David Manger joined The Queen’s Own Hussars from the Royal Corps of Signals at Catterick in 1966. He soon became groom to Mark Price with his racehorses, Freddy S and Aunty Angel, a partnership that achieved considerable success.
When the Regiment was ordered to Aden the next year, he deployed as Price’s driver in 2nd Troop, “A” Squadron, and they were soon in action taking their baptism of fire at Little Aden within a few days of arrival and seeing the whole operation through with the sort of style one would like to expect.
On return to Maresfield, he reverted to the Stables and soon established a reputation as a thoroughly good man with horses if somewhat unconventional.
He spent some years in the early ‘70s with Ian Farquhar who was, by then, equerry to HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, looking after his polo ponies at Cirencester and hunters with the Meynell. At Cirencester, he learnt as much as he could from the Argentinians, adopting their practices and, even, imitating their looks to the extent of growing a moustache like Pancho Villa’s.
At the Meynell kennels, the Master was surprised one morning to find four hunters, beautifully turned out, but secured to only a washing line. On another occasion at Cirencester, David had to advise Farquhar – in the middle of a match – that his 4th chukka pony was lame.
The Captain explained there was little he could do about that at the time and he rather looked to his groom to find a solution. The chukka came, and a more than adequate pony was brought but, at the end of the match, Farquhar was confronted by a very irate owner shouting, “Oi! That’s my … pony you’ve been playing with!”
Polo took an increasing part in David’s life. He played, himself, and was always a keen competitor in the Grooms’ Tournament although usually beaten in the final. His zenith at polo came in 1982 when, after several seasons disrupted by operations in Northern Ireland and training in Western Canada, he led The Queen’s Own Hussars team of grooms in Detmold and played, himself, off a +1 handicap including winning Inter-Regimental runners-up silver and, as Michael Bromley Gardner wrote in the Journal for that year, ‘he is not the only soldier ever to have won Inter-Regimental silver, but there are not very many others.
To crown it all, that year the grooms (Sgt Manger, Cpl Grant, LCpl Baker and Tpr Wright) won the plate competition in the Grooms’ Tournament.
A groom’s career in a regiment like ours can never be one of rocketing progress; it’s often a question of ‘dead men’s shoes’ and may culminate in being appointed Sergeant Kettledrummer when on parade (they usually reverted to corporal after the event) and when there wasn’t an aspiring equestrian percussionist in the Band.
David Manger was promoted to Sergeant in 1979 which shows us the value he was considered to bring and the esteem in which he was held. He had no little difficulty getting accepted for a farrier’s course but, with characteristic perseverance, he made it in the end.
Having retired at Catterick in 1985, he made a successful business as a farrier in North Yorkshire and then, later, moved down to Hertfordshire where he was involved in the building trade, the equestrian side of film making, driving – first a pair and then four-in-hand – and biking, he once covered 100 miles in 62 minutes.
His coffin, draped with the union flag and his biker’s jacket, was brought to his funeral in a horse-drawn hearse (four-in-hand) and escorted by about forty of his biker colleagues.