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The Drum Horse in the Fountain
by Christopher Joll and Anthony Weldon

The Drum Horse in the Fountain is a glorious cavalcade of individuals who have helped to write the colourful history of the Household Division. From a richly illustrated tapestry that encompasses nearly 400 years of derring-do in all corners of the world, the authors have imaginatively condensed this well-researched account into twelve entertaining chapters, each themed by an eclectic aspect of this unique military institution.

And unique it is, no better described than by HRH The Duke of Cambridge when he inspected the 1st Bn Grenadier Guards and 2nd Bn Scots Fusilier Guards prior to their departure to Canada in the winter of 1861/62. ‘Some say we pet and pamper these choice troops, but when danger looms near we treat them as a Spartan mother would treat her favourite child - we send them to the first point of danger’.

Inevitably, some names have slipped through the net. Major-General Sir Henry Bentinck, KCB, formerly Coldstream Guards and Commander of the Guards Brigade in the Crimea, issued his own medal to selected members of the three Guards regiments at a time when insufficient official awards for gallantry were available. It is no accident that the VC medal ribbon is the same colour!

There were thinkers as well as doers. Major-General E Burnaby, Grenadier Guards, who had been a young company commander in the Crimea, came up with the idea of the British-European Legion, a prototype of today’s call for a Pan-European army. Later seconded to the Ottoman Sultan, he scored another first in organizing international aid for the victims of the devastating earthquake that hit the Lebanon in 1870.

Although hidden in the shadows of the intelligence world, Colonel Johnny Bevan, MC, Coldstream Guards, merits a place as Head of the innocuously named London Controlling Section for his significant contribution to Allied strategic deception. Likewise, Bill Stirling, Scots Guards, David’s elder brother, who played an energetic role in M.I.R., setting up the Special Training School at Lochailort, Tommy Langton, Irish Guards, who became a legend in the SAS and SBS, and Sir Stephen Hastings, Scots Guards, all deserve mention.

Nevertheless, from such an extensive list to choose from, the authors are to be congratulated on their excellent selection.  With a following wind, Volume Two of this informative and immensely entertaining book will hopefully see the light of day.

For instance, there is a whole hidden history of officers who travelled the globe in the 19th and 20th centuries, so a section on Painful Peregrinations awaits. General George Pereira, CB, CMG, DSO, Grenadier Guards, leads the charge - British Military attaché in Beijing before the First World War, he went on to become one of the great Central Asian travellers and died on the road to Tibet in 1923 aged 58. And Oliver Shepard, Coldstream Guards, of the 1979 Transglobe Expedition, surely warrants a place on the podium as does intrepid walker Harry Bucknall, Coldstream Guards.

This is a book that belongs to all the Household Division and the authors deserve our thanks for showcasing many of those who created its legacy of excellence, distinction and, of course, eccentricity.

Alan Ogden

Published by Nine Elms Publishing

© Crown Copyright