Some 20 years, ago I was fortunate enough to gather around me a like-minded group of cavalry enthusiasts who were prepared to work hard (and play hard, bless ’em…) in pursuit of a high standard of historical cavalry reconstruction.
For my part, I’d been enthused by the experience of taking part in the 125th anniversary American Civil War re-enactments in the US and felt that mounted displays – parades and skill at arms, as well as battle re-enactments – could be undertaken in the UK in a variety of periods, if the backing was there. Our initial forays into American Civil War re-enactment in the UK bought us to the attention of Howard Giles, Head of Special Events at English Heritage. It was his support – more than any other factor – that made it all possible. At this time I was also began to undertake commercial work – television documentaries and the like –without envisaging that one day, my hobby would turn into my job (with all the mixed blessings that can bring!)
In the last 20 years The Troop has been lucky enough to travel the world, providing mounted displays in the Crimea, Africa and Europe as well as in Britain. The unit in its Victorian guise represented the modern Queen’s Royal Lancers regiment of the British Army (successors to the 17th Lancers) at the 150th anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Valley of Death (an undertaking that, in the event, involved disconcerting quantities of wild horses and strong drink. Inevitably, in the Ukraine – a country already on the brink of civil war – it also required dealings with all sorts of local officials and shady characters… and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Zululand also had its challenges and rewards – including astonishing battlefield rides at Isandwhala and the opportunity to gallop from there to Rorkes Drift.
At the invitation of the Household Cavalry, The Troop rode before Her Majesty the Queen on Horseguards Parade in our incarnation as the 1st Royal Dragoons 1815 – mounted on Cavalry Blacks provided by the regiment (a rare honour for a re-enactment group). It was of course as the Royal Dragoons that the chaps (with a little help from some Germans and under the overall command of a colonial Iron Duke) trounced the Corsican Ogre at last year’s remarkable Waterloo Bicentennial.
The Troops most recent foray has been into the late C17 period – the time of The Merry Monarch Charles II and his less kindly remembered brother. This period has enabled us to retain our Royal Dragoons identity by recreating the Regiment in its early years, at the time of the Battle of Sedgemoor.
To that end, we recently undertook a photoshoot on behalf of Helion for Steve Ede Borrett’s new book on The Army of James II. A pleasure to do so, as Steve’s research work over the years has been a great source of inspiration to many including – once upon a time – a teenage wargamer from Invercargill, New Zealand!
Within the Restoration period, The Troop has also taken great pleasure in recreating the bewigged gallants of the King’s Lifeguard; a gig that inevitably involves horse racing and dirty great flintlock pistols (sometimes in the same race).
In 2017 the Troop will be participating in the fabulous ‘Soldiers of Killicrankie 1689’ event in Scotland (see www.soldiersofkillicrankie.co.uk for more details). It’s a bit of a haul for many, but a brilliant community-based event and a fabulous opportunity to experience the dramatic battlefield that saw ‘Bonnie Dundee’s’ decisive Jacobite victory. We hope to see you there!