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1897 The Duchess of York presents new colours
(Report in The Times 14 June 1897)

Editorial note:
In 2003, under the chairmanship of Major-General A. L. Meier CB OBE, a member of the board of commissioners, the School celebrated the bi-centenary year of its foundation with an ambitious programme of celebratory events. One included a re-enactment of the 29 August 1803 arrival of the first contingent of orphans from Lieutenant-General George Hewett’s farm orphanage on the Isle of Wight. Another was the presentation of new colours. A contingent of invited guests from the Grenadier Guards attended. The last occasion on which new colours were presented was in 1897. Today, such events are captured on film whereas in 1897 the public had to rely on journalists for news. The Times report, reproduced here, captures the event nicely and in unsupassing detail. The British Empire was at its peak at the turn of the 20th Century. The presentation ceremony held in the School’s Chelsea quarters was at the centre of the empire, so it was the perfect setting for the presence of an impressive number of visitors including contingents from all corners of the globe.

A most interesting ceremony was performed on Saturday [13 June] by the Duchess of York, when her Royal Highness visited the Duke of York’s Royal Military School for the Children of Soldiers of the Regular Army, at Chelsea, for the purpose of presenting it with new colours. There are about 550 boys in the Institution, ranging in age from nine to 15, and one of the conditions of their admission is that their fathers shall have been exemplary characters. Most of the boys enter the army on leaving the school. The colours superceded by those presented by the Duchess of York are, it is claimed by the school, the oldest carried in the Army, having been granted by George IV., in September, 1835, They have been borne, therefore, by successive generations of the Duke of York’s School boys for 72 years. Another interesting fact stated in the official programme was that only “three institutions, the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, the Royal Hibernian Military School and the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, are on an equality with the regiments of the British Army in having the right of carrying colours presented by her Majesty the Queen.”

The scene at the school was a remarkably brilliant one. In the first place the weather was perfect and the school and its grounds were therefore seen to the best advantage. At the entrance gate an (unintelligible word) had been erected bearing on a tasteful background the words, “The Sons of the Brave – Welcome,” and the front of the building, which is adorned by a stone portico of the Doric order, with massive pillars supporting the pediment, was gay with flags. Facing the school is a grass meadow of considerable extent, dotted with fine old trees, and it was here that the boys were drawn up to await the royal visitors, to go through the ceremony of trooping the old colours, and to receive the new. They were dressed in smart scarlet tunics, with dark trousers, and for the first time wore field service caps. The staff on duty included Colonel Forrest (the commandant), Surgeon-Colonel Whipple, Captain Thomas (adjutant), and the Rev. G. H. Andrews (chaplain).

The new colours presented to the Duke of York's Royal Military School by the Duchess of York in 1897 replaced the King's Colour and Battalion Colour presented by Queen Victoria's uncle, King George IV
There was a large company of visitors present to witness presentation of the colours, and the elegant summer dresses of hundreds of ladies, combined with the various uniforms of officers and men belonging to regiments from all parts of the empire, went to make up a brilliant and memorable spectacle. Among those present on the ground were the Duke of Cambridge, Field-Marshall Sir Listern Simmons, Field-Marshall Sir Donald Stewart, Lord and Lady Cadogan, Lord Raglan, Lord and Lady Chelmsford, the Bishop of London, Lord and Lady Kelvin, Colonel the Hon. G. H. Gough, General Robinson (Governor-General of Chelsea Hospital) and Mrs. Robinson, General Sir Richard Taylor and Miss Taylor, the Rajar of Kheiri, the Rajkumar Unrald Singh of Sharpura, Resulda Bijey, Sir Charles Wilson (Director-General of Military Education), Sir Daniel Lysons, General Sir Hugh Gough, V. C., General East (Governor and Commandant of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst) , Mrs. Forrest, Major-General Knowles (commanding the forces in Egypt) and Mrs. Knowles, General Battersby, Colonel Churchill, Commander C. N. Robinson, R. N., and Major Holden.

A guard of honour was mounted by the pensioners of the Chelsea Hospital, who never appear in public without exciting the feelings of affection and gratitude due to worthy veterans, whose martial bearing and brave scarlet coats won for them much admiration. But the Chelsea pensioners we have always with us. It was therefore perhaps natural that the lion’s share of attention should be bestowed on the forces from the colonies and India. The colonial representatives were under the command of Captain J. C. Strickland, 1st Infantry Regiment, West Australia, and they included 25 Victoria and South Australia Mounted Rifles under Lieutenant Smith, 11 New South Wales Lancers under Lieutenant Cox, one West Australian Artilleryman, ten Sierra Leone Volunteer Frontier Force, one sergeant and four men of the Ceylon Artillery Volunteers, and ten Ceylon Infantry Volunteers. On the right and left of the space reserved for the Duke and Duchess of York were 20 Indian officers of the native cavalry (representing 20 regiments, one A. D. C. to the viceroy, and one of the Viceroy’s bodyguard) and 17 officers of the Imperial Service troops. Colonel Gordon of the Bengal Cavalry, was in command of the Indian contingent, and was assisted by Major Phayre, 3rd Bengal Cavalry, and Captain Campbell, 6th Bengal cavalry (sic), with the native cavalry. And by Major Drummond with the Imperial Service troops. The native cavalry were all selected men, and most of them wore medals. They include five Sikhs, one Jaht, and 16 Mohamedans, the last named numbering seven Pathans, three Ranghars, one Punjabi Mohamedan and five Hindustani Mohamedans – and were thoroughly representative, coming as they did from Madras, the Hyderabad contingent, Bombay, Bengal and the Punjab. The officers of the Imperial Service troops represented 17 native Indian states – Jodhpur, Hyderabad, Kashmir, Gwalior, Indore, Bhopal, Jeypore, Patiala, Bikaner, Bhartpar, Bahawalpar, Ulwar, Rarapar, Sind, Nabbar, Kapurihala, and Hbavaagar. The splendid physique and warlike appearance of these officers were the subject of universal comment and admiration. The colonial troops, who came fresh from their inspection by Lord Roberts, marched on to the parade-ground amid loud cheers, called forth not less by their smart appearance than by the desire to make them welcome on their visit to the mother country.

At 13.15 the band struck up “God Save the Queen” and the Duke and Duchess of York drove up attended by Lady Eva Dugdale and Sir Charles Cast, and were received with a royal salute. Their royal highnesses were welcomed by the Duke of Cambridge, Colonel Forest, and the commissioners of the institution. The Duchess wore a dress of flowered muslin, the bodice being trimmed with blue chiffon, and a bonnet trimmed with convolvulus and blue feathers. Almost immediately after their Royal Highnesses alighted from their carriage the proceedings began.

The boys were drawn up in line, a company of pupil teachers dressed in their neat black uniforms being on the right flank. The trooping of the old colour was the first item on the programme. It began with the advance of the drummers to the tune of “Bonny Bank Braes,” followed by the advance of the band playing “Sweet love, arise.” Then came the return of the band and drums to the quick march “With merry voices singing.” The next item was the drummers’ call, followed by the advance of the escort to the tune of “The British Grenadiers.” The old colours were handed to the colour corporals and the escort saluted, the band playing “God save the Queen.” The colours were next trouped to the music of “The Grenadier Slow March,” and were next escorted along the front of the line in token of farewell, while the band played “Auld Lang Syne.” When this point had been reached, the battalions (sic) formed three sides of a square, the drums were piled in the centre, and the new colours placed upon them. A crimson cloth was then laid down from the place where the Duchess stood to where the drums were piled, and her Royal Highness, accompanied by the Duke of York, the Duke of Cambridge, the Commandant, the lady in waiting, and the equerry, advanced to the square. The consecration was then celebrated, the Rev. J. C. Edghill, D. D., Chaplain-General to the forces, and the Rev. G. H. Andrews, the chaplain of the institution, being the officiating clergy. After the hymn “Brightly beams our banner,” the Lord’s Prayer and the collect were received, and then followed the special prayer :–

“Almighty and ever-living God vouchsafe to bless and hallow these colours, about to be intrusted to our keeping by our Most Gracious Queen. We dedicate them to Thy honour and glory as symbols of the unity and loyalty of this institution. Let Thy blessing ever rest on this school, and grant that all those that shall march beneath these standards may ever remember Whose they are and Whom they serve: may never be ashamed to confess the Faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and may continue Christ’s faithful soldiers unto their lives’ end. Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our most blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.”

When the colours had been consecrated, the Queen’s colour was handed by Monitor Penfold to the Duchess, from whom Colour Corporal Crissall received it on bended knee. The school colour, in like manner, was handed to her Royal Highness by Monitor Girling and received by Staff Colour Corporal Davis.

Colonel Forrest, addressing her Royal Highness, then said, :--

Your Royal Highness, - on behalf of this school, and more especially the boys, I beg to thank your Royal Highness for the great honour you have done us by coming here to-day to present these colours to the school – a day that I am sure will be long remembered by both past and present boys. And I may add that though no names of battles are inscribed on the colours we have just paraded, it can be truthfully said that there has been no battle of importance to which the Duke of York’s boys have not borne their part, upheld the name of their old school, and justified their title of sons of the brave.

The Duke of York, in reply, said:-

Colonel Forrest, boys of the Duke of York’s School, - the Duchess wishes me to tell you that it has given her great pleasure to take part in this interesting ceremony to-day, and to present to you your new colours. The old colours which have just been carried to-day for the last time will, I hope, will always remind you of the high reputation and honour that your school has attained, and the Duchess is quite certain that you and all the boys that come after you will still maintain that reputation under your new colours. For myself, I can only say that I am very pleased to have this opportunity of seeing you all to-day, and I wish to highly compliment you on your smartness and steadiness on parade and the excellent way in which you went through your drill. I hope that most of you will join the army, and I can easily tell you from my experience in the Navy that the only way to get on is invariably to do your duty. And remember that those colours must always be to you the emblem of discipline. I have now great pleasure in announcing to you that Colonel Forrest has, at the request of the Duchess, has consented to give you an extra week’s holiday in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the presentation to you of your new colours.

Their Royal Highnesses then returned to the spot whence they had watched the first part of the proceedings, and the Duchess was presented with a bouquet by Miss Ivy Forrest, the little daughter of the Commandant. The remaining items of the programme were then gone through. They were the reception of the new colours by the battalion, the general salute to the tune of “God save the Queen,” the march past to that of “The British Grenadiers,’ the advance in review order, and the royal salute. The proceedings ended.

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