Memorandum on the relationship between Forrest and Lord Cardigan at athe time when the 11th Hussars (the 'Cherrypickers') and their controversial commanding officer were consumed with the Affair of the Black Bottle containing enlightening insights into Cardigan's conduct of his regiment as a personal fiefdom and his hectoring methods of dealing with his officers

Object Title

Memorandum on the relationship between Forrest and Lord Cardigan at athe time when the 11th Hussars (the 'Cherrypickers') and their controversial commanding officer were consumed with the Affair of the Black Bottle containing enlightening insights into Cardigan's conduct of his regiment as a personal fiefdom and his hectoring methods of dealing with his officers

Memorandum on the relationship between Forrest and Lord Cardigan at athe time when the 11th Hussars (the 'Cherrypickers') and their controversial commanding officer were consumed with the Affair of the Black Bottle containing enlightening insights into Cardigan's conduct of his regiment as a personal fiefdom and his hectoring methods of dealing with his officers

Date

22 June 1840

Reference

FORR 1/1

Level

Item

Scope and Content

Dated at head, Canterbury, June 22nd, 1840, and signed by the writer at Canterbury Barracks, together with a typed transcript and research notes, plus associated original correspondence etc. including contemporary transcripts of correspondence regarding Captain R.A. Reynolds' grievances with Lord Cardigan in 1840. The Memorandum constitutes a historically important statement written by Capt. Forrest at the height of the Black Bottle affair, when the 11th Hussars and their commanding officer, Lord Cardigan, were being much discussed (and ridiculed) in the press, and subject in public to hisses and cat-calls of 'Black Bottle.' The Black Bottle affair arose from Cardigan's determination to command an aristocratic regiment and an appropriately genteel officers' mess. He banned the serving of Porter in the mess as he considered it beneath the social status of the regiment. This fanned the flames of a running feud between himself and long serving officers of the regiment who had grown accustomed to drinking beer in the mess during a lengthy posting in India.

Cardigan, after being dismissed from the Army over an altercation with an officer in his former regiment (the famous affair of Capt. Wathen), obtained by influence the command of the 11th Hussars in 1836. He joined the regiment in India in Oct. 1837 for the last few weeks of its Indian tour. He resented the presence of the experienced, so-called 'Indian', officers of the Hussars as socially beneath the aspirations he had for the regiment. Cardigan spent vast amounts on his regiment (he was an exceedingly wealthy man) and was determined that it be the smartest and most exclusive in the cavalry. He also wished it to be professionally first-rate and devoted much effort to the Riding School &c., but more especially its appearance.

John Henry Forrest obtained a Cornetcy in the regiment by purchase (as was usual) in 1833, his lieutenancy (by purchase) in 1835, served with the regiment in India (where Cardigan first met him) and returned with it to England. He was then on Half Pay for a short period before repurchasing a lieutenancy in November 1838. He obtained his captaincy (his 'Troop') in October 1839 (a promotion discussed in this memorandum) and retired in 1849. He was later Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire then Hampshire. He played an insignificant role in the affair of the Black Bottle when the morning after the incident (at which Forrest was clearly present), the 'victim' Capt. J.W. Reynolds having been denied an interview with Cardigan, he accompanied him to confront the Mess President, Capt. Inigo Jones, about the purport of a message Reynolds had received from Jones at Cardigan's behest.[end] (Forrest is not to be confused with his brother, Capt. C.W. Forrest, serving in the Hussars at the same time, who was an outspoken leader of the 'Indian' camp. J.H., despite having served in India, was not a major figure in this grouping).

Captain Forrest wrote this memorandum as a precaution against being drawn into the scandal engulfing the regiment, and to record his relationship with Cardigan during the past year or two. He provides a valuable insider's view of the discord within the 11th Hussars and Lord Cardigan's command style, including records of conversations between the two (official meetings, off the record discussions, and discourse on parade) which to our knowledge have not been recounted elsewhere.[end] Some modern writers have tried to rehabilitate Cardigan in view of the 1960s 'debunk' skilfully executed by Cecil Woodham-Smith (in The Reason Why) and The Charge of the Light Brigade film. The documents here presented suggest that much of Mr Smith's (and others') interpretation of Cardigan's character are quite justified. The memorandum concludes with both sides agreeing not to take their 'misunderstandings' further: for the writer a wish to continue his regimental career precluded 'going public' with his grievances to Horse Guards; for Cardigan, the pressing need to avoid yet another public outcry. In his memorandum Forrest outlines his previous good relationship with his commanding officer (that included at least one private invitation to Cardigan's home at Deene Park in Northamptonshire), an altercation over the allocation of a new batman, various other arguments concerning his riding abilities, his promotion to Troop command, his professional ability and his conduct.

Extent

1 document

Physical Characteristics / Technical Requirements

Some 5400 words written in ink on 10 sheets (20 pages) of foolscap (the last sheet slightly smaller).

Access Conditions

Open access

Associations

Contents

  FORR 1/1 - Memorandum on the relationship between Forrest and Lord Cardigan at athe time when the 11th Hussars (the 'Cherrypickers') and their controversial commanding officer were consumed with the Affair of the Black Bottle containing enlightening insights into Cardigan's conduct of his regiment as a personal fiefdom and his hectoring methods of dealing with his officers