A Tenth Royal Hussar – 1879-1913
Captain Roland Pillinger is the oldest (and boldest) serving Tenth Hussar. In the midst of his strenuous life he has found time and opportunity to study French, Hindustani, Pushti, Persian, Bridge and other languages, dead and alive, especially live ones; he also edits the Gazette, so I must be careful.
He practices shorthand and has a long memory. It is believed, by the young, that he is a vegetarian and a tee-totaller. He has been an enthusiastic Tenth Hussar since the first of his birthdays, of which he boasts three: natural, official and Regimental. In return he is regarded by as all as the most cherished Regimental Institution. Long may he flourish.
My Grandfather, Major Pillinger, joined the Tenth Royal (Prince of Wales Own) Hussars in Canterbury in 1879 and moved to Rawal Pindi in 1880 when the Regiment had just returned from was fighting in Afghanistan.
To get the timeline into focus, my Grandfather’s first wife, Blanche, whom he married in 1885, registered Pancras, died in 1910, and is buried at Elham in Kent. In an entry in the XRH Gazette dated October 1910 there is an editorial entry stating:
On the 20th July a cable was received announcing that Mrs Pillinger had died that morning, at her home in Folkestone. Many an old Tenth Hussar will be sorry to learn of the occurrence, especially those with whom she was associated in her early days with the Regiment. Those days go back to October 1885 close on quarter of a century, and since then with the exception of the South African War period, Mrs Pillinger had accompanied the Tenth in all its changes of station. Residence in India had enfeebled her heart and she was invalided home, leaving us so recently as the 22nd April last.
A N.-C. O. Of the Regiment, writing of her, strikes the key-note of her character, declaring “Mrs Pillinger will ever be remembered as a Lady invariably cheerful, large-hearted, and ready to do a kind turn for anyone.”
Captain Pillinger gratefully thanks all those of the past and present Tenth, and many friends in Mhow and Rawal Pindi, who have so kindly expressed their sympathetic condolences and regrets.
Captain Pillinger left for 90 days leave at home on the 14th September.
There were no children from this marriage. He married a second time, Doris Blanche Baker in 1920 and my Father, another Roland, was born in Bombay, India, within months of the marriage. My Father died in November 2010. Major Pillinger died when I was just eighteen months old, in 1951, therefore I do not have any memories of him.
Having served with the 61st Foot, later to become the Gloucesters, for over three years, and attaining a rank of Sergeant, it would appear that a notice was displayed in most of the home-serving regiments, appealing for replacements of the 142 men who were lost to the Tenth Hussars, whilst fighting in Afghanistan in 1878-9. (Details of this can be seen in the Preface, and the Regimental History tabs.). It therefore may not be the case that Roland bought himself out of the 61st and tried civilian life for a couple of weeks, but had two weeks at home before transferring to the Tenth,
Roland enlisted with the Tenth at Canterbury, and remained there, receiving basic cavalry training for less than a year.
I have come across a report in the XRH Gazette from October 1910 from an Old Tenth, then farming in Western Canada, who joined at the same time as Major Pillinger, and sailed for India on the same ship and describes a little of the early years in the Regiment until their return to England in 1884. I copy an extract of the article here word for word as it was written in 1910 (the “present Quarter-master” referred to below being Major Pillinger):
Over thirty years ago’ and with the present Quarter-master, I left Canterbury in the “Malabar” and sailed for Bombay; our destination – singularly enough – being Rawal Pindi, where the Regiment is again stationed as I write this. The trouble in Afghanistan – where as we all know’ the Tenth Hussars had been extremely busy, had sustained heavy losses, not only in fighting, but by sickness and calamity crossing the Cabul River at night, had ended. We fellows from England marched into Pindi – on foot, of course – one Sunday morning as the Regiment was returning from Church, and immediately after “Dismiss” was sounded, found ourselves to be in most hospitable hands. But that goes without saying. The station proved soon, however, to be full of malaria. There was at that time (I sincerely hope it has been very different this time.) hardly a ruddy face or a decent appetite in the entire Regiment. Untouched meals out of number were thrown to the hawks. These had a real good time, while the troop bungalows were full of the men shivering under piles of blankets and coats and making the very bed-cots rattle under them through attacks of fever and ague. Rightly or wrongly I attributed this state of things mainly to the fact of the very large amount of transport – including many sick cases – through Pindi from Afghanistan at the time. But it was soon altered; the “route was in”. We were in the saddle and on the line of march. Very soon indeed we were feeling like ourselves again, and behaved like it. We had a good time; we had the harmless necessary canteen; plenty of the social and musical at evening; and in their opinion, I believe, of everyone of us, the entire arrangements made by the then Quarter-master and those under him, were perfect – camping, cooking, horse-lines, forage, watering, distances, camp sites and all. On the way, and at or near Mian-Mir and Lahore, we stayed to take part in a big Durbar – a very “swell” time at which the late Marquis of Ripon, the Vicroy of India, met many resplendent Native Princes. We then proceeded to Lucknow! – Tremendously interesting Lucknow! Every step one can take around it telling its tale of the Mutiny days, so splendidly borne by all concerned – men, women and children – and so splendidly overcome! I cannot help saying just that much by the way. At any rate for some three years the Regiment flourished – just a large happy family – at Lucknow, somewhere between 1881 and 1884, and certainly my own recollections of Lucknow and all that happened there – excepting only one occasion and rather “touch and go” illnesses – are and always will be the happiest. At length the report went round “Routes in for Belati” “Roll on the smoke”, and so on and down to the station we went, the band ahead of course, and, if possible, the more jaunty and “steppy” and lively than ever it made us all. Off to Bombay to embark on the “Jumna”.
This was six years into a deployment to India which lasted in total ten years. Major Pillinger seems to have flourished in India, and was appointed orderly room Sergeant within three years. He left India in 1884 when the Regiment was to return home, on the troop ship HM Jumna. On their way past Aden they were called into the port by the supply vessel “Amberwitch” and ordered to take on new supplies and travel to Trinketat in the Soudan to aid the Egyptian Government in the relief of garrisons at Sinkat and Tokar.
The Old Tenth once again takes up the narrative:
Out to sea, and as everyone on board was justified in supposing at the time, and under the circumstances (the special circumstances of all perhaps being the fact that at Lucknow we had handed our horses over to the 17th Lancers) that we were making for “Belati” direct. But it was not to be. We had reached as far as some point in the Red Sea. I observed a Royal Navy pinnace come along side us, a large official looking envelope handed up. I heard the Regimental call of the Tenth and the next I saw of that envelope was when it was waving aloft in the hand of our elated and excited Colonel “Rammy” Wood. (I use the nick name in all possible respect for one whom, if severe at times, was just, and who was heart and soul in his Regiment). It was General Parade on deck and the news given at once by the Colonel was “Men we are not going home after all! We are going to land and fight!”Well, I have heard and taken part in considerable cheering in my time; but never in my time have I heard a cheer which for heartiness came near those which came from the throats of the “Tenth” on that particular and – to all present – memorable occasion. Homeward bound or not, the chance of more “scrap” was a consideration coming before all others. The puzzle to all – in groups about this vessel – was how we were going on without our horse? Meantime, Colonel Valentine Baker, who once commanded the Regiment, but was now under the Khedives Government, came on board. Again the cheers were immense. He tried hard, indeed, to address his old Regiment – in which he had been a brilliant Officer – I saw that effect and those tell tale twitches. We all quite fully understood how it was that that would-be speech was – a failure. Well, we landed. The question of mounting us all was soon settled. We first “busted” Egyptian ponies and saddlery into shape and were wheeling in troops and doing all sorts of familiar things with them in no time. Then we just got ready and from camp at Trinkitat we went inland. We met Fuzzy-Wuzzy at Teb and Tamia and caused some rejoicing at Tokar by relief of some people who had been apparently shut up in that smelly place for a long time and who came to meet us rather excitedly I thought, and carrying with them a large green flag. Some of them kissed “Rammy’s” jack-boots. Probably they were pleased to meet him, and it struck me that he was imagining, for some reason, that for the moment he was in the hunting field again. Anyhow, it was the finish of the run for us. The Soudan fighting is all recorded elsewhere. Suffice it, therefore to say, we soon afterwards embarked again, preceded to Portsmouth, and thence by train to Shorncliffe.
That air there, and the summer of 1884 more really fine – just what we wanted coming from
India. And Folkestone so convenient after evening stables! Well the parade of the Regiment while at Shorncliffe was that at which the late King Edward (then H. R. H. The Prince of Wales) came down with the Princess and distributed the Soudan Medals (27th June 1884).I remember that particular date, although not good at dates, because that medal was, in my own case, a “birthday present” and is valued as such and always will be, by myself and family.
For the following four years the Regiment’s life was marked by several inspections from Colonels, Dukes and Princes, and a daily life of training, parading and sports events.
16th July 1884 – Inspection by Col. The Hon E G Curzon
30th July 1884 – Inspection by Major Gen. C Frazer VC Inspector General of Cavalry
25th Sept 1884 – 47 men left Portsmouth for the Nile Expedition
29th June 1885 – Left Shornecliffe for Aldershot
3rd July 1885 – Inspected by Major Gen. Sir Drury Lowe KCB, Lt HRH Prince Albert Victor quartered in barracks
19th Aug 1885 – Inspected by Field Marshal HRH The Prince of Wales with Grand Duke Hess
12th May 1886 – Inspected by Sir Drury Lowe KCB
Spring 1886 – Point-to-Point with Horse Guards, Team: Hon George Bryan, Mr Hughes-Onslow, Mr Baird, Mr A Lawley, Mr Kavenagh. The Tenth won, 1st. Hon G Bryan, 3rd. Mr Hughes-Onslow
14th July 1886 – Marched out for three days for cavalry raid training with no equipment
3rd Nov 1886 – London. 4 officers, 127 men, 132 horses, Lord Mayor’s Procession, Regiment introduced Nordenfelt Machine Gun
31st Mar 1887 – Moved to Hounslow Barracks
22nd Apr 1887 – Inspected by Major Gen. R Gipps CB
14th May 1887 – Lined streets from Paddington to Holborn. Queen opened Peoples’ Palace, East End.
21st Jun 1887 – Queen’s Golden Jubilee Lined Streets from Buckingham Palace to St James Street
9th July 1887 – Jubilee Review. Aldershot
13th Sept 1887 – Lt. Col. Viscount Downe CSI appointed Commander
9th Nov 1887 – Capt. Greenwood, Lieut. Hughes-Onslow, 126 men to the Lord Mayor’s Procession.
6th April 1888 – Inspected by the Duke of Cambridge
April 1888 – Grand Military Meeting. Winner of the Gold Cup: Mr Fenwick’s Bertha ridden by Mr Hughes-Onslow – United Services Hunter’s Plate: Winner: Mr Hughes-Onslow – Grand National Race at Liverpool: Lt Baird
4th May 1888 – Moved to York
8th Sept 1888 – Inspected by Major Gen. Sir Drury Lowe
25 Sept 1888 – Inspected by HRH Duke of Cambridge
Summer 1888 – Won all 12 cricket matches. Team included Capt. The Hon. H Allsop (Ex. Cambridge) Mr Hughes-Onslow (Ex Eton)
18th March 1889 – Field Marshal HRH Prince of Wales assumed command.
20th March 1889 – HRH inspected troops. Regimental Point-to-Point, Won by Mr Hughes-Onslow.
24th Aug 1889 – Inspected by Sir Drury Lowe
Summer 1889 – E Troop won White Rose Rowing Cup
21 Sept 1889 – Inspected by HRH Duke of Cambridge.
These dates have been taken from The Regimental History written by Col. Liddell, but here it stops, and nobody really took up the history of the Regiment from that point, thus making research much more difficult. From York the Regiment moved to Curragh in Ireland and their period of service here was reported to be an exceptionally quiet period, with no unrest that they had to deal with, and the Regiment seems to have been split somewhat, thus making training difficult.
From the last posting in Ireland, at Newbridge they moved back to Aldershot and thence Canterbury in 1897; from there they moved to Aldershot and on to Liverpool where they boarded a transport ship, the ill-fated HMS Ismore to carry the Regiment to the War in South Africa.
It would seem Major Pillinger performed well in the Boer War, 1899 to 1902, as he was Mentioned in Despatches on two occasions, and was made Regimental Quarter Master and Honorary Lieutenant by the time they left for another tour in India in 1902.
I have posted almost two hundred more photographs of the Regiment, mostly taken by Major Pillinger, in the Portfolio section and these pictures give a very different feeling to the atmosphere about the Tenth
They are all much more relaxed and there is no hint of action anywhere. Sport is a major topic in the newly enacted Regimental Gazette, with big game hunting for the Officers and summers spent in the Mountains. The Regiment’s polo team was to rein almost supreme, winning the Inter-Regimental Cup on seven occasions, with a still unbeaten run of six wins in a row. Many wins at cricket, running, boxing and many other sports added to the elite atmosphere that surrounded the Tenth, where a commission was costing upwards of £10,000 per year, one of the most expensive regiments in the army.
From this point I will let the valedictory in the Regimental Gazette, and Major Pillinger’s obituary in a later issue say the rest. He was clearly a very staunch and upright product of the Victorian era, who took a “Cold Tub”, as mentioned in his obituary below, until his doctor ordered him to cease, as my Father recounted, at the age of 84. Father added that, on an evening when the weather was very cold and the pipes in the house were likely to freeze, Grandpa would run his “cold Tub” before retiring to bed!
Richard C L Pillinger
Thanks must go to the following for their help in providing information:
Horsepower Museum, (Steve Broomfield Archivist.) Peninsula Barracks, Winchester. – www.horsepowermuseum.co.uk
Jessica Douglas-Home. Author of “A Glimpse of Empire” – www.aglimpseofempire.com
Alan Weeks Esq. John Fergusson Esq
Anna-Maria Hajba, Glucksman Library, Limerick University – www.longwaytotipparary.ul.ie
From the Tenth Royal Hussars Gazette Issue no. 24, 1st July 1913
The retirement of Major Pillinger after 34 years of continuous service in the Regiment makes a gap that we can hardly realize. The Officer’s Mess, the Quartermaster’s Stores, the daily function at office, in fact the whole barracks seem unreal without him.
There is a depressed feeling throughout the Regiment, and every phase of its routine, for we have suffered a very great loss. That we should all be influenced, to the extent that we are, by the absence of one individual is not surprising considering that we have none of us ever known, or considered the possibility of, the Regiment without “Pilse”.
It will be some time before we realize that he has left us for good, and many a day before we feel a complete body without his well know figure and cheery face, upon which we had come to look as an institution as unchangeable and permanent as the Regiment crest itself.
Beside the loss of a very dear friend, Major Pillinger’s departure deprives us of a great and real link with the Regiment as it was in the (18) ‘70s and ‘80s- for although the Old Comrades Association is a very great bond, we lose the one man who up until now could boast as having served as 10th Hussar from ‘79 in India to the present South Africa tour.
If Major Pillinger’ whose memory rivals that of “Datas” and whose sense of humour is proverbial, would give us the benefit of his reminiscences by instalments in the Gazette, the anecdotes and experiences of 34 years of Regimental life, would not be carried away with him and lost to his many friends in the Regiment past and present. When General Kavenagh conceived the idea of starting the Gazette during his command, he realized, without a second thought that the one man who could fill the Editorial chair was Major Pillinger. Without doubt there is no one who could have collected the same amount of news of old Tenth as our late Editor has always managed to do. He seems to have been in intimate touch with every officer and man who has ever served with us, and brought the new production to the top of the tree of Regimental papers from its very first issue, which place of honour it has kept ever since, owing to his untiring energy.
No one can realize the amount of work Major Pillinger has put into the Gazette, yet the hours of typing and deciphering of illegible scrawls of contributors, in no way hindered his other work or interfered with his evening Rubber of Bridge, without which to him no day was complete. It can only be supposed that many gallons of midnight oil have been expended for our benefit.
The Gazette has been Major Pillinger’s joy and justifiable pride, and through its columns all ranks take the opportunity of wishing once more “Goodbye” and the most sincere wishes for a long and happy future to the staunchest 10th Hussar perhaps of any time, who has made the Regiment his lifelong devotion and one we know will never forget us.
Suffice it to say that of the several thousands who have passed through the Regiment during Major Pillinger’s Regimental life, there is not one to whom the word Tenth can have meant more, or even as much, as it has always meant to him.
This is without doubt reciprocated, for there can never have been another member of the Regiment who has had the same number of intimate and affectionate friends that he has accumulated in his 34 years of service.
His arrival at the Regimental or Old Comrades Dinner is the signal for the Tenth of every age and rank to press round him, all genuinely delighted to see him and anxious to shake “Little Pilse by the hand.
That his popularity is by no means confined to the stone age or the days of the shock tactics was very obviously shown him as his time amongst us grew short…………..
……………. He served under the following Colonels Lord Ralf Kerr, E Wood, Liddell, Lord Downe, Manners Wood, Fisher, Alexander, Byng, Kavanagh, Vaughan, Barnes.
Adjutants: Sandes, Lord Airlie, Lord A Compton, Byng, Lawley, Barclay, Brand, Dawnay, Pelham, Mitford, Annesley, Palmer, Stewart.
All Tenth Hussars are exceedingly pleased to hear that after a short leave at home Major Pillinger goes to Cairo where he takes up the duties of assistant secretary to the club. The climate, after so much Foreign Service, is sure to suit him and the club is to be very much congratulated in its good fortune in securing him. No doubt, General Byng, who always knows where to find the right man for the right place is responsible for this appointment.
Major Pillinger will still be among soldiers and have round him General Byng, Capt. Annesley, and occasionally Capt Gibbs so he will still be in touch with the Hussars. In conclusion we all unite in saying “au Revoir” to the kindest and best of friends and assure him that we, like him, can never forget.
When you look back and think about some friend you have known well, who has perhaps permanently or temporarily passed out of your everyday life, his memory is probably brought into relief by some characteristic which was peculiar to him. One cannot think of “Billy” without thinking of polo—or “Daddy Moon” without thinking of cricket—and the subject of this small article inevitably brings to your mind that great attribute of character. There is nothing more true than the fact that success in any walk of life is chiefly determined by character; no brains and no amount of work will make up for the lack of it. In this respect “Pilse” is a standing example, which should be an incentive and example to every Tenth Hussar from the Colonel to Everett, the band boy. A good example is an enormous help, and here we have a excellent one in a man we all know well.
If you look around you and take note of your fellow men, you will find that a man who excels in anything has always got a lot of good in him; it is always easy to be second best but much harder to be best! Well, there is no doubt that Major Roland Pillinger “excelled” in what he took up. He started at the bottom and finished at the top- – the very extreme top that the short sighted regulations would allow him to; he couldn’t go higher—so you may fairly say that he made the most of his life, and that was largely done by character—so let every Tenth Hussar take off his hat to him.
With such an example to us all, I think that it would be a thousand pities not to learn what we can from it—For the good of the Regiment that we all love so much, I hope that some anyhow now in it, will be fired to emulate him. I wonder how many of us will be able to say at the finish that we have achieved as Pilse did, the very H.P.S.
It is not for me to attempt, in this little article to enumerate the various incidents and successes in the Career of our late Quarter-Master—That is better done elsewhere—I am merely trying to state what I think of him as a man, because I am sure there is so much to be learnt from him.
“Loyalty”, “Love of Regiment”, Steadfastness of Purpose” – what magnificent qualities they are, and how well “Pilse” fulfilled them. And perhaps less magnificent, but more human, was the warmth of his heart towards his comrades of all ranks, his one desire being that they should all be worthy of the Regiment.
Though he has now left us, his memory will, I am confident, be a help to the Regiment for all time.
From The Tenth Royal Hussars Gazette 1952
Obituary – Major Roland Pillinger
We were deeply grieved to hear of the death of that great old Tenth Hussar, Major Roland Pillinger, which took place at his home in Folkestone on the 14th February 1951.
Major Pillinger was born on 13th May 1860, and his soldierly instincts must have developed at an early age, for, despite the efforts of his parents to guide him into the paths of civil engineering, he became a 10th Hussar on 28th April 1879.
His subsequent service with the Regiment in a active service capacity continued until 1913, during which periods “Pilse” as he was more familiarly known, rose by sheer force of character from Private to Major and Quarter-Master, which at that time was the highest rank he could possibly attain.
Then Major Pillinger retired in 1913 the Commanding Officer, General Barnes, wrote an appreciation of him in the Gazette. In it General Barnes described him as being a man of outstanding character, whose example every Tenth Hussar would do well to emulate.
Those Tenth Hussars, who have read the Regimental Gazette since its inception by General Kavanagh in 1907, owe a debt of gratitude to Major Pillinger who was its first editor. Under his enthusiastic and able direction it rapidly became an established Regimental success and grew steadily in both size and popular appeal. The extremely high standard he set has been a model and an incentive to those who later succeeded him as Editor.
It is not too much to say that “Pilse” was loved by all ranks and retained a wonderful warmth of heart for all the many friends that he made during the 34 years with the Regiment.
From the reveille cold tub, which he never missed, to the after dinner game of bridge, “Pilse” devoted every moment of his time and every ounce of his prodigious energy to the welfare and honour of the Regiment. The best-fed Regiment, the Best Dressed Regiment, the most efficient Regiment and the happiest Regiment—those were his ideals and all his friends acknowledge that he contributed towards their attainment. The evidence of the measure of his success can be found in the glorious Regimental records of his time.
One of the contributing factors to his long life was the constant care and devotion of his charming wife. At the age of 90 he had the misfortune to have his house burnt to the ground, and lost many of his much cherished souvenirs and records. Although greatly distressed, the little man retained his cheerful outlook on life, and was deeply grateful for the sympathy shown by his many friends.
Loyalty and love of Regiment combined with steadfastness of purpose and warmth of heart were the supreme qualities shown by this staunch Tenth Hussar—- one of the staunchest perhaps of any time.