THE STORY OF SEFTON

SEFTON served with the British Army for 17 years from 1967 to 1984, coming to prominence when he was critically injured in the Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings of July 20, 1982. Eight soldiers on ceremonial duty were killed in two IRA bomb blasts. The first blast, in Hyde Park, killed two soldiers and injured 23 others and the second explosion, in Regents Park, less than two hours later killed six soldiers instantly and injured a further 24 people.

In the first incident a nail bomb in a blue Austin car was detonated as members of the Household Cavalry made their way to the changing of the guard from their barracks in Knightsbridge. Seven horses were killed or so badly maimed they had to be destroyed. Another device exploded underneath the bandstand in Regents Park as the Royal Green Jackets played music from Oliver to 120 spectators.

Regimental commander, Lt Col Andrew Parker-Bowles, ex-husband of Camilla Parker-Bowles, the current Duchess of Cornwall, raced to the scene of the first blast on foot. Arriving quickly he met a groom leading a severely wounded horse, Sefton. Blood gushed from a huge hole in the horse’s neck and Parker-Bowles instructed the groom to take off his shirt and stuff it into the wound. Unfortunately the groom had sustained his own injury in the bomb blast, a four-inch nail pierced the man’s hand. Another man sacrificed his shirt and helped staunch the blood flowing from Sefton’s neck. Sefton suffered 28 separate wounds to his body from the nail bombs. One 2 x 1 shard severed his jugular vein. Five four inch nails were implanted to half their length into his face, one spiked his back. His stifle and flanks were gored by searing shrapnel from the car. His right eye was burned and the cornea damaged. His rider, Trooper Pederson, injured too by the flying nails, when ordered to dismount, stood dazed, holding the valiant horse. Sefton underwent eight hours of surgery and became a media sensation and a household name. He was 19 years old at the time of the bombings and recovered sufficiently to return to active service and was subsequently awarded “Horse of the Year.”

Sefton pictured after making a full recovery with trooper Michael Pedersen, also injured in the attack.

Born in Ireland, Sefton joined the Army in 1967. He was 16 hands high and spent the early years of his army career as a school horse, teaching new recruits to ride.  in 1975, despite having socks and a blaze, he found his way into the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, which normally recruited only totally black horses. The Household Cavalry recorded that he was a horse of great courage and character. Trooper Pederson reported that Sefton responded so bravely when the bomb exploded that there was no chance of being thrown from him.

A watercolour painting done by the Duchess of Cornwall of Sefton for a 2011 exhibition War Horse: Fact and Fiction at central London’s National Army Museum.

In 1984, Sefton was retired from the Household Calvary to The Home of Rest for Horses in Speen, Bucks, and stayed there until July 9, 1993. He became incurably lame from the injuries he suffered and was put to sleep at the age of 30.

Sefton’s statue now stands at the Royal Veterinary College.

Sefton’s legacy remains through The British Horse Society Sefton Awards, set up in 1984, and there is the Sefton Equine Referral Unit, which is based at the Royal Veterinary College. Household Cavalry tradition dictates that horses’ names are re-used, which ensures that Sefton’s memory will live on.

A monument to the tragedy that killed 11 people and seven horses, injured Sefton and eight of his stablemates, was erected on the spot where the bomb went off in Hyde Park and daily the troop honors it with an eyes left and a salute with drawn swords.

The soldiers who lost their lives that day –

  • WO2 Graham Barker, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Corporal Major Roy Bright, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
  • Lieutenant Anthony Daly, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
  • Bandsman John Heritage, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Corporal Robert Livingstone, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Corporal Robert McKnight, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Bandsman George Mesure, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Bandsman Keith Powell, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Bandsman Laurence Smith, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
  • Trooper Simon Tipper, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
  • Lance Corporal Jeffrey Vernon Young, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)

The seven horses of the Blues and Royals that were killed were:

  • Cedric
  • Epaulette
  • Falcon
  • Rochester
  • Waterford
  • Yeastvite
  • Zara

 

HAPPY 153rd BIRTHDAY TO BEATRIX POTTER

July 28, 2019, is the 153rd birthday of Beatrix Potter, an extraordinary woman we remember with great affection and appreciation.  Victoria here, a lifelong fan of Peter Rabbit and the other familiar characters she wrote about.

Born in 1866, Helen Beatrix Potter (died 1943) lived in London and vacationed in the Lake District and Scotland.  She studied animals and plants, and developed a love of the outdoors as well as an ability to draw plants and fungi. 

This website (click here) will give you all the background you need on the stories, her life, and her legacy.  It also provides information on the recently discovered Tale of Kitty-in-Boots which was published in September 2016, a special treat for all of us.
Perhaps Potter’s most valuable contribution, beyond her stories, is her gift of more than four thousand acres of land in the Lake District of Britain. She left the land to the National Trust which has maintained her Hill Top Farm (click here) open to visitors. Most of the land is incorporated into the Lake District National Park.
 
Hill Top Farm

 

One of my favorite stories is The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.  I suspect it is more because I adore hedgehogs, not because I am a neatness freak about housework and laundry.

 

Fortunately, Potter’s stories and their wonderful illustrations have been preserved.  No disney-fication for them!  My grandchildren have greatly enjoyed the DVDs from the BBC with the original characters.  

In 2006, Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger was filmed. The trailer is here.  

Renee Zellweger as Beatrix Potter
The Real Thing!

Hooray for you, Beatrix Potter!! And thank you for all your gifts.

THE SALE YARD

From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

Tattersall’s is usually looked upon as the headquarters of horsey London. It is certainly the headquarters of the horse of pleasure, but, as has been made clear enough in these pages, that sort of horse is simply lost in the thousands that throng our streets. Tattersall’s is practically the great betting exchange, but the visitor to any of the Monday or Thursday sales will be puzzled to find the least sign of a betting atmosphere at Knightsbridge. The two things are as distinct on those days as, say, the Bank of England and Capel Court. The yard is under cover, a lofty glass-roofed hall, which cost 30,000L to build, and which is as big as many a railway station. It is surrounded by a handsome gallery, behind the arched and columned screen of which every type of pleasure vehicle seems to be ‘on view,’ duly numbered in ‘lots’ for the hammer. In the centre of the gravel area is a drinking fountain, surmounted by the quaint old Georgian bust of the founder, with its eyes fixed on the entrance doors, and its thoughts apparently as far away from water as are those of the crowd around.

It is a different variety of crowd from that which gathers in any other sale yard. London has several ‘repositories.’ There is Aldridge’s in St. Martin’s Lane; there is Kymill’s in the Barbican—these two being the chief; and there are Stapleton’s out in the East, and Ward’s in the West, and the Elephant and Castle in the South, and others which many a horse knows well. There is a sort of horse that ‘knows the lot’; the sort that ‘does the round,’ and brings more money to the auctioneers than to the unfortunate buyers, who ‘find him out’ in a fortnight, and ‘get rid of him sharp’ to an unwary successor; a wonderful animal this horse, ‘quiet in harness, a good worker,’ who has only two faults, one that ‘it takes a long time to catch him in a field,’ the other that ‘he is not worth a rap when caught.’ But this kind of horse does not put in many appearances at Knightsbridge. Tattersall’s has a character to keep up, and it has kept it up for over a hundred years now. It is eminently respectable, from the unused drinking fountain and the auctioneers’ hammer, one of the good old pattern, with a rounded knob instead of a double head, down to the humblest hanger-on.

Entering one of the stables which open on to the yard, and have a dozen or more roomy stalls apiece, we find a horse being measured, to make sure he is correctly described. One would think he was a recruit, from the careful way in which the long wooden arm is brought down so gingerly as not even to press in his skin. Soon his turn will come. Up in the gallery will go his number, and the young auctioneer in the rostrum below —which has a sounding-board, as if it were a cathedral pulpit—will read out his short title.

Out comes the horse at last—tittuppy-trot, tittuppytrot. ‘Ten,’ says one of the crowd. ‘Ten guineas,’ echoes the auctioneer. ‘Twelve,’ comes from the crowd; ‘twelve guineas,’ echoes the Varsity man in the pulpit. And so the game goes on with nods and shouts, each nod or look being worth a guinea, so that the solo runs, ‘Thirteen—thirteen guineas—fourteen guineas—fifteen guineas—sixteen—sixteen guineas— seventeen—eighteen—twenty guineas’—quite a singsong up to—’ twenty-eight guineas’—and so gradually slowing, with a spurt or two to ‘forty guineas’—and then a grand noisy rally till ‘fifty-five’ is reached. ‘Fifty-five?—Fifty-five?—Fifty-five? Last time, Fiftyfive!’—knock—and away goes Captain Carbine’s hunter, to make room for a ‘match pair’ that will change hands at 165 guineas, or perhaps fifty more if the season has begun—the bidding always in guineas, in order that the auctioneer may live on the shillings, as Sir John Gilbert used to do in the old days when the guineas flowed to him for his drawings on the wood.

If you want riding horses or carriage horses you go to Tattersall’s; if you want draught horses for trade, you go to Bymill’s or Aldridge’s, where you not only get the new-comers, but also the second-hand, and many-another-hand, from London’s stables. With those second-hand horses we need not overburden ourselves; our task has been to bring the first-hand horses into London, and sort them out. We have brought in the ‘bus horses, the tram horses, the cab horses, the railway horses, the cart and many other horses. Of the cart horses we could, if it were worth while, say a good deal more. We have said nothing of the distillers, the millers, the soap merchants, the timber merchants, the better class contractors, and half a dozen other firsthand horse-owning trades. Some of the distillers’ horses are said, by those who know, to be as good as any in the brewers’ drays, and by ‘as good’ is meant that they are of the same breeding, and can be compared with them, owing to their being at somewhat similar work.

If you think you know anything of horseflesh and want the conceit taken out of you, by all means attend a repository sale. You will see a horse—it may be a likely mare—led from her stall and stood ready for her turn, and you will probably value her at, to be reasonable, 20L; and she looks worth not a penny less. When her number goes up at the window you will see her shown at her best at a run, and, for a moment, you will be inclined to add hi. to your estimate, But soon a chill will run down your back as you hear the bidding. ‘Three! Three and a half! Four!’ a long pause. ‘Four and a half! Five!’ jerks the auctioneer in the corner, with about as much expression as if a penny had been put in his mouth to work him automatically. ‘For the last time! Five!’ Knock. Five guineas! And as the mare is led back to her stall she seems to Change before your very eyes, and you are ready to admit that she doesn’t look worth a penny more!

THE PASSING OF THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE

Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
From The Letters of Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.
Buckingham Palace, 9th July 1850.
My Dearest Uncle,—We live in the midst of sorrow and death! My poor good Uncle Cambridge breathed his last, without a struggle, at a few minutes before ten last night. I still saw him yesterday morning at one, but he did not see me, and to-day I saw him lifeless and cold. The poor Duchess and the poor children are very touching in their grief, and poor Augusta,1 who arrived just five hours too late, is quite heart-broken. The end was most peaceful; there was no disease; only a gastric fever, which came on four weeks ago, from over-exertion and cold, and which he neglected for the first week, carried him off.
The good Prince of Prussia you will have been pleased to talk to and see. Having lived with him for a fortnight on a very intimate footing, we have been able to appreciate his real worth fully; he is so honest and frank, and so steady of purpose and courageous. Poor dear Peel is to be buried to-day. The sorrow and grief at his death are most touching, and the country mourns over him as over a father. Every one seems to have lost a personal friend.
As I have much to write, you will forgive my ending here. You will be glad to hear that poor Aunt Gloucester is wonderfully calm and resigned. My poor dear Albert, who had been so fresh and well when we came back, looks so pale and fagged again. He has felt, and feels, Sir Robert’s loss dreadfully. He feels he has lost a second father.
May God bless and protect you all, you dear ones! Ever your devoted Niece, Victoria R.

A VISIT TO DOWNTON ABBEY

Back in March, Victoria and I traveled to see the Downton Abbey Exhibition in West Palm Beach, Florida. It was a multi-media extravaganza, using film, projection, interactive displays, props, sets and costumes from the original to bring the series to life. Right off the bat, we were greeted by two familiar faces.

 

Do take a moment to watch the introductory trailer below to familiarize yourself with the Exhibition –

Props on display, used to impart authenticity to the Downtown sets, even if viewers will never actually see them, include the bank notes above and, below, the telegrams that had such an impact on the plot lines –

Below, items belonging to Tom Branson, including his wristwatch and ribbons won at the local agricultural fair.

Of course, the servants were well represented, as well –

Once through the green baize door, we were greeted by life sized holograms of Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson.

           

        

           

      

In “The Library” visitors are treated to an ever changing array of moving scenes which are projected onto the walls, making you feel as though you are part of the action.

           

           

Violet, Dowager Lady Grantham, was a particular of the show for us.

           

Then it was on to Lady Mary’s bedroom –

           

And finally, the costumes –

           

The Ladies of Downton were well represented –

        

 

           

           

                       

                 

                  

The final exhibit was a representation of the dining room –

And lastly, Lord and Lady Grantham bid us adieu and thanked us for visiting Downton Abbey.

The Downton Abbey Exhibition in West Palm Beach, Florida was scheduled to close on April 22nd and, at the time Vicky and I visited, there were no plans for it to move on to a new location. Click here to see if that’s changed.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser for the forthcoming Downton Abbey movie, set to be released in September 2019.