On our arrival we found the regiment, which had preceded us, quartered in the dust hole a term applied to the North camp at Aldershot.

Taken from: Page 301

The dry winds and sands of a place where a great change after the mist and damp of Curragh. Close to us with the tents of the 2nd Life Guards, Between whom and the 14th an old friendship existed, and very soon after our arrival the Corporals Mess (there is no Sergeants Mess in the Guards) sent our non-commissioned officers an invitation to a “free and easy “to be given in our honour.

The mess tent of the Life Guards was a very large one, and everything was done to decorate it and ensure as a hearty welcome. When we assembled there after evening stables, a jolly asset it would be hard to find. The chair was occupied by the Regimental-Corporal-Major of the guards, with our Regimental Sergeant Major on his right hand, and house and guests intermingled down the table.

After we had settled down, a few wraps from the chairman brought silence, and bidding all charge their glasses, he gave the first host of “the Queen“ which was honoured by all standing. Seats being resumed, a song was called for, and our Regimental Sergeant Major opened the evening with “there’s a land that bears all well-known name“ and after that, agreeable to the usual custom, gave a toast, and wound up calling one of those guards to follow.

In this way songs on toast alternated, until at last it came to the turn of our old farrier Sergeant Johnny Walker. He only new one song and could rarely be persuaded to sing, but if he once started he would never stop until he had warbled out the whole thirty versus. The refrain, given in the most comical manner, with his eyes shut and his features screwed up out of recognition ran:

“Oh, call him back,
It will ease the Frenchmans pain,
Ride on to death or Glory, cried Napoleon!“
The song self gave a detailed historical account of Bonapartes doings, omitting nothing from his rise to his fall, and Johnny Walker had precious little breath to spare when he got his hero to St. Helena. He had still his toast to propose, and this was it:
“When War is on and danger nigh,
God and the soldier!‘s all the cry:
When war is over and all things righted,
Gods forgot the soldier slighted.“

Roars of applause greeted him as he resumed his seat, his whole face wreathed with smiles and beaming with contentment. For this white-haired old sergeant was a favourite with everyone, being the last of our old Indian warriors, and the only one left in the regiment who had ridden at the charge of Ramnuggur under Colonel H in 1848.

The chairman now called for order, and when silence was established, rose and said:

Gentlemen of the 2nd Life Guards . It is now my pleasing duty to propose, with full military honours, the toast of the evening: ‘the Regimental Sergeant Major and non-commissioned officers of the 14th Kings Hussars’. Charge your glasses and drink the health of a gallant guests. Then in a stentorian voice he gave the order:

Prepare to Mount!“

Immediately every Life Guardsman rose, glass in hand, and placed his left foot on his chair.

Mount!“ Rang out the word of command.

Simultaneously each individual sprang up and brought his right leg on the table, and in this position drank our health with musical Honours.

When the ceremony was concluded, singing was resumed, and one of the youngest sergeants – a noted lady-killer in his way- gave us, “Her bright smile haunts me still“ a trifle through his nose, and for his toast propose the following, which is not unknown in the Hussar regiments of the Army:

“Here to the Hussar, and the Hussar’s charms,
And the pretty girl he holds in his arms.
May he be rammed, damned, jammed,
And cast into the north corner of hell
The door locked, the key lost,
Not a blacksmith to be Found
Within a mile of the ground
To let the man out speak ill of the Hussar!”

And he then resumed his seat, and eased his fatigued nose in a beaker of grog.

A few more songs and toast went round before our Regimental Sergeant Major rose and called on us to return the compliment paid us by the Guards; which we did with similar ceremony – for mounting the table, glass in hand, was a custom long in Vogue in the 14th.

After this the loving cup was produced. This piece of plate had been brought over from our mess for the occasion, having been presented to us years before by the 2nd Life Guards in token of amity and friendship. It was filled and passed round until it had completed the circle of the table. And in this connection I may mention that for years a custom existed in the 14th – and no doubt still exists – of sending the loving-cup round the mess table every New Year’s Eve, when the health of the 2nd Life Guards was drunk. And no matter in what part of the world we were quartered, a telegram, wishing them a Happy New Year, was always forwarded, often times flashing the message over thousands of miles of land and sea.



A regimental website for veterans of the 14th/20th King's Hussars


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