Tag Archives: Indian Mutiny

In the footsteps of the Raj: Lucknow

This is the third in a series of posts recalling my visit to the Colonial battlefields of India and Pakistan in the Summer of 2006. I hope to publish more posts soon covering: Cawnpore; Gwalior and the relief of Chitral.

Me outside La Martinière school, Lucknow

Me outside La Martinière school, Lucknow

Lucknow is a wonderful, vibrant city in Northern India. I arrived there in August 2006 and immediately took a liking to the place and its people. After checking into the Hotel Capoors I hailed a bicycle rickshaw and headed for La Martinière College on the edge of the city.

 La Martinière viewed from the river

La Martinière viewed from the river

The building was constructed as a house by Claude Martin, a French Officer in the British East India Company, but after his death he left instructions for it to be become one of three schools named in his honour. It still functions as a school and while walking the grounds I met some of the students who were exceptionally friendly and well mannered and insisted on showing me the best places to take photos.

The tower at La Martiniere College, Lucknow

The tower at La Martiniere College, Lucknow

During the Indian Mutiny of 1857 many of the boys and Teachers took up arms and served bravely for the duration of the eighty-six day siege of the Residency. It’s a tremendous story.

The following morning I set out for the grounds of the Residency. It’s a group of buildings that were built in 1800 by the Nawab of Oudh and became the home of the British delegation to the state. During the Mutiny it was surrounded and besieged and witnessed a long and brutal battle.

Gates to the Residency, Lucknow

Gates to the Residency, Lucknow

Burnt out shell of banquetting hall

Burnt out shell of banquetting hall

It has been left much as it would have looked at the end of the the fighting. Damage from canon and muskets have left gaping holes in the red brick work and the lawns and gardens are still well maintained. There is a haunting quality to the place. In the basement of the main building is a small museum with a number of artefacts. I’m told that in the evenings there is a light and laser show documenting Lucknow’s history though I was unable to get to see this.

Canon outside the Residency, Lucknow

Canon outside the Residency, Lucknow

Dr Fayrer's house in the Residency

Dr Fayrer’s house in the Residency

Memorial to 32nd Regt. of Foot

Memorial to 32nd Regt. of Foot

The next day I paid a visit to Sikandar Bagh, a villa and garden enclosed by a fortified wall, with loopholes, gateway and corner bastions, approx. 150 yards square, c. 4.5 acres- this was the scene of heavy fighting in November 1857 when Sir Colin Campbell and his force of Sikhs and Highlanders stormed it and took it from a strong force of Rebels. A number of Victoria Crosses were awarded on that day.

Memorial stone to 93rd Highlanders, Sikandar Bagh, Lucknow

Memorial stone to 93rd Highlanders, Sikandar Bagh, Lucknow

The spot where the walls were breached at Sikander Bagh

The spot where the walls were breached at Sikander Bagh

A wider shot showing where Sikanderbagh was breached

A wider shot showing where Sikanderbagh was breached

In conclusion I really enjoyed visiting Lucknow and would advise anybody interested in British/Indian military history to pay it a visit.

Sikandar Bagh exterior, taken 1858

Sikandar Bagh exterior, taken 1858

Remains of Dilkusha Kothi, Lucknow

Remains of Dilkusha Kothi, Lucknow

Historical plaque at Dilkusha Palace, Lucknow

Historical plaque at Dilkusha Palace, Lucknow

Inside the Residency where Susanna Palmer was killed

Inside the Residency where Susanna Palmer was killed

Church in Lucknow

Church in Lucknow

Memorial plaque to Thomas Henry Kavanagh, VC

Memorial plaque to Thomas Henry Kavanagh, VC

In the footsteps of the Raj: Barrackpore and the start of the Indian Mutiny (aka India’s first war of independence)

This is the second in a series of posts recalling my visit to the Colonial battlefields of India and Pakistan in the Summer of 2006. I hope to publish more posts soon covering: Lucknow; Cawnpore; Gwalior and the relief of Chitral.

To read about my visit to the other historic sites of Kolkata and the battlefield of Plassey then please click here

On a wet August afternoon in 2006 I took a slow train to the distant Kolkata suburb of Barrackpore, it’s a relatively forgotten place that sits on the eastern bank of the Ganges River.

View of the Ganges from Barrackpore

View of the Ganges from Barrackpore

Once in town I asked around, trying desperately to locate the Mangal Pandey Memorial Park but nobody had any idea what I was talking about. Eventually as I was considering giving up I found a friendly Rickshaw driver who knew the place and took me there.

So who was Mangal Pandey and why was Barrackpore so important to the history of British India? Well he was a Sepoy (locally recruited soldier in British service) with the 6th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry who on March 29, 1857 attacked his British Officers before being eventually overpowered and condemned to death. There are many reasons that may have inspired his actions: Indian troops had began to suspect that their Officers were trying to convert them to Christianity and that new cartridges issued to them were smeared with pig and cow fat and (as they had to be bitten open for use) they believed it was a deliberate attempt to defile their religion (both Hindu and Muslim).

In India Pandey is still revered as a hero – his actions and subsequent punishment were one of the catalysts of the Indian Mutiny that ripped British India apart and saw a brutal war that lasted for a year. Pandey has even been the central character in a recent Bollywood movie (see below). In the English language, Pandey is best remembered for the word his surname and his actions helped coin: pandy — a traitor, particularly a rebellious sepoy of the Mutiny of 1857. Once a colloquial term widely used by English speakers in India, the word is now obsolete (Source: Wikipedia).

For a contemporary British account, I have pasted a small section from the Book “Narrative of the Indian mutinies of 1857″ below:

Barrackpore is a still full of soldiers, many of whom I saw walking the streets in uniform. The modern day Park named after Mangal Pandey is on the same spot where his act of defiance took place, now it is a popular spot for families and courting couples.

Statue of Mangal Pandey, Barrackpore, Kolkata

Statue of Mangal Pandey, Barrackpore, Kolkata