Cavalry Manoeuvres, July 1898


In June 1897 the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own) returned from a spell of six years in Ireland where they had been involved in the difficult and unpopular task of maintaining peace amongst the local population. In September 1897 the regiment arrived at Canterbury, one of the most famous cavalry barracks in the country.

Towards the end of June, a detachment from the regiment took part in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria, ably demonstrating that their years in Ireland had not reduced their ability to manage the ‘spit and polish’. However, they were soldiers, so it was vital that the regiment could undertake the job they were really there for.

It was from Canterbury, then, that on 1st July 1898 the regiment departed to participate in the summer manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain, as part of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Colonel J D P French (later to command the British Expeditionary Force in 1914). The Brigade comprised the Composite Regiment of the Household cavalry (a regiment formed of squadrons from each of the three Household Cavalry regiments) and the 1st Royal Dragoons (the 10th were to serve alongside both regiments in the Great War).

The regiment travelled by train from Canterbury to Grateley Station and then marched to Bulford Camp, where they prepared for the forthcoming exercise.

As part of the Cavalry Division, the 10th were amongst a total of 54,000 men who undertook training across Wiltshire through the whole of July and August – one of the biggest such tests ever held. Alongside the war-training, there were also ceremonial occasions: on the 8th September, all 54,000 men were inspected by the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army (Field Marshal Lord Wolsey), and in early July the regiment had been inspected by the Inspector General of Cavalry.

These were the days before khaki became the uniform for ‘battle dress’, so the Hussars would still have worn blue uniforms with braided fronts, although the fur busby (the uniform still worn by King’s Troop on ceremonial occasions) was replaced by a round, pill-box, hat for active service. Their weapon would have been the sword, along with a carbine (a small rifle) for dismounted action. In HorsePower Museum you can see items of clothing worn and weapons carried from this period.

The roles of the Hussars would have been many and various – scouting, acting as a screen in front of the army to protect it from enemy cavalry, as a rearguard in the event of withdrawal, and – most important of all – as shock troops, charging the enemy in the event of a major battle.

Out of interest, the Private soldier of the day would receive 1 shilling and twopence a  day (about 6 pence today), while a Corporal received around 2 shillings (10 pence), and a sergeant 2 and 8 (14 p). From these amounts various deductions were made for food, accommodation and clothing items.

The 10th used the manoeuvres well and returned to barracks in September 1898. A year later they sailed for South Africa, where war had broken out with the Boers. They were to win two Victoria Crosses and several other awards, with several Battle Honours (now displayed on the Guidon of the current regiment). They were not to return to the UK until October 1914, shortly before heading to France and the horrors of the Western Front.