Lieutenant Colonel Edward Sweet, CMG DSO

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‘,  consisting of the 1st Battalion reinforced by a company of the 42nd Deolis, artillery, machine guns and sappers.

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’.

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