King’s Troop: 1901-1939 ‘O Patient Eyes, Courageous Hearts’

During this period of just over 38 years, the Saluting Battery at St John’s Wood became firmly established at the forefront of State ceremonial.

Sadly, all that came to an abrupt end on the outbreak of the First World War on August 4, 1914.

When peace returned in 1919, so did the saluting battery and a few of the many horses that had marched off to war five years earlier.

St Johns’ Wood was still a very rural area at the turn of the 19th century, despite the rash of house building that had taken place during the previous thirty years.

Although the farm and the animals had long gone it still had a very bucolic air about it.

The barracks were by now an established feature with the main entrance being located on what had become Ordnance Road.

Unfortunately, the barracks was vacant at the time of Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901 and so the duties of firing the minute guns and conveying the Queen during the funeral process fell to units outside of the capital.

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From 1902 until early 1915 however, there was once again a saluting battery at the Wood taking a full part in all the great ceremonies of State.

On the outbreak of the First World war in August 1914, the saluting battery was mobilised and by Christmas was in action on the Western Front.

The barracks was occupied at this time by a reformed L Battery Royal Horse Artillery, which had been all but destroyed in the desperate action at Nery on September 1, 1914.

Three members of the battery were awarded the Victoria Cross for their heroism during the battle.

From early 1915 until the end of the war, the barracks was home to a training brigade which also requisitioned part of Lords Cricket Ground for equestrian training.

Between 1919 and the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, successive Royal Horse Artillery batteries were stationed at the Wood and they were involved in all the great ceremonies of state during the period.

These included providing the gun carriage for the interment of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey in 1920, as well as the dedication ceremony for the Royal Artillery War memorial at Hyde Park Corner in 1925, the funeral of King George V in 1936, and the coronation of King George VI in 1937.

They also continued to perform the famous musical drive at the Royal Tournament at Olympia.

The last gun battery to serve at the Wood was mobilised on the outbreak of war in September 1939.

Thereafter the barracks was the home of London District Signal Troop until the end of hostilities in 1945.