From: Major L. L.
Gordon, British Battles and Medals:
"The issuing of
greased cartridges to the native soldiers was no more the only cause of
the Indian Mutiny than the assassination of the Austrian Archduke
Ferdinand, at Sarajevo in July, 1914, was the sole reason for the First
World War, 1914-18. Both these events were enlarged upon and then used
in such a way that only the most gullible person would believe that
they, and they only, were the sole causes of the catastrophes that
"Trouble in India had
been brewing for some time. Serious unrest started after the annexation
of the provinces of Oudh and the Punjab in 1856, because the native
princes feared that they would lose their territories and their thrones.
"In July, 1855, there
was a mutiny of the Sonthals, a tribe of Northern India, which was not
suppressed until May, 18 56.
"On the 7th February,
1856, the Province of Oudh (or Oude) was annexed. The King and Queen of
Oudh went to London to appeal against this annexation, but to no avail.
It is certain that when he returned to India, embittered by what had
happened, the King fomented trouble and kindled a hatred against the
British presence in the country and the British rule in particular.
"Anyone who knows
anything about natives of any continent realizes that if the chief, or
medicine man, has a really good grouse his main concern for some time is
to see that no one is left in ignorance of the fact. When he has got his
followers grousing--they are all teed up ready to be driven into war,
rebellion or religion, according to which is on the agenda.
"The cause of the
failure of so many mutinies is that some mutineers drive off before the
event is timed to start and thus annoy their fellow members who are
unprepared. The Indian Mutiny was no exception. Serious as it was, there
was no concerted action on the part of the rebels.
"In March, 1857,
seven companies of Bengal Native Infantry mutinied at Barrackpore. A
rumour got round the sepoys that they were all going to be Christianized
and another that a new type of ammunition was going to be introduced
which required greasing with cow or pig fat. The seeds for the coming
general outbreak were now well sown.
"On the 10th May,
1857, the sepoys mutinied in Meerut, the first soldier killed in the
Mutiny was Colonel Finnis, Commanding officer of the 11th Bengal Native
infantry at Meerut. They then murdered every white man, woman and child
in the cantonment of the city and then fled to Delhi, where they were
joined by other mutineers. Here they proclaimed the Great Mogul Emperor
of India. They besieged Lucknow, Cawnpore and other cities of lesser
"The bar for Central
India was awarded for services against the mutineers in Rathghur,
Saugur, Jubbulpore, Garakota, Serai, Marowra, Jhansi and many other
towns in the Central Provinces.
"The mutiny was not
finally quelled until the 20th December, 1858, when Sir Cohn Campbell,
later Lord Clyde, announced that the last rebel had been driven out of
"On the 2nd August,
1858, the authority of the Honourable East India Company was transferred
to the Crown, but it was not until the 1st January, 1877, that Queen
Victoria was proclaimed Kaisar-i-Hind, Empress of India, by simultaneous
proclamations in Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.
"Now for a few words
concerning the parts played by the Naval Brigades.
"In May, 1857, the
news reached Calcutta of the disasters at Delhi and Meerut, whereupon
the Governor-General, Lord Canning, immediately asked for help. At this
time Lord Elgin was on his way to China with reinforcements for the
campaign which had started out there. Whilst waiting at Hong-Kong he
heard of Lord Canning's predicament and, in agreement with Admiral Sir
Michael Seymour, it was decided that the three ships H.M.S.
Sanspareil (Captain Key), H.M.S. Shannon (Captain Peel) and
H.M.S. Pearl (Captain Sotheby) should be dispatched to Calcutta at once.
"On arrival at
Calcutta, Captain Key landed his Marines at Fort William, whilst Captain
William Peel, son of Sir Robert Peel, founder of the Police Force,
formed a naval brigade of 408 seamen and marines from his crew. He also
prepared for use ashore the following artillery pieces which were to
prove so useful later on: six 68-pdrs., two 8-in. howitzers, eight
24-pdrs., two small guns and, be it noted, eight rocket tubes.
"On the 13th August,
1857, the brigade started on its march to Allahabad, where it was joined
on the 20th October by a contingent of 124 volunteers, under Lieutenant
Vaughan, from the merchant shipping lying at Calcutta. It remained in
Allahabad until the 28th October, when it left for Cawnpore, being
joined on the way by Colonel Powell and part of the 53rd Regiment. The
brigade reached Futtehpore on the 31st. Here it was joined by a
detachment of the 93rd Highlanders.
"On the 1st November,
the force attacked the mutineers at Kudjna, where Colonel Powell was
killed and Captain Peel assumed command. The mutineers were defeated and
the advance to Lucknow was continued. It is worth noting that this must
be one of the very tare occasions in which a naval officer has commanded
a mixed force in action in the field.
"Reaching the Alum
Bagh on the 15th November, the brigade came under the command of Sir
Colin Campbell, who ordered it to start bombarding the defences, part of
which consisted of the Shah Nujeef, a mosque surrounded by a garden and
a high wall, which had been heavily reinforced and defended. This mosque
was to be the particular task of the Naval Brigade, which earned four
Victoria. Crosses in the process of its capture. The recipients were
Lieutenant Thomas Jones, Lieutenant Nowell Salmon, John Harrison and
Captain of Foretop William Hall, who was a negro from Nova Scotia.
earned his V.C. for sniping from a tree which he had climbed to get a
view over the wall. Whilst so employed he was kept supplied with loaded
rifles by a private of the 93rd.
"In these days when
the mention of the words Combined Operations conjures up visions of
fleets of landing craft, bombarding squadrons, air cover and all the
paraphernalia of modern war, one likes to think of this sailor, up a
tree, 500 miles from the nearest sea, with his ghillie below, giving a
very good example of a Combined Operation on the 16th November, 1857!
"After the relief of
Lucknow the brigade took part in the relief of Cawnpore. The Pearl
Brigade under Captain Sotheby, R.N., 249 strong, operated under
Brigadier Rowcroft. It fought in no fewer than ten battles during its
existence of fifteen months.