General Sir Charles Reid, GCB

Commandant of the Sirmoor Battalion at the Siege of Delhi, the battle which first established the loyalty and tenacity of Gurkhas in the minds of the British, and originator of The Queen’s Truncheon, the unique distinction granted to the Regiment by Queen Victoria for their services during the Indian Mutiny. 

This article is based on research by Colonel Denis Wood in support of Reid’s entry in the Register of British Officers who served with the Regiment.

Charles Reid was born on 19 May 1818, the son of George Reid Esq of Friendship and Bunker’s Hill, Jamaica.  His mother was a daughter of Sir Charles Oakley Bt.  He was educated at Repton School, Derbyshire.

He entered the East India Company Service at 16 years of age in 1835[1], initially serving with the 43rd Native Infantry (NI) at Barrackpore[2], his appointment to that regiment being dated 13 November 1835. In 1836 he was appointed to the 10th NI[3] and is known to have been serving with it at Delhi on 28 December 1839.  Throughout the remainder of his service until appointed to the Bengal Staff Corps in 1861 he is shown as belonging to the 10th BNI or being ‘late 10th BNI’.

In April 1840 Charles Reid was commanding the left wing of the Sirmoor Battalion at Jutogh. From November 1841 to April 1842 he commanded the escort to Ameer Dost Mahomed, King of Kabul. He was appointed Adjutant of the Sirmoor Battalion on 4 January 1843 but rejoined the 10th NI on 22 May that year for service in Upper Sind under Sir Charles Napier. In early 1844 he rejoined the Sirmoor Battalion at Ferozepore and returned with it to Dehra Dun in April. In January 1846 he went with the Battalion for service in the 2nd Sikh War. He was present when the Battalion saved the city and cantonment of Ludhiana on 4 January 1846, the Sikh force under Sirdar Runjour Singh having crossed the Sutlej and advanced on the cantonment with a force of 7,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 17 guns intending to plunder the city and destroy the cantonment.  The bold front shown by the Sirmoor Battalion and 200 Patiala Horse defeated the Sikhs. He was present in the subsequent defence of Ludhiana under Brigadier General Godley and at the Battles of Aliwal and Sobraon, having his horse twice wounded under him. He was mentioned in despatches for gallantry both at Aliwal and Sobraon, and he assumed command of the Battalion on the death of Captain John Fisher in the latter battle.

Reid was appointed Second-in-Command of the Sirmoor Battalion in February 1846.  In 1848 he commanded the Left Wing of the Battalion during its detachments to Jutoq, near Simla, and to Meerut. He rejoined the 10th NI for service in the Burma War of 1852-53 where he served in the Martaban Column and received a Brevet Majority and the medal and clasp. On 8 December 1854 he went on 15 months furlough.

On 24 February 1857 he was appointed to command the Sirmoor Battalion in Dehra Dun and went on to command it throughout the Indian Mutiny, opening communications between Meerut and Calcutta, for which he received the thanks of the Government[4]. He was present at the Battle of Badlee-ke-Sarai and throughout the Siege of Delhi in which he commanded all the advanced posts on the Delhi Ridge, including Hindoo Rao’s House, the key to the position, from 8 June to 14 September 1857, during which period 26 separate attacks on those positions were repulsed[5]. On 14 June he commanded a column for the attack on Kissengunge, and on 14 September commanded No. 4 Column for the assault on Delhi in which he was severely wounded. He was promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel for distinguished service in the field and appointed CB. He served in the Oudh Campaign of 1858-59 in command of the Sirmoor Battalion[6]. On 18 February 1861 he was appointed to the newly created Bengal Staff Corps and on 1 March went to England for 15 months on medical certificate, which marked the end of his tenure of command of the Sirmoor Battalion. He was appointed ADC to the Queen, promoted to Colonel, and thanked by Parliament and on four separate occasions by the Government of India for his part in suppressing the Indian Mutiny. With effect from 11 January 1865 he received “good service” and “wound” pensions.

Charles Reid as a Lieutenant Colonel

While he was in England, and on the command of Queen Victoria, Charles Reid personally designed the Queen’s Truncheon to replace the 2nd Goorkhas’ Honorary Third Colour awarded for their exemplary service at Delhi in 1857, and had it made by Hunt & Roskell in London and sent to India. It was officially presented to the Regiment by the Commander-in-Chief in 1863.

For a period including at least part of 1866 Charles Reid was the Brigadier commanding the 2nd Frontier Brigade in Assam[7].  In the Queen’s Birthday Honours list of May 1871 he was created KCB for distinguished military service. Having been admitted to Colonel’s Allowance on 13 June 1873 he was appointed to command the Lahore Division from 1 November that year.  On 1 July 1881 he was placed on the Unemployed Supernumerary List, which at that time was how officers of such rank retired from active service.  He was created GCB in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 1886.

Charles Reid as a General (photograph from an obituary available in Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Reid lived for most of the remainder of his life at 97 Earls Court Road, Kensington.  He had been presented with the old Colours of the Sirmoor Battalion[8], which he kept until 1895 when he presented them to the United Services Institution in Whitehall. He died at the home of his daughter, Lavinia, 48 Stanley Street, Southsea on 23 August 1901.

His decorations and medals, which were in the 2nd Goorkhas Regimental Medal Collection, were donated by the Regimental Trustees to The Gurkha Museum in 1998.   The Museum also holds numerous papers and letters written by Reid which shed light on many Regimental issues in the second half of the 19th century.  His diary written during the Siege of Delhi (see footnote 6) is still in print.

Reid married, in 1846, Miss Lucy Fisher, daughter of his late Commanding Officer, Captain John Fisher, and sister of Major General J.F.L. Fisher, also of the 2nd Goorkhas.  They had one daughter.


[1] His application papers for an HEIC Cadetship are in the British Library, India Section, filed under L/MIL/9/182/321-24.

[2] The 43rd NI was the Kyne ke Dahuna Paltan, raised in 1803. It became the 22nd NI which was disbanded after it mutinied at Fyzabad in 1857.

[3] The 10th NI was the Duffel ka Paltan, raised in 1762. It became the 7th NI which was disbanded after it mutinied at Dinapore in 1857.

[4] A number of letters written by Charles Reid during his period of command of the Sirmoor Battalion, some concerning Gurkhas and recruiting, are preserved in the Regimental Letter Books which are now in The Gurkha Museum. There is also an account of Charles Reid’s services in the Regimental Digest of Services, also now in The Gurkha Museum.

[5] Two despatches from Major Charles Reid at Hindoo Rao’s House were published in LG 24 November 1857 [they are referred to in LG 16 January 1858].

[6] Charles Reid kept documents concerning his services in the Indian Mutiny.  Some appeared in Extracts from Letters and Notes made during the Siege of Delhi in 1857, by Colonel Charles Reid, CB, published by Smith, Elder & Co., 65 Cornhill, London, 1861.  A later version, Extracts from Letters and Notes made during the Siege of Delhi in 1857, by General Sir Charles Reid, GCB, was published by Henry S. King & Co., 65 Cornhill, London, in 1886.  This Edition, when reproduced by the Regiment to commemorate the centenary of Delhi, was entitled 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Goorkhas (The Sirmoor Rifles) 1857-1957. Centenary of the Siege of Delhi.  The Defence of the Main Picqet at Hindoo Rao’s House and other posts on the Ridge as recorded by Major Reid, Commanding The Sirmoor Battalion, and printed by W.G. Kingham (Printers) Ltd, King’s Langley, 1957.

[7] Copies of letters regarding the recruiting of Gurkhas exist in the British Library, India Section, which Charles Reid wrote while holding this appointment during May 1866.

[8] AG’s letter 1299-D dated 3 March 1876 authorised the hand-over of the Colours to him.  From 1895 the Colours were hung in the RUSI until its Museum contents were dispersed when they were lodged in the 60th Rifles’ Regimental Museum in Peninsula Barracks, Winchester until they were transferred to the National Army Museum, where they remain today.

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