Friends and Pets – Animals of the 11th Hussars up to 1914

For our September monthly highlight, we take a look at some of the animals and pets kept by the 11th Hussars. Many animals passed through the ranks of the 11th Hussars, so we have picked a few of the more notable characters.

Crimean Bob

Bob started his military life as a troop horse on the 22nd October 1833 when he joined the 15th Hussars. He was transferred when the regiment proceeded to India, and started his new life with the 14th Hussars. It wasn’t until 1838 that Bob finally joined the 11th Hussars, with whom he would gain his reputation.

Bob went to the Crimea with the regiment in 1854, and was present during the Charge of the Light Brigade. He remarkably made it through the charge, and the rest of the campaign unscathed. In fact miraculously he was never stuck off as sick once during the entire campaign!

Old Bob finally died of old age at Cahir on the 9th November 1862. It was presumed he was 4 years old when he first joined the army, making him 33 at the time of death. Not bad at a time when troop horses were sold out of service as “old and worn out” at the ages of 15 to 17! Much of this is attributed to the careful care and attention given to Bob by Farrier Sgt Maj J Dyke. It was only by special favour from HRH the Duke of Cambridge that the regiment were allowed to keep Bob into old age.

He was buried with full military honours and the tombstone from the barracks at Cahir which marked his grave can now be seen at HorsePower, the Museum of The King’s Royal Hussars.

Boxer –

It’s not clear the exact breed of dog that Boxer was, but he was described as “a cross between an Irish or Welsh Terrier and an Airedale”. He was first discovered in 1854 by the first draft of men heading to the 11th Hussars, already by this stage en-route to the Crimea. A soldier in that draft gave the following account of Boxer’s arrival. “On our journey to the port of embarkation, a rough, long-coated, half-starved dog, encouraged by the kindly notice of the soldiers, joined our party at once, and accompanied us to the battle field.” Boxer was also present during the Charge of the Light Brigade and sped alongside his galloping comrades towards the Russian guns. He made it through the charge unharmed, and remained with the men throughout the war through thick and thin. This made him a favourite amongst the regiment who returned from the Crimea with him. Boxer even had his own Crimea medals which he proudly wore on his custom shabraque. Boxer was most certainly a sentry’s friend and probably prevented many a court martial! He would always go round each sentry position when he heard the Orderly Officer approaching the guardroom to check each man was alert (And wake them if they weren’t!).

In later years Farrier Sgt Maj J Dyke took to Boxer, so much so that he was considered his dog. When Farrier Sgt Maj Dyke was taken ill, poor Boxer was in a sorry state around the barracks for days. When the Farrier Major died, Boxer followed only a few hours later.

Bhalu –

Recruited into the regiment in April 1914 aged only two months old, Pte Bhalu the bear had been bread in Russia and belonged to Captain R M Stewart-Richardson.

Bhalu was ‘posted’ to A Squadron and quickly became a favourite amongst all ranks of the 11th Hussars.

Bhalu was no ordinary private however and certainly held an air of importance, but like any young bear certainly had bad habits! A warning was given in 1914 “Woe betide those unfortunate enough to leave documents about, for he has quite a happy way of selecting the most important, and either destroying or devouring them”. He also liked to go AWOL from barracks in Aldershot and on one occasion even had to be rescued from under a motor bus. This must have given the locals a bit of a shock I’m sure, it’s not often that Russian bears are found around town!

Clearly an extremely popular member of the regiment, Bhalu helped collect large sums of money for charity at events such as the Royal Naval and Military Tournament at Olympia.

When the Great War broke out in August 1914, the regiment had to leave Bhalu behind as they headed to Belgium. He was left in the care of Clifton Zoological Gardens (now Bristol Zoo). He still remained as popular as ever and did his bit for the regiment by collecting thousands of cigarettes from visitors, which were then sent to the 11th Hussars at the front. Whilst at the zoo, Bhalu was named Demerara or Demorrah, for reasons unknown.

Sadly, Bhalu was never to re-join his regiment, and remained with the Zoo until he died on the 25th November 1935. The regiment were sent to Cairo in July 1919 and then onto India in 1921 so wouldn’t have been able to look after him as they had in Aldershot.  

Billy –

Billy was the pet lamb of D Squadron when the regiment were station at the Curragh, Ireland around 1905. Billy was one of many lambs that roamed the fields surrounding the barracks, but was never actually owned by the regiment. The regimental journal noted, “He took more liberties than any man of the Squadron dared to do.” This was often shown at meal times, when he would walk up the stairs to the mess rooms and help himself to the bread box!

“Jock” Grant of the regiment was especially taken with Billy, so much so, that he would carry a pocket full of corn around just for his favourite lamb! They could often be seen together lying under the veranda on a sunny afternoon, in the company of many of the regimental dogs. 

Billy was often found to ‘use his head’, much to the dismay of an orderly sergeant who found himself lying on a bag of lime after Billy had butted his way through.

When Billy passed away, his death was not in vain and he provided a meal for the men of the squadron. Although it was said that he was as tough in dinner as he had been in life!