House Blog | Cherry Picker Trousers
We are fortunate to have on loan a pair of Cherry Picker Trousers from the Museum of the King’s Royal Hussars, Winchester, circa 1950. They show the design of the trousers that the 7th Earl of Cardigan kitted out his regiment famously for £40,000 in the 1850’s. Deene Park has most of his uniform on display in the White Hall, but sadly no trousers as they were used by his widow, Lady Cardigan, to bicycle around the local villages and soon became worn out!
The regiment was raised by Colonel Philip Honeywood, as Colonel Philip Honeywood’s Regiment of Dragoons in 1715 as part of the response to the Jacobite rebellion. The regiment fought at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 during the Jacobite rising of 1745 after which it was re-titled the 11th Regiment of Dragoons in 1751. A further name change, to the 11th Regiment of Light Dragoons occurred in 1783.
In April 1811 the regiment embarked to Portugal: The regiment’s nickname, the Cherry Pickers, arose from an incident, in which a troop from the regiment was ambushed and then forced to seek cover in an orchard at San Martín de Trevejo in Spain in August 1811.
In 1819 the regiment was sent to India aboard the Indiamen Atlas and Streatham departing Gravesend in February 1819 for Calcutta. Lord Cardigan took over the regiment in his last few months in India and returned with only 224 fit men. Through his efforts and his own personal expenditure, the regiment was brought up to strength and mounted on the best horses. They were also armed with the new percussion carbines and brilliantly turned out. Being a smart unit based in Kent, they were the ideal choice to escort the dashing German Prince Albert from Dover when he arrived in England to marry Victoria. They also formed part of the escort on their wedding day. Albert was so impressed that he adopted the 11th as his own regiment and the Queen directed that they convert to Hussars. The new title became the 11th (or Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars.
The new uniform consisted of a fur busby with crimson bag, blue dolman and pelisse and crimson trousers with double yellow stripes. The colour of the trousers, adopted from the Saxe-Coburg livery, was described as cherry and Lord Cardigan referred to his men as Cherry-Bums. This fitted very well with the dubious regimental nickname of ‘Cherry pickers’ which had been acquired in the Peninsula. These trousers were unique among British regiments and worn since in most orders of uniform except battledress and fatigues.
The regiment next saw action, as part of the Light Brigade under the command of Major General, the Earl of Cardigan, at the Battle of Alma in September 1854. The 11th Hussars provided two squadrons, 250 men in all, under Cardigan’s command and was in the second line of cavalry on the left flank during the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in October 1854. The Brigade drove through the Russian artillery in the Valley of Death before smashing straight into the Russian cavalry and pushing them back; it was unable to consolidate its position, however, having insufficient forces and had to withdraw to its starting position, coming under further attack as it did so.
After the First World War, the 11th Hussars and 12th Lancers were the first two cavalry regiments to swap their horses for armoured vehicles. It was a shattering blow because they had been a mounted regiment for 213 years.
During the Second World War, the regiment, which had been located in Egypt when the war started, fought at the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942. The regiment took part in the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943 and after the Normandy landings in June 1944, took part in the North-West Europe Campaign. Post-war, the regiment was amalgamated with the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own), to form the Royal Hussars on 25 October 1969.
Earl of Cardigan leading the Light Brigade by Henry Martens (British, b. 1790 – d. 1868). This picture is currently on display in the Chapel Parlour of Deene Park.