Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A soldier's life is terrible hard...

Rudyard Kipling famously quipped " A Soldier's life is terrible hard" - especially so for a Cavalry Trooper. Not only had to look after himself and his own equipment, but his horse and horse tack were his number one priority: only after his loyal mount had been fed, watered and cared for could he attend to his own feeding and watering. Presented here is the daily routine for the Royal North British Dragoons, c.1830


"At a quarter to five or six o'clock in the morning, according to season of the year, the Warning Trumpet sounds. All soldiers must get out of bed then... They must dress, roll their bedding on their iron bedstead, fold the blanket, the two sheets, and the rug, so as the colours of the rug shall appear throughout the sheets and blankets like marble. They  must take the point of a knife, and lay the edges of the folds straight until they look artistical to the eye. This must be finished by the time the "Warning" is over, which is an qurater of an hour.


"The Stables Trumpet shall sound one quarter of an hour after the Warning Trumpet.  At this time all must must hasten down to the stables. The litter must be shaken out,and all that which is dry is tied up, and the other is cleared away,and the stables swept by the two men who take the sweeping for the morning, while two others take it for another morning; their being twelve or fourteen men in each stable.  The dry litter is tied up thus: four neatly plaited bands are laid out on the stones behind the horses; a few handfuls of clean straw combed and carefully preserved by each man for his own use, is spread upon the four bands. The litter is laid on this straw,and the bands brought round and fastened.
The bundle is then set on end against the post, at the horses' hind quarter. One of the bands is carried around the post to keep it steady. The top of the bundle is neatly plaited, and the combe used for the horses' mane and tail is taken, and the outside straw is combed."

Morning Duties

"If it is not to be a field day, the men and horses not going to the riding school  go out in watering order, into the country, a mile or two, for exercise. The youngest recruits go to the school first, about seven o'clock, on trained horses; the youngest untrained horses go to the school in the same class, with rough riders on them. The recruit prepares for school at seven o'clock  after having combed and brushed his horse until it is spotless and shines; he puts on a pair of clean spare boots,putting on his stock, jacket and cap, his white gloves, cane in hand."

Each class in the Riding School lasted an hour - the weakest riders going first."All saved the youngest ones are riding in saddles".  Those who went to the Riding School at 9am or 10 am go their breakfast before going into the school. Those who went at 7am or 8am took their breakfast afterwards.

The classes in the school at 9am and 10am went through all the evolutions with carbine, pistols and sabre. In order to get young horses and recruits accustomed to fire-arms "The Riding Master will fire a pistol suddenly behind the ears of the young horses, and behind the ears of the young men, to use them to the report."

Following an hour in the Riding School, each trooper had to change into his stable clothes - clogs, cloth overalls - and divest himself of his stock, jacket gloves and boots. "He must return to the stable, and use straw whisp, brush, and cloth  to his horse for at least half an hour. He must pick its feet, sponge its hoofs and nostrils, dress it neatly, and feed it: then he may go to his room to look after his equipment and clothing and have his coffee and bread."


 Coffee, drill, stables and rounds.

After a breakfast of coffee and dry bread "He must at once brush his overalls and boots and have everything spotless which is upon his person." 
"If it be summer he must put off his cloth overalls, which were worn in stable, and put his white ones, and a pair of clean gloves and be out at ten or eleven o'clock, as the case may be, at foot drill. He is drilled at foot until a few minuntes of twelve o'clock the hour for stables. When dismissed, he resumes his cloth overalls and stable shoes. He rubs down and feeds his horse. He comes up to the [barrack] room with the rest for dinner; they all button down their jackets and stand at attention: while the orderly officer and [orderly] sergeant come their rounds to inspect the dinners, which is done by a glance and by the question "Have you any complaints?"

Afternoon Duties

After the Dinner Hour the trooper "prepares for afternoon foot drill and the sword exercise. This lasts for two hours; and when it is done he is dismissed, if he is not too tired he may walk out... until six o'clock . There is then Roll Call and Evening Stables when every man must be present. The regimental orders are read for the next day. The horses are rubbed down, fed, littered."
This done, the men repaired and cleaned all their kit - and had it  inspected. Lights out was 9 o'clock.

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