Tim Koch produces one of his “Nothing To Do With Rowing” pieces, posted on the grounds that those interested in rowing’s past tend to like military history as well.
Several years ago, I wrote a piece for HTBS based on letters written by Tom Everson, an active member of Kensington Rowing Club between 1928 and 1939 who maintained a great affection for the place until his death aged 100 in 2008. An example of his un-PC and Bertie Wooster-type prose is in this recollection of a Kensington RC contemporary, “Broady” Broadbridge:
A 14-18 veteran, got the MC, had a fixed idea on the absence of intestinal fortitude in all foreigners. Had two daughters that he referred to as his “coxless pair.”
Another of Tom’s memories was that:
Just before the War (we had several members who) belonged to the “Westminster Dragoons”. There was a tendency for “bum freezer” mess jackets to appear at Club Dances. Rude non-military types like me referred to them as “Hyde Park Lancers.”
Last Sunday, 8 May, I was in Hyde Park and, yes, I did see groups of Lancers. Also spotted were varieties of Hussars, Dragoons and Yeomanry. The explanation was that, after a two-year hiatus, Cavalry Sunday, aka the Combined Cavalry Old Comrades Association Parade and Memorial Service, had returned. This is an annual event that honours members of British and Commonwealth cavalry regiments (equine and motorised) killed in service since 1914 and that has some unique aspects to its ceremonial.
In my piece on the last Cavalry Sunday in 2019, I noted that:
Where the Parade is perhaps not typical of other such events is that it contains a disproportionate number of officers and also that it is made up of a mix of current and former servicemen, all in civilian clothes. Officially, the dress is simply “lounge suits with medals and decorations” but, according to the Facebook page of the Army’s Headquarters, London District:
“The traditional dress of bowler hat, suit and tie, while carrying a furled umbrella was the accepted walking out dress in 1920s London when the annual parade started… Although now a stereotype of the English gentleman, the bowler hat was what the working classes wore in the 19th century and was the hat of choice for working horsemen, like our cavalrymen today. (Unlike a top hat) not only does it afford protection from low lying branches but does not blow off in the wind. The umbrellas are carried not in case of rain but carried in place of a sword or pace stick. (When the late Queen Mother) took the Salute on a particularly wet parade she insisted the umbrellas remained firmly furled as a reminder to all that these were soldiers marching”.
The order of precedence in the parade is jealously guarded. The oldest regiments date from the army formed following the Restoration of King Charles II in 1661. Today, there are nine regular cavalry regiments in the British Army plus four yeomanry regiments of the Army Reserve. With the exception of the Life Guards, they are the products of the many amalgamations of historic regiments that have taken place since 1922. The Yeomanry are reserve cavalry that originated with the volunteer units that sprang up with the fear of invasion by Napoleon. A yeoman was a person of respectable standing, one social rank below a gentleman, and the yeomanry was initially a rural force that provided their own horses and that was recruited mainly from landholders and tenant farmers.