part two)

The Household Cavalry was not active abroad until 1882. The first Household Cavalry composite regiment went to Egypt to suppress a nationalist uprising. The highlight was to be their charge at Kassassin. 'I can imagine no more splendid sight than this moonlight charge of our fine fellows on their black horses,' observed Captain Reginald Talbot of the 1st Life Guards. This action stirred popular imagination back home and gave The Household Cavalry an enormous boost after so long without action.

In 1884 the three Household Cavalry regiments and The Royals formed the Heavy Camel Regiment in an abortive expedition to rescue General Gordon, trapped in Khartoum by a Sudanese sheikh who had proclaimed himself Mahdi.

The 19th Century. From the ccrimea to the boer war.(part two)

Chocolate box given as a gift by Queen Victoria to the troops in South Africa.

The 19th Century. From the ccrimea to the boer war.(part two)

A soldier of the Heavy Camel Regiment in the Sudan. [Household Cavalry Museum Collectionj

The main action was at Abu Klea when the British formed a square (allowing them to defend themselves from all directions at once and inside which the camels were kept), which repelled the Mahdists with heavy losses. However, Colonel Frederick Burnaby, commanding officer of The Blues and a hugely popular national figure, was killed.

The 19th Century. From the ccrimea to the boer war.(part two)

(Painting courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery)

The Boer War (1899-1902) saw a second Household Cavalry composite regiment and The Royals sent to South Africa. They helped relieve the siege of Kimberley, fought successfully at Paardeberg, and covered enormous distances on the South African veldt; 'abominable country for cavalry to manoeuvre in'. The composite regiment's horses suffered appallingly. Only one, Freddy, survived (see page 35). The Royals in three years' continuous campaigning lost 3,275 horses, six for every one they had taken out in 1899.

The Zetland trophy.

When Lord Zetland left The Blues in 1874, he omitted to give the customary leaving present to the officers' mess. When asked what he was going to do about it, the very rich Zetland casually remarked, 'Oh, buy a piece of silver and put it on my bill'. The officers duly commissioned from Roskell & Hunt an enormous, somewhat grotesque but equally magnificent, centrepiece that took four men to lift and cost the then astronomical sum of L1,000.

The 19th Century. From the ccrimea to the boer war.(part two)

Coloner Fred Burnaby, victorian adventurer.

Burnaby, commanding officer of The Blues, was one of The Household Cavalry's great eccentrics. An enormous and very strong man, he once carried two ponies down the stairs of the officers' mess in Windsor, one under each arm. Joining The Blues in 1859, and finding peacetime soldiering dull, he travelled to Khiva, deep in the Tsar's troubled central Asian territories, because the Russians had forbidden foreigners from going there. The book he wrote became a best seller. He campaigned in Bulgaria, got caught up in a revolt in Spain, crossed the channel by balloon, and was a journalist and would-be politician. Lionised by his soldiers, he was not meant to be in the Sudan when he was killed at Abu Klea in January 1885. He met his end in a manner of which he would have approved; speared to death, facing overwhelming odds during ferocious hand-to-hand fighting. When news of Burnaby's death reached London, the nation was plunged into a frenzy of grief.

The 19th Century. From the ccrimea to the boer war.(part two)

Kassassin, Egypt, September 1882. With only moonlight and gun flashes to guide them, a brigade consisting of the 7th Dragoon Guards and Household Cavalry rode to victory against heavy fire from rebel Egyptian artillery. [London Illustrated News, Household Cavalry Museum Archive]

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