by Ernest Anderson
Source: Chronicle of the Family, Vol 1, No 2, August 1913
Ernest Anderson was the eldest of Maria Molteno and Tom Anderson’s three children. He qualified as a doctor at Cambridge and subsequently became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. Instead of returning to the Cape, he remained in England. In 1912, he was invited by a friend to join the British Red Cross team being despatched to the Balkans during the Turkish-Bulgarian War. He spent two spells working there and saw the horrendous conditions both sides suffered. On his return, he decided to enlist in the British Army and got a commission in the prestigious Household Cavalry. The reason King George V wished to speak to this newly arrived young officer at the banquet described below is because he wanted to hear up-to-date details of the Balkan War at first hand.
I met Cowrie at Pare’s house and we all three changed there and taxied up to the Castle together. Here we met all the other fellows of the 1st and 2nd Life Guards and the Blues. We met in the Waterloo Chamber and then passed into a second room where we shook hands with the King and Queen and then went into St George’s Hall.
This was really a most gorgeous sight – a long table covered with masses of gold stretched down the hall – our red and gold uniforms set it off well. About 160 of us collected here, and then with a fanfare of trumpets the King and Queen and four other ladies came in. The King and Queen sat opposite each other at the middle of the table. The dinner was excellent. There must be an extraordinary amount of gold plate, as there were many courses. The plates are very heavy pieces of gold with designs around the edge. All the knives, forks etc were gold also. Lifeguards and Blues (troopers) stood round with drawn swords and the Blues’ band played in the gallery all through dinner. I suppose it was one of the most gorgeous sights ever seen in Windsor Castle as it is the very first occasion on which the regiments have dined together, and I suppose uniform is the most gorgeous in the world.
The King and the ladies then went out and we followed. We went into the Waterloo Chamber and were given smokes. The King was here and after a few minutes Col. Cook came up and told me that the King wished to speak to me. Soon after, Cook fetched me and took me up. He seemed very interested about the war and I had about 10 minutes to a quarter of an hour’s talk with him. As I moved away, he said he was very pleased to have met me. Cowrie seemed very tickled about it as, of course, most of the men did not know who I was, being a new arrival. Cook, of course, left me and as I was in the middle of the room alone with the King. It was rather conspicuous. We then moved into the room where the ladies were. We all congregated at one end and several people spoke to the Queen. We left at about 10.45 and I managed to catch the 11.5 back to town.