The Prince and the Plunder

A book on how Britain took one boy and piles of treasures from Ethiopia

The divided drum

Published / by Andrew Heavens / Leave a Comment

A ceremonial drum was seized at Magdala and sliced into three pieces, so that it could be handed out as battle honours to three regiments involved in the raid.

The present day descendants of those regiments have refused to return the drum pieces, despite appeals.

The pieces went to the present day Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the King’s Own Royal Borderers and the Duke of Wellington’s regiment.

The third that is pictured here is still owned by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Soon after the campaign, it was coated in Victorian silver and mounted on an Ethiopian shield, also taken from Magdala.

It is still taken out at the head of key parades and stays with the regiment wherever it is posted. The Dragoons, headquartered in Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland, are currently based in Fallingbostel, between Hanover and Hamburg, in Germany.

According to The King’s Own: The Story of a Royal Regiment Volume II 1814-1914:

The loot taken at Magdala was sold by auction that day, the proceeds of the same being distributed amongst the troops. Only King Theodore’s drum was exempted from this order. It had been taken from the King’s palace by one of the bandsmen of the 33rd Regiment who appealed to his colonel for permission to keep it, on the grounds that is was required for the band. The matter was referred to Sir Robert, who decreed that it should be divided into three parts, of which one was to go to the 33rd Regiment, one to the 4th Foot, and the third to the 3rd Dragoon Guards. In this way a portion of the great silver instrument passed into the possession of the King’s Own and it is still preserved in the officers’ mess of the 1st Battalion.

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