The Return of the Hyde Park Lancers

The wreath depicted is of the Combined Cavalry Old Comrades Association and is laid at the Cavalry Memorial in London’s Hyde Park every year on “Cavalry Sunday”. On the right is a Cavalryman (who may or may not be currently serving) in the traditional dress for the occasion, lounge suit with bowler hat and furled umbrella.

12 May 2022

By Tim Koch (text & photos © Tim Koch)

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. 

Young Old Comrades in the event’s traditional dress, including regimental ties. Up to 3,000 serving and former Cavalrymen attended with their families and other visitors.

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”.

It was a warm and sunny day and Hyde Park’s Broad Walk with its long archway of shady trees was the perfect gathering spot. The order for those marching was “RV at your Regimental Standard by 1045hrs”.
The King’s Royal Hussars are easily identifiable by their brown berets and crimson trousers. Prince Albert’s personal livery was crimson, and he granted permission for the 11th Light Dragoons to wear overalls in that colour after they escorted him to his marriage with Queen Victoria. Not exactly The Charge of the Light Brigade but an interesting honour nonetheless.
Old soldiers, old jokes? A Chelsea Pensioner and a member of the Queen’s Royal Lancers.
The gentleman on the centre is wearing a Brigade of Guards tie, the regimental tie of both the Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry. The medal on his right is the Royal Victorian Order which recognises “distinguished personal service to the monarch”.
It is always interesting to see how women interpret what the female version of a suit and tie is. On the left, the tie is Light Dragoons and the medal is from the UN, awarded in recognition of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali. The woman on the right is wearing the Operational Service Medal for Iraq and Syria. Her lapel badge is probably that of the Queen’s Royal Hussars.
They seem terribly young, but I imagine that these boys are currently serving. The two on the left are wearing the Light Dragoons tie. On the sartorial front, they may have tried their best and this probably passes muster amongst their contemporaries. I suppose that I should not be too churlish as at some future point they may put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf.
Men of the Life Guards at their “RV Point.”
Two troopers of the Life Guards, the senior regiment of the British Army. For some reason, probably forgotten, they wear their chin strap below their lower lip, as opposed to the other regiment of the Household Cavalry, the Blues and Royals, who wear it under their chin. 
The Cavalry Memorial or The Cavalry of the Empire Memorial shows England’s patron saint, St George, on horseback standing victorious over a slain dragon. Incongruously, the dying beast has an upturned Germanic moustache.
The Salute was taken by HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Royal Honorary Colonel of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry. Also pictured here are representatives of the armed forces of Australia, Canada and India.
The parade was led by uniformed members of this year’s organising regiment, The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, carrying the standard of the Combined Cavalry Old Comrades followed by the Comrades’ wreath. Wearing the bowler hat is the Parade Commander, Colonel The Lord De Mauley.
Serving members of the Household Cavalry, the Life Guards (white plumes) and Blues and Royals (red plumes). Amongst other duties, they act as the Queen’s personal bodyguard.

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.

The Life Guards are followed by the Blues and Royals. They are the senior regular regiments in the British Army, with traditions dating from 1661.
When passing the saluting base and memorial, the command “eyes right” is given and civilian hats are removed. Once passed the saluting base it is “eyes front” and hats are replaced.
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Their banner is topped with a representation of the French Imperial Eagle that the Royal Scots Greys captured at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The eagle also forms the cap badge which is worn with a black backing in mourning for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, who was Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Scots Greys at the time of his execution. 
The Royal Dragoon Guards. Amongst their traditions is Oates’ Sunday. Captain Oates, of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, became a legendary figure when, as a member of Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic Expedition of 1912, he chose to sacrifice himself rather than impede the progress of his comrades.
Prince Edward takes the salute. To his left are representatives of the armed forces of New Zealand and South Africa.
The Queen’s Royal Hussars. They are the only regiment to sing their regimental quick march as they pass the saluting base: I’m a soldier in the Queen’s Army / I’m a galloping Queen’s Hussar / I’ve sailed the ocean wide and blue / I’m a chap who knows a thing or two / Been in many a tight corner / Shown the enemy who we are / I can ride a horse / Go on a spree / Or sing a comic song / And that denotes a Queen’s Hussar.
The Royal Lancers’ “Death or Glory” badge or “motto” is an uncharacteristically fierce piece of British Army heraldry. Its origins are with the 17th Lancers who were one of the regiments in the 1854 Charge of the Light Brigade.
Royal Lancers “hats off.”
The King’s Royal Hussars. On mess nights, the officers drink from a silver chamber pot that once belonged to King Joseph Bonaparte and had been a gift from his brother, the Emperor Napoleon. It was taken as a prize of war in 1813.
A Chelsea Pensioner marching with the Light Dragoons. It is worrying when such people begin to look relatively young.
The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, this year’s organising regiment.
Although its predecessors go back hundreds of years, The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry is the Army’s newest combat regiment.
The Middlesex Yeomanry bring up the rear.
Prince Edward lays the wreath on behalf of the Combined Cavalry Old Comrades Association.
Prince Edward (centre) walks from the saluting base to the nearby memorial service. On the left is Lieutenant-General Sir William Rollo, President of the Old Comrades. On the right is the Association’s Vice-Patron, General Sir Richard Shirreff. Sir Richard is a former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and, in 2016, published a book titled, 2017: War With Russia. An Urgent Warning from Senior Military Command. Perhaps it is time for a second edition?
The Memorial Service was conducted from the bandstand in Hyde Park.
Some members of the Household Cavalry at the bandstand service.
The service was conducted by the Chaplain-General, The Reverend Michael Parker.
A Lance Guard of The Royal Lancers.
The Memorial Service included a reading of Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen” (1914) which includes the famous lines, “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old…”

My apologies to those units whose pictures were omitted due to reasons of space. Other articles of mine that have “nothing to do with rowing” but a lot to do with the British Army’s dressing-up box cover the Queen’s Birthday Parade, Royal Gun Salutes, Chelsea Pensioners and Knightsbridge Barracks. There was a military/rowing overlap in my piece on the Guards Boat Club.

One comment

  1. Excellent coverage and sharp, candid photos. I’m not a military history fan but this article was interesting even to me. Thank you for composing this piece.

    Raoul Wertz

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