Professor W.M.S. Russell
Rifleman, 12th Battalion KRRC, 1944-45
Since 1905, the official Regimental March of the King's Royal Rifle Corps has been an amended version of Lützow's Wilder Jagd (Wild Hunt) by Carl Maria von Weber. 1
In 1814, Weber composed a number of patriotic songs and choruses celebrating the gallantry of Prussian troops in the war against Napoleon. He set to music the patriotic verses of the young poet Theodor Körner, who had been killed in action at the age of twenty-two in the previous year. One of these compositions was the hunting chorus Lützow's Wild Hunt. 2
The Wild Hunt is a widespread folk belief in Europe. The hunters ride through the sky at night, especially on certain nights of the year, such as the twelve nights of Christmas, St. Walpurga's Night (1 May) and St. John's Eve (24 June). Often the hunters are the spirits of criminals, condemned for their crimes in life to this eternal ride through the sky, as the Wandering Jew eternally walks on land and the Flying Dutchman eternally sails the seas. A fine poem on this theme by the German poet Bürger was translated into English verse by Sir Walter Scott. But there is also a positive version of the folk belief, a good wild hunt, presumably hunting evil, led by the national hero, such as Arthur in Britain or Charlemagne in France, or even by a saint. 3
Lützow's Wild hunt is of course metaphorical and very much on the positive side. The Jäger (Hunter) units of the Prussian army were recruited from well-to-do volunteers who would provide their own equipment; eventually they became an important source of officers for other units. 4
On the night of 26th February Sir George Colley decided to seize Majuba Hill by a night march-a hazardous undertaking which was ably executed. The following day the Boers in three assaulting columns, covered by rifle fire, carried the mountain with great gallantry, and completely defeated the small British force of 414 soldiers and sailors which held it.
In 1813 Ludwig von Lützow raised a famous corps of Schwarze (Black) Jäger who were active in the war; Körner himself served in this unit. 5
To be called a (good) wild hunt, they surely must have been "Swift and Bold", and shown considerable initiative. So Weber's piece is eminently suitable as the source for the Regimental March the King's Royal Rifle Corps.
1 Programme, the 250th Anniversary of the founding of The King's Royal Rifle Corps (2005) p.21
2 J.Warrack (1976) Carl Maria von Weber (2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge) pp. 162-3
3 M.J.Petry (1972) Herne the Hunter (William Smith, Reading) Chapter 5 and Appendix C
4 G.A.Craig (1964) The Politics of the Prussian Army, 1640-1945 (Oxford University Press, Oxford) pp.54, 61
5 Warrack (Reference 2) p.163