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2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade - A First World War Equestrian Bronze, 1920
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2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade - A First World War Equestrian Bronze, 1920

Measurements: Height: 37cm (14.5ins)

£5750

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Signed 'Cecil Brown' and inscribed ‘2nd S.M.M.B.’ identifying the subject as a trooper of the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade, with which the sculptor went to war in 1914.

The 2nd S.M.M.B. was a Territorial Force yeomanry brigade commanded by the Brigadier-General The Earl of Longford. Originally comprising Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars, Berkshire Yeomanry and Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars, Berkshire Battery,  Royal Horse Artillery and ancillary troops, it concentrated in Berkshire on the outbreak of war in August 1914 and was briefly employed in coastal defence duties, losing the Oxfordshire Hussars for the Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry prior to embarkation for Egypt and dismounted service on the Gallipoli peninsula. On 21 August 1915 the brigade, as part of the 2nd Mounted Division, was committed to the largest single-day attack ever mounted by the Allies at Gallipoli. Involving three division in total, the offensive was designed to relieve pressure on the exposed British position at Suvla and to link up with ANZAC forces to the south.  

After an anxious day of waiting in reserve, the yeomanry was ordered to assault Scimitar Hill at 5pm, their attack timed so that the setting sun might shine in the eyes of the Turkish machine gunners. Unfortunately the day was overcast, and the scrub covering the hill was on fire, set alight by shellfire, and threatening to consume the dead and dying British infantry already strewn across the slopes. Advancing in columns by regiment and, marching in extended order, the 5,000 Yeomen were easy targets for the shrapnel. Most of them halted in the cover of Green Hill, west of Scimitar Hill but Brigadier-General Lord Longford led his 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade in a charge over Green Hill and up to the summit of Scimitar Hill. Continuing on, Lord Longford was cut off and killed. The yeomanry too were driven from the summit. The attack at Scimitar Hill on 21 August was the last attempt by the British to advance at Suvla. The front line remained between Green Hill and Scimitar Hill for the remainder of the campaign until the evacuation on 20 December.

The survivors of the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade returned to Egypt as part of a composite regiment and reunited with their horses were reorganised into the 6th Mounted Brigade during 1916. As a part of the Imperial  Mounted Division, 6th M.B. took part the first and second Battles of Gaza in early 1917, and, following inclusion in the Yeomanry Mounted Division, participated in the Battle of Beersheba, the Capture of the Sheria Position, Battle of Mughar Ridge, Battle of Nebi Samwil and, withstanding the Turkish counter-attacks, the Capture of Jerusalem.

Major Cecil Hew Brown (1868-1926) was an equestrian artist and sometime member of the Middlesex Hussars Yeomanry.  Too old in August 1914 at 46 for regimental service, Brown's military experience and knowledge of horses secured him a commission in October as Second Lieutenant, Army Service Corps, 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade Transport and Supply Column. He accordingly entered the Egyptian theatre of war in March 1915, remaining with the brigade's horses when the yeomen of the division were ordered to Gallipoli. After the destruction of 2nd S.M.M.B. on Scimitar Hill and the reorganisation of troops returning from Gallipoli, Cecil Brown was gazetted to the Imperial Camel Corps, then tasked with patrolling the Western Desert and Northern Sudan, an appointment that led to his most most important sculptural commission, the Imperial Camel Corps memorial on Victoria Embankment Gardens, London, which was unveiled on 22 July 1921.

Born in Ayr, Scotland, Brown was educated at Harrow and Exeter College, Oxford, and received his artistic training in London and Paris. He began his career as a painter but turned to sculpture in the 1890s, concentrating on equestrian subjects reflecting his personal interests in hunting and horses. In 1913 he  designed a medal for the International Medical Congress of London. From 1920 he was art master at Bedford School. In 1926 it was reported that he died whilst out hunting with the Oakley Hounds near Keysoe, having fallen from his horse.

Sources:
British Army WWI Medal Roll Index, 1914-1920
London Gazette, 18 February 1916, pp. 1820-21
Baker, M. (2008) Discovering London Statues and Monuments, Osprey
Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow online

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