St John's Wood Barracks 1945-2012

enter the King's Troop

After the Second World War

At the end of the war in Europe in 1945, King George VI expressed the wish that a horse-drawn battery might be stationed again in London for ceremonial duties, which he further hoped might be performed in the traditional manner. Thus, early in 1946 the War Office issued instructions that the Riding Troop Royal Horse Artillery should be formed on the 17th April. The Troop moved to St. John’s Wood from Shoeburyness on 15th May 1946, and on 13th June fired their first Royal Salute, in Hyde Park.

When the Riding Troop arrived at the St John’s Wood, the barracks was in a state of wartime disrepair as indeed was much of London and many parts of St John’s Wood. There was much to do. The first post-war salute was duly completed on 13th June and thereafter the Troop began consolidating their new skills. In early 1947, they began training for the famous musical drive. The first performance took place to much acclaim at Aldershot, on 26th July.

The naming of the King’s Troop

On the 24th October 1947 the Troop were honoured with a visit by the King. During his visit he inspected the troop in full ceremonial order. He then retired to the Officers’ Mess where, upon signing the visitor’s book, he crossed out the word ‘Riding’ and substituted ‘King’s’ thus making the Troop ‘his’, and, in recognition of her father’s special interest in the Troop, the Queen has graciously allowed the title to remain during her reign. On the death of the King on 6th February 1952, the Troop had the very sad task of providing the gun carriage that carried his body from Sandringham House to Wolferton Station, and, on arrival in London, from King’s Cross to Westminster Hall.

The reputation of the ‘new’ King’s Troop continued to flourish during the following years and, in 1964, for the first time in their history they performed the musical drive abroad, at a British Trade week, in Copenhagen.  Since then they have performed their unique display all over Britain and Europe, as well as in Canada and the United States.

Rebuilding of the barracks

Between 1969 and 1972 the Troop was accommodated with the Household Cavalry armoured regiment at Windsor whilst St. John’s Wood barracks was rebuilt. The Troop marched back into the new St. John’s Wood barracks on 17th April 1972. During the past forty years they have continued to enhance their reputation both at home and abroad in a variety of displays and competitions.

They have also been at the forefront of State ceremonial and, since 1973, performing the once unfamiliar duties of Queen’s Life Guard at Whitehall each year. More recently they have been at the heart of national events including the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the Queen’s golden and diamond jubilee celebrations in 2002 and 2012.

The ties with St John’s Wood

The troop has also cultivated strong ties with the local community, in and around St. John’s Wood and, apart from their normal morning exercise routine around the streets, there have been many ‘Open Days’ where the local residents have been able to see the Troop ‘at home’. For the past twenty years, there has also been the famous Christmas ride around the streets of St. John’s Wood, which has been much enjoyed by soldiers, horses and residents alike. The departure of Troop in 2012 was as very a sad affair for both the Army and the locals, many thousands of whom turned out to wave the Troop farewell as they marched down the High Street for the last time.

Copyright (where applicable) for all the images contained in this article has been cleared through Bill Clarke, the author of the book ‘Royal Salute’, from which they have been reproduced here.  All enquiries regarding their origins should be addressed to him.

This page was added on 15/12/2012.

Comments about this page

  • I was born there along with 2 sisters and 3 brothers. My Dad was Douglas Gordon in the Scots Guard, I visibly remember a huge model horse in the barracks.
    Then I had an accident in the building , and poor mum and dad had to come home from the cinema, does anyone remember?

    By Connie Eyles (Gordon) (05/01/2018)
  • My mother had a paper round for 13 years that included the married quarters  in the barracks, & I did it after her for 6 years. I used to take a bag full of carrots on a Sunday morning & made sure that every horse got one each, then they would let me ride a horse around the practice ring HAPPY DAYS !!!

    By victor poulton (29/12/2016)

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