I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to
play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

Rudyard Kipling - 'Tommy'

The Indian Mutiny

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the British had come to believe they were a chosen race; chosen to distribute the benefits of western civilization to the backward areas of the globe. That the inhabitants of such areas often didnít want these benefits and certainly not the accompanying British control of their lives was immaterial to Britainís sense of a mission. Native opposition frequently required military force to be brought against it and few years passed without the British Army being involved, somewhere in the empire, in a continual series of border skirmishes and punitive expeditions.
Of course the British had been involved in European wars much more expensive in blood and treasure than any that ever occurred in the overseas possessions, but they didnít seem to catch the imagination of the British public in the same way that colonial conflicts did. In 1857, the Indian Mutiny broke out and it rapidly became the greatest of all the imperial wars. It was followed avidly by the British public and as the myths of the Mutiny grew it came to be seen almost as a latter-day British Iliad with gentleman-warriors of homeric proportions manfully defending the position, dignity and God-given duty of their race.

It was even called the 'epic of the Race' by the historian Sir Charles Crostwaithe and though this may sound ridiculous to the modern ear it was nothing more than a reflection of the confidence, indeed arrogance, with which the British of Victoria's 20th year on the throne viewed the world in general and their empire in particular. It also reflected the shock and horror that the Mutiny had provoked in Britain and the pride that followed on the heels of Britain's ultimate victory; one seemingly achieved against great odds. Though the Mutiny dragged on for almost two years it was effectively fought and won in a six-month whirlwind of murder, siege, atrocity, forced marches, heroism, savagery and brutality. Women and children were butchered by both sides. Great cities were sacked and the British armies which swept across the north of India to relieve their besieged comrades and avenge their murdered compatriots were perhaps the most enraged and cruellest troops ever to have been put in the field by the government and people of Britain.

1857 - The Background
Delhi
Cawnpore
Lucknow
The Aftermath


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