Iron Duke Miniatures

Iron Duke Miniatures

'Hard pounding, gentlemen!'



Infantry Small Arms

Queen's regiments serving in India were provided with the approved patterns of service musket under the arrangements of the Board of Ordnance.  The P1853 '3-band' Enfield rifle had been adopted, but when the Mutiny broke out only 1st/60th Rifles was fully equipped with the new weapon.  The other British regiments already serving in India at that time still carried percussion muskets. There were sufficient Enfields to hand in India for some British regiments of the Allahabad Moveable Column to have Enfield-armed flank companies. All regiments arriving in India from England, or from the diverted China expedition, were Enfield armed. 

Of the EIC European regiments only the 1st Madras Fusiliers was universally armed with the P1853 Enfield from the outset.  The regiment went into action without having had the opportunity to train with the weapon. 

The Home Army's percussion muskets came in P1839 and P1842 versions. The former was a flintlock conversion, while the latter was a purpose-made percussion lock weapon. EIC small arms were not manufactured in India, but purchased from English gunmakers and shipped to the sub-continent. The company had its own patterns of percussion lock weapons, which while they were not identical to the 1839/1842 patterns of the Home Army were nevertheless much the same.  One of the EIC percussion muskets was a shorter-barreled weapon, referred to as a 'fusil', which was particularly issued to Gurkha regiments, because Nepalese sepoys were more often than not men of smaller stature.  The fusil was also carried in the 26th, 35th, 38th, 42nd and 43rd (LI) Bengal Native Infantry Regiments.*

The EIC '2-groove rifle', (as it was known), was not technically the same 'Brunswick' Rifle formerly carried by the rifle regiments of the Home Army, but even so was very much akin to it. Informally at least, people had started referring to the EIC weapon as a 'Brunswick' by the time of the Mutiny. The two-groove rifle was carried in certain regiments of the Punjaub Irregular Force (see unit entries below) and in the rifle companies of those Bengal Native Infantry Regiments which were established for both a light company and a rifle company:  these were the 9th, 25th, 26th (LI), 31st, 35th (LI), 41st, 42nd (LI), 43rd (LI), 48th, 57th, 65th, 66th, 67th, 68th and 72nd BNI. Note that in this list, the regiments which actively mutinied are underlined. 

* Source Acknowledgement: D. F. Harding Small Arms of the East India Company 1600-1856 (4 vols), (London, 1999).

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 synonymous, while the British equivalent of a Continental 'regiment' was the infantry brigade, typically consisting of three or sometimes 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 hardships served to mitigate the friction. That said the Royal Artillery assets arriving in India quickly made themselves unpopular by constantly objecting to Indian logistic arrangements, much to Sir Colin Campbell's irritation.  

     A full strength infantry 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, 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 only 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 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 line infantry was still to form up in a 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. Increasingly, however, companies fought in skirmish lines, with other companies, termed the supports, echeloned one tactical bound to their rear.  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'. In the 1849 edition of standing orders for HM 84th, already in India at that time, the right wing was stated to consist of the grenadier company and A-D Coys, while the left wing consisted of the light company and E, F and G Companies.  Why there was no H Company is unclear. It is possible that drafts from home permitted an H Company to form up prior to 1857. 

     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. Internally the company was organized into two sub-divisions, each of two sections. 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 at war establishment 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 with more than a thousand officers and men. 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 regiment's 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. In 1857-8 it was still normal for the colours to be carried into battle, but in a reflection of changing times some general officers have local orders prohibiting it. During the first relief of Lucknow for example, Brig-Gen Neill ordered that the three regiments of his brigade leave their colours behind at Cawnpore. During the second relief of Lucknow, colours were required to be carried cased, by Sir Colin Campbell's order. They were only very rarely uncased: known instances include signalling to the defenders of the residency from the rooftops of certain prominent buildings that they had fallen to the advancing relief column. By contrast the 78th Highlanders had fought their way into the residency on 25 September 1857, the date of the first relief, with uncased colours. A number of officers and SNCOs were hit whilst carrying the colours.

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 precisely the same 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.  One notable exception was 4th BLC, which carried lances. It seems reasonable to speculate that pennants would most likely have been red over white, as was the case in the British Army. 

Irregular Cavalry Regiments

In 1857 there were 18 regiments of Bengal Irregular Cavalry in the Bengal Army and 5 regiments of Punjab Irregular Cavalry in the Punjab Irregular Force. All 23 of these regiments 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 regiments. 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 the regiment's six resalas or troops. As in the British cavalry, the regiment's three squadrons only formed up for training, or in the field, and were not permanently constituted organizations. There was no provision in the establishment for squadron leaders. Rather the three senior troop commanders took command of the squadrons, having handed over command of their own troops to their respective seconds-in-command.  The senior troop commanders were known as resaldars and the junior ones as resaidars. There seem to have been no fundamental organizational differences between the light cavalry regiments and the irregular ones, save in the respect that irregular troops seem often to have been somewhat stronger.  The establishment of a PIF cavalry regiment allowed for four European officers, 18 native officers and 588 sabres.  All irregular cavalrymen carried carbines and tulwars, but  in some regiments half of the men also carried lances. There was a much higher proportion of Muslims in the cavalry arm of the Bengal Army, light cavalry and irregular cavalry alike, than in the largely Hindu regiments of the Bengal Native Infantry.     

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. At first the force consisted only of Punjabi infantry and cavalry regiments, but in 1851 it was significantly enlarged by the inclusion of the Corps of Guides and four regiments of 'Seikh [sic] Local Infantry', which ceased by definition to be classified as local infantry units at that point. By May 1857, then, the PIF comprised the Corps of Guides, five regiments of Punjab Irregular Cavalry, six Punjab Infantry regiments, the 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, 4th and 5th Punjaub Infantry were armed with the EIC 2-groove rifle and the corresponding straight-bladed sword-bayonet. The 2nd Regiment carried EIC pattern percussion muskets 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, which wore rifle green, 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 seems to have 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.        

Composition of the Punjaub Irregular Force

[All seemingly curious spelling is derived from the East India Company Army List ].

Corps of Guides. See uniforms page.

Punjaub Cavalry. See uniforms page for alkaluk colours. 

1st Punjaub Cavalry, 2nd Punjaub Cavalry, 3rd Punjaub Cavalry, 4th Punjaub Cavalry, 5th Punjaub Cavalry.

Punjaub Infantry. See uniforms page for dress.

1st Punjaub Infantry, 2nd Punjaub Infantry, 3rd Punjaub Infantry, 4th Punjaub Infantry, 5th Punjaub Infantry, 6th Punjaub Infantry.

Seikh [sic] Infantry Regiments. 

1st Seikh Infantry, 2nd Seikh Infantry, 3rd Seikh Infantry, 4th Seikh Infantry.

Formed in the period 1846-7 and properly uniformed about a year to 18 months into their existence, the four Sikh 'local infantry' regiments were at first dressed like units of the Bengal Army, with 1st, 3rd and 4th Seikh Local Infanty in red coats and yellow facings and 2nd Seikh Local Infantry in rifle green with black facings. Orders of 1847 stipulated that the regiments were to use black belts and pouches and would be provided with a set of colours of the same dimensions and pattern as those in use with the Bengal Native Infantry regiments of the line. The  2nd and 4th regiments were armed with flintlocks of fusil length, while 1st and 4th used full length muskets. How long this arrangement continued and in what years, respectively, each of the regiments adopted percussion lock weapons is impossible to say. It would be surprising, however, to learn that percussion locks were not in use  in all four regiments well in advance of the Mutiny.  

      The men observed the Sikh obligation in respect of beards and facial hear, although they did not at first wear turbans. Rather they were issued with the Bengal Army's newly adopted version of the Kilmarnock forage cap. In the case of the three red coated regiments, the cap had a hat band in the yellow facing colour. Doubtless 2nd Seikh Infantry would have had a green kilmarnock with black hatband at this period. The regiments would also have had a conventional hot weather summer dress, consisting of white shell jacket and trousers. in 1851 the four regiments were incorporated into the Punjab Irregular Force, which given the forward thinking ways of the PIF leadership meant the demise of line infantry style uniforms.  As described above it also meant that the regiments would no longer be classified as 'local'. In 1852 the 1st and 3rd Seikh Infantry switched from red to khaki to conform with the more enlightened military thinking  of the PIF's leadership. This would have been effected in the first instance by dyeing one set of white summer clothing. By the time of the Mutiny single-breasted, three-quarter length khaki tunics had been adopted. In 1854, certainly, 1st Seikh Infantry was wearing red piping on the khaki jacket, (it is not clear where the piping was worn, but this could be a pointer towards the jacket having shoulder straps). The native officers of the regiment had a red stripe down the outside seam of the trousers. In April 1857 1st Seikh Infantry also turned away from forage caps, (the latest version had been khaki drab with a red hat band), and adopted the traditional Sikh dastaar or turban instead. The regiment's dastaars were khaki, but seem also to have incorporated a band of yellow. The 2nd Seikh Infantry continued to wear forage caps until the end of 1857, at which juncture it too transitioned to turbans. 3rd Seikh Infantry is said to have transitioned to a khaki dastaar with a distinctive orange fringe in 1855. In the same year it also adopted black facings for its khaki tunic; these would almost certainly have been worn as a plain round cuff and an otherwise unadorned collar, but could also have been worn at the shoulder strap. In W. Y. Carman's Indian Army Uniforms - Infantry  (London, 1969), wherein most of the data at this paragraph has been derived, 4th Seikh Infantry is said not have adopted khaki until 1856. When it did, it also adopted a dastaar of khaki with a dark green fringe at both ends. That the 4th Seikh Infantry should be any different to the 1st and 3rd regiments in terms of the adoption of khaki seems anomalous, however, such that it appears not improbable that 1856 is not the correct date. In any event, we can be tolerably sure that the transition of the 1st 3rd and 4th Seikh Infantry to khaki clothing and the dastaar style of headdress was complete by the time the Mutiny broke out. The 4th Seikh Infantry, known at the time as 'Rothney's Sikhs', served on Delhi Ridge, where it was found necessary to expel all non-Sikh members of the regiment, reducing it strength by about a quarter.  It seems likely that 2nd Seikh Infantry, known informally as the 'Hill Regiment', remained in rifle green tunics until about 1861, but that its adoption of the dastaar occurred about 6 months into the Mutiny.     

Other Units of the Bengal Army

(Derived from the 1857 edition of the East India Company Register & Army List) 

Bengal Sappers & Miners.

There were 12 companies of Sappers & Miners in all, of which two thirds, amounting to something around 720 men, were at Roorki when the Mutiny commenced at Meerut. Six companies, about 500 men, were ordered to Meerut under Maj. Fraser, the commandant. Not long after their arrival, four of the six companies mutinied, killed Fraser and fled towards Delhi. They were pursued and about 50 were killed, albeit the survivors straggled into Delhi eventually. The two companies remaining at Meerut were disarmed, but set to work on fortifications. The two companies left behind at Roorki also mutinied and marched off to Moradbad, after first mistreating about 50 of their colleagues who were inclined to remain loyal. They were intercepted by the 29th BNI, still loyal at that time, were disarmed and made prisoner. Subsequently they were sent into Bareilly, but later made their way to Delhi with the mutinous Bareilly Brigade.


Miscellaneous Infantry Regiments

Regiment of Kelat-i-Ghilzie.  

Regiment of Loodiannah. [Sikh]. Red coats with  green facings. (Panicked and mutinied at the disarming parade in Benares. A large proportion marched off to Oude, but some remained staunch and others returned promptly). 

Regiment of Ferozepore. [Sikh]. Red coats with yellow facings and yellow banded blue Kilmarnocks up to the outbreak at Allahabad, when the commandant, Lt. Brasyer, directed that they return to their native dress. See our Unifroms Page for full details. 

Sirmoor Rifle Battalion. [Gurkha]. Green with black wing pads, buttons facings and lace. 

Regiments of 'Local Infantry'

Calcutta Native Militia. Red with black facings. 

Ramghur Light Infantry Battalion. Green with black facings and lace. (Mutinied). There was also a unit known as the Ramghur Irregular Cavalry, the strength of which is uncertain, but appears at one point to have been two rissalahs or troops. Likewise there appears at one point to have been 4 x 6-pdr  guns and an artillery detachment associated with the battalion. 

Hill Rangers. Raised at Baugalpore in 1792. Red with dark green facings and silver lace.

New Nusseree (Rifle) Battalion. [Ghurkha]. [Sometimes rendered as 'Nasiri' and other variants on the theme]. Green with black wing pads, button, facings and lace. Note that the original Nasiri Battalion became the 66th BNI in 1850, hence the name of this newly raised unit. 

Pegu Light Infantry Battalion.

Kemaoon Battalion. [More typically rendered as 'Kumaon']. [Gurkha]. Green with black wing pads, buttons facings and lace. 

First Assam Light InfantryGreen with black facings and black lace.

Second Assam Light InfantryGreen with black facings and black lace.

Mhairwarrah Battalion (Civil)Red with dark green facings and silver lace. The designation 'civil', which appears in the East India Register and Army List of 1857, means that this was effectively a police battalion. 

Arracan Battalion. [Burma]. Green with black facings and black lace.

Hurrianah Light InfantryGreen with black facings and black lace. (Mutinied and marched to Delhi. Numbers of their bodies noted around the Kashmir Gate after the assault).


Sylhet Light Infantry Battalion. Also provided with a small artillery detachment and 2 guns. Green with black facings and black lace.

Malwa Bheel CorpsGreen with black facings and black lace.

Meywar Bheel CorpsGreen with black facings and black lace.

Miscellaneous All Arms Local Units/Formations 

The Shekhawatee Brigade. Red with blue facings.

The Joudpore Legion. (Mutinied). One regiment of infantry. Three cavalry troops. Two camel-drawn guns manned by infantrymen. Green with black facings and black lace. (Mutinied). 

Oude Irregular Force 

All bar the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments, which had formerly been local battalions, were newly raised in 1856, mainly from former members of the King of Oude's army. The Oude Irregular Force mutinied comprehensively the following year and was heavily involved in the fighting in and around Cawnpore and Lucknow. Uniquely the 10th Oude Irregular Infantry is believed to have joined the rebels at Delhi. The OIF was so short-lived that few details of its uniforms appear to have survived. It is clear, however, that it was dressed in broad conformity with the rest of the Bengal Army. The infantry had a system of facing colours, but quite what these were in five of ten instances remains a IDM at least. (Let us in on the secret if you have found a comprehensive listing!). We have identified from British accounts of the fighting at Lucknow that shakoes continued to be worn by the Oude sepoys, some years after they had been  dropped by the native infantry regiments of the Bengal Army. The infantry carried a pair of colours of the usual dimensions, the first or Queen's Colour seemingly a plain Union Flag, while the Regimental Colour was of fairly orthodox design, with a field in the facing colour, and a central wreath of green leaves embracing the EIC coat of arms and the regimental title. There was no miniature union flag next to the pikestaff in the two surviving examples of which we have seen either a sketch or a photograph, and of course none of the OIF regiments had any battle honours.    

The composition of the OIF was as follows: 

1st Oude Irregular Cavalry2nd Oude Irregular Cavalry, 3rd Oude Irregular Cavalry (green alkaluks with silver lace).

1st Oude Irregular Infantry (buff facings), 2nd Oude Irregular  Infantry, 3rd Oude Irregular Infantry (white facings), 4th Oude Irregular Infantry, 5th Oude Irregular Infantry (green facings),  6th Oude Irregular Infantry, 7th Oude Irregular Infantry (yellow facings), 8th Oude Irregular Infantry, 9th Oude Irregular Infantry, 10th Oude Irregular Infantry (white facings).

1st, 2nd and 3rd Oude Light Field Batteries & Reserve Coy, Oude Artillery. The 'reserve' company was in effect a garrison artillery unit, employed in manning emplaced guns in forts.  

There were also three Oudh military police units, designated 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments Oude Military Police. There is nothing to state how strong they were, but they were perhaps unlikely to field a thousand men, as the infantry regiments did. There was also some kind of mounted police unit, once again of unknown strength. All the police units mutinied.     

A couple of interesting notes in passing: 

a. Pronunciation. Oude or Oudh, which would conventionally elicit an 'oo' sound from a first language English speaker, is actually pronounced as something akin to 'Av-ad', by reason of which fact it is commonly rendered today as Awadh. 

b. Presence of African mercenaries in Lucknow. Those who have read of the siege of Lucknow may well have encountered references to 'Bob the Nailer', which was a nickname given by the garrison to a particularly troublesome sniper who fired from one quarter of the perimeter or another.  In the literature of the Mutiny, he is sometimes described as a court eunuch of African descent, although this is never coupled with any other data to support the assertion. Interestingly, however, there had in fact been a small corps of African irregulars in the lately disbanded army of the former King of Oude, (who had been carted off to a comfortable exile in Calcutta, following the  EIC's annexation of his turbulent kingdom early in 1856). In 1849 Maj-Gen W. H. Sleeman  had travelled through Oude tendering periodic reports to the Governor-General of the day, Lord Dalhousie.  In September that year, Sleeman wrote, 'The first thing necessary will be the disbanding of the African, or Hubshee Corps, of 300 men. They are commanded by one of the eunuchs, and a fellow fit for any dark purpose. They were formed into a corps, I believe, because no man's life was safe in Lucknow while they were loose upon society.' Given this interesting snippet of evidence, it seems not unreasonable to conclude that  the eponymous 'Bob' was more likely than not to have been one of the members of the lately disbanded African corps, which presumably would have continued to exist until the 1856 annexation. Sleeman's 'hubshee' is more properly rendered in Arabic as 'Habshi', a proper noun applied to Abyssinians and other Africans in the service of the Mughals and other Indian rulers, a phenomenon dating back to the 17th Century. Evidently they were present in sufficient numbers to warrant their own proper noun.  Quite what became of the other 299 members of the corps we are unlikely ever to know, but it seems probable that they must have been amongst the vast numbers of matchlock-armed retainers and mercenaries who provided the cutting edge of the purportedly 'civil' rebellion in Awadh and that like their Indian confederates they too would have fought the British during the Mutiny. Given that there had reportedly been 60,000 men under arms in the state prior to annexation, of whom fewer than 10,000 had been absorbed into the new British-officered Oude Irregular Force, the 'civil' rebellion in Awadh was likely not quite as civil as some modern narratives would have it.  

Nagpore Irregular Force

1st Nagpore Irregular Cavalry, 1st Nagpore Irregular Infantry, 2nd Nagpore Irregular Infantry, 

3rd Nagpore Irregular Infantry, Nagpore Irregular Artillery (coy strength). 

Contingent Forces

Gwalior Contingent (Mutinied). 

Like most other contingents, the Gwalior Contingent was uniformed in broad conformity with the Bengal Army. The cavalry are known to have worn alkaluks after the fashion of the Bengal Irregular Cavalry; in the case of the 2nd Regiment the alkaluk was red. It is of course possible that the 1st Regiment also wore red. 

The facing colours of the infantry regiments remain something of a mystery. It is known that the infantry regiments carried colours, as a small number captured during the Mutiny have survived. (See John French, Armies of the Nineteenth Century; the British in India, Nottingham, 2006,  p. 167). It is possibly the case that a colour attributed to the 5th Infantry Gwalior Contingent, which features a black-edged white St Andrews cross, with a small, square red panel at the intersection, and contrasting quarters of red and blue, is a 'national' colour and that as such it enjoyed the same status as the Queen's Colour carried by the native infantry regiments of the Bengal Army.  It is hard to know for sure, however, if the design was universal or whether it was unique to that regiment. The central device of a 3rd Infantry colour has also survived, but since this is not mounted on a red square, or any other kind of square for that matter, it might reasonably be postulated that the one might be a first colour and the other a fragment of a regimental colour. But in truth this remains not much more than guesswork, based as it is on too small a sample of data. It noteworthy that while the units were all referred in official papers as belonging to the 'Gwalior Contingent', the term 'Scindia's Contingent', (the name of the Maharajah of Gwalior), is preferred at the central devices of the surviving colours. All told the contingent amounted to more than 8,400 men. It consisted of: 

1st Cavalry Gwalior Contingent (medium blue alkaluks), 2nd Cavalry Gwalior Contingent (red alkaluks).

1st Infantry Gwalior Contingent, 2nd Infantry Gwalior Contingent, 3rd Infantry Gwalior Contingent (white facings), 4th Infantry Gwalior Contingent, 5th Infantry Gwalior Contingent, 6th Infantry Gwalior Contingent, 7th Infantry Gwalior Contingent.

1st to 4th Companies of Artillery.

Malwa Contingent (Mutinied)

Sometimes referred to as the 'United Malwa Contingent'. One regiment of infantry, a battery of artillery and 4 troops of cavalry. The greater part of the infantry was absorbed into the rebel 'Indore brigade'. The cavalry troops fought against Polwhele at the Battle of Sassiah near Agra.  

Bhopaul Contingent (Mutinied)

Regimental sized grouping of all three arms.

Hyderabad Contingent

1st Cavalry Hyderabad Contingent, 2nd Cavalry Hyderabad Contingent, 3rd Cavalry Hyderabad Contingent, 4th Cavalry Hyderabad Contingent.

1st Infantry Hyderabad Contingent, 2nd Infantry Hyderabad Contingent, 3rd Infantry Hyderabad Contingent, 4th Infantry Hyderabad Contingent, 5th Infantry Hyderabad Contingent, 6th Infantry Hyderabad Contingent

Kotah Contingent (Mutinied)

Regimental strength grouping of all three arms amounting to about 700 men. Fought at Sassiah near Agra, joined the Nimach Brigade at Delhi and was routed by Nicholson at Nafgarjah. The cavalry wore red. 



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 a Union Flag and the other with a miniature Union Flag in the top left corner and a field in the regimental facing colour. The rank and file were armed with EIC pattern percussion muskets 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 and rajput 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.  In the aftermath of the Second Anglo-Sikh War, for example, a hundred vacancies per regiment had been allotted to Sikh recruits. 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, when one of the several motivations in play was the belief that if the British could be expelled from India the sepoy regiments would be able to seek much  more lucrative employment in the service of princely rulers.

     A BNI regiment consisted of either 10 or 11 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. All the regiments had grenadier companies and light companies, but fifteen regiments (see the 'Small Arms' subject header at the top of the page) also had a rifle company armed with the EIC '2-groove rifle'. Such companies were dressed, in imitation of the British Army's rifle regiments, in rifle green uniforms and  were issued black pouches and belts. 

     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 idleness, 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.'