Indian North West Frontier Waziristan 1937 to 1939 and Second World War Middle East and Burma campaign 1934 Kedir Cup Finalists group awarded to Lieutenant Colonel A.S. Armstrong, 1st Duke of York's Own Skinner’s Horse, who as a subaltern with his regiment when stationed at Poona, was a finalist in the prestigious Kedir Cup, the winner of whom could claim the highest honour in the sport of pig-sticking. Armstrong went on to see service during the operations on the North West Frontier in Waziristan which lasted from 16th December 1937 to 1st January 1940, and then saw service during the Second World War in the Middle East and Burma most probably with the Indian Armoured Corps. Rare to an officer in Skinner’s Horse.
Group of 6: India General Service Medal 1936-1939, 1 Clasp: North West Frontier 1937-39; (CAPT. A.S. ARMSTRONG. SKINNER’S HORSE.); 1939-1945 Star; Africa Star; Burma Star; Defence Medal; War Medal. Mounted swing style as worn.
Condition: Nearly Extremely Fine.
Together with the recipient’s matching group of miniature medals.
Alan Spurgeon Armstrong was born originally with the surname of Anspach on 28th November 1908 in Hove Sussex, the son of William Leopold Anspach, and Mary May Cook, though due to having German origins, his father, who was himself originally born in Islington, London, successfully applied to change the family name, notification of this being announced in the London Gazette for 10th May 1918. Armstrong was commissioned into the Unattached List on 31st January 1929, before being posted as a 2nd Lieutenant into the Indian Army on 5th April 1930, and posted to the 1st Duke of York's Own Skinner’s Horse. This regiment was the second most senior of the Indian Army cavalry units, only behind the President’s Bodyguard, a position it still maintains to this day in the Armoured Corps of the Indian Army.
Armstrong was promoted to Lieutenant on 30th April 1931, having joined his regiment at its base at Lucknow at a time of relative peace. Lucknow was a paradise for Cavalry Officers - with four polo grounds, a race-course and some good shooting nearby. But best of all, the surrounding country provided the finest horse activity in India which was Hoghunting, or Pigsticking, as it was more commonly called. This involved the finding, hunting and killing of wild boars with a lance called a hog-spear. Falls were frequent, and accidents, though inevitable, were accepted as part of the thrill which comes with pursuits involving some danger.
Armstrong soon found himself involved in the life of an Indian cavalry officer, as evidenced by his participation in the prestigious Kedir Cup, the winner of whom could claim the highest honour in the sport of pig-sticking or hog-hunting and the ultimate ambition of any pig sticker was to win it. The most famous winner of the cup was Sir Robert Baden Powell in 1883, it having been originally founded in 1879, and it was held annually in Meerut near Delhi, except in the years when the army was at war. It was a contest for individuals and was held over four days with each individual making an entry in his name and nominating two horses. The riders were divided into heats of three to four spears with each hunter on horseback carrying a 6' spear. When a boar was flushed out the men galloped off to spear it with umpires supervising the hunt with the first rider to hold up a bloodied spear going into the next round of the competition. Round followed round until the final was reached. In case both horses entered by a rider found themselves drawn in one heat, the owner could nominate another spear to ride one of them, with the stipulation being that the other spear had to be heavier than him! Each contestant would pay an entry fee with the winner receiving the entry fees with which he bought a replica of the original trophy to which his name was inscribed.
As mentioned, Armstrong participated in the Kadir Cup, notably the 1934 event, footage of which can be found online. A fellow officer, Lieutenant Douglas Gray of Skinner’s Horse went on to win the even on his horse ‘Granite’ and wrote an account of the event, initially published in The Lady magazine in the 1930’s, under the title of ‘Granite - The Story of a Great Australian Mare’. In the article, Gray mentions Armstrong by name. Armstrong having fallen in the first heat, nevertheless qualified to be second finalist, he having been detailed to ride the subsequent winner’s ‘second string’, a horse by the name of Hermione, Gray was on Granite. The third finalist was a Roscoe Harvey of the 10th Royal Hussars, riding a very fast horse called ‘Spider’.
At the beginning of the competition, Gray detailed that there were a record entry of ‘120 horses on the card, almost all being Cavalry officers from British and Indian regiments, together with several Gunners. Riders drew for places in heats of four, taking their turns on the line - left, central and right, each with an Umpire carrying a red flag. There were about 300 beaters on foot, and, behind them, some 20 elephants used as moving grandstands for spectators - the whole scene sweeping across the riverine terrain in an area where many wild pig had been driven in from the surrounding country during the previous week.
As a rideable boar got up, the nearest Umpire followed with his heat and shouting “Do you all see him? NOW RIDE”, dropping his flag and away they galloped - competing for first spear, the winner to show blood on his spear-point to the Umpire, putting him into next round. Heat followed heat over the next three days until the final was reached - in my year by three riders. (Roscoe, Grey and Armstrong). Granite was in his element and, with his greyhound qualities and speed, he took me into the final. My second horse, Hermione (ridden by Armstrong), was a surprise, because, though slower than Granite, she had a lot of luck - such as falls by opposing riders or boars that turned towards her - and she too reached the final. The third finalist was Roscoe Harvey of the 10th Royal Hussars, riding a very fast horse called “Spider”. Roscoe was a noted Army horseman, the winner of many races over fences and on the flat, as well as being a seasoned pigsticker and a 6-handicap polo player - so the odds were against me - and it was all up to Granite. I asked another Skinner’s Horse Officer (who had fallen in his first heat), to take the ride on my second string, Hermione, but to keep out of the way - unless Granite fell, when, of course, he should try to beat Roscoe himself.
A large boar soon got up in the final run, breaking back through the line of the beaters and elephants, with Roscoe and me flat-out in pursuit. Out target came back to us rather quickly and we both reached for him together in one dual swooping lunge. My spearpoint hit the boar’s quarter, turning him so that Roscoe’s thrust hit the ground - bad luck for him. We both stopped, dismounted and Roscoe sportingly wrung my hand whilst the Umpire, Mr. Lobb Parr, signalled with his flag to the line of elephants “Granite wins”. It was a great moment for me, only made possibly by my marvellous horse - for he had won the Kadir Cup.
That night, in the large tented camp under the mango trees, and with all the elephants lined up as a background in the light of the bonfires, a last-day party was held and as the lucky rider, I was obliged to attempt the tradition Hog-hunter’s song - the first verse of which was "Over the valley, and over the level Through the rough jungle now go like the devil There's a nullah in front, but a boar as well. So sit down in your saddle and ride like hell!"
Later back at the Skinner’s Horse base at Lucknow, a further party was held for the occasion. The Kadir Cup Challenge Trophy is now on permanent display on the first floor of the Cavalry and Guards Club, with the names of all the winning horses and their riders.
Armstrong was promoted to Captain on 1st August 1938, he saw service during the operations on the North West Frontier in Waziristan which lasted from 16th December 1937 to 1st January 1940, and then saw service during the Second World War in the Middle East and Burma most probably with the Indian Armoured Corps. Promoted to War Substantive Major on 17th November 1943, he saw service as an acting Lieutenant Colonel from 17th August 1943 through to 16th November 1943, and was promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel on 17th November 1943. Armstrong returned to live in Hove, where he lived at 23 Brunswick Square, and died on 23rd December 1961.