Museum Monthly Highlights - May 2022
A Brief History of Cavalry Memorial Parade
Every year, on the second Sunday in May, a Parade and Service is held at the Cavalry Memorial in Hyde Park, London. Organised by the Combined Cavalry Old Comrades Association the Parade is an opportunity for cavalrymen, past and present, to remember those who have died while serving in a Cavalry Regiment.
After two years of virtual parades the 98th Annual Cavalry Memorial Parade took place on 8 May 2022. For this month’s highlight we look back in our archives at the history of the Parade, stretching back almost 100 years to when the Cavalry Memorial was first unveiled on 21 May 1924.
In early 1920 a committee was formed to consider a proposed memorial to the fallen Cavalrymen of the First World War. The designer was the celebrated sculptor Captain Adrian Jones MVO, who had served as an Army Veterinary Surgeon for twenty-three years, including on campaigns in Abyssinia, South Africa, and Egypt. Initial designs included a fifty-foot-high Field marshal’s baton, topped with a figure of St George, to reflect the four cavalry officers who had received this honour in the preceding years. This was rejected by HM Office of Works, and instead Captain Jones adopted the principle that the mounted figure had to be, not only that of a saint, but also of a knight as well. The statue depicts St George having slain the dragon and raising his sword to signal that the foe has been vanquished.
It was the first time a figure in full armour had been attempted in London and some details were copied from a bronze effigy of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick from 1454, and the horse was adapted from an engraving of St George by Albrecht Dürer.
The statue itself was cast from guns captured by the Cavalry during the First World War; it is mounted on Portland Stone. Several sites had been considered but Stanhope Gate at Hyde Park was the chosen location.
The memorial was unveiled on 21 May 1924 by Field Marshal John French, 1st Earl of Ypres and the Prince of Wales, accompanied by HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught, Earl Haig and the Chaplain-General to the Forces, John Taylor Smith.
In 1924 Corporal (later Colonel) R J T Hills of the Life Guards wrote in the Household Brigade magazine:
“We can be sure that there will be noticeable in the vicinity of the Stanhope Gate, a steady stream of men, who, whatever their dress, will display that indefinable touch of panache which marks the Cavalry soldier. They will pass by with a throb of pride that the comrades they left in graves throughout the length of our far-flung battle lines are so nobly remembered here in the heart of the Empire they died to make secure.”
In notes accompanying the unveiling, the Committee recorded the outstanding contribution of an 11th Hussar, Brigadier General the Hon Osbert V. G. A. Lumley, writing ‘but for the energy he gave to the work in raising the funds, etc., [the Memorial] might not have materialised for years to come’. Sadly, he died in December 1923, just four months before the unveiling.
Osbert Lumley joined the 11th Hussars in 1881 and was Commanding Officer between 1900 and 1904. Beyond his own service the memorial would have had a personal significance as his eldest son, Second Lieutenant Richard John Lumley was killed while serving with the 11th Hussars at near Ploegsteert on 17 October 1914. His second son, Lawrence Roger Lumley, who joined the 11th in 1916, produced the 11th Hussars Regimental History 1908-1934.
The first wreath laying ceremony was held on 8 April 1925. In 1927 the Combined Cavalry Old Comrades Association (CCOCA) was formed; they have organised the annual parade ever since. The CCOCA Committee has representation from all Cavalry and Yeomanry Regiments. The current King’s Royal Hussars representatives on the committee are John Hart and Bruce Whittit.
After the Second World War it was agreed that that wording on the memorial stone should be added to, and in 1975 ‘And on Active Service thereafter’ was added to commemorate those who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice since the Second World War.
Due to the widening of Park Lane in 1960, the memorial was moved to its present site in 1961. The original backdrop was not reconstructed, and the bronze plaque was mounted on a new granite screen. The Annual Parade has continued for nearly 100 years and is sure to continue well into the future.
The British Pathé archive includes film footage of two interwar Cavalry Memorial Parades of 1930 (left) and 1934 (right).
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