Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 15 December 1900
RETURN OF THE EAST KENT MOUNTED RIFLES. A GRAND RECEPTION AT CANTERBURY. SIR R. BULLER'S PRAISE.
As we intimated in our last issue was likely to be the case, an enthusiastic reception was accorded at Canterbury on Monday to Sergeant-Major Mudford and his comrades of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles, just returned from South Africa, where they have served for upwards of twelve months in the South African Light Horse. The men arrived at Canterbury West at five minutes after eleven on Monday morning, and were received on the platform by the Sheriff, the Deputy-Mayor, and the ex-Mayor, loud cheers being raised by a large number of citizens assembled both inside and outside of the station. Drawn up in the roadway opposite the station was the regiment of Yeomanry to which the men belong, under the command of Colonel Lord Harris, and the band of the 7th Royal Dragoon Guards from Shorncliffe was in attendance. On the Sergeant-Major and his men emerging from the station, they saluted the regiment, and the salute was returned. Three cheers were then given for the Queen, three for Colonel Byng, and the South African Light Horse, and three for Sergeant-Major Mudford and his comrades.
There was an immense concourse of people assembled in the station yard, who cheered vociferously as the procession started for the Cathedral. Earl Stanhope, Lord Lieutenant of Kent, was in a carriage wih the ex-Mayor. Sergeant-Major Mudford and his men walked behind the band, and then came the Yeomanry Regiment. The route to the Cathedral yard was thickly lined with people, and many of the houses were decorated. At the great west door Lord Stanhope was introduced to the Sergeant-Major and his men by Lord Harris, and shook hands with each. A short thanksgving service was held in the nave, after which Dean Farrar welcomed the returned warriors, and the Archbishop then delivered an address. His Grace spoke in terms of grateful recognition of the value of their services to the country and of the honour they had brought to the County of Kent.
Subsequently, at the ancient Guildhall, Sergeant-Major Mudford and his men were presented with the honorary freedom of the city. The Mayor (Mr. Alderman Hart), in addressing them, mentioned that the honorary freedom had been conferred on only a few persons during the last 500 or 600 years, the recipients of the honour including William Pitt, George IV., Lord Tenterden, and, quite recently, Mr. Henniker Heaton, M.P. The Mayor then read the following letter he had received from Sir R. Buller:-
Dear Sir, - I believe that the idea of sending out Yeomanry to South Africa originated in the fact that the men of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles, whose return you are about to celebrate, were mentioned by me in a telegram I sent home. I was telegraphing regarding the need there was for more mounted men, and mentioned that in the South African Light Horse, one of the irregular corps then under my command, there were some East Yeomen. Practically, therefore, the gallant fellows whose return you are about to celebrate were the pioneers of that great movement. As for the South African Light Horse, there is no corps that has done better or had harder work to do, and when I say that I give, I think, as high praise as it is possible to give.
Sergeant-Major Mudford replied on behalf of himself and his comrades. He said they had simply tried to do their duty, and it was a matter of great gratification to them to find that their work had been so highly appreciated.
The Ex-Mayor (Mr. Alderman Collard) next congratulated the newly-made freemen, and mentioned that one of the eleven who went out - Trooper Tice - had been given a commission in the South African Irregular Forces. Earl Stanhope then addressed the company, mentioning that the County of Kent had sent something like 1,200 Volunteers to South Africa to take part in the war.
Lord Harris, speaking subsequently, said that fourteen months since he was doing everything he could to conceal the fact of these men wanting to go to South Africa for fear that the War Office would stop them. Having been unsuccessful in obtaining the sanction of the military authorities to their being sent out, the only thing to do was for them to "go on their own." It was curious to look back to that now, knowing that in the meantime there had been such a demand for that class of soldier, the mounted rifleman. After a year's experience of the Imperial Yeomanry, the Secretary of State had appointed a Committee to consider the organization of the Yeomanry and various other matters. That might be taken as indicating that the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa very highly appreciated the services that had been rendered by the Imperial Yeomanry, recognised the great advantages of mounted riflemen, and foresaw the necessity of improving the Yeomanry force and of enlarging it. As chairman of that committee, he would endeavour to impress on his colleagues the necessity of remembering that the class which had for more than one hundred years maintained this Yeomanry force in face of scant assistance and some derision, the class which would continue to maintain that force, and which would be for all time the backbone of the Mounted Rifles in this country, was the agricultural men, the country gentlemen, yeomen and rural tradesmen, men who always had a horse at hand, and knew how to use it. That was the class on which the Yeomanry would always have to depend, and the demands of service in the Yeomanry would have to depend on the time which these men could conveniently give to the country without interfering with their ordinary business. Referring to the letter of General Buller, Lord Harris said there was not the least doubt that the formation of the Imperial Yeomanry was due to the telegram Sir Redvers sent to the War Office, in which he praised the detachment of the East Kent Yeomanry that had joined the South African Light Horse.
At the conclusion of the proceedings in the Guildhall, a public luncheon was given in the Corn Exchange, under the presidency of the Mayor who was supported by Earl Stanhope, Lord Harris, Captain Howard, M.P., Colonel Hegan, Colonel Kelly, and a large number of ladies and gentlemen residing in the county. In the evening a smoking concert was held in the same building.