“……will DEPLOY to CORNWALL…….”


The words of the OC the Light Cavalry caused a chilly silence as they rang out to the assembled ‘O group’ sitting listening intently in the Medal Room on Tuesday 30th May.  “On 7th June, eight days from now, The Light Cavalry Battle Group will deploy on operations to Wadebridge, Cornwall.”


The well-kept secret was now out. Only eight days to go! The well oiled machinery slipped effortlessly into gear.  Heronden Transport, the preferred choice of both the Household Cavalry and ourselves, with the splendid driver Jock in attendance, was called up to transport horses from Flemish Farm. Our two horse-drawn vehicles were dusted off, bulled, and placed on lowloaders.  Hunters who were having a quiet time, after one of the best seasons ever, following the hunting ban, now hock deep in lush spring grass, were dragged in, protesting. The Light Cavalry Quartermaster’s Department checked and loaded equipment, weapons and stores.


For some time now the word was that something was up.  We always train hard to fight easy, and we had been training…very hard. But as no word came from above, we were in a sea of doubt and uncertainty. We knew it could not be Iraq - they are not quite that short (yet) and, more to the point, our own man in Iraq (SSgt Stephen Christian Martin), just returned from a six months’ stint there, had reported that it was not ideal horse country, due to the sand etc.


Now, at last, we knew, and the training intensified. Eight days! Oh dear! Panic!


The real reason for going, it was explained to us, was that very large crowds, some said over 40,000 a day, were expected to converge on Wadebridge for some ancient festival or other, and we were needed to ‘Keep the Peace’. Moreover, our own Lady Mayoress wanted to go and see for herself. As we are sworn to protect her there was no option.  The Light Cavalry Battle Group was to consist of Mounted Troop, Transport Troop and Dismounted Troop; the Flemish Farm stable staff, Caroline, Jonathon and Carly, helped by Su Burrows, and also Ashish Singh, who is about to become a recruit to the HAC Specials; and four lady Supporting Riders. In close support, but likely to be detached for other duties, was the Central Band of the Royal Air Force.  A large enough force to test the spud peeling, sandwich- and tea-making skills of SQMS David Jeffcoat and his helpers at our forward position. We were also delighted to share our camp with a detachment of the Company of Pikemen & Musketeers commanded by Richard Ward, on duty to protect the Lord Mayor, whose idea it was that the City should come to Cornwall.


Because this was a security operation, we were all to be billeted at RAF St.Mawgan, with the exception of a twenty-four hour guard on our compound, Baldrick Lines at Camp Blackadder, Wadebridge, our forward position.


The following Wednesday came all too soon; tunics that had languished unloved and crumpled at the bottom of cupboards were dusted off, and other vital items of equipment found, or hastily borrowed.  At 10.00hrs from several secret locations all over the southern part of England, vehicles roared into life and in tactical groups departed for the main RV.


The movement to Cornwall was uneventful, and unnoticed, and un-remarked by the press.  That evening’s briefing explained what we had to do. Win the hearts and minds of the people of Cornwall, and any insurgents that had slipped unnoticed across the Devon border, over the next three days. Although our swords were sharpened, as were our wits, it was our particular military skills that it was hoped would keep the lid on a tricky situation. By our displays of Drill, Musical Ride, Skill at Arms with sword and lance {which should put the fear of God into them}, Horsemanship, and general military bearing it was hoped we would win the respect of the good people of Wadebridge.

The Pikes, when they display, have it fairly easy. Clamber into the coach, endless pit stops to refresh, a little parading, and go home (one does get that impression. Ed). Moving a dozen or more horses, their rations for five days, and equipment, including a wagonette, the Wagon GS, and two sets of heavy horse harness, with all the attendant helpers and their requirements is a logistical nightmare, and takes time, and money. We were told we caused a tailback as far as the M4!


A few particular memories come to mind. The Lord Mayor of London was expected to visit the Horse Lines at some stage, a plan that was changed eventually, as is not uncommon, but we wished to be prepared.

Provost Cpl, to recently admonished idle trooper, “Come ‘ere you!”    

Yes, Corporal.”

“What are you?”

 “You said I was a horrible idle dirty trooper, Corporal.”

“No you are not – you are now the Lord Mayor of London.

Get outside that gate and come in like a Lord Mayor.”


“HALT – state your name and business.”

 “I am the Lord Mayor of London, and I wish to visit the Honourable Artillery Company.”

Cpl to the Orderly Officer: “It’s the Lord Mayor of London, Sir. ‘E wants to come in.”

Harassed Orderly Officer: “Oh for God’s sake let him in then….”



Same group, a day later:

“Enjoy the party, Corporal?”

“Oh yes, Sir. I met a very nice young lady. Said she had been in Camp all the time. Never seen her before though.”

 “In a pink dress?”

“Yes, that‘s the one.”

“You idiot, I heard you giving her a telling off, yesterday, for idle sword drill.”

“Oh dear.  A trooper.  Mmmm . They do look different with their clothes on, Sir!”


 Some of the ‘civilians’ with us found the custom of wearing headdress in the Mess Hall apparently hilarious; at least, for some reason or other, they screamed with girlish glee and delight. As the old sweats know, of course, if you are ‘On Duty’, you may, and strictly speaking are entitled to, push your way to the front of the Mess Hall queue, fully accoutred, armed, with your hat on, so you may get back on duty.  It also can mean that you wish to be left alone with your thoughts, and not spoken to, unless, of course, you are dining formally in the Mess.  It is also worth mentioning that there were ‘No Complaints’ to the Orderly Officer’s question as to the quality of the food. Indeed the ‘Master’ cook, a boy aged about 19 years, was summoned, trembling, and told it was “Excellent. Carry On”.


Our Mounted Musical Ride is really quite good, but we had an attack of the Cornish gremlins. On the first day, the Ride Officer had to explain to the Nobleman, the Show President, who was taking the salute, that the clever trick of the unravelling horse leg bandages was not meant to be quite the same as the Red Arrows coloured smoke trails, but it seemed to heighten the crowd’s interest!  We managed better when it came to the tent pegging, with Antony Doggett and Paul Allison successfully lifting the final pegs with the coloured streamers attached, although the crowd had more amusement with a display of Cossack riding by Sgt. Doggett, whose girth could have been just a teeny weeny bit tighter.  Fred Southey, who had only taken up the sport four days earlier, proved a dab hand with the lance, and scored several strikes. Jonathan Elliott, on a horse he had never ridden before, proved skilful with the sword, jumping the fence and spearing the peg simultaneously.  All this seemed to please the friendly and cheerful crowd.


The ‘Lord Mayor’s Procession’, a re-creation of the November City of London activity well known to the Regiment, was demonstrated but once on the Friday, in the Main Ring, to mark the visit of the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor, Alderman David Brewer, who was bread and buttered in Cornwall. This was well done, well organised, and well received.  Well, it would be: it was run totally by the HAC.  This also included about two hundred and fifty ‘marching’ City Liverymen, who had all been given a very fine lunch by the Lord Mayor and were ‘in good spirits’. The HAC Parade Marshal had some trouble organising them; he was hoarse for days after. All went well, barring a near overturn of the Mayoral carriage, thankfully nothing to do with us. The good people of Cornwall had a fine sight of fine carriages, marching troops, mounted escorts, and the Pikemen & Musketeers, who added gravitas to the occasion and to whom we were pleased to offer the use and hospitality of our meagre dwellings and stabling, for changing and refreshing.


It should be mentioned that Cornwall made us welcome, and particularly General Sir Richard Trant, a former Colonel Commandant, who entertained us, the Pikemen, and notable locals, most royally, in company with Jonathan Treffry, a member, whose magical home at Foy - The Place - where the party was, had only recently been occupied by his family. 1130 AD or thereabouts, I think it was! A number of ‘old West Country Comrades’ were in evidence, and came and visited us, including Bill Hebblethwaite, Gordon Cumming, Richard Haslam Hopwood, to name but a few.


It is probably better to say little more, in words, as it will only be edited out (you’re not kidding. Ed), but one hopes that the space left will allow for a plethora of photos showing what a fine thing it was.


Sartorius Verbosius