Lieutenant Robert Flint 'Bob' Drake, 10th Royal Hussars (PWO)

In early 1915, Lieutenant Colonel T T Pitman, Commanding Officer of the 11th Hussars, took a photograph of the graves of a group of British cavalry officers buried  in the small Belgian town of Ypres. Three of those commemorated were officers of the 10th Hussars, a regiment which, 55 years later, was to amalgamate with the Eleventh to form The Royal Hussars (PWO).

The three officers of the Tenth were Captain the Honourable Arthur Annesley, Lieutenant Robert Flint Drake and Captain Clement Henry Peto and all of whom had been killed in the closing stages of the First Battle of Ypres – Annesley on 15th November, Drake and Peto on the 17th. Annesley was killed by shell fire during an otherwise quiet day, while Peto (“shot in the head”) and Drake both fell while repulsing a German attack on trenches the Hussars were holding near the village of Zillebeke. In the same action, ten other ranks were also killed.

The fourth grave in the picture is that of an officer of the North Somerset Yeomanry (a mounted regiment of the Territorial Force, which arrived to support the hard-pressed regular army in late 1914). Captain Eustace Lyle Gibbs was 29 when he was killed in the trenches outside Ypres on 10th February 1915.

Born on 30th April 1892, Robert Drake had been commissioned into the 10th Hussars on 4th September 1912, joining his regiment in South Africa. On the outbreak of war he had sailed with them to England and arrived in Belgium with the 6th Cavalry Brigade on 8th October. Initially they were to take part in the defence of Antwerp, but this proving impossible, the Brigade retired to Ypres where it arrived in time to assist in the defence of that place.

At that point the Germans were close to breaking through the hard-pressed British line, and it was the arrival of units such at the 10th Hussars, part-time soldiers of the Territorials, and regiments from the Indian Army which helped save the day. The 11th Hussars, under Colonel Pitman, were also pitched into fighting as infantry in this desperate struggle (they had even suffered the ultimate indignity for cavalrymen of being issued with bayonets!).

Annesely was the oldest of the group to die, being born in August 1880 (joining the Tenth – also in South Africa – in April 1900), while Peto, born in July 1884 joined the regiment in February 1904.

In the HorsePower museum archives we are fortunate to have some relics of Robert Flint: on display is his “Death Penny” (the bronze memorial plaque given to the relatives of all those who fell in the Great War), while currently in the reserve collection are a grave marker erected on his grave (slightly different to the original photographed by Colonel Pitman) and the wonderful cartoon of him in full Hussar dress in 1913. One can only marvel at the difference between this gorgeous display of military finery and the muddy Belgian grave a little over a year later.

In all, 214 officers and men of the 10th Hussars lost their lives in France and Belgium during the course of the Great War in a campaign which can hardly have been more different to the expectations of those men who landed in Belgium in 1914.

Lieutenant Robert Drake's temporary wooden grave marker as held by HorsePower Museum
Lieutenant R. F. Drake's Commonwealth War Graves Commission Headstone, Ypres Town Cemetery