On 4th August 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany. HorsePower contains a slightly unusual memento of the pre-war period – a page from the illustrated magazine The Sphere of July 1911 depicting the Crown Prince of Germany, Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst of Prussia, Colonel-in-Chief of the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own). His Imperial Highness had been made Colonel-in-Chief by King George V in May 1911.
On 28th June 1911 the Eleventh were based at Shorncliffe Camp when the Crown Prince paid a visit to England. The boat train made a special halt at Shorncliffe, where the Crown Prince, accompanied by a large retinue, was met by Brigadier General the Hon Edward Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, the commander of Shorncliffe Garrison.
The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry formed a Guard of Honour at the station, and their band played the German National Anthem. Mounted on a “striking-looking chestnut horse” the Crown Prince rode to Sir John Moore’s Plain where he received a Royal Salute from the 11th Hussars, who then marched past at the walk and then the trot, before forming into line and advancing at the gallop in review order.
A “sumptuous lunch” followed before departure for a polo match at 2.45 pm in which a team representing the 11th Hussars, and including the Crown Prince, defeated Shorncliffe Garrison 8 goals to 4. The Crown Prince was very popular in the regiment for his good nature and lack of formality – he was, according to the Regimental Journal, “a universal favourite with everyone he has come into contact with.”
Sadly the outbreak of war saw this connection come to an end. All links with the German and Austrian royal families were severed, and the Royal Colonelcies were terminated. In other regiments such as the 14th (King’s) Hussars, the war led to a change of regimental badge. The Fourteenth ceased to wear the Prussian eagle as cap badge in 1915 and although the badge was reinstated in 1926, its use was not officially authorised until 1931.
Crown Prince Wilhelm, as he was known, was placed in command of the German 5th Army on the outbreak of war, a post he held until November 1916. After his father’s abdication, Wilhelm went into exile in Holland, but returned to Germany in the 1920s and initially supported Hitler. However, his support seems to have been aimed at restoring the monarchy and when it became clear what Hitler’s aims actually were, Wilhelm retreated into private life, dying of a heart attack in July 1951.
His eldest son, Prince Wilhelm, died of wounds serving with the German Army in France in 1940.
In addition to the press photo, we also see here a photograph of His Imperial Highness in his Prussian uniform, and a group photograph of the officers of the 11th Hussars with their Colonel-in-Chief, taken on 28th June 1911. Three years later the colourful uniforms were abandoned and just over seven years later their royal guest had gone into exile.