Princess Christian’s Spade
Spade used by Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein in planting a commemorative tree at the Depot in 1904 before opening the Suffolk Regiment Memorial Cottage Homes
The Suffolk Regiment lost 154 Officers and Men in the Second South African War (1899-1902). The regimental memorial to them took two forms – a plaque in St Mary’s Church in Bury St Edmunds and the building of a pair of regimental Cottage Homes in Newmarket Road, directly opposite the entrance to the Depot. The Homes were erected by subscription and were intended for aged or disabled pensioners of the Regiment with their wives and children, if married.
The Homes were officially opened on 12 April 1904 by Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, the third daughter and fifth child of Queen Victoria. She herself had suffered loss during the war – her eldest son, Major Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein had died of malaria in Pretoria in 1900.
After a reception in the Officers’ Mess, The Princess planed a young tree as a memento of her visit. She was then presented with an illuminated scroll, giving an account of the building of the Homes and a list of subscribers, before crossing the road to open the Homes ,’with a key of quaint design’, provided by the architect A Ainsworth Hunt of Bury St Edmunds.
The first two occupants of the Homes were Colour Sergeant Edward Silk (19 years service, including South Africa) and Private Thomas O’Brien (26 years service, including New Zealand and Afghanistan).
The tree cannot now be identified (assuming it has survived) but the Homes are still there, now administered by Haig Homes, and the spade used by the Princess to plant the tree hangs in the Suffolk Regiment Museum.