Military History with Pete and Gary

No.24

Sometimes, old soldiers’ books full of tales of war, death and destruction have great humorous stories to lighten the way. One such was the wonderful 1935-published Rifleman and Hussar by Sir Percival Marling.

Long out of print, it is a great read with bloodthirsty tales of fighting the Dervish and being awarded the VC in the Sudan in 1884. But our eyes were drawn to his tale of the aftermath of a grand ball held in winter 1885-86 in Cairo, which Marling attended as a captain in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

He left the ball at about 2am, accompanied by Lieutenant Robert Montgomerie, but went for a few more drinks at a nearby brasserie. Here they found three Frenchmen paying court to the barmaid. Montgomerie ordered two beers. Then came trouble: “As he was lifting his to his lips, one of the Frenchmen jogged his elbow. Montgomerie turned round and told him to look out what he was doing. Whereupon the Frenchman said something about, “Les sacres Anglais!” then gave him another dig in the ribs and upset half his beer down the front of his beautiful naval frock coat.

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