60th in the Crimea & Indian Mutiny

1853 - 1859

      

 

( Link to the Crimea War Society )

 

Some images of Zach's uniform

 

            

60th Rifles & The Indian Mutiny:

The 60th was at both Lucknow & Delhi.

 

The outbreak of the Indian Mutiny in 1857 found the 1st Battalion at Meerut, where they narrowly escaped a plot to massacre them while unarmed at church parade. Having driven the mutineers from the town they marched under the command of Colonel `Jones the Avenger` to besiege Delhi. On the ridge outside the town they formed a lasting alliance with the Sirmoor Goorhas and in the final assualt on the Kashmir Gate they gave covering fire to the 2nd as they stormed the breach before themselves taking the Royal Palace after six days of street fighting. Seven VCs were won in the campaign in which the rear party at Meerut maintained the tradition for innovation by forming an elephant corps for pacification of the surrounding countryside.
 
 'Indian Mutiny', 1857-1859 Causes
The 1850s saw a deterioration in relations between the British officers and the Indian other ranks in the East India Company’s Bengal Army. Many Indians believed that the British were seeking to destroy traditional Indian social, religious and cultural customs, a view shared by the sepoys of the Bengal Army, a substantial number of whom were high-caste Brahmins. Discipline, administration and command in the Bengal Army had for some time been inferior to that in the Company’s other two armies and matters were brought to a head by the introduction of the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle. The rumour spread that its cartridges were greased with pig and cow fat, thus offending both Moslems and Hindus. In February 1857 the 19th (Bengal Native) Infantry refused to use the cartridges. They were quickly disbanded but their actions were to spark a chain of similar events through central and northern India.
 
Outbreak
  The Mutiny began in earnest at Meerut on 10 May 1857 when 85 members of the 3rd (Bengal) Light Cavalry who had been imprisoned for refusing the cartridges were rescued by Indian comrades. The following day Delhi fell to the mutineers. News of these events spread rapidly, leading to further mutinies elsewhere. Eventually all ten Bengal Light Cavalry Regiments and most of the 74 Bengal Native Infantry Regiments were affected. Some regiments were disarmed before they had the chance to mutiny while in other cases British officers simply refused to doubt the loyalty of their men until it was too late. Many local rulers supported the mutineers, having been alienated by the East India Company’s annexation of native states. There were only 35,000 British soldiers in the whole sub-continent and these were widely scattered. Furthermore, reinforcements took months to arrive. Fortunately for the British the Mutiny was almost exclusively confined to the Bengal Army. The Company’s Madras and Bombay Armies were relatively unaffected and other units, including Sikhs, Punjabi Moslems and Gurkhas, remained loyal.
 
Seige of Delhi
The walled city of Delhi became the focal point of the Mutiny. It was the seat of Bahadur Shah, the aged Mughal Emperor, and it occupied a key strategic position between Calcutta and the new territories of the Punjab. The recapture of Delhi became a priority for the British. On 7 June 1857 a hastily-raised force of 4,000 men succeeded in occupying a ridge overlooking Delhi but was far too weak to attempt to retake the city itself. Faced by over 30,000 mutineers they came under increasing pressure themselves and began to suffer losses through cholera. However reinforcements gradually arrived from the Punjab, including a siege train of 32 guns and 2,000 men under Brigadier-General John Nicholson. By 14 September the British had about 9,000 men before Delhi. A third were British while the rest were Sikhs, Punjabis and Gurkhas. Breaches were made in the city walls, a gate was blown and after a week’s vicious street fighting, Delhi was back under British control. Although operations continued until 1859, notably in central India, the recapture of Delhi proved a decisive factor in the suppression of the Mutiny.
 
The Siege of Cawnpore was a key episode in the Rebellion. The besieged British in Cawnpore  were unprepared for an extended siege and surrendered to rebel Indian forces, in return for a safe passage to Allahabad. However, under ambiguous circumstances, their evacuation from now Kanpur turned into a massacre, and most of them were killed. Those captured were later executed, as an East India Company rescue force from Allahabad approached Cawnpore; in what came to be known as the Bibighar Massacre, 120 British women and children captured by the Sepoy forces were hacked to death and dismembered with meat cleavers, with the remains being thrown down a nearby well in an attempt to hide the evidence. Following the recapture of Kanpur and the discovery of the massacre, the outraged British forces engaged in widespread retaliatory counter-atrocities against the captured rebel Indian soldiers and civilians. The murders greatly embittered the British rank-and-file against the Sepoy rebels and inspired the War Cry "Remember Cawnpore!".
 

Recapture and violence by the British soldiers  

The Company forces reached Kanpur on July 16th, and captured the city. A group of British officers and soldiers set out to the Bibighar, to rescue the captives, assuming that they were still alive. However, when they reached the site, they found only dead bodies of the British women and children.

Brigadier General Neill, who took the command at Kanpur, decided to sentence the arrested rebels immediately, unless they could prove a defence. They were forced to clean the blood from the floor of the Bibighar compound. Then, they were forced to eat beef (if Hindu) or pork (if Muslim) — something they considered unholy. Some of the Muslim sepoys were sown into pig skins before being hung, and sweepers were employed to execute the high-caste rebels. The idea was to humiliate the religious victims and prevent any reward they might have expected in the afterlife. After that, the rebels would be hanged and then buried in a ditch at the roadside. A set of nooses was set up next to the well at the Bibighar, so that they could die within sight of the massacre. Some rebels were tied across the mouths of cannon that were then fired; this was called "The Devils Wind" an execution method initially used by the rebels, and the earlier Indian powers.

The British soldiers, angry after learning of the massacre, indulged in indiscriminate violence, including looting and burning of houses.[They were angry even at the neutral locals for not doing anything to stop the Bibighar massacre. Remember Cawnpore! became a war cry for the British soldiers for the rest of the conflict. In one of the villages, the Highlanders caught around 140 men, women and children. Ten men were hanged without any evidence or trial. Another sixty men were forced to build the gallows of wooden logs, while others were flogged and beaten.

Seige and Recapture of Lucknow
When news of the Mutiny reached Sir Henry Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner of Oudh, he fortified the group of buildings that made up his Lucknow Residency and stockpiled supplies, ready for a siege. Lawrence had about 1,500 troops, half of them loyal Bengal sepoys, to defend the Residency and a similar number of civilians to protect. The Mutineers began attacking the Residency on 4 July 1857. Lawrence was killed almost immediately and command passed to Colonel John Inglis of the 32nd (The Cornwall) Regiment of Foot, which formed the main part of the British half of the garrison. A relief force under Major-General Sir Henry Havelock fought its way into Lucknow on 25 September but was too weak to evacuate the defenders of the Residency. However a month later a stronger force under Lieutenant-General Sir Colin Campbell arrived and on 16 November his troops stormed the Secundra Bagh, a walled enclosure that barred the way to the Residency. Campbell’s men had learned of the massacre at Cawnpore where over 200 British women and children had been butchered by mutineers. Enraged by this, they showed no mercy to the Secundra Bagh’s 2,000 defenders, slaughtering all but a handful. On 22 November Campbell was able to evacuate the Residency. After routing a large rebel force under the rebel leader Tantia Topi outside Cawnpore on 6 December and clearing the area of Mutineers, Campbell returned to Lucknow in March and, reinforced by Gurkha troops sent by the King of Nepal, he finally recaptured the city.
 
Aftermath
Following the Mutiny the East India Company was abolished by Act of Parliament and the government of India was transferred to the Crown. To ensure that British rule could never be threatened in such a way again the Indian Army was reorganised so that it needed its British components to function effectively. The Indian soldiers were issued with a rifle that was inferior to that of their British counterparts and given only limited logistical support. Control of the Indian Army’s artillery remained firmly in British hands. In effect the Sepoys became auxiliaries to rather than substitutes for British soldiers.

(As a small postscript... At this time Horse Guards finally acknowledged the plight of the army wife. A government commission examined their complaints and the horrible conditions in which they were living. Florence Nightingale added her voice and conditions improved drastically. Brig. F.C.G.Page's book Following the Drum examines this aspect of the army in the early 18th century.)
 

 

 

The story of Sgt. Nash

 

On 11 March 1858 at Lucknow, India, Corporal Nash's company was engaged with a large
number of the enemy near the Iron Bridge. At one stage a captain (Henry Wilmot) found
himself at the end of a street with only four of his men opposed to a considerable body
of the enemy. One of the men was shot through both legs and Corporal Nash and a private
(David Hawkes) (who was himself severely wounded) lifted the man up and they then carried
him for a considerable distance, the captain covering the retreat of the party.
He later achieved the rank of Sr. Sgt.. He died Hackney, Middlesex, 29 April 1875 and was
buried at the Church of St John-at-Hackney.
 

 

The 60th won 12 Victoria Crosses during the Indian Mutiny:

 

Pvt. Valentine Bambrick (Bareilly) On 6 May 1858 at Bareilly, India, Private Bambrick showed conspicuous bravery when, in a serai, he was attacked by three Ghazees, one of whom he cut down. He was wounded twice on this occasion.
 
Pvt. John Divane  (Delhi) On 10 September 1857 at Delhi, India, Private Divane headed a successful charge by the Beeloochee and Sikh troops on one of the enemy's trenches. He leapt out of our trenches, closely followed by the native troops and was shot down from the top of the enemy's breastworks.
 
Colour Sgt. Stephen Garvin (Delhi) On 23 June 1857 at Delhi, India, Colour-Sergeant Garvin volunteered to lead a small party of men under heavy fire to the Sammy House in order to dislodge a number of the enemy who were keeping up a destructive fire on the advanced battery of heavy guns. This action was successful. Colour-Sergeant Garvin was also commended for gallant conduct throughout the operations before Delhi.
 
Pvt. David Hawkes (Lucknow) On 11 March 1858 at Lucknow, India, Private Hawkes' company was engaged with a large number of the enemy near the Iron Bridge. At one stage a captain (Henry Wilmot) found himself at the end of a street with only four of his men, opposed to a considerable body of the enemy. One of the men was shot through both legs and Private Hawkes, although severely wounded, lifted him up with the help of a corporal (William Nash) and they then carried their comrade for a considerable distance, the captain firing with the men's rifles and covering the retreat of the party. ~He was killed in action, Faizabad, India, on 14 August 1858.
 
Lt. Alfred Spencer Heathcote (Delhi) From June to September 1857, throughout the Siege of Delhi, India, during which he was wounded, Lieutenant Heathcote's conduct was most gallant. He volunteered for services of extreme danger, especially during the six days of severe fighting in the streets after the assault.
 
Cpl. Willaims Nash (Lucknow) On 11 March 1858 at Lucknow, India, Corporal Nash's company was engaged with a large number of the enemy near the Iron Bridge. At one stage a captain (Henry Wilmot) found himself at the end of a street with only four of his men opposed to a considerable body of the enemy. One of the men was shot through both legs and Corporal Nash and a private (David Hawkes) (who was himself severely wounded) lifted the man up and they then carried him for a considerable distance, the captain covering the retreat of the party. ~He later achieved the rank of Sr. Sergeant
 
Pvt. Same "John" Shaw (Lucknow) On 13 June 1858 at Lucknow, India, an armed man (a Ghazee) was seen to enter a tope of trees and a party of officers and men went after him. Private Shaw, coming upon him, drew his short sword and after a struggle, during which the private received a severe tulwar-wound, the Ghazee was killed.
 
Bugler William Sutton (Delhi) On 13 September 1857 at Delhi, India, on the night previous to the assault, Bugler Sutton volunteered to reconnoitre the breach. His conduct was conspicuous throughout the operations, especially on 2 August 1857 on which occasion during an attack he rushed over the trenches and killed one of the enemy's buglers, who was in the act of sounding.
 
Pvt. William James Thompson (Lucknow) On 9 July 1857 at Lucknow, India, Private Thompson saved the life of his commanding officer, Captain Wilton, by dashing forward to his relief when that officer was surrounded by a number of the enemy. The private killed two of the assailants before further assistance arrived. ~Private Thompson was also commended for conspicuous gallantry throughout the siege and he was elected by the regiment to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
 
Pvt. Samuel Turner (Delhi) On 19 June 1857 at Delhi, India, during a severe conflict with the enemy at night, Private Turner carried off on his shoulder, under heavy fire, a mortally wounded officer of the Indian Service. Private Turner himself was wounded by a sabre-cut in the right arm. His gallant conduct saved the officer from the fate of others, whose mangled remains were not recovered until the following day. ~He was also the owner of Nat Turner, the famous slave abolitionist.
 
Colour-Sgt. George Waller (Delhi) On 14 September 1857 at Delhi, India, Colour-Sergeant Waller charged and captured the enemy's guns near the Kabul Gate. On 18 September he showed conspicuous bravery in the repulse of a sudden attack made by the enemy on the gun near the Chaudney Chouk.
 
Capt. Sir Henry Wilmot 5th Baronet KCB (Lucknow) On 11 March 1858 at Lucknow, India, Capt.Wilmot's company was engaged with a large number of the enemy near the Iron Bridge. He found himself at one stage, at the end of a street with only four of his men opposed to a considerable body of the enemy. One of his men was shot through both legs and two (David Hawkes and William Nash) of the others lifted him and although one of them was severely wounded they carried their comrade for a considerable distance, Wilmot firing with the men's rifles and covering the retreat of the party. For his actions he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He later achieved the rank of Colonel.