Thanksgiving at Canterbury Cathedral 1884

Saturday 3rdMay 1884

The Tenth Hussars at Canterbury  

Thanksgiving Service in the Cathedral

The gallant Tenth Hussars, who did such splendid service for the British arms in the Soudan, and who only arrived home last week, came over from Shornecliffe to Canterbury on Sunday and attended a special thanksgiving service in the Cathedral, being afterwards entertained at dinner in the Music Hall. It seems that originally it was intended to hold a thanksgiving service at Shornecliffe, but almost at the last moment the idea was conceived to send the regiment to Canterbury Cathedral; and the Very Rev. the Dean being written to on the subject by Mr. Myles Fenton, the General Manager of South Eastern Railway Company, Dr. Payne Smith cheerfully acceded to the proposal, and it being left to him to fix the time for the service, he arranged, with the hearty co-operation of other dignitaries of the Cathedral that a special service should be held at 9.30, so that it could be over in time to allow of the ordinary morning service to take place at the usual time.

The special train arrived at Canterbury a few minutes after 9 o’clock, the regiment being under the command of Colonel Liddell (in the absence of Colonel Wood, the Commanding Officer) and the Hon. Colonel Curzon, commandant of Shornecliffe Camp. In consequence of the heavy downpour of rain there were but few people outside the station to witness the arrival of the troops. Headed by the Cavalry Depot Band and the band of the regiment, the men, who numbered about 500, marched to the Cathedral. They were formed up in the nave, and marched two abreast into the choir, where they at once took their seats, the public being excluded until the soldiers were all in their places. The special service comprised a shortened version of morning prayer with appropriate psalms and lessons, the Te Deum, and anthem, “I will sing of Thy powers”, a couple of hymns, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, and “Now Thank We All Our God”, and an address by the Dean. The service was conducted by the Bishop of Dover, Minor Canon Loosemore, and Minor Canon Grey. The Dean, in his address said that when St. Paul spoke the words “Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” he was addressing himself to civilians and he pointed out that life not only has its duties, but that they are very often severe duties, because he says elsewhere to Timothy “Endure hardness as a good soldier”. The Apostle compares him to a good soldier and also points out that he cannot meet those difficulties entirely in his own strength. He is to put on the whole armour of God, because if not protected by God and supported by God he cannot perform his duties. He also pointed out that the civilian must be steadfast. That day he (The Dean) was addressing not civilians but soldiers, who were gladly welcomed there in that Cathedral when their wish was to return thanks to God for the protection he had given them during the severe and hard warfare in which they had been engaged. He ventured to say that the quality of steadfastness was never more conspicuously shown than in the recent campaign in the Soudan. They had shown they knew how to stand and to withstand in the evil day. The words of his text spoke to them of a warfare different from that earthly warfare in which they had so distinguished themselves. After expressing the feeling of satisfaction that the people of this country felt from the knowledge that they are protected by men like those present, the Dean proceeded in earnest language to urge his hearers to withstand the temptations which beset them.

Colonel Le Quesne, Commandant of the Cavalry Depot, and a large number of officers quartered at Canterbury, all in their uniforms, were present at the service, at the conclusion of which the troops marched to the Cavalry Barracks, and remained there until about half-past twelve, when they returned into the town and proceeded to the Music Hall for dinner. The officers of the regiment, together with their wives, were hospitably entertained during their stay at the barracks by officers of the Depot at their Mess.

The dinner was served at the Music Hall shortly after one o’clock. Appropriate decorations had been put up by Mr. Blogg, whose services are invariably requisitioned on these occasions. On the wall at the head of the room was a trophy of flags, with two large Union Jacks spread out underneath, and below there was a scroll bearing the motto “Welcome to the Tenth Hussars.” On the side walls and on the front of the gallery were shields and trophies of small flags. The tables were tastefully adorned with flowers and plants, and were fairly laden with viands, which had been liberally provided by Sir Edward Watkins M.P., and the directors of the South-Eastern Company. Tables for the officers and their ladies had been ranged down one side of the hall, and these were very prettily adorned with cut flowers by the Misses James. The catering was divided between Mr. James, of the Cathedral Yard, and Mr. Wedderburn, of the West Cliff Hotel, Folkestone. The latter supplied the cold collation for the men, the former supplied the viands for the officers’ tables; Mr. James also had the general supervision of the whole arrangements. As soon as the men were comfortably seated Colonel Curzon said grace and then gave the word to “Go at it men” – an order which it is needless to say, was instantly obeyed. The men made a most hearty meal, everything being supplied ad libitum. A number of the sergeants’ wives who had accompanied the troops also sat down to dinner. At the conclusion of the repast, and the ladies having retired, permission was given to the men to smoke, tobacco and cigars being liberally provided. Before the party broke up, Colonel Liddell, in a few admirably expressed words, thanked Sir Edward Watkin and the Directors of the Railway Company for their generosity to the men; and remarked upon the excellent manner in which the dinner had been served and the whole arrangements carried out.

The gallant Colonel then called upon the men to remove their pipes and cigars from their mouths before leaving the hall, and to march in an orderly fashion to the station. At half-past two the troops were reformed outside the hall and, headed by the band of the Cavalry depot, marched back to the station. The rain had now ceased, and the sun was shining brightly; officers and men were therefore able to dispense with their overcoats, which they carried on their arms. Large number of the inhabitants were assembled in the streets to witness the departure of the regiment and there was a great crowd in the station road. During the progress of the march to the station the Cathedral bells rang out merrily – the outcome of a happy thought on the part of the Dean, which will, we are certain, be warmly appreciated by the citizens. The train left for Shornecliffe shortly before three, amid the hearty cheers of the assembled throng at the station.

Mr. Miles Fenton, General Manager, John Shawcross, Secretary, and Mr. Wills, Solicitor of the South Eastern Railway Company, travelled by the special train and personally looked after the comfort of the troops at the dinner.

By direction of Sir Edward Watkin the remains of the eatables prepared for the dinner were sent to the Canterbury Union Workhouse for the children and the adults of that establishment.

Reproduced by kind permission of the British Library Board