Iron Duke Miniatures

Iron Duke Miniatures

'Hard pounding, gentlemen!'



ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS

British Infantry Regiments/Battalions

Unlike other European armies where 'regiments' were often tactical groupings consisiting  of three or four battalions, the British Army's order of battle contained a great many regiments whose only tactically disposable element was a single battalion. Thus in the British service 'regiment' and 'battalion' were more often than not effectively synonymous, while the British equivalent of a Continental 'regiment' was the infantry 'brigade', typically consisting of three or four battalions. In pre-Mutiny India an infantry brigade had typically consisted of a British battalion and two sepoy battalions. In line of battle it was usual for the British battalion to be disposed in the centre, where it not uncommonly bore the brunt of the fight, with the sepoy battalions deployed to its flanks. In addition to conventional infantry units of the British regular army, the armies of the three East India Company presidencies, Bengal, Madras and Bombay each fielded two or three 'European' regiments. The home army regulars were referred to as 'Queen's regiments' and were typically distinguished  in military despatches and other correspondence by the prefix 'HM' (standing for  'Her Majesty's'); thus HM 10th Regiment, HM 9th Lancers, HM 78th Highlanders and so forth. There was not uncommonly a good deal of friction between 'Queen's officers' and 'Company officers', as the former held themselves to be of superior social standing, albeit during the Mutiny shared hardship served to mitigate this factor to a considerable extent. 

     A full strength battalion was commanded by a lieutenant colonel, who might, at some intermediate point during his tenure in command rise to the top of the seniority roster of lieutenant colonels and be promoted to colonel. On the war-time establishment and for units posted to India there was a second lieutenant colonel's vacancy, to allow for a second-in-command.  The battalion consisted of ten companies, including two 'flank' companies - the grenadier company (right flank) and the light company (left flank).  The grenadiers held themselves to be a cut above the rest, the pick of the battalion, while the light company derived their elite standing from being specialists in light infantry or skirmish tactics.  In practice, in what was an age of military transition, the centre companies were now every bit as capable of functioning in a skirmishing role as the light company. Indeed by 1857 the notion of flank companies was conceptually obsolescent and was fated to be dropped a few years later. In similar vein the validity of the distinction between line, light and rifle regiments was on the very cusp of being swept away - a function of the imminent universal issue of rifled small arms.  For the British Army the termination of the Mutiny would mark the end of what might reasonably be termed the sub-Napoleonic tactical era. For the time being, though, battalions were still perfectly rehearsed in close order drill and tactics. When fighting in the open field, the first instinct of the British infantry was still to form in close order line and deliver its fire by volleys. There was great flexibility built into the technique, but the most commonplace practice, arguably, was sequential company volleys commenced from a directing flank. The idea of a single massed battalion volley at short range, followed by an immediate bayonet charge was also prevalent and not uncommonly paid good tactical dividends against less resolute enemy formations. There were one or two instances during the Mutiny where the infantry formed square to receive cavalry, but the widespread introduction of the P1853 Enfield Rifle, providing as it did the capability to engage accurately at much longer ranges than had been viable with the P1842 smoothbore musket, soon made it well nigh impossible for rebel cavalry to press an attack hard. The formerly vital necessity to resort to the all-round defence provided by a close-order square soon began to tail away with the realisation that in open ground cavalry could generally be held in check by fire alone.    

     The infantry battalion was subdivided into two wings, left and right, each of which were commanded by a major. It was by no means unusual in situations of operational or logistic over-stretch for the wings to operate independently of one another: two small battalions for the price of one as it were. Where this was the case, the wing under the immediate control of the commanding officer was known as the 'headquarters wing'. 

     Companies were commanded by the captains of the regiment, each of whom had a lieutenant and an ensign to assist him. The senior non-commissioned officer in the company was the colour-sergeant, who fulfilled the role which today rests with the 'Company Sergeant Major' or 'CSM' but did not at that time exist. In 1857 there was only one sergeant-major in a battalion - who not unnaturally was known simply as the sergeant-major: today the existence of CSMs requires that the same topmost appointment be referred to as the 'Regimental Sergeant Major' or 'RSM', (albeit in the Brigade of Guards an otherwise defunct piece of terminology continues to be retained). Internally the company was organized into sub-divisions or half companies. These were told off on the daily parade; thus they were in no sense synonymous with the fixed composition 'platoons' of the modern day: a private soldier might find himself in one sub-division on Tuesday and the other sub-division on Wednesday. Thus the first tie of loyalty was to the company rather than to anything smaller. At full strength a company would be around a hundred strong: in practice strengths dwindled rapidly in the field, so that companies of only one or two officers, two or three sergeants, a comparable number of corporals and 40 or 50 private soldiers were more often the norm.  There were two 'drummers' per company, (who by now typically functioned as buglers). It was not uncommon for teenage military orphans to be enlisted in the status of 'boy' and to serve as apprentice bandsmen or drummers (in a line infantry regiment) or buglers (in a light infantry regiment). 

     It follows that a full strength battalion was more than a thousand strong. In practice while regiments arrived in India topped up to strength, they soon dwindled in numbers to something well below that, notwithstanding the periodic arrival of drafts of newly trained recruits from home, intended to counterbalance attrition incurred over the previous year. At the time of the Mutiny, 25 officers and 700-800 NCOs and men was a more typical strength for a unit which had been stationed in the sub-continent for a number of years. With the Mutiny in full swing such figures fell away rapidly through battle and disease - a glance at the orders of battle shown elsewhere on the site will be instructive in that regard. That the 93rd (Sutherland) Highlanders played such a prominent role in Sir Colin Campbell's operations around Lucknow was not due solely to the C-in-C's favoritism, but rather to the fact that the regiment, originally bound for operations in China, disembarked in Calcutta more than a thousand strong. Thus it was thus a more powerful combat grouping, in its own right, than some of the hard-fighting brigades already in the field.  

     The commanding officer, the 'second lieutenant colonel' (where there was one), the two majors and the adjutant were officially designated as mounted officers. Accordingly these officers were permitted to draw government allowances for their chargers and remained mounted in action, so as to be able to move rapidly from one part of the battalion's frontage to another, in accordance with their duties. The same tactical doctrine required company officers to fight on foot, so while captains and subalterns maintained horses privately and rode them on the line of march, they did not ride them into action.

     The centre of the battalion line was occupied and denoted by the Colour Party. The right-hand and senior colour of the pair was the royal colour, based  on the Union Flag. Regulations of 1844 had decreed that all regimental badges, battle honours and other distinctions were not, in future, to be borne on the royal colour, but on the 'second' (or regimental) colour alone. Thus apart from a central device embracing the name and number of the regiment, the royal standard was now quite a plain union flag. The regimental colour by contrast, the field of which was in the unit facing colour,  was emblazoned with battle honours which bespoke the regiment's past service and any special crests or devices granted in recognition of past feats. The colours were consecrated on first presentation and were held to epitomize the very soul of the regiment. Their loss in battle was to be considered a disgrace.  As a result officers and men alike knowingly laid down their lives to preserve them. There were often fierce fights around the colours and, once inside small arms range, they tended to attract a great deal of fire. By the 1870s the resultant losses amongst the young officers carrying the colours, and the sergeants assigned to protect them, were no longer considered justifiable and it had become a matter of the colonel's judgement whether the colours were carried into action or not. A positive prohibition on the practice came in 1881, following the Battle of Laing's Nek in South Africa, but in 1857-8 it was still normal for the colours to be carried into battle, even during the street fighting to break into Lucknow.  


Bengal Light Cavalry

The Bengal Light Cavalry Regiments proved to be one of the most fertile grounds for sedition. All ten regiments actively mutinied or were disarmed and disbanded. Regiments were conventionally organized into six troops, paired off to operate as three squadrons in the field. Unlike irregular cavalry regiments, which had only a handful of European officers, BLC regiments had a full complement: the establishment table allowed for 24. In addition to a European captain and lieutenant, a troop had a subedar (captain equivalent), a jemadar (lieutenant equivalent), four havildars (sergeants), four naiks (corporals), a farrier, a trumpeter and 60 sowars, for an all up strength of 4 & 70.  The light cavalry arm carried conventional straight bladed swords, rather than the native tulwar styles favoured by the irregulars.  Only 15 sowars per troop were issued with carbines, which is to say 90 men across the regiment, who were known as the 'skirmishers'. It will be recalled that at Meerut where, on 24 April 1857, sowars of 3rd BLC 'refused the cartridge', (in this instance the old carbine cartridge they had used contentedly for the past several years), some 85 men were clapped into irons. This figure is no mere coincidence: it was a parade of the skirmishers, five of whom, all NCOs, took the cartridge without protest.  As described in the uniforms section, the BLC were dressed, armed and equipped much after the fashion of European light dragoons.   


Irregular Cavalry Regiments

In 1857 there were 18 regiments of Bengal Irregular Cavalry in the Bengal Army and 5 regiments of Punjab Irregular Cavalry within the Punjab Irregular Force. All 23 of these regiments, (there were a handful of others in the armies of the Madras and Bombay Presidencies), wore loose fitting regimental alkaluks, which was a mid-length smock, a much more comfortable mode of dress than the European-style stable-jackets and tight-fitting overalls of the ten Bengal Light Cavalry. A second notable characteristic of the irregular regiments was that enlistment took place in accordance the silladar system. This meant that individual officers and soldiers (silladars) provided their own horses and equipment in return for enhanced rates of pay. In practice this meant that unit administration was heavily contractorized, with the soldier obliged to part with a significant slice of his pay in return for his mount and an initial issue of kit of the requisite regimental pattern. Provided the sowar maintained a good character, his initial investment in a vacancy was returned to him when he departed the service. A third major divergence from the norms prevailing in the light cavalry arm was that there were typically only four European officers in a regiment; the commandant, the second-in-command, the adjutant and an assistant-surgeon, (the most junior rank of medical officer). The paucity of Europeans meant that much more authority was vested in the hands of the native officers commanding troops (resaldars - captain equivalent). There seem to have been no fundamental organizational differences between light and irregular units, (six troops, or three squadrons in the field), albeit irregular troops seem to have been slightly larger. The establishment of a PIF cavalry regiment allowed for four European officers, 18 native officers and 588 sabres. All irregular cavalry carried carbines and turbans. In some of the regiments half of the men carried lances in addition. There was a much higher proportion of Muslims in the cavalry arm of the Bengal army generally than in the Bengal Native Infantry regiments.     


The Punjaub Irregular Force

The Punjaub [sic] Irregular Force was raised in 1849 and came under the authority of the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, rather than that of the Commander-in-Chief. The principal role of the PIF was the protection of the North-West Frontier, although it also played a prominent role in the suppression of the Mutiny. European officers serving with the PIF had been seconded there from a parent regiment in the Company's service and were usually of very high quality. By May 1857 the force consisted of the Corps of Guides, five regiments of Punjab Irregular Cavalry, six Punjab Infantry regiments, four specifically Sikh infantry regiments, three horsed light field batteries, two mountain batteries and two companies of garrison artillery. The horsed batteries fielded 5 x 9-pdrs and 1 x 24-pdr howitzer apiece. There were 64 guns across the PIF as a whole, albeit a proportion of them, manned by the men of the garrison companies, many of whom were old Khalsa gunners, were fairly antiquated guns emplaced in the forts at Bunnoo and Kohat.  

   There were only a handful of British officers' vacancies on the establishment of PIF units: typically there was a commandant (or commanding officer), a second-in-command, an adjutant and a medical officer, usually in the rank of assistant-surgeon. They were hand-picked men and typically much younger than their counterparts in the Company's regular regiments. A handful, typically the commandants, were captains in their parent regiment, but overwhelmingly the force was led by lieutenants. One exception was Major John Coke who raised the 1st Punjab Infantry, widely referred to as 'Coke's Rifles', and was still in command of the regiment at the time of the Mutiny. For a while Coke played an important role in some of the fighting on Delhi Ridge, but eventually he was severely wounded. 

     With so few British officers it necessarily followed that the troop and company commanders were all 'native' Indian officers vested with real responsibility, a situation very different to that pertaining in the Bengal Army. A PIF infantry regiment had eight companies; at full strength these were a hundred strong. The 1st, 2nd and 4th Punjab Infantry played a distinguished role in the defeat of the mutineers. The 1st and 4th Regiments were armed with the Brunswick Rifle and the corresponding straight-bladed sword-bayonet. The 2nd Regiment carried the P1842 musket and socket bayonet, leaving it at something of a disadvantage, at least on the frontier, where long barrelled jezails might throw a ball five or six hundred yards. 

     With the exception of Coke's Rifles, the uniform of the PIF infantry was 'khaki', which is this instance meant a shade very closely approximating to the dust of the North-West Frontier zone. Poshteens were worn in the winter. Turbans were also khaki, save in Coke's regiment where, according to James Fairweather, who served with the 4th Punjab Infantry during the Mutiny, the 'high set puggries' [turbans] of the men were adorned with 'a gold fringe hanging down the side of their head'. Unfortunately Fairweather does not state what the base colour of the high set Afridi turbans happened to be, but they are more than likely to have matched the rest of the regiment's rifle green uniform. Prior to securing a fast rifle green dye, the regiment's uniforms had quickly faded to a shade of indigo blue, but this was a number of years before the Mutiny, by which time the problem had been solved. Fairweather states emphatically that in typical frontier conditions the men of the 1st Regiment, clad in their rifle green, were much easier to see at a distance than the other regiments in their khaki.        

 

Artillery

Horse artillery was the elite branch of the artillery arm and was typically called upon to operate in close support of the cavalry, whose dash, elan and cross-country mobility it was required to emulate. The higher level organization in the horse artillery branch was the brigade, but this was an organizational and administrative command, not a tactical one. In the Bengal Army there were three brigades of horse artillery. In the 1st Brigade, Nos. 1-3 Troops were European and Nos. 4 and 5 Troops were 'native' or Indian manned. In the 2nd and 3rd Brigades, Nos. 1-3 Troops were European and No. 4 Troop was Indian. There were only a handful of Europeans, primarily officers, in a native troop, and only a dozen or so Indian gunners or golundauz in a European troop. 

     The basic tactical sub-unit of the horse artillery was a 'troop' of six horse-drawn pieces, the direct equivalent of a 'battery' in the more pedestrian field artillery. The lightest gun and, arguably, the best suited to the mounted branch of the service was the 6-pounder, although there could be no denying that it was outclassed for range and punch by the 9-pounder, by reason of which fact it was not unknown for troops of horse artillery to be equipped with the heavier gun instead. There was at least one instance early in the Mutiny where a troop equipped with 9-pdrs failed to cross sodden ground successfully traversed a few moments earlier by a troop of 6-pdrs. There was always at least one howitzer in a troop, of which more in a moment. 

     A limber and gun was commonly towed by a team of 6 horses, (albeit 8-horse teams were not entirely unknown). In the Royal Horse Artillery, the Madras Horse Artillery and the Bombay Horse Artillery, the nearside (or left hand) animal of each pair in the team was ridden by a 'driver'. In the Bengal Horse Artillery, however, all six horses were ridden. On the nearside horses were the three drivers, known as Nos. 8, 9 and 10, while the offside animals were ridden by gunners known as Nos. 5, 2 and 4. No. 2 usually carried the sponge staff upright in a saddle bucket. Only No. 1, the sergeant in command of the gun, and his horse holder, No. 14, were provided with saddle horses. Nos. 11, 12 and 13 drove the six horses of the supporting ammunition wagon, with No. 3 mounted on the off-leader of the same team. Even in a European battery, Nos. 6 and 7 were always Indian golundauz, who rode the axle-tree seats on either side of the gun barrel. 

     In troops and batteries of the Royal Artillery and Royal Horse Artillery, (none of which had been routinely rostered to serve in India prior to the Mutiny), it had become the norm to employ two howitzers and four guns per troop or battery, but in the respective armies of the three East India Company  'presidencies', there was usually only one howitzer per sub-unit.  The 6-pdr was usually but not invariably twinned with the 12-pdr howitzer, while the 9-pdr was usually paired with the heavier 24-pdr howitzer. At this stage all these guns were muzzle-loading smoothbores. 

     Field artillery was organized into battalions and companies. In the Bengal Artillery the 1st to 6th Battalions inclusive were European and consisted of only four companies, while the 7th to 9th Battalions were Indian and consisted of six companies. There were, then, 42 companies all told. Unlike the horse artillery branch, however, the operational role of a conventional  Bengal Artillery company was not fixed. The companies were divided on a rotational basis between 21 garrison companies and 21 manoeuvre units. In order to assume the manoeuvre role, a company needed to 'go into battery', which is to say that the officers and men of the company had to be twinned with a battery's worth of equipment. This was maintained by a permanent staff consisting of a few European NCOs and around 60 Indian golundauz, primarily employed in the role of drivers. Whether the golundauz were retained or not, in a time of mutiny, was a judgement call for commanders:  Havelock, for example, took the decision to dismiss the golundauz in Olpherts' Battery. In addition to the uniformed Indians, the battery also had a substantial civilian establishment of grooms and grasscutters (or 'syces'). The equipment came with around 130 horses or the equivalent number of bullocks. If the guns were heavy field guns or 'guns of position', such as the 18-pdr, which were pretty much always bullock-drawn, the merger of company and battery would be known as a 'heavy field battery'.  The combination of 9-pdrs and horses would be termed a 'light field battery'. In some of our orders of battle the gamer will see entries such as 'No. 3 Coy/1st Bn., with No. 7 Light Field Battery, Bengal Artillery'. From all of the foregoing it follows that this is a single tactical grouping consisting of 6 horse-drawn pieces manned by the European personnel of the third company of the first battalion of the Bengal Artillery, working in concert with a broadly equal number of golundauz drivers from a shadow organization called No. 7 Battery. As such titles were too long-winded for everyday use, it was far more commonplace to refer to the resultant 'light field battery' by its captain's name eg. 'Olpherts' Battery', though where the practice crops up in an official despatch it can sometimes be difficult to tell what kind of battery or class of artillery is at issue. The six-horse teams in a light field battery had only three drivers, the Bengal Army included.  

     The Bengal Artillery battery commanded during the Relief of Lucknow by Captain 'Hellfire Jack' Olpherts, (No. 2 Coy/3rd Bn,, with No. 12 Light Field Battery), was unusual, in that it took the field with two complete sets of limbers - one fitted for bullock-draught and the other horse-drawn, which Olpherts whistled up wherever the tactical situation demanded that he fight his guns in the horse artillery role. Olpherts needed additional manpower to function as drivers for his horsed limbers, so in addition to pressing some of his syces into a combtant role, he was also given a small party of Madras Fusiliers. With some basic training under their belts, fusiliers and syces alike did sterling service in their unaccustomed role as drivers.  

     A troop or battery was commanded by a captain, who might well have already have secured the brevet rank of maor through distinguished service in the field. The troop or battery commander was assisted by three subalterns, each of whom commanded one 'division' of two guns and limbers, with two supporting ammunition wagons. After the Mutiny 'divisions' became known as 'sections'. A single gun, limber, team and gun detachment (or crew) was called a 'sub-division' and was commanded by a sergeant. There were instances in the Mutiny where the manpower of a troop or battery had declined to such a degree that it was necessary to leave one or two guns behind in the artillery park. Our orders of battle reflect this, wherever our research has revealed such instances. 

     The most commonplace pieces of siege artillery were the 24-pdr gun and the 8-inch howitzer. These were often supplemented by mortars of various calibres, but it was the 24-pdr which did the donkey work of breaching.  The heavy guns were often towed over distance by elephants. It was not usual to take elephants beyond the edge of the battlespace, however, substantially because the animal is far too intelligent to abide being shot at, without making its feelings on the matter known, most typically in ways which are more immediately prejudicial to those who happen to be in its near vicinity. That is not say that elephants did not come to harm during the Mutiny. At Fattehpur, for example, Captain Francis Maude personally laid one of his 9-pdrs, with the intention of bringing down an elephant fitted with a howdah which he thought might have been carrying the Nana Sahib about on the opposite side of the battlefield.  It was not the Nana as it turned out, but the ball entered the animal's body end on, just above its tail, killing it on the spot, which must have shaken the occupant of the howdah rather badly, to say the least. The norm, then, was to transfer elephant-drawn guns to bullock-draught before going into action.  The 24-pdr was the mainstay of the breaching batteries at Delhi, where it performed its task well. Captain William Peel of HMS Shannon landed even heavier naval guns with his ship's 'naval brigade', but was obliged to leave them behind on the lines of communication and proceed on his way to Lucknow with army 24-pdrs. While it was relatively commonplace for the mutineers to use 24-pdrs in the open field, in effect as heavy field guns, the more tactically agile British were much less inclined to misemploy their guns. Mutineer artillery organizations obviously mirrored those of the army against which they had turned. Their gunnery was generally of a high standard and not uncommonly caused the British their most pressing tactical problems. 


The Typical Bengal Native Infantry Regiment

A 'Bengal Native Infantry Regiment' was a regular unit commanded and administered by the Bengal Army. More than 60 of 74 regiments mutinied, so it is immediately apparent that things had gone badly awry in the management of the Bengal Native Infantry. A BNI regiment was uniformed in red and drilled in close order tactics in imitation of its British Army equivalent - the infantry regiment of the line. Like a British regiment, a BNI boasted a set of two colours, one in a form much akin to the Union Flag and the other in the regimental facing colour. The rank and file were armed with the P1842 percussion musket and socket bayonet. No Indian regiment had yet received the P1853 Enfield rifle, scheduled to replace the musket, though of course some small arms instruction utilizing the new weapon had taken place at major depots, such as Dum Dum, precipitating the notorious 'greased cartridges' scare. The typical BNI regiment contained Muslim and Sikh minorities and a Hindu majority. The percentage of high caste Hindus in a regiment was typically in the high 50s. One of the sundry contributing factors to mutiny was that this proportion had been declining over the previous decade, allowing brahmin ringleaders to advance the notion that the recent influx of Muslims and Sikhs formed part of a concerted British attack on the religion of the old sepoy army.  Soldiering for the EIC had always been considered a thoroughly respectable career in most quarters of Indian society. Once it had also been a tolerably well paid line of work, but lately pay had stalled where the cost of living had not, with the result that sepoys had lately come to consider themselves hard-up. This too was a contributing factor to the military breakdown of 1857.

     A BNI regiment consisted of 10 companies. Each company consisted of 100 sepoys or privates, 12 NCOs, (a combination of havildars or sergeants and naiks or corporals) and two native officers, a subedar and a jemadar, equating to captain and lieutenant respectively. The senior Indian officer in the regiment was the subedar-major. Thus the Indian complement comprised 1,000 sepoys, 120 NCOs and 21 officers. Promotion for both the rank and file and the 'native officer' grades came by strict seniority, with the result that the Indian officers were often well past their physical prime and the peak of their efficiency. Moreover lifelong subordination to the leadership and decision-making of the British officers set over them had not uncommonly served to smother both their grasp of higher military matters and their sense of initiative. The typical age at which a man might reach naik or corporal was 36; havildars or sergeants were 45 and upwards; jemadars or lieutenants were 54-60; and subedars or captains 60 or more. The subadar-major, though venerable, was, in any meaningful military sense, little more than an old man. Herein lay another cause of mutiny: men who considered themselves able and worthy of promotion were simply not able to get on. 

     There were only two European NCOs per regiment. At 26 the full complement of British officers was generous enough, but in practice it was rare for there to be more than 15 or so actually serving with the regiment at any one time. Not only did headquarters staffs and depots have to be manned, but the most able officers were able to compete for political-administrative appointments. Such posts were both challenging and rewarding in career terms. Moreover they attracted allowances so lucrative that they might as well have been designed to entice talent away from regimental duty. In peacetime this was a factor with the potential to leave a regiment in the hands of a temperamentally indolent or laissez faire 'B team' for lengthy periods of time. 

     It is not uncommon in Mutiny literature to encounter remarks which castigate the British officers of the BNI for their purported indifference and remoteness, but a more balanced interpretation would also acknowledge that the upper echelons of the Bengal Army had grown institutionally inclined to pamper to the caste system in ways which were prejudicial to the preservation of good order and military discipline. It was the diktats of caste which kept the British officers out of the unit lines, with the result that they seldom saw their men, save fleetingly at the morning parade, leaving scant opportunity for any meaningful form of bonding. It was not even acceptable to move amongst the sepoys at mealtimes, or to be anywhere near where food was being prepared, a dogma that, even in the field, served to rule out so much as a casual stroll through the regimental bivouac. Additionally the power of the commanding officer had been greatly eroded in the decade preceding the Mutiny. In particular they were far less powerful in the all important domains of promotion and summary punishment than had formerly been the case. No longer did the sepoys regard their colonel as an all powerful figure. For tired old colonels bent on an easy life, the line of least resistance was to fall back on a paternalistic, overly casual, leadership style which made free and easy recourse to flattery, pampering and appeasement. In other words sepoys were increasingly treated as truculent teenagers, best won over by the persuasive arguments trotted out by the head of the family, rather than being snapped to it like the infantry soldiers they were meant to be. Of course nobody ever played up in the presence of the elderly colonels themselves, many of whom imagined in their arrogance that they still had their sepoys eating out of their hands. The subversives in the regimental lines were invisible to such men. 

     Notwithstanding the creeping encroachment of arrogance, petulance and indiscipline, many British officers had so much faith in the continued loyalty of their sepoys that when at length the crisis broke they demonstrated a foolish naivete about the possibility that their own house of cards might just come crashing down around them. In many cases their misplaced loyalty to their men cost them their lives. 

     The process of subversion not untypically yields uneven results, so it is unsurprising that in the Bengal Army of 1857 there were any number of outcomes. In some regiments agents provacateurs were betrayed to the authorities and the unit remained staunchly loyal. In other diametrically opposite scenarios the whole regiment turned, sometimes within a day or two of some marked profession or demonstration of continued loyalty. In many turncoat regiments the British officers and their families met with cruel deaths, (or were fortunate enough to escape by the skin of their teeth), though in a small number of units, where the worst sort of genocidal instincts had been kept in check, generally by the native officers, they were simply sent packing or even escorted out of town. Many of the turncoat regiments marched to Delhi as formed units, while a handful of others simply went plundering locally and dispersed when pressed. Of course the onset of mutiny inevitably gives rise to distrust and suspicion in the loyal rump of an army, a factor which in 1857 probably led to some regiments being needlessly disarmed and disbanded. Ultimately nobody at this remove of time will ever be able to say for sure that any single act of disarming/disbandment was genuinely unnecessary. In some instances prevarication over whether or not to disarm a regiment resulted only in delayed disaster that might otherwise have been prevented. Generally speaking, disarming, wherever there was the remotest grounds for suspicion, was by far the most advisable course of action for the British. 

     Even so, many sepoys from disarmed and disbanded regiments made their way to focal points of rebellion, such as Delhi or Lucknow, where they proceeded to join the rebel movement anyway. Others simply went back to remote home villages clutching the leave furloughs they had been granted and dutifully stayed at home for the duration of hostilities. Although there were tens of thousands of indoctrinated, willing and committed mutineers, there were also significant numbers of men who had been intimidated into participating, or who had meekly allowed themselves to be carried along in the heat of the moment. Unhappily for pressganged or repentant mutineers, the military crime in which they had shared was devoid of an exit strategy: Brigadier John Nicholson would not have mused for long before coming up with his famously abrupt pronouncement, 'The punishment for mutiny is death.'      


Composition of Mutinous 'Local Contingents'

Gwalior Contingent: 2 x regiments of cavalry, 1st-7th Regiments of Gwalior Contingent Infantry, Nos. 1-4 Batteries Gwalior Contingent Artillery. 

Oudh Contingent: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Oudh Irregular Cavalry, 1st-10th Regiments Oudh Irregular Infantry, Nos. 1-3 Batteries Oudh Irregular Artillery. Known facing colours of the infantry: 5th Regiment green; 7th regiment yellow; 10th Regiment white.

Ramghur, Hurrianah, Malwa, Kotah Contingents: single infantry regiments.