Saturday, 23 June 2012

Cavalry & Camels - Scinde, 1845

When Robert Henderson lamented the standard of training at the Cavalry Depot in Maidstone (covered in a previous post), he was mainly concerned about the preparation of soldiers for active service. For Britain in the 1840s, active service meant India, and increasingly, the North West frontier. There had been the debacle in Afghanistan, where 4,500 troops and up to 12,000 civilians had been massacred, and at the end of 1845, just after the events narrated here, there was to be the extremely hard fought Sikh Wars.

 Hydrabad 1844

Of course, many of the "British" troops were Indian, essential because of the huge size of the task involved. These had British officers and were often very good. The Scinde Irregular Horse mentioned here had been raised in Hydrabad in 1839, whilst the 6th and 9th Irregular Cavalry were on the army list of the East India Company, based in Sukkur and Loodiana respectively. The nature of the terrain made irregular forces very useful, as was a rather unusual unit. The Camel Corps had been raised in Karachi in 1843, and proved very practical. Charles Napier describes how they could march up to 80 miles in a day, and appear unexpectedly on enemies in the desert or hills. The only problem was that, conversely, they could not operate in heavy rain. They tended to slip and dislocate their hips, so that on one operation 90 were lost in one day when the unit moved in bad weather, against standing orders.

As well as the major wars against Afghans, Sikhs etc, there were inumerable smaller operations. And example of the sort of thing is given here.

 Scinde landscape

Major-General Sir C. Napier, G.C.B., to the Governor-General of India.
Head-Quarters, Camp, Shahpoor, Jan. 17, 1845.

In the course of the latter part of last summer I reported to you how this frontier had been vexed by the unprovoked attacks made upon Scinde by the Domkee, Jakraine, and Boogtie tribes. These plunderers had of late become more harassing to the frontier posts. They are, as you are aware, subjects to the Khan of Kelat, but are in open rebellion against him. A few weeks ago His Highness attempted to reduce them to obedience. His Highness's wishes are completely with us, and his personal conduct has been honourable. However, he was unable to effect his purpose; he had advanced as far as Poolajee, but retired discomfited, followed up by the rebel Beejar Khan to Bhag, which has been plundered. Where the Khan has retired to I do not at present know; I suppose to Dadur.

On the 13th inst. I left Sukkur with the head-quarters; on the same day Capt. Jacob marched with the Scinde Horse and Camel Corps from Larkhana. Wallee Mahomed, the Chandian chief, with several other chiefs of Belooch tribes, marched, on the 15th, from their various villages; and on the 16th Wallee Mahomed, according to the orders which he had received from me, took possession of Poolajee, which was abandoned by the enemy. On the same day Capt. Jacob attacked and took Shahpoor; and at the same day and hour Capt. Salter attacked Ooch, a post ten miles to the east of Shahpoor. Both of these places are in the midst of the desert, and the enemy was surprised at both. At both resistance was made, and at Ooch about 3,500 head of cattle were taken, the produce of their late plundering expeditions. Among the rest are the tattoos of the grass-cutters belonging to the 6th Irregular Cavalry, and taken when those unfortunate men were cut to pieces last summer.

Having made forced marches of 120 miles in three days to surprise the enemy (the last march made by head-quarters and by Capt. Mowat, with one 6-pounder and one howitzer, being fifty-six miles within twenty-four hours, through a desert of sand), I shall halt here for a day or two to rest the troops, and allow our supplies to overtake us.

In forwarding the reports of Captains Salter and Jacob, I beg to draw your attention to the decisive courage, activity, and success with which these two officers have executed the orders they received, and to the good humour with which the troops have made these harassing marches in the desert. Wallee Mahomed, the Chandia chief, has also shown the greatest zeal and activity, arriving at the point he was ordered, and with the greatest accuracy as to time; it was at that point, too, at which most resistance was contemplated.

The 2nd Europeans are on their march from Sukkur to this place, under Major General Hunter, together with some of the 64th and 4th Regts. of Native Infantry, whose ardent wish to take the field I thought it fair to these regiments to comply with under existing circumstances.

The Bundlecund Legion crossed the Indus on the 16th, under Major-General Simpson, and is following the route of Major-General Hunter.

Tomorrow every outlet from the hills will be blocked up by the cavalry; and I hope to inflict another lesson upon the plundering tribes.

P.S. Since writing the above some men have been captured who were in the fight at Ooch; from these we have learned that about forty-five were wounded, and forty killed; among the former is Deria Khan, the Chief the Jakrainees. He received a grape-shot in his breast, and was dying. There were 700 men; they thought they had to deal with Wallee Mahomed Chandia, and were not aware we were there till the artillery opened. They had drawn up in battle array to fight when Capt. Salter charged.

Captain G. Salter to Major Green, C.B., Assistant Adjutant-General, Scinde.
Head-Quarters, Camp, Ooch, Jan. 16, 1845.

Sir,—I have the honour to report, for the information of Major-General Sir C. Napier, G.C.B., that I had, last night, the good fortune to execute, successfully, his orders for surprising the encampment of the Belooch marauders, at Ooch, with the detachment, (300 6th Irregular Cavalry; 90 9th Irregular Cavalry; guns of the mountain train), under my command.

After a march of forty miles from Changhur, we reached Ooch at eleven pm.; the cavalry charged down upon the encampment, and did some execution, but from the hilly nature of the country they could not repeat the charge with effect after the first surprise, as the enemy immediately took to the surrounding low, but very steep, hills, and commenced firing with their matchlocks. In the darkness of the night no just estimate could be formed of the number of the enemy, but they are reported to have been about 500 men, chiefly Jakrainees and Boordees.

Of these there were killed Sowla, Jakrainee, the brother of Toochally, a principal chief of the marauders, and his two sons; and Deldar Khan, the son of Khyra Khan, a Boordee chief; some other noted marauders were killed or wounded, in all about sixty men. Three thousand five hundred head of camels, cattle, sheep, and goats, the accumulated plunder of the robbers, were taken, and a quantity of grain; and the deserted encampment was burnt the next morning.

Baggage camels in Scind 1839

I beg to report that Lieut. Holmes commanding the 6th Irregular Cavalry, set his men a most gallant example,- his own horse was wounded, and his orderly's killed; and Lieut. Pulman, commanding the two guns, served them with quickness, precision, and effect.

Mahomed Buksh, Naib Ressaldar, commanding the troop 9th Irregular Cavalry, an excellent officer, killed the Boordee chief in my presence, who had just cut down and killed my orderly's horse.

I have the honour to inclose a return of the killed and wounded of the detachment, and regret that, in Azim Beg. Ressaldar, 6th Irregular Cavalry, the corps has lost a brave and valuable officer, and the Government an old and faithful servant, who had lately the honour to be favourably noticed in General Orders. I have, &c., 

G. Salter, Capt. 4th N.I., Commanding the Detachment.
Grand total of killed and wounded—8 men, 13 horses.
Remarks.—Azim Beg, Ressaldar, 6th Irregular Cavalry, wounded, and has since died.

 Scinde Irregular Horse 1849

Capt. J. Jacob to Major Green, C.B. Assist. Adjutant-General.
Shahpoor, Jan. 18, 1845. 

Sir, I have the honour to report that, on the morning of 13th inst. I marched from Larkhana with the Camel Corps, European Volunteers, two 3-pounder guns on camels, and the Scinde Irregular Horse. We reached Khyra-ke-Gurree, distant forty miles, the same evening; found the supply of water at that place insufficient, even for the whole of the men of my detachment; the horses and camels got none. On the morning of the 14th we marched to Rojan, twenty-four miles, and arrived there at noon; the supply of water at that place was altogether insufficient for the detachment, and men and horses were much distressed in consequence. According to orders, I sent the Camel Corps and Volunteers to Khanghur, and at noon, on the 15th, I marched with the Scinde Horse and two 3-pounder guns towards Shahpoor, leaving nine of our horses behind, in a dying state, from thirst.

I reached Lunda (distant thirty-five miles from Rojan, and about two from Shahpoor) at half-past eleven at night, and there received information that Wuzzeer Khan (son of Beejar Khan Doomkee) was at Shahpoor with a large party of Jakrainees, Doomkees, and Boordees. I pushed on at a trot, and completely surrounded the village of Shahpoor before the alarm was given, or before any one could escape; and, knowing the place well, I at once galloped into a sort of inclosure on one side of the village where the Jakrainee horsemen usually resided; there was, however, no one there but a number of juts and herdsmen; the enemy had that night occupied the houses inside the village, and now opened a heavy fire of matchlocks on us from a high tower and from the houses.

I immediately picketed a troop, and took the men into the village on foot, when all opposition ceased, and the robbers were only anxious to hide their arms. I seized six prisoners (well armed, and whose matchlocks had nearly all been used that night), Jakrainees, Doomkees, and Boordees, among whom are several Sirdars; but Wuzzeer Khan, hearing the report of guns fired at Ooch, about half an hour before we reached Shahpoor, had instantly mounted his horse and escaped. I believe not a man left the village after our arrival, although a tremendous dust storm, which arose just as we reached the place, rendered it very difficult to watch the place properly.

The fire from the village killed a duffedar, two sowars, and three horses, and wounded three sowars and five horses. All my men behaved well in this affair; and I request that you will particularly bring to notice the excellent conduct of my second in command, Lieut. G. Malcolm, from whom I received the most able support and assistance; of Resseldar Maj. SezFeraz Khan, and Resseldar Meer Furzund Ali; the last-named officer commanded the troop which I led into the village on foot.

The Police Resseldar Alif Khan accompanied me from Larkanah, and his were most valuable to me on this occasion, as well as during the whole march.

I must not omit to mention Assistant-Surgeon Pelly, who accompanied while I was surrounding the village, and attended the wounded men the they fell.

J. Jacob, Capt. Artillery, Commanding Scinde Irregular Horse. 

Total of killed and wounded—1 havildar and 5 men, 8 horses.

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