The Adventures of Colonel Daffodil by Roy Redgrave
Daffodil was a miniature Pekinese bitch who weighed less than a kilogram. She had bandy legs and one bright eye. The other had been removed by a mean stable cat in the first week that she joined the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment at Hyde Park Barracks in London. She always preceded me on my morning tour of inspection of the stables. Neat piles of steaming manure and straw bedding were laid out in the yard to dry in the sun. This was then used again, thus saving the Quartermaster money. Troopers might be resting on their brooms when invariably someone, like an alert African meerkat, would shout, â€˜Eyes down, here comes Daffodilâ€™, thus warning dozing troopers of their Commanding Officerâ€™s imminent arrival and the stable yard would suddenly become a scene of great activity.
Daffodilâ€™s friend was called Hannibal, a much-loved drum horse of the Blues, whose hoof alone was enormous. When he died his hooves were shod with silver horseshoes and turned into handsome inkwells. Much later the regiment was horrified to discover that five such hooves had been created, and decided, in order to avoid disappointment, that it was best to say nothing. Daffodil lived for many years and her gravestone stands among the daffodils in a garden in the village of Warmwell in Dorset. To some people it seems I had already become Colonel Daffodil. Fifteen years later, when I was Major General, Brigade of Gurkhas, Hong Kong, this may have changed to General Daffodil Sahib.
I was brought up in Romania. I did not go to school until I was nine years old, in 1934, when I left home for the first time and was sent to Lambrook, a boarding school in Berkshire. Five years later, during the summer holidays, which were spent beside the Black Sea, the Second World War began. I was sent back to England, to Sherborne School, in October 1939. It was to be six years before I saw any of my family again.
Having missed out on the early years of schooling, I realized I knew absolutely nothing about English history except the story of Robin Hood. It was not until I became a Wolf Cub at Lambrook and was taught how to light a campfire that I was also taught the history of the Union Jack. I was keen that Romaniaâ€™s history should not be forgotten, so I was frequently given to outbursts, standing up in class for Romania, based on the crumbs of information gleaned from my Romanian mother. It influenced my thinking. I suppose I had a chip on my shoulder.
The corruption which existed in Romania at all levels, and still lingers on, was not revealed to me until I was much older. It seemed perfectly normal that my father was obliged to bribe the gendarmes to allow the distillation of plums to continue, provided they each received a bottle of plum brandy. The still was well-hidden behind the coach house at the bottom of the garden. The smell, however, was very strong when it was working.
Our big American Buick motor car was taxed by weight. This meant that it turned up at the taxation office without a spare wheel, with no back seat or tools, and an empty fuel tank.
I have described my life up to leaving the Army in a biography called Balkan Blue. The story continues with the Romanian background to my family history and the adventures I have enjoyed during some of my travels.
Little-known battles were fought in the High Arctic in which a handful of men survived in the harsh climate and against heavy odds. The Cold War in all its forms has occupied much of my life. My admiration goes to those local leaders such as village policemen who have to make big decisions, which, to us in our ignorance, may seem trivial. Is the ice strong enough to take a sledge? Does he let the smuggler go free and risk losing his job or does he arrest him and get a stone through his window?
Table of Contents
PART I – 1861-1919
Chapter 2 – DISASTROUS DIPLOMACY
Chapter 3 – BITTER BETRAYAL
Chapter 5 – EARLY TRAVELS IN ROMANIA
Chapter 6 – THE FLOTSAM OF WAR
Chapter 8 – THE HONEY BAG FLING
Chapter 9 – THE GARDE CHAMPÃŠTRE
Chapter 10 – CORSICAN SHEPHERDS
Chapter 12 – THE VILLAGE FÃŠTE
Chapter 13 – BINDHIâ€™S BLUFF
Chapter 14 – THE AMERINDIANS
Chapter 15 – THE DOWAGER DUCHESS
Chapter 16 – GUARDS OF HONOUR
Chapter 18 – THE GENERAL
Chapter 19 – BEYOND BEAR ISLAND
Chapter 20 – SPITZBERGEN AT WAR
Chapter 21 – FRANZ JOSEF LAND
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