Indian Pipers

Native troops.

Many Indian Regiments adopted the Bagpipes after coming into contact with Highland Regiments.
The regiments from the North West Frontier of India especially had an close relationship with the Highlanders and eagerly adopted the Pipes and some regiments even had their own ‘Clan’ Tartan.

 

Sikh Pipers

Sikh Pipers from the Punjab

Punjabi Pipers

Punjabi Pipers (Mohammedans)

Hazara

Chacha Hazara Pipers

Sikh Pipe Major

Sikh Pipe-Major

The Graphic 6th November 1915.

Empire Day (24th May) Parade, Shanghai

Sunday Matinee…

Empire Day (24th May) Parade Shanghai 1920’s.

This great video (no Sound) shows British Officials and Military officers enjoying Empire Day (24th May). The Video shows British Sailors, British Army units, including a Scottish Highland regiment and Indian Army Regiments parading and then marching past. A fascinating glimpse into the Empire at its highest extent.

Pathe News

From Hong Kong, the Gibraltar of the East

This article from the Illustrated London News (June 30th 1900.) shows the men of the Hong Kong Regiment preparing to depart to Tientsin

“From Hong Kong, the Gibraltar of the East , a force has been moved towards Tientsin consisting of 300 Welsh Fusiliers and 900 Indian troops.

The Hong Kong Regiment is under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Retallick of the 45th Sikhs. He is forty-three years of age and saw service in the Afghan War of 1880, for his conduct in which he was decorated and mentioned in Dispatches.

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The Hong Kong Regiment ordered on active service. (Native Ranks in Khaki.)

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First Colours of the Hong Kong Regiment presented in 1895 by Sir William Robinson.

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Types of the Hong Kong Regiment (Natives Ranks in Red).

The Life of Colour Sergeant Knight.

This is an extended article from what I posted on Facebook earlier this week.

In July 1856 at the end of the Crimean War the returning troop gathered at the Military camp at Aldershot for a Victory parade through the streets of London.  Early photography pioneers Robert Howlett and Joseph Cundall were also at the camp and in a series called “Crimean Heroes 1856” captured in this new medium some of these conquering heroes.

The picture below is of Colour-Sergeants J Stanton, Kester Knight and W Bruce, of the Royal Sappers and Miners freshly returned from Turkey, all three were grizzled veterans and had served in the Crimea for the duration of the War.

Colour-Sergeants J Stanton, Kester Knight and W Bruce, Royal Sappers and Miners, 1856

Colour-Sergeants J Stanton, Kester Knight and W Bruce, Royal Sappers and Miners, 1856

Kester Knight was born 1827 in Haslemere Surrey and was apprenticed as a carpenter. On the 12th May 1846 aged 19 he joined The Royal Sappers and Miners at Woolwich and listed carpenter as his profession.

Knight proved to be a model solider and steadily moved up the ranks, While posted in Gibraltar he was promoted to 2nd Corporal on the 9th July 1851 and then full Corporal on the 23rd February 1854.

During the spring and summer of 1854 the clouds of war were gathering across Europe as the empires of Britain, France and Russia fought over the dying carcass of the Ottoman Empire. With public opinion across Britain demanding war the British Government dispatched its biggest Army overseas since the Napoleonic Wars.


 

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856), also known in Russian historiography as the Eastern War of 1853–1856 (Russian: Восточная война, Vostochnaya Voina), was a conflict in which Russia lost to an alliance of France, the United Kingdom, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. The immediate cause involved the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The French promoted the rights of Catholics, while Russia promoted those of the Orthodox Christians. The longer-term causes involved the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the unwillingness of the United Kingdom and France to allow Russia to gain territory and power at Ottoman expense. It has widely been noted that the causes, in one case involving an argument over a key, have never revealed a “greater confusion of purpose”, yet led to a war noted for its “notoriously incompetent international butchery.


 

Part of this force included Engineers and men of the Miners and Sappers who had been stationed at Gibraltar since 1849, Corporal Knight landed on the Crimean peninsular with the rest of his regiment on 14th September 1854. They immediately set about getting the stores ashore and setting up a camp for the army.

The British and French Armies marched in land and fought the first major battle of the campaign on the banks of the Alma  and repulsed the Russian defenders but failing to follow up the beaten and retreating Russians gave them the chance to retreat to the safety of Sebastopol and its large Star Fort.

Believing that the Northern approaches to the city were too well defended the British and French Commanders agreed to attack the city from the south. As the army settled down for the siege of the city the men of the Royal Engineers and Miners and Sappers came into their own.

Trenches, gun emplacements and the army encampment were all built and by the 26th of October the British had 73 guns ready for the bombardment of the city walls. Corporal Knight would’ve lead work parties of infantrymen who would dig trenches and build gun embrasures under the direction of a Royal engineer officer (one who would later be Lord Wolseley).

He would also have fought of Russian raiding parties who would sortie out from the city to try and destroy trenches, guns or capture the tools carried by the men.


As a further consequence, the front was not protected by sentries, so that a sortie or surprise of some sort was just might have been anticipated. As we have seen there was a sortie and the surprise was complete, but Wolseley was equal to the occasion.

The working-party, finding themselves surrounded, cast down their tools or arms and bolted to a man. In vain the officers did all the could to stop the stampede. Wolseley seized by the belt one man who was in the act of flying, but was instantly knocked down by another fellow who took this irregular method of releasing his comrade, Wolseley found there was nothing between himself and the Russians but the gabions which they were pulling down with celerity.

Looking about him with the intent of rallying his men, he found that he was alone; all had fled, the officers, recognising the futility of resistance without their men, being the last to retire.

Lord Wolseley, A memoir.


On the 1st of April 1855 Knight was promoted to Sergeant and 4 months before peace was declared he was promoted to Colour-Sergeant.

For his service in the Crimea, Knight was awarded the Queen’s Crimea (Inkermann and Sebastopol clasps), the Turkish Crimea Medal and the French awarded him the French Médaille Militaire his citation reading

Joined the Army at Scutari in May, 1854. Present at every bombardment. Specially selected by Colonel Tylden for important daily duties in the trenches of the right attack, and was subsequently strongly recommended by him for promotion which he received”. 

He sailed for home on the 19th January 1856.

He was home for less than a year before sailing for China in time for the start of the Second Opium War.


The Second Opium War, the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Franco-British expedition to China, was a war pitting the British Empire and the Second French Empire against the Qing dynasty (present day China), lasting from 1856 to 1860.


 

Little is known of Knight’s service in China but he served a total of three years in china and was awarded The China Medal 1857-1860 with clasps for Taku Forts 1860 and Pekin 1860.

After returning to Britain in the Autumn of 1861 he was posted to the Royal Engineers depot at Chatham and on the 6th May 1862 received his final promotion to Sergeant Major.

His army service was exemplary and on his regimental record a note was added which stated:

Conduct has been very good and he was in the possession of one good conduct badge when promoted and would had he not been promoted have now been in possession of five good conduct badges. 

After serving for 22 years 295 days and being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 1869 Sergeant-Major Kester Knight retired.

Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle January 20th 1869

Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle January 20th 1869

In 14th July, 1878 Knight he was rewarded for his service with a post of Yeoman of the Guard at the Tower of London. He lived at the tower with his wife and was one of 39 Yeomans on duty when a Fenian terrorist attacked the Tower with dynamite.

Yeoman Warder Kester C. Knight http://www.soldiersofthequeen.com/

Yeoman Warder Kester C. Knight  Water Lane not far from the Traitor’s Gate in the Tower of London.

 

The Cornishman Thursday 29th January 1885

The Cornishman Thursday 29th January 1885

Knight was a Yeoman for 16 years before dying on the 11th June, 1894 at the Tower. So ended the life of this remarkable Victorian solider.

Peace for Friedrich Brandt

A little off topic but hope you will indulge me…

Peace for Friedrich Brandt

As Friedrich Brandt marched with his comrades of the Kings German Legion (KGL) on the morning of the 18th June 1815 little did he know that his death on the fields of Waterloo would trigger a social media war 200 years later.

The KGL had a distinguished fighting record throughout the battles against France and Napoleon, they had served with the Duke of Wellington in the Spanish Peninsular and the KGL were some of the most experienced troops Britain could call on.

During the fighting at the Battle of Waterloo, the climatic final battle of the Napoleonic Wars the KGL suffered heavy casualties in the fighting around the farm at Hougoumont including it seems a young man with a slight curve to his spine who slumped to the ground as a musket ball smashed into his chest.

Hurriedly buried, his comrades moved on and the young man disappeared into history…and there the story may have ended had the carpark near the Lion Monument not been upgraded in time for the 200th anniversary of the battle

Lion Hill, La Butte de Lion, was built between 1824 and 1826, and is dedicated to the soldiers who died at the Battle of Waterloo

Lion Hill, La Butte de Lion, was built between 1824 and 1826, and is dedicated to the soldiers who died at the Battle of Waterloo

In June 2012 while the upgrades were being carried out a skeleton was discovered under the tarmac of the carpark. The first complete skeleton (well minus the skull!) to be found from the battle and with the musket ball that caused his death still lodged in his ribs, the discovery caused a sensation. (Daily Mail 5th April 2015)

Remains of Friedrich Brandt complete with musket ball still lodge in his ribs.

Remains of Friedrich Brandt complete with musket ball still lodge in his ribs.

With the artefacts found on him and a lot of detective work the skeleton was identified as that of Friedrich Brandt, a German from the state of Hannover fighting as part of King George III German Legion.

Now you would hope that as a soldier who had died in action his remains would be treated with dignity and given a full military burial either in his home state or in a cemetery near the battlefield. What instead happened was it was decided that his remains were to be put on display at the museum near the Butte de Lion.

Again this could’ve been the end of the story had the German Historian Rob Schaefer (@Gerarmyresearch) got involved. He quite rightly pointed out that displaying the body was disrespectful and tacky and certainly didn’t fulfil and scientific purpose.

He also pointed out that would he have been put on display if he had been a British Guardsman or a French Old Guard? There is precedent with the discovery and fully military funeral for a British guardsman found in Holland.

Using the power of social media Herr Schaefer galvanized fellow historians to start a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #peaceforFriedrichBrandt to highlight the cause and to pressure the museum and the Belgium tourist board to reconsider the display.

Very soon hundreds of Tweets carrying the hashtag were being tweeted and retweeted and many respected Military Historians were getting behind the campaign. A facebook page (Peace for Friedrich Brandt)  quickly garnered over 500 likes.

The reaction of the Belgium Tourist Board was disappointing to say the least, going onto the offensive they issued a statement saying that the decision to display the remains came after carefully consideration by a board of experts who declared it in the public interest to display the body.

They didn’t manage to say what scientific purpose this had and you have to feel that public titillation and the financial implications of the 200th Anniversary of the battle had more influence on their decision.

In this day and age do we really need to display human remains for the public to gawp at? A plaster cast of the bones would’ve served the same purpose and allowed the body to be reinterred with dignity and respect.

This campaign has bigger implications than just the bones of Friedrich Brandt it also brings into question the whole treatment of human remains by museum and institutions and what purpose they serve by displaying them.

My own personal opinion is that NO human remains, irrespective of age need to be on display, by all means run the full battery of scientific tests, takes casts, do what you need to do for us to understand everything we can about that person but they then should be reburied with as much dignity as possible.

If you agree that Friedrich Brandt should be buried with dignity then please do get involved, Tweet using the Hashtag#peaceforFriedrichBrandt  and like the Facebook page, if we can cause enough fuss then we may be able to get the museum to see sense.

Friedrich Brandt was a soldier who did his duty, he died fighting for the freedom of his homeland and fought as part of the British Army. He deserves much more than to end up in a display case

The Amritsar Massacre

On the morning of Sunday 13th April 1919 thousands of protesters had gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh garden in the holy city Amritsar, Punjab. Mingled with the protesters were Sikh pilgrims celebrating the festival of Baishakhi.

Numbering about 15,000 the crowds was largely peaceful and demanded the release of two protest leaders who had been arrested earlier in the week and moved to a secret location.

Ignoring the curfew, ordered by the Indian Government after various violent acts across the PunJab, the crowd were determined to have their demands met. On hearing of this illegal gathering and fearing the start of a major rebellion, the local military commander Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer gathered 50+ Gurkhas from the garrison and led them to the gardens.

On arrival at the gardens the vast crowd shocked Dyer and he immediately ordered his men into position on a bank overlooking the crowd. As the situation dawned on him, Dyer came to believe he was about to save the Raj from rebellion.

The gardens were surrounded by large walls and buildings and the few exits were narrow and many were also locked or blocked by Dyer’s men.

Dyer was determined to punish the crowd and prevent it spreading further so without warning he gave his men the order to fire.

Brigadier-General Dyer. Military Commander Amritsar 1919

Brigadier-General Dyer. Military Commander Amritsar 1919

With the Gurkhas firing indiscriminately the crowd began to panic and move towards the exits. In the following stampede many women and children were crushed underfoot. The protesters now began to crowd around the blocked and locked exits and the soldiers started to target these large groups of protesters.

As the bullets from the soldiers .303 rifles began to find their targets the dead and injured began to further block the exits, panic began to grow as the protesters realized they had no where to go or hide. Men, women and children started to fall to the accurate shots of the battle hardened Gurkhas.

The Jallianwala Bagh garden 1919. Taken after the Massacre.

The Jallianwala Bagh garden 1919. Taken after the Massacre.

For a full ten minutes the soldiers kept up this fire until their ammunition began to get low and Dyer gave the order to cease fire, A deathly silence settled over the gardens punctuated by the cries and groans of the injured.

As his men shouldered their arms, Dyer could look at the scene in front of him with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Aftermath

The official body count for the massacre was put by the British authorities as 379 killed and approximately 1000 wounded although the Indian National congress’s own investigation put the figure closer 1500 casualties including 1000 killed.

Brigadier General Dyer was lauded by conservative elements throughout the Empire as a hero and saviour of the Raj. After he reported to his superiors that he had been “confronted by a revolutionary army”, Lieutenant-Governor Michael O’Dwyer wrote in a telegram sent to Dyer: “Your action is correct and the Lieutenant Governor approves.”

Martial law was imposed on most of the Punjab and rigorously enforced by the Indian authorities.

Not everyone approved of his actions and the British government was ferocious in its condemnation of the action. Secretary of State for War Winston Churchill called it monstrous and former Prime Minister H H Asquith described it as “one of the worst outrages in the whole of our history“.

Churchill went even further during a debate in the House of Commons in July 1920.

“The crowd was unarmed, except with bludgeons. It was not attacking anybody or anything… When fire had been opened upon it to disperse it, it tried to run away. Pinned up in a narrow place considerably smaller than Trafalgar Square, with hardly any exits, and packed together so that one bullet would drive through three or four bodies, the people ran madly this way and the other. When the fire was directed upon the centre, they ran to the sides. The fire was then directed to the sides. Many threw themselves down on the ground, the fire was then directed down on the ground. This was continued to 8 to 10 minutes, and it stopped only when the ammunition had reached the point of exhaustion.”

Churchill urged the government to punish Dyer and succeeded in persuading the House of Commons to forcibly retire Dyer in 1920.

Despite this censure, Dyer was still seen as a hero in some eyes, the House of Lords passed a resolution praising his actions and in India he was seen as the saviour of the Raj by British society.

The Streets of Amritsar bearing the signs of Riots that broke out after the Massacre. 1919

The Streets of Amritsar bearing the signs of Riots that broke out after the Massacre. 1919

Dyer himself was unrepentant over his actions and during the Hunter Commission (set up to investigate the event) stated that:

“I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing but they would have come back again and laughed, and I would have made, what I consider, a fool of myself.”

and when asked if :

supposing the passage was sufficient to allow the armoured cars to go in, would you have opened fire with the machine guns?

He replied:

I think probably, yes.

He stated that he intended to strike fear into the Punjab and instill a fear of the British to deter further rebellions.

Brigadier General Reginald Dyer died in 1927 still believing he had acted with honour and had saved the jewel in the Crown with his actions.

The Amritsar Massacre shocked the world, already numb to the slaughter of the First world war. It was seen by many as the beginning of the end of British rule in India. Many in the Punjab felt betrayed by the action after the service and losses the Punjab had given during the war.

A relatively peaceful province became the center of Indian resistance to British rule and the people of the Punjab lead the way to Indian independence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Empire, Faith and War: The Sikhs and World War One.

This week the SOAS University of London in partnership with the UK Punjabi Heritage Association (UKPHA) launched their landmark exhibition Empire, Faith and War: The Sikhs and World War One.

Hosted at the Brunei Gallery London, this exhibition tells the story of the important, and at times crucial role the Indian Army and in particular the Sikhs played in World War One.

Using a range of exhibits the curator’s hope to bring this little known story to a greater audience and encourage modern Sikhs to investigate their own past and roles their ancestors may of played in World War One.

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In order to give the visitor a greater understanding of the Sikh contribution the exhibition isn’t just limited to World War One.

It tries to give a brief history of the Sikhs themselves, starting in the 15th Century it follows the Sikhs journey from the creation of their own Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the first clashes with the British Empire, to the immense contribution and sacrifice during both world wars and then finally to the calls for independence and partition.

The Exhibition hall is well laid out and as you move through hall, the exhibits follow a logical order, starting with early Sikh history, the outbreak of War, life on the Western Front etc each subject following seamlessly into the next giving the visitor a clear narrative and making it very easy to understand the chronological order of the history.

One of my favourite sections was about Sikhs in German POW camps. The Germans seemed to have been fascinated by the Martial nature of the Sikhs and even made sound recording of them which you can listen to.

Images of Sikh prisoners of War from German Sources.

Images of Sikh prisoners of War from German Sources.

The Exhibition has managed to secure some amazing items from the likes of the British Library, National Army Museum and even from the Queens private collection.

There are some real standout pieces on display and some of my favourites includes a gold embossed Sword and pistol owned and used by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and a stunning book of X-rays which shows the injuries suffered by some Sikhs on the Western Front.

The real star of the show, in my opinion is the stunning artwork and pictures that adorn the walls. With everything from colourful recruitment posters, calling the lions of the Empire to fight to a range of pictures showing life in the trenches they really bring to life the vast contribution that the Indian Army made during World War one.

sikh

As Amandeep Madra (chair of the UKPHA) said at the launch of the exhibition:

The British Indian Army’s contribution was actually far greater than the better-known efforts of the white commonwealth countries of Australia, Canada and New Zealand put together. The non-white Empire’s efforts have largely been forgotten and their heroism and sacrifices omitted from mainstream narratives, or left as somewhat forlorn footnotes of history.

And yet men from Undivided India in particular ensured that the Western Front wasn’t lost in those first vital months, and then went on to fight the war’s forgotten fronts in Mesopotamia, Arabia, Palestine, North Africa and beyond. Their contribution has never adequately been recognised or even told.

By telling the Sikh story we want to change that and remind the world of this wider undervalued contribution of the non-white British Empire. This is British history and a story that helps explain much about modern Britain as well as filling in a tragically missing piece of First World War history.

This exhibition certainly goes some way to rectifying that.

The Exhibition runs until the 28th of September 2014 and entry is free.