The 5 most important and informed members of the forum.
Well those that are interested in things other than WWII
Jump to content
Posted 13 January 2016 - 02:25 AM
The 5 most important and informed members of the forum.
Well those that are interested in things other than WWII
If we're not careful Alex will be persuaded into treating us to yet another of his "fine speeches"....might even enrage...."The Lurkers"....
Posted 13 January 2016 - 05:03 AM
The Siege of Delhi, June– September 1857 (Part 2)
....On the face of it, Delhi’s defences appeared formidable, consisting of 7 miles (11km) of thick 24ft- (7.3m-) high walls with bastions mounting heavy artillery, surrounded on all sides but that facing the Jumna by a 20ft- (6m-) deep and 25ft- (7.6m-) wide ditch. Ten gates gave access to the city, with three of these – the Kashmir, Kabul and Lahore Gates – facing the Ridge. Thus, the British position, at least at the outset, was somewhat farcical, for Barnard’s force of 2,300 infantry, 600 cavalry and 22 field guns could not possibly storm a walled city, defended by several hundred pieces of ordnance, and reckoned to contain as many as 40,000 rebel troops.
In consideration of such formidable odds, it is scarcely surprising that no sooner had they ensconced themselves on the Ridge than the British regarded themselves more as the besieged than the besiegers, a view confirmed by the constant and determined attacks which the rebels began to mount from the city. Each sortie was repulsed in turn with heavy losses to the enemy and moderate, though mounting, cost to the beleaguered defenders, who grimly refused to be dislodged. Meanwhile, other British columns were en route to relieve the cities of Cawnpore and Lucknow, both of which contained large British garrisons and civilian occupants.
Outside Delhi, one thing was clear; despite the urgency of an assault recommended by the chief engineer, there was no possibility of retaking the city until sufficient reinforcements, including a siege train, arrived. There was nothing for the British to do but hold their position and wait.
Meanwhile, the rebels continued to bolster their garrison inside Delhi, including a sizeable force from Bareilly led by an artillery officer named Bakht Khan, who persuaded the king to appoint him commander of the city.
When Barnard died from cholera on 5 July, command passed to Major-General Thomas Reed, who himself resigned after only 12 days as a result of ill health, to be succeeded by Sir Archdale Wilson, who received the temporary rank of major-general.
Reinforcements gradually arrived from the Punjab and elsewhere, though these only maintained the force at static levels in light of the daily losses resulting from combat, heatstroke and disease, above all cholera and dysentery. Nevertheless, by the beginning of July the Delhi Field Force had grown to approximately 6,600 men – adequate numbers to fend off regular enemy attacks, but still insufficient to mount a credible attack on the walls of Delhi.
At last, on 14 August, a highly mobile force known as the "Moveable Column", consisting of three Punjabi cavalry regiments and seven Punjabi infantry battalions under Brigadier-General John Nicholson, reached the Ridge. Nicholson showed himself far more inspirational and charismatic than Wilson, and his personal presence contributed considerably to bolstering the besiegers’ morale.
Enthusiastically received though these troops were, the heavy siege train, pulled by elephants, was still en route, making slow progress. When intelligence of this reached Bakht Khan, he dispatched a force of about 6,000 mutineers to intercept the convoy. Wilson’s spies inside Delhi alerted him to the fact, and on 25 August Nicholson, with 2,500 men and 16 guns, discovered the rebels at Najafghar, about 16 miles (26km) from Delhi. In an hour’s fighting the rebels were put to flight, leaving 800 dead and all their artillery and baggage on the field, at a cost to Nicholson of 25 killed and 70 wounded.
Now realizing that their hold on the city might be temporary, the mutineers sent an envoy to the British camp on the 30th, offering terms. These were peremptorily refused; the British were in no mood to compromise with those responsible for the deaths of women and children.
At last, on 4 September, the siege train, assembled from the ordnance and stores at Phillaur and Ferozepore, together with Sikh sappers and miners, began to arrive on the Ridge.
Now armed with 22 heavy guns and mortars, plus a thousand rounds of ammunition, the Delhi Field Force possessed more than enough firepower to reduce the walls of Delhi to rubble. Yet Wilson, concerned at the still very real prospect of failure in the face of 40,000 rebels, showed great reluctance to prepare for an assault. But Nicholson, his chief engineer and other officers pointed out that the likelihood of receiving further troops and guns was low. Anglo-Indian forces had reached their peak strength, and the time had come to strike.
Troops duly occupied no-man’s land without much difficulty, for after their sorties the mutineers withdrew back into the safety of the city. Under cover of darkness, gabions, fascines, gun platforms and other equipment, prepared beforehand, were brought forward by camels and bullocks, followed later by the guns. Those preparing the batteries, mostly Indian labourers, suffered heavy casualties, but by the morning of 8 September the first battery, positioned 700 yards (640m) from the Mori Bastion at the north-west corner of the city, began the bombardment, dividing its fire between the Mori Bastion and the Kashmir Bastion.
The rebels replied in kind, and launched fierce sorties against the growing number of batteries appearing to their front, but the defenders consistently drove them off. By nightfall, the Mori Bastion consisted of a heap of rubble and dismounted guns. At the same time, a second battery issued fire against the Kashmir Bastion and the curtain wall between it and the Water Bastion. A third battery, positioned within 200 yards (183m) of the walls, targeted the Water Bastion itself. Formidable though Delhi’s stone masonry was, it was also old, and could not sustain the fire of modern artillery. In the course of a few days great heaps of shattered stone filled the ditch below and by 13 September breaches large enough for infantry to make an assault practicable had been made.
Wilson knew he had but one chance to take the city, for failure could prove catastrophic to the whole campaign to re-establish British authority in India. An all-out assault, conducted by 6,000 British and Indian troops organized in five columns under Nicholson’s overall command, was ordered for dawn on the following morning. At great risk to the whole enterprise, every available man was to be thrown into the cauldron, with the Ridge left in the hands of only a handful of cavalry and guns, plus the sick and wounded.
Column No. 1, under Nicholson, was to enter the main breach at the Kashmir Bastion;
Column No. 2 was to storm the breach near the Water Bastion;
Column No. 3, preceded by a forlorn hope (advance party) which was to plant an explosive charge and blow in the Kashmir Gate, was to enter by that route and then penetrate deep into the city as far as the Jumma Musjid mosque.
Once inside the walls, these columns would be directed as their respective commanders saw fit, though columns 1 and 2 were to proceed along the inside walls of the city and open the Kabul Gate to No. 4.
Column. No. 5 would be held as a reserve, to be committed as needed.
On the eve of the assault many of the troops settled down to compose what for some would be their final letter home. Captain Charles Ewart of the 2nd Bengal Fusiliers explained to his mother what the task involved:-
I believe we are to escalade. You know what that will be – rush up a ladder with men trying to push you down, bayonet and shoot you from above. But you must wave your sword and think it capital fun, bring your men up as fast as you can and jump down on top of men ready with fixed bayonets to receive you. All this is not very pleasant to think coolly of, but when the moment comes excitement and the knowledge that your men are looking to you to lead them on and bring them up with a cheer makes you feel as happy as possible.
It will be fearfully exciting work.
At 03:00AM on the 14th, the columns moved up to their appointed positions under the covering fire of the siege guns....
TO BE CONTINUED
Posted 13 January 2016 - 06:22 PM
The Siege of Delhi, June– September 1857 (Part 3)
....Once the breaches were cleared of the new defences established by the rebels during the night, the signal for the attack was made, with ominous orders to take no prisoners. As the first two columns rushed forward the rebels issued a tremendous fire of musketry from the walls high above and hurled down blocks of masonry, causing severe casualties. But the attackers, many encumbered with scaling ladders, carried on undaunted. Captain Richard Barter of the 75th Highlanders recorded the attack:-
We had been watching anxiously for it, and now in columns of fours we rushed at the double through a high archway into a garden of roses and through this to the foot of the glacis. The dark forms of the 60th Rifles seemed to spring out of the earth, keeping up a galling fire on the walls and breach.
Day had broken and the sun was showing like a large red ball in the east as, passing through the line of the 60th who cheered us loudly, we emerged on the glacis and there, straight before us, was the breach. It was a huge gap in the wall, full of men whose heads showed just over the edges of it. Along the walls they swarmed as thick as bees, the sun shining full on the white turbans and the black faces, sparkling brightly on their swords and bayonets. Our men cheered madly as they rushed on. The enemy, whose fire had slackened when ours ceased, at first seemed perfectly taken aback by our sudden appearance, but recovering from their surprise they now began firing again in earnest. Round shot came screaming from the guns far on our right, while grape and shell whistled from those nearer, and the walls seemed one line of fire all along our front. Bullets whipped through the air and tore up the ground about our feet and men fell fast.
Three times the ladder parties were swept away, and three times the ladders were snatched from the shoulders of the dead and wounded.
It was by these means that columns 1 and 2 burst into the city.
The task before Column No. 3 was rather different, for its forward party were responsible for blowing in the Kashmir Gate to allow access to the city. What followed has become enshrined as one of the great military epics of the Victorian era; a small party of Bengal Sappers and Miners led by lieutenants Duncan Home and Philip Salkeld rushed to the gate, with the intention of placing a 25lb (11kg) sack of gunpowder against the door, blowing it down and sounding the advance.
The prospect of success was extemely slim, and, in the event, many of the "explosion party" as it was known, were hit by enemy fire. But the bags were duly set in place, the portfire was applied to the fuses, and, in a shattering explosion of flying splinters and brickwork, the right-hand door of the gate was blown off its hinges.
On hearing a bugler sound the advance, the column rushed in through the archway, overpowered those rebels still capable of resistance, and met up with the other two assault columns in the Main Guard, where the reserve column soon appeared. Thereafter, the rebels bitterly contested progress through the city streets, the whole affair characterized by savage house-to-house fighting down narrow alleys, with fire directed on the attackers from rooftops and through loopholed walls.
But those who entered Delhi, though heavily outnumbered, were fired with an unquenchable desire for revenge. They wanted more than the city itself; they wanted blood. Countless mutineers and civilians were killed by incandescent British troops.
One observer noted:-
All the city people found within the walls when our troops entered were bayoneted on the spot; and the number was considerable, as you may suppose, when I tell you that in some houses forty or fifty persons were hiding. These were not mutineers but residents of the city, who trusted to our well-known mild rule for pardon. I am glad to say they were disappointed.
Disaster nearly struck, however, when part of Column No. 4 was routed, and the triumphant rebels pushed through the Kabul and Lahore Gates to counter-attack the main body, forcing it back towards the Ridge. The situation appeared critical, but the artillery and cavalry defending the camp managed to hold the rebels back, and when No. 2 Column stormed the Mori Bastion and the Kabul Gate from within the city, the threat to the Ridge was averted.
Meanwhile, the savage fighting continued, and though No. 3 Column had reached the Jumma Musjid Mosque, without artillery or explosives to hand it was impossible to break through the bricked-up arches and sandbags, obliging the column to withdraw to St James’s Church.
Shortly thereafter Nicholson was mortally wounded while directing his column towards the Lahore Gate. Circumstances were grim; only a quarter of the city had been taken, the Field Force had suffered massive casualties – 1,700 killed and wounded, or about a quarter of the attacking force – Nicholson was incapacitated, and No. 4 Column had been defeated. There was every possibility, based upon the rate of casualties thus far sustained, that Wilson’s force would literally fight itself out of existence.
Withdrawal began to look like the best course of action. Wilson’s subordinates strongly advised otherwise, and on the morning of 16 September, the day after many men had indulged in a drunken orgy on discovering a large cache of wine abandoned by the city’s merchants, the advance proceeded, the streets being cleared methodically, house by house. Several key points were found empty or lightly defended, which indicated that the rebels were losing heart. The magazine was stormed and taken with little resistance, and yielded up 171 pieces of ordnance and a large stock of ammunition.
The fighting continued on the 17th, but by then Wilson’s force was down to 3,000 exhausted, filthy men, some of whom could make no further progress. Eventually, on the 19th, they managed to storm the Burn Bastion, and on the following morning the Lahore Gate was captured, enabling troops to be dispatched to take the Ajmir Gate and the Jumma Musjid Mosque, both of which fell with little difficulty.
Finally, the gate of the palace, known as the Red Fort, was blown in, and the last fanatical supporters of the king killed off. This marked the end of effective resistance in the city. Those not killed or wounded escaped unmolested through the south of the city or across the Jumna.
Bakht Khan had fled the vicinity of Delhi entirely, but the king was known to have taken refuge in the tomb of the Emperor Hamayun, 6 miles (9.6km) from the city. Confronted on the 21st by Major William Hodson, commander of an irregular Indian cavalry regiment, and his troopers, the king surrendered and was led back to Delhi. On learning that the king’s three sons were also in hiding, Hodson returned the following day; in rapid succession he shot dead all three of them, despite the presence of a large hostile crowd which, impressed by Hodson’s apparent indifference to the danger, declined to intervene.
Total casualties from enemy action during the whole period of the siege were about 1,000 killed and 2,800 wounded, slightly over half of whom were British. In addition to this, many British troops had died of dysentery, cholera, heat stroke and other afflictions. Nicholson died of his wound on the 23rd, aware that the city had been retaken. Delhi was plundered for several days; valuables worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds were ultimately sold off by the prize agents, with the proceeds distributed to the men, but undeclared loot probably exceeded even this.
Large numbers of sepoys fled the city to join their comrades still fighting in other parts of the country, while some British troops were now released for operations elsewhere in Oudh, including 2,700 men under Colonel Edward Greathed, who left Delhi on 24 September and reached the besieged fort at Agra on 10 October.
TO BE CONTINUED
Posted 13 January 2016 - 09:01 PM
A very fun and as usual educational thread Harry, You make a compelling case but then to do Waterloo over the Peninsula continues to baffle me despite the great stories from that period.
Profit Bill, and profit only
Otherwise why, over and above all else, would FL throw away so much priceless resources on covering such a drab and dreary, and ultimately in toy soldier terms. utterly boring, topic as WW2? Especially when those interested in it are so well served by the scale modelling side of the hobby.
It's completely beyond me mate.
Posted 13 January 2016 - 10:10 PM
Lifted word-for-word from James Leasor’s “Follow the Drum”....with slight re-formatting by me....
As the sudden Indian dusk deepened over the valley, and the guns stopped firing because their muzzle flames gave away their positions, Nicholson called together the commanders. They met in a tent on the far side of the Ridge; he rolled up the canvas walls and posted sentries around so no one else could hear his final commands.
"Gentlemen," he said, head and shoulders above them all. "We attack Delhi at oh-three-thirty hours tomorrow morning".
"I will lead the first column of a thousand men, and we will storm the breach the artillery has made near the Kashmir bastion".
"The second column will be led by Colonel William Jones of Her Majesty's 61st, and you, colonel, will take your eight hundred and fifty men in by the Water Bastion".
"Colonel George Campbell commands the third column, nine hundred and fifty strong, through the Kashmir Gate when the engineers' special party has blown it open".
"Next, Major Charles Reid, you will lead your fourth column of eight hundred and sixty, plus twelve hundred Sikhs from the Maharajah of Kashmir's contingent in through the Kabul Gate. My column will open this for you from the inside. You will then go through the eastern suburbs".
"All other troops to be in reserve, but ready to move instantly".
"There will be no looting, no plunder, no prisoners".
"No wounded of any rank whatever will be picked up. They will be left where they fall. Bearers will come behind with doolies for them. It is imperative to obey this last order, or the whole impetus of the advance will be slowed down".
"All prizes will be put in a central place - I suggest one of the dungeons of the Fort - to be distributed out fairly among everyone afterwards".
"All women and children are to be spared, whether they are fighting against us or not".
"Do you understand these orders?"
"We do, sir", replied the senior colonel.
"Draw your swords, gentlemen."
A rattle of steel from scabbards.
"Swear by your swords that you will obey these orders."
"Right, gentlemen. You will repeat these orders to the soldiers. They will swear they understand them, by taking their oath. If I find anyone going back on his word, I will kill him myself - whoever he is. Is that quite clear?"
The other officers nodded.
"Nothing more then, gentlemen, until we parade at two o'clock in the morning".
"May God be on our side. We fight for the right, and if we fail no one else will take up our cause".
As previously mentioned -- highly recommended!
Posted 13 January 2016 - 10:34 PM
And just a little bit more....
Two hours to go to assembly.
Smiths were sharpening bayonets and swords and lances with files and whetstones. Some soldiers were oiling their muskets, and checking their supplies of powder and ball. Others wrote pathetic letters to wives or mothers. Those who could not write, dictated letters to those who could.
Hodson walked from tent to tent, wondering how many who sharpened their blades so zealously would be alive to carry them when the sun went down. He heard the regional accents of Somerset, Cheshire and Dorset; the brogue of the Irish, the broad vowels of Scots and Welshmen; the Cockney slang of Londoners, and he felt that a whole microcosm of Britain was encamped on this hill.
Thousands of miles away, in hamlets and towns and villages, their relations went about their daily tasks, unknowing, some possibly even uncaring, what tomorrow would bring to their representatives on the Ridge before Delhi.
Apart from national pride, it mattered little to them personally whether Delhi was captured, or left in the mutineers' control; whether Indian trade was taken by other rich nations or held by their own. But these men would fight, and many would die, and many more bear wounds for the rest of their lives. They would have stories to tell until memory dimmed the outlines in their minds; and that was all.
Hodson found it impossible not to feel moved by the profound irony of the situation. These soldiers would die willingly to keep their country rich, yet they had no share in its prosperity themselves, only a deep pride in its achievements, in its influence and the Empire they had helped to form.
They did not see their role as being in any way ironic; they were Queen's men and Company's men. They had taken the Queen's shilling, or the Company's shilling. Now they prepared, as a matter of honour, to give full value for these twelve pennies, unmindful that this could well cost them their lives.
They had followed the drum, and it had led them here to Delhi.
Like I said....highly recommended.
Posted 14 January 2016 - 09:30 PM
Cawnpore - June/July 1857 (Part 1)
Cawnpore, a city of 60,000 inhabitants in Oudh, the most disaffected province in British India, stood on the important communications route up the Ganges from Calcutta. Any relief force bound for Lucknow would have to pass through it.
The city’s garrison was led by Major-General Sir Hugh Wheeler, who had spent almost 50 years in India, and had married an Indian woman. He spoke the language of his troops, whom he respected and in whose loyalty he had absolute and, it transpired, misplaced, faith. On 4 June the sepoy regiments of the garrison rose up and from the 6th laid siege to Wheeler’s small British contingent, comprising only 300 British officers and men, many of whom were sick, plus a handful of loyal Indian troops.
Wheeler’s situation was considerably weakened by the encumbrance of 500 civilians, most of them women and children. Erroneously believing the city and barracks themselves to be indefensible, Wheeler moved his force and its dependants into a small entrenchment outside the city, about a mile (1.6km) from the Ganges. In doing so Wheeler defied the entreaties of most of his staff, who preferred holding out in the magazine, a substantial building, easily capable of being fortified, containing a large amount of weapons and powder, much of it unnecessarily abandoned to the mutineers.
The new position consisted of a few barrack huts surrounded by a low, unfinished earth rampart no more than 4ft (1.2m) high, feebly backed by a shallow trench on the inside perimeter. Wheeler’s command and its dependants had woefully inadequate provisions, though they were well supplied with small arms – enough in any event to enable each soldier to have several loaded weapons at his disposal. On the other hand, the defenders possessed almost no artillery: just six light guns, none of them properly deployed.
Wheeler’s preference for this exceedingly weak position over that of the more obvious choice in the city centre remains a mystery today.
The rebels in and around Cawnpore, meanwhile, chose as their leader Dhondu Pant, known as the Nana Sahib, the Maharajah of Bithur and an heir of the Marathas, who had been dispossessed of most of their lands by the Company earlier in the century.
Between 6 and 27 June the defenders endured terrible hardships before Wheeler, his ammunition, food and water nearly exhausted, recognized that further resistance was futile and surrendered in return for a promise of safe conduct down the Ganges to Allahabad. The survivors of the three-week ordeal were duly escorted to the river bank where, as they began to board boats, they were treacherously fired upon by troops emerging from concealed positions on both banks.
When musketry and cannon fire failed to account for all the men, sepoys waded into the water and dispatched the rest with swords and bayonets. Numerous women and children also died, but the survivors were marched back into town, this time to the Bibigarh (House of the Ladies), a small bungalow once the residence of a British officer’s mistress.
The place consisted of two rooms, about 16ft2 (4.9m2), into which 206 women and children – the number representing the addition of other women and children captured elsewhere – were crammed.
Meanwhile, at Allahabad, a city on the Ganges just south of the border with Oudh, which contained a major arsenal, 62-year-old Brigadier-General Sir Henry Havelock was assembling a relief force for Lucknow, where a sizeable body of British troops and civilians, together with Indian allies and dependent non-combatants, were under siege in the British Residency.
As Cawnpore lay on the road to Lucknow, relieving the former en route required no diversion: he would move north to Cawnpore, then cross the Ganges into Oudh and eastwards to Lucknow – an extremely difficult task for a force of about 2,000 men and six guns.
On 7 July Havelock began a gruelling 126-mile (203km) march in dreadful heat, aware that all the men of the Cawnpore garrison had been slaughtered and that the surviving women and children were being held captive in the city. Progress was slow, for Havelock’s men were not accustomed to long marches in such sweltering heat: temperatures often exceeded 100 degrees (37.7C). Even when their heavy woollen jackets were placed in the baggage in favour of lighter dress, heatstroke exacted a heavy toll on the troops, many of them young recruits, unaccustomed to the rigorous conditions of service in India.
After a series of forced marches, largely conducted at night to avoid the worst of the heat, Havelock encountered 3,500 rebels with 12 guns at Fatehpur on 12 July.
Underestimating Havelock’s strength, the rebels attacked with great enthusiasm, only to find their determination checked when a British battery brought down the rebel commander’s elephant with the first shot. In the course of just 10 minutes the rebels were driven off, probably with negligible losses.
In this, the first major encounter between the two sides in the field, Havelock emerged completely unscathed, though a dozen of his men collapsed and died from heatstroke.
After defeating the rebels again, at Aong, 10 miles (16km) closer to Cawnpore, where it turned their flank on 15 July, the relief force brushed aside another enemy contingent at Pandu Nadi later the same day.
At last, Havelock faced Nana Sahib’s main body of perhaps 10,000 men and eight guns outside Cawnpore itself, on the 16th....
TO BE CONTINUED
Posted 14 January 2016 - 10:04 PM
Cawnpore - June/July 1857 (Part 2)
Havelock’s artillery could not be brought into action owing to the exhausted state of the transport oxen in the ferocious heat, and he found his men exposed to heavy fire from the enemy’s guns.
I was resolved that this state of affairs could not last.
Havelock wrote in his dispatch;
So calling upon my men, who were lying down in line, to leap to their feet, I directed another steady advance. It was irresistible! The enemy sent round shot into our ranks until we were within three hundred yards [274m], and then poured in grape with such precision as I have seldom witnessed. But the 64th [Foot]....were not to be denied. Their rear showed the ground strewed with wounded; but on they steadily and silently came, then with a cheer charged and captured the unwieldy trophy of their valour [the rebel guns]. The enemy lost all heart, and after a hurried fire of musketry gave way in total rout. Four of my guns came up, and completed their discomfiture by a heavy cannonade.
The mutineers were broken up and Nana Sahib fled. Havelock’s men, only a few miles from the city, lay down and slept outside the city, in anticipation of liberating the captives the following day. After marching 126 miles (203km) in eight days, and fighting four pitched battles against heavy odds, they simply could go no farther.
In fact, there were no prisoners to liberate.
Probably angered by his failure to stem Havelock’s advance, and determined not to give the British the satisfaction of recovering their compatriots, Nana Sahib had ordered the deaths of the prisoners. Accordingly, on the evening of 15–16 July, a handful of men, now believed to have been local butchers armed with swords and knives, entered the Bibigarh and hacked the helpless occupants to death. The carnage carried on through the night until, at about 8am the following day, three or four men were ordered to pitch the dismembered bodies down a nearby dry well. A few survivors were thrown down alive, including several young children.
Just after dawn on the 17th, an advance party from Havelock’s force entered the town and discovered the rebels had gone. Upon arriving at the Bibigahr they discovered to their horror the grisly evidence of the second massacre perpetrated at Cawnpore. One eyewitness recorded:-
I never was more horrified! The place was one mass of blood. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the soles of my boots were more than covered with the blood of these poor wretched creatures. [I found] quantities of dresses, clogged thickly with blood, children’s frocks, frills, and ladies’ under clothing of all kinds, also boys’ trousers, leaves of Bibles....and hair, nearly a yard long; bonnets all bloody, and one or two shoes....
All the way to the well was marked by a regular track along which the bodies had been dragged, and the thorny bushes had entangled in them scraps of clothing and long hairs. I have looked upon death in every form, but I could not look down that well again.
Havelock ordered the well, 50ft (15m) deep with human remains piled to within 6ft (1.8m) of the top, filled in with earth and sealed. Brigadier-General James Neill, one of Havelock’s subordinates, determined to exact a dreadful form of retribution for the massacre:-
Wherever a rebel is caught he is immediately tried; and, unless he can prove a defence, he is sentenced to be hanged at once; the chief rebels, or ringleaders, I make first clean up a certain portion of the pool of blood, still two inches deep, in the shed where the fearful murder and mutilation of women and children took place. To touch blood is most abhorrent to the high-caste natives; they think, by doing so, they doom their souls to perdition. Let them think so. My object is to inflict a fearful punishment for a revolting, cowardly, barbarous deed, and to strike terror into these rebels....No one who has witnessed the scenes of murder, mutilation, and massacre, can ever listen to the word “mercy”, as applied to these fiends.
News of the massacre at Cawnpore had an equally powerful effect on British public opinion back home. Having tried to introduce “civilization” and Christianity to a “heathen” race, the British had discovered such blessings were not merely rejected, but violently so. From pulpits across the country preachers began to speak of revenge rather than redemption. A total of 25,000 people assembled in the Crystal Palace to hear the enraged Baptist minister, Charles Spurgeon, demand retribution on a scale which would far exceed that committed by the rebels:-
My friends, what crimes they have committed!....The [British] Indian government [in Calcutta] never ought to have tolerated the religion of the Hindoos at all. If my religion consisted of bestiality, infanticide and murder, I should have no right to it unless I was prepared to be hanged.
The religion of the Hindoos is no more than a mass of the rankest filth that imagination ever conceived. The Gods they worship are not entitled to the least atom of respect. Their worship necessitates everything that is evil and morality must put it down.
The sword must be taken out of its sheath, to cut off our fellow subjects by their thousands.
The mutineers, in short, were to reap the whirlwind, and after Cawnpore the corpses of mutineers and suspected mutineers dangling from trees marked the route of advancing British columns whose commanders simply dispensed with the ordinary course of justice and applied their own summary form. According to Lieutenant Kendal Coghill;
We burnt every village and hanged all the villagers who had treated our fugitives badly until every tree was covered with scoundrels hanging from every branch.
William Forbes-Mitchell of the 93rd, remarking on the barbarity of the conflict, described it as;
A guerre à la mort – a war of the most cruel and exterminating form, in which no quarter was given on either side....It was a war of downright butchery.
The Times reflected the feverish desire for retribution which animated a large proportion of its readership when it demanded that;
Every tree and gable-end in the place should have its burden in the shape of a mutineer’s carcass.
Havelock left Neill and a small force at Cawnpore, and proceeded as quickly as he could towards Lucknow, which he was anxious to reach before the tragedy at Cawnpore could be repeated there.
TO BE CONTINUED
Posted 14 January 2016 - 10:10 PM
Thanks Mark....I'm enjoying putting this together, especially as I suspect it's a war that few have given much thought to -- and even fewer toy soldier manufacturers -- apart from WB's gloss range from years ago....
Hopefully it's beginning to dawn on them precisely why I keep saying it's a conflict that includes absolutely everything a collector could wish for in a well sculpted and matte painted range....