Sir Henry Loses The Colours.


Sir Henry is a ghost who inhabits the emails between my good self and a gentleman who lives in North Germany. This is one of his adventures – accidents. The “Colours” in military terms means the flag of course. In my hands, it became a little more elaborate. Windsor and Newton are a famous manufacturer of paints that my grandfather swore by.

Sir H was unlucky at Waterloo. You may or may not know that the “Artists Rifles” were actually formed in 1812. This was part of the British King William IV’s commitment to Windsor and Newton. The Duke of Wellington had the Artists Rifles cycle across to the left flank where they could await Blucher. The point being that as artists they were good with colours, and so would be able to see Blucher before anyone else. There are problems associated with an infantry unit dedicated to painting pictures. Once it has all the easels set up, the canvasses stretched in military order, the paint boxes all in the regulation line, it is less agile than a Roman Testudo.

Unfortunately for Sir Henry, he was spotted by a squadron of French Hussars. These gentlemen, having chased off the British regiment. They dismounted and took position behind the easels. Following the orders transmitted by the squadron’s trumpeter, the seventy or so hussars started painting first red, then white and finally blue – but not in the shape of the union flag! No. They painted over the union flags so carefully sketched out by the Artists Rifles. They painted the colours of the French Republic.

There was nothing Sir Henry could do about it.

It was a disaster. The squadron of hussars carefully packed up the paint boxes as trophies, putting them in their saddlebags. The paintings were left as trophies. The Artists Rifles had to return to Wellington, sans Blucher, sans Union Flags. They returned in utter disgrace with French flags! Wellington was incandescent. Thankfully, Blucher turned up. Unfortunately he did not have any blue paint, for the colours of the German imperial* flag were Red, White and Black – and so the French flags were overpainted as German flags. Sir Henry’s humiliation was complete. (*This was before the Bundesrepublik, but even then, they would have carried no blue paint!).


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