Category Archives: India

The Battle March of Delhi Sheet Music

In the nineteenth century it was very common to commemorate major victories in battle with pieces of music. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 was no exception and in 1857 after the British had successfully recaptured Delhi from the mutineers a march in honour of this accomplishment was written by John Pridham, a school teacher from Taunton. The piece of music was published with a wonderfully engraved cover depicting the triumphant entry into Delhi by the British commander, General Wilson:SKM_C284e18053008222The general sits astride his horse, with troops surrounding him, the flag of the United Kingdom prominent in the centre of the image and the oriental towers of Delhi hidden in the smoke behind. The image is both romanticised and triumphant and would have appealed the nineteenth century British mind-set. It is hard to date this exact piece of sheet music, as the music was republished several times over the latter half of the nineteenth century. I suspect my copy dates from one of the later print runs, but I cannot find any date of printing on the work at all.

Jeffrey Richards in his book ‘Imperialism and Music: Britain 1876-1953’ provides this description of the piece of music:

The descriptive fantasia for piano of a battle or other military event became a stock item of the nineteenth-century musical repertoire. John Pridham’s zestful piano fantasia The Battle march of Delhi (1857), a military divertimento ‘descriptive of the triumphant entry into Delhi’, boasted a sheet music cover picture of the victorious general entering the Indian capital with kilted Scots troops. Each separate element of the scene is signalled in the score. It opens with the clock of the Palace of the Great Mogul striking four, and then a gentle pastoral interlude to suggest the break of day. This is interrupted by the rumble of distant drums- a repeated low-toned trill- and then a return to the pastoral theme broken by the morning bugle call. The rumbling notes of the drums indicates the mutineers in possession of Delhi, and an Indian air which sounds more like an English country dance than an Oriental melody.  SKM_C284e18053008230Then a bass drum, and trumpet call, and ‘the Mutineers are alarmed at the approach of the British cavalry’- jaunty, jogging, horse riding music. The spirited cavalry march culminates in ‘General Wilson’s arrival at the Cashmere Gate’: drums, gunfire from the mutineers, trumpet call for troops to form order of battle (‘General Wilson orders an immediate attack’) and there is a charge in musical form, the rumble of cannon and mortar, and the flight of the mutineers: musical notes indicate ‘Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, they fly’, and then there are successive passages from “Smile on in Hope”, “Old England” and the trumpets leading to “See, the Conquering Hero Comes” (marked ‘majestic’) and, after more trumpets, “The Campbells are Coming”. Vividly, stirringly and economically, it told in musical form the story of the capture of Delhi. It was originally issued in 1857, re-issued in 1858, 1859, 1880, 1902 and 1904, and was still current in the 1940s as a veritable old war-horse of the parlour piano repertoire.Capture_of_Delhi,_1857I do not suppose that this piece of sheet music is particularly rare considering the number of reprints it went through, but it is an attractive and interesting little addition to my collection and only cost me a pound.


1867 Envelope to a Captain in India

On this blog we occasionally step back before the First World War, however items do not come along as frequently as more modern objects and are frequently out of my budget. Tonight though we have a delightful little envelope from 150 years ago that came off eBay for just 99p. It still astonishes me that something so old and interesting can go for so little money, however I am not going to complain and it is of course great to have something like this in the collection and available to share with you.

This envelope is addressed to Captain George Conaught (I think) of the 35th Native Infantry at Saugor:imageThe 35th Native Infantry, I believe, refers to the 35th Bengal Native infantry, who had been reformed after being disbanded during the Indian Mutiny. Saugor is today called Sagar and is in Madhyar Pradesh in Central India. Saugor was a military cantonment at this period and had both British and Indian regiments stationed at it. Captain Conaught would have been one of the English officers in the employ of the Indian Army. Interestingly a receipt of some sort has been written on one end of the envelope:imageQuite what this was for is unclear, especially as I struggle with Victorian handwriting, but the sum of 79/9/6 whether in rupees or pounds, was not an insignificant one at this period!

The envelope has a stamp affixed to one corner indicating it was sent from Calcutta in April 1867 and the postage paid was 2 annas:imageThere were internal postal systems within Indian states and longer distance mail was under the control of the British Raj. Delivering the post in India was not without its hazards:

With the exception of such parts as may be infested by tigers, the post seldom or never fails of arriving within an hour of its appointed time, except, as has been observed, when the waters are out. In this case, many circuitous roads must be followed, whereby the way is considerably lengthened. Taking the average, a hundred miles per day may be run over by the dawk, or post, in fair weather. Each mail-bag is conveyed by an hurkaru (or runner) who is attended by one or two doogy-wallahs, or drummers, who keep up a kind of long-roll, as they pass any suspicious place

Indian Made 37 Pattern Brace Attachment

It has been a while since we looked at any Indian made 37 pattern webbing on the blog, but tonight we have an example of an Indian made brace attachment to look at:imageJust as a reminder, the official British Army pamphlet describes brace attachments as:

These are interchangeable and are used for sets of equipment adapted for Officers, certain W.O.s., N.C.O.s and personnel armed with pistol, or ranks not carrying arms. They consist of a “gate” slide for attachment to the waistbelt, with narrow webbing fitted at the top to carry a buckle for the brace, below which a link is provided to receive the free end of the brace.

Surprisingly for Indian manufactured webbing, the cotton webbing part of these brace attachments is well made and quite solid. The nature of the design results in multiple layers of webbing folded over each other and sewn which might explain the relative rigidity of this piece compared with much Indian produced webbing. The brass fittings are a little cruder than you would see on English made pieces, here the gate buckle has definite imperfections in the brass that are visible, although they would not affect the strength of the brace attachment in use:imageThe buckle and loop are also a little crude, being stamped from heavy gauge brass sheet:imageThe back of the brace attachment is marked ‘Bata 1943’:imageThis mark is a little faint, but gets more visible when tilted in the light. Bata seems to have produced webbing up until 1943 so this would have come from their final year of production. For more information on this company please check out the post here. Sadly I just have the one brace attachment so far, two being needed for a set. Like all Indian webbing though these brace attachments are not that easy to find so I feel lucky to have picked this one up and I will keep my eyes open for a second.

Indian Made Lewis Pouch Yoke

Following on from last week’s post on the South African Lewis gun pouch, tonight we are looking at an example of the Indian yoke strap for those pouches:imageIt is not uncommon for webbing to become mismatched and in service no one cares where a piece of equipment comes from as long as it does the job it’s supposed to. With supply problems and equipment moving around I would not be surprised if this strap has been with the pouches for many years. The strap is made of the distinctive soft and slightly stripy Indian made webbing. Large brass chapes are fitted to each end of the strap to prevent the ends from fraying:imageThe ends of this strap thread through the large buckles at the top of each pouch:imageA pair of pouches is held together by one strap, so two straps are needed for a full set of four pouches. The straps themselves are made from two pieces of webbing sewn together to double the thickness:imageThis adds strength to the yoke as the pouches would have been very heavy when carrying full Lewis magazines, the double thickness reducing the chances of the yoke splitting under the weight. The yoke has the typical Indian acceptance marks, the C/|\ code coming from the Cawnpore depot where the strap was approved for military service:imageIt is hard to date this strap, I believe the ’42’ on the end of the stamp being a stores code rather than a date, but like the pouches I suspect it was manufactured quite early in the Second World War. Interestingly I have come across British made Lewis ammunition pouches and straps, South African made pouches and Indian made yoke straps, but I do not recall seeing Indian made pouches or South African made yoke straps- perhaps a reader can confirm if they do indeed exist?

Indian Army Pillow Case

Most of the Indian made cotton items we have looked at on the blog over the years have been of rather course fabric; serviceable but rather rough. Tonight though we have an Indian made pillow case that is rather finer in weave and quality than I am used to with Indian items:imageThis is certainly Indian Army issue as it has a distinctive circular inspectors stamp in black ink on the edge of the opening:imageThere would also have been a large circular stamp with an Indian Army ownership mark and date of acceptance, but this is either very worn, or more likely very badly stamped and is virtually invisible now:image I suspect these pillow cases would not have been on general issue to troops, but rather were for officers or more likely patients recovering in military hospitals. Here we see an example of an Indian Army hospital with examples of the pillow case being used by the patients:imageThere were of course a wide variety of hospitals from large establishments like the example in Rawalpindi seen in the photograph above, to field hospitals in tents a few miles from the front line. Margaret Ledger was a QARANC nurse in India:

At Bombay Station, where we assembled, we were given further instructions by officers, who were awaiting our arrival. We were all dispensed into various trains. I was posted with other Nursing Sisters to Secunderabad. It is in Hyderabad Province. Eventually we arrived at our destination, after travelling several days in the train. We were tired and it was very hot and humid.

The next day we commenced our nursing duties. I was posted to the Operating Theatre. We sterilised our instruments in large fish kettles, and the work consisted of casualties transported from the front line in Burma. The casualties were British, Indian, African and other personnel brought to Base Hospitals by train. Some had been shipped by hospital ships to Madras, then conveyed by train to various military hospitals. Some had travelled for days in the heat of India and were very weary. They had dysentery and malaria and other topical diseases, as well as their severe wounds. The Operating Theatre staff worked from 7.00am or before that time until 12 midday. No patient was anaesthetised during the heat of the afternoon, it was too hot. Therefore work commenced again at 5.00pm or 6.00pm. There was no air conditioning or fans in the Operating Theatre. We were all sweating and it was very hot with masks over our faces. However we survived and progressed with our work. 

After nine months in Secunderabad, I was posted to a jungle hospital in Mysore Jungle, many miles away from Secunderabad. I travelled alone on the train to Bangalore. There were other travellers on the train, mostly natives of India and some British troops, but I was the only Nursing Sister. I was locked in my small compartment, and at every station we stopped, an officer came to check that I was safe. There were many incidents on the trains, chiefly stealing. However I eventually arrived in Bangalore Station, and was conveyed to the British Military Hospital by an officer, who had been awaiting my arrival.

At Bangalore Military Hospital I met two other Nursing Sisters, who had been posted to the Jungle Hospital. We awaited further instructions from G.H.Q. Delhi. During this time we worked in the British Military Hospital in Bangalore. The patients were similar to the casualties in Secunderabad. There were Italian prisoners of war, who were captured in North Africa, who were employed on general duties. They were very polite, but enjoyed hiding away from work. One day three of them had disappeared, and I went to search for them, because we were short of staff. They were sitting outside the Quartermaster’s Stores. I told them to come back to the ward. In a chorus of three voices, they replied “Madam, we do not make war, we make love”.

Eventually Eileen, Margaret and myself received orders to proceed to Gudalur in Mysore Jungle. We boarded a train to Mysore and we were met by the Commanding Officer, Major Bathgate, who had brought adequate transport to enable our tin trucks and other luggage to be conveyed with ourselves to the Jungle Hospital, which was to be our home. It was a memorable time, we stayed in Gudalur for five months. It was a small hospital, 105 bedded in tents, Indian, Gurkha and English patients. The two Medical Officers were Major Bathgate and Capt. Henry Oaks. The Nursing Sisters were Eileen Bowman, Margaret David and Margaret Ledger. The Nursing Orderlies were mainly British with a few Indian and Gurkha. We were kept busy with various tropical diseases; accidents were frequent because there were many troops in the jungle, all preparing to go to Burma. This was 1944 and the Burma Campaign was in full activity. Many of the men were ill with various complaints, therefore the hospital was always busy. The three of us enjoyed our daily tasks. We did not have days off, but we kept going and enjoyed the experience. We were all very happy in this jungle.

Royal Artillery Indian Christmas Card

Now we are all filled up on mince pies and mulled wine, we come to the last of our annual Christmas related objects, a third and final Christmas card (I hope you haven’t been too bored by all these!). This card is from a member of the Royal Artillery and shares a lot of design similarities with the example we looked at on Christmas Eve:SKM_C284e17120716040The card has the same basic design of a regimental crest on the front and a piece of ribbon in the regimental colours to secure all the parts together. Inside the card has a nice line drawing of a boar hunt in India:SKM_C284e17120716041This hunt, known as ‘pig sticking’ was hugely popular amongst officers in India before the partition. The following detailed description comes from a hunting website and explains the practice:

The modern sport is the direct descendant of bear spearing which was popular in Bengal until the beginning of the 19th century, when the bears had become so scarce that wild pigs were substituted as the quarry. The weapon used by the Bengalese was a short, heavy, broad-bladed javelin. British officers introduced the spear or lance and this has become the recognized method of hunting wild pigs in India. The season for hunting in northern India, the present headquarters of the sport, is from February to July. The best horses should be quick and not too big. Two kinds of weapon are used. The long, or underhand, spear, weighing from two to three pounds, has a light, tough bamboo shaft, from seven to eight feet long, armed with a small steel head of varying shape. This spear is held in the hand about two-thirds the distance from the point, with the knuckles turned down and the thumb along the shaft. The short, or jobbing, spear is from six to six and a half feet long, and somewhat heavier than the longer weapon. It is grasped near the butt, with the thumb up. Although easier to handle in the jungle, it permits the nearer approach of the boar and is therefore more dangerous to man and mount.

Having arrived at the bush-grown or marshland haunt of the pigs, the quarry is “reared,” i.e. chased out of its cover, by a long line of beaters, usually under the command of a mounted shikari. Sometimes dogs and guns loaded with small shot are used to induce an animal to break cover. The mounted sportsmen, placed on the edge of the cover, attack the pig as soon as it appears, the honour of “first spear,” or “spear of honour,” i.e. the thrust that first draws blood, being much coveted. As a startled or angry wild boar is a fast runner and a desperate fighter the pig-sticker must possess a good eye, a steady hand, a firm seat, a cool head and a courageous heart. For these reasons the military authorities encourage the sport, which is for the most part carried on by the tent clubs of the larger Indian station.

Robert Baden Powell gave what seems to be a most remarkable description to modern ears:

Try it before you judge. See how the horse enjoys it, see how the boar himself, mad with rage, rushes wholeheartedly into the scrap, see how you, with your temper thoroughly roused, enjoy the opportunity of wreaking it to the full. Yes, hog-hunting is a brutal sport—and yet I loved it, as I loved also the fine old fellow I fought against…Not only is pig-sticking the most exciting and enjoyable sport for both the man and horse as well, but I really believe that the boar enjoys it too.

The card was sent from Muttra, in the United Provinces:SKM_C284e17120716041 - Copy (2)Muttra was one of the main centres for the sport, as recounted by Francis Ingall in his great book ‘Last of the Bengal Lancers’:

Hog-hunting was a popular sport in the sub-continent in those days, but it was most enthusiastically pursued at Meerut, Muttra and Delhi. Generally speaking, only the male pig was considered eligible for the hunter’s spear. The wild-board of India can weigh well over three-hundred pounds; he has razor-sharp tushes about six-inches long, is incredibly speedy and agile, and knows no fear. Even the lordly tiger in his own jungle will turn away from a big tusker on the rampage. A quick flick of that massive head with its wicked tushes and man, horse or tiger lies bleeding and disembowelled in a pool of blood and guts.

King Edward’s 2nd Ghurkha Rifle’s Christmas Card

I hope you are all having a restful Christmas Eve and you are looking forward to tomorrow. As is now customary on the blog, the next three days will see us focus on Christmas related objects, this year we have three different Christmas cards. We start tonight with a card sent from an officer in the 2nd King Edward’s Own Ghurkha Rifles. I believe this card dates form between the wars and has the regiment’s crest embossed on the front:SKM_C284e17120716040 - CopyThe card is held together with a piece of ribbon in the regimental colours. Inside there is a painting of a member of the regiment during the Indian Mutiny:SKM_C284e17120716041 - CopyThe caption which accompanies this painting reads:

Incident in the Subzee Mundee, Delhi, 1857

An eye-witness to this incident relates how he saw a rebel thrust his head through an opening in a serai wall just as a man of the Regiment arrived under it. The latter at once seized the rebel by the hair and struck off his head with his khukri.

Very Christmassy!

The card was sent to ‘Aunt may’ from ‘Tim’:SKM_C284e17120716050The sender also included a short hand written message on the back:SKM_C284e17120716050 - CopyThis reads:

I have managed to get leave- 7 days- over Christmas and am travelling door to door. Everything seems to be going alright, but return here after Christmas. I am looking forward immensely to getting home.

Please give my love to William and David, with my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

The 2nd King Edward’s Own Ghurkha Rifles was one of the regiments that remained with the UK after the partition of India and was merged with other Ghurkha regiments in 1994 to become part of the Royal Ghurkha Rifles.