30 members, partners and guests mustered at Epsom Downs car park to be taken by coach to the Combermere Barracks, Windsor.
On arrival we were greeted by a veteran cavalryman, John, and proceeded in an orderly fashion to the museum. John explained the programme for our visit and we were also treated to the inevitable Health and Safety talk by his colleague, Peter. One wonders if the soldiers get such a safety briefing before going into battle!
We learned that the Household Cavalry Regiment is compiled of the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals. The Life Guards were formed by King Charles II in 1660 and is the oldest regiment in the British Army. The Blues and Royals were formed in 1969 and are an amalgamation of the Royal Horse Guards and the Royal Dragoons.
The ranking system in the Household Cavalry is peculiar to all others in the British Army. The sergeants are called Corporals of Horse and the corporals are called Lance Corporals of Horse. For those further interested in the intricacies of the ranking system, complete rundown can be found on the website http://householdcavalry.info/hcranks.html#wos
BRIEFING OF POTENTIAL RECRUITS
The session was followed by a visit to one of the armoured vehicle workshops where some older vehicles were being refurbished and then on to the stables where we witnessed the prime treatment of the magnificent horses.
HORSE WHISPERER TONY – GETS TIP FOR THE DERBY
We then marched to the other- ranks mess for a self-service, inexpensive, tasty lunch with a wide choice of dishes. Those who had done National Service might have been surprised to see that the Captain we had previously seen in the workshop was eating with his men. On questioning it was later explained that this was a time saving issue in that the Captain would have to change into the appropriate dress to eat in the Officers Mess.
Following lunch we were invited to visit the Warrant Officers Lounge and buy drinks. There was a display of trophies and memorabilia. There were also two chairs at mess entrance. We had been previously warned that these were reserved for the exclusive use of the respective Regimental Corporal Majors. If anyone else dares to park their bottoms the fine is drinks all round for everyone present in the Mess.
Before completing our visit we returned to the museum where were introduced to and handled various weapons and item of ceremonial dress. Two members of our party volunteered to act as models to dress up in the ceremonial items. We were all surprised at the heavy weight of the dress and equipment. We learned that the guards can be distinguishes by the colour of the helmet plume. White for the Life Guards and Red for the Blues and Royals.
JOHN’S DAUGHTER – READY FOR PARADE
After bidding farewell, we boarded our coach, bound for the Magna Carta site at Runnymede. Despite the rain, most of our party ventured out to view the various monuments on this historical site of the signing of the Magna Carta. One of the main attractions was “The Jurors”, an artwork by Hew Lock to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John at Runnymede on the 15th June 1215. The work is comprised of twelve bronze chairs decorated and inscribed with symbols and images to represent concepts of law and key moments in the struggle for freedom, rule of law and equal rights.
THE JURY’S OUT
Others of the party also viewed the Magna Carta Memorial (designed by Sir Edward Maufe and erected in 1957 by the American Bar Association), the Kennedy Memorial (commemorated the life of the assassinated American President, John F Kennedy, and set in an acre of land donated to the United States of America by Queen Elizabeth II in 1965) and the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial (inscribed with the names of twenty thousand men and women of the Allied Air Forces who lost their lives in the Second World War on missions and have no known grave. This monument is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission)
Before departing for home we all retired to the National Trust tea room for refreshment. These rooms are in one of the two lodges commissioned by Lady Fairhaven in memory of her husband, prior to donating the site to the National Trust.
Thanks go to Mike Vickars for organizing an interesting and enjoyable day.