The 13th Hussars in India & Afghanistan
Badge of the
13th Hussars

B-P served with the 13th Hussars in India, Afghanistan, South Africa and, on home service, in England. In 1912, he would be appointed Colonel of the Regiment. Over the years, he would write about his experiences in several books and in hundreds of letters home, many illustrated with his sketches. The following is an excerpt from the From the Regimental History, C. R. B. Barrett, History of the XIII Hussars, 1911.

India, February 12, 1874, to November 14, 1884.

BETWEEN the time of the arrival of the regiment in India on February 12, 1874, and the month of October 1880, when the 13th Hussars were ordered to Kandahar, there are very few events of importance to chronicle. The regiment had not the good fortune to be engaged in the expedition to Kabul, and it did not therefore take part in the march thence to Kandahar. Kandahar, having been abandoned on January 6, 1879, was entered by General Stewart unopposed on the following day.

The Cavagnari massacre at Kabul took place on September 3rd and 4th. General Roberts arrived at Kabul on September 28. The disastrous battle of Maiwand was fought on July 27, 1880. On August 9th General Roberts left Kabul on his celebrated march to Kandahar. Fighting took place at Kandahar on August 16, General Primrose being in command there. On August 31st General Roberts arrived at Kandahar. There he declined the terms offered by Ayoub Khan, who had withdrawn some little distance from the city. On September 1, at the battle of Kandahar, fought at Mazra, near the Argandab River, General Roberts utterly defeated the army of Ayoub Khan, capturing his camp at Baba Wall Kotal. Kandahar was occupied by a British garrison until April 1881, the actual evacuation taking place between April 16th and April 21st.

But to return to the history of the 13th Hussars.

On January 6, 1874, the H Troop under the command of Captain Pole entrained for Portsmouth in charge of the baggage, and em­barked on board the Indian troopship H.M.S. Serapis the same day, the women and children of the regiment accompanying the party. The remainder of the 13th Hussars under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Miller followed the advance party on the next day and embarked.

On January 8th the Serapis sailed at 3 P.M., and after a voyage of 36 days arrived at Bombay.

The officers who embarked with the regiment were Lieut.-Colonel John Miller; Major H. J. Butler; Captains A. C. Pole, Al. Bieber, W. R. Trueman, F. Osborne, and W. H. B. Peters; Lieutenants A. R. Pryce, J. K. Spilling, A. E. Beare, W. Freeman, A. Abdy, A. G. St George, H. F. Lane, C. S. Wheler, A. M. Brookfield, B. R. Wilson; Sub-Lieutenants J. Carlyon and E. J. Vance; Pay­master J. Fitzgerald; Adjutant W. Christie; Riding-master H. Hubbard; Quartermaster F. Lewis; Surgeon-Major J. N. Shipton; Veterinary-Surgeon F. Garrack. By permission of the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, Lieutenant E. R. H. Torin joined at Malta. Lieut.-Colonel Russell, C.B., who was on special duty in Ashanti, did not embark with the regiment.

The strength of the 13th Hussars on embarkation was as follows: 1 schoolmaster, 1 bandmaster, 1 quartermaster-sergeant, 1 farrier-major, 1 orderly-room clerk, 1 saddler sergeant, 1 paymaster sergeant, 1 sergeant-instructor of fencing, 1 hospital sergeant, 1 armourer, 6 troop sergeant-majors, 16 sergeants, 29 corporals, 6 farriers, trumpeters, and 358 rank and file, the total strength being 430. The Serapis arrived at Bombay at 11 A.M. on February 12. Captain Pole’s troop disembarked the same evening and proceeded to Deolali in charge of the baggage of the regiment.

On the following day the remainder of the 13th disembarked and proceeded to the same place. After a rest interval of six days the journey to Lucknow by rail began. At Lucknow the regiment arrived on February 25. On February 29th 425 horses were taken over from the 21st Hussars, that regiment being under orders for England.

An inspection of the regiment was held on March 21st by Brigadier-General Olpherts, C.B., V.C., whose report was couched in so favourable and complimentary terms as to elicit the following:


SIMLA, 1st October 1874.

To the Officer Commanding 13th Hussars

Confidential Reports on the Inspection of the 13th hussars by Brigadier-General Olpherts, C.B., V.C., Commanding Oudh Division., at Lucknow on the 21st March 1874.

 The Confidential Reports noted in the margin having been submitted to the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, the Adjutant-General to the Forces has intimated that His Royal Highness has been pleased to record the following remarks:­
"His Royal Highness considers this report to be most favourable, and reflecting much credit upon Lieut.-Col. Miller, and those under his command, and your Lordship will be pleased to cause His Royal Highness’ Commendation to be conveyed to this Regiment for its excellent state of efficiency in every respect."

By Order,

(Signed)        P. LUMSDEN Colonel,
                   Ofctg. Adjutant-General in India.

The only other events to record during 1874 are the arrival on March 21st of a draft consisting of 1 farrier and 18 men, accompanied by 8 women and 14 children, at Lucknow from England. The draft had reached Bombay and disembarked on March 12.

On July 1st new Standing Orders for the regiment were published by Colonel Miller. No mention hitherto of "Standing Orders" occurs in the Regimental Records, so what the old ones (or indeed the new ones) were does not appear.

On August 1st 1 sergeant and 6 men were received as volunteers from the 5th Lancers, as that regiment was proceeding forthwith to England.

On February 18, 1875, the regiment was again inspected by Brigadier-General Olpherts, C.B., V.C.

The Memorandum No. 95 D received from the Adjutant-General’s Office at Simla, being almost precisely in the same terms as the one just quoted, need not here be inserted. During the whole of this year down to November 13th the regiment remained quietly in cantonments at Lucknow, but on that date orders were received to proceed to the Camp of Exercise at Delhi.

The 13th Hussars accordingly marched via Cawnpore, Etah, and Alligurh, to that city to take part in the maneuvers. On arriving at the Camp on December 14, 1875, the regiment was attached to the 3rd Division, under the command of Major-General the Hon. A. E. Hardinge, C.B.

It will be remembered that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII.) was paying a visit to India at this time. From the 14th December to the 19th of January 1876 the 13th Hussars were engaged in the field maneuvers at the Camp of Exercise.

On the 12th of January the regiment was inspected by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

The Camp of Exercise having broken up, the regiment marched for Lucknow on January 20, 1876, the route being via Muttra, Agra, and Etawah, arriving at their cantonments on February 23.

Here, during the absence of the regiment at Delhi, a draft con­sisting of 1 corporal and 24. men from the Depot, Canterbury, had arrived.

The draft had come out in the Euphrates, H.M. Indian troop­ship, reaching Bombay on February 8, under the command of Captain Thomas George Cuthell.

On April 8, as the 18th Hussars were proceeding to England, 2 privates, volunteers from that regiment, were received by the 13th. The report of Major-General C. J. Chamberlain, C.S.I., who in­spected the regiment on March 22, was productive of the following, which was published by the Colonel on April 25:­


Lucknow, 22nd April 1876.
No. 960 Inspections.

SIR,-The Major-General Commanding, at the conclusion of his annual in­spection of regiments and batteries serving in the Oudh Division, has directed me officially to place on record the high opinion he has formed on the state of efficiency of the Regiment under your Command, in addition to his verbal expression of satisfaction on the parade-ground. The appearance of the men both on and off parade, and their exemplary conduct, deserve the highest encomiums, whilst great credit is due to you and those under you for the excellent system of interior economy which has been established in the 13th Hussars. Altogether it has given the Major-General much pleasure to report most favourably on the state of the 13th Hussars to higher authority.

I have, &c.,

(Signed)                     A. SCHMID, Major,
Assist. Adjt-Genl. Oudh Divn.

On the 21st of October following on this report a letter from the Adjutant-General in India dated 17th October, Simla, was received, expressing the satisfaction of His Royal Highness the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief at the excellent report forwarded home by Major-General Chamberlain, C.S.I.

As the 16th Lancers were now proceeding to England from India, 2 privates, volunteers from that regiment, were received by the 13th Hussars on November 1.

No other event is recorded for 1876, and the next entry bears date February g, 1877, when a draft consisting of 45 men, under the command of Lieutenant Philip Kavanagh Doyne, arrived and joined head­quarters at Lucknow. The draft had come out in H.M.S. Crocodile, disembarking at Bombay.

With the exception of an entry under date 1st July to the effect that i1 privates, volunteers from the 11th Hussars, who were proceeding to England, joined the 13th, the only matters recorded in the regi­mental books are inspections on March 5th and 6th, and again on December 2o. As the reports were in both cases most highly satisfactory and couched in the same terms as before, it seems hardly needful to quote them.

Of the year 1878 there is an almost similar tale to tell. A draft arrived at Lucknow and joined headquarters on February ii; it consisted of 1 lance-sergeant and 44 men under the command of Lieutenant Torin. Lieutenant-General C. J. Chamberlain, C.S.I., inspected the regiment on February 25. On July 6th Martini-Henry carbines were issued to the regiment in lieu of the Sniders then in use. On October 1, from the 4th Hussars who were in orders to proceed to England, a private (volunteer) was received by the regiment. The official replies to the confidential reports on the regiment were as ever hitherto of a most complimentary character.

On January 15, 1879, a draft composed of 1 corporal and 45 men under the command of Captain A. C. Pole having landed at Bom­bay, it proceeded to Lucknow and joined headquarters on the 26th, with the exception of one man (Private Lamb) who was left at Deolali a prisoner. On October 1st 1 sergeant and 9 privates (volunteers) were received from the 3rd Hussars on that regiment proceeding to England. The 13th Hussars were inspected on March 17th by Lieut.-General C. J. Chamberlain, C.S.I., and most favourably reported on.

The events for 1880 until October are few. On January 23rd a draft consisting of 63 rank and file under the command of Lieutenant Watson joined headquarters at Lucknow. The draft came out in the Malabar and disembarked at Bombay on January 10. On March 1st the regiment was inspected by Lieut.-General C. Cureton, C.B., Commanding the Oudh Division, and that officer expressed his entire approval of all that he saw. His report to the Horse Guards was most favourable, according to the reply received thence on September 21.

As this reply contains a particular expression of praise for a particular officer an extract is here quoted: ­

The highly creditable state of this Corps appears to be due to the indefatigable exertions of Captain Spilling whilst in temporary command, which he carried on under most difficult circumstances, and the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief desires that his satisfaction be made known to that officer.

In the month of October the regiment received orders to hold itself in readiness to proceed to Kandahar. Before leaving Lucknow a letter was received from the City Magistrate through the Lieut.-General Commanding­

I hear that the 13th Hussars have been ordered to march on Monday—at any rate the regiment will march soon. During the long stay of the 13th Hussars in Lucknow not a single com­plaint has been made against any of the men. I think that such a creditable fact should be brought to the notice of the General Officer Commanding at Lucknow. I have no doubt that Major Noble’s experience of the Regiment has been equally satisfactory.

(Signed)                F. DT. NEWBURY,
City Magistrate, Lucknow.

Major Noble also wrote, and from divisional orders by Lieutenant­-General Cureton, C.B., the following is extracted:­

The Lieutenant-General cannot allow the 13th Hussars to leave the Oudh Division without placing on record the high opinion he holds of their general efficiency and fitness for any service they may be called upon to take.

He feels sure that whatever may fall to their lot, whether to be employed in the monotonous duties of camp life, in any uncivilised country, or to engage in the most stirring and arduous work of active service, they will still maintain their reputation for discipline, efficiency, and good conduct.

During its stay of nearly seven years in Lucknow the regiment has earned for itself a character for soldier-like qualities and uniform good conduct which reflects the greatest credit on all ranks.

The Lieutenant-General now bids farewell to Sir Baker Russell, the Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and men of the 13th Hussars, and begs to assure them of his sincere regret at their departure from his command, and that they take with them his best wishes for their future welfare.

The regiment was ordered to leave Lucknow for Sibi in three squadrons by rail. The A and B Troops under the command of Major Peters entrained on November 4; E and F Troops followed on the next day under the command of Captain Spilling; while C and D Troops with headquarters under the command of Colonel Sir Baker C. Russell, K.C.M.G., C.B., left Lucknow on the 6th.

The Depot of the 13th consisting of 97 men and 85 horses remained at Lucknow under the command of Riding-master H. Hubbard, until the arrival of the 10th Hussars which had been ordered thither. The Depot then proceeded to Muttra by rail, arriving on November 27. The three squadrons of the regiment arrived at Pir Chowki, near the mouth of the Bolan Pass, on the 12th, 13th, and 14th of November respectively. Up to this time all well and no casualties.

On November 17th the regiment having been ordered to march by squadrons to Quetta, they proceeded thither in the reverse order, C and D squadrons with headquarters and the band, under the com­mand of Colonel Sir Baker C. Russell, K.C.M.G., C.B., leaving on November 17, being followed by the remainder on the 18th and 19th. The regiment arrived at Quetta on the 25th, 26th, and 27th of the month.

The 13th started on its march from Quetta to Kandahar on the 28th, and arrived on December 8.On arrival the regiment encamped outside the walls for the night, proceeding to Kokeran the following morning. The officers who left Lucknow with the regiment for Southern Afghanistan on this service were as follows:­

Colonel Sir Baker C. Russell, K.C.M.G., C.B., Major W. H. B. Peters, Captains J. K. Spilling, R. Knox, E. R. H. Torin, and W. Christie. Lieutenant and Adjutant H. J. Blagrove; Lieutenants J. H. Watson, F. S. Dimond, F. J. W. Farquhar, and G. M. V. Hunt; and Lieutenants W. C. Smithson, G. J. W. Noble, and W. Anstruther-­Thomson; Surgeon Charlton and Surgeon Lyle. Surgeon-Major Martin was left behind sick at Bareilly.

The rank and file numbered 330. Two men had to be left in hospital at Pir Chowki, and six in the base hospital at Quetta. Three horses died or had to be destroyed in the Bolan Pass.

It is worthy of note that on arrival at Kokeran, after a march of nearly 250 miles, there was not one case of sore back among the whole of the horses; and the casualties above mentioned are all that occurred to the regiment during its journey from Lucknow to Kandahar.

This is the first mention of 2nd lieutenants in the Records. The rank of sub-lieutenant disappears from the Army List in 1879.

The following officers afterwards joined the regiment at Kokeran Captain J. G. Cuthell, Lieutenant R. S. S. Baden-Powell, 2nd Lieutenant K. MacLaren, Surgeon-Major J. Hector, Surgeon-Major P. Fraser, and Veterinary-Surgeon R. Moore. On the 17th of December the regiment was inspected by Major-General R. Hume, C.B., Com­manding in Southern Afghanistan.

On January 13, 1881, a draft consisting of 1 non-commissioned officer and 68 privates under the command of Lieutenant MacDougall reached Bombay from the Depot at Canterbury, and proceeded by rail to Muttra, where they arrived on January 24. A column was now formed under the command of Brigadier-General H. C. Wilkinson, commanding the cavalry brigade. The column consisted of the 13th Hussars, the Poona Horse, 6/8 R.A. Mule Battery, the 27th Native Infantry, the 1st Beloochis, and 1 squadron of the 2nd Scinde Horse. The destination of this column was Maiwand, to which place it marched on January 20, returning into quarters at Kokeran on February 12.

The evacuation of Kandahar was now determined on by the Government, the need for keeping a garrison in that place having ceased. On April 14th orders to this effect arrived, and the 13th marched from Kokeran to Kandahar, and encamped outside the city until April 22. The evacuation of Kandahar began on April 16; the last brigade commenced its march to Quetta on April 22, accompanied by General Hume, C.B., and the Headquarter Staff.

The 13th Hussars formed the rear-guard on this occasion. No incidents occurred during the retirement, which was effected quietly. A week later the regiment recrossed the Kojak Pass and arrived at Quetta on May 5. This march was a trying one, owing to the heat as well as to continual dust storms. Both men and horses suffered not a little, but there were no casualties. On arrival at Quetta the draft which had been remaining at Muttra pending their arrival joined the regiment.

The strength of the 13th Hussars was now 414 rank and file and 419 horses. During May 1881 the following officers joined the regiment at Quetta: Captain E. L. Braithwaite and 2nd Lieutenants Dormer and Ogilvy.

Between the 4th of November 1880 (marched from Lucknow) and the 14th of October 1881, when the regiment quitted Quetta on its return to India, the number of deaths was only nine of these, two took place at Kandahar and seven at Quetta. The average age of the men who died was twenty-four years and seven months.

The 13th Hussars began to leave Quetta on October 14, when the 1st squadron marched through the Bolan Pass to Sibi. The remain­ing squadrons followed on the 26th and 28th of October.

The strength of the regiment was now 390 men and 415 horses. From Sibi the 13th Hussars were conveyed by rail to Jullundur, each troop travelling separately. Six trains were required to accommodate the officers, men, and horses.    From Jullundur the 13th pro­ceeded by route march to Muttra, via Delhi.

On December 14th the regiment marched into Muttra with 379 men and 410 horses. It had been needful to leave ten men in hos­pital on the march down, and one man (Private Stephenson) had died.

On January l0th the regiment was inspected by Brigadier-General Evans. The annual inspection of the 13th was made on February 9th by Lieut.-General Sir R. O. Bright, K.C.B. With reference to General Bright’s report on the regiment, an extract from a Horse Guards letter runs as follows: “The admirable condition of this regiment is very creditable to Colonel Sir Baker Russell and all under his command.”

On January 27th a draft consisting of twenty-five recruits arrived at Bombay under command of Major Spilling. This draft joined the regiment at Muttra on February 8. Forty-four horses having been cast by the Annual Casting Committee, remounts to replace them were received on March 29th from the Reserve Remount Depot at Saharanpore. On the following day the establishment of horses of the regiment was altered to 397, and about six months later this number was diminished by one horse.

For the year 1882 there are no other events chronicled in the Regimental Records. The year 1883 is singularly devoid of interest. Thirty-six remounts joined the regiment from the reserve depot on January 30, to replace castings, &c. On January 31st a draft consisting of 1 sergeant and 36 privates, under the command of Major R. Stevenson, arrived at Bombay, and joined the regiment at Muttra on February 10. During this month the regiment was inspected (annual inspection) by Lieut.-General Sir R. O. Bright, K.C.B.

In October 17 remounts joined from the reserve depot, and a draft consisting of 1 troop sergeant-major, 1 trumpeter, and 81 privates, 2 women, and 1 child, under the command of Major R. Knox, arrived at Bombay on the 23rd and joined headquarters on the 31st.

A Camp of Exercise was being held at Meerut during December 18S3, and the regiment under the command of Colonel Sir B. C. Russell, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., A.D.C., was ordered to march thither for the purpose of attending the maneuvers. Accordingly on November 19, 19 officers, 355 non-commissioned officers and men, and 360 horses marched from Muttra to Meerut, arriving at that station on December 1.

At Meerut the 13th Hussars were inspected on January 25th by Major-General H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, K.G., &c., &c. During his stay at Meerut, H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught was the guest of the regiment, and on leaving presented the 13th Hussars with a signed portrait of himself and also of the Duchess. These still hang in the officers’ mess.

On January 26th a draft under the command of Lieutenant Noble, and consisting of 1 non-commissioned officer and 41 rank and file, reached Bombay, and joined the depot at Muttra on February 3, leaving one man sick at Colaba and one at Allahabad. On February 13th the regiment returned to Muttra from Meerut, its strength being 17 officers and 357 men with 360 horses.

The 13th Hussars were now under orders to proceed to England. Certain of the non-commissioned officers and men were therefore permitted to volunteer into other corps. 1 sergeant, 1 corporal, and 22 privates went to the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards; 1 sergeant, 1 corporal, and 11 privates to the 6th Dragoon Guards; 9 privates to the 7th Dragoon Guards; 24 privates to the 8th Hussars; 2 to the 12th Lancers; and 5 to the 17th Lancers. In all—3 sergeants, 2 corporals, and 75 privates.

On October 31, 1884, the regiment, consisting of 17 officers and 377 men, began its journey to the port of embarkation for England. The regiment travelled in three detachments, the last arriving at Deolali on November 7. On November 14th the 13th Hussars, after more than ten years in India, embarked on board the Serapis at Bombay.

Five men were left behind sick; the total strength of the regiment on embarkation was therefore 17 officers, 372 men, 14 women, and 26 children.

On November 29, 18S4, the 13th Hussars disembarked at Port Natal, being ordered there for temporary service in the colony. The Serapis proceeded on its voyage to England, carrying with her the schoolmaster, one invalid, the women and children. The regiment, 17 officers and 370 men strong, immediately proceeded to Pinetown to relieve the 6th Dragoons.

On December 9th fifty remounts were received from Cape Colony, and on the 29th 240 horses, mainly from the 19th Hussars, who had been serving in Egypt, joined per S.S. Lydian Monarch.

On the last day of January 1885 a letter, respecting the inspection of the regiment by H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught early in the previous year, was received, in which the “admirable order” of the 13th Hussars was noted and other complimentary remarks were made. During April and May 21 remounts joined the regiment, of which 13 came from Pietermaritzburg and the remainder from Pinetown.

On May 21st the headquarters of the regiment, strength 13 officers, 307 rank and file, and 242 horses, proceeded by route march from Pinetown to Pietermaritzburg to take part in the maneuvers at that place. On the conclusion of these exercises on June 8th the regiment returned by route march to Pinetown. Its strength is given as 11 officers, 291 rank and file. and 242 horses.

Colonel Sir Baker C. Russell, K.C.B., &c., embarked at Durban for England on September 23, and in consequence Colonel H. H. F. Gifford assumed the command of the 13th Hussars. Twenty troop horses were on September 25th handed over to the Commissariat for sale as being unfit for service. The 13th Hussars were inspected by Colonel W. D. Bond, Com­manding the Natal District, in the field and dismounted, on September 29.

On October S, 1583, the regiment embarked on the hired transport S.S. Pembroke Castle at Durban for England, having handed over their horses to the 6th Dragoons prior to their departure from Pinetown. The strength of the regiment was as follows: 17 officers, 2 warrant officers, 344 non-commissioned officers and men, 3 officers’ wives, 3 officers’ children, 1 soldier’s wife. During the stay of the 13th Hussars in Natal two privates only had died.

On November 4th the regiment arrived at Portsmouth, and the headquarters under Colonel Gifford proceeded to Norwich. The D and E Troops under the command of Major Stevenson, consisting of 4 officers and l00 non-commissioned officers and men, proceeded to Colchester. Both parties travelled by special train. During the voyage from Natal to England no casualties occurred.

  Lessons from the Varsity of Life, Chapter III-Soldiering, "Early Days in India" relates B-P’s adventures as a young officer with the 13th Hussars in India.
  B-P’s first Commanding Officer, Sir Baker Creed Russell, 13th Hussars.
  "The 13th at Waterloo" recounts the actions of the 13th Light Dragoons during the Waterloo Campaign of 1815. From the Regimental History, C. R. B. Barrett, History of the XIII Hussars, 1911.
  "The 13th at Balaclava." The 13th Light Dragoons in the Charge of the Light Brigade before the Russian guns at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. From the Regimental History, C. R. B. Barrett, History of the XIII Hussars, 1911.
  "H.M. 13th Light Dragoons." The Regiment served in India from 1819-1840. During that time, as the 13th Light Dragoons, the regiment took part in the suppression of the mutiny at Bangalore and in actions at Kurnool and Zorapoor. Excerpts from the Regimental History, C. R. B. Barrett, History of the XIII Hussars, are featured in the Family History in India website, which is designed to help people research their European and Anglo-Indian family history in colonial India.

For excellent research on the history, uniforms and command of the 13th Hussars, see the materials on Stephen Luscombe’s website on the British Empire.
On March 25, 1897, Baden-Powell was appointed to command the 5th Dragoon Guards. He served with the Regiment in India until June 1899.
Baden-Powell Photo Gallery: Early Years and Military Career Graphic Thumbnail Index
Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the World Scout Movement, began his career as a Lieutenant in the 13th Hussars in India. In his army career, he would rise to Lieutenant-General and Inspector-General of Cavalry and later serve as the Regiment’s Colonel.

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