The Light Cavalry


Having gone past the Editor’s deadline for the Spring Journal it was impossible to include two sad passings from our number, just before last Christmas: Bob Lamble and John Palmer, two well-known and well-liked Light Cavalrymen. Bob died suddenly, at his desk, running the business that has supplied us, and most of the rest of the British Army, with the impossibly expensive accoutrements that we wear in Full Dress. We always had a preferential price from him, and his expertise in the minutiae of matters military was greatly valued.  John was always a great supporter of the Light Cavalry, and a founder member. As with everything to do with the HAC, he gave his best, and indeed his support continues


One of the many advantages of joining the Light Cavalry is that you can be assured of a fine send-off when the time comes to shed the mortal coil. For Bob, in the sleepy Birmingham suburb of Solihull, we surprised the residents, going about their business, by marching through the town, with swords drawn. The Chief of Police had told us to keep off the road, so we marched on the pavements.  For John, with a very large turnout of the Great and the Good from the Company to impress, we formed opposite the church in Bramley, amazingly in the yard of a pub! The Adjutant bravely held up the traffic on the A 281, and again with swords drawn, we crossed, like Mr Valiant for Truth, over to the other side.  Research fails to reveal that we have the Freedom of either of these hamlets, but it is always worth a try.


Under our guidance, on 25th February young men from the Active Unit again enjoyed a day’s hunting with the Cotswold Hunt.  This is reported on elsewhere.


The buzz-words in the New Year were twofold.  Rome, where some of us planned to watch the Pikes at work with the Guardia Svizzera, and where the transport was Light Cavalry co-ordinated (except where the Italians got involved, when it very definitely wasn’t anything to do with us!).  The OIC Transport, Rome - Capt Reg Howe - reputedly took a holiday after that one.


More importantly, for us, Cornwall, a small, far-off country of which we know little. The Lord Mayor, being Cornish, decided to visit the land of his forbears, taking with him his Pikemen, and not unreasonably his Lady Mayoress. Where she goes, there goes we.  Five days’ ‘holiday’ on the Cornish Riviera, some thought. Bathing outfits were purchased, sun lotion applied.  Alas, this was not to be. We were to attend at the Royal Cornwall Show, a mighty, prestigious event, where not only was a Mounted Escort required to escort the Lady Mayoress, in her carriage, onto the Show Ground, and into the Main Ring, but we were required also to show off our Mounted Musical Ride, twice a day, The Gentlemen of the Light Cavalry, and their ‘Ladies’. As if this was not enough we then had to demonstrate Skill-at-Arms, or tent pegging, as well. It is one thing to do this at a small local show, but at an event with most of the country’s top horsemen watching, to say nothing of very Senior people, made the Adjutant, and the Remount Officer, both very pale for some time. Thank God for Caroline. Thank God for Paul Allison, our mentor and guide in these things, and for the added presence of SSM Philip Wright, who, being an old soldier, is taking a long time to ‘fade away’. They both had done it ‘for real’ with the Household Cavalry, so we were well advised. A more detailed report of this outing follows this article.


For some time there has been uneasiness in the ranks. As we sat and quaffed our pints, and pulled on our pipes, or cigars, or drank our port, we knew we were lacking something in our lives. Eventually someone was bold enough to actually raise the topic. Girls!  Now let it be said there are many of us that enjoy a trim ankle, and that sort of thing. Most of us have wives, some of us have mistresses. The very rich ones, apparently, have both. We have Caroline, without whom we could not cope, taking marvellous care of our stables. We have excellent helpers, our supporting riders, most of whom are ladies, and jolly useful they are too, when it comes to something like the Lord Mayor’s Show, when they ‘pretty up’ the horses for us; and indeed they added glamour to our display in Cornwall . We are an equal opportunity employer; we even have our token ‘disabled’, in the form of Sandy Rogers, who tells us he will be completely ‘sound’ when the other hip is done.  But what we wanted was a ‘jolly sort of girl’ who could be a ‘bloke’, be ‘one of us’, to slap on the back, and that sort of thing. You know what I mean. (All too painfully clear.  Ed.)


So anyhow, it was decided to get one. (We thought that one, to start with, would be wise.) But where would we find someone who would want to listen to war stories, and the like, bore with the best of them and drink whisky on a par with the Quartermaster Sergeant.

Only one place.  The Squadrons of the Regiment. (No wonder the LC is so popular.)


We put out feelers, trawled though the Squadrons, and eventually we got down to a short list, and, after much persuading, Trooper Lenore Russell (HQ Sqn) volunteered to be the first female (sorry, Lady) Light Cavalry ‘guinea pig’. Of course, it is not quite an open door. She was summoned to an interview, which was probably tougher than any she had experienced before, and probably more politically incorrect. But after due deliberation we were able to persuade her that it would be a good thing. She is a great asset to the Light Cavalry, particularly on account of being about half the age of most of us.  She rides enthusiastically and well and is keen to parade with us, whenever her other military duties allow – indeed, making the effort to come on the Cornish visit.


Enthusiasm for equitation on our horses, at Windsor, among younger members of the Regiment continues.  There is even a Learners ride on Sundays now, I believe. If it goes on like this we shall have to get a new Charter to increase our quota. Certainly you will learn better there than you ever would with Cheryl and Tracey in the local riding school, and at less than half the cost. I hear the Commanding Officer’s fund will, until it runs out, refund half the overall cost of the course - if you Pass Off!  Go for it.


A note of caution.  Learning to ride requires effort and commitment, and that means coming regularly, and working hard.  Only eight of the fifteen who started the first course were Passed Out.  Try harder.  No - try much harder, Gentlemen.  There are possibilities of some Active Unit members being allowed to ride out regularly, exercising from Knightsbridge Barracks with the Household Cavalry,  a great privilege given only to a few. But first, you have to have passed off our Cavalry Course to apply. That’s the one after the Novice Course.  Don’t miss the chance!  A rare opportunity.  But you have to be able to ride, properly, and turn up regularly, and get out of bed on a Sunday morning, to learn how to do it.  So you do not disgrace our Regiment.


More positively, a number of young army cadets from Bearwood College, with whom we have an association, had put the time and effort into the Riding Course, and all passed off.  The average age was about twelve!


The mounted duties that we perform - with the ever present support of those, dismounted, who endure a long day in the Royal Box - at Smith’s Lawn, had some interesting variations this year. The first, the Queen’s Cup, was commanded by the Cornet; the Coronation Cup, by the Lieutenant; and the Cartier, by the Officer Commanding, each officer with the trumpeter in close attendance, as ever.


On the Queen’s Cup, having his first mounted parade with the Light Cavalry, William Murray { 3 Sqn} had his name taken: not for idleness, but it seemed that his friends had collected the right bits of kit for him, shined them, and put them on him correctly. He was awarded ‘Best Turned Out Trooper’! Well done. What fun dressing up is!


At the Cartier Polo, the Household Cavalry had absented themselves due to a technical hitch; well, that was how it was described to us!  So it fell to us to carry the national flags for the two teams. As the New Zealand national anthem was played, Gareth Thomas lowered the flag, something which he had not rehearsed with ‘Sally’. Troop Horse ‘Sally’ got a bit confused with the instructions, and thought that this was the moment that she was supposed to gallop round the polo pitch, so that all could see whose anthem it was! Well ridden, Gareth; at least the crowd thought that it was fun, but we were really disappointed that Fred Southey declined to do the same thing for England.  


Our Ladies Night, a warm night, as ever excellently organised by David, was well attended, and it was pleasing to see several young soldiers there; we must be doing something right. But we lacked the presence of the next Lady Mayoress, whom we usually meet on this occasion. We understand that she and the present Alderman below the Chair will be dining with us in September.


These notes are being finalised as we return from the Chertsey Agricultural Show

where once again the Light Cavalry put on a dashing display of Skill-at-Arms. We now look forward to our Annual Inspection, in mid-September, this year by GOC London District.


Parish notes: Graham Oxenham is announcing his engagement to Kim – congratulations to both.  


Make much of your horses.