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Last seen alive defending himself with a double-barrelled pistol.

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Unhorsed during a cavalry charge and attacked by enemy troopers, Sergeant Thompson was killed on 13 January 1849.  He was last seen alive on foot defending himself with a double-barrelled pistol.  At the time of his death in action he was a few weeks short of what would have been his thirtieth birthday.  This incident took place in India in the battle of Chillianwallah during the Punjab Campaign against the Sikhs.

Thompson was a SNCO in the British Army's 3rd Light Dragoons cavalry regiment. He had served in the army for eight years and was a veteran of the battles of Aliwal and Sobraon during the First Sikh War (1845-46).  At Chillianwallah, some Sikh cavalry attempted to turn the left of the British line. Part of the 5th Bengal Native Cavalry and the "Grey Squadron" of the 3rd Light Dragoons (commanded by Captain W Unett) were ordered to charge them. Unett's squadron rode through the Sikh cavalry which then reformed so that the dragoons had to force their way through the mass of Sikhs for a second time before they could return to the British line. The charge successfully nullified the threat from the Sikh cavalry on that flank but in doing so Sergeant Thompson lost his life.

A picture of the charge of Unett's squadron was painted by Henry Martens.  Incorporated within the painting were several incidents that had occurred during the charge. One of the persons included in the painting is Sergeant Thompson. He is depicted with his arm outstretched firing his pistol at the enemy horsemen closing in on him. Below is a photo of a section of the painting by Martens showing Thompson on foot with his Sergeant's rank on his right arm. In addition, I am also showing Thompson's medal for the Punjab Campaign which he never got the opportunity to see or to wear.


Thompson at Chillianwallah.JPG

Thompson obverse.JPG

Thompson reverse.JPG

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Another absolute gem.  Makes my 'Private Smith, born, served in the stores and died of old age' medals seem very dull (no offence meant to any stores experts here)!    Keep posting.




Edited by Owen
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Mike, Peter, Owen and Brett,

Gents, thanks for your appreciative comments.  Chillianwallah was a tough battle for the British whose troops lost over 700 men killed and over 1,700 wounded/missing.  Within his regiment, Thompson was the most senior man killed that day.  His personal possessions (mostly clothing and bedding) were auctioned off to his regimental colleagues on 10 May 1849 and the money raised was sent to his next of kin.


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