Colonel John Cecil Petherick, who died on 24 May 1981 at the age of 92, was the last surviving 3rd Hussar officer of those who, with the Regiment, went to France on the 14 August 1914 and were present at the Battle of Mons, the Retreat from Mons, the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of the Aisne.

Born on the 21 January 1889, he was educated at Marlborough and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he got a 2nd class BA degree in Mediaeval and Modern French and was first in order of merit in Military subjects. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Hussars early in 1912 (with seniority from the 3rd February 1911), he joined the Regiment at Shorncliffe where he was stationed until going to the War.

He was wounded on 17 September 1914 in the Battle of the Aisne but on recovering returned to the Regiment with which he remained until early 1916 when in the rank of Captain he was appointed to command the 4th Cavalry Brigade Machine Gun Squadron, an appointment which he filled until the end of the War and after, finally in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

His service throughout the War in France was recognised by the award of the Italian Silver Medal for Valour (1917), the Military Cross (1918) and a Mention in Dispatches.

Early in 1919, he returned to Shorncliffe with his machine gunners and there remained until posted back to Regimental duty in early 1921.

On 21 July 1921, he married the Hon. Bridget Cornwallis, the youngest daughter of the 1st Baron Cornwallis, and by her had one son (deceased) and two daughters.

Three months after his wedding, he was sent with the Regiment to Constantinople and late in August 1922 he was in command of ‘B’ Squadron at Chanak, the only British troops on the Asian side of the Dardanelles.

It was largely due to his tactful but firm handling of the situation when grossly provoked and insulted by the Turkish forces of Mustapha Kemal that an outbreak of hostilities was avoided.

Returning to England in 1923, he spent two years at the Cavalry Depot at Canterbury followed by four years at Doncaster as Adjutant of the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons. He retired from the Army in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1929 and in 1930 bought Hextall Court, Peckham Bush, Nr Tonbridge, his home from then on.

Early in his service with the Regiment, he was allotted a Government charger called Chough and in 1913 he bought a private charger in Ireland which he called Tregeagle. Both these horses carried him throughout the 1914 War and were never “sick or sorry”.

On Chough, too, he won two (including one open) point-to-point races before the War and the Regimental race at Arborfield and another point-to-point race in 1920-and one wonder whether these racing successes with four years of War on active service abroad separating them may not well be a unique record. Tregeagle, too, after four years of War, was still good enough to win three point-to-point races in 1922, including Earl Beatty’s Cup at Arborfield, but at the time was sent to The Hon Stanley Cornwallis and ridden by Joe Dudgeon,

In the 1939-45 War, Colonel Petherick was for a year a Group Commander of the LDV (later Home Guard) in Kent but then was posted to Civil Affairs/Military Government with which he served in the UK and France, Belgium and Holland, From 1952 to 1956 he was Sector Commander of the West Kent Home Guard.

Throughout his life a staunch Conservative, Colonel Petherick was Chairman of the Maidstone Division Conservative Association for 20 years from 1933, President for a further 7 years and from 1960 Vice-President for life.

In 1953, he was awarded the OBE for these and many other public services in the County of Kent.

A good horseman and shot, a keen racegoer and a real artist with a fishing rod, Colonel Petherick loved all field sports and was a true countryman as well as a good soldier and public-spirited in his retirement years, Our sympathy goes out to his widow, daughters and grandchildren.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 3rd Hussars
  2. Timeline: The Western Front 1914-18