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Sir Winston Churchill took up polo as a young cavalry officer, played as a civilian before World War I and had his final game in the Twenties while in his fifties. The future prime minister felt continually hampered, however, through his lack of pony power, which was caused by a shortage of funds. Churchill had thoughts that will no doubt be recognised by many modern-day players. He had a continual debate with his family and wife, Clementine, about the cost of stabling, believing the cost of ponies to be unusually high when he was buying and disappointingly low when he was selling. While he often recognised he ought to stop playing, he didn’t want to.

In 1895, Churchill received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars and joined them at Aldershot for cavalry training. In a letter to his mother in April of that year, he wrote: ‘Everyone here is beginning to play [polo], as the season is just commencing. I have practised on other people’s ponies for 10 days and I am improving fast.’

He asked her to lend him £100 to buy some ponies and said if she did not it would be ‘dreadful’ as he would have to give up what he would later famously describe as ‘The Emperor of Games’. In May 1895, Churchill declared, in another letter to his mother, that polo was ‘the finest game in

the world and I should almost be content to give up any ambition to play it well and often’. Over the next 18 months, Churchill played regularly and, by May 1896, he hoped to be selected for the regimental team. However, he felt it would make a huge difference if he had another first-class pony, so again wrote to his mother asking for a loan of £200, to which she agreed. Later that year, the regiment sailed for India and, during the voyage, Churchill wrote an

Opposite A young Winston Churchill from his time as a Boer War correspondent This page, from top Manuscripts from Churchill’s draft constitution for the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars Polo Club; Churchill with his polo horse in India in 1897

eight-page draft constitution for the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars Polo Club. The Hussars formed a polo committee and subscriptions were sought from all the officers to provide credit facilities to procure ponies. On arrival in India, the 4th Hussars, in what Churchill described as an ‘audacious and colossal undertaking’, purchased the entire stud of 25 ponies belonging to the Bombay Light Horse. Polo became a central feature for the Hussars and Churchill wrote: ‘We devoted ourselves to the serious purpose of life. This was expressed in one word – polo’, and he rarely played fewer than eight and more often 10 or 12 chukkas every evening. In November 1896, Churchill’s team won a tournament at Hyderabad against a native contingent. Churchill wrote to his mother that ‘eight or nine thousand natives wildly cheered every goal and stroke made by their countrymen’, and were terribly disappointed when the Hussars

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