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14th Murray’s Jat Lancers - Officer’s Silver Table Top Box, 1896
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14th Murray’s Jat Lancers - Officer’s Silver Table Top Box, 1896

Measurements: 18cm (7in) x 3.2cm (1.25in) x 7.5cm (3in)



Silver pouch flap applied with the crowned B[engal] L[ancers] cypher as appropriate to 14th Jat Lancers, circa 1896, later converted for use as a cedar lined table top table cigarette box. The underside inscribed ‘Colonel H.M.W. Souter C.M.G. D.S.O. / Croix de Guerre avec Palme / 14th Jat Lancers / And / Comdg. Scottish Horse / And / Dorset Yeomanry’. The production of table top boxes such as the present example follows a tradition of recycling the silver elements of a cavalry officer’s uniform into items of considered of practical use.

The present pouch flap was worn by Hugh Souter when a subaltern in the 14th Bengal Cavalry at the turn of the 20th century. Some sixteen years later he led the mounted charge of the 184-strong Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry at the Battle of Agagia in February 1916. The charge, which was undertaken entirely on Souter’s initiative and was made over 1200 yards of open country against an enemy of 500 Senussi tribesmen equipped with rifles and supported by machine guns. On breaking through the enemy's lines, Souter's horse was shot under him, and he found himself in front of the Ottoman commander Ja'far Pasha al-Askari (1887-1936) - later twice Prime Minister of Iraq - who, with his staff, surrendered to him.  Souter’s charge effectively ended the uprising of the Turkish and German sponsored Senussi who hitherto had threatened British supply lines through the Suez Canal.

Repeated efforts to reward Souter with the Victoria Cross were made by General Sir William Eliot Peyton (1866-1931), the commander of the Western Frontier Force in Egypt, who lobbied Lord Kitchener. However, in the event ‘three senior generals’ concurred that the Souter’s valour would have to be overlooked on account of ‘the large number of gallant acts that have to go unrewarded in France.’ Colonel Souter, nevertheless, received the immediate award of the D.S.O. Souter’s action was further commemorated by the war artist Lady Elizabeth Butler (1846-1933), in her painting 'The Dorset Yeoman at Agagia', painted in 1917, exhibited at the Royal Academy in the same year, and now in the collection of Dorset County Council.

Colonel Hugh Maurice Wellesley Souter, D.S.O., C.M.G. (1872-1941) was gazetted into the 14th Bengal Lancers (Murray’s Jats) from the Manchester Regiment in 1896. He served in the Tibetan Campaign of 1903-4 and was mentioned in dispatches. During the First World War he served in France and Flanders, Gallipoli, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, and was four times mentioned in dispatches.