Cpl Blackwell of the 11th Hussars

(1900 - 1977)

James William Blackwell was my Grandfather, born 13 December 1900 to William Joseph Blackwell and Caroline Smedley in Stapleford.

After an elementary education, he left school to go to work, following a variety of occupations including that of coal miner at the Trowell Coal Mine (Trowell Pit). At the outbreak of the First World War, he was only 13, but like many other young men at that time, he 'joined up', but he suffered the indignity of his formidable mother forcibly dragging him out of the recruitment centre! He saw out the War years doing essential land work, where he met my Grandmother, Ada Pepper, who was a member of the Women's Land Army.

My Grandfather in his uniform, with my Grandmother hovering overhead, together with the insignia of the Royal Hussars.

At the age of 19, when war was over, he signed up for a period of 7 years as a regular soldier in the army. He was posted to the famous 11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own), a cavalry regiment known as 'The Cherry Pickers', because of a particularly famous battle that took place in a cherry orchard and from then on part of their dress uniform consisted of the distinctive cherry red trousers.

After basic training at Aldershot, he was posted to India, where he remained until his demob in 1926. The regiment was on duty on the infamous North-West Frontier, now the border between India and Pakistan. They were fighting hill tribesmen, one of whose methods of warfare consisted of shooting the horses from beneath the soldiers and then swarming in on the beleaguered men, butchering them where they stood.

In such circumstances, it was necessary for the soldiers to be expert horsemen, and also to be able to fight skilfully with both left and right hand - their lives depended on it. James learned to do all this, and even to write copper-plate writing with his left hand - he was naturally right handed.

This dexterity saved his life. On a patrol, they were attacked by the tribesmen, who aimed to kill the horses, in their usual way. The bullet meant for James' horse missed its target but hit James in the back. His skill as a horseman helped him to ride away and reach camp. Although gravely ill, he survived. He kept the bullet as a gruesome reminder of his 'near miss'.

He was much in demand by the officers for his care and skill in looking after their horses, and the training of their polo ponies.

In a cavalry regiment, a vital job is performed by the saddlers, maintaining tack and saddlery to the highest standards. James underwent training in this and rose to be a Saddler Corporal.

The then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) paid his ancestor's regiment a visit during a tour of India. Instead of the group of officers who had been chosen to escort him, the Prince selected an escort from amongst the men - one of whom was James. He was very proud of this honour.

After his seven years were up, James remained on reserve for 14 more years. World War 2 was declared in September 1939, just before his period in the reserve ended, and he was summoned back for duty at the age of 38. However, in view of his previous service and the sympathy of the recruiting board, he was discharged from the reserve, and did not have to return to the army.


More Military Stuff

Read about my family's Army and Navy Service.

Read about My Claim to Fame!

Yes, I have a claim to fame, but proving it was another matter!

This page is dedicated to all those who have ever gone in search of the truth, only to find that it wasn't quite that easy!

Blackwell Picture Gallery

I've got quite a collection of family photographs - have a look!


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