The Royal Review, 20th April
With Cavalry, both timings and spacings are variable!
Anonymous Infantry General
'A’ and 'B' subsections of the Gun Troop HAC, RHA, commanded by Capt Nick
Woolworth, formed up on either side of the saluting base at the Practice Polo
Ground at Flemish Farm in Windsor Great Park on Tuesday 20th April at 1130hrs,
under the watchful eye of BSM Gary Timmins, the two guns going into their
parade positions at the first attempt. One would expect no less. For anyone
wondering why they were there, their participation in the subsequent parade was
an important thread of Regimental history.
The Gun Troop was the successor to the 'Batteries', more properly 1st Regiment HAC,
RHA. Also on parade that day were mounted and dismounted personnel from the
Light Cavalry HAC, including some members of the Veteran Company who had
previously served in the Batteries.
The Light Cavalry originally was formed in 1861 as a further extension to the
Regiment's variety of Arms. Amongst the then duties were guarding the Lord
Mayor, a role taken over latterly by the Company of Pikemen & Musketeers.
In 1890 the Light Cavalry was to be disbanded and absorbed into the rapidly
expanding Horse Artillery element, eventually forming the nucleus of 'A:
Battery, 1st Regiment HAC, RHA.
Twenty‑five years ago the Light Cavalry was re‑formed, primarily due to the enthusiasm of
Maj Gerald Flint‑Shipman, who became its first Commander. Among its ceremonial
duties within the City of London, one is to escort the Lady Mayoress and
provide her 'travelling escort' at the Lord Mayor's Show, while the dismounted
'carpet guard' at the entrance to the Law Courts 'protects' the Lord Mayor's
coach while the Pikemen refresh' inside. This, together with other public
duties which hopefully enhance the public's view of the Regiment, are intended
to act as an additional aid to recruiting for the Active Unit. This day in
April was the celebration of those twenty-five years, and the receipt of a
Royal Warrant from the Captain‑General. Hence the valued presence of the Guns
and the Gunners.
The December AGM of the Light Cavalry was a mild affair with little that seemed
contentious. The mounted element were told that during the early months of the
coming year they would have to improve their equitation skills and that there
would be Section Rides in the indoor school at Flemish Farm with obligatory
attendance! Some hope!
A week later all these plans suddenly went out of the window. It appeared that,
at the Cartier Polo Tournament at Smiths Lawn during the previous summer, the
Captain‑General, herself already a supplier of horses to the Light Cavalry,
inquired of an aide how many horses they now had, as they ranked past her in
salute, having 'Guarded the Ground' prior to the match. The flustered courtier
was about to enlist enquiries when he was told, "Do not trouble. l shall
go and see for myself next spring".
So a certain controlled panic ensued. Inspections in full dress took place, busby
lines remeasured and adjusted, badges and worn equipment replaced, insides of
sabretaches that had never seen a blacking brush suddenly gleamed and the
Regimental tailors offered extended credit terms to those who had not yet
purchased a full dress tunic. The Quartermaster, David Jeffcoat, and the
equipment suppliers Intramark went into overdrive and overtime. The Pakistani
producers of silver lace were stunned by the size of the orders and wondered
what the 'gorra‑log' were up to.
Sheaves of orders thickened, and both the Civil and Military offices of the Regiment
supplied great assistance and counsel. Throughout all this, 'the Management'
remained calm and unflustered as ever.
The first Saturday of April arrived, bringing numerous borrowed additional troop
horses, some being surprised hunters, who thought the season over and a rest at
summer grass due them. Stable staff sweated to try to produce a gloss on a
winter coat that was still growing out, and the polishing and shining was
laborious and continuous. It is worth commenting that all the horses that
eventually paraded were either the property of, or had proper connections with,
or were on charge to, the Light Cavalry alone. Nothing was 'borrowed' from our
friends in the Household Cavalry, or the King's Troop RHA. Not something many
other regiments could manage.
The first attempt at 'doing it' was perhaps doubtful, if not awful. The SSM, Philip
Wright, with many years of Household Cavalry experience, good naturedly soothed
ruffled feathers. One overanxious horse supplier was heard to mutter not very
sotto voce from the ranks, "If that is how it is going to be, I am taking
all my horses home, now," or
words to that effect. Five young men
from the Active Unit, polo players and also Light Cavalry members, discovered
that military riding took just a little more than they had supposed, this being
their first time attempting it. This also applied to one or two others .....
Eventually it settled down and after several attempts it began to come together. So much
so that the next proposed rehearsal, on Easter Saturday, was cancelled. The
final rehearsal on the Saturday before the parade was now to be a full dress
affair for both Mounted and Dismounted, under the watchful eye of our new
Colonel Commandant. On this occasion Lady Granville‑Chapman generously stood in
for the Captain‑General and inspected the parade in a carriage provide by the
Royal Mews. This parade was concluded without drama, even if the carriage did
come rather close to the front rank of horses, and cause some equine nerves to
Towering above all the people who put in such effort to make the final occasion a
success, there is one whose contribution was outstanding ‑ The Clerk of the
Weather. This gentleman decided to
test our nerves with almost incessant rain the week prior. By the final
Saturday it had dried up enough for the rehearsal to take place in situ on the
Practice Polo Ground.
Then he ordered rain for the next two days! However, on the Tuesday morning bright
sunshine greeted us. Damp underfoot, real gumboot weather. The groundsman was
seen wringing his hands afterwards but, as one wag put it, "Well, after
all, it is Her polo pitch!"
Eleven‑thirty on the Tuesday came all too quickly. Having ridden out earlier in the Great
Park to settle the horses and calm the riders, all were now finally inspected
in the Riding School, girths tightened, and a final polish applied by an army
The Gun Troop fell in and the bidden guests assembled. Tickets being very limited
to three per participant, one determined veteran member, a former Pikernan, is
rumoured to have parted with a substantial sum to obtain a spare ticket for
"Walk March"; twenty‑nine horses
walked out of the Riding School in Single File.
"Form Half Sections" and we were
off down the track. "Form Sections",
and we were suddenly on the edge of the Polo Ground where we halted by the side
of the pitch.
Fleur Sanders' good skewbald hunter, 'Hotspur', who so successfully leads our Cross
Country Chase Team, cantered proudly out to the centre of the ground, carrying
the SSM, Philip Wright, here today on his final parade.
"Markers"‑ and they got on Parade.
Gentlemen of the Light Cavalry, Honourable Artillery Company, Walk and Quick March."
Both lots did, separately but together, the dismounted party moving on to their
positions on the edge of the Ground either side of the saluting base, the
mounted onto the Markers in the centre of the field, the horses forming up in
two ranks facing the marquee and the expectant guests. To the rear was the
Transport Section/Troop's wagonette driven by Cpl Roy Barwick and drawn by his
two heavy horses, 'Annie' and 'Fred'.
The parade was handed over to the parade commander. The Adjutant, Reg Howe, who had for weeks been calmly fielding inane e‑mails on
trivial questions regarding the day, and skilfully coordinating everything, now
trotted onto parade riding the 23 year old veteran grey charger, 'James', who
has previously carried Roy Sanders so well in the hunting field. Having saluted
the Parade Commander, he fell in with the serrafile rank at the rear, joining
the SSM, and the Farrier Sergeant with the Axe.
Then we sat and waited. The Band of the Light Division marched on, playing lively
airs, and took their place by the marquee.
The steady beat of a drum was heard afar off. The horses cocked their ears ("Some of us haven't done drums").
A small detachment from the Company of Pikemen & Musketeers had
promised to attend. Onto the Ground marched fifty members with their Colour,
led by fifes and drumbeaters. A stirring sight, and a great boost of confidence
to those already on parade, to be so well supported by friends and former
comrades in arms. They, of course, were there, most particularly, as they might put it, because one of their
number, Pikeman Sanders, was sitting on Officer's Charger 'Harriet', his best
hunter, commanding the parade. They formed up behind the Guns by the marquee,
taking a quiet but important role in the parade.
We waited and .... waited. Slowly two dark green Range Rovers came into view from
Queen's Lodge and eventually the one with the silver labrador (with a pheasant
in its mouth) on its bonnet, containing the Captain‑General, halted just short
of the saluting base. The Colonel Commandant saluted and Her Majesty mounted
the saluting base.
"Parade….Royal Salute ….Carry Swords"
Roy trotted forward, saluted and said, "Your Majesty, the Light Cavalry, are
drawn up and ready. They would be greatly honoured if, Ma'am, you would consent
to inspect them."
Having graciously agreed to the proposal, the Captain‑General entered her carriage,
which is known at the Royal Mews as 'Queen Victoria's Victoria', pulled on the
day by two Windsor Greys, 'Alderney' and 'Pandora', and driven by the Head
Coachman, Colin Henderson, he and his staff wearing their Scarlet and Gold
Having inspected both ranks of horses and the dismounted duties of the Light Cavalry,
The Queen returned to the saluting base. At some stage Her Majesty managed to
drop the Royal handbag, and with a creaking of stays ‑ the General's, not hers ‑it
was retrieved. This was the only 'exciting' incident that the substantial press
corps bothered to record for their readers.
The Mounted Troop then moved off, by Sections, and proceeded to 'Troop to the
Left', passing the saluting base in two ranks, at the Walk, to the tune of The Duchess of Kent, the Trot Past, to
the Keel Row, then somewhat
belatedly, which might have escaped the casual observer but undoubtedly would
not have been missed by the eagle eye of the Monarch (Roy's current address is c/o HM Tower of London), the formation
changed, with a little guidance from the corporals and sergeants, back into
section column for the Canter Past, to the tune of Bonnie Dundee. The knowledgeable amongst the onlookers could be
heard praying, knowing that this was hard to do, and hard to do well, and very
easy to make into a complete mess. Surprisingly, the expert watchers voted this
the best of all the paces.
Coming back to the Walk, the Troop re‑formed in front of the saluting base and it was
now the turn of the dismounted gentlemen to do their bit. Marching in step, on
grass, is not easy, as any infantry parade soldier knows, but a very polished
performance followed and the two separate wings formed up on the left and right
of the front rank of horses. (When this was first tried on the previous
Saturday they had put the fear of God into the leading section of the four grey
horses, who dissolved into tears and scattered, causing mayhem and not a little
bad language in the front rank..) Again , our luck held, and the gentlemen
halted, wisely, a little further off this time.
"In Review Order, Walk and Quick March."
All counted fourteen paces (that's how we do it) and although some bigger
horses have longer strides than small ones, and small blokes as well, magically
we all arrived, and stopped, together.
Her Majesty then handed the Colonel Commandant the Royal Warrant.
"Royal Salute, Carry Swords"; then
permission was sought to march off parade.
"Ma'am, subject to your consent, that concludes the formal part of the parade. May l
have your permission to march off?" (...amazingly, we were not
required to do it all again!)
So off we went, by Sections, to much clapping and acclaim. Roy led us off parade
round behind the marquee where we halted. Six horses and their riders then went
forward under the command of the SSM to meet Her Majesty. Some of the horses
were on generous loan from the Royal Mews and others were horses of interest
that we thought the Captain General might like to see. While the chosen few
were getting lined up, the remainder dismounted and handed horses to helpful
horse holders from the HAC Saddle Club, and Light Cavalry Supporting Riders,
who took them away. The Captain‑General, prior to meeting the horses, inspected
the Gun Troop, the Company of Pikemen & Musketeers, HAC Special
Constabulary, and the Band of the Light Division, who had played so splendidly
throughout the proceedings and not too
loudly to frighten the horses.
Quickly we took our places in the marquee for the 'group photo'. The Captain‑General,
who one suspects has done this once or twice before, broke the ice, when taking
her seat, by commenting that the camera seemed both 'rather old' and 'rather
far away'. The photo call over, we were able to obtain a much-needed glass of
champagne, the other guests having already got stuck in. Then, in a very
informal walkabout, Her Majesty met as many Light Cavalry couples as possible
in the short time available, and chatted to them on a variety of topics. When
talking to the Adjutant's family, Her Majesty spent longer than usual talking
to Miss Zanny Howe, and rightly so. Lt Howe, in very smart Service Dress, had
only just returned on a short leave from Basra, were she is currently serving
with 10 Regiment, RLC. Her Majesty was pleased to get a very up‑to‑date
briefing on the situation there from one of her younger serving soldiers, fresh
from the Front!
The Captain‑General, somewhat muddy of foot, the going being 'good to soft', seemed in excellent spirits and had obviously
enjoyed both the parade and being in the company of one of her Regiments. One
suspects it was better fun than opening a new wing of a hospital. In all too
short a time she was to depart. The Gentlemen of the Light Cavalry formed an
informal line either side of the Royal Range Rover, and gave Her Majesty a
rousing 'Three Cheers'.
On re‑forming inside the marquee, the SSM, Philip Wright, asked the OC Roy Sanders
for permission to dismiss. "No", Roy replied, and then proceeded to
pay tribute to Philip's twenty‑five years' service, this being his final
parade. A rousing and well-deserved 'Regimental Fire' was then given to him.
The parade finally dismissed, we then departed to enjoy a little more champagne
and our picnics, hand in our saddles and headkit, and for several of us to load
our horses for the journey home. The Saddler complained that evening that he
had twenty‑eight dirty bridles lying on his living room floor, and was knee
deep in saddles. Let's hope he cleans them all properly. All in all it was
judged to be a good, if not, indeed, a glorious day. No one had fallen off, or
bolted, an eventuality for which the press were obviously praying. The Captain‑General
got a free glass of champagne, and met some nice horses and a few people, and
we got a Royal Warrant, which we much wanted, and with which we are well
pleased. Thank you, Ma’am, very much.
Note: Many other pictures of the day can be found in the Photo Galleries on the Light Cavalry website.
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