Major Charles Edgar Bryant DSO*
Only Bryant rode through the charge untouched, accounting for five of the enemy as he passed through them.
Charles Bryant was born on 6th April 1885 the son of Fredrick and Lillian Bryant heirs of the Bryant-May’s Match Empire. Charles was one of three children and the only son. Charles’s father died when he was only five years old and he was brought up by his mother. Charles (Chas) was commissioned into the 12th Lancers 1905 and quickly established himself as a fine horseman and polo player and was part of the Subalterns Cup winning team in both 1908 and 1909. In April 1914 he was appointed Adjutant just before the Regiment embarked for the First World War in August 1914. He was due to join the 7th Hussars in India in July 1914, but with the outbreak of war he remained with the Regiment. On 28th August 1914 he was instrumental in the success of the Regiment’s charge at Moy de L’Aisne being responsible for the reconnaissance which resulted in the decision being made to engage the enemy with C Squadron.
“Only Bryant rode through the charge untouched, accounting for five of the enemy as he passed through them. `The CO’, Bryant recollected, . . . `was using a new Wilkinson thrusting sword, which buckled like an “S” and was wrenched out of his hand after transfixing the German . The Adjutant was using the old cutting sword, well sharpened, which went in and out of the Germans like a pat of butter “ – Regimental History.
Charles Bryant distinguished himself immediately, being Mentioned in Despatches on 19th October 1914 and on 17th February 1915. His later award coincided with his award of the Distinguished Service Order on 18th February 1915 (the first to be awarded to the Regiment) which was regarded by many for the part he played at Moy.
Bryant left the Regiment on 3rd June 1916 to join the Royal Flying Corps, and joined 23 Squadron on 4th October 1916 and was appointed Flight Commander on 22nd December 1916 which was the equivalent as a Troop Leader at the age of 33. He immediately established his own style of leadership:
His time as a pilot was not without incident:..
“Major Bryant, although not in full flying practice and a little old for SPADs, announced one day that he was coming on patrol with us the next morning. True to his character he did not say that he would lead us but was quite happy to be in the formation. On taking off, his machine somehow failed to gain height quickly and flew straight into the telegraph and telephone wires along the side of the road leading to 5th Army Headquarters in the chateau. He did a circuit of the aerodrome with telephone wires festooned over his machine and hanging from his undercarriage and luckily managed to land safely. It took several hours to disentangle the wires and put the machine into flying order again, and Army Headquarters was cut off from all outside communication for hours until the Royal Engineers had replaced the wires” – Captain Willie Fry
Bryant was awarded a second Distinguished Service Order when he was serving with 18 Squadron:
Bryant was a tower of strength. He had won a very early DSO leading a cavalry charge, aged 33 years. He was regarded by all of us as a very gallant Methuselah, on 18th July the bar to Bryant’s DSO was gazetted, the recommendation having been submitted by Brigadier General Longcroft on 14th May: `For conspicuous courage and great determination in leading photographic reconnaissance’s and bombing raids. In spite of overwhelming opposition by hostile aircraft this officer has never failed to carry out the task allotted to him.’ Specific references were made to the sorties of 6th March and 23rd April. – Major Reid, DSO, MC & Bar – CO 18 Squadron
Charles Bryant returned back to the Regiment in 1919 as a Captain and assumed the appointment of Adjutant for the second time. He was promoted to Major in 1920 and retired from the Army in 1925. By the end of the First World War Charles Bryant had won two Distinguished Service Orders (the only 12th Lancer), won the French Croix de Guerre and been Mentioned in Despatches five times, flown with four different squadrons and had leant to fly seven different aircraft.
After the armistice Charles Bryant married Sybil Platt on 4th February 1919 (the widow of a Captain L S Platt, 17th Lancers and Royal Flying Corps killed on 13th April 1917). On the outbreak of World War Two he re-joined the Royal Air Force (Volunteer Reserve) as a Squadron Leader (substantive Flight Lieutenant) working in Intelligence and again was Mentioned in Dispatches in June 1945.
Charles Bryant died in 1950 at the age of 65 the last paragraph of his obituary in the Regimental Journal read:
“Whether as a tough, dashing number 1 of the Subalterns Polo team, riding the hunt or getting his enemy in war, either from horse or aeroplane “Chas” was the very finest type of Cavalry Officer, gallant, quick-witted and cool headed. To his many loving comrades of all ranks, his death will be a sad blow. To his widow and children we send our deepest sympathy” – Regimental Journal 1951