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Indian Cavalry(?) Uniforms 1900


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Hi,

The following item has appeared on ebay at https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/9-2-Cabinet-Photo-India-Indian-Army-Soldier-Uniform-Boer-War-South-Africa-Sword-/164169873800 and I was wondering if anyone could help me identify any pertinant features that might help me indentify the regiment. I take it with the chain mail epulettes, the curved sword & the lack of insigniature both men are cavalry sowars. I have been reliably told that the carbine is a  .303" Matini-Enfield Calvalry Carbine ( possibly Martini Metford ). What I do not know is if with the sword they could possibly be Indian lancers. There seems to be a row of 4 medal ribbons on the left breast of both men which is particulary perplexing. Any help would be appreciated

ATB

David

Cavalry Regiments that were present in South Africa in 1902 were

3rd Regiment of Bengal Cavalry

4th Bengal Cavalry 

5th Bengal Cavalry

6th Bengal Cavalry

3rd Queen's Own Bombay Cavalry

4th Bombay Cavalry

5th Bombay Cavalry

6th Bombay Cavalry

Queen's Own Corps of Guides

1st Punjab Cavalry

2nd Punjab Cavalry

3rd Punjab Cavalry

& 5th Punjab Cavalry

 

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David , Are Indian Army sowars ,from which Regiment ? In view of the absence of beard or moustache , I think in some unit of Bombay Cavalry . The Indian Lancers carried lance ,sword and carbine .when mounted the sword and carbine were carried on the saddle .when dismounted they carry the sword hanging and the carbine on hand . the carbine is probably a Martini converted to .303 with a Metford barrel or a Enfield one 

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Many thanks Bayern, Most useful. I was initially tempted towards the 1st Bombay Lancers on account of the medal ribbons - service in Dongola would have added the two Sudan Medal ribbons. I have one group, in bronze, to the 1st Bombay Lancers that includes an India Medal so not far off. Five sowars of the 1st Bombay Lancers were in South Africa in 1902, when the photo was apparently taken. This is  according to the South Africa Medal rolls and the Sudan Medal rolls.  One of whom I have the medals for - but no evidence of an India medal. Again many thanks for your input.

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Edited by David Grant
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At one point, 30-40 years ago now, I tried to compile a roll of Indians who served in South Africa.  So, remember that anything I say below is filtered through my now middle-aged brain.  Here's more than you asked and quite possibly more than you need!

A couple points:

  • no Indian units were sent to South Africa, at least partly because the British authorities did not want to encourage the idea that Indian soldier should shoot at white men, even if those white men were the Boer.  Memories of the Mutiny!
  • Numbers of British officers from Indian Army units 'took long leave' and went to SA, where they often joined volunteer units.  Kipling writes a story about this. 
  • A number of cavalry sowars made it to South Africa with shipments of remounts, mostly Australian origin, which were trained in India and sent on.  My strong recollection is that some of them were awarded no-bar silver medals. Bronze medals were awarded to some non-combatants, including a number of Indian 'sais' [grooms] who also travelled with the remounts.
  • Lord Roberts, 'Bobs', had two Indian orderlies who served him in SA.  There are either photos or, I think, paintings of the two which appear to show them wearing multi-clasp QSAs.  The 'colony bars' could be earned - you might want to check this - for one day's service in Cape Colony, so presumably getting off the troopship qualifies you.  Whether an Indian sowar would or could get away with adding the bar himself, as many British soldiers seem to have done, is unknown to me.

I believe, given what I've mentioned above, that there are likely no consolidated rolls of Indian Army recipients of the QSA, because the rolls are typically organized by unit.  These would all have been slightly irregular and so noted, if at all.   But IU did at one time identify 20 to 25 examples of silver QSAs to IA personnel, mostly no bars, held by collectors in the UK, USA and elsewhere.

N.B.  Just re-read the original posts and realized that David Grant has posted a list of units [above] known to have been in SA.  So I may be wrong about 'no central roll'.  My info. is at least 30 years old

Sadly, without colour, which might  allow one to identify the pagri [turban] and cummberband colours, it is almost impossible  to identify individual regiments of IA cavalry once they'd all gone to the khaki kurtas.  The absence of beard only indicates that they are not Sikhs, who made up a very large percentage of the Punjab and Bengal units.  However, even they had troops and even squadrons of Hindus, Dogras and Muslims, not all of whom wore facial hair.  Some of the 'Trans-Frontier Pathan' [Afghani] recruits, for example, wore just a moustache and other castes might be clean shaven.

Thanks for giving me an excuse to babble on and go down memory lane. :)

Peter

Edited by peter monahan
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1 hour ago, peter monahan said:

 

  • no Indian units were sent to South Africa, at least partly because the British authorities did not want to encourage the idea that Indian soldier should shoot at white men, even if those white men were the Boer.  Memories of the Mutiny!

Not quite the full story. I think the idea that "once the Indian had tasted white man's blood........." is a fallacy. Certainly 14 years later, as Indian Nationalism was getting started, there was no such qualms. No. I think it had more to do with British ideas of Empire , muscular Christianity & the romance of soldiering that every parson, shopkeeper & landlord had been brought up with. This was their time for glory in aid of the Empire. Their time for recognitions amongst their peers. A medal to wear proudly. Even the chance of death in name of The Queen Empress. There was no room for regiments of Sikhs & Bengal Lancers & by default they were ignored. I have yet to come across the order that Indian troops were not to be used - references too but not the decision. India had been continuously at war since the 1840s & her toops were better trained, equiped & supplied than anything Britain had. The terrain of South Africa looks like a cricket pitch compared to the North West Frontier. If Britain wanted the war over by Christmas the Sikhs & Parthans would have seen to it. No this was the time for volunteers to show their metal & proove their manhood & India was not considered. Witness the "caliber " volunteer at the start of the war. A year's service, death or glory & the accolades of the newspapers, town councils, wives & girlfriends. What more could a Victorian Man want. 

Not to say that India was not vital. The Indian Ordinance Corps, in official reports, is claimed to have saved Ladysmith. Veterinary, Medical& transport units were first to arrive, quicker than England by sea. Remount stations, 600 strong arrived with frequency. Sowars arrived with parties of remounts & given special permission by Lord Roberts to remain & provided service to remount stations & veterinary hospitals

  • Numbers of British officers from Indian Army units 'took long leave' and went to SA, where they often joined volunteer units.  Kipling writes a story about this. 
  •  
  • A number of cavalry sowars made it to South Africa with shipments of remounts, mostly Australian origin, which were trained in India and sent on.  My strong recollection is that some of them were awarded no-bar silver medals.

Most of the cavalry Regiments were ordered to provide some horses & provide sowars for transporting. The Princeley States did the same with trained Artillery Horses. I am not sure if these were originally from Australia. Certainly it was in the early stages of the war. The vast majority of sowars got the "South Africa 1902" clasp entitlement ( whether or not they recieved them )with the remount stations in Natal. Very few got none. Specifically Ward Orderlies

  • Lord Roberts, 'Bobs', had two Indian orderlies who served him in SA.  

He had seven orderlies  all with the same clasps as himself. They returned with him to England where they were given tours & yes there are photos of them all - named as well.

The rolls are to be found at WO100/296,297,298

 

Sadly, without colour, which might  allow one to identify the pagri [turban] and cummberband colours, it is almost impossible  to identify individual regiments of IA cavalry once they'd all gone to the khaki kurtas.  The absence of beard only indicates that they are not Sikhs, who made up a very large percentage of the Punjab and Bengal units.  However, even they had troops and even squadrons of Hindus, Dogras and Muslims, not all of whom wore facial hair.  Some of the 'Trans-Frontier Pathan' [Afghani] recruits, for example, wore just a moustache and other castes might be clean shaven.

I had hoped that the utilitarian belt buckle might have narrowed it down. Most other lancers I have photos of have a more ornate buckle with a crest.

Thanks for giving me an excuse to babble on and go down memory lane. :)

No its fun. I have a letter of yours ...30 years old listing the QSAs that you have as excistant. Some are now in my collection. My list now sits at 90

David

 

Edited by David Grant
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