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Post #1 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 04:32 AM

As anyone who's seen the various exchanges I've had on the forum about the Indian Mutiny of 1857 must be aware, I've had a strong interest in the history of the entire event for as long as I can remember. I've no idea how much interest there might be among other members here, but I do know I'm fairly fired up at the prospect of any manufacturer offering this British Colonial conflict. If, as it seems likely to me, Cold Steel are going to give me the opportunity of collecting figures depicting the uprising, especially a matte range of well sculpted and painted "Military Miniatures", then I know where my hobby cash is going this year.


So anyway, I thought I'd open a new thread to consolidate all my posts in one place. Here's the first of what ought to fill in the gaps for anyone who's unfamiliar with what by any standards was one of the most savage and hard-fought wars in British military history. It's a story of almost unbelievable barbarity, cruelty and betrayal, which thankfully is offset by many acts of utmost courage, loyalty and dedication to duty exhibited by both sides.



Historical Background Part 1


Britain’s connection with India began on 31 January 1600 when Queen Elizabeth I signed the charter of the East India Company, a major commercial enterprise which would compete with other European trading concerns for the spice trade on the sub-continent. They operated at the request of the Mughal emperors, descendants of the Mongols of Genghis Khan, who had occupied India in the 13th and 14th centuries. By the time the Company established trading posts, known as factories, on the coasts of India, Mughal rule was in a state of decline, with regular in-fighting between rival Indian princes. The power vacuum thus created enabled the Company to expand its power and influence, converting it from a purely business concern to an imperial agent of the Crown.


The East India Company’s natural rival was its French counterpart, but when war broke out in Europe between Britain and France in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740– 48), hostilities inevitably spread to India, where the Company maintained its own private forces which worked in conjunction with local native levies and regular British Army regiments. The French were eventually evicted from India during another mid-century conflict, the Seven Years’ War (1756– 63). Robert Clive, a clerk-turned-soldier in the East India Company, inflicted a decisive blow against the French and their Indian allies at the battle of Plassey in June 1757, which consolidated the Company’s control over Bengal.


From 1765 the Mughal emperor, in recognition of the Company’s achievements, granted it the status of a feudatory ruler, and thereafter extended its hold over new territories through annexation, alliances and conquest. In successive decades of the 18th century, Company forces defeated the sultans of southern India and took on the power of the Marathas of the north and west. By the early 19th century the Mughal dynasty had come to an ignominious end and the last emperor, based at his ancient capital of Delhi but wielding no effective power, had been reduced to a mere pensioner of the Company. It was a measure of British efficiency that by this time India, divided among the three “presidencies” of Bengal, Madras and Bombay, could be managed by a small body of administrators backed by three different armies, themselves supported by regular troops of the British Army.


Successive governors-general, appointed by the Crown and based at Calcutta, expanded the domains of British India over time, up to the administration of Lord Dalhousie, whose conquest of the Punjab over the course of two wars (1845– 46, 1848– 49) pushed the frontier against Afghanistan and broke independent Sikh power. By this time the Company had evolved from a commercial organization to an agency for the civil and military administration of much of the sub-continent.


While the East India Company’s rule brought benefits to Indian society, including peace, rule of law, an efficient civil service, political stability, improved roads and bridges, the introduction of the electric telegraph and the early stages of a railway system, its administration inevitably introduced unwelcome attitudes and institutions – some tolerated, some even admired – but others resented or even loathed by the population at large.

Specifically, the British applied laws and customs alien, and sometimes anathema to, Indian society, such as allowing widows to remarry, and the establishment of a land title system where none had previously existed, the result of which was the confiscation of land regarded by Indians as hereditary property.


Even within the regiments themselves, esprit de corps had undergone a gradual decline, first because the gradual expansion of Company forces with new regiments consisting of Gurkhas, Sikhs, Pathans and Punjabi Muslims gave rise to fears among Hindu troops of the Bengal Army that their importance and privileged position was on the decline, and secondly because relations between the younger generation of recently arrived British officers and the sepoys were not as close as in generations past. Merchants, soldiers and administrators of the 18th century had often learned Indian languages, collected Indian art and artefacts, and even married Indian women. Some had adopted Indian lifestyles and practiced Indian customs. While they never considered Indian culture superior to their own, they found much in it to admire.


By the Victorian era few men of this type still remained in India. With respect to Company officers in particular – beyond taking some pride in the leadership and proper management of their sepoys – few familiarized themselves with the languages, customs and beliefs of the Indian rank and file. Interest in, understanding of, and at times appreciation for, the religion, feelings and culture of their troops, gradually declined within the (entirely British) officer corps, with the erosion of mutual trust the inevitable by-product. In many cases, junior officers physically separated themselves from their men as much as they could and could only communicate with their troops through an interpreter. Tolerance of things Indian gradually gave way to a weary contempt, as William Hodson, a flamboyant intelligence officer and commander of irregular cavalry, observed a few years before the Mutiny:-


At the age at which officers become colonels and majors, not one in fifty is able to stand the wear and tear of Indian service. They become still more worn in mind than in body. All elasticity is gone; all energy and enterprise worn out; they become, after a fortnight’s campaign, a burden to themselves, an annoyance to those under them, and a terror to every one but the enemy!


Yet the weakening bonds between the British officer and the sepoy paled in significance against a much more profound threat to Indian culture; the gradual imposition of Western ideas and attitudes, the introduction of which was meant to sweep away centuries of superstition and heathen practices. On this basis British reformers set out to eradicate "backward", even "barbaric" practices, which to them belonged to a degenerate culture, not to an enlightened and God-fearing civilization.



Post #2 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 05:44 AM

Just by way of lighting up a rather dry thread so far, I've been multi-tasking while doing Historical Background Part 2.

Watching the first disk in the Sharpe Collection, which I've been promising myself for ages, while listening to one of the multitude of Ike & Tina Turner compilation CD's -- called pretty imaginatively, "River Deep, Mountain High".... :rolleyes: .... B) 




Unfortunately, there's not too many movies about the Mutiny going around, which really does surprise me.

Unless you want a really good laugh, avoid this load of old cobblers like the plague. It must've been funded by the Ministry of Propaganda in New Delhi....this "sweeping epic" is no more based on historical (hysterical) events than Bravefart, or the last time I tuned into the English language news on CCTV9. In fact, the news on CCTV9 might be marginally more true than this utterly transparent Bollywood nonsense (arguably).

Best thing about it is around half-way through with these five or six dudes seated on the back of an elephant "treating" the viewer to a snatch of some badly lip-synched song, while this bunch of dames in sari's trip the light fantastic in what's supposed to be a village square. 

What's more, the elephant is the best actor in it -- hams it up like an old trouper.




The Amazon blurb is even more hilariously out of whack than usual.....

   Product Description

1857 AD. The entire Indian sub continent is ruled by. a company. The British East India Company. The most successful business enterprise in history. The company has its own laws, its own administration, its own army. It controls the destiny of one fifth of humanity.

Mangal Pandey - The Rising is an epic tale of friendship, betrayal, love and sacrifice set against the backdrop of what the British called the sepoy mutiny but which for the Indians was the First War of Independence. 'Company Raj' as it was known, had been plundering the country, treating the locals unjustly and causing widespread resentment. After a hundred years of subjugation, the Indian consciousness is rising through the revolutionary prospect of change and self-rule.


During a fierce battle in one of the Afgan wars that the Company fought in the mid-century, Mangal Pandey, the heroic sepoy, saves the life of his British commanding officer William Gordon. Gordon is indebted to Mangal and a strong friendship develops between them, transcending consideration of rank and race. The friendship is soon challenged by the introduction of a new rifle called the Enfield . The new rifle has come with a new cartridge which is rumoured to be coated with the grease of cow and pig fat. The new cartridge has to be bitten before it is loaded, which ignites anger and resentment among the Indian sepoys. The cow is sacred to the Hindus, the pig forbidden to the Muslims. They will not touch such a kartoos (gun cartridge), it would defile them.


Set in one of the most beautiful countries on earth, told across the divides of time, Mangal Pandey - The Rising tells the tale of friends, lovers and enemies, exploiters and exploited, and the growth and awareness of a man and a nation. It is a story of one man and his dream of freedom. This sweeping epic is based on real historical events, seen as a trigger for Indian independence.


....The Rising is actually so gloriously bad that it's brilliant, for all the wrong reasons. I reckon I'll dig it out and watch it again tomorrow....

:lol:  :lol:  :lol:  :lol:

Part 2 of the real Historical Background coming up soon.

Post #3 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 03:27 PM

Historical Background Part 2


In the early 19th century the principal objects of attack were thagi (known to contemporaries as “thuggee”, and the origin of the word “thug”), the practice by which gangs, acting in the name of the goddess Kali, ritually murdered by strangulation unsuspecting travelers on the roads; female infanticide; and the most reviled of all customs, sati (spelled “suttee” by contemporaries), in which a Hindu widow committed suicide by throwing herself into the flames of her husband’s funeral pyre as an act of marital fidelity. British authorities not only stamped out thagi and abolished sati, but legalized the re-marriage of widows, and introduced British-style courts, property laws, new roads, canals and the electric telegraph, all to the consternation of a wide section of conservative Indian society. “Progress” clearly lay in the eye of the beholder. By imposing British standards of conduct and law, administrators cast themselves as (doubtless well-intentioned) modernizers, apparently far-sighted, yet often oblivious to the potential dangers inherent in tampering with the religious and cultural practices of a civilization more ancient than their own.


There were those who cautioned against Western interference in the cultural and religious sensitivities of India. A generation before the Mutiny, Lieutenant-Colonel William Playfaire had written to the governor-general’s secretary, warning that the abolition of sati might lead to fatal consequences:-


Any order of government prohibiting the practice would create a most alarming sensation throughout the native army; they would consider it an interference with their customs and religion amounting to an abandonment of those principles which have hitherto guided government in its conduct towards them. Such a feeling once excited, there is no possibility of predicting what might happen. It might break out in some parts of the army in open rebellion….


The fact that no mutiny occurred then may very well have lulled the authorities into the mistaken belief that Indians would tolerate, if not welcome, reform, without adverse reaction. When, however, religion appeared to come under direct threat, matters grew considerably more serious. The fears amongst many Indians that the British were bent on replacing Indian religions with Christianity may be identified as one of the principal causes of the Mutiny.


That is not to say that religious tension was a longstanding feature of British colonial rule in India. Quite the contrary; in the 18th century the British had built their empire upon an amoral pursuit of territory, power, natural resources and trade, largely without interest in altering foreign cultures, wherever on the globe they might happen to live. In India specifically, despite the increasingly evangelical movement at home, the East India Company had actively discouraged the propagation of Christianity; rather it operated on the basis of mutual toleration – if only for pragmatic reasons. Business was its raison d’être; the notion of trying to alter Indian culture or religion, whether through the propagation of Christianity or by other means, made no financial sense, for it threatened an existing order which consistently generated healthy, sometimes extravagant, profits for the expatriate business community. In short, so long as Anglo-Indian relations remained on a footing favourable to business, no reason existed for challenging the status quo. Indeed, Company rules expressly banned chaplains from preaching amongst Indians; they were to confine themselves to the spiritual welfare of the European community alone.


Missionaries were allowed into India, but only in limited numbers and in a restricted area. In 1808, Robert Dundas, the President of the Board of Control, which administered Indian affairs from London, expressed the government’s view on the spreading of the Christian faith:-


We are very far from being averse to the introduction of Christianity into India ... but nothing could be more unwise than any imprudent or injudicious attempt to induce it by means which should irritate and alarm their religious prejudices. It is desirable that the knowledge of Christianity should be imparted to the native, but the means to be used for that end shall only be such as shall be free from any political danger or alarm. Our paramount power imposes upon us the necessity to protect the native inhabitants in the free and undisturbed possession of their religious opinions.


When, however, in 1813, the charter of the East India Company came up for renewal, the rights of missionaries to operate in India expanded exponentially, sowing the seeds of discord. Hundreds of petitions were presented to Parliament, their signatories roused by evangelical spirit, calling for the end of restrictions on missionary activity in India. The Company could not resist this torrent of changing opinion, which found expression in a preamble that ran thus:-


The inhabitants of the populous regions in India which form an important portion of the British Empire, being involved in the most deplorable state of moral darkness, and under the influence of the most abominable and degrading superstitions, have a pre-eminent claim on the most compassionate feelings and benevolent services of British Christians.


The increase in the number of missionaries in India was very gradual, but by 1832 there were 58 Church Missionary Society preachers working on the sub-continent, with more arriving each year. By the 1850s a wave of Christian revivalism had swept across Britain, where efforts to propagate the faith abroad had become a cause célèbre bordering on a national obsession.

In sharp contrast to their more worldly predecessors, the Victorians’ imperative was to redeem the world, not simply to rule it. Exploitation in the more naked sense of the 18th century gave way to a desire – indeed a compulsion – to convert heathen, primitive peoples, with India fertile ground for the conversion of lost souls. The goal was now to “civilize” rather than simply to colonize, notwithstanding the fact that Indian culture was ancient and more sophisticated than many Britons were prepared to admit. This shift in approach towards India was no conspiracy of government, but rather reflected the general aim of Christian missionary societies who took it upon themselves to bring, as they saw it, “light” to “dark” continents, including India.


The British Empire had for two centuries pursued trade, colonization and forcible occupation, all the while exporting British goods, capital and people. Imperialists of the post-Napoleonic era now introduced a new component; British culture and the dominant religion of the West. Profit, for once, played no part in this aspect of continued British expansion; spreading the Gospel and saving souls had become, for the British public in general and missionaries in particular, a moral imperative. As God had made the British responsible for ruling a large proportion of the world’s population, it seemed natural that the country had a sacred duty to improve the lot of its subject peoples; materially, morally, and above all spiritually. The men who undertook this at times dangerous enterprise were altruistic, idealistic, highly motivated adventurers who were prepared to sacrifice everything for the sake of spreading the Word in what amounted to a new form of imperialism; evangelical imperialism.


Indian society, being feudal, itself deeply religious, and subject to an ancient caste system with no counterpart in the West, easily took offence at the enthusiasm with which missionaries sought to import their faith. High-caste Hindus – Brahmins and Rajputs in particular – viewed this as a deliberate attempt to usurp the caste system that was integral to their culture. Quite apart from the work of the missionaries themselves, the fact that regimental officers regularly preached from the Bible during troop assemblies contributed to such fears. Those perceptive enough to detect trouble brewing naturally reported it to their superiors, only to find their claims dismissed by those who, whether through arrogance, complacency or short-sightedness, took the loyalty of sepoy troops for granted.



Post #4 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 09 January 2016 - 10:20 AM

The Opposing Forces Part 1


British rule on the sub-continent rested overwhelmingly on the strength of the East India Company’s forces, which throughout the 18th century served under British officers as a loosely organized body of Indian mercenary troops drawn from a society which placed great stock in the military profession. By the time of the Mutiny, the three Company armies had largely become professional rather than mercenary in character, and were maintained on a Western model. In 1857, apart from a few all-British (known to contemporaries as “European”) units, the Company’s forces were composed of a mixture of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh troops, known as “sepoys”. The number of native troops stood at 311,000, or more than seven times the number of men serving in all-British units or the regular British Army, known as “Queen’s” troops.

The Company’s record in the field over the previous century was an impressive one, with recent successful campaigns in Burma in the 1820's, in Sind in 1843, in Gwalior in the same year, and in the Punjab in 1845–46 and 1848–49. One of its few defeats – albeit of catastrophic proportions – occurred in 1842 when General Elphinstone’s entire force was wiped out during the retreat from Kabul to Jellalabad. 


Of the soldiers in the East India Company service, 80 per cent were drawn from warrior castes. Military service was inseparably bound up in religion; on the eve of battle Hindu soldiers made sacrifices or offerings to the idol of Kali, the goddess of destruction, to receive her protection and blessing.

For Hindus, society was divided into four distinct classes, with specified professions for each, military service being reserved for the two highest classes, consisting of the Ksatriya, and at the top, the Brahmin. Men from different classes – sub-divided into numerous different castes based on racial or tribal origin, and profession – avoided close contact wherever possible, to avoid defiling their caste. This was largely overlooked in the Madras and Bombay armies for the sake of military expediency, to avoid the obvious difficulties arising out of circumstances where a soldier from a lower caste was required to issue orders to one from a higher caste.

By overlooking caste differences in order to preserve the integrity of this military fraternity, troops from these armies bound themselves together in an effectively new caste – the army. The majority of mutineers, on the other hand, originated from the Bengal Army (the largest of the Company’s three armies), recruited mostly from the northern state of Oudh and other conservative princely states where the co-mingling of soldiers from different classes and castes proved more difficult and where the men were more susceptible to disaffection.


Of the 123 regular, irregular and local units of the Bengal Army, 59 mutinied and 37 partially mutinied, or were disarmed or disbanded. Of those which were regular infantry, cavalry and artillery units, 50 mutinied and 33 partially mutinied. Over 60 per cent of its troops were either Brahmin or Ksatriya soldiers, the remainder consisting of recruits from other Hindu castes, or Muslims. Hindus regarded Muslims and Christians as “untouchables”.


Most Company regiments were organized and clothed on the model of the British Army, which meant that, at least in the earlier actions of the war, both sides found themselves in the peculiar position of fighting opponents dressed and armed almost identically, and employing the same tactics. Paradoxically, some rebel units continued to wear the medals they had received in British-led campaigns against the Afghans and Sikhs, and in some cases regimental bands continued to play British tunes in action against their erstwhile allies.

As the conflict developed, the mutineers tended to shed their Company uniforms and wear their accouterments over indigenous clothing – including turbans or skull caps, and white flowing trousers (dhoti) – and the tight-fitting single-breasted British-style jacket was gradually replaced by a more comfortable garment.


As time passed, and mutinous soldiers mixed with civilian insurgents, the old regimental discipline and structure began to weaken, and the lack of unified command and skillful leadership put them at a distinct disadvantage in the field, even when they outnumbered their opponents by several times. The rebels were not completely bereft of competent leadership – Tantia Topi and the Rani of Jhansi both proved inspirational and determined – but their revolt left them without an officer cadre to replace their former commanders.

In weaponry, too, the mutineers stood at a disadvantage, for they continued to use the old smooth-bore Brown Bess musket, an inferior weapon to the new Enfield rifle, which enjoyed a range three times as great.


Queen’s regiments and the British forces of the East India Company British regiments in the Queen’s service, often referred to as the “British Army in India”, or the "Queen’s Service in India”, formed only a small minority of troops in India. On the eve of the Mutiny there should have been 26 infantry battalions or cavalry regiments stationed in India, but five had been sent to the Crimea in 1854 (of which only one was replaced), and three had been dispatched for service in Persia two years later. The total number of “British” troops in India (i.e. Queen’s regiments, all-British East India Company units, and the white officers of native regiments) stood at only 40,000, of which about 24,000 were Queen’s troops. Thus, the proportion of British to Indian troops at the start of the rebellion stood at about 1 to 7.7. As British troops were far more expensive to train and pay than their Indian counterparts (more than twice as much), in the absence of any clear sign of discontent military authorities contented themselves with disproportionately low numbers of “white” troops, confident in the loyalty of “native” soldiers.


In Bengal, “British” Company forces, who were better paid than their counterparts in the British Army and received promotion by strict seniority rather than by purchase, consisted of three battalions of infantry, 66 pieces of foot artillery, 54 of horse, and garrison companies. The Bombay and Madras presidencies also had three battalions of British infantry each, but only 18 horse artillery guns each, and 33 and 44 guns in the foot artillery, respectively. At the start of the Mutiny, the Crown’s forces in India (that is, Queen’s regiments) numbered 18 battalions of infantry and four regiments of cavalry, though two infantry battalions and one light dragoon regiment were on service in Persia.

The 19 units stationed in India were not only small in number, but unevenly distributed around the country. In the 600 miles (966km) between Calcutta and Cawnpore, one infantry battalion was based at Calcutta and one at Dinapore; one infantry battalion was at Lucknow; a single regiment of dragoon guards and a rifle battalion were based at Meerut. Only four units were stationed in the Madras and Bombay presidencies, leaving all the remaining units of the British Army in India scattered across the Punjab in the north-west of the country, between Umballa 130 miles (209km) from Meerut, and Peshawar 400 miles (644km]) to the north-west.


This distribution, while ensuring that both the North-West Frontier and the Punjab would remain quiet, nevertheless delayed the conduct of major operations to the south; specifically, Delhi could not be retaken without the arrival of reinforcements from the Punjab and Meerut. Some troops, of course, were required to remain in the Punjab and on the Afghan frontier, but others, over time, were called upon from around the Empire; those serving in Persia were recalled; three battalions came from Burma; one from Ceylon; four and half, en route to China, were diverted to India; and eventually other units arrived from other stations around the world, including Australia, the Cape Colony, Malta and of course Britain, including regiments newly returned from the Crimea.


Although frequently under-strength and fatigued from service, regiments fresh from Russia were in great demand to meet the emergency in India. In the course of the Mutiny, eight cavalry regiments, 47 infantry battalions, transport units, large numbers of artillery batteries, and units of the Royal Engineers were dispatched to India. By the end of the conflict almost two-thirds of the British Army – at least 15 per cent more men than had been deployed in the Crimea – were serving on the sub-continent, though only a third of all forces participated in the main theatres of operation.



Post #5 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 10 January 2016 - 03:21 AM

The Opposing Forces Part 2


The Indian Mutiny was not a conflict solely between British and Indian soldiers; indeed, the British depended heavily on the aid provided by their Indian allies, not least because in the initial stages of the conflict it was impossible to assemble a large field army without Indian units to bolster their numbers in a theater of operations of immense proportions. Large numbers of sepoys, mainly Sikhs and Gurkhas, remained loyal to the British cause and fought with resolution and bravery. The Gurkhas were largely drawn from Nepal, having originally fought the British in 1815, impressing them with their martial abilities. The Sikhs had only recently been defeated, and their homeland, the Punjab, annexed in 1849. Anxious to regain their independence, they might have been expected to be natural enemies of the British. Yet in fact the two sides had gained considerable mutual respect for one another’s fighting qualities, and British rule over the Punjab was widely regarded as competent and fair. Antipathy arose, however, between the Sikhs and the occupying regiments from Bengal, whose high-caste sepoys viewed the Sikhs as unclean and uncivilized, while the Sikhs – based on their recent conduct in the field – viewed the martial abilities of the sepoys with contempt. Thus, in 1857, far from taking advantage of the opportunity to regain their independence, the Sikhs saw the chance to avenge themselves on fellow Indians.


A small contingent of the Bengal Army remained under British authority, but most of the Indian units consisted of newly formed corps of irregular cavalry, and infantry from the Punjab, plus Sikh infantry and cavalry and Gurkhas. Many British and Anglo-Indian auxiliary units, mostly mounted, were hastily raised, later to be disbanded after the Mutiny.

The Bombay Army, which with the exception of two regiments remained loyal, contributed considerably to success, together with troops from Hyderabad, in the campaign of 1858 in central India.

The Madras Army proved itself entirely reliable, and, though it played only a minor role in central India, sent some troops to fight in Oudh.


While most of the Bengal Army mutinied, three irregular cavalry regiments, and four of infantry, plus contingents of three other units, remained loyal, as did three Gurkha battalions, several units of Sikhs, and various other irregular units, both infantry and artillery. The most important element of loyal troops, however, came from the Punjab, whose Sikh troops kept watch not only along the North-West Frontier, but also in the major operations in northern India. These consisted of five cavalry regiments, ten infantry battalions, and a corps of guides.

As more recruits presented themselves, new irregular cavalry units were formed and more than a dozen battalions of infantry. Sikhs were not the only recruits;

Punjabi Muslims, Gurkhas, Pathans, Afghans and Baluchis, who had no ethnic or religious connection with the predominantly Hindu sepoys, also comprised the loyal Indian forces.



Post #6 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 10 January 2016 - 03:16 PM

The Sepoy's Grievances


Much has been made of the greased cartridges of the new Enfield rifle as the cause of the Mutiny. However, a general feeling of dissatisfaction had been growing in the ranks of the sepoy regiments for some time. During Lord Dalhousie’s administration as Governor-General (1848–56), the terms of enlistment underwent a fundamental change; sepoys were to be enlisted for general service only, which meant that once discharged, the men would receive no pension. Thereafter, strong suspicions circulated amongst those men recruited before the change in policy that the same regulations would eventually be applied to them. Such anxieties were compounded by the fact that sepoys of the Bengal Army were paid less than their counterparts in the armies of Madras and Bombay. Threats to pay were compounded by anxieties concerning promotion, for which an Indian soldier’s prospects were poor. Whereas, in the days of Clive, sepoy regiments contained fewer than half a dozen British officers, with many positions of responsibility open to Indians, well before the Mutiny the proportion of British officers had been increased, with the ability of Indians to rise through the ranks correspondingly diminished.


Sir Henry Lawrence, chief commissioner for Oudh noted that;


The sepoy feels that we cannot do without him, and yet the highest reward that a sepoy can obtain is about one hundred pounds a year without a prospect of a brighter career for his son. Surely this is not an inducement to offer to a foreign soldier for special fidelity and long service. It is unreasonable to expect that the energetic and aspiring among immense military masses should like our arrogation to ourselves of all authority and emolument. 


In remarking on the unfair system of promotion, he obliquely referred to the possibility of revolt, writing;


We ought either to disband our army or open our posts of honor and emolument to its aspiring members. We act contrary to common sense, and in neglect of the lessons of history, in considering that the present system can lead to anything but a convulsion. We are lucky in its having lasted so long.
Various Indian princes harbored grievances against the British for the implementation of a new policy of annexation, and saw mutiny as an opportunity to regain lost power and territory. Under Dalhousie’s administration, according to the newly prescribed"‘doctrine of lapse", the Company began annexing any Indian state in which the ruler died without a natural heir. This was applied in the cases of Nagpur and Jhansi, and naturally left a feeling of unease among Indian princes whose sovereignty rested on centuries of hereditary right.
The introduction for the first time of a land-title system, resulting in the confiscation of thousands of estates and small plots, provoked widespread anger. In February 1856 the Company annexed the badly governed and corrupt kingdom of Oudh (now Uttar Pradesh). The annexation played a crucial part in the disaffection of the Bengal Army perhaps as many as 75,000 of whose troops came from Oudh. Many inhabitants regarded the annexation as an illegitimate political act by which their nawab, Wajid Ali, was deposed and the army of 60,000 men disbanded after the payment of token gratuities – a clear sign that the Company was bent on territorial annexation for its own sake.
Other princes, looking with dismay upon the fate of Oudh, quite understandably considered their own territories under threat. This had important religious and practical consequences, for, with the disappearance of Oudh as an independent state, the higher classes of soldiers were deprived of rights and privileges at court once granted by the old regime, thus losing a degree of the prestige formerly held by the military profession. It was precisely this institution, the army, which helped maintain social cohesion, and with its status in the social order threatened, general disquiet was perhaps inevitable.

Three-quarters of the soldiers of the Bengal Army recruited from Oudh were high-caste Hindus (i.e. Brahmins and Rajputs), often the sons of landowners on whose support British rule depended, who resented the introduction of the new General Service Enlistment Act (1856) whose regulations, notwithstanding the sepoys’ strong objections, required them to serve outside India if military circumstances should prove necessary. Quite apart from drawing soldiers away from their native regions and families, taking them across the sea would deprive them of their caste. Whereas in previous years the Company had offered a bounty for those serving abroad, which could pay for rites of purification, this was withdrawn as of July 1856. If required, sepoys would have to serve in Afghanistan, Burma or farther afield. Recruitment suffered as a result, which led to fears that British authorities would in turn resort to accepting men from low castes in order to meet their quotas, or even accept untouchables.


Signs that trouble was afoot occurred with the mysterious appearance of chapattis (unleavened bread or cakes, generally eaten by the poor and the soldiery), which began to be circulated among the populace throughout north-western India at the beginning of 1857. Messengers bearing chapattis arrived in villages at night, giving instructions that more should be baked to be distributed to other villages as a form of chain-letter. The meaning of this practice was unclear, but it was at the time believed to be a premonition or portent of a momentous event; to some it represented the beginning of the end of British rule on the sub-continent – a notion reinforced by an old prophecy of unknown origin, which stated that British rule would cease forever during the centenary of the battle of Plassey, i.e. in 1857.

To this day no one quite knows the meaning behind these events. What is certain is that they coincided with the most significant immediate provocation for mutiny; the introduction of greased cartridges for use with the new Enfield rifle.


The majority of the Company’s infantry regiments had by this time ceased to use the old Brown Bess musket and were armed with the 1842 pattern percussion musket. In 1856, however, the Company introduced the new Enfield rifle, whose greater accuracy and range over the musket had recently proven itself in the Crimea. The ammunition supplied for the Enfield consisted of an entirely new form of cartridge and a new loading drill. The cartridge consisted of a cardboard cylinder containing gunpowder and a lead ball. To open the cartridge, which contained grease at its lower end, the soldier either tore, or more commonly bit, off a twist of paper which held the contents of powder and ball inside. Some of the powder was poured down the barrel, the remainder being used to prime the charge. The cartridge was then rammed home.

While no conspiracy existed on the part of British authorities to subvert the troops’ religion, in all likelihood the grease did contain animal fat, for the regulations concerning the manufacture of the cartridges did not stipulate the type to be used, and contractors would naturally be inclined to use the least expensive variety, tallow, which was based on animal fat. The new cartridges were, in fact, never issued to the troops, and after some consideration that sepoys should be allowed to grease their own cartridges with a substance of their choice, the Government directed that the grease used should be prepared only from mutton fat and wax. But it was too little, too late, and either out of lack of understanding or lack of sympathy, military authorities failed to consult the troops or sufficiently reassure them before the damaging rumour had spread.


The absence of any evidence of malice or conspiracy on the part of the British – who largely viewed this as a trivial issue – is an irrelevance; the sepoys’ existing suspicions of a plot to enforce Christianity upon them remained. Their greatest fears now realized, it was only a matter of time before discontent bubbled over into outright violence. The potential for such violence ought not to have been lost on British authorities. Mutiny had broken out before, in the summer of 1806 at Vellore, when new dress regulations abolished the sepoys’ right to wear beards or markings indicating their caste, and introduced a new style of turban. To make matters worse, what to Company officials appeared a matter of no consequence – the issuance of a new cockade made of cow or pig hide – was in fact fundamentally offensive to Hindus and Muslims, and exacerbated existing grievances about such practical matters as pay and conditions of service.

Half a century later the lessons of Vellore had been either forgotten or ignored, for the most fundamental cause of the mutiny of 1806 and that of 1857 was the same - British attempts to interfere in Indian culture perceived as a plot to Christianize the country.



Post #7 mitch


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Posted 10 January 2016 - 03:44 PM

This is a great thread and been enjoying the read


The truth will set us free

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Posted 11 January 2016 - 12:55 AM

This is a great thread and been enjoying the read



Glad someone's enjoying it.


No doubt it doesn't have much interest for the vast majority here.

"Some obscure mid-19th century Brit war no-one's ever heard of? Only lasted two years anyway - who cares?".

But the essential point is, it was one of the most significant colonial wars of the entire 19th century, affected millions, and had far reaching and disastrous results for both the Honorable John Company and India - arguably setting back the drive for Independence by decades, and ultimately contributed toward the atrocious events that occurred during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947; events that still reverberate and influence the present day turmoil throughout the entire region.

See this link for more info on that particular "bundle of fun"....



These background notes have probably been a bit dry up to now, but we're at the point where the simmering resentments are boiling over and the Mutiny is about to break out, so the pace will certainly pick up a fair bit over the next several posts. 


Incidentally, the wife was out visiting all day yesterday, so I took the chance to kind of half-watch "Mangal Pandy : The Rising" while I was finishing off the details on a few figures. It's the first time in more than ten years that I've been able to bring myself to watch it again and I have to admit that my original assessment way back in this thread was out of line. Yes, the script is full of holes and anachronisms in much the same fashion as "Braveheart", which it resembles in very many ways, and my original opinions were no doubt colored by the outrage I had experienced on first viewing the movie due to reading Andrew Wards "Our Bones Are Scattered : Cawnpore Massacres and the Indian Mutiny 1857". (Possibly the singularly most moving historical book I've ever read and very highly recommended for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of the uprising).



I actually enjoyed it yesterday and can (now) fully understand why it was India's entry at the Oscars and nominated for a BAFTA award as best foreign film. 


Narrated in Hindi, as is much of the dialog, although it's also in English where appropriate and has English subtitles - so it's easy enough to follow - I was actually amazed at how many of the Hindi words I recognized and understood.

Opening in Afghanistan in the early 1850's....



....where men were men and the sheep were presumably petrified....though the uniforms seem to be pretty accurate.



The movie then moves on to portray the privileged lives of the British expatriate community -- and the stratified social pecking order;



It then goes on to deal with several of the key issues introduced in this thread - including Suttee;



Of course, what would a Bollywood movie be without a bit of song & dance from "The Nautch Girls"....



....and here's that elephant I mentioned, with the musical male quartet boy band in the howdah giving their songs big licks.



Then we move to the sepoy regiments being paraded and driven to Mutiny over the Enfield rifle cartridge issue (note the artillery "just making sure")....



....and then the Uprising itself....



....there's really not that much of the Mutiny itself in the final few frames of the movie, but what there is does in fact depict the savagery exhibited by the participants in the opening phases and indeed throughout the rising.



Even the Rani of Jhansi (pounced on by opportunistic political pundits as "India's Joan of Arc") gets a brief look-in;



Would I recommend the movie for a western audience? Hmm, not sure....but only because Indian movies are so inherently "different" from standard Hollywood fare.


What I did like about it on re-watching was the fact that the production does in fact try, and largely succeeds, to address almost all the issues that led up to the outbreak of incredible levels of violence and brutality. It's a lot more balanced than I originally appreciated, with much of the "grey areas" being explored. The reluctance of many sepoys to break their bonds of loyalty is well handled and there's also a nod toward the Native Princes and their motives for encouraging the sepoys to rise up against John Company.

There's even a scene where an Indian Ayah (nursemaid) tries to warn her MemSahib of the terrible events that are about to unfold, and there's recorded cases where this type of basic humanity actually occurred.


So to be fair, I have to withdraw much of my previous negative comments about this movie, but if anyone is going to watch it on the strength of this reassessment, then you need to be aware that this is a Bollywood movie with an eye toward maximizing takings at the domestic box office, therefore it naturally enough focuses on "history" as perceived through the Indian perspective; featuring all the usual fairly inane song & dance routines (which, to be honest, I rather enjoy at a certain level); and most, but certainly not all, of the Brits (and the sepoys as well), are pretty much depicted as two-dimensional cardboard cutouts; with all the constraints and deliberate "additional drama" that these caveats imply.


Phew....okay, next up -- the Mutiny breaks out.




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Posted 11 January 2016 - 07:15 AM

Mangal Pandy


The first signs of mutiny occurred in January 1857, when the 34th Native Infantry at Barrackpore showed signs of discontent. The following month, on 26 February, the same regiment disaffected the 19th Native Infantry at Berhampore, as a result of which the government in Calcutta ordered the 84th Foot from Rangoon. It arrived on 20 March and marched to the area around Barrackpore, where the 19th Native Infantry was to be disarmed and disbanded.

On 29 March, however, Mangal Pandy, a private of the 34th Native Infantry (his name subsequently gave rise to the British use of the nickname “Pandy” to describe mutineers in general), loaded his musket and declared that he would shoot the first British officer he encountered.


Lieutenant Baugh, the regiment’s adjutant, on learning of this, rode out to the parade ground. As he approached, Pandy fired at him, wounding his horse, and bringing down both mount and rider. Though armed, Baugh almost certainly would have been killed had it not been for the intervention of his Indian orderly, who saved his life by seizing Pandy just as he had managed to reload his musket.

Several other men of the 34th prevented officers from assisting Baugh, and the sepoys did not desist until Major-General Hearsey rode up, threatening to shoot anyone who refused to obey his orders. 


What many British observers believed to be an isolated affair in fact precipitated further outbreaks of violence. On 30 March, the 19th Native Infantry arrived at Barraset, 8 miles (nearly 13km) from Barrackpore, where they were received by a deputation from the 34th who proposed that the two regiments should murder their officers, proceed to Barrackpore at night, to be joined by the 2nd and 34th, set fire to the British residences, surprise and overwhelm the Queen’s regiments, seize the artillery, and then proceed to Calcutta.

The 19th Native Infantry refused to join this conspiracy, entered Barrackpore without incident the next morning and gave up their weapons to the 84th Foot. The 19th then marched to their cantonments and were discharged; being the first native regiment to be disarmed and disbanded as a result of the disturbances.


Mangal Pandy was tried and executed, together with another soldier of the 34th, who had commanded the guard on 29 March.


Nothing further occurred by way of prosecutions, and during the whole of April the government in Calcutta remained idle, taking no steps to avert the possibility of further acts of mutiny, and remaining largely ignorant of events.


The next disturbance occurred in Oudh, where at Lucknow the 7th Native Irregulars, on learning of the disbanding of the 19th Native Infantry, appeared to show signs of disobedience. The British Commissioner there, Sir Henry Lawrence, having intercepted a letter from the 7th Irregulars to another sepoy unit declaring its desire to mutiny, immediately ordered his garrison, including a battery of eight guns with British crews, to assemble around the men of the 7th. They called upon the 7th to lay down its weapons as the gunners stood holding lit portfires. The men of the 7th obeyed the command, those deemed responsible for conspiracy to mutiny were arrested, and the remainder were discharged.


For the moment, at least, all remained calm in Oudh.



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Posted 11 January 2016 - 08:54 AM

Very interesting Harry.  I am enjoying the lesson about a period I know virtually nothing about.

Post #11 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 11 January 2016 - 09:03 AM

Very interesting Harry.  I am enjoying the lesson about a period I know virtually nothing about.


So that's two enjoying this thread. Three if you include Brad.

Yeah, Queen Victoria's Little Wars. A subject of endless fascination for me.

If you get a chance, grab the Mangal Pandy movie. If you haven't seen a Bollywood blockbuster before then it'll certainly provide a real WTF moment. You'll wonder whether you've been smoking Naughty Malbro, or some joker's slipped you a Mickey Finn.

:lol:  :lol:  :lol:  

Post #12 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 11 January 2016 - 09:20 AM

I grew up on Boys Own Stories of the Empire in general, and the Raj in particular. The interest kind of got lost a bit as the usual "other things" became more important. But it was fanned back into full-blown interest when I happened to stumble over this magnificent popular history while browsing some bookshop in Dubai.

I simply can't recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants to let themselves get lost for a time into a completely different world that no longer exists. Full of "derring-do" anecdotes, it reads like a work of fiction, but describes places and events that actually existed and certainly occurred.



The customer comments on this link are well worth a look;



And here's the blurb from Amazon;


This text retells the story of a brotherhood of young men who together laid claim to one of the most notorious frontiers in the world: India's north-west frontier, which in the late 1990s forms the volatile boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Known collectively as Henry Lawrence's Young Men, each had distinguished himself in the East India Company's wars in the Punjab in the 1840s before going out to carve out names for themselves as politicals on the frontier.

Drawing extensively on the men's diaries, journals and letters, Charles Allen weaves the individual stories of these Soldier Sahibs together with the tale of how they came together to save British India, ending climatically on Delhi Ridge in 1857.


[HARRY] The bold red italics are mine! Honestly, the retaking of Delhi has to be read to be believed!

Post #13 Guest_Spitfrnd_*

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Posted 11 January 2016 - 10:24 AM

I will see if I can rent that one Harry.  I have seen a few Bollywood movies so I think I have some idea what you mean.  

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Posted 11 January 2016 - 10:51 AM


So that's two enjoying this thread. Three if you include Brad.

Yeah, Queen Victoria's Little Wars. A subject of endless fascination for me.

If you get a chance, grab the Mangal Pandy movie. If you haven't seen a Bollywood blockbuster before then it'll certainly provide a real WTF moment. You'll wonder whether you've been smoking Naughty Malbro, or some joker's slipped you a Mickey Finn.

:lol:  :lol:  :lol:  


Definitely three Harry.  Thanks for taking the time.  We three appreciate it, at the very least.

Post #15 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 11 January 2016 - 03:45 PM

The Mutiny -- MEERUT


Unrest was now simmering at a garrison town in the Bengal Presidency about 40 miles (64km) north of Delhi; Meerut, an important junction on the Grand Trunk Road and the home of a large garrison consisting of both Company troops and Queen’s regiments.

On 24 April all but five men of a contingent of the 3rd Light Cavalry refused to assemble for carbine practice. The 85 troopers who had disobeyed their orders were brought before a court-martial, and sentenced to ten years imprisonment with hard labor. On 9 May, the sentences were read out on parade in the presence of the entire garrison, consisting of British regiments with loaded weapons and unarmed native regiments. In an act of public humiliation, the convicted men were stripped of their uniforms, shackled and led off to jail. The regiment contained many veterans with long-standing service to the Company, yet appeals for mercy were dismissed.


On the following night, Sunday 10 May, while the British were attending church, the 11th and 20th Native Infantry began to assemble in a boisterous manner, goaded by a mob from the local bazaar. Their British officers immediately appeared to restore order in their ranks, but no sooner had Colonel Finnis appeared on the scene than he was shot in the back while shouting at the 20th. Toppling from his horse, he was cut to pieces by the enraged sepoys, whose conduct initiated a general slaughter. The men of the 3rd made rapidly for the jail, broke down the gates, released their comrades and all other prisoners, and proceeded to plunder and burn the British bungalows in a frenzy of destruction and murder. British officers who tried to intervene were shot down or bayoneted, including the colonel of the 11th.

An indiscriminate slaughter of all Europeans, regardless of sex or age, began. The women and children, who tried to hide where they could, largely in the gardens, were set upon and shot or stabbed. Private Joseph Bowater described the events thus:-


There was a sudden rising....a rush to the horses, a swift swaddling, a gallop to the gaol....a breaking open of the gates, and a setting free, not only of the mutineers who had been court-martialled, but also of more than a thousand cut-throats and scoundrels of every sort. Simultaneously, the native infantry fell upon and massacred their British officers, and butchered the women and children in a way that you cannot describe. Gaolbirds, bazaar riff-raff, and Sepoys – all the disaffected natives in Meerut – blood-mad, set about their work with diabolical cruelty, and, to crown their task, they fired every building they came across.


The military response was too slow, in spite of the fact that the Meerut garrison, under General Hewitt – paralyzed by indecision – consisted of the 60th Rifles, the 6th Dragoon Guards, a troop of horse artillery, and 500 artillerymen. About 2,000 men in total, all were billeted too far away to enable them to intervene in time. By the time the Dragoon Guards reached the scene at nightfall the carnage was over and the buildings were smoking ruins. At the parade ground they found the 60th Rifles and artillery already assembled, but the mutineers had already left for Delhi, 36 miles (58km) away.


Hewitt made a second error in failing to pursue the rebels with the cavalry and horse artillery, thus losing an opportunity to defeat them before they could reach Delhi. Instead he merely ordered a reconnaissance and rejected a suggestion that a patrol seize the bridge over the Jumna.

Elsewhere, the mutiny spread rapidly throughout the Bengal Army and across the north, affecting Delhi, Benares, Allahabad and Cawnpore and much of the area east towards Calcutta. Some garrison commanders were able to disarm their native regiments before rebellion reached them such as at Agra, Lahore, Peshawar and Mardan, while others, showing more caution on the basis that mere disaffection would not result in violence, met the same fate as the troops at Meerut.


The pattern of soldiers running amok, sometimes involving local civilian mobs, and indiscriminately murdering Europeans, was repeated across many towns, where small garrisons fought to protect themselves and their wives and children. That the Mutiny was not an organized uprising is confirmed by the fact that both sides were caught unprepared. Those Company regiments which mutinied did so at different times, with no coordination between units. Thus, the revolt came as a complete surprise, and Company authorities sought to meet the emergency with the small numbers of reliable troops at their disposal, these being limited to Queen’s and all-British Company regiments, plus whatever native troops could be presumed to be loyal.


it is perhaps sufficient to observe that small garrisons, scattered across Bengal and elsewhere had to fend for themselves as best they could. If not immediately wiped out, they held on with grim determination, completely unaware of the extent of the rebellion or of their own prospect of relief. Perhaps the most celebrated instance took place in a billiard-hall at Arrah, near Dinapore, where 16 British and Eurasian officials and their servants, together with 45 loyal Sikhs, fortified the building and held out against constant attacks until relief finally arrived on 3 August. 



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Posted 11 January 2016 - 04:10 PM

Soldier Sahibs Ordered? Check!

Wating for next installment? Check!

Post #17 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 11 January 2016 - 07:40 PM

Soldier Sahibs Ordered? Check!

Wating for next installment? Check!


Wow Brad, that's a bit impulsive.... :P....I'm confident you'll enjoy the book though. IMO, it's nothing short of sensational and I've re-read it several times because it's just so cram packed with incredible anecdotes.

My copy has been around the world with me....



....and, amazingly, still has the 70 Dirhams sticker on the back cover!



It does tend to "lionize" John Nicholson, but really, what can you say about a man who, on discovering the local Pathans in his administration area had formed a religious cult called "The Nikkalseynis" dedicated to worship of his person....rounds all the "disciples" up and has them soundly thrashed because the entire concept offended his Christian beliefs?

Or the fact he was in the habit of placing a decapitated and preserved head of a particularly troublesome robber chieftain on his desk whenever others of that kind turned up at his office to petition him for something or other. (He had rode alone to the criminals village and personally beheaded him when he resisted arrest).

You simply can't judge people like that against present day standards or values -- because they lived in a world that was completely different from the one we live in.


Another one in much the same vein, (perhaps not quite as reader friendly), you might want to consider after Soldier Sahibs is "The Great Game : On Secret Service In High Asia" by Peter Hopkirk.



http://www.amazon.co...e peter hopkirk


Description from Amazon;

For nearly a century the two most powerful nations on earth, Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia, fought a secret war in the lonely passes and deserts of Central Asia. Those engaged in this shadowy struggle called it 'The Great Game', a phrase immortalized by Kipling.

When play first began the two rival empires lay nearly 2,000 miles apart. By the end, some Russian outposts were within 20 miles of India. This classic book tells the story of the Great Game through the exploits of the young officers, both British and Russian, who risked their lives playing it. Disguised as holy men or native horse-traders, they mapped secret passes, gathered intelligence and sought the allegiance of powerful khans. Some never returned. The violent repercussions of the Great Game are still convulsing Central Asia today.


Next installment? Perm any from these three - the sieges of Delhi Ridge, Cawnpore, or Lucknow.

Post #18 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 12 January 2016 - 06:22 PM

The Siege of Delhi, June– September 1857 (Part 1)


Notwithstanding the obvious initial disadvantages under which they labored – namely numerical inferiority, logistical unpreparedness, the wide dispersal of their troops and the need to secure the Punjab and Afghan frontier while simultaneously confronting the major rebel concentrations elsewhere – British authorities had three objectives from the outset;-


First, having identified Delhi as the seat of the rebellion, to assume the offensive and retake it from the mutineers and their civilian supporters.

Secondly, to try to relieve other important British garrison cities which were under siege, most importantly Lucknow and, to a lesser extent, Cawnpore.

Thirdly, to disrupt the mutineers’ ability to concentrate their forces and so deprive them wherever possible of the advantage of numerical superiority.


Herein lay the fundamental problem which faced the British from the start; how to concentrate their scattered forces in order to pursue an ambitious strategy, while at the same time making only limited use of Indian troops whose loyalty they suspected. Those of the Bengal Army were clearly unreliable, while the intentions of those from the Bombay and Madras armies were as yet uncertain. Consequently, the only troops immediately available and of unquestionable fidelity were the British regiments of the East India Company and the handful of units of the British Army then in India. There was no pool of reserves in India itself, and reinforcements could not be expected to arrive for months. Meanwhile, the principal surviving British posts had to cope as best they could: Sir Henry Lawrence at Lucknow; Sir John Lawrence at Lahore, in the Punjab; Sir Hugh Wheeler at Cawnpore; and John Colvin, the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces, at Agra.

Lord Canning, the Governor-General, was busy with administration in Calcutta, appealing to London for more troops.


Meanwhile, having marched all night, the 11th and 20th regiments of the Bengal Native Infantry, and the 3rd Bengal Cavalry, arrived on the morning of 11 May in Delhi, where they were joined by the 38th, 54th and 74th Native Infantry. In the course of the day these six regiments took control of the city – which did not contain a single British regiment – and hunted down and massacred all the Europeans they could find. Some remained in hiding in the city, while others, in small groups, offered futile resistance, penned up in offices and houses. Those fortunate enough to escape made their way through jungles and over streams and rivers.


In one of the great epics of the Mutiny, Lieutenant George Willoughby, Commissary of Ordnance, with eight others, desperately defended the massive Delhi magazine, blowing it up at the last moment to prevent it falling into the hands of the mutineers as they attempted to scale the walls. Most of the defenders and a large number of rebels were killed, and much of the ammunition destroyed, but a considerable supply remained undamaged, and this and a large number of guns passed into the rebels’ possession.


Once the city fell under their control, the mutineers looted shops and the houses of the wealthy, and even robbed Indians trying to cross the Jumna by the bridge of boats on the east side of the city. Although they had no proper command structure, within a few days they managed to restore order, put the city into a state of defence, and acclaim Bahadur Shah II, a feeble octogenarian and last heir of the Mughal Empire, their figurehead king, thus giving the rebellion the focus of a single leader acceptable to both Hindus and Muslims. Amidst the cheers of their comrades, freshly arrived groups of mutineers and dissident civilians continued to converge on the city, steadily arriving from Umballa, Agra and many other towns and provinces. As the days passed, the rebel garrison, led by the king’s eldest son, Mirza Mughal, grew, so that any British force wishing to assault the place would have to contend with overwhelming numbers of defenders. Moreover, as there were no British forces in or around Delhi, the rebels had time to consolidate their position, which, in addition to the city itself, included the ridge outside the city walls and the former British cantonment behind it.

It was indeed a strong position, though in concentrating their forces in Delhi the rebels failed to make any concerted effort, while the opportunity still presented itself, to eliminate what remained of British power in northern India. Thus, the initiative passed to the British, who seized it with alacrity. The recapture of Delhi became the paramount British objective, for as the historical capital of the Mughal Empire and symbolic of the bygone days of indigenous rule, the city served as a rallying-point for the mutineers and those disaffected with colonial rule.


Major-General Sir Henry Barnard, commander of forces at Umballa, 130 miles (209km) north of Delhi, was the first senior officer in a position to react to the revolt, having received a telegraph message on the afternoon of 11 May from Meerut via Delhi, notifying him of the catastrophes occurring at those places. Barnard immediately dispatched an aide de camp to the hill station at Simla, to which the telegraph had not yet been extended, to summon the 69-year-old General Sir George Anson, the Commander-in-Chief in India. Anson, a veteran of Waterloo who had seen no action since, left Simla on the 14th and arrived at Umballa early on the following morning.


The two generals had to develop a plan in the context of limited resources and various disadvantages.


The magazines at Umballa were nearly empty of stores and ammunition; the siege gun park – without which no serious operations could be mounted against Delhi – was a considerable distance from Umballa; the artillery wagons were in the depot at Phillaur; the heat of the season would make rapid marching for the 3,000 available Anglo-Indian troops extremely difficult; and the commissariat was woefully short of vehicles and animals to pull both men and supplies. Notwithstanding all these difficulties, small detachments from many different posts were summoned to unite as a single column, known as the Delhi Field Force.


Regaining the initiative for the British, Anson then set off immediately with the intention of depriving the enemy of the focus of their rebellion and defeating them in detail. In the course of the march, one of two Native Infantry regiments mutinied and made off for Delhi, while the other was disarmed, leaving Anson with only regular British Army and all-British East India Company units with which to fight. In the event, the strain of events took a heavy toll on him, and he died of cholera on 27 May, to be succeeded in command by Major-General Barnard, who was joined by the remnant of the garrison at Meerut under Colonel Archdale Wilson.


On 8 June, in an attempt to stop the numerically inferior British force from reaching Delhi, 30,000 rebels with 30 guns established an entrenched position at Badli-ki-Serai, 5 miles (8km) north-west of the city. Wilson drove them off and established himself on a 2-mile (just over 3km) long feature known as the Ridge which ran north to south, overlooking the north-west walls of Delhi. In a shortsighted gesture to alert the rebels as to the fate that awaited them, British troops burned the former sepoy barracks, thus leaving themselves without adequate shelter during the hottest months of the year. The limited water supply also posed problems, for the mutineers had poisoned the cantonment wells by throwing bodies down them, and the waters of the nearby Jumna were undrinkable. To the west of the Ridge, however, the Western Jumna Canal provided an adequate source, and also provided some protection against an attack from the rear.

While the Ridge itself stood 40ft (12m) above the surrounding terrain, it consisted largely of barren rock and thus provided no earth with which to construct field fortifications. Dotted about the Ridge, however, were a number of substantially built structures which British engineers soon fortified, including a mansion known as Hindu Rao’s House, a tower and a ruined mosque.

Between the Ridge and the city stood a stretch of no-man’s land in which sat other buildings, walls, gardens and thick vegetation, all of which could be used by the rebels as staging points for sorties against the British positions....





Post #19 Mark IV

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 01:22 AM



Just letting you know that it's 4 persons enjoying this thread and awaiting next instalment




Post #20 Guest_Harrytheheid_*

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Posted 13 January 2016 - 01:57 AM



Just letting you know that it's 4 persons enjoying this thread and awaiting next instalment





Well, actually Mark, it's 5 people enjoying this thread....Well, umm, when I, myself, am included, of course.... :D  :D  :D

No worries mate.

I think the Siege of Delhi will comprise of 3 parts. After all, there's a lot to go through.

Man, I really hope Mister First Legion is looking in. Surely there's enough here already to convince him that a Sepoy Mutiny range would be a runaway success!.... B)  B)  B)

Next installment coming up fairly soon -- and more over the next few days.


By the way, for thrills a-plenty, I recommend this piece of historical fiction. A bit of a bodice-ripper in places and the main MemSahib character actually reminds me on a composite of  several with whom I've, err, "had my moments"....but most of it is manly stiff upper lip stuff, and surprisingly enough follows the historical events pretty accurately;






'Once in a while, a book comes along that grabs you by the throat, shakes you, and won't let go until you have read through to the last page.' - Hal Burton, Newsday 
'Follow the Drum is superb reading entertainment' - Best Sellers 
India, in the mid-nineteenth century, was virtually run by a British commercial concern, the Honourable East India Company, whose directors would pay tribute to one Indian ruler and then depose another in their efforts to maintain their balance sheet of power and profit. But great changes were already casting shadows across the land, and when a stupid order was given to Indian troops to use cartridges greased with cow fat and pig lard (one animal sacred to the Hindus and the other abhorrent to Moslems) there was mutiny. The lives of millions were changed for ever including Arabella MacDonald, daughter of an English regular officer, and Richard Lang, an idealistic nineteen-year-old who began 1857 as a boy and ended it a man.


PS. After much deliberation, to the point of sleepless nights and complete distraction, it's finally looking like the Sony NW-A25HN....and I reckon I can pick one up in HK duty free in a couple of weeks time....




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