A Cavalry Sword On An East Kent's Grave

soleil

War Hero
I would be very grateful for any input on the following, please, which is a bit of a conundrum.

I've recently been helping a gentleman (ex RGJ) who spends a fair bit of time each week restoring graves in the Kent area and further afield when required. His restorations range from a simple clean which takes a day or so to ones where more work is required. They are generally the graves of people with a military connection. I've seen photographs of the graves he has restored and he's done an excellent job.

Before he begins work on a grave, he seeks the permission of the person's family and I do the research which identifies them.

He is currently working on one particular grave in Kent which requires more extensive restoration, that of Edwin C Ongley. Edwin served from 1881 to 1907 and died in 1917.

Edwin's Service and Pension Records say that he was with the East Kent Regiment, The Buffs. He was the Colour Sergeant Instructor in the later stages of his career.

By trade he was a groom.

The aspect which has perplexed the restorer is the fact that part of the grave shows a sword, but not the kind of sword one would associate with the Buffs; it's a cavalry sword.

I asked him what marks it out as a cavalry sword and he said its curve and the straps attached to it.

Edwin wasn't with a cavalry regiment and we are wondering why a cavalry sword might have been incorporated into his grave.

All suggestions gratefully received.
 

soleil

War Hero
Ongley1.jpg
 

4(T)

LE


Thats not a cavalry sword, which in the time period would be the straight-blade 1908/12 pattern.

Depending upon artistic licence, it could be an 1822 light cavalry pattern - as used by the Royal Artillery to this day.

I'm inclined to think, though, that this must be whatever pattern the Buffs used for the SNCOs of their colour party and band.
 

soleil

War Hero
Thats not a cavalry sword, which in the time period would be the straight-blade 1908/12 pattern.

Depending upon artistic licence, it could be an 1822 light cavalry pattern - as used by the Royal Artillery to this day.

I'm inclined to think, though, that this must be whatever pattern the Buffs used for the SNCOs of their colour party and band.


Thank you, 4(T), that's really useful to know, I shall tell him what you have said.
 
I suspect that there’s a simpler explanation. As he was - by definition- already dead, he wouldn’t have been around to provide technical input on sword design and the Stonemason did what he thought was a good job.

The family either weren’t clued up or were too busy grieving to notice that it wasn’t the 1897 Infantry pattern sword.
 
Or it was made for someone else, the family got it at a good price and didn't care
 
I think it's just an ornamental tableau: sword hung up and now at rest so to speak. It's very unusual... and probably cost quite a few bob back in the day. Even now really. I wouldn't read too much in to sword patterns etc.
 

4(T)

LE
I suspect that there’s a simpler explanation. As he was - by definition- already dead, he wouldn’t have been around to provide technical input on sword design and the Stonemason did what he thought was a good job.

The family either weren’t clued up or were too busy grieving to notice that it wasn’t the 1897 Infantry pattern sword.


Its quite an accurate depiction, though, of the belt and slings, etc. Nice piece of work.

Assuming this monument was prepared post-war, there'd be a good chance that the stonemason and his apprentices would themselves all be fresh from demob!

They might have even been using his actual CSgT sword and belt as the model.


It would be interesting to know whether other, identical, monuments exist. That'd indicate if it was a custom job or from a catalogue series. Must have been very lucrative business in those years.
 

soleil

War Hero
The restorer tells me that the restoration work to be undertaken by the builder is to remount the cross showing the sword on the top of the block so that it is one complete piece.

The little jagged bit on top of the block is actually the base of the cross, which obviously came off/was pulled off at a later date and then propped up at the side of the base block.
 
For what it's worth, a lot of the Victorian memorials were from a catalogue, very much like today. It just may be that the grieving family were helped to choose by a stonemason or funeral director and thought "that's appropriate, a sword hung up over a cross".
 
My goodness, are they each carved out of one block? That is some impressive workmanship.
And they appear to be bespoke as the straps are all slightly different. I wonder if the "sword hanging from a cross" was a catalogue item, as has been mentioned, but each one was carved by different stone masons, who probably used a photo or an actual sword as reference and therefore the sword itself is not necessarily accurate as regards the Regt. the deceased served with.
Impressive masonary work all the same.
 
An interesting surname to research - as Edwin must have enlisted into the 'new' E Kent Regt at the time of the Childers Reform, his Regimental number was 19 (!).

His son, however, is worthy of research in his own right.

Alfred Victor Ongley was born in 1895 and, it would seem, was keen to follow his father into The Buffs. Whilst the 1911 Census shows him as a 'Errand Boy' it is obvious that as soon as he was of age he was off to the Regiment.

In September 1914, LCpl Ongley entered France with the 1st Bn The Buffs. Obviously a good and steady soldier, 1916 saw Cpl Ongley's name appear in the London Gazette:

AV Ongley DCM.jpg


Albert not only survived the war but continued to serve, certainly up to the late 30s as WOII Ongley appears on the GSM Medal Roll for the 'PALESTINE' clasp:

WOII AV Ongley DCM.jpg


. . . and, at that point, disappears from view.
 
My goodness, are they each carved out of one block? That is some impressive workmanship.
Often one piece of stone. Occasionally items were carved separately and pinned together using metal dowels and stone mortar. Very occasionally items were cast in metal and painted with a stone effect. (I once worked for a local authority and had responsibility for closed burial grounds. These were old with burials from the 1750's onwards to the year 2000. Apart from the fact I could find a reason to lose myself for days, always had a flask and peanut butter sandwiches, I became really interested in the memorials. Some days I went home feeling quite down especially seeing all the decay and neglect over once cared for memorials.
 
Often one piece of stone. Occasionally items were carved separately and pinned together using metal dowels and stone mortar. Very occasionally items were cast in metal and painted with a stone effect. (I once worked for a local authority and had responsibility for closed burial grounds. These were old with burials from the 1750's onwards to the year 2000. Apart from the fact I could find a reason to lose myself for days, always had a flask and peanut butter sandwiches, I became really interested in the memorials. Some days I went home feeling quite down especially seeing all the decay and neglect over once cared for memorials.
I think those Victorian cemeteries are a great reminder to us about our ultimate insignificance in the grand picture of things.

You walk around seeing these magnificent pieces of stonemasonry, genuine works of art many of them, carved with breathtaking skill by talented and gifted men. They have been raised to the glorious and immortal memory of someone, perhaps a local shopkeeper, lawyer, town councillor, or otherwise greatly esteemed member of his local community. The time, effort and money put in by the man's family to remember him are touching testimonies to the respect and love they had for him (or perhaps the family just wanted to outdo the Jones' grave to their father) and no doubt for a few years they annually gathered at his graveside to lay flowers and say a few prayers.

Now who has the faintest idea of who he ever was? His descendants probably live in a flat that they mortgaged their lifetime to own and in which he would have housed his servants. They speak English in a dialect he would be shocked to hear, they go on drinking holidays to places he would have thought barbaric and no place for an Englishman that did not wear the Queen's coat. The corner shop he once proudly ran sells some sort of frothy coffee drinks. And everything he did, everything he achieved, everything that he said and stood for are completely forgotten about.

And the expensive and very beautiful monument to his life and work crumbles amid empty beer cans and used condoms.
 
I think those Victorian cemeteries are a great reminder to us about our ultimate insignificance in the grand picture of things.

You walk around seeing these magnificent pieces of stonemasonry, genuine works of art many of them, carved with breathtaking skill by talented and gifted men. They have been raised to the glorious and immortal memory of someone, perhaps a local shopkeeper, lawyer, town councillor, or otherwise greatly esteemed member of his local community. The time, effort and money put in by the man's family to remember him are touching testimonies to the respect and love they had for him (or perhaps the family just wanted to outdo the Jones' grave to their father) and no doubt for a few years they annually gathered at his graveside to lay flowers and say a few prayers.

Now who has the faintest idea of who he ever was? His descendants probably live in a flat that they mortgaged their lifetime to own and in which he would have housed his servants. They speak English in a dialect he would be shocked to hear, they go on drinking holidays to places he would have thought barbaric and no place for an Englishman that did not wear the Queen's coat. The corner shop he once proudly ran sells some sort of frothy coffee drinks. And everything he did, everything he achieved, everything that he said and stood for are completely forgotten about.

And the expensive and very beautiful monument to his life and work crumbles amid empty beer cans and used condoms.

I just dont have the words to express my sad agreement with that
 
Last edited:

New Posts

Top