Major General Arthur Battye CB

(This article, written by Colonel Denis Wood, first appeared in the Bulletin of the Military Historical Society in August 2022 and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author and the Bulletin’s editor).

Arthur Battye was one of ten brothers who served the Raj with distinction over many years.  He ended his soldiering days as a hardened warrior who had survived 31 years in the Army, mostly on active service, which had included his escape from death at the hands of mutineers in 1857 and four wounds received in several campaigns in which he was six times mentioned in despatches.  For most of that time he was in the 2nd Goorkhas where he stood out as a brave man among many such.

Arthur Battye, who was born on the 3oth October 1839 at Berhampore, was the seventh son of George Wynyard Battye, a Collector, Magistrate and later a Judge on the Bengal Establishment of the East India Company, and his wife Marian Martha née Money.  He was educated at Mr Bedingfield’s School at Maidenhead in Berkshire and by a tutor at Wimbledon.  He may also have been briefly at Addiscombe Military Seminary, the East India Company’s Military School near Croydon.

Gazetted as an Ensign on the Bengal Establishment on the 6th June 1857, Arthur joined the 19th Native Infantry just before it mutinied on 25th February and was disbanded shortly afterwards.  On the 29th March he was involved in the affair at Barrackpore where Sepoy Mangal Pandy sparked the Indian Mutiny when he attacked British Officers.  After that Arthur joined the 1st Bengal European Fusiliers in which his elder brother George was serving.

During the Indian Mutiny Arthur was promoted Lieutenant on the 22nd January 1858 and in March took part in the siege and capture of Lucknow, including the actions of Uttereah on the 13th April, Bhumore Ghat on 18th September and Kintoor on the 6th October.  He was mentioned in despatches for his good work in these actions.

With the Mutiny close to its end, on the 9th May 1859 Arthur Battye joined the Sirmoor Rifle Regiment at its Regimental base and home in Dehra Dun.  The photograph below, showing him wearing the uniform of the Regiment and his Mutiny medal, would have been taken at about that time:

On the 2nd January 1861 he was appointed its Adjutant and it was perhaps by then that he had qualified in Army signalling.  This photo shows him in a group of officers of other regiments, likely to have been attending a course:

On the 2nd January 1864 in the action at Shabkadah his horse was killed beneath him.  On the 22nd March 1865 he was appointed Wing Officer.   Following the post-Mutiny transfer of the East India Company’s forces to the British Raj, on the 2nd September 1866 he was appointed to the Bengal Staff Corps as a Lieutenant.

In 1868 Arthur took part in the Hazara campaign on the Black Mountain, where he distinguished himself in a rearguard action at Manna-ka-Duma on the 12th October, earning his second medal, the India General Service Medal 1854 with clasp NORTH WEST FRONTIER and a mention in Major General A Wilde’s despatch of the 25th October 1868.  He was promoted Captain on the 6th January 1869.

Arthur was still Adjutant when the Regiment set off for the Looshai Expedition of 1871-2.  They left Dehra on the 18th October 1871, embarked in the River Hooghly, near Calcutta, on the 27th, and landed at Demargree on the 18th November.  During the following days he led the advance towards Lal Gnoora’s stockaded village and commanded a company during the storming of the village where Major Donal Macintyre of the Regiment won a Victoria Cross.  Arthur was wounded and disabled by a bamboo spike set by the villagers.  He received the clasp LOOSHAI for his India General Service Medal and another mention in despatches.  On the 8th April 1876 he was confirmed in his appointments as 2IC and Wing Commander.  At that time he officiated as Commanding Officer for a while and was promoted Major on the 6th January 1877.

On the 4th January 1878 Arthur Battye again became Officiating Commandant and a few months later he led the Regiment to Malta for the first time that Indian Army troops were to serve in Europe.  Colonel Donald Macintyre VC having rejoined the Regiment there from leave on 1st June, it was as 2IC that Arthur went with it to Cyprus.  He returned with it to Dehra Dun in October 1878.

After a couple of weeks in Dehra the Regiment, with Arthur still as 2IC, arrived on the North West Frontier on the 20th November to take part in the first phase of the 2nd Afghan War.  He became Officiating Commandant again on the 22nd May 1879 and took the Regiment back to Dehra on completion of the first phase of the war.  On the 3rd October that year they marched again from Dehra en route for Afghanisatan where he was appointed Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on 11th December prior to being given command of the Regiment on the 24th.  He took part in both expeditions to the Bazaar Valley, the Relief of Sherpur, the march from Kabul to Kandahar and the Battle of Kandahar where he was wounded in the shoulder.  He was three times mentioned in despatches and made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.  While he was on furlough from December 1883 to April 1885 he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel on the 6th January 1884.  From Dehra Dun he went on a  further year’s furlough on the 1st November 1886 and retired in absentia on the 24th December 1887 on completion of his tour of command.  It was probably about this time that the photograph below was taken showing Arthur as a handsome man about town:

As was the custom in the Indian Army of those days, during his retirement Arthur was promoted to Major General in May 1894 and admitted to Colonel’s Allowance on the 6th January 1895.  Being a bachelor he lived at the ‘In and Out’ (The Naval and Military Club) in Piccadilly but in his later years he moved to Torquay where he died peacefully on the 13th June 1909 and was buried there on the 16th.

So ended the life of a very gallant old warrior who had added a good deal of luster to his beloved Regiment, the 2nd Goorkhas.  He had always been the epitome of the Regimental motto – Ich Dien – I serve.

His medals are in the National Army Museum, London, with the exception of the medal for Afghanistan which was sold at auction on 2nd March 2005 for £2,200.


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