The Sirmoor Battalion, which through various interim designations eventually became the 2nd King Edward VII’s own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles), was privileged to have many capable and gallant officers and men serve in its ranks during its 179 year history. These remarkable men established the Regiment, led it through the numerous campaigns in which it took part, and through their bravery, commitment and skill ensured it had a reputation second to none in the armies in which it served.
It is not possible to list them all, and the term ‘distinguished’ is to some extent open to subjective opinion. The majority in the list below were leaders who earned their reputation at war, but it also includes some to whom circumstances did not provide an opportunity to prove themselves in hard-fought battles or lengthy campaigns but nonetheless rose to high rank on the basis of their abilities and made significant contributions to the Regiment in other ways.
Please click on the links below to jump to the story of the named individual.
- General Frederick Young.
- Major General Arthur Battye CB
- Major General Charles Norie CB CMG DSO
- Lieutenant Colonel Edward Sweet CMG DSO
- General Sir Kenneth Wigram GCB CSI CBE DSO
- Colonel Guy McCleverty DSO MC
- Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Woollcombe
- Brigadier William Gough MC
- Major General Sir Harry Watson KBE CB CMG CIE MVO
- Field Marshal Sir John Lyon Chapple GCB CBE DL MA
- Brigadier Peter Collins CB CSI DSO OBE ADC
- Brigadier Lionel Showers DSO
- General Sir Charles Reid GCB
- Major General O de T ‘Os’ Lovett CB CBE DSO*
- Major General Godfray Hind CSI MC KStJ
- Captain John Fisher
- Lieutenant General Sir Francis Tuker KCIE, CB, DSO, OBE
- Lieutenant Colonel John Kitson
- Major General Frederick Loftus-Tottenham CBE DSO*
- Captain Bernard Hancock
- Major General Donald Macintyre VC
- Colonel Etienne Boileau CB CIE CBE
- Colonel Leslie Shakespear CB CIE
- Lieutenant Colonel Charles (‘Sammy’) Wingfield DSO MVO
- Brigadier General Donald Watt CIE DSO
- Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Dallas-Smith MC
- Subedar-Major Singbir Thapa, Sirdar Bahadur, OBI
- Honorary Lieutenant Arjun Rana OBI IOM
(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 edition of ‘The Sirmooree’, the Regimental journal. The author, Rachel Magowan, is a descendant of Frederick Young).
The Lal Gate in Dehra Dun, 2016
The Sirmoor Rifles was formed as the Sirmoor Battalion in 1815 – as all Sirmooris know and as the plaques on the Lal Gate at Dehradun and the Memorial at the Pokhara Museum remind us. Constructed to mark the Gurkha centenary in 1915 and updated for the bicentenary in 2015 the Lal Gate is in the Garhi cantonment at Dehradun. Nearby ‘Young Road’ is named after Frederick Young, who raised the Regiment and for many years was responsible for the garrison there.
Frederick’s grandfather, Robert Young, was also my direct antecedent so I am Frederick’s first cousin, six generations removed. I have always been interested in the life of my distinguished relative and have taken a keen interest in researching it. Much of the known detail, and many of the quotations below, come from a biography of him written by his daughter Louisa published in 1923. While not always entirely reliable, her book provides very good insights into his story and the kind of man he was. I also learned a lot from attending the 2015 Sirmoor Durbar in Nepal and, inspired by the account of the 2016 Sirmoor Club Nepal trip to the area in The Sirmooree #79, I visited Dehradun, Kalunga, Jaitak and Mussoorie in January 2020.
Origins and Family Background
Frederick Young, the son of the Reverend Gardiner and Catherine Young (née Richardson) was born at Greencastle, County Donegal, on 30th November 1786. Frederick’s father, whose elder brother George had inherited the Young family’s estate at nearby Culdaff, became the Church of Ireland Rector of Moville parish. Frederick, the fourth of seven children, was baptised at St Finian’s Church, Greencastle, on the shores of Lough Foyle, on 10th December 1786.
Aged 15, Frederick obtained a cadetship to the Honourable East India Company, at a time when recruits were required to be ‘not less than 4’ 9” [1.45m] in height’. On arrival at Calcutta in July 1802, Ensign Young, ‘a regular Johnny Raw from the Bogs’, learned Urdu at Barasat Cadet College, and then fought with the 1st Volunteer Battalion at Balasore, about 150 miles southwest of Calcutta, during the 2nd Mahratta War.
After becoming a Lieutenant with the 12th Native Infantry, in 1805 he participated in the unsuccessful siege of Bharatpur, a walled city with ‘massive double ramparts reinforced by eight bastions, surrounded by a wide, deep moat’. In the general chaos he fell from a scaling ladder into a ditch of debris, and was ‘given up for lost’. Fortunately uninjured, he managed to extricate himself and, ‘a miserable object covered with mud and blood’, rejoined his comrades.
Shortly afterwards he was transferred to the 13th Native Infantry where he served as Adjutant and Quartermaster for eight years. In his mid-twenties he was Aide-de-Camp to Colonel Rollo Gillespie for the Java Expedition in 1810. After landing at Cilincing (‘Chilling Ching’) he took part in the advance to Batavia, and the battles of Weltevreeden and Cornelis. In 1812 Frederick was ‘blown up and much burnt, but not dangerously’ during an attack on the palace at Yokyakarta (‘Jokjokarta’) in Java. Once again, he was ‘given up for lost’ but, as he later reassured his children, ‘I came back alright’.
Dehra Dun, taken from Kalunga Hill in 2020
After returning to India Frederick was seconded as Guide and Intelligence Officer to Gillespie’s 2nd Division, attempting to stabilise the 700-mile border of Bengal against repeated ‘nibbling encroachments’ emanating from the Gorkha region in Nepal. In October 1814 he took part in the attempt to capture Kalunga Fort, one of a line of Gorkha-held hilltop beacon forts in the Doon valley. Surrounded by dense undergrowth and a 12’ high palisade of rough-hewn logs and rocks, the fort was situated atop the 600’ Kalunga Hill, five miles outside Dehra.
Gillespie described the challenge it posed: ‘The fort stands on the summit of an almost inaccessible mountain, covered with an impenetrable jungle; the only approaches… stiffly stockaded. It will be a tough job to take it’. He also noted the bravery and tenacity of the 600 men in the garrison, commanded by Captain Balbhadra Kunwar.
Gillespie was killed during the attack on 31st October, reportedly dying in Frederick Young’s arms. The assault was suspended and the fort razed to the ground three weeks later, after the besieged defenders, deprived of their water supply, had escaped under cover of darkness.
The bravery, skill and steadfastness of the Gorkhas was openly admired by their British counterparts: ‘They fought us in fair conflict like men’ (James Fraser); ‘I never saw more steadiness or bravery exhibited in my life. Run they would not and of death they seemed to have no fear’ (John Shipp). A two-pillar memorial, erected by the British on the Sahastradhara Road in the 19th century, commemorates ‘our gallant adversary Bulbudder, Commander of the Fort and his brave Ghoorkhas’ as well as the British officers and men who died. There is a 15m high memorial to ‘the brave Gorkhalis who fought here’, at the top of the tree-clad Kalunga Hill, erected in 2009 by ‘Gorkhas from all over India’.
By February 1815 Gillespie’s replacement, Major General Martindell, had, with great difficulty, begun blockading Jaitak, another Gorkha hilltop fort, situated about 70 miles west of Dehradun, 4,500 feet above sea level.
As Fortescue relates in ‘A History of the British Army’ Volume XI, several men laden with camp-equipment, and at least two elephants, met their deaths falling over precipices on the slippery mountain paths. Mortars, howitzers and light field guns had a negligible effect on the stockades of the beleaguered garrison. Meanwhile the Gorkhas, commanded by Ranjer Sing and successfully supplied by detachments of their own forces, watched with interest as roads enabling 18-pounder guns to be dragged into position were laboriously constructed down below.
On 21st February 1815 Frederick and a group of about 1400 ‘irregulars’ attempted to intercept a relief force of Gurkhas marching from Jumna to Jaitak. Caught at Chinalgurh, a village on the Sine mountain. In a surprise attack of 400 men led by Azumber Punt Qazee, several of the irregulars panicked and ran for their lives.
According to Frederick’s daughter Louisa, he and the small group of officers were rapidly outnumbered, surrounded and taken prisoner; he spent his time in captivity learning Gurkhali, studying Gurkha customs, and developing a relationship of mutual respect with the Gurkhas.
In the absence of any documentary evidence, Louisa’s account of her father’s hillside capture has been disputed by various modern historians, including John Pemble (1971), and Turtle Bunbury (2009), the latter dismissing the story as ‘an embellished tale’ recounted to an adoring daughter by ‘a whiskery old General living back in Ballybrack’. If Frederick was actually taken prisoner on 21st February 1815, it can only have been for a short time as within five days he had sent his superiors a report detailing the numbers of men from each of the eleven different regional groups who had been engaged in the operation, with a breakdown of the numbers from each group who had deserted, been wounded, or killed.
Ranjer Singh surrendered at Jaitak in May 1815, after his father General Amar Singh Thapa had capitulated to Major General Ochterlony at Malaun. Both were allowed to march out of their respective forts with the honours of war, carrying their private property with them.
Currently owned by Rajah Ajay Bahadur Singh, Jaitak Fort is nowadays accessible by road, enabling visitors to appreciate the breathtaking views from this strategic site, memorably depicted in an 1820 aquatint by James Baillie Fraser. For a full account of the Battle of Jaitak, covering the subsequent formation of both the Sirmoor Battalion and several Gorkhali units in the Nepalese Army, see the article by Brigadier General (retired) Dr Kesharbahadur Bhandari PhD, late Nepalese Army, which was published in Sirmooree #81.
Whether or not he actually spent time in captivity, Frederick had evidently become proficient in Gurkhali by 1815, when his listing in the East India Register and Directory changed from ‘Adjutant and Quartermaster’ to ‘Interpreter, 2nd Battalion’. He had also developed a high regard for the Gurkhas and their fighting skills.
Raising the Sirmoor Battalion
Later in 1815 Frederick was placed in charge of a number of Gurkha prisoners at Paonta Sahib, a town about 30 miles west of Dehradun. Famous for its historic Sikh Gurudwara, it is now an industrial city with 25,000 inhabitants situated on the river Yamuna, the state boundary between Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Frederick requested permission to free the prisoners and then give them the opportunity to volunteer in the company’s service. ‘If they do – and I feel sure that many will – I undertake to raise in a short time a body of soldiers that will not disgrace you, or the country, or myself’.
His request was approved. He spoke to the prisoners, and his proposal proved very successful: ‘I went there one man. I came back three thousand!’. A mixture of freed prisoners-of-war, men who had served in the irregular force which Frederick had previously commanded, and men who came from other sources as voluntary recruits, these 3,000 men formed the nucleus of the Sirmoor, Nurseera and Kumaon battalions in the Gurkha Brigade.
This procedure was later formalised by the Treaty of Sagauli, signed in 1816, by means of which Britain received the right to recruit men from the Pahar hill districts into the British army in return for officially recognising the Kingdom of Nepal.
Frederick was made a Captain on 8th January 1816. In addition to being ‘Interpreter and Quartermaster’, he was listed in the East India Company Directory as being ‘in command of the Sirmoor Battalion’, headquartered at cantonments west of Dehradun, a role which he retained until 1843.
Dehradun (also transcribed as ‘Dehra Doon’), the most northerly district in the Meerut Division, is an oblong-shaped area, about 45 miles by 15 miles, of well-wooded, undulating land, lying between the Himalayas to the North-East and the Sewalik hills to the South-West. It is bounded by two river valleys: the Yamuna (‘Jumna’) river to the North-West, and the Ganges to the South-East.
Given the honorary title of Colonel and a free hand, Frederick, the first commander of the Sirmoor Battalion, chose his own officers and reported his soldiers operationally ready within six months.
Around this time Frederick built a house at Nalapani, about five miles northeast of the town of Dehradun. Being a ‘well-defined object’ at Nalapani, ‘Cap. Young’s House’ was used to assist in the surveying process. The location of ‘Cap. Young’s House’ south of the ‘crossed swords’ symbol indicating the battle site of Kalunga Hill, is shown on a map drawn by Morgan Dove Blandford, Assistant Surveyor, from a revenue survey conducted for the Board of Commissioners in 1818 by Lieutenant Alexander Gerard.
The 1818 Map of Nalapani showing ‘Cap. Young’s House’
3rd Mahratta War
The Sirmoor Battalion, the first Gurkha regiment to fight, saw action in the 3rd Mahratta War of 1817-18, where they excelled themselves in the Reserve Division, assisting Ochterlony’s Grand Army in the campaign against the Mahrattas and Pindaris. As a reward they were nominated to escort to Delhi the 300 guns which had been surrendered by the Mahratta Army.
Over the next few years the Sirmoor Battalion was frequently called on by Frederick Shore, Superintendent of Dehra, to protect villages in the Eastern Doon from dacoit raids. Colonel Shakespear describes two such incidents in the first volume of the History of the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles:
‘Information of an intended raid on the wealthy village of Thano, 18 miles South-East of Dehra and lying under the hills, was received by the Civil Authorities, on which Captain Young moved out with two companies, and was able to intercept them, driving them off and dispersing them in a brief fight just below the village’.
In May 1823 the presence of the Sirmoor Battalion was sufficient to deter a planned raid on Nawada:
‘On further information of a coming incursion into the district with Nawada Captain Young again moved out rapidly and blocked the north entrances of the two passes through the Sewaliks, debouching into the Doon in the vicinity of Kansrao. The raiders, however, got wind of the preparations for their reception, and retired down the Betban Rao to the plains without coming into conflict with our men’.
In 1824 the Sirmoor Battalion received an urgent request for help from the magistrate of Saharanpore. After marching 36 miles to Koonja, a fort in the Eastern Doon occupied by about 800 Goojars, they forced open the massive wooden door with an improvised battering ram. In recognition of this achievement the ‘ram’s head’ symbol was added to their regimental accoutrements.
In the 1860s, long after Frederick had retired, his daughter Louisa met ‘an old man’ who lived with his wife at Muree, a beautiful hill station frequented by those posted to Rawalpindi. In conversation she was delighted to find that the man, De Bude, had not only known her father; he had been the ‘young engineer’ who, helped by Dr Royle, had improvised the battering-ram at Koonja Fort.
Peacetime: Road-Building, Irrigation Projects and Surveying
From the mid-1820s the military activities of the Sirmoor Battalion’s early years were followed by a period of peace lasting around twenty years. In Dehradun Frederick instigated civil works to open up the district, building roads from Dehra to Kalsi and Rajpore, and carrying out irrigation projects to regenerate disused dams, canals and water tanks.
One such project, the restoration of the Rajpore aqueduct, which was completed by Colonel Proby Cautley and Captain Henry Kirke in 1844, supplied the inhabitants of Dehra with drinking water from the head of the Raspunnah torrent at the foot of the Himalayas.
As one letter home to his family in Ireland attests, Frederick participated in surveying duties in the region, a task which he thoroughly enjoyed:
‘Sept. 1815. I leave next month on a trip of observation from which I expect the greatest pleasure. I am to make a sweep of 31 marches through a country little known to Europeans, and abounding in all kinds of natural curiosities. I have got private instructions to take my surveying materials for a map of the country. I intend to move to the bank of the Sutlej where it issues from the snows, then turn to the right and move along the bottom of the snowy range of hills to the sources of the Jumna. Can you imagine anything more delightful than such a life?’
At Dehradun Frederick continued to assist with survey work, coordinating operations for the ‘Great Trigonometrical Survey of India’ with George Everest, the ‘Kompass-wallah’ after whom Peak XV was eventually named.
In 1823 Frederick and his friend Frederick Shore, the Joint Magistrate and Superintendent of the Revenues of the Dun, built a small wattle and daub ‘shooting box’ on the Camel’s Back Road, 20 miles from Dehradun, and 6,000’ above sea level – the first such structure in the ‘Mussoorie’ region.
The splendid climate and good sport obtainable attracted other Europeans to the area, as the ‘Doon’ and the hills to the north became better known.
Mulliagoes, Mussoorie (‘The Potato Garden’; ‘Mullingar’) by L Hadow Jenkins (Frederick’s daughter) 1923
Frederick built ‘Mulliagoes’ (later renamed ‘Mullingar’), a two-storey house, in a beautiful valley at Mussoorie, where he is said to have planted the first tea plant and the first potato ever grown in the Himalayas. This house, nicknamed ‘The Potato Garden’, became a popular place for officers wishing to escape the hot season.
A third smaller building nearby, named ‘Mullingar Cottage’, is also attributed to Frederick on a map of the area published by J P Tassin at Calcutta in 1831.
No trace remains of the shooting box that Frederick Young and Frederick Shore built in 1823. In 1912 Colonel Shakespear described it as being on the site of ‘the present church’. The building named Mullingar became a hotel in the early part of the 20th century. During World War 2 it housed British evacuees from the Japanese-occupied areas and became an overflow sanatorium for wounded soldiers. After 1947 it gradually fell into disrepair. Located 70 miles from the border with Tibet, it became home to a number of migrant Tibetan families and now ‘prayer flags flutter in the wind every day, and Losar celebrations are held in the courtyard every year’.
Frederick loved the climate at Mussoorie, and was delighted when Charles Metcalfe, an early visitor, persuaded the Government to provide a sanatorium for convalescent soldiers at the eastern end of the Landour ridge, in 1827. The sanatorium gradually became a full British Military Hospital with staff specialising in tropical diseases. It was closed soon after 1947. By 2013 the buildings, together with those of the Soldiers’ Furlough Home (a holiday location for British soldiers unable to return to Europe) were occupied by the Institute of Technology Management of the Defence Research and Development Organisation of India, while the former nurses’ home had become known as ‘Sisters’ Bazaar’.
In addition to his duties at Dehradun, Frederick became Commandant of the Hill Depot at Landour, a military cantonment to the east of Mussoorie. He spent the hot summer months in the hills at his house at Mussoorie, while performing his duties at Landour, and the cooler winter months in the valley at Dehradun.
After Frederick Shore moved to the Central Provinces in 1829 Frederick, now aged 43, was appointed Superintendent of Dehradun whose population then was about 20,000 people. The 23,000 inhabitants of Jounsar Bawur (Chakrata Hills, across the river Jumna) were subsequently added to his charge. He combined his military role with the offices of Collector, Magistrate, and Postmaster of the Doon. His responsibilities gradually became more political as his mixture of military and civilian duties increased. He became responsible for managing relations with the Rajah of Garhwal in 1830, and was appointed Political Agent at Dehradun in 1833.
At the age of 38 Frederick had married Jeanette Bird, the daughter of Colonel John and Mary Bird at Meerut in 1825. Jeanette, who was born at Berhampore in 1808, was 17 years old at the time of their marriage.
Frederick and Jeanette had eight children: one son and seven daughters, six of whom survived to adulthood. Their four eldest children, Catherine (‘Kate’), Eliza, Susan and Mary, were baptised in the summer months at Mussoorie between 1827-31. Eliza died shortly before her fourth birthday, becoming, in 1832, the 14th person to be buried at Chandranagar Cemetery, Dehradun. Louisa, the fifth child, was born at Dehradun in 1834; her brother Charles and sisters Hatton and Marion followed between 1836-39.
Frederick Young’s House, Dehra Dun
At Dehradun the family initially lived on Rajpur Road, on the site now occupied by the Astley Hall shopping complex and the office of the Central Bank of India. Frederick eventually built a more substantial house in Dehradun, further along Rajpur Road. The house, which faced North, had a large porch with a balcony over the front entrance from where he traced the outlines of the Great Bear and the Polar Star for his daughter Louisa.
Occupied by the Bank of Upper India in 1912, Frederick’s former residence was taken over by St Joseph’s Academy in 1934. It was demolished and replaced by a new building in 2008.
Robber’s Cave, Guchhupani
In 1837 Frederick hosted Lord Auckland, Governor-General of India, and his Viceregal party, at Dehradun, while they were travelling from Calcutta to Simla.
Already impressed by the beautiful hills and valleys of the area, Emily Eden (Auckland’s sister), described an afternoon picnic when ‘Colonel Y’ took them to the ‘Robber’s Cave’, and persuaded them to wade along the stream inside:
The Robber’s Cave in 2020.
The Robber’s Cave
‘When we got near the cave, we found Colonel Y, Dr G and Captain M at the entrance of a dark grotto, through which a stream was running. ‘Nothing to walk through’, Colonel Y said, ‘not more than two feet deep, or two feet and a half at most’ and so in they all went to a beautiful cavern, about 500 yards long’.
Listed online as a ‘must-see’ attraction in the Dehradun area, Robber’s Cave at Guchhupani is now a popular picnicking, hiking and wading spot, where the Nalota stream runs through a deep, narrow gorge. Wading visitors are warned to ‘expect to be knee-height in water’ and advised to carry ‘spare lower wear and water-friendly footwear’.
1839 Portrait of Frederick Young
Frederick was about 53 years old, and a Lieutenant-Colonel, when in 1839 his portrait was painted by John Reynolds Gwatkin, an artist born at Kissengange, India.
This portrait of Frederick was included in the 1912 edition of Colonel L W Shakespear’s History of the 2nd King Edwards Own Goorkhas. In 1923 Louisa Hadow Jenkins also used it as the frontispiece for her biography of her father.
Frederick had become a Colonel with his wife and children all living in Ireland when, in June 1842 he was appointed as a Brigadier, 2nd class, to command the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Army of Reserve, for the second phase of the First Afghan War.
A few months later he was transferred to the Bundelkhand Agency, to command ‘a series of petty operations to quell disturbances which had broken out there’.
One such ‘disturbance’, the Bundela Revolt in the cities of Sagar and Damoh (550 miles south of Dehra Dun), arose in 1842 out of resentment against British land revenue policy. A summary of ‘Tribal and non-Tribal Rebellions against the British’ (available on the website of the 2021 Civil Service exam, India) mentions that the Bundelas, led by Madhukar Shah and Jawahir Singh, murdered police officers and disrupted British administration. The revolt was subdued when Shah and Singh were eventually captured and executed. As the Indian Mail noted a few months later: ‘The insurgents in Bundelkhund are quieter’.
Around this time Frederick sold his Mussoorie house to Mauger Fitzhugh Monk, a Guernsey-born teacher with Irish family connections in Co Westmeath. Monk renamed the building ‘Mullingar’ and transformed it into a school.
Furlough in Ireland
Reunited with his wife and children, Frederick, aged 58, finally spent two years on furlough in the north of Ireland. An enthusiastic host, he relished the opportunity to catch up with the friends and relations he had not seen since leaving for India at the age of 15.
‘Up the broad carriage-drive visitors came and went, and never was there a more courteous and popular entertainer. At the big dinner-parties he could not fail to recount at times the wondrous things he had seen and known in exploring that beautiful land, then an unknown country; they were marvels indeed to his untravelled listeners’.
From their home at Ballysally, near Coleraine, Frederick and Jeanette did their best to keep up with the news from India. They read, with great sorrow, the recently published version of Lady Florentina Sale’s ‘Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan 1842-43’, about the events leading up to the Retreat from Kabul in January 1842. Louisa identified why they found the account so upsetting: ‘Nearly all the people there were well-known to my parents, and some were intimate acquaintances and friends’.
‘Colonel Young, of the Bengal Army’ met Sir Robert and Lady Sale at Corporation Hall, Derry on 6th September 1844 when together with Captain George Lawrence (a former Foyle College pupil, and a former Afghan captive), he was a top table guest at ‘the most splendid and respectably attended banquet ever held in this city’. About 180 local members of the ‘clergy, gentry and merchants’, including two of Frederick’s County Donegal relations (‘George Young, Esq., JP, Culdaff’, and ‘Brook Young’) attended the festive event.
During Frederick’s absence the Sirmoor Battalion was commanded by John Fisher, who wrote him a long letter describing their involvement in the First Sikh War, from their march to Ludhiana to their success at the Battle of Aliwal in January 1846. Poignantly, a fortnight after putting pen to paper, Fisher himself was killed in action at the Battle of Sobraon. ‘The death of John Fisher was a greater sorrow than any that had gone before’, wrote Louisa, whose father had received notification of his colleague’s death some time before the cheerfully descriptive letter reached him in Ireland.
Accompanied by his wife and three elder daughters Kate, Susy and Mary, all approaching marriageable age, Frederick returned to India in 1846 and was given the command of the Ferozepore Brigade.
The significance of this posting is indicated in the following comment by ‘one who knew and loved him’, as quoted by Louisa:
‘This was a most important post, for there were murmurs of a second Sikh War [the ‘Punjab Campaign’], and as Ferozepore was our Northern Frontier in that country he had not only to keep all troops ready for instant action, but to guard carefully against surprises and conspiracies’
Frederick and Jeanette were living at Ferozepore when their daughter Susy, the first to leave home, married Lieutenant Anstruther Mactier, a young widower in the 11th Cavalry, in 1848.
The Second Anglo-Sikh war erupted in April 1848, and concluded, almost a year later, after the Battle of Gujrat. Louisa cites Henry Lawrence (brother of George, another former Foyle College pupil) advocating that the victors should ‘deal generously with a noble, though vanquished, foe’, and quotes an (unreferenced) tribute to the fallen enemy: ‘In the hour of battle they proved themselves a worthy foe – as, in the days to come, they were to prove themselves worthy comrades-in-arms’.
Frederick’s time at Ferozepore ended in 1849 when he was given command of the Dinapore division. In November of that year he and Jeanette were at Mussoorie and were witnesses at the marriage of their eldest daughter Kate to Charles Hamilton Fasson, an Assistant Surgeon with the 14th Light Dragoons.
While en route from Ferozapore to Dinapore, Frederick suddenly received an order to proceed directly to Darjeeling, to take up a new assignment as commander of a large force being assembled there in preparation for an invasion of Sikkim. Ordered by Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General, this invasion was intended to punish the Rajah of Sikkim, who was demanding territorial concessions while holding Mr Archibald Campbell, the Political Resident, and Dr Joseph Hooker, a British botanist, whose father was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, as hostages. Campbell had negotiated Hooker’s entry to Sikkim, after which Hooker had spent 10 months travelling in the country, as part of a 3-year plant-collecting expedition in the Himalayas.
Frederick’s experience in hill warfare was the reason why he had suddenly been chosen for this task. But his experience, which included the painful lessons learned at Kalunga and Jaitak, only served to convince him that it would be disastrous for troops with fully-equipped cavalry and heavy guns to make any attempt to invade the ‘mighty mountains’ of Sikkim, particularly in wintertime.
His delicately modified proposal – to enter Sikkim from Darjeeling as a show of strength, but then to stall the invasion and demand concessions from (rather than ‘make concessions to’) the Rajah – was approved by Sir Charles Napier, Commander-in-Chief, on 20th February 1850.
By this time a force of 14,000 men was being assembled in Darjeeling, where the ‘Great Rungeet’ river formed the boundary between Bengal and the mountains of Sikkim. Frederick, aged 63, met Hooker, who had returned to Darjeeling after being released from captivity. Frederick evidently quizzed the young botanist about the terrain on the Sikkim side of the river. In his Himalayan Journal Hooker, then aged about 33, described his encounter with ‘the old gentleman, General Young, all in the clouds as to carrying out his orders of occupying Sikkim with a military force… a very nice old gentleman, and greatly obliged to me for my counsel, maps and information’.
The decision was taken to march and take the Rungeet Bridge as soon as possible. Hooker joined them: ‘I went down with the troops the other day and took possession of the bridge over the Great Rungeet and camped some 500 men in Sikkim’. Popular today with rafting enthusiasts because of its ‘turbulent waters’, the Rangeet river originates in the Himalayan mountains of Western Sikkim and is ‘fed by the melting snow of the Himalayas in early summer, and the monsoon rains from June to September’.
They were unopposed; and, per Frederick’s plan, did not attempt to proceed with the invasion at this stage. Hooker took the opportunity to resume his botanical studies but remained available to assist if his local knowledge should be required: ‘I returned to my plants at Darjiling, but expect to be summoned down very soon again’. He understood how essential his familiarity with the Sikkim landscape would be to the military: ‘Except Campbell and myself, no one knows anything of the country, and hence the marching of the troops without good guidance would be most unadvisable’.
Eventually, the Rajah conceded some territory (a ‘submontane strip of inconsiderable extent’), and, on Frederick’s recommendation, the invasion plan was called off: ‘The expedition was abandoned because the General from his experience in the Nepaul campaign reported the country as impracticable for British troops’.
The Rajah gave Frederick a large and very useful parting gift, which Jeanette described in a letter to the younger children: ‘The Rajah has given in. He gave your father a great big elephant, that carried some of his camp equipage through the Terai. It was in the compound afterwards at Dinapore, and was amusing to watch’.
The Sikkim diversion over, Frederick, Jeanette and the elephant moved on to Dinapore, where Frederick took up his posting as ‘Brigadier-General, commanding the Dinapore Division’. Louisa considered that this effectively marked his transition from active soldiering to peaceful duties:
‘When my father left Darjeeling with his staff – his camp-equipage following, the tents carried on the Rajah’s big elephant – his active soldiering was ended… but the command of the large brigade in Dinapore and the district, though it was to him more in the nature of a show-parade, was also a very responsible post’.
‘Taking the salute’ became one of his regular duties. Jeanette, an expert horsewoman, was present at these events and described the picturesque scene in a letter to Louisa and the younger children:
‘Your papa looks very fine on parade. His charger is a handsome white Arab, and with the rich saddle cloth, and gold lace and all the corners embroidered in gold it is a very gay affair! I attend all the reviews and inspections of troops with him and his staff. It is most amusing to see his five Officers, all in cocked hats – dashing about after him! My horse always fidgets as if he thought he should be leading too!’
At Dinapore Frederick acted as a witness at the marriage of his daughter Mary to Stewart Lambert Lyons-Montgomery, a Captain in the 80th Regiment, in November 1851. He was widowed a few months later when Jeanette died, aged 44, on 10th April 1852. His daughter Louisa, now 17, returned to India from the UK and married John Hadow Jenkins, an Ensign in the 44th Native Infantry, and Frederick’s Aide-de-Camp. Louisa and her husband lived with Frederick at Deegah, the General’s house at Dinapore, until he retired on promotion to Major-General, aged 68, in 1854. (For many years during the 19th Century senior officers continued to be promoted after they had ceased serving. The promotions filled dead men’s boots on the Unemployed Supernumerary List, so it was a matter of luck whether a vacancy existed or further promotions ensued. Frederick Young was promoted Major General on retirement on 12th June 1854, Lieutenant General on 18th February 1856, and full General on 28th March 1865.)
Retirement in Ireland
By the time Frederick retired, his son Charles was embarking on a military career with the 50th Queen’s Own Regiment of Foot. Four of his daughters were married to army officers, and ready to live where ever their husbands’ postings took them. A fifth daughter, Eliza, had died, aged four, in 1832. His sixth daughter, Hatton Caroline Young, had died of cholera aged 19, at Fortwilliam, Calcutta, in 1857.
Frederick’s youngest child, Marion, his seventh daughter, was about 15 years old. She and her father settled at Fairy Hill, near Bray Head, County Wicklow, Ireland, where they were joined by Frederick’s daughter Susy, who was widowed when, in July 1857, her husband died of epilepsy.
A painting of General Frederick Young, late in life, was completed by the well-known artist James Prinsep Beadle in 1928. As this was 54 years after his death, the assumption is that it was copied from an earlier portrait or photographs.
James, the son of Major General James Beadle and Margaret Jenkins (the sister of Louisa Young’s husband, John Hadow Jenkins), was born at Calcutta in 1863, and died in London, aged 83, in 1947. His uncle, John Hadow Jenkins, had served as Aide-de-Camp to Frederick Young in 1853-4.
The portrait of Frederick originally hung in the 2nd Goorkhas British Officers Mess and is currently on display at the Gurkha Museum in Winchester. It replaced Gwatkin’s 1839 portrait in the 1950 edition of Colonel L W Shakespear’s History of the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles.
Following the collapse of the Agra Bank, which left him in straightened circumstances, Frederick moved to Albany, a smaller home at Ballybrack, County Dublin where he died, aged 87, on 22nd May 1874. He was buried at Deansgrange Cemetery, Dun Laoghaire, a few days later.
In 2015 representatives of the 2nd Goorkhas, including the President and Honorary Secretary of the Sirmoor Club, added a plaque to Frederick’s grave at a Service of Remembrance organised by John McCann, Supervisor at Deansgrange Cemetery, to commemorate the bicentenary of the founding of the Sirmoor Battalion.
As reported in The Sirmooree #76, members of the Royal British Legion, Ireland, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association and Dun Laoghaire County Council also attended, as did The O’Morchoe (Major General David O’Morchoe), Dominick Chilcott the UK Ambassador, Max Walker the Defence Attaché, John Webster the Political Secretary, a historian Shabnam Vasisht, and several friends and members of the Young family circle.
Three of Frederick’s great-grandsons later served with the Gurkhas:
- Barry Hartwell (1880-1914), a grandson of Frederick’s daughter Louisa, served as a Captain in the 2nd Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles. He was killed in action at Festubert, France, in 1914, and is commemorated on the CWGC Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle.
- John Redmond (‘Rory’) Hartwell (1887-1970), another of Louisa’s grandsons, joined the 4th Gurkha Rifles in 1907, served in the 2nd Goorkhas 1928-30, and retired from army service in 1943 as an acting Major General. He donated the ‘Office Seal’ from Frederick’s time as a Major in Dehradun to the Gurkha Museum at Winchester, where it forms part of a cabinet display in the private dining room.
- Hugh Gascoyne Lyons-Montgomery (1913-1944), a grandson of Frederick’s daughter Mary, served as a Major with the 2nd Goorkhas. He was killed in action at Nagaland in 1944, and buried in the Kohima War Cemetery. A photograph of Hugh’s grave accompanied an article by Major Sudan Dewan is in Sirmooree #78.
(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.
Major General Charles Edward de Manley Norie was born in 1866, the second son of Major General Evelyn Norie late Indian Staff Corps and elder brother of Major F H Norie 6th Gurkha Rifles. He was educated at Fettes College and the Royal Military College Sandhurst and married Miss Grace Reynolds OBE.
He was gazetted in 1885 to The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and in 1887 transferred to the Indian Staff Corps and was attached to 2nd Regiment (Queen’s Own) Light Infantry. In 1888 he was attached to the 2nd Goorkhas on probation. From 1891 to 1896 he was Quartermaster of the 1st Battalion and took part in the Manipur Campaign in 1891. He was Adjutant from 1896 to 1897. He was a fine shot and a member of the 1st Battalion’s Shooting Team which won the Officers’ Match at the Bengal Presidency Rifle Association meeting in 1897.
Norie served with distinction with the 1st Bn during the Tirah Campaign of 1897-8. He participated in operations against the Khani Khel and Chamkannis tribesmen on the Samana Ridge, the Relief of Gulistan, the actions at Chagru Kotal and Dargai, the capture of the Sampagha and Arhanga Passes, operations in the Waran Valley, around Dwatoi and in the Bara Valley. He distinguished himself on more than one occasion especially during the Battle of Dargai 1897 for being ‘conspicuously forward at the commencement of the action’ , and later in the Waran Valley when he commanded the Rear Guard of
the 3rd Brigade of the Tirah Field Force in the move over the Tseri-Kandao Pass. For these two actions he was mentioned in despatches and promoted Brevet Major. During the subsequent march down the Bara Valley when he was again commanding the Rear Guard, he was helping a dhoolie when he was
severely wounded. His left arm was shattered just below the shoulder and had to be amputated the following afternoon. This did not prevent him from continuing many of his preferred sports. According to Lt Col Edward Sweet, in April 1898 Norie, using Sweet’s shotgun, successfully shot four partridges from an elephant howdah – ‘a remarkable feat considering he had lost his left arm in the Tirah less than six months before‘.
On completion of leave he attended the Staff College and in 1900 he took part in the South African War 1899 – 1902 where he was a Special Services Officer on the Lines of Communication including Staff Duties under an Assistant Inspector General. Afterwards he was on the Staff and titled as a ‘ ‘Commandant ‘ and graded as a Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (DAAG) Norie was awarded the Distinguished Service Order as well as being mentioned in despatches in September 1901 and again in June 1902 for his work in South Africa.
On his return to India he was appointed Assistant Instructor at the Garrison School, Dalhousie, Lahore until April 1903 when he became officiating DAAG Narbudda District until November 1903. In early 1904 he became DAAG Eastern Command, an appointment which he held for the next three years. In July 1907, Norie was transferred to the 2nd Bn as Second in Command and joined it at Dehra Dun from HQ Staff at Naini Tal. From April 1911 until December 1914 he was Commandant of the 2nd Battalion. During his command and prior to the outbreak of hostilities of the First World War, Norie started the 2nd dairy and farm at Dehra Dun and did much good work in the Lines in countering soil erosion and the filling-in of nullahs. In April 1914 Norie was a temporary GSO1 in 8th Division , but he returned to the 2nd Battalion in August 1914 in time to take it to France. There he commanded it during the two early major actions: the night attack in the orchard near Neuve Chapelle on 2 November (147 casualties including the loss of 7 British and 4 Gurkha officers) for which Norie was mentioned in despatches, and the second at La Quinque Rue on 20 December 1914 (132 casualties including the loss of 1 British and 2
Gurkha officers). Norie’s younger brother who had retired in 1912, volunteered for active service was attached to the 2nd Battalion as a French interpreter, was severely wounded in the 2 November night attack and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Norie left the 2nd Battalion in January 1915 to become GSO1 Meerut Division and as such took part in the Battles of Neuve Chapelle on 9 March 1915 and Aubers Ridge on 9 -10 May 1915 .He was then appointed Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General (DAQMG) Indian Corps as a Temporary Brigadier General until September 1915 when he was given command of the Bareilly Brigade which took part in the Battle of Loos. He was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Serbian Order of The White Eagle (3rd Class ) with Swords. When the India Corps left France, Norie was sent to Mesopotamia where he commanded from January 1916 the 21st (Bareilly) Indian Infantry Brigade as part of the 7th Meerut Division which had been sent from France to reinforce the India Expeditionary Force D which was already in theatre). His brigade took part in the Battles of Sheik Sa’ad, Wadi , Um elHanna and Sannayat . On two occasions he officiated in command of the 7th Meerut Division and was awarded the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George and was mentioned in despatches. He then led his brigade in the advance on Baghdad and its occupation in March 1917 for which he was again mentioned in despatches.
In May 1917 Norie was invalided to India and appointed to command the Poona Brigade from where he retired from the Indian Army in September 1920 and moved to Bovill’s Hall, Ardleigh, Essex. However, presumably as a result of both his wound and much hard campaigning it was known that Norie spent much time convalescing in Montreux, Switzerland. He was Colonel of the 2nd Goorkhas from July 1925 until he died in London in July 1929.
Sweet in France in 1915
Lieutenant Colonel Edward Sweet was born in 1871, the son of the Rev George Sweet. He was educated at Blundells School and Haileybury College. He later married Miss Hilda Royall.
He was first gazetted in 1888 to a Commission in the 3rd Battalion (Militia) The Gloucester Regiment . In 1892 he received a Regular Commission in The 18th Royal Irish Regiment at the Curragh and in 1896 transferred to the Indian Staff Corps when he was attached to the 27th Punjab Infantry at Rawalpindi (on probation). In 1897 he transferred to the 2nd Battalion Goorkhas. He acquired the nickname ‘Jujube’, the archaic word for ‘sweet’.
Sweet served in the Tirah Campaign, at first with the 2nd Battalion on the Lines of Communication being present on the operations during August and September 1897 on the Samana Ridge. In January 1898 he was transferred to the 1st Battalion, staying with them until January 1898 on the North West Frontier before being sent to Dehra Dun to command the 1st Battalion Depot. He was later a Wing Officer in the 1st Battalion.
After a year’s sick leave in the UK, Sweet returned to India. He was a fine shot and in 1899 was a member of the 1st Bn’s shooting team which won the C-in-C’s and Cawnpore cups at the Bengal Punjab Rifle Association Meeting. In August 1900 he went back to the 2nd Battalion and captained the battalion’s football team when it won the Garhwal Brigade Cup – the first time the Regiment had won it. Sweet was also an explorer and game shot. In 1905 he explored the Pamirs and shot three Ovis Poli (Marco Polo sheep). Their large spiralling horns were hung in the British Officers’ Mess in Dehra Dun.
Sweet served with the 2nd Battalion in Chitral where he was appointed Station Staff Officer to the Officer Commanding Chitral for a year before returning to the 1st Battalion as a Double Company Commander. Later that year he was appointed Military Assistant to the Political Agent in Gilgit where he was also Assistant Inspecting Officer Kashmir Imperial Service Infantry. From November 1906 to November 1908 Sweet was Tutor and Guardian to the Mian Sahib Raj Kumar Hari Sing, heir apparent of Kashmir .
Sweet returned to Regimental duties in 1909 when he was appointed as No 4 Double Company Commander in the 1st Battalion and in 1911 -12 took part in the Abor Expedition. He played an important part in the campaign and was mentioned in despatches. He returned to Dehra Dun in May 1912 when he seconded as Tutor and Guardian to His Highness the Maharajah of Bharatpur, a minor who he took to Wellington College in Berkshire. He remained in the UK until the outbreak of the First World War when in January 1915 , he joined the 2nd Battalion at Floringhem in France. He commanded No 1 Double Company until July 1915 when he acted both as temporary Second in Command and as Commandant (when Lieutenant Colonel Boileau was sick). He took part in the Battles of Neuve Chapelle (10 -12 March 1915), Aubers Ridge (9-10 May 1915 ), Festubert (15 -17 May 1915) and Loos (23 – 27 September 1915). Considering the high number of casualties suffered by British Officers in France during the First World War and the length of time Sweet spent on active service with the 2nd Battalion, his survival unscathed is quite remarkable.
Sweet left the 2nd Battalion in September 1915 to command 2nd Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles in France and Egypt. He accompanied it back to India in March 1916 where he reorganized it at Lansdowne (the home station of 8GR). He had barely arrived back in India when in April 1916 he was appointed
Commandant 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas, which he joined in Mesopotamia as part of 35th Brigade. He commanded them at the action at Beit Aiessa in November 1916, the battles along the Shat al Hai River on 1 and 5 February 1917, the River Tigris Crossing on 23 February 1917 and the actions at Diala River and beyond Deltawa, for which he was award the Distinguished Service Order and mentioned in despatches. Sweet was evacuated sick, but in March rejoined the battalion at Baquba to command it in the attack on the village of Band i Adhaim on 30 April 1917. He then went on leave in India before rejoining the 1st Battalion again to lead it the resumption of campaigning after the heat of the Summer, and in particular the actions near Kizil Robat in December 1917. An extract from General Sir Stanley Maude’s despatch of April 1917 highlights Sweet’s (and others’) very strong leadership when in command: ’…. as regards regimental commanders and those under them , it is not easy to do full justice to their sterling performances .Leadership has never faltered …in the bitterest of struggles.’
Sweet continued in command of the 1st Battalion and was present at the actions at Mirjana , Kardarrah , Jasun and Tel Suliman. From July 1918 he was officiating commander of 36th Brigade at Tak-i-Ghari before rejoining the 1st Battalion at Kermanshah. He then remained with them in North Persia at Yanggi-Khan, Sram Sagli and Zinjan until February 1919, for which he was again mentioned in despatches.
Sweet then went on UK leave during which time he was attached to the Indian Peace Contingent based at Hampton Court under command of Major General E Money CB MC and given charge of a mixed company of Sikhs and Gurkhas. Having returned to the 1st Battalion in December 1919, he was with it at Kazvin and at Enzeli until March 1920 during which time he again officiated in command of 36th Brigade as well as the 1st Battalion and was again mentioned in despatches. By June 1920 he was at Menzil commanding ‘Sweetcol‘, a mobile column comprising:
– 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas
– 1 Company 42nd Deolis
– 1 Section machine guns Royal Irish Fusiliers
– 1 Troop Guides Cavalry plus 2 x Hotchkiss guns
– 1 Section 31st Mountain Battery Royal Artillery
– 1 Section 19th Sappers & Miners
– 1 Section 15th Light Armoured Motor Battery
– 1 Section 48th Signal Company
Sweetcol was disbanded after a few months and Sweet returned to commanding the 1st Battalion at
Kazvin as part of the North Persia Force until November 1920, when he eventually handed over command of the battalion after four and half years on active service to Major A Dallas-Smith. Sweet became a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for his services in Mesopotamia and
Sweet’s field service throughout the First World War had been continuous, starting in France with the 2nd Battalion, then with 2nd Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles in France and Egypt and later in command of the 1st Battalion during almost all its service in Mesopotamia and Persia. Although officially unemployed during the first part of 1921, Sweet commanded the Indian Contingent Camp at Delhi for the visit of the Duke of Connaught. For the remainder of the year he was on special duty at Delhi and Simla as Organizing Secretary for Earl Haig’s Ex Services Association. In January 1922 he retired to Berkshire and served as a Councillor on Wokingham Rural District Council. He was a member of the Regimental Association and The Sirmoor Club from its creation until his death on 17 September 1966. His decorations and medals belong to the 2nd Goorkhas’ Regimental Medal Collection. They are currently on loan to the Trustees of The Royal Gurkha Rifles and are on display in the Royal Gurkha Rifles’ Officers’s Mess in Seria, Brunei.
‘Jujube‘ Sweet’s obituary was written by Major General Geoffrey Hind CSI MC and published in The Sirmoor Club Newsletter 1966. He commented:
’Those who were lucky to serve under him, British and Gurkha alike, held him in the greatest affection and respect. Always cheerful and unruffled, even under the worst conditions, his humanity, his kindly sense of humour and his example kept all ranks happy and on their toes’.
General Sir Kenneth or ‘Kitty‘ Wigram was born in 1875, was the son of Mr Herbert Wigram of the Madras Civil Service and nephew of Colonel the Lord Wigram, Private Secretary to HM King George V. He was educated at Winchester College and Sandhurst before being gazetted in 1896 to The Duke of Cambridge’s Own Middlesex Regiment in India. In 1897 he was appointed to the Bombay Staff Corps joining the 28th Bombay Infantry (Pioneers) and taking part in the Mohmand Expedition and Tirah campaign of 1897 -1898.
Wigram on leave in UK in 1898 (photo extracted from a family group kindly identified by Mrs Cassie Kaye, whose late husband Major Johnny Kaye served in the 2nd Goorkhas and was distantly related to the Wigrams)
In 1898 Wigram transferred to 2nd Bn 2nd Goorkhas on the Samana Ridge and in 1900 was on temporary Plague Duty in the North -Western Provinces and Oudh, before joining the 1st Bn as Quartermaster in Dehra Dun in 1901. He later took part as officiating Adjutant in the Mahsud-Wazir Blockade of 1901-2 but by late 1903 he had left the Regiment to assume command of a yak transport corps and served as Quartermaster in The Younghusband Expedition to Tibet in 1904. He returned to the 1st Battalion in 1905 and was appointed Adjutant and served with it in Chitral from 1907 to 1909.
A skilled horseman, Wigram played in the 2nd Battalion team which won the Infantry Polo Cup – the first occasion when the trophy was secured by an Indian unit. Wigram received a special nomination to attend the Staff College, Camberley from 1911-1212 after which he was appointed GSO3 Military Operations Army HQ Simla where he remained until 1915 before becoming a GSO2 at
General HQ , France – and he was to remain a Staff Officer for the rest of the First World War.
In February 1916 he became GSO1 and in June 1916 he was promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel. From February 1917 to October 1918 he was Brigadier General Staff as Head of Operations (B Section) being made Brevet Colonel in January 1918. From October 1918 to April 1919 he was employed by the
Air Ministry as a Temporary Brigadier General (Air Staff) and given a temporary commission in the RAF as a Colonel while the employment lasted.
Wigram’s work as a wartime Staff Officer received remarkable recognition as evidenced by the awards and decorations he was given:
● 1916 – Mention in Despatches (2) – January and June 1916; Légion d’ Honneur, France Croix de Chevalier (5th Class) – February 1916; Distinguished Service Order – December 1916.
● 1917 – Mention in Despatches (3) – January , May and December 1917; Ordre de la Couronne , Belgium ,Commander (3rd Class) – February 1917.
● 1918 – Croix de Guerre , Belgium – March 1918; Mention in Despatches (1) – May 1918; Commander of the Order of the Bath – June 1918.
● 1919 – Mention in Despatches (1) – April 1919; Commander of the Order of the British Empire – May 1919.
On completion of his duties at the Air Ministry, Wigram returned to India and was appointed Director of Staff Duties Army HQ India from May 1919 to February 1921. He was again mentioned in despatches and awarded Companion of the Order of the Star of India. During February – March 1921 Wigram served as a member of the Imperial Service Troops Committee and represented Lord Rawlinson, C-in-C India, at the Imperial Conference, London. He was awarded Order of the Crown of Siam (2nd Class). He was appointed Commandant of the 2nd Battalion in April 1920 but remained in Staff appointments and did not assume command until April 1921. In October 1921 he attended the Washington Conference as military advisor to the Indian Delegation and returned to India in January 1922 to resume command of the 2nd Bn until September 1922. From then until April 1924 he commanded Delhi Independent Brigade Area and in October 1923 was promoted Major General. In April 1924 Wigram was appointed DA & QMG Northern Command, India, and in November 1926 GOC Waziristan District during which time he was promoted Lieutenant General and was advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.
In May 1931 Wigram became Chief of the General Staff in India and was promoted General. In July 1933 he was appointed ADC General to the King Emperor and in May 1934 he became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command, India until his retirement in June 1936. According to Lieutenant General Sir Francis Tuker, a later Colonel of the Regiment, he retired from the most responsible job in India besides Commander in Chief on a matter of principle.
Wigram was Colonel of the 2nd Goorkhas from March 1930 to December 1945. On retirement he joined the staff of the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House. He developed a keen interest in hospitals and in particular the Royal Cancer Hospital. He was a member of the Reorganization Council of the Nuffield Provincial Hospital Trust, Chairman of the Central
Provident Association and Vice President and Governor of the British United Provident Association (BUPA). He was a man of strong Christian faith, high principles and independent judgement who never married. He died in January 1949.
Tributes accompanying his obituary published in The Times included the following:
Lt Gen Sir Francis Tuker – ‘…the Gurkha soldier never had a greater admirer or one who would fight his battles with keener zest or greater ability whenever the need rose …..His distinguished career speaks of his ability. Whatever he did was inspired by these qualities; to him, it matters little if the outcome of his
endeavours was to be to his personal disadvantage .’
Chairman of the Royal Cancer Hospital – ‘ …He possessed a far seeing wisdom free from the least taint of personal motive and backed by indefatigable enthusiasm which often disregarded completely his own comfort and health. [This] enabled him to play an outstanding part in guiding the institution he loved.’
AHR [identity not known but presumably a senior official of BUPA] – ‘…in spite of failing health , he devoted his later years to social service …it was due in large measure to his foresight that it became possible to form the British United Provident Association which has ensured that provident benefits will continue to be available on a country wide basis for this who prefer private treatment …’
AJH – [identity not known] ‘ ….as churchwarden of St Matthew’s Westminster his daily presence at the altar, the humility and quiet dignity of his bearing, and his ever-increasing belief in the power of prayer have been a great and abiding inspiration to many of his fellow worshippers and will not soon be forgotten.’
General Wigram’s medals and decorations, which were in the Regimental Collection, were donated
by the Regimental Trustees to the Gurkha Museum Winchester in 1998.
‘One of the finest Regimental Officers I have ever met ‘
Field Marshal Lord Ironside GCB CMG DSO
McCleverty when in command of the 2nd Battalion
Colonel Guy McCleverty was born in 1885, the son of Colonel James McCleverty late The Sherwood Foresters (Derbyshire Regiment). Educated at Malvern College and the Royal Military College Sandhurst, he enjoyed a long and distinguished military career, taking a gallant part in nearly every Battle Honour gained by the Regiment in the First World War: La Bassee 1914, Neuve Chapelle, Aubers, Loos, Egypt 1915, Tigris 1916, Kut El Amara 1917, Baghdad and Persia 1918.
He was gazetted in 1905 to The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment, but later joined the Bedfordshire Regiment in India. In 1907 he was transferred to the Indian Army and joined 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas in Dehra Dun. He served with it in Chitral 1907 -1909 and took part on the Abor Expedition 1911 -1912 when he his good service was formally noted. McCleverty represented the Regiment at football and was a member of the 1st Battalion team which reached the final of the Gurkha Brigade Cup in 1910.
In 1914 McCleverty was posted to the 2nd Battalion and accompanied it to France. He was wounded in the attack on 2 November 1914 and mentioned in despatches. He rejoined in February 1915 , but was again wounded, shot through the arm in the attack on the Bois du Biez on 10 March 1915 when he was commanding No 1 Double Company. He later went back to the 2nd Battalion in Egypt before finally returning to Dehra Dun in March 1916. In May that year he transferred back to the 1st Battalion in Mesopotamia where he was mentioned in despatches and was awarded the Military Cross for an action on 3 July 1917. The citation, written by Lieutenant Colonel Sweet CMG DOS (qv) read as follows:
‘ This officer was my Adjutant in the 10.40hrs successful attack on 3rd July 1917. He had only taken over his duties as such at 04.00hrs when Capt H F F Marsh had been fatally wounded. Capt McCleverty did most sterling work in reorganising the three lines of trenches which had been carried in the assault, showing absolute disregard of danger. I consider that it was largely due to his efforts in stimulating the men to extra exertion and that when the Turkish counter attack came we were able to repel it without too much trouble.’
On return from leave in July 1917 he became Staff Captain Baghdad Garrison before rejoining the 1st Battalion in December. In June 1918 he led a force of 440 Gurkhas from Tel Suliman in Mesopotamia to Hamadan in north-west Persia. From there he carried out operations in Resht as part of Dunsterforce where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order . The citation read as follows:
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at Resht, Persia on 20 July 1918. Capt McCleverty was in command of a relief party sent to extricate a force besieged in a building. He displayed great courage and initiative and it was mainly due to his resource and daring leadership that the relief was successfully accomplished. His work throughput the operations was of a very
He returned to the 1st Battalion in Mesopotamia for the remainder of 1918 before assuming command of the Detachment at Resht until June 1919 when he was again mentioned in despatches. After six months UK leave McCleverty again returned to the 1st Battalion. In June 1920 he served as Staff Officer to
the Menjil Column before being appointed in October 1920 as GSO2 HQ 36 Indian Mixed Brigade/HQ British Forces North Persia. On 16 March 1921 McCleverty was appointed Commandant of the 1st Battalion and he brought them back to their home station of Dehra Dun, arriving on 19 June 1921.
McCleverty, also taken when he was in command of the 2nd Battalion
McCleverty was a student at the Staff College, Camberley, in 1922 -23 after which he was appointed, in October 1924, as Brigade Major 13 (Jhelum) Indian Infantry Brigade (subsequently converted to HQ Rawalpindi District) until November 1927. In January 1928 became Second-in-Command of the 2nd Battalion and subsequently became Commandant (Commanding Officer) from 5 May until December 1934.
During his period of command he also temporarily commanded Malakand Area and the Nowshera Brigade). After command he was appointed Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General (AA & QMG) Rawalpindi District, a post he held until left the Army on 16 August 1937.
McCleverty was married to Evelyn Ewart, the daughter of Major General Sir Richard Ewart KCMG CB CIE DSO ADC, late Indian Army. In retirement he took an active part in his local Civil Defence organisation, before holding various staff appointments at the War Office during World War Two, when at his own request he reverted to the rank of Major before being restored to the rank of Colonel in November 1945 .
He died in October 1972 and under the terms of his Will offered his house in Fleet, Hampshire to the Regiment, which was regretfully declined. He was Chairman of the Sirmoor Club from its earliest days until September 1965.
His medals, which were in the Regimental Collection, were donated to the Gurkha Museum by the Trustees of the Sirmoor Rifles Trust in 1999.
‘As a fighting commander he was beyond praise
– courageous, courteous, loyal and an inspiration to all ‘
Extract from a letter written to Mrs Violet Woollcombe, Geoffrey Woollcombe’s mother,
by Lieutenant Colonel D B Robertson 2GR
Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Harley Douglas Woollcombe was born on 27 November 1898, son of G D Woollcombe, a solicitor of Cranmere, Newton Abbot, Devon. He was the cousin of Captain MHA Woollcombe who served in the 3rd Battalion, commanding A Company at the Battle of Tamandu and also of Captain DB Harley of the 1st Battalion who was Signals Officer at the Battle of Monte Cassino. He was educated at Marlborough College. He never married.
Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Woollcombe
Geoffrey Woollcombe was gazetted to the Unattached List for the Indian Army from the Cadet College, Wellington, Tamil Nadu, South India and posted to the 2nd Goorkhas. In November 1916 he joined the 2nd Battalion in Dehra Dun. He was cross-posted to the 3rd Battalion when it was raised in June 1917 as Quartermaster, but owing to ill health he shortly afterwards rejoined the 2nd Battalion when it went to Burhan near Rawalpindi in the North West Frontier Province.
In March 1918 Woollcombe was with the 2nd Battalion when it joined the Marri Field Force in Baluchistan. He also served in the Third Afghan War (May-August 1919) for which he was mentioned in despatches. He was appointed officiating Adjutant and confirmed in that appointment in October 1921 and remained at battalion duties until April 1933 when he officiated as GSO3 (a Captain’s staff appointment) at HQ Peshawar District until November 1933, taking part in operations against the Mohmand and Bajaur tribesmen. From April to August 1936 he temporarily commanded the 2nd Battalion 9th Gurkha Rifles. He was subsequently Assistant Military Secretary to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command, General Sir Kenneth Wigram of the 2nd Goorkhas (q.v.) from October 1936 to October 1940. He then rejoined the 2nd Battalion at Razmak, Waziristan.
Woollcombe was appointed Commandant of the 2nd Battalion in January 1941 and moved with it in April 1941 to Bolarum Camp near Secunderabad where it was warned to prepare for operations in North Africa. But in July 1941 it was mobilized for Malaya. It sailed on the SS Egra from Bombay and in September 1941 arrived at Port Swettenham prior to moving to Ipoh in Perak State.
The Japanese landed on 8 December 1941. The 2nd Battalion, part of 28th Indian Brigade, came to 24hrs notice to move but the planned pre-emptive strike by the British never materialised. Instead the Battalion was ordered to defend Alor Star and the airfield at Sungei Patani. The frontages were too great to defend against the speed, effective use of tanks and outflanking tactics of the Japanese, which surprised and overwhelmed the British forces. Most battalions (the 2nd Battalion being an exception) were soon down to only 300 men from their normal complement of about 600.
There then followed a series of contacts with the enemy as the British withdrew down the western coast of the Malay peninsula. The 2nd Battalion fought without rest or relief, acquitting itself well during this otherwise disastrous campaign, in large measure because of Woollcombe’s inspiring leadership. During seven weeks of harrowing and exhausting withdrawal he commanded his battalion ‘with skill and temerity of purpose which elicited the trust and regard of all ranks’. The British eventually withdrew to Singapore but on 6th February 1942 the Japanese crossed the Causeway and began to probe the perimeter established by the British in the northern part of the island. The 2nd Battalion denied the enemy any opportunity to breach that part of the perimeter for which it was responsible. Woollcombe, who had become very sick, reluctantly handed over command to his Second-in-Command, Major DB Robertson. The 2nd Battalion fought on bravely, but on 17th February was obliged to surrender alongside the other British Forces, and entered Japanese captivity.
Woollcombe had received a secret order to form part of an ‘escape‘ party of 400 selected specialists and senior officers who were to be withdrawn to India on a Royal Navy destroyer, to ensure that their expertise was not lost in the anticipated fall of British Malaya. However, the docks came under heavy enemy air and artillery bombardment which meant all naval ships had to sail in order to avoid being caught at the quayside. The escape party commandeered local pilot cutters and sailed for Sumatra, then believed to be still in Dutch hands. On arrival Woollcombe was transferred to a Dutch gunboat but when its fuel ran out they were obliged to make their way overland using jungle paths to the port town of Padang located on the south coast. By this time he was very sick indeed and had to be carried for much of the time. The available evidence indicates that Woollcombe managed to leave Padang aboard the Dutch freighter SS Rooseboom which was later sunk by a Japanese submarine as it was en route to Ceylon. His death on 28 February 1942 is recorded as ‘presumed drowned‘.
After the war, in November 1945, Robertson, who had been Acting Commandant 2nd Battalion during the time spent in captivity, wrote to Woollcombe’s mother about the fate of her son. In July 1944 he had interviewed a new arrival at the Changi prisoner of war camp who claimed to be one of only four survivors of the sinking of the Rooseboom. He remembered a ‘Gurkha Colonel‘ and accurately described Woollcombe. This witness, a Lieutenant WG Gibson of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, was later found to be something of a Walter Mitty character who on arrival at Changi had promote himself from Corporal to Lieutenant and whose 1952 book about the sinking of the Rooseboom was riddled with inconsistencies and untruths. Major Robertson did not take to Gibson although he saw no reason to disbelieve what he said about Geoffrey Woollcombe.
In this letter Robertson described his former Commanding Officer:
‘He will be a terrible loss to the Regiment to which he gave such devoted and invaluable service. He was the finest type of Regimental Officer and throughout his service set a magnificent example to everyone. As a fighting commander he was beyond praise – courageous, courteous, loyal and an inspiration to all. Geoffrey came through to the end of a campaign full of disaster from start to finish which inevitably put an intolerable strain on commanders and was prolific in recriminations, retaining the respect, admiration and affection of every one of his officers and men without exception. Other commanders could claim one or even two of these, but few could have retained all three under such circumstances’
In 2019 Brigadier Christopher Bullock, late 2nd Goorkhas, arranged for a plaque commemorating Geoffrey Woollcombe to be unveiled in the church of St Mary the Virgin in Ashbury, near the now-demolished family house of the Woollcombe family, who had owned land in the area. Members of the Regiment and the Woollcombe family were present and the last post and reveille were sounded on the silver bugle Geoffrey Woollcombe had presented to the Regiment many years previously. A full account of the event was published in the 2020 edition of the Regimental Journal, ‘The Sirmooree’.
The memorial plaque
‘One of the most aggressive and dynamic officers of the Regiment’ (Regimental History Volume III)
Brigadier William ‘Bill’ George Hugh Gough was born on 16 February 1897, the son of Lt Col Charles Gough, late 12th Bengal Lancers and Remount Department. He was the nephew of Gen Sir Hubert de la P Gough (‘Goughie’) GCB GCMG KCVO and Brig Gen Sir ‘Johnnie‘ Gough VC KCB CMG, and grandson of Gen Sir Hugh Gough VC. He was educated at Haileybury College and the Royal Military College Sandhurst and later married Miss Yolande Mackinnon.
Brigadier Gough as a Lieutenant Colonel
In November 1914 ‘Bill’ Gough was gazetted to the Unattached List for the Indian Army. He arrived in India in January 1915 and was posted to the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas. In January 1916 he went with them to Mesopotamia as company officer No 1 Double Company (commanded by Captain H F Marsh MC) disembarking from the SS Thongwa on the River Tigris. In March 1916 he was with No 1 Double Company in the assault on the Dujaila Redoubt for which he was awarded the Military Cross and mentioned in despatches. He was only 19 years and one month old and is the youngest member of the Regiment ever to have been awarded the Military Cross.
In April 1916 he was Commanding No 1 Double Company when the 1st Battalion returned to occupy the Twin Canal Redoubt. While the Battalion was consolidating its position Gough was wounded during a bombing practice. He sustained 27 shrapnel wounds, a broken arm and leg and the subsequent loss of an eye. He returned to Dehra Dun to recover and in August 1917 was appointed as an instructor at the Central Bombing School, Mhow.
In September that year until March 1918 Gough was Adjutant of the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Gurkha Rifles (from 1921 the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles). He then rejoined the 2nd Goorkhas and was posted to the 2nd Battalion at Burhan Camp on the North West Frontier. In March he took part in the Marri Expedition and from May until August 1919 was a Company Commander during the 2nd Battalion’s involvement in the Third Afghan War and Waziristan operations. It was reported that Gough was fined Rs100 for burning a village in British territory, but according to the 2nd Battalion’s Digest of Service ‘needless to say, the fine was not paid‘. From November 1919 Gough commanded a Detachment consisting of B and C Companies at Karachi.
Gough was officiating DAA & QMG (Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General) of 19th Indian Infantry Brigade, Lucknow from January 1920 until June 1924. He was then officiating Staff Captain of the Dehra Dehra Dun Brigade for two years, in April 1927 becoming Station Staff Officer and Officer Commanding Rest Camp at Bunnu. He was Executive Officer and Military Estates Officer, Dehra Dun and Landour Cantonments until July 1928 when he was appointed Training Officer to the Resident’s Escort , Kathmandu until November 1932. He was then an instructor at the Machine Gun Wing of the Small Arms school at Ahmednagar until October 1936 .
After seventeen years away from the Regiment, in November 1936 Gough rejoined the 1st Battalion in Dehra Dun as Second in Command. In May 1937 he commanded the Regimental Contingent in the UK at the Coronation of King George VI and subsequently accompanied it to Nepal where it is believed the contingent carried out the ceremony of pani patiya or purification from having travelled overseas. Later that year he was with the 1st Battalion during operations in Waziristan and being mentioned in despatches for his part in the action of 27 August 1937. In January 1938 he was appointed Commandant of the 2nd Battalion in May 1938 and he took the battalion to Waziristan in October 1939 until December 1940 .
Volume III of the Regimental History Vol III described Gough as ‘one of the most aggressive and dynamic officers of the Regiment. He was a forward thinker who foresaw the possibilities of specialist training. He welcomed with avidity the experiments of his colleague (Colonel Tuker).’
Gough was detached from the 2nd Battalion for 3 months starting in December 1939 when he was appointed to the Personal Staff of His Highness The Maharajah of Nepal during his visit to Calcutta. For his services Gough was awarded the Order of Gorkha Dakshin Bahu 3rd Class (Pravala).
In November 1940 Gough finished his tour in command and volunteered for special duties in the UK. He qualified as a parachutist but broke his leg on his final jump. Undaunted, he returned to India in October 1941 and was given the task of raising the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, the first of its kind. The Brigade included 153 Gurkha Parachute Battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel F J Loftus – Tottenham of the 2nd Goorkhas. The 2nd Battalion had volunteered en masse for parachute duty, attracted by the additional pay but possibly also in order to serve again under their previous Commandant – in any event, the request was rejected by the military authorities.
Following the loss of three Gurkha battalions in February 1942 in Singapore, it was Gough who suggested to GHQ India that three extra battalions namely the fifth battalions of 1st, 2nd and 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, should be raised to replace those held in captivity.
In September 1942 Gough was appointed to command Columbo Brigade Area in Ceylon from where he was moved to command Jhelum Sub Area in which post he remained until he retired in 1947. He was tragically killed in an air crash in South Africa on 15 May 1948 and buried at Ladysmith.
Gough was a useful football player who represented the 2nd Bn in 1928 when it won the Gurkha Brigade Cup. He was also a keen polo player despite being handicapped through having only one eye. He was also a keen entomologist and published a list of butterflies caught in Nepal in the Bombay Natural History Journal 1935.
His busby and various uniforms and accoutrements are held in the National Army Museum Collection. His decorations and medals are in the Regimental Medal Collection.
‘Extra Equerry to the King, Commandant 2nd Battalion 9th Gurkha Rifles, Inspector General Imperial Service Troops, Brigade Commander and sometime General Officer Commanding Egypt and Chief Administrator British Occupied Palestine…’
Major General Sir Harry Watson, known as ‘Long’ because of his tall thin figure, was born on 18 July 1866, the youngest son of Lieutenant General Sir John Watson VC GCB, late Colonel of the 13th Duke of Connaught’s Lancers.
Watson was educated at Charterhouse and the Royal Military College Sandhurst. He was a Queen’s India Cadet at Sandhurst and in February 1885 was gazetted to a Commission in The Devonshire Regiment. He later transferred to the Indian Staff Corps and was temporarily attached to the 1st Goorkha Light Infantry whilst awaiting a vacancy in the 2nd Goorkhas. While with the 1st Goorkhas he saw active service with their 2nd Battalion in the Sikkim Expedition September 1888, and took part in the attack on the Jelep La Pass.
In August 1890 he joined 2nd Battalion 2nd Goorkhas in Dehra Dun and was later part of the Detachment at Fort Tregear, a large fortified post located in the Looshai Hills in North East India. Watson is mentioned in an incident in March 1891 described in the Regimental History Volume I: ‘…the Looshai (tribesmen) ambuscaded a Frontier Police Detachment and before the attack , two signallers of the 2nd Goorkhas were helioing to Lieutenant Watson at Fort Tregear, who on taking down the message and looking through a telescope, saw a column of smoke rise from the village and surmised something untoward had occurred’. It transpired that the signallers had been killed by the tribesmen, but although punitive patrols were sent out into the local area, it was not until some time later the tribes’‘turbulent chief’, Jacopa, was captured and handed over to the civilian power for punishment.
Watson returned to Dehra Dun in April 1891 and was Quartermaster of the 2nd Battalion from March 1893 to January 1894. He was then transferred to the 1st Battalion as Adjutant, remaining in that post until February 1896, marrying Miss Ada May Reynolds in April 1895. He then qualified for employment on the staff and from November 1896 until April 1903 was Assistant Inspecting Officer Rajputana State Infantry and later Punjab State Infantry, Ambala. The Imperial Service Troops, to which he was at that time seconded, were forces raised by the Princely States and were available for service alongside the Indian Army, subject to inspection by British Officers in order to maintain their standards.
Harry Watson (standing, third from the right) and his family in the UK in 1902. His father, General Sir John Watson, is seated in front.
In June 1900 Watson was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (DAAG) of the Imperial Service Troops taking part in the China Expeditionary Force, which successfully ended the 55 days siege of Peking and defeated the Boxer Rebellion. In March 1901 he was cross-posted to the 2nd Battalion as a Double Company Commander. In May 1902 he commanded the Imperial Service Troops in the Indian Army Coronation Contingent sent to England for the Coronation of King Edward VII on 9 August 1902. It was at this time that he was photographed carrying one of the old Colours of the Sirmoor Battalion before they were laid up in the Royal United Service Institution in Whitehall. The Daily Telegraph described the Colours: ‘…[the] time-worn and blood-stained hue of the King’s Colour and the inky black of the Regimental [Colour]…recalled the many sanguinary conflicts above which they had waved, and brought back memories of the gallant lives cheerfully laid down to preserve them in glory and honour‘.
Watson (left) and Major DM Watt carrying the old Regimental Colours in London, 1902
Watson returned to India and in July 1903 was commanding No 2 Double Company of the 1st Battalion , but his tour of Regimental duty was again interrupted when in October 1905 he was appointed Aide-de-Camp to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales during the latter’s tour of India with the Princess, also becoming Extra Equerry to the Prince. He became a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) for his success in these roles.
Watson as Royal ADC, 1903
Following the departure of Prince and Princess, in April 1906 Watson was appointed Second-in-Command of the 1st Battalion, and after leave in the UK went with the Battalion to Kila Drosh in October 1907 as part of the Chitral Garrison, where he was photographed after a day’s shooting with other 2nd Goorkha officers:
(Watson is sitting, 2nd from the right)
In January 1910 Watson left the 1st Battalion and transferred to 9th Gurkha Rifles on appointment as Commandant 2nd Battalion of the 9th Gurkhas (2/9GR). Later that year he was also appointed an Extra Equerry to His Majesty the King. He continued to command 2/9GR, who were stationed in Birpur near Dehra Dun, until 1914, although he went to England with the 1911 Indian Army Contingent attending the Coronation of King George V on 22 June 1911. On his return to India, Watson was again appointed Extra Equerry to HM King in order to assist Her Majesty Queen Mary during the Royal Visit to India. It was during this visit that His Majesty was crowned Emperor of India on 12 December 1911 at the Delhi Durbar. After the Durbar, Watson accompanied the Royal party to Nepal in January 1912 for a shooting trip which accounted for 18 rhinos and 39 tigers. Watson was made a Member of the Victorian Order (MVO) for his services.
In July 1913 Watson was appointed officiating Inspector General of Imperial Service Troops, and in September 1914 was confirmed in that appointment. He began his First World War service with the Imperial Service Troops stationed on the Suez Canal. He was on operations in Egypt between November 1914 and March 1916, when he was appointed a Brigade Commander with the temporary rank of Brigadier General. In October 1915 he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for his services.
‘Colonel Storrs and General Watson at a YWCA Fete in 1919’
From March 1916 to October 1918 he served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, as Commander 20th Indian Infantry Brigade (Northern Canal Section). This mainly comprised Imperial Service infantry who had been sent from India to form part of the garrison in Egypt, although the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas was briefly part of it, from November 1915 to February 1916, on completion of their service on the Western Front and prior to returning to India.
For a time Watson commanded a section of the Suez Canal before being appointed General Officer Commanding Lines of Communications Palestine. After Allenby’s victorious advance and occupation of Jerusalem, Watson was promoted Major General and appointed General Officer Commanding Egypt. In May 1918 he was became a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath and in June 1919 became a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for ‘valuable services in connection with military operations in Egypt‘. For his services during the First World War Watson was also mentioned in despatches four times.
From June 1919 Watson served briefly as Chief Administrator of British occupied Palestine after his predecessor (General Sir Arthur Money KCB KBE CSI) had been removed by the British Government for not favouring the Zionists over the Arabs. According to Dr D K Fieldhouse in ‘Western Imperialism in the Middle East’ Watson was to suffer a similar fate in December 1919 when he was – wrongly – thought to be pro-Zionist.
In January 1920 Watson was appointed Military Advisor in Chief, Indian State Forces, a post he held until his retirement to Devon in April 1924.
In retirement he lived in Finchampstead, Berkshire. He had lost a great deal of money in a bank failure and could not afford to live in the large family home in that village, sos he and his wife purchased a smaller house called ‘Longwater’. In January 1936 he, as a former ADC and Equerry, was a pallbearer at the funeral of His Majesty King George V. He became a member of the British Legion and was a Special Constable. In 1938, he was invited to join the very short-lived, 1200-strong British Legion Volunteer Police Force (BLVPF). He enlisted as Legionnaire No 546 and commanded No 3 Company (all Berkshire men). They were issued with blue police uniforms consisting of a double breasted suit, a walking stick and a whistle. The BLVPF was intended to go to Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in response to international concerns that Germany would annex that territory. The force had already embarked on two troopships at Tilbury, bound for Bremen, when German assurances removed the threat of annexation. The BLVPF disembarked and was disbanded, having existed for only 10 days. Watson was later to receive the King George VI Special Constabulary Long Service Medal for 9 years voluntary service.
Watson had married Ada May Reynolds in 1895 and they had a son and two daughters, one of whom married another Army officer in Jerusalem in 1920. He was a keen fisherman and had been Honorary Secretary of the Dehra Dun Fishing Association. He was a good shot and captain of the 1st Battalion shooting team which won the Bengal Presidency Rifle Association Meerut Cup in 1903. He also represented the regiment at polo in the Dehra Dun Challenge Cup of 1903. He excelled as a raconteur and several of his letters and articles were published in Regimental Journals prior to the Second World War. He wrote A Short Story of the Services Rendered by the Imperial Service Troops during the Great War 1914 – 18 which was published by the Government of India in 1930, and in which he described himself as being ‘late Military Adviser in Chief, Indian State Forces’.
Watson is unique as the only 2nd Goorkha to have been awarded the class of Companion for three different British orders; the Order of the Bath; the Order of St Michael and St George; and the Order of the Indian Empire. He was in addition awarded the several foreign orders: the Order of the Nile (3rd Class); Legion d’Honneur (4th Class); Order of St Maurice and St Lazarus (3rd Class or Commander) and Order of the Crown of Italy (3rd Class or Commander).
He died at his home on 7 May 1945.
Sir John Chapple was the only ‘home grown’ 2nd Goorkha officer to become a Field Marshal, although another Colonel of the Regiment, Lord Bramall, a former officer of the 60th Rifles (Kings Royal Rifle Corps) and the Royal Greenjackets, who never served at Regimental Duty with the 2nd Goorkhas, held the same rank.
The following obituary of Field Marshal Chapple appeared in the Times. It was written by the military historian Brigadier Allan Mallinson.
As a child, John Chapple was introduced to Rudyard Kipling at Brown’s Hotel in London, where the great imperial author had written the Jungle Book. If Kipling had lived longer, he would surely have found a place in his books for the awed four-year-old and later colourful soldier, for Chapple was a late product of empire and steeped in its history, fighting some of its final battles as a Gurkha in the jungles of the Far East.
The apex of his career, however, was at the Ministry of Defence in the aftermath of NATO’s victory in the Cold War. And it was bitter-sweet. Chapple had taken over as Chief of the General Staff (head of the Army) in September 1988 as cracks began to appear metaphorically in the Berlin Wall. In November the following year the cracks became real and the wall was torn down by Berliners on both sides. By October 1990 Germany was reunited, triggering the swift collapse of the other eastern bloc regimes. Thirteen months later, on 25th December 1991, President Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union was dissolved. Yet fast as the pace of the Soviet Union’s disintegration was, faster still was the subsequent dismemberment of Britain’s Armed Forces.
With the prevailing ‘end of history’ world view, the Conservative Government wanted a peace dividend. Chapple argued that any dividend should go to the forces, which for decades had subsisted on poor pay, poor living conditions, and inadequate equipment as well as being over-committed, especially in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, in July 1990 the Defence Secretary, Tom King (later Lord King of Bridgwater) announced the so-called Options for Change review, which would cut the Army by almost half.
Then on 2nd August, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Chapple and his fellow service chiefs were able to put the cuts on hold while they assembled a force in the Gulf, along with the Americans, to liberate Kuwait. Doing so revealed serious shortfalls in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) but Chapple could make little headway afterwards in clawing back resources, despite being extended in post until 1992 to see through the cuts. Even his beloved Gurkhas were to be reduced severely. His did, however, manage to preserve the Army’s strong Northern Irish links by the amalgamation of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment, a masterstroke of his own conception.
The Field Marshal (then a General) as Chief of the General Staff
On leaving the appointment he received the customary Field Marshal’s baton, the last Chief of the General Staff to do so. Deeming that the Army (and the other two services) were no longer big enough to justify five-star rank to its retiring heads, his successor, on appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff as a Field Marshal, abolished the practice, as well as the active five-star rank for the appointment, the rank becoming solely honorary.
John Lyon Chapple was born in 1931 in Maida Vale, London, the son of Elsie Lyon, a doctor, and Charles Herbert Chapple, a Royal Engineers officer who served in France and Mesopotamia (Iraq) during the First World War. At the urging of his paternal grandmother, who greatly admired Kipling, the young Chapple was sent to school in Windsor, at the Imperial Service College which had absorbed Kipling’s old school, the United Services College at Westward Ho! In Devon. In 1942 the college merged with Haileybury, in Hertfordshire, which had originally been founded as the East India College to prepare administrators for the Honourable East India Company. At Haileybury Chapple learnt to recognise the approach of the German V1 rockets known as ‘doodlebugs’. One day while watching cricket he heard a V1 coming and everyone fled except the Headmaster, who was umpiring and was half deaf. The bomb exploded just behind the trees and the match resumed as if nothing had happened. Chapple and another boy went for a look round the school and found lots of broken windows: “We finished off one or two that the Germans hadn’t managed to blow out”.
As well as a little light vandalism at Haileybury, he also went in for acting, playing a memorable Polonius, and took part in five expeditions of the British Exploring Society including to Newfoundland and Lapland, which fostered a lifelong interest in conservation.
Chapple did his national service as a subaltern in the Royal Artillery before reading German and history at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he acted in five plays directed by Peter Hall. On graduation in 1954 he joined 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Goorkhas (The Sirmoor Rifles) on a regular commission. The 2nd considered themselves an elite within an elite (the Brigade of Gurkhas) and much cherished their historic double-o spelling, although it had officially changed in 1902. There were two battalions, and it was said that the 2nd Battalion spoke only to the 1st, and the 1st only to God.
Meanwhile, through a Cambridge friend he had met Annabel Hill, a diving star on whose fingertips entering the water a UK girls’ diving trophy was modelled. “I proposed to her almost immediately,” he said later, “but it took three and a half years to persuade her to say yes.” The attempts included a pursuit across America. They were married in 1959, and Annabel survives him with four children: Rachel, a social anthropologist and founder of the Real Stories Gallery Foundation; David, a consultant spinal surgeon; Kate, chief sub-editor at the Financial Times How to Spend It magazine; and Sasha, a mother.
Chapple joined the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas (1/2GR) in Malaya in the middle of the 12-year campaign against the communist insurgency, in which British, Commonwealth and Gurkha battalions were intensively engaged until 1960. He served his first three years in the jungles of South Johore, particularly notorious ‘bandit country’. In 1962 he attended the Staff College, Camberley; his subsequent appointment as chief personnel and logistics officer of a brigade in BAOR, highly unusual for a Gurkha officer, marked him out as an officer being groomed for high rank. On return to 1/2GR as a company commander, Chapple was in the jungle once more, this time in Borneo during Indonesian ‘Confrontation’. It was a campaign that hardly dared speak its name, especially the cross-border operations to deny the Indonesians the initiative in setting up bases from which to raid into the newly independent states of Sarawak and North Borneo within federated Malaysia. Chapple recalled how, one morning in late summer 1966 at his jungle base at Ba Kelalan in Sarawak, “out of the mist at very low level came a [Indonesian] Hercules transport aircraft with a parachutist standing in the doorway”. It took a few moments for his Gurkhas to recognise it as hostile, then shouting “dushman, dushman!” (enemy) opened fire. “The pilot quickly realised he was somewhere he was not supposed to be and turned steeply back and was shot at again before escaping across the border apparently unharmed”. That evening some of Chapple’s men saw the aircraft as it approached for a second time, “only to be hit on this occasion by the Indonesians’ own 37mm Russian-made anti-aircraft guns at Long Medan. Two of its engines were set on fire. About 20 parachutes were seen to open at quite low level as it lost height but they seemed to get down all right while the aircraft crash landed on the Long Medan football field beyond the border, where it remained as a wreck for long after”.
Some 25 years later, when Chapple was CGS, he recounted the story to an Indonesian general, who then revealed its true import. That week the Indonesian opposition in Jakarta had planned to stage a coup against President Sukarno, not least because they knew the elite paratroop garrison unit was being deployed from the capital to the Sarawak border. The first phase involved flying a company to Long Medan, to be followed by the rest of the battalion. This first phase was the aircraft engaged by Chapple’s Gurkhas, which then flew back to Jakarta, whence it was sent off again in the evening ‘to do better’. Because the Indonesians had then shot down one of their own aircraft, the rest of the deployment was aborted. Most of the paratroop unit was therefore still in central Jakarta when the coup started, and were able to put down the opposition. Chapple’s company had unintentionally thwarted the coup. Sukarno was ousted six months later, but not in the manner planned.
The Colonel of the Regiment with the Colonel-in-Chief in 1994
Chapple subsequently commanded 1/2GR in Singapore and Hong Kong, the latter during the final stages of the border troubles excited by Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, before going back to Camberley as a member of the Directing Staff. His promotion to the leading Colonel’s post in the MoD in 1973 coincided with the difficult period of Operation Motorman in Northern Ireland to end the ‘no-go’ areas for the Army and the RUC, as well as the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus and the new Labour government’s resumption of cuts by Denis Healey, the previous Labour Defence Secretary, to forces east of Suez. Yet pressure of work never ruffled Chapple. “All my life I’ve been surrounded by people who thought they could do my job better than I could” he liked to say, “and by and large I’ve let them.”
Command of 48 Gurkha Infantry Brigade in Kong Kong followed, after which he returned to MoD as principal staff officer to the Chief of the Defence Staff, Marshal of the RAF Sir Neil Cameron, and then to Admiral of the Fleet Sir Terence Lewin. On promotion to Major General, Chapple went east again to be Commander British Forces Hong Kong.
His destination at the top by now evident to many, in October 1982 he returned to MoD as Director of Military Operations, responsible not only for the direction of land operations worldwide, including Northern Ireland, but for the Army’s budget planning and management. In this role he unsuccessfully advocated giving prisoner-of-war status to capture IRA men so they could be detained ‘for the duration’, forcing their commanders to give up the struggle, or as he preferred it, the war.
Field Marshal Chapple with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh
The Defence Secretary was John Nott with whom he had served in Malaya with 1/2GR. Perhaps to Chapple’s disappointment, although he never showed it, Nott stood down three months later and in his place Margaret Thatcher appointed Michael Heseltine, who at once began a scheme of MoD centralisation. Chapple was the Army’s representative on the working group, which axed the post of Vice-Chief of the General Staff to which he was meant to be appointed next. Instead, he was made Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff for Programmes and Personnel, one of Heseltine’s new central staff posts. This was followed two years later by an unusually short tour of 15 months as Commander-in-Chief UK Land Forces before in 1988 becoming CGS.
Chapple was expected by many to become the next Chief of the Defence Staff, a post much strengthened by the Heseltine reforms. However, the bruising Options for Change exercise and the presence of a charismatic Chief of Air Staff probably conspired to make it the turn of the light blue again. Chapple was said to have been disappointed “for an afternoon”.
The compensation on leaving in 1992 was appointment as Governor and Command-in-Chief, Gibraltar. Chapple displayed a deft political touch and never minded dressing up. Although not very tall and never by any yardstick possessing a martial figure he could, with his Field Marshal’s baton, like the Colonel in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, claim ‘Gold lace has a charm for the fair/And I’ve plenty of that and to spare.’ One of Gibraltar’s fast enforcement boats is named after him.
Field Marshal Sir John and Lady Chapple
Chapple believed an officer should have a hinterland (and a Field Marshal never retires). His own was vast. He was a patron, fellow, president, ambassador, trustee and member of a dizzying number of organisations, 99 at one count, including the Zoological Society of London, the Royal Geographical Society, which he had joined at 16, and the WWF. Like his wartime predecessor, Alan Brooke, he was also a keen and knowledgeable ornithologist. His office in the MoD, before it moved to that of the Chief of the General Staff with its walls adorned with photographs of past occupants, was furnished with exquisite paintings of birds. As well as Kipling first editions, from childhood he collected militaria. Over the years he amassed some 9000 cap badges of Empire, specialising in the Indian Army, including the regiments of the princely states and the regiments of Ireland. The Irish collection is now at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. The remaining collection is housed in the National Army Museum.
Chapple was a great admirer and supported of Gurkha soldiers, their history and homeland of Nepal. He helped to establish the Gurkha Welfare Trust and the Gurkha Museum, while his conservation work in Nepal was recognised by the King of Nepal in 2002 with the award of the Order of Gorkha Dakshina Bahu.
The Field Marshal at the Parade in Pokhara in 2015 to mark
the 200th Anniversary of the founding of the Regiment.
Above all, Chapple was his own man. On his first day in the brigade headquarters in BAOR his Brigadier had come to his desk towards lunchtime in a tracksuit, telling him to put aside the paperwork and come for a run. “Oh no, Brigadier” he replied, “I don’t do that”. To the credit of both, nothing more was said. He was not built for athletics or games, but he could trek for miles.
He also had a mischievous sense of humour. An old friend, John Money-Kyrle, had served on Hong Kong’s frontier with China in 1950 during the Korean War. Several decades later when Chapple was CBF, Money-Kyrle and his wife paid him a visit. The Chapples took them to see an old observation post that Money-Kyrle’s platoon had manned. Out of a trench climbed two aged men in aged uniforms. One of them said: “Oh at last Mr Money-Kyrle, we’ve been waiting for you for 30 years and wondered when you’re going to release us from sentry duty”.
Although well abreast of matters to the end, Chapple remained defiant about some aspects of modernisation. He carried only cash and a chequebook, proud of leaving no digital footprint. He usually had a glass of Manzanilla before dinner, but had few rituals and no superstitions or regrets.
His one bad habit, he said, was small Philippine leaf cigars. After he gave up cigarettes in Malaya, his Gurkha orderly had put a packet of these by his bedside. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Sahib, you got so bad-tempered when you stopped smoking that I thought these would help you”.
. . . . . .
The following eulogy was given by Lieutenant General Sir Peter Duffell at the Field Marshal’s Memorial Service at the Royal Memorial Chapel of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on Saturday 11 March 2023. Numerous members of the Sirmoor Rifles Association were present, and British and Gurkha Officers from the Regiment acted as ushers.
When I joined the 2nd Gurkha Rifles in 1960 John Chapple was the Adjutant. We were stationed in Malaya at the end of the communist insurgency in which John had played an adventurous part. Our Commanding Officer was a much-decorated Colonel, Monty Ormsby; but gallant as he was, Monty disliked paper and letters from Headquarters would mysteriously disappear only to be recovered from under the carpet or deep in the waste paper basket by Captain Chapple, who dealt with them with much dispatch to save the day.
Early on it was clear to us that here was an officer with a brain of rare clarity and much intellectual curiosity – always an eye for the arresting detail – someone who seemed to have plenty of time for everything, who never lost his temper, and didn’t go running – although any idea that he was some sort of physical slouch could be dispelled by knowledge of the five rugged expeditions to the snows of Labrador and elsewhere that he had made as a schoolboy explorer. Here, we thought, was an interesting and talented officer of promise; a history graduate from Trinity, a veritable polymath with a rich hinterland and a well-stocked mind. His knowledge of matters zoological and ornithological was unsurpassed – a patrol in the jungle with him was a revelation of natural history scholarship. Equally importantly he had a most elegant wife, Annabel – an international diver of kindness and beauty, John had pursued her tenaciously round the world for three years before finally winning her hand – not least, it was said, by intercepting flowers from an opposing suitor and deftly replacing the card of endearment with one of his own. Annabel was to be John’s steady rock throughout his life and together they made a memorable and generous couple.
John died a year ago after a short illness. I saw him several times in his last few weeks and I can record that he met his death with a steady eye and much good grace with Annabel and his family around him in support. A few months earlier, John had reached the formidable age of ninety amidst much celebration. Age of itself is without much virtue save as an exemplar of clean living about which John clearly knew a very great deal – apart that is from a daily dose of Philippine leaf cigars and dry Spanish Manzanilla. But what matters is not age but how you run your race and here the record is clear enough. The Times recorded a distinguished career – Field Marshal rank, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Knight of St John, an order from Nepal – these are the glittering prizes that come to few and only after much endeavour. I also noted when inspecting his medal bar that almost hidden was the Greek Medal of Honour. Of his service to the Hellenic people that earned this distinction I know not but there must have been a great deal of it.
Called up in 1949 John began his national service as a Rifleman with the 60th Rifles at Winchester. He could hardly have expected that 70 years later his barrack room would be part of the Gurkha Museum where above his old Rifleman’s bed space would now hang a portrait of Field Marshal Chapple. Introduced to the unique ethos of a Rifle Regiment John was none the less commissioned into the Royal Artillery and posted to 50 Heavy Ack-Ack Regiment based in Carlisle – surely a course of liberal studies the half of which has not yet been told. But in 1954, after Cambridge, John’s final regimental destiny was the 2nd Gurkha Rifles. It must have been his education at historic Haileybury with its links to the East India Company and his lifelong interest in Kipling that drew John to the 2nd Goorkhas – the senior Regiment in the Gurkha Brigade and one which firmly believed that it was what every Gurkha Regiment ought to be – only very much more so. Throughout his life John remained loyal to his Regiment serving as a company commander on clandestine operations in the dangerous jungle confrontation with Indonesia; as a popular and successful Commanding officer, and finally as its Colonel. He was always committed to the Gurkha soldiers’ heritage and well-being; he designed the detail of their Welfare Trust with its important work for our veterans; he was a founding father of the Gurkha Museum and he did much valuable conservation work in Nepal with successful schemes to protect the Annapurna region high in the Himalayas, and to save from extinction that leathery behemoth Rhinoceros Unicornis.
Having commanded his Regiment John’s military journey moved at Rifle pace with appointments that went with a star on the rise: a Defence Fellowship at Fitzwillam College, Brigade Commander, Commander British Forces in Hong Kong, exacting assignments in Whitehall and a four-star Commander in Chief – and then suddenly, gracious me – an officer of the 2nd Goorkhas was Chief of the General Staff and head of the British Army – the first Gurkha officer since Bill Slim to hold that exalted appointment. John’s experience, his intelligence, his knowledge of Whitehall and his ability to navigate through the cross currents and internecine struggles that are all part of life at the top was notable while his leadership never lost its clarity. The challenges were many.
The collapse of the Warsaw Pact – the perceived end of the Cold War – had led to political demands for a peace dividend – options for change that threatened cherished institutions – and brought hostile clamour from outraged Colonels demanding cuts to any regiment but their own. Smaller but better may be an attractive political slogan but it came at some cost to the size and integrity of the British Army and John Chapple had to fight some tough Whitehall battles. Then came Saddam Hussein and his invasion of Kuwait with the commitment of a British armoured division to an international coalition that was to deal a hammer blow to the Iraq dictator’s nefarious ambitions. Returning unbowed to Options John proved himself indifferent to protest and harassment.
Pressure of work left him undisturbed: “All my life”, he used to say, “I have been surrounded by people who thought they could do my job better than I could and by and large I’ve let them do it – and they never let me down”. He was a natural leader – not in a macho sense – he was never a brusque conventional military figure nor was he built like one – but in another scale of values he was reflective, competent, dependable, without pomposity and with an intellectual facility to grasp complex issues and explain them with lucidity and good effect. As the Cold War faded, the CGS was offered an historic invitation to visit his Russian opposite number on a tour that resonates strongly today. Over ten days he held talks in Moscow and travelled to the Urals and the Crimea, he viewed the tanks of 1st Guards Army and the bird life of the Odessa marshes. And he wrote of attending a choral concert in Kiev where the banned Ukrainian national anthem was sung for the first time in 70 years as the audience wept.
Outside of work John was a good enjoyer at parties with a sense of mischief and good humour; additionally, he knew of Mad Carew and Kipling’s Ballads and could recite them at the slightest provocation. Then, after three and a half demanding years as CGS John left Whitehall for the last time – but not for retirement. As Governor of Gibraltar his commitment and a deft political touch earned him the respect of Gibraltarians as well as the British Foreign Office. And on return John pursued interests across a broad and eclectic canvas. We look in amazement at the list of institutions catalogued in your service sheet where he served as Fellow or Fugleman. Singlehandedly he saved the London Zoo from extinction; he contributed hugely to the National Army Museum to which, not least, he gave much of his lifetime collection of 9000 military badges – a collector’s passion with its unlimited use of scarce resource and storage that must have driven Annabel to distraction. There was dedicated service on the Council of the Royal Geographical Society, Commissioner at the Royal Hospital Chelsea and as a busy Vice Lord Lieutenant of London. Meanwhile he and Annabel travelled the world seeking out the most elusive of birds to add to the lexicon – I can see the Field Marshal now, moving silently forward, telescope at the ready on expeditions to Ethiopia and Assam, with Annabel, ever the good Gurkha wife following three paces behind, pack on her back as yet more rare species were identified in their natural habitat – a master twitcher on patrol. Apart from Polo – a game to which he gave great support and once played John did not follow traditional military pursuits – the gun, the rod, the turf – these held no attraction. An ADC requesting a day off for grouse shooting met the response: “Oh! For goodness’ sake I’ve spent my life trying to protect birds – but I suppose I should let you go since you are unlikely to hit anything.”
John never forgot the institutions and people of his professional life – chair of the Stoll Foundation housing service veterans; the Imperial War Museum, the Royal Armouries, the Nehru Memorial Trust. On an annual pilgrimage to Annapolis, he joined a distinguished group selecting talented American candidates as Bill Gates Cambridge scholars. As a fellow selector, the Master of Trinity recorded: ‘John was an astute observer with a nose for quality – and further, he was proud of his University and College and we were proud of him.’ And here, I must record that the Field Marshal kept track of all his multifarious interests entirely by landline and pen – the mobile, the tablet, the computer – their supposed utility was blithely ignored – no digital signature was to be left for posterity.
So there, as best I can, is the full and rewarding life of John Chapple who we remember today with admiration and affection. Long after the bugles have sounded for him on the other side, as surely they did, he will have met St Peter for that final searching review, telescope to hand and enquiring gently where the elusive Osprey with its cosmopolitan range might be nesting. And no doubt he will be pointed in the right direction. John’s legacy remains his devoted family, Annabel, Rachel, David, Kate and Sasha, and his friends, his Gurkhas, his ornithology, Nepal conservation, Trinity College and above all the British Army; those were his lodestars and faithfully he served them all. We are grateful for John Chapple’s full life and leadership and we shall remember his generous friendship, his wise counsel, and his gentle humour. “He was a good man and he did good things”. Bravo Chapple Saheb.
The Field Marshal playing elephant polo in Nepal in 2004
(Painting by Katie Quentin)
First Commandant of the Indian Military Academy 1932 – 1936
Brigadier Lionel Peter Collins was born in November 1878, the seventh son of Henry Collins of Reading. He was educated at Marlborough College and Keble College Oxford where he was a cricketing ‘blue’ and had half-blues for hockey and rackets.
Peter Collins was gazetted in April 1900 to a Commission in the 6th (Militia) Battalion of The Worcestershire Regiment, an appointment which did not carry pay or allowances. In January 1901 he was gazetted to a regular Commission and seconded for service with the Indian Staff Corps. He was attached to the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire) Regiment in India where he was employed guarding Boer prisoners of war. When the Royal Berkshire Regiment returned to the UK, Collins joined the Lincolnshire Regiment as a supernumerary awaiting appointment to the Indian Staff Corps. In November 1902 he was gazetted to the Indian Army and posted to 1st Battalion of the 4th Gurkha Rifles, becoming Quartermaster in November 1906 and Adjutant in March 1910.
In October 1914 Collins left India and accompanied 1st Battalion 4th Gurkha Rifles (1/4GR) to Egypt before going with them to France where he served from November 1914 to August 1915. His first action took place in December 1914 in the Givenchy-Festubert Sector. During his service in France he acted as Second in Command of 1/4GR and was mentioned in despatches. For conspicuous gallantry throughout the campaign on the Western Front and especially on 12 March 1915 during the attack at the Bois du Biez, near Neuve Chapelle, he was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The citation reads: ‘for conspicuous gallantry ..when he took the initiative and captured a German trench, took 100 prisoners, killing and wounding a considerable number of the remainder of the occupants.’ He was wounded on three occasions. After being wounded at the Second Battle of Ypres (April/May 1915) and evacuated to England for a short period.
Collins accompanied 1/4GR to Gallipoli where he served from August to December 1915. During this time, including the period of evacuation, he was temporarily in command and was again mentioned in despatches. He returned with the Battalion to Egypt until February 1916 when he returned to India. From March to October 1917 he was in Waziristan in command of 2nd Battalion 4th Gurkha Rifles who were Lines of Communication troops involved in operations against the Mahsud tribesmen and in particular an action near Sarwakai. He was again mentioned in despatches. Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Barrett, Commander Northern Army, reported: ‘Major Collins DSO 1/4GR, hearing that a body of the enemy was retiring from Tormandu, moved out during the night 9 – 10 May 1917 with a force of 450 rifles comprising 1/4GR, 11th Rajputs and South Waziristan Militia, with the object of intercepting the enemy’s retreat. At dawn 10 May 1917 the Mahsuds were successfully surprised but with the arrival of a large number of reinforcements fierce hand-to-hand fighting took place. As there was danger of being surrounded, Major Collins rightly decided to withdraw to Sarwakai. Although our losses in this engagement were severe, those inflicted on the enemy were also heavy. Great praise is due to the troops who were largely composed of young soldiers, for the steadiness and gallantry with which they fought .’
In October 1918 Collins was appointed Second in Command 1st Battalion 131st United Provinces Regiment but during the Third Afghan War (May-August 1919) he was back commanding 1st Bn 4th Gurkha Rifles and was present at the capture of Spin Boldak, the last occasion the British Army deployed an escalade (a mobile contraption like a large ladder) to scale the village fortifications. He later commanded a detachment from the battalion that served with the Marri Field Force in Baluchistan. In 1920 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and was again was mentioned in despatches for a successful night operation in Waziristan which culminated in the surrender of the village of Ahmadwan.
In 1922 Collins became Assistant Military Secretary Army HQ India. In February 1923 he transferred to the 2nd Goorkhas in Razmak, Waziristan initially as Second in Command of the 1st Battalion before becoming the Commandant in February 1925. The Battalion returned to Dehra Dun in March 1926. He remained Commandant until January 1929 when he was appointed Assistant Adjutant General (Deputy Director Animals and Transport Force) in Army HQ India.
Collins was then appointed as the first Commandant of the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehra Dun serving in that capacity from January 1932 to October 1936 with the temporary rank of Brigadier. In December 1933 he was appointed ADC to His Majesty The King until the date he retired. For his outstanding work at the IMA he was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath, and Companion of the Order of the Star of India when he retired in 1936 .
In retirement Collins took up work with the Royal Observer Corps and during the Second World War was Commandant No 4 Group Observer Corps as head of the service in Berkshire and the adjoining counties. He was appointed Commissioner of the Indian Military Services Family Pension Fund and was a member of the Council of Marlborough College.
Collins was a very accomplished cricketer who played for the MCC and in 1907 represented Berkshire in the Minor Counties Championship. According to Wisden ‘in February 1914 Collins toured India with a Brigade of Gurkhas cricket XI and three times in ten days scored two centuries in the same match.’ This achievement was described by Wisden as being ‘quite without parallel in the history of the game’.
He married, first, Miss Gladys Rutherford, who died in 1956. They had two sons, one of whom was Major Peter Rutherford Collins (q.v.) who was killed in action in June 1945 when serving with the 4th Battalion in Burma. In 1948 he and his first wife donated the Collins Memorial Library in C1 House in memory of their son Peter, who had also been at the school. It comprises a fine wooden bookcase beneath an inscription and the family crest. He married, secondly, Mrs Margaret Davies.
Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion at the Battles of Wadi Akarit 1943 and
Monte Cassino 1944.
Brigadier Lionel James Gaselee Showers was born on 14 August 1904. He came from a distinguished Indian military family, the son of Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Lionel Showers CSI CIE, Indian Political Department attached 4th Gurkha Rifles 1886 – 1890,who had been Resident in Jaipur and was later Resident in Kathmandu. His grandfather was General Charles Lionel Showers, Bengal Army who in 1857 as Resident in Megwar was responsible for the rescue of refugees fleeing from the mutineers at Nimash Garrison. His great-grandfather, Captain Charles Showers of the 19th Regiment Bengal Infantry, was killed at Malaun during the Nepal War 1814 – 1815.
Lionel Showers was educated at King William’s College , Isle of Man and the Royal Military College Sandhurst. He married in June 1944 Miss Elizabeth Barne of Sotterley Hall, Suffolk.
On leaving Sandhurst he was gazetted to the Unattached List for the Indian Army and arrived in India for a one year attachment to the 2nd Battalion The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was then posted to 1st Battalion 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment). In June 1930 he was appointed Quartermaster until December 1931 when he became Adjutant, serving on the Khajuri Plain on the North West Frontier.
From 1936 to 1938 Showers was a student at the Staff College, Camberley. In August 1939 he became a Deputy Assistant Military Secretary and by 1942 he was a General Staff Officer Grade 1 (GSO1) in HQ 4th Indian Division before being appointed a GSO1 in HQ 18th Army Group in Algeria. In early 1943 he was running a 30 Corps Street Fighting Battle School in Benghazi when Major General Francis Tuker, General Officer Commanding 4th Indian Division and Colonel of the 2nd Goorkhas, successfully applied for him to assume command 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas.
Lionel Showers (centre) as a Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 1st Battalion, awaiting the arrival of His Majesty King
George VI to review the Battalion in North Africa, 19th June 1943. On the left of the picture is Subedar-Major Narbahadur Gurung and on the right, next to Showers, is Subedar Lalbahadur Thapa VC.
Showers took over in March 1943 in the foothills of the Matmata massif in Tunisia. Shortly after the 8th Army’s breakthrough of the Mareth Line it had been held up by the enemy’s new 120 mile defensive line of Wadi Akarit. In the subsequent battle Showers successfully led the 1st Battalion during its assault over high ground, resulting in the capture of Fatnassa, an action for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. General Tuker later commented ‘Today I have been over the battlefield (of Wadi Akarit) and I marvel at the skills of the men….it was a very great feat and not due to my plan in any way’.
Showers continued to lead the 1st Battalion in the pursuit of the enemy as it withdrew towards Tunis and successfully fought at the Battles of Djebel Garci and Enfidaville. The 4th Indian Division led the desert-hardened British 8th Army to eventually meet up with recently arrived British 1st Army. Shortly afterwards Showers, accompanied by his orderly, were climbing a hill to carry out a recce of the ground ahead. They came across a German staff car with a flag of truce which took Showers direct to the HQ of General Von Armin, the German Commander in Chief who had taken over from Rommel. This led to the subsequent surrender of the Axis forces in North Africa. Showers, searching Von Arnim’s caravan for papers, found 3 bottles of Heidsieck champagne and General Kram’s Luger pistol. The pistol (but not the champagne) is now held in the Gurkha Museum. Showers’s account of the event is in the Regimental History Volume III: ‘Leaving the rifle companies in position , I and my orderly got into the German staff car (very glad to sit down after our long hot walk) drove up the road and up a side valley. Here hundreds of Huns had fallen in rows. We got out of the car and walked to Von Arnim’s caravan. I must have looked a grim sight, covered in dust and sweat and two days’ beard, a plaster on a cut over one eye, a captured Luger pistol and a kukri on my bel , my orderly with his tommy gun at the ready, taking no chances. Real pirates we must have seemed to the neat German staff officers , but they were all most polite and punctilious about saluting.’
Showers then took the 1st Battalion back to Egypt. After a period of rest it moved in August 1943 to Lebanon to carry out mountain training prior to deployment to Italy. In December 1943 they embarked at Port Tewfik on the P&O liner Ormande for Taranto, Italy. Here the Battalion came across a determined enemy located in a solidly-held defensive front, a far cry from the mobile operations of the North African campaign. On 18 February 1944 the Battalion began the assault of the Monastery at Monte Cassino as part of Operation Avenger. They met devastating fire from concealed enemy machine guns and in the ensuing battle lost three British Officers killed or missing and 34 Other Ranks killed and 104 wounded. Showers was seriously injured and evacuated to hospital.
After recovering from his wounds Showers was medically downgraded and appointed Chief Instructor, Staff College, Quetta. He was later to command 1st Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles. From January 1949 to August 1954 , Showers was a Major (Honorary Lieutenant Colonel) in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regular Army Reserve of Officers. After retiring from the Army he worked for the brewing company Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. He died on 12 June 1977.
Showers was a keen horseman and whipper-in to the Peshawar Vale Hunt and the Staff College Drag.
He was married to Miss Elizabeth Barne.
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, initially serving with the 43rd Native Infantry (NI) at Barrackpore, his appointment to that regiment being dated 13 November 1835. In 1836 he was appointed to the 10th NI 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. 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. 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. 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. 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, 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.
 His application papers for an HEIC Cadetship are in the British Library, India Section, filed under L/MIL/9/182/321-24.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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].
 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.
 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.
 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.
An inspirational Sirmoori described by a brother officer as ‘a great and exemplary leader and trainer of Gurkhas’ who was awarded two ‘immediate‘ Distinguished Service Orders as a Brigadier.
Lovett as a Major General
Major General Osmond de Turville Lovett (known as ‘Os’) was born on 21 October 1898, the eldest son of W de T Lovett. His younger brother was Lieutenant F H Lovett, who was killed in January 1942 in Malaya while serving with the 2nd Battalion.
Lovett was educated at Blundells School. In 1940 he married Eleanor Wright at St Thomas’s Church, Dehra Dun. They had no children.
Lovett, his wife and guests on his wedding day, 1940
He was gazetted to a Commission in the Indian Army from the Cadet College in Quetta in June 1917 and initially posted to 1st Bn 9th Gurkha Rifles, but was almost immediately cross-posted to their 2nd Battalion and saw active service with them in Mesopotamia from May 1918 to May 1919. He was then transferred to the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas and joined them at Zinjan in North West Persia, remaining with them at Kazvin until February 1920 as Officer Commanding the Menjil Detachment. He then moved to Enzeli where from March to April 1920 he commanded a Refugee & Internment Camp. He later moved with the 1st Battalion to Loshan where he commanded B Company and was Machine Gun Officer. On 3 June 1920 the 1st Battalion War Diary reported: ‘Lieutenant Lovett with a platoon of D Company arrived in camp [at Imam Zadeh Hachem] with four chests of gold and treasure from the bank in Rasht, which were held by the Battalion for safe keeping’. He was wounded while successfully ambushing an enemy patrol during a snowstorm near Rustamabad and although recommended for a Military Cross for his part in this action, it was not awarded. However, he was mentioned in despatches for gallantry in North West Persia during 1918-1920.
Lovett remained with the 1st Battalion until November 1923 when he was seconded to the Mandalay Battalion of the Burma Military Police and appointed Assistant Commissioner. He returned to the 1st Battalion in 1925 but in May 1928 was seconded to the Indian State Forces as Adjutant General Patiala State until May 1933 when he rejoined the 1st Battalion at Landi Kotal on the North West Frontier.
Lovett as a Captain in 1934
Since joining the 2nd Goorkhas in May 1919 Lovett had spent 7 of the subsequent 14 years serving away from the Regiment. According to an article by Colonel PHD Panton CBE in the 1983 edition of The Journal, Lovett was seconded to the Burma Military Police to recover from his debts and for the same reason had gone to a higher paid job with the Patiala State Forces. However in Burma his debts had increased further rather than decreased and he returned to the Regiment with ‘an even fatter portfolio of unpaid bills and IOUs from a countrywide selection of shroffs, bunias and marwaris [traders]. The Regiment took over his liabilities recorded by the Adjutant in interesting but fat files!’.
In the same article Colonel Panton recalls Lovett’s passion for smart motor cars. He usually drove Lancias but somehow managed to obtain a Rolls Royce from the Patiala Palace. He was also an exceptionally talented horseman and a very fine polo player who represented the Regiment on numerous occasions. Colonel Panton recalls in his article: ‘In early 1939, Os believed the primary Regimental objective was to win the Infantry Polo Cup at Bareilly; everything else was secondary to this objective. He was quite ruthless in his pursuit of the Cup and when two of our ponies went lame half way through the tournament Os borrowed ponies from our pig-sticking friends the local Gunners. This was strictly against the rules but he would let nothing stand in the way of winning the Cup – which we did against very strong and rich opposition.’
In January 1934 Lovett was cross-posted to the 2nd Battalion in the Malakand. He was temporarily in command from May to July 1936 before the Battalion moved to Chittagong to carry out anti-terrorist and garrison duties in eastern Bengal. Lovett went with them to Waziristan in October 1939 and almost immediately had a sharp encounter with the enemy whilst conducting a recce of the Biche Kashkai road when his force of 100 men sustained one man wounded. The action is described in Colonel Panton’s article: ‘Bill Gough [Colonel WG Gough MC, the Commanding Officer] had inveigled the local Commander into letting him trail his coat along a road which ran through hostile country. Os was put in charge and he made an ad hoc mobile column of every conceivable vehicle including an ambulance with the red crosses blanked out with mud. The Advance Guard came under enemy fire and halted, as did the Main Body. Os set off to walk the 500m to the Advance Guard wearing jodhpurs and a pig sticking topi. He was not the most elegant of figures on the ground (although he was impressive when mounted on a horse) and walked with his tummy leading and his chin sticking out at a slow methodical pace ignoring most of the shots which kicked up dust along the road but doffed his topi in a dignified salute to the firer whose shots came reasonably close to him’.
In October 1940 Lovett was posted back to the 1st Battalion in Baluchistan and shortly afterwards he was appointed Senior Supervising Officer of the Shumsher Dal Battalion of the Nepalese Contingent which had been seconded from the Royal Nepalese Army to support the British war effort. That appointment was followed almost immediately by a brief period in command of the Regimental Centre before he raised and commanded the 4th Battalion in Dehra Dun. He served with them for less than a month before rejoining the 1st Battalion at Meerut in April 1941 as Commandant. In July that year the Battalion left for Iraq via the South Persian ports. He successfully commanded the 1st Battalion throughout its time in Persia, Iraq, Cyprus and in the North African Campaign until March 1943 when he was appointed to command the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 4th Indian Division, of which the 1st Battalion was part.
Lovett when in command of the 1st Battalion in North Africa
Lovett had only just assumed command when his Brigade, with the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas as the spearhead, was ordered by the Divisional Commander, General Tuker (also a former 2nd Goorkha officer) to storm the Fatnassa feature. The action, fought on 5-7 April 1943, was known as the Battle of Akarit and was a resounding Allied victory. The account in the Regimental history attributes this to ‘The men he (Brigadier Lovett) had trained had executed one of the classical night attacks of military history’. At an early stage of the battle 7th Indian Infantry Brigade Tactical HQ came under heavy enemy mortar fire and Lovett was wounded in three places but he carried on in command of the Brigade until the outcome of the battle was clear. He was awarded an ’immediate’ Distinguished Service Order. The citation stated: ‘The fighting spirit of his Brigade comes from himself and was shown in its best form by the speed, determination and fierceness of the thrust. His tactical skill in this operation could not have been surpassed and his courage and leadership were of the very highest order. Throughout, he was in the middle of the battle under intense shell, mortar and small arms fire conducting operations with his usual coolness and decision’.
Lovett as a Brigadier
After recovering from his wounds Lovett continued to command 7th Indian Infantry Brigade throughout the Tunisian and Italian Campaigns. He was awarded another ‘immediate‘Distinguished Service Order for his part in the Battle of Cassino in early 1944. The citation stated: ‘During the period 10 February to 28 March 1944 the Brigade remained in the line without relief, frequently in heavy rain and snow and under intense shelling and mortaring. During the major operation against the Monastery feature on 17 – 18 February the Brigade suffered heavy casualties at the rate of some thirty every day. Throughout this period of very considerable strain Brigadier Lovett remained calm and cheerful, visiting his troops daily and going right up to forward company positions. His clear appreciation of the tactical side of the operations was always of the greatest value and his services throughout the period were outstanding’.
The Regimental History reports that on 29 May 1944 the 1st Battalion, near Arielli, were relieved by Italian paratroopers, some of the first Italian troops to enter the Adriatic front following the Italian switch to the Allies’ side. Communication was in ‘a French of sorts’. Of the Brigade Commander, Brigadier Lovett, it was reported that his ‘confidence in his qualifications exceeds the quality of his accent.’
Later that year, 7th Indian Infantry Brigade was ordered to move to Greece with 4th Indian Division, and Lovett took over as temporary Division Commander for a period of six months. He was appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1945 in recognition of his work in Greece.
In October 1945 he took command of the 19th Indian Division and later the 7th Indian Infantry Division in Malaya. In 1947 he took command of Rawalpindi District in India during the troublesome time of Partition. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the New Year Honours’ List 1948 before retiring from the Army that year and settling in Natal, South Africa, where he farmed near the town of Mooi River. He died of a heart attack in October 1982.
Lovett’s medals were purchased circa 1982 by Mr John Atkin, a private collector, and sold at auction in 2001 for £6000 and again in 2015 for £6500.
A distinguished Sirmoori described as ‘the kindest of men with a zest for life‘, who was awarded the Military Cross when serving with 4th Battalion 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles.
Major General Neville Godfray Hind was born on 8 January 1892, the son of A E Hind Esq. He was educated at Winchester College and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.
Hind was gazetted to the Unattached List for the Indian Army from RMA Woolwich and arrived in India in December 1911. He was initially attached to the 2nd Battalion Prince of Wales (North Staffordshire) Regiment. In December 1912, he was transferred to the Indian Army and appointed to the 2nd Goorkhas, joining the 2nd Battalion (2/2GR) in Dehra Dun as a Company Officer.
When the 2nd Battalion went to France in September 1914 Hind was detailed to remain at the 2/2GR Depot at Dehra Dun. However, the following year he was sent to France as a reinforcement, arriving at Marseille in July 1915 with a draft of 83 men who joined the Battalion at Calonne, where it was out of the line enjoying well-deserved rest. Hind was appointed Quartermaster in August 1915 and moved with the Battalion to Marseille prior to sailing with it to Egypt on the SS Coconada, which reached Port Said on 17 November that year.
Hind as a Lieutenant with 2/2GR in France, 1915
The Battalion stayed in Egypt until 17 February 1916 when Hind embarked with it on the SS Baroda for Karachi, reaching Dehra Dun in March. In January 1917 2/2GR deployed to Burhan near Rawalpindi in the North West Frontier Province where in October 1917 Hind was appointed Adjutant.
He was with 2/2GR in March 1918 when it joined the Marri Field Force in Baluchistan, and he was mentioned in despatches for his services in that campaign. He also served with them in the Third Afghan War (May-August 1919) and was again mentioned in despatches. He briefly officiated in command of 2/2GR during May 1919.
After leave he rejoined the battalion in August 1919. He commanded companies on operations against Mahsud tribesmen in the second attack on Girni Post and later in the ambushes on Manzai Ridge and on the third attack on Girni Post, shortly afterwards being appointed Battalion Second in Command.
In October 1919 Hind was attached to 2nd Battalion 127th (Queen Mary’s Own) Baluch Regiment, again as Second in Command, and later to the 4th Battalion 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles (4/3GR) as a Company Commander. He served with them in the 1920 operations against the Mahsud tribesmen and in the course of the campaign Hind he was awarded the Military Cross and was mentioned in despatches for the third time. In action at Makin near Taunda China in Waziristan, where he won his MC, he was severely wounded in the knee, leaving him permanently disabled. The citation for his award reads:
‘For devotion to duty and gallantry in the field on 19 February 1920 at Makin. This officer carried out a brilliant attack on a tower. Leaving two platoons to cover his advance he personally led the other two to the attack. On reaching the tower he found that the enemy’s fire from across a nullah was very severe. He then personally attempted to get into the tower and destroy the enemy with bombs, in which action he was severely wounded. By his personal behaviour and leadership he was responsible for the successful result of the day’s work‘.
After the disbandment of 4/3GR Hind rejoined 2/2GR in Dehra Dun. He attended Staff College, Quetta in 1922/3. He returned to 2/2GR as a Company Commander and then from September 1924 to March 1926 was Brigade Major Zhon Independent Brigade Area. From March 1926 to September 1928 he was GSO2 at HQ Northern Command at Rawalpindi. From 1930-5 was Assistant Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence in London.
Hind was due to be posted to the 1st Battalion 2nd Goorkhas but instead was appointed Commandant of the 2nd Battalion in May 1935. He served with it until March 1938 in Dehra Dun and Chittagong. During this time he also attended the Senior Officers Course, Belgaum, went on leave for 3 months, briefly officiated in command of East Bengal Area and, in July 1936, was Officiating Commander of the Dehra Dun Brigade.
Portrait of Godfray Hind in 1943 by the war artist Harry Sheldon
He left 2/2GR in February 1938 to take up the appointment of Deputy Secretary in the Defence Department of the Government of India, remaining in that role until March 1940. He was then appointed Commander Jubbulpore Brigade Area in the Central Provinces serving there until March 1942. His final military appointment was as GOC Sindh District from March 1942 to March 1945, being promoted Major General in January 1943. He became a Companion of the Star of India (CSI) in May 1943 and in December that year he was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta (3rd Class) for his services to Polish refugees evacuated through Iran to Karachi where he had organized their rest camps and onward movement.
Hind as a Major General circa 1945 (National Portrait Gallery)
In April 1945 Hind retired from the Army to live in Jersey in the Channel Islands. He was active in both local government and charity work. From 1946 to 1956 he was a Jurat (a lay judge) of the Royal Court of Jersey. He was also a Senator in the Jersey Government, local President of the Royal British Legion, Commissioner of the Boy Scouts, President of the Beauté Naturelles
Legislation, an organisation to protect areas of natural beauty, a member of various Government Committees including Defence and Public Health, and Chairman of the Joint Advisory Committee. In December 1966 he was appointed a Knight of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in recognition for his work as Chairman of that charity in Jersey. He died in January 1973.
He married first Miss Marguerite ‘Peggy‘ Hall with whom he had a son. She died in 1953 and five years later he married Mrs Noel Mansfield.
Hind’s awards and medals were purchased at auction in 2016 and are now in the medal collection of the Gurkha Museum .
Commandant of the Sirmoor Battalion and member of a dynastic Regimental family,
killed at the battle of Sobraon in 1846.
Portrait of Captain John Fisher by Jivan Ram, who was active as a painter c.1820 to c.1850.
This picture is now held in the Gurkha Museum, Winchester.
Captain John Fisher was born on 12 July 1802 at Kirk Hammerton, near Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. He was the son of the Reverend Henry Fisher, Senior Chaplain Bengal Establishment, who died at Mussoorie on 16 March 1805 aged 72 and was buried in the Chandranagar Cemetery in Dehra Dun.
John Fisher was part of a Sirmoor Battalion dynasty. He was the elder brother of Major Andrew Fisher, who served with the Regiment from 1826-8, father of Major General JFL Fisher (1852-60) and grandfather of Brigadier General John Fisher (1884-1919). John Fisher’s daughter Lucy married General Sir Charles Reid who famously commanded the Sirmoor Battalion at the Siege of Delhi in 1857.
He arrived in India in March 1816. On 1 March 1817 he was appointed Cornet in the 24th Light Dragoons. The London Gazette announcing this appointment has not been found but should indicate whether or not he got it by purchase. The date he surrendered the Cometcy has not come to light either, but the London Gazette of 24 July 1819 announced that Ensign Charles M. Dighton was to be Cornet in the 24 Light Dragoons ‘from half-pay of the 84 Foot vice John Fisher who exchanges. Dated 1 December 1818’. There is no known record of whether John Fisher exchanged directly into the 84th Foot.
He was nominated as a Cadet on 12 July 1818 on attaining the age of 16 years (his application papers for an Honourable East India Company Cadetship are in the British Library, India Section). As an Ensign he did duty with the 1/7th Native Infantry (NI), the 1/25th NI and 1/27th NI before being posted to the 1/4th NI in March 1820. The Indian Army Lists show him for many years as being on the strength of the 23rd NI which, prior to 1824 was a battalion of the 14th NI.
He was posted to the Sirmoor Battalion on 31 January 1824 and was Adjutant from April 1824 to April 1827. He commanded the battalion’s detachment of two companies at the siege and capture of Bhurtpore in December 1825 and was mentioned in Divisional Orders of 19 January 1826 by General Nicholls. He was Second in Command of the Sirmoor Battalion from May 1827 to 1 January 1843 and was appointed to command from 2 January 1843. He was one of the officers of the Regiment given a grant of land in the Doon and was for a time Assistant Political Officer in Dehra in addition to his military duties.
The Sirmoor Battalion under his command served in the Army of Reserve at Ferozepore from December 1843 to April 1844 and at the Battles of Aliwal on 28 January 1826 and Sobraon. John Fisher was killed at the latter battle on 10 February 1846 and posthumously mentioned in despatches for his gallantry.
He held the Sutlej Campaign Medal (Sikh War) (1845-46) inscribed ALIWAL with clasp SOBRAON. This is framed and in the possession of The Cavalry and Guards Club, Piccadilly, London. Had he survived, Fisher would have been entitled to the First India Medal (1799-1826) with clasp BHURTPORE, but it was not produced until 1851 when it was issued only to those then surviving.
John Fisher married Lucy, third daughter of the Reverend John Vincent, also a Chaplain of the Bengal Establishment, at Saharanpur on 2 June 1825.
In 1993 Mrs E.M. Dixon presented to The Gurkha Museum, Winchester, a silver plate and silver bowl said to have been captured at Bhurtpore by Lieutenant John Fisher, together with a portrait of him (shown above). They are currently on show there.
General Tuker was an innovative, energetic and highly successful leader and trainer who commanded the 1st Battalion on operations in Waziristan, 4th Indian Division (which included the 1st Battalion) during the campaigns in North Africa and Italy, and Eastern Command in India during the turbulent period before Partition and Indian independence.
Francis Tuker as a Lieutenant General (National Portrait Gallery)
Francis Tuker, known to his friends as ‘Gertie’, was born on 24 July 1894, the son of WJ Sanger Tuker of Butts Green Hall, Sandon, Essex. He was educated at Brighton College and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
He was gazetted to the Indian Army and, as was then the custom, first joined a British unit in India, the 1st Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment, on 8 March 1914. He transferred to the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas (1/2GR) in Dehra Dun on 10 October that year. Initially attached to No.1 Double Company (DC) in Lucknow, in February 1916 he went with the Battalion to Mesopotamia as Officer Commanding No.3 DC, sailing on the SS Thongwa from Karachi and disembarking at Magil on the River Tigris on 19 February. The War Diary shows that he again became a company officer in No.1 DC and was Acting Adjutant in March 1916. On 12 April he was sent with No.3 DC to reinforce the 36th Sikhs but on 13 April he was wounded by a sniper at Beit Aiessa and evacuated to India.
There is no record of what he did from then until 23 February 1918, but on that date he was appointed Assistant Commandant of the 4th Battalion Assam Rifles at Imphal, with whom he took parti in the Kuki punitive expedition on the North East Frontier from 10 March 1918 to 26 June 1919. He later claimed that the many shortcomings in the conduct of this campaign were the genesis of his ideas for improvements in tactics and training.
He rejoined 1/2GR at Enzeli, North West Persia, in April 1920 and the following month, by which time the Battalion had moved to Resht, he was appointed Adjutant. He was based in Kazvin and Rustamabad before returning with the Battalion to Dehra Dun in June 1921. On 6 February 1922 he took the Truncheon Party to Delhi for the Prince of Wales’s State Entry into the city. He completed his tour as Adjutant in 1923 and in 1925-6 was a student at the Staff College Camberley. It was not an experience he enjoyed and his critical comments on the quality and content of the teaching did not go down well. He rejoined 1/2GR after leave in March 1927. A year later he became Staff Captain of the Peshawar Brigade and, from April 1929, Brigade Major of the Delhi Independent Brigade, remaining in that role until January 1932.
He then rejoined 1/2GR, serving with it on the Khajuri Plain on the North West Frontier and in the Khyber. From 1934 to 1936 he was General Staff Officer Grade 2 (GSO2) Rawalpindi District. Earmarked to return to 1/2GR as Second in Command, he instead became its officiating Commandant from 1 October 1936 and was confirmed in the appointment on 1 February 1937. During his time in command the Battalion was on active service in Waziristan. His innovative and highly successful tactics against the tribesmen, based on his determination to seize and hold the initiative, were widely applauded and he was mentioned in despatches and made OBE.
The announcement in the Times, 22nd December 1937, of Tuker’s OBE for services in Waziristan that year.
(Courtesy Lieutenant Colonel RM Venning).
It was during his time in command that Tuker established his strong reputation as an imaginative, innovative and forceful commander and trainer. In the 1/2GR Digest of Service he left a detailed description of the Battalion’s operations, weapons and dress together with his views on the tactics and training required for success. In March 1938 his notes on ‘The Sirmoor System’, a modern, forward-looking concept of values and ethos based on his experiences up to that point, were published in Battalion Standing Orders.
Although he did not officially relinquish command of 1/2GR until 30 September 1939, he had already left on 19 February that year to officiate as Deputy Director of Staff Duties at Army HQ India. A few months later he was appointed General Staff Officer Grade 1 (GSO1) Military Training 2 in the same HQ. On 15 July 1940 he became Deputy Director of Military Training at General HQ India, taking over the appointment of Director (as a Brigadier) on 18 September, a post he held until 30 September 1941.
On 1 October, as an Acting Major General, Tuker was appointed to raise and command the 34th Indian Division at Jhansi. In December he was switched to command 4th Indian Division in North Africa, and secured the transfer of 1/2GR to his new command in August 1942. He led the Division in the battles of Benghazi and El Alamein in 1942, and at Mareth, Wadi Akarit, Garci and Medj-el-Bab in 1943, securing its reputation as a fine fighting formation. In Tunisia he accepted the surrender of General von Arnim, the German Commander in North Africa.
Tuker’s North Africa campaign ID card (from his papers in the Imperial War Museum, London)
Tuker continued to lead 4th Indian Division as it re-trained in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon before it engaged in operations in southern Italy from December 1943. He was a strong advocate for the bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino with huge blockbuster bombs, having read an 1879 book about its very sturdy construction that he had found in a bookshop in Naples. It eventually took place on a more limited scale on 15 February 1944, but prior to the follow-up assault – which was unsuccessful – he was incapacitated by fever and the Division was commanded by the Commander Royal Artillery, Brigadier Harry Dimoline.
Sketch by the war artist Anthony Gross of Tuker and his senior commanders in 4th Indian Division. Left to right: Brigadier ‘Os’ Lovett (also a former 2nd Goorkha, Commander 7th Indian Infantry Brigade); Tuker; Brigadier Donald Bateman, (late 10th Baluch Regiment, Commander 5th Indian Infantry Brigade); Brigadier KH Dimoline (Commander Royal Artillery). Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/11591.
He received many awards for his service in command of the Division. He was twice mentioned in despatches and awarded a Distinguished Service Order for his achievements in North Africa in 1942 and early 1943, and was made a Companion of the Bath for what he achieved with the Division in Tunisia.
There are at least two accounts of 4th Indian Division’s wartime history. Fourth Indian Division by Lieutenant Colonel GR Stevens was published in Toronto, Canada, in 1948 and Red Eagles was a pamphlet published by GS Borker in Bombay in 1945.
From March to October 1944 Tuker was on medical leave in England. He then returned to India as Chairman of the Frontier Commission before becoming General Officer Commanding (GOC) Ceylon in 1945. From June to September that year he commanded 4th Indian Corps in Burma. The Corps was at that stage mostly involved in mopping-up operations, but his time in command included the Battle of the Sittang Bend, the last major land battle against the Japanese in Burma when the remnants of their forces tried to breakout from where they were trapped on the Pegu Yoma range. He was thanked for his service in Burma by the Commander South East Asia Command (Admiral Mountbatten) and again mentioned in despatches.
On 1 November 1945 he became GOC Lucknow District and on 21 January 1946 was appointed GOC-in-Chief Eastern Command India as a Lieutenant General, a post he held until November 1947. He later wrote an account of this very turbulent and difficult period of Indian partition and independence in his book ‘While Memory Serves’.
Tuker as GOC-in-C Eastern Command, India (from a newspaper cutting among his papers in the Imperial War Museum, London)
After leave in the UK he retired from active soldiering in April 1948 but continued to be Colonel of the 2nd Goorkhas, a role to which he had been appointed on 20 March 1946, until 20 March 1956.
During his service Tuker contributed numerous articles to military and civilian journals under the pen-names ‘Auspex’ and ‘John Helland’ as well as under his own name. He published a number of books and was an artist whose drawings and etchings were published in The Illustrated News of India. He was also an innovative designer: Colonel Denis Wood remembers that when he joined the 1st Battalion in 1946 the mess was still furnished with a sofa and arm chairs designed by Tuker and built to be broken down quickly into mule loads for transportation. In 1958 he was awarded the Sir Percy Sykes medal by the Royal Central Asian Society. On 16 January 1967 Tuker Lines in Brunei were named after him, shortly after the 1st Battalion became the resident battalion there.
In retirement Gertie Tuker ran a fruit and flower farm at his home, Bosilliac, near Falmouth in Cornwall, but because of his ill health his activities were gradually curtailed until he was compelled to manage the business from his wheel chair. He was a keen and supportive member of the Regimental Association, later renamed the Sirmoor Club, and was its President from 1948 until he ceased to be Colonel of the Regiment in 1956.
After a prolonged illness, he died in October 1967. A memorial service was held in the Chapel of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, on 30 November 1967. Obituaries were published in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Regimental Journal, the Sirmoor Club half-yearly newsletter and The Kukri. A biography of him written after his death by Brigadier the Right Honourable Sir John Smyth was never published although a copy of the typescript is held in the Gurkha Museum, Winchester. There is a memorial tablet to him in the Chapel of Brighton College, below which hangs his sword. At its dedication the Regimental Band played music and Sounded Retreat on the College’s playing field. His papers are in the Imperial War Museum.
An appreciation of him by ‘an officer who knew him’ was published in the Regimental Journal on his retirement as Colonel of the Regiment in 1956, and a summary of his military life and qualities, including his time as GOC-in-C Easter Command, was published by his then ADC, Captain (later Colonel) John Sellars, in the Regimental Journal in 1993. In 2022 Tuker was one of ten World War 2 commanders profiled by the amateur historian and media celebrity Al Murray in his book ‘Command’. Based solely on a selective reading of two of Tuker’s books, Approach to Battle and The Pattern of War, it gave an unbalanced picture, overstating his contribution to the strategy and tactics in the North African war and putting too much emphasis on Tuker’s willingness to argue his point with senior officers as a key characteristic of his nature.
When Lady Tuker died in 1990 she bequeathed £1000 for a use to be decided by the Sirmoor Club Committee. The money was invested in the Sirmoor Rifles Association Trust Fund and the income used to provide The Tuker Award to the best subaltern or acting Captain in the Regiment each year, and this was carried forward to the Royal Gurkha Rifles when the 2nd Goorkhas merged with the other British Army Gurkha Infantry Regiments in 1994.
Francis Tuker married Catherine Isabella Bucknall in 1923, the sister of Captain R D-H Bucknall who served in the 2nd Goorkhas 1915-23 and again from 1941-42, when he was killed in Malaya. They had three daughters. She died in 1946 and he married, secondly, Mrs Cynthia Helen Fawcett, the widow of Lieutenant Colonel RB Fawcett MC of the 9th Gurkha Rifles. They had no children.
* * * * *
In his book Approach to Battle (1963), General Tuker commented: “I have tried my hand at many other things in my life – farming, commercial horticulture, authorship, training horses, painting, etching and engraving, and none have I found so testing and so difficult as the planning and conduct of a successful land battle against a worthy foe, whether against the guerrilla or the enemy who is fully equipped for war.”
He passed the self-imposed test with flying colours and was undoubtedly the pre-eminent Sirmoor officer of the mid-20th century. His distinguished service prior to the Second World War and his thoughtful and imaginative approach to tactics and operations made him stand out from his contemporaries. His period in command of the 1st Battalion in 1937-9 was particularly noteworthy for his determination to get the upper hand over tribes on the North West Fronter through a combination of innovative tactics and a modernised and inspiring relationship between officers and men – the ‘Sirmoor System’. Recognition of his ability as a trainer led to senior appointments in India where his successful ideas could be shared more widely.
His admirable leadership qualities led to his quickly being given command of a division in the Second World War. He honed 4th Indian Division into a fine fighting formation and it was unfortunate that he had relatively few opportunities to demonstrate its worth by commanding it in battle. He took over in December 1941, but in the unsuccessful Gazala battles in May/June 1942 two of the Division’s brigades were in the Eighth Army reserve and Tuker was merely an observer. The Division’s brigades remained dispersed to other formations until October 1942, when they came together to hold the Ruweisat Ridge as a diversionary tactic in the Second Battle of El Alamein, rather than being involved in the main action. In December that year the Division was again dispersed until March 1943, when under his leadership it did well in Tunisia.
Tuker did not therefore have opportunities to demonstrate innovative tactics of a scope and scale that would have won him renown, and he remains one of the less well-known British generals of the Second World War. He was also highly critical of British equipment and tactics, a characteristic of his that had first been noted when he attended Staff College in 1925-6. He was not alone in this as there was much to criticise but his strong opinions, energetically expressed, did not always win him friends among the upper echelons of the British Army. Nevertheless, his underlying abilities were recognised and appreciated, leading to his final appointment as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Command in India and well-deserved promotion to Lieutenant General.
He was also held back by illness. He had recurring bouts of tropical fever, which eventually led to his having to relinquish command of 4th Indian Division prior to the assault on Monte Cassino in February 1944. In addition he suffered badly from rheumatoid arthritis, particularly in later life. Both may have held him back from achieving further promotion and higher command.
His extensive writings give good insights into his thinking, albeit exclusively from his own perspective. He comes across as a thoughtful, imaginative and energetic man. However, in the absence of any authoritative, objective appraisal it is difficult to get a balanced picture of his achievements (the short chapter in Al Murray’s book and the biography that Brigadier Jackie Smyth was unable to get published have to be discounted in this respect). Whatever the historical nuances, it can be said with certainty that he was an exceptionally capable and remarkable man who made significant contributions to the success and reputation of both his Regiment and the British Army. As such he was without doubt the most distinguished Sirmoori of his generation.
Commandant 4th Battalion September 1944 – July 1947: ‘A true leader of men ‘
John Kitson when Second in Command of the 4th Battalion, 1944
John Kitson was born on 30 May 1908, the son of Lieutenant Colonel H L Kitson of Beaminster, Dorset. He was educated at Haileybury College and the Royal Military College Sandhurst.
After being gazetted to the Unattached List of the Indian Army, in April 1928 Kitson joined the 1st Battalion The Hampshire Regiment in India for a one-year attachment. In June 1929 he was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas (2/2GR). From September 1932 to March 1933 he was AssistantRecruiting Officer for Gurkhas at Kunraghat, Gorakhpur and from then until March 1936 served as Quartermaster before being appointed Adjutant. He was with the battalion in Chittagong from September 1936 to October 1937 and from April to October 1938 officiated as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (DAAG) in HQ Meerut District. Colonel Philip Panton, a Regimental contemporary, described him as ‘a delightful, even-tempered man with a clear analytical brain which made him a good soldier, far and away the best Adjutant I have ever known; an authoritative officer demanding high standards but always kindly and reasonable.’
Kitson was on long leave when the Second World War broke out but by October 1939 he had arrived back in Dehra Dun. He initially assumed command of the 2nd Battalion Depot before rejoining 2/2GR in Waziristan. In October 1940 he transferred as a Wing Commander to the 3rd Battalion which was being raised in Dehra Dun. From January to February 1941 he officiated as DAAG Deccan District and from March 1941 to July 1942 was Staff Captain HQ 26th Indian Infantry Brigade, with which he served in the Middle East. He then attended the Short War Course at the Staff College Quetta until December 1942 after which he was appointed Brigade Major Razmak Brigade in Waziristan until January 1944.
Kitson was then transferred to the 4th Battalion 2nd Goorkhas (4/2GR), which had been raised in 1941 and was already in Razmak, as Second in Command. He attended the Senior Wing at the Tactical School at Clement Town in Dehra Dun and was subsequently appointed Commandant 4/2GR in September 1944. After 3½ years serving on the North West Frontier, and to their delighted surprise, 4/2GR was then warned for operations in Burma, as a reconnaissance battalion of 20th Indian Division. In February 1945 it left Rawalpindi for central Burma and by the end of March was just south of Mandalay, where it was transferred to 32nd Indian Brigade. So began a 500km advance down the Irrawaddy valley in pursuit of the Japanese, involving more than twenty major contacts including the capture of a complete battalion of the Indian National Army that fought for the Japanese. During May 1945 Kitson commanded ‘Kitcol‘ consisting of 4/2GR supported by a squadron of tanks from the 3rd Dragoon Guards, a battery of 9th Field Regiment and a section of Sappers and Miners. It was given the task of mopping up Japanese in the foothills of the Pegu Yoma range, a precursor to the Sitting Bend battle of July that year when Japanese who had gathered further up the hills tried to break out.
4/2GR operations finished at the end of June 1945 when they handed over the 1st Battalion 1st Gurkha Rifles. It was estimated 4/2GR killed 225 Japanese with many others perishing in the chaungs (ditches) and being wounded or missing. The Battalion lost one British Officer and 20 Gurkhas. Kitson was mentioned in despatches, scant recognition for commanding a battalion which had achieved so much during 3 months of relentless offensive operations.
After leave in India Kitson returned to Burma. In early October 1945 he embarked with 4/2GR for French Indo-China where it took part in operations around Saigon, a paradoxical situation in which the Annamites or nationalists had become enemies and the disarmed Japanese were deployed as auxiliaries in support of the British and French. Just after Christmas 1945 the Battalion sailed for British North Borneo as part of Jesselton Force which was responsible for the care of 12000 Japanese POWs. This task was completed in May 1946 when it returned to India to carry out internal security duties.
In April 1946 Kitson went on UK leave and rejoined 4/2GR in Bengal. He remained in command until July 1947 when he left it at Alipore and returned to the UK. He never returned to India because independence meant there was no job for him to return to. In December 1947 4/2GR was handed over to India and re-titled 5th Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles (5/8GR). It remains in the Indian Army order of battle and is proud of its heritage and connection with the 2nd Goorkhas, continuing to call itself ‘The Sirmoor Rifles’.
On retirement from the Army in September 1948 Kitson became Assistant Conservative Agent to the Totnes Parliamentary Division in Devon. From April 1949 until July 1956 he was employed on the administrative staff of St George’s Hospital in London and later at the Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon. He then became a poultry farmer and market gardener in Devon and a Director of the Torquay Market Company. He died in March 1995.
John Kitson was a good tennis and squash player and a keen fisherman ‘pursuing the mahseer whenever he could – especially in the Swat, Ganges and Jumna’ as one friend described him. His pride in his officers’ and men’s achievements and deeds is reflected in his book The Story of the 4th Battalion 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles, published in 1949.
Kitson married firstly Sheila Crawford. They later divorced and she married Major General Derek Horsford, late 8GR. In 1952 he married, secondly, Marcia ‘Sunnie‘ Russell.
A ‘bulldog of a man‘ who very successfully commanded a Brigade and later a Division in Burma and was awarded two Distinguished Service Orders.
Freddie Loftus-Tottenham when in command of the 81st West African Division in Burma
Frederick Joseph Loftus-Tottenham was born in County Kildare on 4 May 1898, the son of Frederick Loftus-Tottenham Esq of Glenfarne Hall, County Leitrim. He was educated at St Edmund’s College, Ware in Hertfordshire and, according to his Times obituary, also in France and Northern Ireland.
On being commissioned from the Cadet College, Wellington, South India, Loftus-Tottenham joined the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas (1/2GR) in April 1916. He was temporarily attached to the 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force) with which he saw active service in Mesopotamia. In September 1917 he rejoined 1/2GR at Beled Ruz, Mesopotamia and remained with them at Mirjana and Kardarrah until April 1918 when he departed on leave. He rejoined the Battalion, which was by then part of Dunsterforce, at Kermanshah in July 1918. In late July that year while returning after a night patrol in search of rifle thieves he was shot in the right forearm, and his orderly in the leg, by an over-zealous sentry of the 1st Battalion The Hampshire Regiment. He was initially evacuated to the Officers Hospital, Baghdad and then back to India.
After recovering from his wound he rejoined the 1st Battalion Depot in Dehra Dun. In January 1919 he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion (2/2/GR) which he joined in Tank on the North West Frontier. With them he took part in the 3rd Afghan War (May-August 1919) and went on operations in Waziristan in late 1919.
He left 2/2GR in February 1922 and was seconded to the Indian Signal Corps, staying with them for four years until November 1926. During this time he was with ‘E ‘ Divisional Signal Company in Peshawar and in 1923 attended a course at the Army Signal School, Maresfield, Sussex.
In 1929 he was appointed Training Officer to the Resident’s Escort, Kathmandu, Nepal, remaining there until April 1935 when he was appointed Commandant Newar (Udaipur) Indian State Forces. Some of his experiences in Udaipur were published in 1973 edition of the Regimental Journal: ‘It was rather like commanding a mixed Cavalry/Infantry Brigade with no staff other than clerical. One had no boss and made all one’s decisions and this plus the absence of Staff officers ensured ‘no red tape’. In deciding the Army needed to get around a bit more, one way was to introduce polo. We also did a lot of pig-sticking and I and a few others took part in the Kadir Cup in 1939 which was the last Kadir ever to be held. Other sport abounded and I enjoyed duck and snipe shooting and was allowed to shoot panther ad lib [he shot six] but tiger were reserved for the Viceroy and VIPs although I did obtain special permission to shoot one. I was presented with a full length portrait against a Khyber Pass background with a spear in one hand and a foot on a prostrate tiger. Beneath the painting was a long poem extolling my virtues including the following last verse:
“For when they see your Honour’s sight
Then they take to the pigeon’s flight
For neither poison gas nor bomb
Can affect one Tottenhomb.“’
In October 1939 he finished working for the Maharaja of Udaipur and returned to regimental soldiering. Apart from the three years 1926-9 he had served away from the Regiment for a total of 14 years. He was briefly Second in Command 2/2GR on the North West Frontier before in June 1940 being sent to command 1st Battalion of the 10th Gurkha Rifles (1/10GR) who were also stationed on the Frontier, at Razmak.
1/10GR was almost incessantly involved in road protection, column work and minor punitive operations. It was dull routine work, but on 9 December 1941 Loftus-Tottenham was appointed to command the newly raised 153 Gurkha Parachute Battalion. His Brigade Commander was Brigadier Gough, another 2nd Goorkha. He described some of his experiences in the 1952 edition of the 10GR regimental magazine The Bugle and Kukri: ‘’By and large we got good, but not outstanding men, notably from the 10th Gurkhas who provided the largest contingent – I brought them with me – and the 6th Gurkhas. As regards training no Gurkha or Indian had ever yet jumped and there was a certain amount of apprehension as to how they would react. We need not have worried. The first Indian to jump was the Madrassi Medical Officer of the Indian battalion and the first Gurkha was a young Havildar Major of 1/10GR who later went on the instructional staff.’
In 1942 Loftus -Tottenham attended the Higher War School after which he was promoted to Acting Colonel and given command of the Vizagapatam Area, a port city located on the east coast of India situated between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal. His role as Fortress Commander was to defend the area from a threatened invasion of India by the Japanese. At the end of his tour he was mentioned in despatches.
In February 1943 he was promoted to Acting Brigadier and appointed Commander 33rd Indian Infantry Brigade, part of 7th Indian Division. For the majority of his time as commander his Brigade consisted of 4th Battalion 5th Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force), 4th Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment and 1st Battalion Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey). In October 1943 the Brigade moved to the Arakan and in January 1944 took part in 7th Indian Division’s attack down the Kalapanzin Valley. British plans were thwarted by the Japanese who infiltrated and compromised the Division’s lines of supply. This resulted in new tactics based on ‘defensive boxes‘ supplied by air. The main target of the Japanese was the Division’s Admin Box which contained administrative troops and the HQ staff, and when the Division HQ was overrun, for a while Loftus-Tottenham had to coordinate the Division’s three brigades.
His Brigade saw heavy fighting but eventually, with their own supplies cut, the Japanese attack began to fade away and the Brigade was withdrawn into reserve. In April 1944 it was airlifted from the Arakan and sent as reinforcements to Kohima where it again experienced heavy fighting throughout May until the battle was over. Loftus-Tottenham was awarded his first Distinguished Service Order.
In August 1944 he was promoted to Acting Major General and appointed to command the 81st West African Division which held the left hand flank of XV Corps’ front in the Arakan. The Division had virtually no transport, relying on auxiliary groups of porters. In some respects this proved no disadvantage given the very poor going down the Kaladan Valley but the Division had to rely on aircraft for much of its external resupply.
In January 1945 the Division had reached Myohaung, and with two brigades from 82nd West African Division, Loftus-Tottenham launched an attack. By the end of the month, when this key town was eventually taken, the Division was relieved and withdrawn to Southern India where, according to his former ADC ‘being away from the fighting did not amuse Freddie in the least‘. He was at least compensated by being twice mentioned in despatches and awarded his second Distinguished Service Order in March 1945. The citation read: ‘This role called for bold action and hard knocks and Loftus-Tottenham drew two thirds of the garrison out of Akyab in the end. The Jap tried to concentrate on him and knock him out as he did successfully in March 1944, but General Loftus-Tottenham maintained his mobility and the Jap failed to pin him down.‘
In 1945 he took the Division to India where it was stationed in tented camps about 100 km outside Madras in order to train for Operation Zipper, the invasion of Malaya, but the need for it was superseded by the war’s end. In June 1946 he left the 81st West African Division at Port Said while it was returning to West Africa.
At Loftus-Tottenham’s Memorial Service his former ADC Mr Kenneth Nash gave the address: ‘Freddie, having spent his life with native troops, immediately developed a close rapport with his West African soldiers. The lingua franca in the Royal West African Frontier was pigeon English and it was not long before he acquired a useful vocabulary and he was particularly intrigued by the description of an aeroplane as a “breeze lorry far up“. He would never pretend to be good at administration, indeed he rather relished the fact that he had not been to Staff College. He was essentially a fighting soldier and soon dispensed with any procedure which might delay the battle. One of his earliest pronouncements was very explicit: “As we are fighting apes with ape equipment all messages will henceforth be transmitted in clear!“. He was extremely fit with boundless energy and a somewhat alarming disregard for his personal safety’.
Loftus-Tottenham’s next appointment was General Officer Commanding Force 401, an expanded brigade group formed to protect British oil interests in south-west Iran and in particular the oil refinery at Abadan. This was the last of the old Indian Army expeditions to be sent overseas. HQ Force 401 was based in southern Iraq near Basra until its withdrawal in May-June 1947 after which Loftus-Tottenham was appointed General Officer Commanding Iraq. He was made a Commander of the British Empire for his services with Force 401.
In August 1947 India gained its independence but Loftus-Tottenham remained there on the British Army Special List of former Indian Army officers. He was employed by the nascent Pakistan Government as General Officer Commanding 7 Division and Rawalpindi District and had to contend with the disputed, difficult and disorderly frontiers between India and Pakistan from the mountains of Gilgit in the north to the plains of the Punjab in the south. His opposite number on the other side of the border commanding an Indian Division was Major General ‘Os’ Lovett, also late 2nd Goorkhas. In his eulogy, Mr Nash quoted an apocryphal story from this time: ‘Lovett had acquired a white Rolls Royce and the story goes that each day he drove westwards into No Man’s Land whilst Freddie in an unspecified vehicle drove eastwards to meet him; whereupon they agreed upon the format of the battle to be fought that day before returning to their respective countries!’.
In August 1950 Loftus -Tottenham retired from the Pakistan Armed Forces and returned to the UK where he commanded a Home Guard Battalion. He was later re-employed as a General Staff Officer Grade 1 (GSO1) (Home Guard) in HQ Northern Ireland in Lisburn. On the disbandment of the Home Guard he became Organizing Secretary of the Cancer Campaign in Northern Ireland and a Regional Organizer of the Army Benevolent Fund.
Loftus-Tottenham’s obituary published in The Times described him ‘as a fine looking man with a forceful personality. He had a delightful sense of humour and was a great deflator of the bogus and pompous’. It went on to quote from an unnamed colleague: ‘As a fighting man he was shrewd and possessed a fine tactical sense. He was in no way brilliant but was brave and dashing….a bulldog of a man, tenacious and stubborn.’ His former ADC concluded his eulogy with the following summary: ‘Indeed all of us who served with General Freddie from the North West Frontier to the jungles of Burma will always treasure memories of a leader who led by example, excelled in man management and was forthright but fair’.’
Loftus-Tottenham was the first Chairman of the Sirmoor Club after the Second World War and in 1956 he became a Vice President until he died on 11 April 1987. His decorations and medals were presented to the Gurkha Museum by his son Mr Michael Loftus-Tottenham and are currently on display there.
He married Miss Marjorie Dare in 1922. According to both his ADCs she was known as ‘Mrs Loftus‘. Mr Kenneth Nash remembered meeting South India in 1945: ‘Fortunately even an ADC is allowed his ration of good fortune and the saviour of us all in those days was Marjorie‘. Mr Nigel Buxton recalls that in Iraq in 1946 she was ‘An ADC’s delight, dependably one of the best-looking women in any company, discreetly vivacious, her wisdom and diplomacy could anticipate storms before they became tempests.’
They had three sons. The eldest, Lieutenant Ralph Loftus-Tottenham was killed in action with 1/2GR in Italy in February 1944. |The second, Lieutenant John Loftus-Tottenham, was killed in action with 3rd Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles in Burma in July 1944. The youngest, Lieutenant Michael Loftus-Tottenham survived the war having served with 2/2GR.
Freddie Loftus-Tottenham’s first wife died in 1978 and in 1981 he married, secondly, Mrs Isobel Baker, the widow of Lieutenant Colonel W S Baker, late 2nd Goorkhas.
A gallant Sirmoori brutally executed by the Japanese in Kuala Lumpur who was awarded a posthumous Mention in Despatches
Bernard Hancock (photograph from Charterhouse School Roll of Honour)
Captain Bernard Cuningham Hancock was the second son of Sydney Hancock Esq. He was born on 21 January 1914 and educated at Charterhouse. He never married.
Before the start of the Second World War Hancock qualified as an accountant and was employed by Jardine Matheson & Co Ltd in Shanghai. Japan’s entry into the war forced the closure of the company’s offices in China. No confirmed details are available but it is thought that Hancock travelled to India and was given an Emergency Commission in the Indian Army after attending Officers’ Training School there.
In March 1941 he was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas (2/2GR) and joined them at Damdil in Waziristan. They were part of 4th Indian Infantry Brigade which was disbanded shortly after his arrival. Its units were dispersed and Hancock went with 2/2GR to Razmak to form part of the Waziristan garrison.
In April 1941 2/2GR moved to Bolarum Camp, Secunderabad where it joined 28th Indian Infantry Brigade, part of 6th Indian Infantry Division. They were preparing for deployment to the Middle East but in July 1941 28th Indian Infantry Brigade received orders to move to Malaya. 2/2GR travelled by train to Alexandria Docks, Bombay before embarking on HMT Egra and sailing to Port Swettenham. On arrival in Malaya in early September 1941 the Battalion deployed to Ipoh as part of 11th Indian Division to await the threat of a Japanese invasion. At the same time they began intensive training in jungle warfare.
For the first three months the situation remained calm and rifle companies were able to learn about the problems and hazards associated with working in the Malayan jungle and terrain. It was not until early December 1941 that 2/2GR was placed on 24 hrs notice to move and even then, according to Regimental History Vol III, ‘on Saturday 6th December, Battalion officers were allowed a few last hours relaxation at Ipoh races‘.
Hancock had by now been promoted to Temporary Captain and was commanding A Company. They deployed, with the rest of the Battalion, to Alor Star in north-west Malaya, 18 km behind a defensive position at Jitra. However, the Japanese did not act as anticipated by British intelligence and the field fortifications were woefully incomplete in the face of an advancing enemy who soon had exploited the position’s weaknesses. According to the Regimental History Vol III ‘the Japanese infantrymen, with extraordinary audacity and mobility, had infiltrated everywhere into the heart of defensive positions, much as fine dust will penetrate triple-locked vaults.’
In their first day’s fighting on 9 December 1942 2/2GR although ‘only lightly engaged’ lost 70 men. The situation at Alor Star was untenable and there then began a series of exhausting and demanding fighting withdrawals down the western side of the Malay peninsula. Within a week 2/2GR had reached Parit Buntar, 135 km from Alor Star. By now the enemy had landed 5 divisions and was pressing the British forces hard, infiltrating and bypassing them as they struggled to withdraw in good order. Four days later, on 23 December 1941, 2/2GR moved another 65 km southwards, to Chenderaing in the Kampar area of the Cameron Highlands’ foothills. This new defensive position was described by the Army Commander as ‘the strongest of any occupied in Malaya’, and the Regimental History added that‘….with precipitous jungle clad spurs on either side and an amphitheatre of abandoned tin workings in front over which the enemy must approach [it] provided the 2nd Battalion for the first time in the campaign with an advantaged position’.
However, as soon as the Japanese came into contact with the strongly-defended position they immediately reverted to their customary tactics and attempted to infiltrate small groups through the jungle into company positions. On 30 December 1941 a patrol commanded by Hancock successfully ambushed an enemy fighting patrol, killing two and wounding one Japanese. By New Year’s Day 1942 the enemy had become active to the rear of 11th Indian Division’s position and 2/2GR was sent another 60 km south to the Slim River area, still hard-pressed by the enemy. Valiant attempts were made to establish a defensive system in depth but essential materials were in very short supply. In addition all ranks were in the last stages of exhaustion. The Japanese brought forward a force of 30 tanks and managed to seize the bridge. Hancock and his men of A Company were amongst the last troops to arrive at the river and were soon under fire as they desperately searched for a crossing point, as the majority of Gurkhas were unable to swim. Some did make it to the other side and tried to move south, but with alert enemy everywhere they soon had to return to the comparative safety of the jungle.
Realising that the best hope in evading capture might be to split up into small groups, at 12.00hrs on 9 January 1942, after a sad parting, groups of three or four men trudged away to fend for themselves. Few managed to escape although many subsisted for weeks before eventually being captured. It was particularly difficult for the British Officers, who with their height and fair skins accepted that they would imperil the chances of the Gurkhas if they stayed with them. Hancock , Captain A C Dallas Smith and Lieutenant J E Emmett formed a group by themselves. They remained at liberty until 21 February 1942 when they were captured on the west coast while endeavouring to reach Sumatra.
The three officers were confined to the notorious Pudu Gaol, Kuala Lumpur. This was described by a former prisoner of war (POW) as: ‘A massive structure of stone and concrete built in 1885 in the shape of a St Andrew’s cross. Fresh batches of POW’s arrived daily and by the beginning of February 1942 dysentery was present in epidemic proportions. No medicines were available. The filth and smell beggared description. Deaths were now mounting and sick parades had reached alarming proportions as the Japanese demanded work parties’.
On 13 August 1942 Hancock led a jailbreak from this hellhole, but he and his fellow escapees were recaptured on 20 September and brutally executed by the Japanese in the Cheras Road Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur. He was 28 years old.
In December 1946 he was posthumously mentioned in despatches. His grave was never found but his name was commemorated on the Singapore Memorial at the Kranji War Cemetery, Column 321. His medals, part of the 2nd Goorkhas’ Regimental Medal Collection, are on loan to The Royal Gurkha Rifles and are currently displayed by G (Coriano) Company, 4 Ranger Battalion, Aldershot.
A distinguished and courageous Sirmoori awarded the Victoria Cross and a seasoned campaigner on the North West Frontier
Major General Donald Macintyre was born at Kincraig House, Kingussie , Ross-shire on 12 September 1831, the second son of Donald Macintyre Esq who had been a merchant with the Honourable East India Company in Calcutta. He was educated at private schools in England and abroad and at the Honourable East India Company Military Seminary at Addiscombe in Surrey.
In June 1850 Macintyre was gazetted Ensign. On arrival in India he was posted to the 66th Regiment Bengal Native Infantry (as the 1st Goorkha Regiment was then known) and served with them until 1857. During this time he participated in several campaigns on the North West Frontier including two Expeditions led by Brigadier General Sir Colin Campbell KCB. The first took place in October 1851 against the Mohmand tribesmen, who had been attacking the British posts at Fort Shabqadar and Matta on the Peshawar Frontier. The second, in March 1852, was against the Ranizai tribesmen, a Swat clan living between British territory and the Swat River, when the frontier villages of Shakot and Pranghur were captured and destroyed.
In November 1853 Macintyre took part in the expedition led by Colonel S B Boileau against the Kohat Pass Afridi tribesmen of the Boree Valley near Peshawar. This was a punitive campaign against a tribe that had a long history of causing trouble for the British.
In October 1856 he took part in the Kurram Expedition. The Turis on the first annexation of the Kohat district by the British had given much trouble. They had repeatedly leagued with other tribes to harry the Miranzai valley, harboured fugitives, encouraged resistance, and frequently attacked the Bangash and Khattak villages in the Kohat district. A force of 4896 troops under Brigadier General Sir Neville Chamberlain KCB therefore traversed their territory to intimidate them, seize weapons, and secure a commitment to future good conduct.
In August 1857 Macintyre was appointed to raise an ‘Extra Goorkha Regiment’ (which 1861 it became the 4th Goorkha Regiment). During 1857-8, when commanding this new regiment, he was employed in protecting the hill passes on the Kali Kumaon frontier from the rebels from Rohilkand, near Bareilly, who had mutinied on 31 May 1857, and keeping order in the area.
In early November 1858, Macintyre was posted to the Sirmoor Rifle Regiment. It was at this time part of a Column commanded by Brigadier General Sir George Barker KCB which was clearing up pockets of rebel resistance in Oude. In May 1859 he was ordered to proceed to Mussoorie with two Gurkha Officers and 114 Rank and File to deal with civil disobedience in Tehri of the Princely State of Garhwal. He led a smaller force of 30 men including one Gurkha Officer to the village of Tao where he surprised the inhabitants and successfully captured the ringleaders.
In May 1860 Macintyre was appointed Adjutant of the Sirmoor Rifle Regiment, remaining in that post until February 1861. He then joined the Bengal Staff Corps but a month later rejoined the Regiment as Second in Command. He was present during the end of the Ambela Campaign when in January 1864 a Field Force of 1800 strong commanded by Brevet Colonel A F Macdonnell CB, late Rifle Brigade, took on a force of 5600 Mohmands who had advanced towards Fort Shabqadar. The enemy having been tempted to leave the safety of their positions in the hills advanced towards the fort and were surprised by not only the artillery fire and attacking infantry from the Rifle Brigade and Sirmoor Rifles, but also the cavalry. The Regimental History reported: ‘Our inaction provided a favourable opportunity to the cavalry which the 7th Hussars promptly seized. Three times the Hussars rode through the hostile ranks [and] in a very short time the Mohmands were in full flight to the hills. This is the only occasion on which British cavalry have had an opportunity of distinguishing themselves as a body in Indian border warfare.’
In February 1864 , Macintyre was appointed Senior Wing Officer and Second in Command of the Regiment which was then based at Fort Shabqadar where it formed part of the Doah Field Force in the Peshawar Valley. In March 1867 he went to England ‘on a medical certificate‘, his first visit to the UK in seventeen years. He rejoined the Regiment in November 1868 at Rawalpindi, resuming the appointment of Second in Command.
He was with the Regiment on the Looshai Expedition of 1871–72, a punitive raid against the Lushai tribe to rescue several captured British subjects including a six year old girl. The British had formed a retaliatory force comprising two Columns. The 2nd Goorkhas were part of the Right Column commanded by General Brownlow CB. In October 1871 Macintryre left Dehra Dun with the main body of the Regiment for Calcutta, where they embarked on the Gogra on the River Hooghly and crossed the Bay of Bengal to Chittagong. On arrival they transferred to river steamers for the 150 km journey up the Karnafuli River towards Rangamati. There then followed an arduous approach march lasting six weeks through steep mountainous primary jungle towards the village of the ringleader (known as Lal Gnoora) ‘with its formidable stockade work and 300 feet or so above’.
In early January 1872 three rifle companies of the 2nd Goorkhas assaulted the fortified village with Macintyre commanding the left flank company. The ground immediately to the front of the stockade was covered with ‘panjis’ (sharpened stakes set in the ground) which caused several casualties and severely delayed the leading company. However: ‘The left flankers, under Major Macintyre, were the first actually to reach the 8-9 feet high stockade at the side of the village where the houses were burning. He scrambled over first, disappearing among the smoke and fumes just as the enemy ceased firing and began vacating the place. His Goorkhas were immediately behind him and, rushing through the village, gave the enemy no chance of a further stand at the stockade beyond. They were pursued a short distance.’ For this act of bravery Macintyre was awarded the Victoria Cross a recorded in the London Gazette of 21 September 1872. The citation read: “Colonel Macpherson CB VC, commanding the 2nd Goorkha Regiment in which Lieutenant Colonel Macintyre was serving at the time as second-in-command, reported this officer, who led the assault, was the first to reach the stockade (on this side 8 to 9 feet high)and that to climb over and disappear among the flames and smoke of the burning village was the work of a very short time. The stockade, he adds, was successfully stormed by this officer under fire, the heaviest the Looshais delivered that day.” In addition to being awarded the Victoria Cross for this action, Macintyre was mentioned in despatches and promoted to the Brevet rank of Lieutenant Colonel for his other achievements during the campaign. He also received the thanks of General Lord Napier, the Acting Governor General in India.
In February 1872 the Regiment embarked on the Himalaya at Chittagong and returned to India, reaching Dehra Dun in early April 1872. Later that month Macintyre marched with a Detachment to Simla to provide the Guards for the Viceroy, Lord Northbrook, and the Commander-in-Chief, General Lord Napier. In September 1872 he went to England again ‘on a medical certificate’, but on his return to India in November 1873 he officiated as Commanding Officer until November 1874 .He also commanded the Regiment when it marched to Delhi in November 1875 in order to participate in the ‘camp of exercise and visit’ of HRH The Prince of Wales in January 1876 ( the Commandant Colonel H T Macpherson VC CB being away temporarily commanding a brigade ). In February 1876 he succeeded Colonel Macpherson as Commandant, but from April to August 1877 he was absent ‘in the hills on general leave‘. In March 1878 he returned to the UK on leave until June that year when he rejoined the Regiment in Malta, commanding it there and in Cyprus before it returned to Dehra Dun in October 1878.
Within two weeks of its return the Regiment received orders to proceed on active service to the North West Frontier, initially as part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade of the Peshawar Field Force. In a precursor action to what would become known as the 2nd Afghan War, the Regiment the Jamrud Column of the Zakha Khel Expedition in December 1878. This formation, commanded by Lieutenant General F F Maude VC CB, was intended to pacify the Zakha Khel tribesmen, but the enemy proved elusive although their deserted villages and towers in the Bara Valley were all destroyed.
In May 1879 Macintyre left Afghanistan after handing over command to Lieutenant Colonel A Battye CB and returned to Dehra Dun on leave preparatory to going on furlough to the UK, once again ‘on a medical certificate’. He was entitled to one year and 182 days’ furlough following his 32 years of service. He retired from the Army on 24 December 1880, when he was given the Honorary rank of Major General.
Macintyre was a great game hunter (‘shikari’) and the author of two books, Hindu Ko and Wandering and Wild Sport on and beyond the Himalayas. He also contributed to The Encyclopedia of Sport. In retirement he lived at Mackenzie Lodge, Fortrose, Ross-shire where he became a JP and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He recorded his recreations as wild sport, golf and cycling. He died on 15 April 1903.
He had extensive family connections with the British military establishment. His older brother was General John Mackenzie Macintyre JP, late Royal Artillery, and his uncle Major General Donald Macintyre CB late 2nd Goorkhas. One of his sisters, Collina, married the army surgeon Dr William Brydon CB, the sole survivor of the 1842 Retreat from Kabul and another, Mary Isabella, married General James Travers VC CB. He married Miss Angelica Patteson and they had three sons. The eldest, Captain Donald Macintyre, served in the 2nd Goorkhas and was Machine Gun Officer with the 2nd Battalion in France, but was taken ill and invalided to Switzerland in 1916 where he died of tuberculosis. Another son was Captain Ian Macintyre DSO** DSC ADC RN, who had the distinction of ending the Second World War as the top-scoring U-boat killer with seven sinkings confirmed.
Macintyre’s decorations and medals are on permanent loan from the Macintyre family to the Gurkha Museum where they are on public display.
A gallant soldier, selfless and single-minded,
who commanded the 2nd Battalion at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.
Boileau in France in 1915
Colonel Étienne Ronald Partridge Boileau, son of Colonel F W Boileau late Bengal Horse Artillery, was born on 8 April 1870. As his surname suggests he was a scion of a Hugenot family, many of whom had served with distinction in India.
He was educated at Cheltenham College. In April 1888 he was granted a Commission in the Militia with the 3rd Battalion (Militia) The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment). He served with them until June 1890 when he was gazetted to a Regular Commission in the East Lancashire Regiment. He initially joined its 2nd Battalion but in May 1895 was transferred to the 1st Battalion in Lucknow and accompanied it on the Chitral Relief Column commanded by Major General Sir Robert Low, the Regiment functioning as Lines of Communication troops during the campaign.
In October 1895 Boileau transferred to the Indian Staff Corps and was posted on probation to the 39th Garhwal Rifles, but in January 1897 transferred to the 1st Battalion 2nd Goorkhas in Dehra Dun as a Wing Officer. Later that year he attended a musketry course at Pachmari. He was Adjutant of the 1st Battalion from October 1897 to April 1901 and as such he went with it on the Tirah Campaign on the Punjab Frontier, in which it was part of the Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Yeatman-Briggs.
The British had established a series of forts or outposts along the Samana Ridge and but ‘the whole frontier rapidly burst into a blaze with attacks on the British garrison, besieging of forts and the loss of control of the Khyber Pass’. Boileau was present during operations there during August and September 1897. By 2 September 1897 the 1st Battalion had reached the outpost overlooking Hangu. The Regimental Historian wrote: ‘As an attack was expected by the Orakzai tribesmen everyone slept at their alarm posts, but the night passed fairly quietly, a few shots only being fired into camp by enemy snipers who were surprised by a picquet of the 2nd Goorkhas under Lieutenant Boileau when four were killed and three wounded, forming a large percentage of hits to 107 rounds fired in the dark.’ Boileau was also present at the relief of Fort Gulistan on 15 September 1897 when the Brigade of which they were part relieved the besieged garrison of 165 men of the 36th Sikhs.
After a short pause the 1st Battalion advanced towards the heights of Dargai with the Tirah Field Force as part of the 3rd Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Kempster. At the subsequent battle on 19-20 October 1897 the 2nd Goorkhas greatly distinguished themselves. Boileau was in charge of the Battalion’s transport. According to the Regimental Historian: ‘After much trouble, he was able to extricate from a point near Chagru Kotal, where the transport animals were massed in hopeless confusion owing to the unexpected check consequent upon the delay in taking Dargai. In the evening however, Lieutenant Boileau succeeded in sending up greatcoats to the Battalion, which at an altitude of 7000 feet were greatly appreciated.’
Boileau was also present at the capture by the 3rd Brigade of the Sampagha Pass on 29th October and the Arhanga Pass on 31 October. He took part in reconnaissance operations in the Waran Valley in early November which involved securing the Tseri Kan Dao (Oak Tree Pass) and was with the Battalion as it withdrew from Dwatoi on 24 November, continually harassed by the enemy in freezing conditions. He marched with them down the Bara Valley from 7-14 December, which according to the Regimental History: ‘proved extremely arduous because the road lay along the river bed, and through the fields bordering it which were heavy and slippery. Rain fell all day, numerous deep watercourses crossed the route. Total casualties on this march were 3 killed, one British and one Gurkha Officer and 10 Other Ranks wounded.’
Boileau returned with the 1st Battalion to Dehra Dun in April 1898. He qualified in Army Signalling and Parvatia (hill language – Gurkhali) and was briefly Enumerating Officer in Dinapur. From November 1901 to September 1902 he was in Moscow where he qualified as a 1st Class Interpreter in Russian. This was in preparation for his next appointment as temporary Commandant of No 1 Pack Bullock Corps with the Tibet Expedition under the command of Colonel Francis Younghusband from October 1903 to November 1904.
In January 1907 he became Brigade Major 20th Indian Infantry Brigade for the Agra Concentration on the occasion of the State Visit to India by The Amir of Afghanistan. That October he returned to the 1st Battalion and was promoted Major, serving with it in the Chitral until April 1909 when he was appointed General Staff Officer Grade 3 (Assistant Adjutant General) at Army HQ. He was present at the Delhi Durbar held in December 1911 attended by His Majesty the King Emperor George V. 40,000 troops were on parade which culminated in a cavalry charge. Boileau received the Delhi Durbar Medal.
In January 1913 he was appointed General Staff Officer Grade 2 (Director of Military Operations), also in Army HQ. That October he was appointed Second in Command of the 1st Battalion.
Boileau was on leave in England at the time of the outbreak of the First World War and was attached to Kitchener’s Army from August to November 1914. The 2nd Battalion had arrived in France in October 1914 as part of the Dehra Doon Brigade of the Meerut Division of the Indian Army Corps, and Boileau was transferred to become the Battalion’s 2IC. He joined it on 14 November 1914 while it was in reserve at Le Touret, less than two weeks after it had suffered appalling casualties on the 2 November near Neuve Chapelle, when 7 British Officers, 4 Gurkha Officers and 31 Other Ranks were killed and a further 37 Other Ranks were missing, obliterated in the furious bombardment.
Severe fighting continued throughout November and December. The Regimental History reported: ‘The 2/2nd Goorkhas were greatly exhausted, having suffered many killed and wounded. In this fighting [in late November and December] casualties totalled 132 (including 30 killed) while in addition 70 men were suffering from frostbite of whom 24 had to be evacuated on 26 December, including Major Boileau.’ After the action at La Quinque Rue on 20 December 1914 Lieutenant General Sir James Willcocks, Commander of the Indian Corps described Boileau as ‘a soldier with extraordinary personality‘ and a Gurkha Officer described him as ‘a truly warlike gentleman’.
After recovering from frostbite Boileau rejoined the 2nd Battalion in reserve billets at La Coutre, near Vieille Chapelle, on 3 March 1915 as officiating commanding officer. Boileau therefore found himself, as a Major, commanding the 2nd Battalion at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, a remarkable testament to his abilities and strength of character in one of the hardest-fought and notable battles in the Regimental History.
The battle began at 07.30hrs on 10 March 1915 with a 30-minute bombardment by 480 guns firing on to a 2km portion of the German front. By 09.30 hrs the Garhwal Brigade had occupied the village and the 2nd Battalion was ordered to advance on to the Bois du Biez. However, the unit to the right of the Battalion was held up and the 2nd Battalion leading companies did not reach the edge of the wood until dusk. Instead of being encouraged to exploit the captured enemy territory, they were ordered to withdraw. Neuve Chapelle village remained in British hands and the advance of about 1000m was held and consolidated. On 12 March 1915 the Germans launched furious massed counter-attacks but they were successfully halted. Boileau was Mentioned in Despatches and in June 1915 was promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel. The Regiment was later honoured with the the Battle Honour ‘Neuve Chapelle’.
Later that year the 1st Battalion took part in subsidiary actions to do with the battle of Loos, but in November 1915 sailed to Egypt. There they deployed to Kantara beside the Suez Canal to carry out defence duties against the Turks and their Arab allies and to form part of Moveable Columns. Early the following year Boileau returned with the Battalion to India, reaching reached Dehra Dun on 3 March 1916. The following month he was formally appointed Commandant.
In February 1917 he was appointed Commandant of the Cadet College, Quetta and in May 1917 he became Administrative Commandant Quetta Area During the 3rd Afghan War (May to August 1919). From October 1919 until June 1921 he was Deputy Military Secretary in Army HQ, India. He was againMentioned in Despatches in 1920. His last appointment before he retired was Commander 11 Indian Infantry Brigade (Abbottabad) as a Temporary Colonel, from June 1921 to August 1923.
He retired to the UK and lived at Speldhurst, Kent. In 1943 he held a Territorial Army Reserve commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Kent Army Cadet Force. He died on 5 November 1947. General Sir Kenneth Wigram, who had been Colonel 2nd Goorkhas until 1945 and knew Boileau well, wrote: ‘Although merely a name to many of the present generation, those few of us who had the privilege of knowing and serving with Etienne Boileau will never forget the example he set and the influence for good that he wielded during his 26 years’ service with the Regiment; nor the interest displayed in the welfare of the Regiment during his period of retirement. A genuine and loveable gentleman; a gallant soldier; selfless and single-minded; whose memory the Regiment will forever cherish.’
Boileau married, in 1906, Miss Dorothy Richardson. They had no children. His younger brother, Lieutenant Percy Boileau, also served with the 2nd Goorkhas and was drowned in 1890 at Fort Tregear in the River Koladyne in what is now Burma. Another of his brothers, Major Guy Boileau, served with the Royal Engineers and fought alongside his brother Étienne at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.
His medals and miniatures are held in the Gurkha Museum.
A distinguished Sirmoori who saw much active service on the North-East Frontier of India and in Mesopotamia, was awarded the Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal for saving the life of a drowning bugler, and took an active tactical role in military operations in Assam at the age of 58.
Shakespear as a Lieutenant circa 1890. (This and other photographs of him below are
courtesy of Major JNW Shakespear, his great-grandson, who also served in the 2nd Goorkhas from 1969 to 1991).
Colonel Leslie Waterfield Shakespear was born on 5 September 1860, son of Major General John Shakespear – nicknamed ‘Chummy Shakes’ – who had served in the Honourable East India Company. Leslie Shakespear was educated in Germany, first near Koblenz and later in Heidelberg, before attending an Anglican Military Academy in Wimbledon. He spent a final year at Dr Fleming’s crammer in Tonbridge followed by the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.
Shakespear was gazetted in January 1881 and appointed to the 75th (The Stirlingshire) Regiment of Foot. Shortly after joining he embarked with his Regiment on the SS Egypt to take part in operations in South Africa. However the war ended while the Regiment was on its way and the troops disembarked at Malta. He was then transferred, in July 1881, to the 2nd Bn The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) which he joined at Mian Meer, the cantonment for Lahore, where he served for the next three years.
In January 1885 Shakespear was transferred to the Bombay Staff Corps and posted to the 25th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry (later 125th Napier’s Rifles) as a Company Officer. In April 1885 he was transferred to the Bengal Staff Corps and posted to the 38th Bengal Infantry in which he was also a Company Officer. From March 1886 he was with the 2nd Battalion 1st Gurkha Rifles based at Dharamsala but in June 1886 he transferred yet again to the newly raised 2nd Battalion 2nd Goorkhas at Dehra Dun, again as a Company Officer.
In February 1887 he was appointed Quartermaster and took part in the Chin-Lushai Expedition of 1889 -90. This was the first operational tour by the 2nd Battalion in which initially a detachment consisting only of the Battalion HQ and a Wing was deployed for operations in the South Looshai Hills. They sailed from Calcutta on the SS Simla for Chittagong and then went by river steamer some 300 kms up the Karnafuli River to Demagiri, the advanced base of the Chittagong Field Force. Here they joined Brigadier General Tregear’s Column. This had been raised as a ‘cold weather’ punitive force in response to marauding Shendu tribesmen who had attacked and killed members of a British survey party. From Demagiri the Column undertook a difficult approach march over steep jungle terrain to the Mooisoom Hills. After some cursory contact with the enemy tribesmen the Column established a strongly defended outpost to be manned by the Frontier Police and in March 1889 returned to India. The 2nd Bn Detachment reached Dehra Dun in May.
Between May and October that year Shakespear qualified in Army Signalling, Musketry, Parvatia (the hill language spoken by the soldiers) and also for Staff employment.
In October 1889 the entire 2nd Battalion was ordered to return to the Looshai Hills and rejoined Brigadier General Tregear’s Column at Chittagong which now comprised:
28th Bombay Pioneers
Wing 4th Goorkhas
2nd Battalion 2nd Goorkhas
2 x guns Bombay Mountain Battery
1 x company Sappers and Miners
In December 1889 Shakespear was appointed Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion. The Column, despite an outbreak of cholera, reached Lung Leh in January 1890 where three companies were sent to the Northern Looshai Hils. The remainder (including Shakespear) continued on across the river Koladyne to link up with ‘Burma Force’, Brigadier General Penn Symons’s Column. At a height of 1500m they helped to construct a large fortified post named Fort Tregear.
In March 1890, the Column returned down the Karnafuli River in wooden dugouts to Rangamatti and then by river steamer to Chittagong. On 3 April 1890 at Kodala, about 40 km north of Chittagong, Shakespear displayed considerable personal courage in saving a bugler from drowning in the Karnafuli River for which he was awarded Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal. The citation read:
‘On the 3rd April 1890 , the steamer with flats in tow was bringing the Battalion back from Looshailand to India down the Karnafuli River and had reached Kodala Tea Garden, some 25 miles above Chittagong. It was evening and the vessel approached the bank to land men for cooking purposes; Lieutenant Shakespear had just crossed the plank connecting the vessel with the bank when Bugler Aitia Damaie slipped off the plank into the river and there being a strong ebb tide was swept under one of the flats and reappeared struggling with his water bottle and haversack which had got entangled round his neck and arm. Seeing his perilous condition Lieutenant Shakespear jumped in as he was, in uniform, and swam out to the bugler, who seized him, and both disappeared. The current was carrying them down stream when Subahadur Mudden Sing, who had landed, seized a long bamboo pole, rushed down the bank to the point where some rocks jutted out into the stream, from which he held out the pole which could just be seized by Lieutenant Shakespear as the current carried them past. Pushing the bugler in front with one hand, the officer was dragged ashore in an exhausted condition.’ Shakespear was subsequently presented with his medal by Major General Sir John Hudson KCB General Officer Commanding the Meerut Division in March 1891 who commented: ’In the heat and excitement of battle many gallant deeds were done, some of which justly earned the coveted distinction of the VC, but it might be said that the brilliancy of such deeds was almost surpassed whe , as in this present case, without such exciting circumstances, in the calmness of cold blood, a man risked his life for the rescue of his fellow creature.’
In November 1891, at the end of his time as Adjutant, he was sent to Darjeeling to withdraw the depot there and move it to Purneah, where it came under command of the main depot at Gorakhpur. In February 1892 the Nepalese Governor of Dhankuta district invited Shakespear across the border to Rangali to discuss some difficulties concerning the recruiting parties being sent into Nepal. His unofficial attendance at this small durbar may have ironed out issues but it later attracted the ire of the British Resident in Nepal who demanded explanations. Fortunately, the British Resident in Gorakhpur backed him up and the storm subsided.
Shakespear recruiting circa 1891.
In March 1895 Shakespear was with the 2nd Battalion when it was ordered to form part of the ‘Moveable Column’ of the Chitral Relief Force at Abbottabad under the command of Colonel A Gaselee, a separate organisation to the 15,000-strong Chitral Relief Force commanded by Major General Sir Robert Low. It took the 2nd Battalion ten days to reach Abbottabad from Dehra Dun, but hopes of active service disappeared when the Kohistani tribesmen returned to their valleys. However, with land around Dehra Dun lacking any any steep hills or mountains, an opportunity was taken to carry out useful piquet training when some men from the 2nd Battalion commanded by Shakespear and Captain Hall were detailed to work alongside the 5th Goorkhas whose depot was at Abbottabad. The Regimental Historian commented: ‘Although their stay at Abbottabad was not productive of the excitement of service, it proved of help and use in other ways, for both the 5th and the 2nd Goorkhas found each could learn something from each other and a great friendship was established between the two sister corps.’
In November 1895 Shakespear was transferred to the 1st Battalion as Officiating Wing Commander but rejoined the 2nd Battalion in January 1896. In May 1897 he was appointed Commandant of the Naga Hills Military Police Battalion in Kohima, Assam, in which appointment he remained until 1902. On arrival in Kohima to take over command, his predecessor told Shakespear that he would be sorry to give it up. Indeed for a while he did miss the 2nd Goorkhas and apparently felt like ‘a rat in a trap’. However, on leaving he wrote that ‘his five years with the Military Police had been of the best and he parted with as good a lot of Goorkha officers and men as one could serve with’. Although headquartered in Kohima the Naga Hills Military Police battalion had seven outposts. Busy with training and inspections, Shakespear toured the hills extensively, visiting not only the outposts but local villages and their gaonburas (headmen), chasing transgressors and occasionally involved in punitive tours targeted against recalcitrant Naga villages. The formidable tribes with their intriguing cultures together with the strenuous terrain suited his interests and his appetite for adventure which took him to inaccessible territory and remote peoples including the Bhamo on the Chinese border, visited during a 10 week leave tour.
Shakespear, as a Captain, when Commandant of the Naga Hills Military Police.
While in Assam Shakespear had been promoted to Major and appointed, first as a Wing Commander in the 2nd Battalion and then, in November 1899, as Second-in-Command – but continued in his Assam appointment. In August 1902 he returned to the 1st Battalion as Second-in-Command and officiated in command for a short while. In April 1906 Shakespear was promoted Lieutenant Colonel and transferred back to the 2nd Battalion as Commandant, remaining in that appointment until April 1911. The Digest of Service stated: ‘His tact and kindness, generosity and sympathy were all beyond the common, and he retired, it may be said, the best loved Commanding Officer the Battalion had ever had.’
He was promoted to Colonel in January 1911and appointed officiating AQMG 7th ( Meerut ) Division until November 1911 when he was placed on the Unemployed List. In September 1913 he was appointed AQMG 6th (Poona) Division commanded by Major General Arthur Barrett and, in November 1914, embarked with the Division at Bombay for Mesopotamia. They were the first British Indian troops to arrive at Mesopotamia and on 6 November quickly overcame the Ottoman position at Fao. Shakespear was present at the subsequent Battle of Sahil fought on the following day when the Ottomans suffered 1000 casualties. By 12 November 1914 the British had occupied Basra. He was also at the Battle of Shaiba in April 1915 when the Turks in attempting to recapture Basra with a force of 18000 were defeated by a much smaller British force of 7000.
Shakespear continued to serve on the Staff of HQ 6th (Poona) Division, now commanded by Major General Sir Charles Townshend. Embarked on HMS Espiegle the Division pursued the Turks and their gun boats up the River Tigris towards Kut and Shakespear was present at the action at Qurna. The 50°C heat affected the British troops with increasing cases of both dysentery and sunstroke. In October 1915 Shakespear was invalided to England for six months before returning to Mesopotamia in April 1916 as Base Commandant, Amara. However he never took up the post because when he arrived in Iraq in May 1916 he discovered that he had been appointed as AQMG HQ 15th Division, commanded by Major General Sir Harry Brooking and located at Nasiriyah on the Euphrates. In September 1916 Shakespear took part in the action at As Sahilan and in March 1917 he moved with the Division to Baghdad. He was twice Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette April 1916 and August 1917).
Shakespear retired from Regular Army service on 5 September 1917 having reached the age limit of 57 as a Colonel. He left Iraq for India in September and in the King’s Birthday Honours 1918 he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath for his services in Mesopotamia and Iraq. It was the habit in the First World War for countries to share quotas of decorations with their allies and Shakespear was also awarded the Russian Order of St Stanislaus (2nd Class) with Swords.
On his arrival in India in November 1917 Shakespear was made Deputy Inspector General Assam Rifles in Shillong, a temporary and nominally civilian employment.
Shakespear (left) as Deputy Inspector General Assam Rifles.
From January to May 1918 he took part in operations connected with the Kuki Rebellion on the North East Frontier. The cause of the revolt was the decision to recruit tribesmen from the area of the Naga Hills to act as a labour corps in support of the British forces fighting in France. While some tribes accepted this policy it was vehemently opposed by the Kuki tribe who fought a campaign against the well-armed British amongst the hills around Imphal. Shakespear, who had been on active service in that part of the world almost twenty years earlier, learnt that the Kukis had been attacking posts in the Chindwin Valley and he moved to Imphal to control events. He joined the punitive Column commanded by Capt H Coote of the 2nd (Sadiya) Battalion Assam Rifles and is mentioned in an account: ‘Coote set about his own task of punishing insurgents in the Mombi area. His column marched through thick jungle for five days. On 7 February 1918, having destroyed several villages, Coote was advancing along a densely-wooded ridge when he was ambushed. Both Shakspeare and Higgins led flanking parties but the steep terrain defied their efforts to get behind the Kuki stockade. Meanwhile Coote was losing men killed and wounded. After 45 minutes of heavy firing from an almost invisible enemy the mountain gun was brought forward but the gun crew were hit. Coote then decided to rush the position with Jemadar Kharga Singh’s platoon accompanied by Shakespear advancing on the left, whilst Coote and others provided covering fire, but the Kukis had not chosen to stand and fight and had withdrawn …bloodstains and trails confirm several Kuki casualties.’
Shakespear remained active during the campaign until May 1918. It had proved to be an embarrassment for the Government of India who denied it any publicity. The appointment of Lieutenant General Sir Henry Keary as commander of the campaign coincided with the issue of superior weapons including the Lewis machine gun and mortars. The combination of these factors resulted in the disarming of the Kukis and by May 1919 all operations had been terminated. Shakespear was made a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire for his work during the Rebellion.
He finally retired on 1 October 1921 and lived in Ealing and later in Sutton Valence, Kent. He died on 10 October 1933 and is buried in Gunnersbury cemetery.
Shakespear was a keen shikari and polo player. He was also a golfer and in 1890 he was responsible for establishing the first golf course in Dehra Dun. He was an accomplished military historian who in addition to writing Volumes I and II of the History of the 2nd Goorkhas, also wrote The History of the Assam Rifles, History of Upper Assam, Upper Burma and the North East Frontier, and A Local History of Poona and its Battlefields. While serving in the Looshai Hills in the 1880s he began to write for The Pioneer as a means of supplementing his income and he continued writing for them for a number of years.
He was also a talented etcher and his books contain several of his own illustrations (including Volume II of the Regimental History). Both he and his first wife were enthusiastic photographers and from 1898 they used hand-held cameras which had recently became available. His books are also illustrated by his photographs.
He married first, in March 1885, Miss Constance Biddulph. Sadly she died at sea in February 1914 on her way to England and he married secondly, Miss Sibell Barton-Smith, in September 1920. He and his first wife had one son, Major W B Shakespear, who also served in the 2nd Goorkhas.
His decorations and medals are in the possession of the Shakespear family.
Charles Wingfield in 1940, shortly before being promoted
A first class Regimental Officer mentioned in dispatches three times during his service and awarded the DSO for leading 3/1GR in a fiercely-fought defence of ‘Scraggy’ Hill in Burma.
Charles Wingfield, known in the Regiment as ‘Sammy’, was born on 10th February 1896 and educated at Eastbourne College.
He was gazetted as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant on the 22nd September 1914, but his commission was cancelled two months later. He served in the ranks in France and Belgium in August and September 1915 although it is not known in which unit, suggesting a keenness to see action. He had previously passed the Army Entrance Exam for Officers and was sent to the newly-formed Cadet College at Wellington in Tamil Nadu in late 1915. From there he was gazetted to the 2nd Goorkhas and posted to the 2nd Battalion on 18 April 1916. In January 1917 he went with them to Barhan on the North-West Frontier, serving there until October that year. He was then sent to Mesopotamia as a reinforcement to 1st Battalion 5th Gurkha Rifles, remaining with them until April 1919, the London Gazette entries showing him having the acting rank of Captain and commanding a company.
He rejoined the 2nd Goorkhas, this time the 1st Battalion, at Zinjan, North-West Persia, and moved with them to Kazvin, Enzeli, Menjil and Loshan during 1919-21. In April 1920 he was commanding D Company and by August that year he was Signals Officer, earning a Mention in Dispatches for his work in that role and also in his later appointment as Quartermaster, a position he still held when the Battalion returned to Dehra Dun in June 1921. In 1924 he went with the Battalion to Razmak on the North-West Frontier and took part in operations in Waziristan before returning to Dehra Dun in February 1925.
The period 1925-37 was relatively quiet. From April to October 1934 Wingfield commanded the Viceroy’s and Commander-in-Chief’s Guard in Simla provided by the Battalion. In 1937-38 he commanded C Company on operations in Waziristan when the Battalion was under the inspired leadership of Lieutenant Colonel, later Lieutenant General Sir Francis Tuker (q.v.), and was again awarded a Mention in Dispatches. Late in 1938 he commanded the King’s Gurkha Orderly Officers in the UK, for which he was made a Member of the Victorian Order.
Wingfield (centre) with the King’s Gurkha Orderly Officers in 1938
He officiated in command of the 1st Battalion at Fort Sandeman, Baluchistan, from February to September 1939 and from then until December that year he was attached to the General Staff in Army HQ in Simla. He had been due to attend the Senior Officers School at Belgaum, but that was cancelled on the outbreak of war and after another short tour at Army HQ Simla in July 1940 he rejoined the 1st Battalion, which was still in Baluchistan.
On 14 September 1940 Wingfield was transferred to the 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment) and appointed to raise and command its 3rd Battalion at Dharamsala (3/1GR). The journalist John Twells, who served with 3/1GR as a wartime officer, gave a detailed account of what Wingfield was like. In his book ‘Unto the Hills’ he describes numerous encounters with him. His account of meeting him for the first time, in Dharamsala, gives a flavour of his character and manner of speaking:
“Ah yes” said Sammy when Sellers [Twells uses the pseudonym ‘Sellers’ to describe himself] finally stood rigidly before him. “You’re the officer GHQ misdirected and we are the Battalion GHQ mislaid.” He was not smiling.
A wiry six-footer with light blue eyes, he sat behind a trestle table which served as his desk. Disregarding Sellers, he looked past him through the open doorway, brushed a clipped and grizzled moustache, once fair, with his forefinger.
Sammy leaned back in his chair, tapping his fingertips together.
“Yerrrs. Get Troubridge to take you in to lunch and arrange to draw a Hat, Felt, Gurkha from the stores immediately afterwards. You can lose that general-issue peaked thing you are wearing. Flat caps are all very well for the Military Police and bus conductors, but you are with a battalion of your Regiment now.”
Sellers considered it was warmer outside his Commanding Officer’s office than inside.
Later, the Brigade Major asks that ‘Sellers’ is trained to ride a horse so he can be his galloper:
“Yerrrs,” said Sammy “I suppose we can allow our newest to be a cavalryman.” He looked bleakly at Sellers. “A most officer-like accomplishment. Always been required in the best Regiments. So I’m given to understand. Essential when I joined. 2nd Goorkhas wouldn’t have anyone who couldn’t ride. Damned good stables at the depot in Dehra Dun. Wonderful maidan there. Polo excellent.”
He ruminated. “Ah. Umm. Not sure about the 1st. Lived on a mountain top, of course. Seemed to spend their time climbin’, trekkin’ behind the main range, explorin’, learnin’ dialects. That sort of thing. Difficult to exercise a horse up and down a khudside.”
He turned to his Adjutant, Forrest. “Got any stables in Dharamsala, have we? No? Didn’t think so. Yerrrs, Sellers, report to the landing ground each afternoon as the BM has asked. You won’t find any aircraft. Up here, aircraft are like tanks. There aren’t any.” He nodded dismissively. “Excellent training for an officer, Sellers. Most useful in North Africa or Burma.”
Sellers was uncertain whether this sarcastic reference to the requirements of the current major British campaigns was a shaft directed at the Brigade Major, himself, or both of them.
Later, in Burma, ‘Sammy’ displays consummate sang-froid shortly before a difficult and dangerous attack (about which he has many serious qualms, according to the interior monologue attributed to him by Twells), by asking the Quartermaster if he can get a foursome together for a rubber or two of bridge.
Sellars eventually warms to ‘Sammy’ because of his astuteness, competence and professionalism, although it is unclear whether ‘Sammy’ warms to Sellars. The book describes many other occasions when Twells had dealings with his CO, and in doing so gives us a rich description of one of our early 20th century officers. Very few other 2nd Goorkhas have had their character and personality portrayed in such a colourful, complete and considered way, and for that we owe John Twells a considerable debt.
Wingfield won an immediate DSO for his leadership of 3/1GR in defence of the infamours ‘Scraggy’ Hill. The citation read:
‘On 9 May 1944, 3/1GR under the command of Lt Col CMH Wingfield MVO were holding Scraggy Hill near Shanam. During this day the area they held was heavily shelled by enemy medium guns and mortars. The Japanese positions were about 150 yards from our positions on Scraggy. At about midnight on 9/10 May the Japanese attacked the hill from the North and East with a battalion. At first the attack was repulsed but the Japanese came on again and again, and after suffering very heavy casualties they eventually succeeded in establishing themselves on top of the hill. Owing to the severity of the fighting 3/1GR suffered 100 casualties including the 2IC, 3 company commanders and a large number of Gurkha Officers. All Colonel Wingfield’s 3” mortars as well as those of the Royal Artillery troops located in the area had been silenced. Battalion HQ had been blown in and all methods of communication destroyed. In spite of this Lt Col Wingfield held his ground with great determination, personally going round the trenches continually encouraging the men. On arrival of reinforcement Lt Col Wingfield, the only senior officer on the spot, let these reinforcement in a counter-attack which succeed in regaining the top of the hill and ejecting the Japanese from most of our positions which he had occupied. In my opinion it was solely due to Lt Col Wingfield’s outstanding gallantry, leadership and determination that the Japanese were prevented from capturing this very important position. Throughout the present operations, Lt Col Wingfield has invatiably shown a very high degree of courage and determination with the result that the Battalino has rightly earned a reputation second to none. He is most highly deserving of this immediate award.’
Shortly afterwards Wingfield was killed, once again leading his Battalion in a counter-attack. He was posthumously Mentioned in Dispatches on 3 April 1945 and is buried in the Imphal War Cemetery. Obituaries, one of which was written by the then Major General Tuker, appeared in the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Goorkhas (The Sirmoor Rifles) Regimental News in January 1945.
‘Sammy’ Wingfield was a first class Regimental Officer who was renowned in the 2nd Goorkhas for his work as President of the Regimental Central Institutes which covered organising and running the Family Hospital, the Officers’ Mess and Regimental polo – among many other responsibilities. He was a good horseman and keen polo player who represented the Regiment on numerous occasions and was a member of teams which won the Infantry Cup in 1931 and 1936 for the second and third times.
Charles Wingfield as a member of the Regimental Polo Team that won the Infantry Cup in 1936
He was unmarried and the whereabouts of his medals are not known.
Awarded two Distinguished Service Orders and Mentioned in Despatches on seven occasions.
Watt as a Major in France in January 1915
Brigadier General Donald Munro ‘Doogal’ Watt was born on 18 June 1871. He was educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh and the Royal Military College Sandhurst.
On commissioning Watt joined The Gordon Highlanders in India where he first saw active service in the Chitral Relief Column. He took part in the storming of the Malakand Pass on 3 April 1895 when the Gordon Highlanders, after providing provided covering fire to the assaulting Guides Infantry and 4th Sikhs, were ordered to advance up a spur towards the summit. An account of this noted ‘The climb was precipitous and Lieutenant Watt was the first to top the ridge. The enemy rushed at him and he shot two with his revolver. He shouted to the men below but as they could not reach him he was fortunately able to get down until another rush could be made. He had a shoulder strap carried away by a bullet which first passed through the brain of his Corporal.’ Enemy losses were estimated to be 1300 against only 70 British troops killed. Watt was slightly wounded.
In August 1896 Watt transferred to the Indian Staff Corps and in November that year was attached to the 3rd Gurkha Rifles. In October 1897 he transferred to the 2nd Goorkhas and joined the 1st Battalion, part of the 3rd Brigade, a few days after their action at Dargai, as Officiating Wing Officer (equivalent to company commander). Watt was present at the capture of the Sampagha and Arhanga Passes on 29 October and 31 October respectively. He also took part in operations in the Waran Valley in early November which involved securing the Tseri Kan Dao (Oak Tree Pass). He was with the Battalion as it withdrew in freezing conditions from Dwatoi on 24 November 1897 when it was subject to continual enemy harassment, and afterwards as it marched down the Bara Valley from 7-14 December 1897. This was described by the Regimental Historian: ‘The march down the Bara Valley proved extremely arduous because the road lay along the river bed, and through the fields bordering it which were heavy and slippery. Rain fell all day and numerous deep watercourses crossed the route. Total casualties on this march were 3 Other Ranks killed, one British and one Gurkha Officer and 10 Other Ranks wounded.’
Watt was formally appointed Wing Officer in January 1898 in the vacancy caused by the death of Captain J G Robinson. He returned to Dehra Dun with the 1st Battalion in April 1898 and temporarily transferred to the 2nd Battalion from June to October 1900, during which time he passed Parvatia (hill language), Army Signalling and Musketry courses. He had also qualified for employment in The Supply & Transport Corps and with Mounted Infantry.
In November 1900 he was appointed Officiating Adjutant of the 1st Battalion. He was confirmed in the post in April 1901 and remained formally as Adjutant until March 1905. During part of that time he was on furlough in the UK where he was one of the officers selected to carry the old colours of the Sirmoor Battalion in the procession marking the Coronation of HM The King Edward VII, the Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment. The occasion was described in a contemporary newspaper article: ‘It will suffice to refer to perhaps the most picturesque incident in that brilliant march past, the passing of the ancient Colours of the 2nd Goorkhas – the regiment of which the King is Honorary Colonel. They carried two sets of scarred and battered ribbons on poles. The first had been carried by the Regiment from 1844 to 1850 through the bloody campaign of the Sutlej – the carnage-swept fields of Aliwal and Sabraon. What a record of heroism lies wound among the blackened silks of those Colours. The other set had been carried by the same Regiment through the struggle of the Mutiny and had been planted upon the shot-riven Ridge at Delhi.’
Major ‘Long’ Watson (left; q.v.) and Major ‘Doogal’ Watt carrying the colours in London, 1905
While still nominally Adjutant Watt left the 1st Battalion in April 1904 for six months’ employment on the Lines of Communication of the Somaliland Field Force which defeated the dervishes led by Hassan ‘The Mad Mullah’. He returned to the 1st Battalion in September that year and in May 1905 became Adjutant of the Simla Volunteer Rifles. He rejoined the 1st Battalion briefly in June 1906 before attending the Staff College Quetta as a student, from where in August 1908 he was appointed Brigade Major Abbottabad Brigade. In August 1912 he rejoined the 2nd Battalion in Dehra Dun as Officer Commanding No 4 Double Company.
At the outbreak of the First World War Watt was on leave in the UK. From September 1914 he was a General Staff Officer Grade 2 (GSO2) in the newly formed 13th (Western) Division, part of the First New Army. The 2nd Battalion arrived in France from India in October 1914 and Watt rejoined it in November when he resumed command of No 4 Double Company. He also officiated as Commandant from late December 1914 to early March 1915. It was a relatively quiet time. Drafts of reinforcements were received and although the Battalion had several spells in the line and were subject to enemy shelling, they did not see any major action. However, shortly afterwards, in the attack on the Bois du Biez (near the village of Neuve Chapelle) on 10 March 1915, Watt led No 4 Double Company with great skill. The following day the 2nd Battalion was ordered to renew the attack. The Regimental History reported: ‘The morning opened with a thick fog but all preparations were made and supporting companies advanced to the positions best suited for carrying out the attack. During this movement heavy machine gun fire was opened on us from new hostile trenches on the left, causing some casualties, amongst these being Major Watt, badly wounded in the leg by three machine gun bullets, but who continued with the attack until too exhausted.’ For his part in this action Watt received an immediate award of the Distinguished Service Order. Later he was twice Mentioned in Despatches for his work in France, in May and June 1915.
After recovering from his wounds he was appointed, in May 1915, as GSO2 of the Colchester Training Centre and then as GSO2 of the Colchester Division, based in England. He was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel and commanded 1st/7th Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) Territorial Force in France from late May 1915 to November 1916, being again Mentioned in Dispatches in June 1916. This was followed by the appointment of GSO1 in 25th Division, also in France. He was promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel and in late November 1916 was promoted to Temporary Brigadier General to command 145th (South Midland) Brigade, part of the 48th Infantry Division. In this appointment he served initially in France until the division moved to Italy November 1917 when where he remained as 145 Brigade commander until September 1918, taking part in the Battles of Asiago Plateau and Piave River in June 1918. During this time he was awarded three further Mentions in Dispatches, in January 1917, December 1917 and May 1918. He was also awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Service Order in 1918 and the Italian Croce di Guerra as well as receiving a gold souvenir medal from the Italians.
In December 1918 Watt rejoined the 2nd Battalion in Tank, North West Frontier Province and was appointed Officiating Commandant, but he was placed on the sick list and had to leave the Battalion in May 1919, having been awarded another Mention in Dispatches in January 1919. In February 1919 he had been appointed permanent Commandant of the 1st Battalion 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles but, possibly because of his sickness or operational commitments on the North-West Frontier, he never joined it. He returned to England in June 1919 on six months’ medical certificate but in December 1919 rejoined the 2nd Battalion in Karachi, again as Officiating Commandant.
In January 1920 he left the 2nd Battalion, which by now had returned to Dehra Dun, in order to take temporary command of the 2nd Battalion 5th Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force) (2/5GR) in Waziristan because their Commandant had been killed. Watt received a slight wound in the heel which necessitated his evacuation, but in August 1920 he was awarded the Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire as recognition of many years’ service in the Indian Army. Watt retired in December 1920 with the honorary rank of Brigadier General
In 1926 the Government of India approved the Regiment’s ‘use of plumes of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’ and other changes to dress regulations. This prompted much discussion on dress, and at one point the then Colonel of the 2nd Goorkhas, General Sir Kenneth Wigram, commented ‘In the same way old Donald Watt tried very hard at one time to introduce pipes, tartans, kilts and things like that. I am very glad to say that we beat him over that and pointed out that we were not a Scottish Regiment but a Rifle Regiment. That is a point on which we have always been keen.’
Watt married, in 1923, Miss Dorothy King. They had no children.
On retirement he returned to England and lived in Farnham, Surrey. He died on 12 October 1942.
The whereabouts of his decorations and medals are not known.
A Sirmoori who served with distinction in both Battalions on active service before, during and after the First World War who was awarded the Military Cross and twice Mentioned in Despatches.
Lieutenant Dallas-Smith in 1912
Alexander Dallas-Smith was born on 17 October 1885. After being gazetted he was attached to the 1st Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment from December 1905. A year later he was posted to the 1st Battalion 2nd Goorkhas in Dehra Dun. He did not accompany the Battalion to Chitral but in December 1907 he joined it at Kila Drosh (two days’ march south of Chitral) and returned with it to Dehra Dun in October 1909.
In September 1911 he went to Calcutta to take over the Battalion’s rations for the Abor Expeditionary Force 1911-12. This punitive expedition against the Minyong Abor tribesmen was in response to their murder of two British officials. Dallas – Smith joined the Left- Half of the Battalion bound for Kobo. Click here for an account of this campaign. By January 1912 the Abor tribesmen had sued for peace and after mapping Abor country the Force was disbanded.
In October 1912 Dallas-Smith was appointed Assistant Commandant Naga Hills Military Police Battalion for two years. In November 1914 he rejoined the 1st Battalion Depot at Dehra Dun and took a draft of 43 reinforcements belonging to 1st Battalion Assam Rifles (previously the Lushai Hills Military Police Battalion) to join the 2nd Battalion in France. They were described as ‘a fine lot of men and who had all volunteered’. The draft arrived at Floringhem in January 1915 where he was appointed OC No 4 Double Company. He took part in the action on 10 March 1915 at the Bois du Biez as part of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. Click here for an account of the battle. Dallas-Smith was awarded the Military Cross and later mentioned in dispatches.
He left Marseille with the 2nd Battalion for Egypt where he remained until February 1916 when he went on leave to the UK. He rejoined the 2nd Battalion in Dehra Dun in October 1916 and went with them to Burhan on the North West Frontier, but shortly afterwards returned to Dehra Dun and was transferred to the 1st Battalion. In November 1917 he joined them Mesopotamia as Officer Commanding No 4 Company, remaining in that post until January 1918. He was with the Battalion as part of Dunster Force at Mirjana and in April 1918 was Battalion 2IC at Kardarrah. After leave he rejoined the Battalion at Kermanshah in North West Persia in July 1918 and in September was present with it at Sarim Sagli. Click here for an account of the campaign in Mesopotamia and here for an account of the campaign in NW Persia.
On 6 October 1918 Dallas-Smith commanded a small column that was formed to punish the villages of Nikpai and Akhnazar for their treatment of some soldiers from 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment . This force was commanded by Dallas -Smith and consisted of a squadron of the 14th King’s Hussars, an armoured car section, two companies of the and 100 men from the 1st Battalion 2nd Goorkhas. After rescuing a RAF officer who had crashed landed the column moved to Jamalabad to form a road block against Turkish forces. Dallas-Smith had a narrow escape when he was ambushed and fired on at a range of only 60m. He was with the Battalion at Zinjan when both Turkey and Germany signed their respective Armistices and where, according to the Regimental History, he and his men ‘Spent Christmas quietly in intense cold , biting winds and thick snow which often closed the roads for days’.
In the New Year he became temporary Commanding Officer vice Colonel E H Sweet who was in England with the Indian Peace Contingent. Meanwhile the British response to perceived Bolshevik intrigues with the Persians was to continue to maintain a presence in that part of the world. The 1st Battalion was deployed to Kazvin from May 1919 to February 1920 and thereafter to the port of Enzeli until June 1920. Dallas – Smith was Battalion 2IC at Kazvin and later in October 1920 after having been promoted to Brevet Major he was appointed to command a mobile column located at Menzil consisting of a troop of Guides Cavalry, sections of guns, armoured cars, engineers, machine guns and signallers, and the 1st Battalion itself. This force was sent ‘in the most villainous weather’ to Rudbar where in November 1920 he again became officiating Commanding Officer as the Battalion engaged in operations against the Bolsheviks. He remained in this appointment until shortly before the Battalion left North West Persia in April 1921 to return to India. Dallas-Smith was again mentioned in despatches .
In March 1921 Dallas-Smith left the 1st Battalion to assume command of 4th Battalion Assam Rifles in Manipur. He retired in August 1926 aged 41 but rejoined the Indian Army and was posted to 2nd Battalion 20th Burma Rifles. In January 1928 he was appointed Commandant 3rd Battalion Assam Rifles (Naga Hills Battalion) and in 1933 assumed command of 2nd Battalion Assam Rifles (Lakhimpur Battalion) until his final retirement in February 1934.
On returning to England, Dallas-Smith took up cattle farming at Erdingsley in Herefordshire where he died on 14 April 1974.
Dallas-Smith was among the few officers of the Regiment who survived many years of active service during the First World War and its subsequent operations. His service in France and Belgium, Egypt, Mesopotamia and North West Persia totalled more than six years. Major General ‘Os‘ Lovett who served with him in North West Persia described him in the obituary he wrote for the Sirmoor Club Newsletter in June 1974 as ‘..known by his distinguished reputation and as someone who served with him in Persia, I only had the highest regard for him. ’Dallas‘ gave the Regiment and his country the most loyal and distinguished service‘.
He and his wife Doris had one son, Captain A C Dallas–Smith, who was awarded a posthumous Military Cross after the end of the Second World War for his work against the Japanese during the withdrawal down the Malay peninsula .
He had the following campaign medals: India General Service Medal 1908 clasp ABOR 1911-12; 1914 -15 Star; British War Medal 1914-20; Victory Medal with oak leaves; General Service Medal 1918-62 clasp NW PERSIA. His medals, mounted together with those of his son, were in the 2nd Goorkhas’ Regimental Medal Collection and presented in 1990 to The Gurkha Museum.
Singbir Thapa was Major Charles Reid’s Subedar Major (senior Gurkha officer) during the Sirmoor Battalion’s epic stand against the Indian mutineers on the Ridge at Delhi in 1857, where he was badly wounded in the neck. He had been in the Gurkha Army defending Kalunga Fort against the British in 1814 and was one of the few to escape. He joined the British Army in 1815 and had subsequently served with the Sirmoor Battalion at Koonja, Bhurtpore and in the battles of the 2nd Sikh War. Reid mentions in his diaries that at Delhi he had a leading role in organising the evacuation of many casualties the Sirmoor Battalion and the troops fighting alongside them incurred. On Reid’s recommendation he was awarded the Order of British India, First Class, and the title of ‘Sirdar Bahadur’ for his exemplary services at Delhi. In 1863, following a special application to the Commander-in-Chief, he was granted some land in Dehra Dun, which the Regimental History described as ‘a reward more highly prized than any other the Government can bestow’. He retired in 1868 after 53 years’ service with the Regiment ‘during which long period of Regimental life he had showed an example of good conduct and soldierly qualities seldom equalled’. He died in June 1880. There is no known photograph of him.
(This is an edited version of an article by Colonel Denis Wood which appeared in The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society Volume 72 No 286, November 2021).
Arjun Rana, the subject of this potted biography, was an ofﬁcer of such outstanding qualities and achievements that his ﬁnal promotion was to an Honorary King’s Commission as a Lieutenant as opposed to the lesser Honorary Viceroy’s Commissions frequently awarded. This was an otherwise unprecedented achievement in the 2nd Goorkhas and perhaps in other Gurkha and Indian regiments too.
Arjun Rana enlisted in the 2nd Battalion 2nd Goorkhas on 13th January 1896. He was one of the draft sent to reinforce the 1st Battalion in the campaign of 1897-98 on the Punjab Frontier. He took part in the operations on the Samana ridge during August and September 1897, the Relief of Gulistan, and operations in the Tirah 1897-98 including the action at Chagru Kotal and the Battle of Dargai. He was in the actions of the Sampagha and Arhanga passes, the Waran Valley and actions against the Khani Khel Chamkanis, and operations in the Bara Valley in December 1897. He earned the India General Service Medal 1895 with clasps TIRAH 1897-98, SAMANA 1897 and PUNJAB FRONTIER 1897-98.
During the next few years of peace-time soldiering the records show that his superior ofﬁcers thought very highly of him. He was promoted Jemadar on 1st April 1912 and immediately appointed as the Jemadar Adjutant, a prestigious post given only to those thought to have high qualities and prospects for promotion.
When World War One broke out Arjun Rana went to France with the battalion, serving as a Jemadar in Number II Double Company. They landed at Marseille on 12th October 1914 and on 2nd November he was promoted Subadar. The Regimental History records that “On December 20th, 1914, when the enemy broke into the ‘Orchard’ at La Quinque Rue and after Major Rooke (10GR, seconded to the 2nd Goorkhas) had been wounded, Subadar Arjun Rana took command of the Company and held his trenches for the rest of that day and all night, and kept the enemy from gaining foothold in them. On December 21st, when another British Officer had been sent to take command, Subadar Arjun Rana continued to give him great assistance, supervising the ﬁght in that part of the ﬁeld until the Company was ﬁnally relieved.”
On 21st December he was wounded. For his gallantry and devotion to duty on 20th/21st December 1914 he was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Indian Order of Merit on 10th March 1915. In January 1915 he was evacuated with dysentery but returned to the battalion until 15th April 1915 when his health broke down making him unﬁt for duty and he was invalided back to India. He had eamed the 1914 Star with bar 5TH AUG-22ND NOV 1914, the British War Medal 1914-1920 and the Victory Medal with oak-leaves.
Back in India, Arjun Rana was appointed Subadar Major of the 2nd Battalion on 1st September 1918 and the following year he took part in his last campaigns, the 3rd Afghan War of 1919 and the operations in Waziristan lasting from 1919 to 1921 for which he received the India General Service Medal (1908) with clasps AFGHANISTAN N.W.F. 1919 and WAZIRISTAN 1919-21. By Gazette of India No. 700 of 3rd June 1924 Arjun Rana was appointed to the Order of British India (OBI) 2nd Class with title of Bahadur. The decoration was presented to him by General Sir William Birdwood, Ofﬁciating Commander-in-Chief India, on parade on 17th October that year. The entry in the 2nd Battalion’s Digest of Services reported: “In consideration of the long and distinguished Service rendered by this ofﬁcer the commanding ofﬁcer held a battalion parade and read out his record. This was followed by a march past with Arjun Rana taking the salute.” He joined the Pension Establishment on 1st November 1924. Shortly afterwards the Digest of Services records that in the Govemment of India Gazette dated 7th November 1924 “Subadar Major Arjun Rana, OBI, IOM, was granted an Honorary King’s Commission as Lieutenant.” The Honorary King’s Commission is of a higher order than the Honorary Viceroy’s Commission frequently awarded for long and honourable service.
Arjun Rana retired to live in the village of Kishenpur, part of Dehra Dun. After he died on 15th September 1941 a short obituary appeared in Regimental Centre Orders (which seems not to have survived) and he was given a Regimental funeral.
Although the award of an Honorary King’s Commission to a Subadar Major is said to be not uncommon, Arjun Rana’s award is unique in the 2nd Goorkhas.