As mentioned in the last post, I’ve recently paid a visit to the Staffordshire Regiment museum near Lichfield. When I first arrived … it was (for an unknown reason) closed! I instead visited Lichfield’s ancient cathedral and was delighted to find therein a number of fascinating artefacts and references to the regiment. Aside from the world wars, references could be found to the Sikh wars, the Boer War, and the 1896 Dongola Expedition in Sudan.
There was a memorial to Hodson of the famed Hodson’s Horse, an Indian regiment that was formed and established its reputation during the Indian Mutiny. The memorial was carved in astonishing detail with scenes in alabaster, and surrounded by allegorical figures. Lances donated directly from the regiment stood around with pennants still attached to their canes.
Up above these lances was a Union Jack flag flown at the siege of Lucknow during that campaign.
Around the corner were memorials to the Crimean, Zulu and other wars. The Crimean War was represented on an elaborate and beautifully carved structure (with a Sphinx atop?) which incorporated a display of medals from the regimental commanding officer.
The Zulu campaign was represented by a remarkable gate mounted with carved wood in the shape of Zulu shields into which were listed all the names of the fallen. The 80th regiment had suffered a catastrophic loss in the campaign at Ntombe River Drift, where an entire company on escort duty was wiped out in a dawn attack by warriors. Only a handful survived, led by a Sergeant Booth who was awarded a VC for his actions. An officer, Lieutenant Harwood, was less conspicuous in his bravery. Though acquitted, General Sir Garnet Wolseley was appalled at the outcome and a statement virtually condemning his actions was read out at the head of every British Regiment.
Even outside the cathedral, evidence of the regiment’s connection to the town could be found. An ancient pub, The King’s Head, was the site of the birth of the regiment. Colonel Luke Lillingston raised his regiment here on the 25th March 1705, the forerunner of the South Staffordshire Regiment. My own grandfather was transfered to this regiment from the Leicesters whilst on service in India and Burma during WWII. So, in a very convoluted way, my own family history has been shaped by the events at this old public house in Lichfield in 1705.
I eventually did make it to the Staffordshire Regiment museum the following day and it was well worth the modest entrance fee. It was packed with fascinating exhibits from the campaigns I’d seen memorialised in the cathedral. There was also a case dedicated to the campaign in Burma where my Grandfather served as a ‘runner’, carrying messages through the jungle. He was originally in the regiment known as the ‘Tigers’ – the Leicestershire Regiment. I think he can hardly have expected to run into a real one in the jungle on his own one night; a Tiger meeting a tiger! They both made a tactical retreat in opposite directions, but that’s another story and I’m digressing…
More posted on those Prussian Hussars soon!