Dicky Bird, who died on 6 May 1992 at the age of 89, enlisted in the 4th Hussars at Aldershot in February 1920 and sailed with the Regiment to India the following year.

He was an accomplished horseman and was soon to become a contributor to the Regimental Journal, but was probably best known as an actor and entertainer at the frequent plays and concerts that used to be put on. He had a large and varied store of bawdy songs, many of which were composed by himself and were topical and often personal.

In 1927-28 we were together on a 7-month Equitation course at Saugor in India were at the passing out he came top of the British NCOs in every subject. Unfortunately, he had been unable to resist the temptation to make fun of the Chief Instructor in a song which he made up and sang at the end of term concert, which was why he classified ‘Q 1′ instead of `Distinguished’ to which he was undoubtedly entitled. He had previously got a ‘D’ at the Small Arms School where he must have behaved more tactfully!

It was about this time that he was badly kicked by a horse and was lucky not to lose his leg. From then on he was allowed to wear field boots (one of which was specially strengthened to protect his leg), instead of puttees, a privilege which he greatly enjoyed.

He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major in 1927 and just before the outbreak of the war, he was appointed RSM of the North Somerset Yeomanry. They were still a horsed regiment and were sent to Palestine.

In 1941 they saw action against the French forces in Syria.

In May 1942 Dicky was commissioned and by 1945 he had attained the acting rank of Lieutenant Colonel. It was about this time that he was APM in Cairo when King Farouk of Egypt was injured in a motor accident, involving a British Army vehicle, and was taken to an Army hospital.

Lt Colonel Bird was quickly on the scene and visited the King in hospital, ostensibly to officially express regret at the accident and to find out if the King wished him to take any action in the matter. His talent as a raconteur stood him in good stead and he struck up a friendship with the King so that on leaving the Army in 1946 he was able to obtain employment in Egypt under Royal patronage, receiving the King’s Personal Order of The Khedive Ismael. He subsequently was employed by King Feisal of Iraq to build and run the Royal AI Manseun Race Course of which he was Secretary, Racing Manager, Handicapper and Stipendary Steward.

In 1958 after the revolution, during which he was fortunately on leave in England, he returned to his home town of Colchester, where he was elected president of the Colchester Angling Preservation
Society, and of the Military Police Old Comrades.

He became well known for his work with elderly groups in the town and was frequently visited by old comrades at the home he shared in Vint Crescent with his companion of nearly 50 years, Major Daphne Lance.

He was for a time a Bookmaker in the town. For those who remember his activities whilst serving with the Regiment in India, this will not come as much of a surprise.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 4th Hussars
  2. Middle East (Egypt and Libya) timeline