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15th King’s Hussars - A Presentation Ink Stand, 1879

Silver and ebonised wood. The inkwell modelled as a 1858 pattern hussar busby with hinged lid, the stand applied with presentation plaque inscribed: ‘Major George Luck to Sergeant Major Henry Merrick / In Remembrance of the Years Spent Together in E Troop / 15th the Kings Hussars’. Maker’s mark of Stephen Smith, King Street, Covent Garden. Hallmarked London 1878-79. Height of busby including plume: 13.5cm (5.25in)

The present inkstand was given by Major (later General Sir) George Luck (1840-1916) to his comrade-in-arms Troop Sergeant Major Henry Merrick shortly before the latter became time expired in April 1880. TSM Merrick became an inn keeper in Dorset while Luck went on to attain the heights of his profession as Inspector-General of Cavalry in India and afterwards on the home establishment. Described as ‘a brusque, fire-eating type of soldier of the old school’, Luck entered the army by purchasing a commission in the East Yorkshire Regiment in 1858 before exchanging into the cavalry and joining the 15th (King’s) Hussars in India ten years later. He served in the Jowaki Punitive Expedition of 1877-78, and at the start of the Second Afghan War was instrumental in an early British victory by leading a charge of a 100 sabres, 15th Hussars, and 28 sabres, 1st Punjab Cavalry, against some 300 Afghan horsemen armed with carbines in the Takht-i-Pul Valley. In the hand-to-hand encounter that ensued, Luck slew two of the enemy but was wounded in the arm. The enemy turned and fled, leaving 28 dead on the field, and some seventy wounded or prisoners. Luck subsequently commanded the 15th Hussars in the second campaign of the war and participated in the epic march on Kandahar. In 1880 he took the regiment to South Africa for service in the First Anglo-Boer War, and later led a mixed squadron of the 6th Dragoons and the 14th and 15th Hussars as an escort to Sir Evelyn Wood when he met Zulu Chiefs at Inhlazatze Mountain. As Inspector-General of Cavalry Luck influenced several notable commanders of the future. Smith-Dorrien, who was attached to Luck's Headquarters, wrote: 'Sir George, rightly, had large ideas of the powers of cavalry, and recognised that they must be accustomed to long marches and surprise action, and during these manoeuvres immense distances were covered - as much as fifty miles in a day on one occasion. To me they were most instructive.’ Field Marshal Birdwood was equally impressed, 'I have never known his equal for swinging whole Cavalry Divisions about the country and bringing them in long, galloping lines dead onto their objective.’, while Field Marshal Sir John French thought, ‘In his day there was no-one whose opinions on the cavalry arm, and its employment in war, were more respected’. 

Luck was appointed K.C.B. in June 1897 and G.C.B. in 1909, Colonel of the 15th Hussars in 1904 until his death in December 1916, and Lieutenant of the Tower (1905–07). His portrait by the caricaturist Sir Leslie Ward (‘Spy’) appeared in Vanity Fair in December 1907

© The Armoury of St James's 17 Piccadilly Arcade London SW1Y 6NH