The Royal Review, 20th April 2004

With Cavalry, both timings and spacings are variable!
Anonymous Infantry General

BSM Gary Timmins
'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. "Sahibs coming.

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 fray.

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!"

Riding Out
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 of helpers.

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 himself.

"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.

Band of the Light Division
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."

Inspecting the Troops
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 livery.

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.

Receiving the Royal Warrant
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!

Three Cheers for Her Majesty
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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