Jonathan Allen

Jonathan Allen

Former Ambassador to Bulgaria

Part of UK in USA

31st July 2013 London, UK

A thorny case for Sherlock Holmes

On the first day of August for the last 45 years, the British Consulate General in Chicago has received six red roses from an anonymous sender.

The bouquet’s accompanying card always carries the same message – not one of unrequited love, but rather a moving tribute to the six British infantry regiments that helped defeat the heavily favoured French on 1 August 1759 in the Battle of Minden, a decisive encounter in the Seven Years’ War.

1 August 1759: The Battle of Minden
1 August 1759: The Battle of Minden

Legend has it that the British soldiers picked wild roses and wore them on their uniforms as they marched to engage their enemy at Minden, a small city in the northwest of modern day Germany.

Commemorations of that day – Minden Day – have largely fallen out of fashion over the centuries, but not to the unknown enthusiast whose annual gift of roses to the Consulate in Chicago has been shrouded in mystery for nearly half a century.

On at least two occasions, when Consulate staff attempted to trace the flower delivery back to the sender, a one ‘X.T. Atkins’ at ‘1759 Albion’ was uncovered. But this was a clever deception:

  • X.T. Atkins translates to ex-Tommy Atkins, the slang name for a soldier in the British Army
  • 1759 is the year of the Battle of Minden
  • Albion is the ancient Roman name for Britain
Deputy Consul General with Minden Day roses in 1987.
Deputy Consul General with Minden Day roses in 1987.
The Consulate's Caroline Cracraft with Minden Day roses in 1996
The Consulate’s Caroline Cracraft with Minden Day roses in 1996

Despite attention from countless media outlets over the years, we’re no closer to knowing who’s behind the roses, much less why. Can we assume that the sender is a descendant of a Minden veteran, or perhaps a veteran of one of the six regiments? Are the roses ordered through a trust in execution of a will?

We may never know. But in the meantime, we’ll wait to see if the 46th bouquet will arrive tomorrow, 254 years after British and French soldiers clashed at Minden.

Minden Day roses received in 2010
Minden Day roses received in 2010

Keep up with the UK government in the Midwest – and find out if the roses arrive yet again – on Facebook and Twitter.

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3 comments on “A thorny case for Sherlock Holmes

  1. Hi,

    It’s quite strange this fact of the misterious person sending roses to The British Consulate in Chicago every year on the same date, without being tracked.
    It’s certainly a case for Detective Holmes to solve.
    He/she must be extremely smart and having a lot of fun doing it. I would.
    I wonder how old he/she is by now.

    Warm regards!


  2. Keeping the continuity of any celebration for almost half of a century,is really really amazing,it must be appreciated and warm welcomed… i think,he was a soldier included in the army on the day of 1st August,and his family is doing all this according to his wish……………

    God knows better,,,but its a wonderful tradition.



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About Jonathan Allen

Jonathan Allen was British Ambassador to Bulgaria from from 2012 to 2015. He then returned to the UK to take up the position of Director for National Security at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

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