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Cavalry training manuals to go on display at SOFO

Cavalry training manuals to go on display at SOFO

1891 Cavalry Drill manual; loan from Blenheim Palace archives

Four cavalry training manuals from the collection at Blenheim Palace are due to go on display at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock in November 2021 including a copy of Field Service Regulations (1905) signed by Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. These manuals offer an insight into the manoeuvres and training of cavalry regiments including the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars (QOOH), and will help tell the stories of Winston Churchill’s regiment.

Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, and joined the Woodstock squadron of the QOOH in November 1901 following his service with the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars and 21st Lancers in India and South Africa. Many of the Officers in the squadron were members of Churchill’s family, and after moving to the Henley squadron he quickly rose up the ranks to become Captain in 1902, then Major in 1905. Following his appointment to First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911 Churchill stepped down from his commanding duties, yet he maintained a strong interest and affiliation with the regiment until his death in 1965.

Winston Churchill display pod at SOFO

The QOOH had one of their permanent duty training camps at Blenheim Park, where soldiers would practice military skills ready for a potential outbreak of war. As Captain then Major, Churchill was heavily involved in training the men in cavalry and military techniques.

OXFYT:976 QOOH camp at Blenheim Park, 1912. Copyright Army Museums Ogilby Trust.

Winston wrote to his wife Clementine from Blenheim Camp in 1911 – ‘We all marched past this morning – walk, trot & gallop… After the march I made the General form the whole Brigade into Brigade Mass & galloped 1200 strong the whole length of the park in one solid square of men & horses. It went awfully well.’

As well as practising various manoeuvres, the men took advantage of their settings at Blenheim by taking part in sporting contests and social activities. Photographs in the Oxfordshire Yeomanry Trust collection show the QOOH on parade in the palace grounds, camping near the Column of Victory, and letting their horses drink from the lake.

OXFYT:1071 The QOOH training camp near the Column of Victory at Blenheim Park c.1911. Copyright Oxfordshire Yeomanry Trust.

The four cavalry manuals date to 1891, 1902, 1905 and 1912 and will provide an insight into the training and manoeuvres that shaped Winston Churchill’s military career, and helped prepare the QOOH for their many actions in the First World War. They will go on display at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in November 2021.

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