Queen Victoria's interest and concern for her soldiery is legendary. During the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 this interest was particularly marked by her gift of a box of chocolate to every soldier serving in South Africa in early 1900.(1) Less well known is her personal involvement in crocheting eight woollen scarves. A recent paper on the subject provides much of the detail regarding the recipients but did not reveal why four particular regular battalions of the British Army came to be chosen to receive this unusual gift.(2)
One of the battalions selected was the 2nd Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment, for which there is a substantial archive of letters, diaries and photographs recording this battalions' service during the Anglo-Boer War. Some of this material is held in the Regimental Museum at York, with further material in the Royal Archives at Windsor, the National Army Museum and the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College, London. A further substantial collection of written materials andphotographs formed by my grandfather, Malcolm Riall, is in this writer's possession. This archival material offers an explanation fo rthe choice of the four regular battalions.
Queen Victoria followed the progress of the war with keen interest, receiving frequent letters from, amongst others, the generals in the field but there was one officer in whom she had a personal interest, - Prince Christian Victor - her grandson. He sailed to South Africa in November 1899 hoping to join his regiment, the King's Royal Rifle Corps. They, however, were trapped in Ladysmith and, eventually, Prince Christian Victor was appointed to the staff of General Hildyard who commanded the 2nd Brigade through the early phases of the war. The Prince wrote regularly to members of the royal family, including the Queen, during this period and it is likely, though cannot be proved, that some passing reference of his to the bitterly cold nights mitivated the making of the scarves. It is certain that the scarves were sent to the Prince by Queen Victoria with her instruction that they were to be given to a brave soldier from the ranks; it seems ot have been left to the Prince to decide which battalions should be thereby honoured. He selected the four infantry battalions of the 2nd Brigade with whom he had served through the heavy fighting to relieve Ladysmith: the Queens, West Yorkshires, East Surreys and Devons. He appears not to have been directly involved in actually presenting the scarves; in fact, at about this time, he left General Hildyard to join Lord Roberts as an ADC at Pretoria where he died of enteric dever on 29 November 1900 (3)
The scarf given to the West Yorkshires was presented to Colour Sergeant F Kingsley at Standerton, in the Transvaal, on 7 August 1900. The event was not recorded in the West Yorkshire's official diary, the Battalion Digest of Service, but other West Yorks records provide an account. Lt Malcolm Riall noted the events of the day in his pocket diary.
"... CO's parade 9 am, Queen's Mudffler (sic) presented to C.S. Kingsley by CO (Major W Fry). Took photo of Kingsley by tin hut..."
Later that day, after 'sudden orders' to move up the line had been cancelled, Riall wrote to his father,
"We are off to Pretoria in the morning and have had camp struck and no end of fuss all day so I am writing now in case I would not have time to write again before Mail day. We have had much the same routine of Outposts etc since last Mail only the last few days have been a little stiffer than usual as some Companies of the East Surreys had to go down the line. Buller and staff and batteries, etc, and a large force left here the other day for Paardekop and thence to Middleburg I believe, and so of course we had to move from here also to take up the positions they have left and the Garrison of Standerton is reduced almost to nil. The Regt is gointg to Pretoria they say because Lord Roberts has taken so many troops away from there. I do hope we really go in the end and no counter order comes for it would be great fun. We think ourselves very lucky. The huge piles of storres, commissariat etc that was made at the Railway Station here has been reduced as most of Lord Robert's supplies come to him from this side now."
"Some time ago Her Gracious Majesty sent out to her grandson, Prince Christian Victor, who as I think I told you, used to be on Gen Hildyard's staff as extra Brigade Major when he had this Brigade (4), woollen mufflers, knitted by herself with her initials worked small in one corner and these were to be given to 4 NCOs or men. The Prince kindly gave one to each Regiment of the 2nd Brigade. Today the CO gave away one to one of our colour Sergeants. C/Sgt Kingsley by name, and a fine fellow. He is naturally very proud of himmself. I took a photo of him today."
Riall's account is supported by another West Yorks diarist, Private W Sykes, who served with C Company,
"On the 7th we had a parade at 9 o'clock, this was in clean fatigue dress, when we got on parade the CO told us that the Queen had sent four mufflers which she had knitted (sic) herself to Prince Christian Victor and said they was to be given to rank and file and Prince Christian elected to give them to the 2nd Brigade as the more deserving of them, one to each Regiment as he had done all his soldiering with th 2nd Briagade and in our Regiment C.S. Kingsley was presented with it. Afterwards three cheers for the Queen was given and an issue of whisky to drink the Queen's health which we did heartily ..." (4)
The use of the word 'muffler' to describe the scarf seems to be peculiar to the West Yorkshires, the Devons' official records describe it as a scarf.(5) Major Fry certainly continued to call it a muffler as can be seen from the letter he wrote on 7 August 1900 to Prince Christian Victor,
"My dear Prince,
I write in the name of the West Yorks of offer you our most grateful thanks for giving us one of the mufflers knitted (sic) by Her Majesty the Queen. I gave the muffler to Color (sic) Sergeant Kingsley who is now one of the proudest and happiest men in the Army. He has been in every engagement with the Regiment and at Spion Kop time he distinguished himself by the way he commanded his company when hisCaptain was killed and the other officer of his company wounded.(6) He is a most deserving man in every way and a brave soldier. I have never seen such enthusiasm amongst the men as over this simple little gift. I think it btrough home to them more thoroughly than they have every realised before the real interest Her Majesty takes in Her soldiers.
We have just got orders to be in readiness to move to Heidelburg at very short notice so I must be off and issue orders.(7)Please remember me to General Hildyard.
Yours sincerely, W Fry." (8)
Frank Kingsley was born at Stamford Hill, London, in 1865. He enlisted in the West Yorkshire Regiment on 22 August 1887, giving his trade as 'groom'. After service at home, he was stationed with the 2nd Battalion in India from 1888-96. He was considered to be a good soldier: his fourth promotion, Colour Sergeant, was in October 1894. In June 1894 he had extended his service to 12 years. Serving at home again from 1896 he immediately re-engaged when his time was up in August 1899. He was with the West Yorkshires when they sailed to South Africa in October 1899.
During the Spion Kop operations the 2nd West Yorkshires had some very severe fighting on the left of Warren's force, particularly on the south-eastern slope of Tabanyama on 21 January 1900. G Company, commanded by Captain Ryall, got so in advance of the general line that they had to remain isolated until nightfall and suffered heavy casualties. Captain Ryall was mortally wounded and brough under cover by Colour Sergeant Kingsley. After 2/Lt Barlow was wounded, Kingsley took command of the G Company and steadily withdrew his men to cover. These actions were cited by Colonel F W Kitchener, commanded 2nd West Yorkshires, who recommended Kingsley for the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal.(9)
Kingsley remained with the battalion throughout the war, he was promoted to Sergeant Major on 1 May 1902, and remained in South Africa until June 1904 when he returned to England. He took his discharge in September 1906. His final days were spent as a pensioner at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, where he died on 26 October 1952 (10)
As Alan Harfield noted, one of the Queen's scarves awarded to the regulars does survive. This was the scarf awarded to Colour Sergeant Thomas Ferret, 2nd Battalion The Queen's Regiment, and it is preserved in the collections of the Queen's Regiment in thei rmuseum at Clandon House, Guildford, Surrey. This provides us with some detail concerning the actual scarves. They were hand-crocheted in a pale khaki-coloured wool which is described as Berlin wool. Ferret's scarf is five feet long by nine inches wide and has a tasselled fringe at each end of four inches. Embroidered into one end of the scarf is Queen Victoria's monogram; on Ferret's scarf this is worked in an over-hand stitch using red silk. Another scarf, that awarded to Colour Sergeant Clay of the East surrey Regiment, is preserved in the Queen's Regimental Museum at Dover. Although Clay's scarf was crocheted in the same fashion as Ferret's, Clay's is slightly different as regards its dimensions: this is four feet and ten inches long by eight inches wide with tassels each end, similar to Ferret's, of four inches. The whereabouts of that scarf awarded to Colour Sergeant W Colclough of the Devonnshire Regiment is unknown.
The letter from Major Fry to Prince Christian Victor is reproduced by gracious permission of Her Majesty the Queen.
(1) The Queen's chocolate box is comprehensively discussed by Teulié, G 1993, 'A present from the Queen' and Dance, S 1993, 'As Good as a Medal'; both papers appeared in Soldiers of the Queen, 75, December 1993
(2) See, Harfield, A 1993, 'Queen Victoria's Scarves', in The Journal of Orders and Medals Research Society, pp154-163
(3) Warren, TH, 1903, Prince Christian Victor. This fulsome biography, indeed it might be termed a panegyric, makes no mention of th eQueen's scarves.
(4) Diary of Private W Sykes, C Company, 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment held in the Boer War archive at the Regimental Museum, York, Acc. No. 152. Other West Yorkshire letters and diaries such as those of Lt Francis and Drummer Goodwin, both also in the Regimental archive, make no mention of the scarf. Niehter does Lt Crossmen in his letters, NAM 6306/24/4, and Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives who now hold the originals of the Crossman letters - Crossman
(5) Harfield 1993, 154, op cit.
(6) Malcolm Riall, Diary, 21 January 1900, notes that Captain Ryall (no relation) and dive men were killed and that 2/Lt Barlow and 37 men were wounded. Ryall's was G Company, which suffered the heaviest casualties.
(7) The Battalion Digest of service records that only one company was sent to Hiedelburg, escorting some guns, and it returned that evening. The following day the entire battalion entrained and travelled to Drugersdorp and then on the Balaaubank where they came under General Smith-Dorrien's command and took part in the Det Wet hunts in the eastern Transvaal.
(8) Royal Archive, p 16/80. Major W Fry to Prince Christian Victor.
(9) Details of the acts leading to the award of a DCM to C/Sgt Kingsley are contained in Sir Charles Warren's Despatch after the battle of Spion Kop, dated 1 February 1900 and published 8 February 1900 in the London Gazette, para 14, p. 950. Kingley's DCM was gazetted on 19 April 1901.
(10) I am indebted to Henk Loots of Pretoria, South Africa, for much of the information concerning Kingsley.