Silver Statuette of a Mounted Trooper of the 1/1st Royal Bucks Hussars presented to the Officers of the Regiment by Major George Warren Swire, 1916.

Although the statuette is dated as being presented to the regiment in 1916, it is actually hallmarked 1918. It is particularly interesting given Warren Swire’s uneasy relationship with his commanding officer, Cecil Grenfell, and his leaving the Royal Bucks Hussars under something of a cloud in 1916. It depicts the campaign dress as worn by the 1/1st Royal Bucks Hussars in the Western Desert and in Palestine between 1916 and 1918.   

George Warren Swire (1883-1949) was one of several very wealthy men who joined the Royal Bucks Hussars in the years leading to the First World War, in his case in 1907. Educated at Eton and in Germany, Warren Swire became a partner in the family firm of John Swire and Sons, the Hong Kong and China trading and shipping company, in 1905 and was later the company’s chairman from 1927 to 1946. A keen amateur photographer, Swire took a particular interest in the company’s subsidiary, the China Navigation Company. The important albums with over 1,900 images relating to his many visits to China are now in the collection of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Swire also took a series of photographs of the Royal Bucks Hussars, notably at the last pre-war camp in 1914. His management of the company coincided with the difficult and testing years of the Chinese Civil War that began in 1927 and the Sino-Japanese War that began ten years later.

Swire had a difficult personality and was known for habitual rudeness to his company staff. Perhaps not surprisingly he did not take kindly to military subordination to those he considered fools. According to Frederick Lawson, later 4th Lord Burnham, Swire was acerbic and ‘poisonous’. Mobilising in August 1914, Swire accompanied the 1/1st RBH to Egypt in April 1915 but, now a Major, remained there in command of ‘A’ Squadron (with all the regiment’s horses) when the other two squadrons were sent to Gallipoli in August 1915. Swire was appalled at the return of Cecil Grenfell, who had been invalided out of Gallipoli in August, to command the now reunified regiment for the Senussi campaign in the Western Desert in December 1915. Swire believed the Grenfells had too much influence and sought a transfer to the 2/1st Royal Bucks Hussars. Grenfell alleged that Swire did not have the confidence of his subordinates, whilst Swire also blamed John Grenfell for taking his brother’s side in the dispute. Cecil Grenfell’s utter dislike for officers drafted into the 1/1st from the 2/1st in general and for Swire in particular was coming down heavily on NCOs brought in from the 2/1st. Those officers who had arrived from the 2/1st wanted Swire as commanding officer but Grenfell was determined to be rid of him. Swire’s departure was hastened by his writing to the brigade commander refusing to serve under Cecil Grenfell, leading him to be put under arrest and ordered back to Cairo. Swire did not return to the 2/1st RBH as he hoped but went to work in shipping control for which he was eminently suited.

After retirement from business in 1946 following a dispute with his nephew, Swire worked for the Port of London’s Mission to Seamen and as a Crown Estate Paving Commissioner. Swire died of a heart attack in November 1949.


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