King Edward's Horse
Whenever there is a general military parade in London one uniform attracts local notice. It is at the same time ornamental and workmanlike. Khaki tunic; boots and breeches; a wide-brimmed felt sun-hat with a springing feather. The wearers of this uniform sit their horses easily. You can see they are men accustomed to the saddle. As they ride by you never fail to hear the question asked: "Who are they?" Often in the past this has been a puzzler. But as soon as Mr. Hassall's arresting poster has made Londoners more familiar with this picturesque kit there will be plenty of voices to answer, "King Edward's Home."
Ten or eleven years ago, when I first became aware of the regiment, then called the King's Colonials, it seemed to me that no one was inclined to take it very seriously. Most of its officers and the larger number of its men had been through the South African War; there was no doubt of their keenness or their ability to "ride and shoot." For that very reason it seemed unlikely that they would long continue the mild unexciting routine of the old Volunteer Force. That presentiment was not ill-founded. As it began, the regiment exists no longer. But, happily, it did not go under. It only changed its shape.
That its name would alter was obvious. Already ten years ago the implication of "Colonial" was resented. It became the king's Over-sea Dominions' Regiment. A little clumsy, perhaps, but without any hint of that patronage which "Colonial'' wits supposed to convey. Later it was granted the more tripping as well as more honourable title, Ding Edward's Horse. King George has been from the beginning, its Colonel-in-chief, and takes a close interest in its fortunes. Lord Stamfordham, His Majesty's private secretary, took the presidency of its administration committee, on which many distinguished public men serve. Lord Strathcona made it a present of £10,000. Naturally you ask, "Why?"
The reason lay in this. The idea at the back of the regiment had altered. The adoption of universal military service in Australia suddenly enlarged the sphere of its usefulness. From that moment its destiny widened. It was not to remain merely a force which young men from the Dominions could join if they pleased. It was to develop into a powerful link between Australia and Home. In its ranks the young Australian happened to be in England could do his compulsory service. When he went back he could take with him a certificate of proficiency. If he were a sergeant here he would rank as a sergeant there. An English commission would be recognized in the Commonwealth.
SYMPATHY OF THE DOMINIONS.
A fine imaginative development, due in great part to Colonel Fortescue, who commanded the regiment during the perilous years of transition. This gave the regiment a solid basis, a serious part to play, an important standing. The Commonwealth Government fell in with the plan readily. It not only accepts the certificate and allows promotion in ping Edward's Horse to count in Australia; it pays over a grant of five pounds a year for every Australian who takes advantage of the scheme. New Zealand makes this grant also, and if the South African union adopts universal service it will do the same. Thus the regiment finds itself with an assured income - enough to keep its bank balance steady, if not to keep it going altogether. From the War Office it draws a certain amount as well, and it has, in addition, annual subscribers, headed by the King. The Rhodes Trust gives it £250 a year on account of its value to the Empire. Sir Owen Philipps, 'Mr. Otto Beit, Sir Sigismund Neumann, Sir Abe Bailey, Mr. H. J. King, Sir R. Lucas Tooth, Senator Fraser, and Mr. G. F. Godman all contribute to it as an imperial bond.
Week-Ends in the Saddle.
Yet all it gets it spends, and it would be glad to spend more if more came in. So says the adjutant, Captain Wickham, D.S.O., sitting in his office at the Duke of York's School, Chelsea, now the head-quarters of the London Territorial Association. For their drill hall here, their officers' and non-commissioned officers' messes, their men's billiards-room and canteen, their offices, and their share of the riding school they pay nothing. Although they are now attached to the Special Reserve, and therefore not Territorials any longer, they are allowed to live rent free. But this is not their only habitation. There are detachments at Oxford and at Cambridge, always kept up to their strength by Rhodes scholars and other undergraduates from overseas. There is a squadron at Liverpool. In each of these places they have to hire head-quarters, and there is an idea of starting another squadron in Edinburgh.
Another heavy expense is the hire of horses. For the men of this regiment are really trained. They do not turn up on parade twice or thrice a year. They do not content themselves with trotting round on the tan. After they have been passed by Colonel V. S. Sandeman, the commanding officer, they are seen in the riding school no more. All their drills are in the open. In the spring and autumn they spend weekends at Aldershot or Windsor. Here they can get cavalry horses, not only far stronger than jobbed animals, but trained into the bargain. Splendid these tonic days in the breezy pine country, "days of fresh air in the rain and the sun," as the old Harrow School song says. First rate for practice in soldiering too. It does not take a trooper long to master his drill under conditions like these.
Then at Easter and at Whitsuntide come short spells of barrack life and field work at Colchester. Fifty per cent of the strength take part in these, and in the summer camp on Salisbury Plain a much higher percentage. What could be more attractive? Jolly camp-life, moderately hard work; up in the early freshness; astride when the townsman is just stretching indolent limbs in a stuffy bedroom; trotting, galloping, scouting, supplying all the muscles of the body and all the fibres of the intelligence too; returning bronzed and fit and "hard as nails" after the finest change and holiday a healthy man could enjoy. Boys from the Dominions are lucky to have such a chance offered them. Their uniform is given tilt-m. Almost all the expenses of training are paid for them. All through the year they have something to occupy them. And, as an extra to its many other advantages, the regiment is a famous cementer of friendships. A young fellow coming Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, at once meets in the barrack-room troopers from his own part of the world.
King Edward's Horse has passed through storms. It has made false starts, tried to march up blind alleys. But its feet are on the right path now. The condition that its members must really be connected, either by birth or long residence, with the Empire outside the United Kingdom is strictly enforced. Its future is assured: by all tokens it should be brilliant. It deserves well of the Empire. It is living up to its name.
Message from the King.
The Duke of Tuck resided at a regimental dinner which was given by King Edward's Horse (the King's Oversea Dominions Regiment) last night at the Criterion Restaurant.
He said the regiment was an Imperial asset of first value and importance, and announced that he had received the following telegram from the King:
"I am glad to think hat you are presiding at the annual dinner of King Edward's Horse. Please thank all ranks of the regiment for the kind message which you have addressed to me as their Colonel-in-chief. I was much struck by the smart appearance of the Liverpool contingent of the regiment, and look forward to inspecting the guard honour an the occasion of any laying the foundation-stone of the Commonwealth buildings on the 24th.
Colonel Seely, Secretary of State far War, in responding for the guests, promised Colonel Sandman that he would do all that lay in his power to make that splendid body of men as efficient as possible. They were a unique regiment. Sir George Reid had indicated that they were more important than their numbers, right cause them to think. That regiment formed the germ of the great idea for which they hail to work, and that idea, was one Imperial Army. (Cheer.) There must be diversities of conditions and training as there were diversities of climate, but the ideal they should seek for was one Imperial Army for the purpose of safeguarding the great Dominions of the King, and it was fitting that it should be named after the King who was the greatest friend of peace that their generation had known, and that his son should have honoured the regiment by becoming its Colonel-in-chief. (Cheers.) They were the germ of the great idea of the future, and he had no doubt that, as time went on, that thing which they had begun would spread beyond the limits they now saw. All parts of the Empire had made up their minds to share the burden of defence. He was asked to see to it that the ideal should be attained that there should be one man one horse. It was very necessary that they should make sure that the horse supply for military purposes was sufficient, and he could promise them more than two horses for each man when the time arrived. (Cheers.) They had to put the matter on a business-like footing in order to secure that when they had a fine regiment like theirs they should have good horses to ride.
(Cheers.) - London Times, 17th July 1913
Cavalry at Work.
The special correspondent of the London Standard, writing from Andover on 6th August, 1913, thus refers to the King Edward's Horse, to which are allied the majority of the Light Horse Regiments of Australia:
To-day I have had the advantage of seeing another corps d'elite at work - King Edward's Horse, camped at Bulford, over 300 strong, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Sandeman. One wing of the regiment has been working against the other win, in a most realistic scheme of cavalry operations. The idea was that two squadrons were escorting a convoy, which the other two squadrons were out to capture. The whereabouts of the convoy was only vaguely known, and the escort to the convoy were not told from what quarter they might expect attack. It was a genuine case of military "hide and seek," with scope for rapid and skilful scouting work and for subtleness and resourcefulness on the part of the side on the defensive.
Reveille sounded at dawn this morning for King Edward's Horse, and when the squadrons marched out a little later on it was for a job that will last until near high noon to-morrow. It would have been most interesting to have been able to follow the operations of the day. Nothing was stereotyped. The opposing sides had to find one another; but if they didn't manage to do so well, the game went on. I followed as long as I could the probing search of the attacking side, but did not witness the success of their endeavours. Nightfall will not end the operations; the troops will bivouac where they happen to be, and the struggle will go on in the morning.
It will be a test of handiness and adaptability and resource, such as only very good troops could undertake with confidence; but there is no fear that King Edward's Horse will come out of it with anything but full credit. They are by far the smartest mounted regiment that I have seen outside the Regular Army. But I ought perhaps not to say outside the Regular Army, for King Edward's
Horse belongs, not to the Territorial Force, but to the Special Reserve of the Army - and that is in the first line."