Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Nolan, of the Charge, in Maidstone

If you are ever in want of a read with a mid-Victorian flavour, you could do worse than A Soldier of Three Queens by Robert Henderson, published in 1866. Henderson not only writes well and vividly, he had had an exciting life including both the Carlist wars in Spain and the Crimean, as well as various scrapes with card sharps and a spell in a Spanish prison. During this time he had met and married a spirited vivandiere named Jeanette, who had helped him escape the prison by getting the warders drunk. His memoirs are available free online at google books or archive.org.

Here we only have space for two excerpts, Hendersons impression of Maidstone barracks, then a centre for teaching riding to the British army, and his meeting there of the famous Captain (then Lieutenant) Louis Nolan, of the Charge of the Light Brigade.. Although the time isn't defined in the book, it is sometime between 1841 and 1848.

Maidstone Barracks

Maidstone in the 1840s was the main riding school for the Army´s cavalry regiments, and according to Henderson it was far from up to the task. As been said by many others, the long peace between Waterloo and the Crimean tended to fossilise the Army, so that appearance was much more important than military effectiveness.

Maidstone in the 1840s

"During my service at Maidstone I was led into much reflection upon the fitness of the place for the purposes it was designed for, both as regarded its being a nursery

The first thing that struck me was the extreme poverty of design in the whole arrangement, and its utter inefficiency as a cavalry depot for the whole British army. That, in making this sweeping assertion, I may not appear presumptuous, I will give my reasons for what I say, and leave it to men well skilled in such matters to say whether my assertion is proved. Assuming Maidstone to be a place in which the recruit was to be trained for his after-career in India as a cavalry soldier, let us see what was the course adopted; and the means at hand to fit him for his future career.
In the first place, the barracks were so small that men were crowded (packed would more correctly express the stowing away of the luckless dwellers in Maidstone barracks) so closely that I have seen them sleeping on the tables used for dining, or in the coal-boxes. I once had the temerity to say that this school was not big enough to " swing a cat in;" for which I was severely rebuked by a Maidstone veteran, who had been born in the barracks and had passed his life there, hy the reply, "Sir, it was not built to swing a cat in."


When I first went to Maidstone there were no less than five depots there—viz., the 3rd, 4th, and 13th Light Dragoons, 15th Hussars, and 16th Lancers; besides about forty non-commissioned officers and men of the riding establishment. These latter brought their own horses with them. There were two men from every cavalry regiment in the service, household brigade included. Taking the year round, the men of the cavalry depot I should say, averaged four hundred. To instruct these four hundred recruits in riding there were forty horses. But whether a man rode every day, or never crossed a horse until he joined his regiment, was in a great measure dependent upon himself. Assuredly there was, for a very long time after I joined, no method or arrangement in the matter. A smart lad eager to ride could get two and three hours riding a day, if he pushed himself forward; but this was at the expense of many others, less resolute, who never rode at all, and indeed were even ignorant of the way in which to take to pieces that very complicated article a Light Dragoon saddle, and put it together again.

The paucity of horses also rendered it impossible to instruct one-half the recruits in their stable duties. The consequence of recruits not being properly instructed in riding drill and stable duty may be easily calculated by those who know anything of India. The recruit, on his arrival at his regiment, would have a vastly increased amount of physical exertion to undergo, in a climate which renders such over-exertion highly dangerous, particularly to newcomers, or, as they are called in India, "Griffins." He would have to ride for a long time without stirrups, to acquire a seat —would become over-heated and overfatigued. After drill he would, most likely, take off his heavy regimental clothing, put on a pair of light cotton trousers and a light shirt, and sit down on the cold stones in the verandah to cool himself. In a short time you miss him at riding drill, and byand-by hear he has been invalided. In due course he gets back to Maidstone, stops there a few months, and returns to his regiment, to be again invalided. I have known men to go back and forward thus three times in less than five years.
The greatest source of annoyance to me was the bad ventilation and overcrowding of the barrack-rooms, three or four-and twenty — sometimes more — men being crowded into rooms not large enough for half the number. I was always thankful for the reveille and when it was my turn for guard, as the oak floor of the guard-room was infinitely preferable to the close and noisome troop-room.


As to the duties I had to perform, I had nothing to learn. I kept myself very quiet, and watched what was going on. Taking a lesson from what the commandant said to me when I first joined, I especially avoided saying anything about Spain or Portugal. I soon perceived that to burnish a swordscabbard until one could see to shave in it was thought more of at Maidstone than dexterity in the use of the sword itself—to be regular and steady, quiet and orderly, more likely to forward me than the knowledge of the way to manoeuvre a regiment of cavalry in the field. Above all, it was of vital importance never to express a want of belief in the Maidstone faith as regarded riding—which was, that no man who had not been taught at Maidstone to ride, was fit to be trusted alone on the outside of a horse—and that the alpha and omega of equitation was the little riding-school which then stood in Upper Barrack Yard."


Louis Nolan

  Louis Edward Nolan is best known today as the messenger who started the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in 1856. As an ADC,  Nolan was responsible for delivering the order that sent the Light Brigade, about 600 troopers not to attack a target on their left, as intended, but an artillery redoubt straight ahead of then, down a valley lined with Russian guns firing canister and shell at short range, and into another battery backed by cossacks. As Tennyson famously put it....

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.


The Light Brigade were annihilated. Who was responsible - Raglan,the British commander, Airey who drafted the order, Nolan who delivered it, or Cardigan who commanded the division, is still debated, though Henderson's recollections below add an intriguing twist. Nolan was killed in the charge and so not available to give his version

Nolan, had already made a name for himself in army circles before Balaclava. He started his military career in the Austrian army, the Royal Friedrich Wilhelm III. K├Ânig von Preussen 10. Husaren-Regiment, serving with them for 6 years before joining the British army. Possibly, a shared experience for foreign armies made a bond between him and Henderson. From 1840 to 1849 Nolan served with the 15th Hussars in both India and their home depot at Maidstone, where he was made riding instructor to the regiment. In fact he published on this subject, The Training of Cavalry Remount Horses: A New System, 1852.

Nolan was also something of a military theorist, touring Europe to see the training of cavalry in various armies before returning to Maidstone and publishing his next book, Cavalry: Its History and Tactics,in 1853.

Here are Henderson's recollections, from Maidstone in the 1840s...

"The only noteworthy incident that occurred to vary the gloomy monotony of my Maidstone life was the advent to the riding establishment of Captain (then lieutenant) Nolan, afterwards so well-known in connection with the Balaklava charge. In a long and varied experience of men and things, I have never seen a gentleman whose thoroughly amiable temper, kindness of disposition, and really fascinating manner so completely won upon everybody he came in contact with as Captain Nolan. He was a thorough soldier, as well as a finished gentleman.

As regarded horsemanship, he was a perfect enthusiast. There are many who soldier to live. Captain Nolan was a man who lived only to soldier. He had been in the Austrian service; and, like most Continental officers, his manner to those in the ranks, while it forbade the slightest approach to presumption, was so kind and winning that he was beloved by every one. He was a maiirt d'armes of a very good school; and, as there was nobody else of any grade in the place who could fence, I enjoyed the great privilege (for such I considered it) of an occasional bout with Captain Nolan.


On these occasions I had opportunities of conversing with this gentleman which could not otherwise have occurred; and 1 well remember how often I have heard him express his conviction that cavalry could accomplish almost anything, where it had fair scope to act.

I remember even, strange as it may appear, that, in putting a case hypothetically of cavalry charging artillery in a plain, Captain Nolan drew with a piece of chalk on the wall of the quarter-master's store, in Maidstone barracks, a rough sketch which, as nearly as possible, represented the relative positions of the Russian artillery and the British light cavalry brigade, at the battle of Balaklava; the only thing he was not quite right in was the result. He assumed in such a case, the certain capture of the guns. His glorious death at Balaklava prevented his being undeceived in this world
."

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Lion in Persia Pt.3 - Highlanders at Ahwaz

The Anglo-Persian war has tended to be forgotten by history, sandwiched as it is chronologically and geographically between the much larger Crimean War and Indian Mutiny. But it has it´s own characteristics, and unlike these two conflicts it has some echos in the present day.

In March 1857 a British expeditionary force has taken the Persian city of Bushire, and is conducting operations inland, in an attempt to force the Persians to vacate the Afghan city of Herat, which they have annexed. The British have won a significant victory against Persian forces at Khoosh-Ab, and them send a task force up the Shatt Al Arabb waterway and stormed the city of Mohumra (modern Khorranshahr) and the British commander Lt. General Outram is now considering following up against the main Persian army, which has retired from Mohumra up the Karoon river to Ahwaz, as he later reported in the London Gazette.

"IN my Despatch, dated the 27th ultimo, I announced to your Excellency my intention of immediately, dispatching up the Karoon River to Ahwaz, an armed flotilla, being the only means I had of effecting a distant reconnaissance, owing to the total want of baggage-cattle ; but, as the steamers had to be coaled, and seven days' provisions for the troops put on board, whilst all were busily engaged disembarking tents and stores from the transports, some little delay occurred ; and it was not until the afternoon of the 29th that the party could be dispatched.

The flotilla I placed under the immediate command of Captain Rennie, Indian Navy, aided by Captain Kemball, Political Agent in Turkish Arabia, who zealously undertook the political conduct of the expedition : Captain Hunt, 78th Highlanders, commanded the military detachment: and Captain Wray, Deputy Quartermaster- General, and Captain AT. Green, my Military Secretary, accompanied the expedition, for the purpose of reporting upon the country in vicinity of Ahwaz.

My instructions to Captain Rennie were " to steam up to Ahwaz, and act with discretion according to circumstances. Should the Persian army have arrived, and apparently be prepared to make a determined stand, the party was to return, after effecting the reconnaissance ; but, in the event of the enemy having proceeded beyond Ahwaz, or if they continued their flight on seeing our steamers (as I fully expected they would, under the impression that the flotilla was the advance guard of the British army), it was my desire that the party should land, and destroy the magazines and stores which the Persians had collected."


The British flotilla passing Ismaini on the Karoon river (from "Outram and Havelock's Persian campaign" by Capt. G. Hunt 1858).

The flotilla, including the steamers Comet, Planet and Assyria  each towing a gunboat with two 24pdr howitzers, proceeded up the Karoon and on May31st moored at the small arab village of Kost Oomarra. At 3am the next day they broke camp, and came within site of Ahwaz at daybreak. Captain J. Wray gives a description of the city...

"Ahwaz is situated on the left bank of the Karoor River, at about 100 miles from its mouth. The town is in ruins, and not more than one-third o the houses appear to be occupied. There is no fort, or defences of any kind, beyond an old ruinous stone wall round part of it. The inhabitants number about 1,200, chiefly Arabs of the Chab tribes. Close to the town are two old broken-down bunds across the river, through which the water rushes with great rapidity ; one of these is just opposite to the town, the other considerably below it. These bunds are impassable for boats drawing more than a few feet water, and the strength of the current renders the passage of any boats a matter of great difficulty, indeed, we did not ascertain satisfactorily that boats could pass at all. The river here is from 100 to 140 yards wide, and there are several low stands in the middle covered with low tamarisk jungle. The banks of the river are generally high, and the water so deep that our small steamers could lie close alongside.considerably below it.

The country on the town side of the river is a bare plain, with very slight patches of cultivation here and there, and on the south-east side of the town is a range of sandstone hills, perfectly bare. The country on the opposite side of the river is much the same, a barren plain without a tree, and the most desolate looking place imaginable.


There had been a good deal of rain when we were there, and the surface of the ground was very heavy. At present the climate is very pleasant—the mornings delightful, and the days, though warm, quite bearable
".
 Ahwaz (from "Outram and Havelock's Persian campaign" by Capt. G. Hunt 1858)

As the small fleet approached they saw Ahwaz on the left bank ahead of them, and the Persian army on the right bank, estimated at "6,000 infantry, 5 guns, and a cloud of Bukhtiaree horsemen" (Capt. Rennie). The cavalry, "appeared well mounted, and were dressed in long blue frocks, with trousers of lighter colour, white belts, and the high black lambskin cap perculiar to the Persians. A sabre and long matchlock slung across their backs appeared to be their only arms as (unusually for Asiatics) no lances were visible amongst them" (George Henry Hunt).

Captain Wray takes up the tale..

"Heard from the Arabs that Ahwaz was not occupied, and that the troops that had been there had gone up the river the day before, frightened by the appearance of our steamers, and that nothing now remained but 30 horsemen ; that they had no means of crossing, excepting by two boats and two canoes. It was therefore determined to land all our party (300 men), advance up the left bank upon Ahwaz, and endeavour to destroy the enemy's depot of grain and ammunition, and, in the event of our finding that we had been deceived, or that they were in force in the town, that we should turn our move into an armed reconnaissance, and return to our ships.

At 11 A.M., the troops commenced landing, and advanced at once in three columns, covered by skirmishers, the whole party being.extended in such a way that they looked like a large body of men.
Captain Hunt, of the 78th, commanded, and arranged it all. The left column consisted of the light company, 78th, divided into skirmishers and supports, both in one rank, the remainder of the company in columns of threes, also in single ranks. The 64th grenadiers, and the other company, 78th, formed centre and right columns in the same way.


British Infantry in the uniform of the 64th later that year in Inda

The two gun-boats were sent off in advance up the river, and took up positions within shell-range of the enemy's ridge, and opened fire. The enemy apparently had some guns in position on the ridge, but the moment the gunners made their appearance the gun-boats opened, and drove them away; they consequently did not return a single shot, though they attempted a little musketry, which did no harm.  In the meantime the troops pushed on ; the Persians still collected, .though in reduced numbers, on the opposite bank of the river, at about 1000 yards from us.

At twelve o'clock, the troops approached the town, when the Arab Sheik came out, tendered submission, and informed our party that the enemy were retreating, and with our glasses we saw a large army of 7000 men, with a perfect swarm of Bukhtiaree horsemen, and 5 or 6 guns, retiring from a very strong position, before a body of 300 infantry, 3 small steamers, and 3 gun-boats. The enemy retired in tolerable order, covered by their horse, the Shahzada himself travelling in a green palankeen carriage, the wheel marks of which we had seen in the several encamping grounds on the rive
r."

The action was a complete success, destroying all the Persian stores of ammunition and food ("1 gun, a brass 14-pounder field piece, 154 stand of arms, 56 mules, 230 sheep, besides an enormous quantity of grain, wheat, and. barley", much of which was actually looted by the Arabs). More importantly, a huge moral victory had been won, as General Outram reports...

"it is impossible to calculate upon the advantages which must ensue from the successful result of this expedition, in the effect it will have upon the Arab tribes, who, in crowds, witnessed the extraordinary scene of a large army of 7,000 infantry, with five or six guns, and a host of cavalry, precipitately retreating before a detachment of 300 British infantry, three small river steamers, and three gun-boats."

This was to be the last action of the war, as a peace deal had been signed. The British left Persia, and returned to India.

Aftermath

The Persians abandoned Herat, the main cause of the war, as well as agreeing to apologise to the former ambassador to Persia, Charles Murray over the Meerza Khan affair.They also agreed to cooperate in reducing the slave trade in the Persian Gulf.  In return the British vacated all Persian territory, including the island of Kharag, which they had rather fancied keeping.

Thus the British succeeded in all their war aims. It has to be said though that it could have gone the other way. If the Persians had held on for longer, exchanging land for time, the Anglo-Persian war would have overlapped with the Indian mutiny. With many of their best troops and commanders in Persia, Britain would have struggled even more than she did, and certainly could not have kept an expeditionary force in Persia. Fortunately or unfortunately,  nobody knew what was coming.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Lion in Persia Pt 2 - Mohumbra

1857 saw the British/Indian army established in the Persian port of Bushire and an expedition north had already defeated a Persian army at Khoosh-Ab. Since the aim was not conquest, but to force the Persians to leave the Afghan city of Herat, the expedition returned, and another punitive raid was launched from Bushire, this time up the Shatt Al Arab waterway to Mohumra, a city of the Ottoman border.

General Outram

At his disposal Lt General Outram had the following...

Her Majesty's 14th Light Dragoons 89
Scinde Horse                                 303
Total                                              392 sabres

Her Majesty's 64th Foot                704
Her Majesty's 78th Highlanders ...  830

23rd Regiment Native Infantry        749
26th Regiment Native Infantry        716
Light Battalion                                920

Bombay Sappers and Miners         109
Madras Sappers and Miners          124

No.2 Light Field battery                 176
3rd Troop Horse Artillery               166
                                                      12 guns

From the British Indian Navy he had the ....

Feroze                   10 gun paddle frigate. The flag ship, under Captain Rennie
Semiramis                8 gun paddle frigate
Comet                     5 gun paddle gun boat
Victoria                   4 gun paddle steamer
(Lady) Falkland      2 gun paddle steamer/ cutter
Assyria                   2 gun river steamer
Planet                      2 gun river steamer
(Busks Navys of the World) 1859

The troops were assembled and  towed in transport ships by the steamers. Tragically, the expedition had been delayed starting by the suicide of two high ranking officers, but the expedition started up the Shatt al Arab on March 19, and 6 days later they were in sight of Mohumra.



Mohuma, from a later engraving

Mohumra was going to be a tough nut to crack, already strongly fortified because of it´s position, and with extra work done recently. In his report Lt. General Outram decribes the fortifications...

"For some months past the Persians had been strengthening their position at Mohumra. Batteries had been erected of great strength, of solid earth, 20 feet thick, 18 feet high, with casemated embrasures, on the northern and southern points of the banks of the Karoon and Shat-ool Arab, where the two rivers join. These, with other earthworks armed with heavy ordnance, commanded the entire passnge of the latter river, and were so skillfullilly and judiciously placed, and so scientifically formed, as to sweep the whole stream, to the extent of the range of the guns, up and down the river, and across the opposite shore; indeed, everything that science could suggest,, and labour accomplish in the time, appeared to have been done by the enemy to effectually prevent any vessel passing up the river above their position: the banks, for many miles, were covered by dense date groves, affording the most perfect cover for riflemen ; and the opposite shore, being neutral territory (Turkish), was not available for the erection of counter batteries." (London Gazette).

To defend the city, the Persians under Prince Khauler Mirza, .....

"The Persian army, ascertained from credible report to amount to 13,000 men of all arms, with 30 guns
Cavalry, Irregulars ...                                 1,500
9 Regiments, Regulars, 700 each               6,300
Arabs and Bukbtiarees and Beloocuees     4,600
Gunners                                                      600
Total                                                        13,000
"
Lt. General Outam, London Gazette

British soldiers on campaign in Persia (from Outram and Havelock's Persian Campaign by Capt. G. Hunt 1858)

Outram at first considered a frontal assault by infantry, but the Persain batteries were so well sited that this was courting disaster. So he decided on a more prudent bombardment of the Southern battery, with his naval forces, 4 steamers and 2 war sloops, supported by a mortar battery on an island opposite the Northern battery.

"On the 24th instant, the steamers, with transport ships in tow, moved up the river to within three miles of the Southern Battery, opposite the Arab village of Hurteh; but, as some of the large ships shoaled on the way, and did not reach the rendezvous until after dark, I was obliged to defer the attack for another day.
During the night, a reconnoissance was made in a boat to ascertain the nature of the soil of an island west of, and immediately opposite, the Northern Battery, where I wished to erect a mortar battery; but, as it was found to be deep mud, I determined to place the mortars upon a raft: this was constructed the following day, under the superintendence of Captain Rennie, I.N., and being armed with two 8-inch and two 5-inch mortars, with a party of artillery under Captain Worgan, was towed by the steamer Comet, and moored in position close to the island during the night, unobserved by the enemy, who, from our preparations at the rendezvous, and their confidence as to the impossibility of any vessel being able to pass above their batteries, apparently expected we should land on the southern island (Abadan).
The horses and guns of the artillery, a portion of the cavalry, and the infantry, were transshipped into boats and small steamers during' the day, in readiness for landing the following morning
."

One steamer, the SS Hugh Lindsay of the Bengal Marine, had been fitted with carronades which were to be manned by the Madras Engineers and men of the 64th.

"At break of day, on the 26th, the mortars opened their fire upon both the Northern and Southern Batteries. The range of the 5 inch proved top short, but the 8 inch shells were very efficient, bursting immediately over and inside the enemy's works ; whilst, from the position of the raft, but few of the Persian guns could be brought to bear upon the mortars.
At seven o'clock, the several vessels of war moved up into the positions allotted them by Commodore Young, and, by nine o'clock, the fire of the heavy batteries was so reduced that the small steamers, with boats in tow, and one large steamer, the Pottinger, towing the transport Golden Era, were able to pass up and land the troops above the Northern Battery without a single casualty amongst the troops, although they had to run the gauntlet of both gun and musket fire; two or three native followers only were killed, in consequence of their unnecessarily exposing themselves.
By half-past one o'clock the troops were landed and formed, and advanced without delay through the date groves and across the plain, upon the entrenched camp of the enemy, who, without waiting for our approach, fled precipitately, after exploding their largest magazine, leaving, as I have before stated, their tents and baggage, public and private stores, with several magazines of ammunition and seventeen guns, behind. The want of cavalry prevented my pursuing them asI could have wished; but I despatched a party of Scinde Irregular Horse, under Captain Malcolm Green, to follow them up for some distance. This officer reported that he came upon their rear guard, retiring in good order, but that the road in many places was strewed with property and equipmonts. The loss of the Persians has been estimated at 200 killed, among whom was an officer of rank and estimation, Brigadier Agha Jan Khan, who fell in the Northern Battery."




The northern battery after the bombardment

The Persian garrison under Khanlar Mirza withdrew "in a very disorganized state" 100 miles north to the city of Ahvaz, leaving the British to enter Mohumra on March 29th, and promptly set about destroying the Persian batteries.General Outram organised a task force to proceed up to Ahwaz.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Lion in Persia Part 1 - Reshire, and the charge of the 3rd Bombays

Herat, and the scandalous wife of Meerza Hashem Khan

The Anglo-Persian War of 1856/7 was actually more of a punitive expedition, and came out of the Great Game - the struggle for Asia between the British and Russian Empires. Persia had coveted the Afghan city of Herat for decades, but had been warned off by Britain, who was keen to keep Afghanistan intact as a buffer protecting India from the Russians. Now, egged on from St Petersburg, Persia had taken the city of 25th Oct 1856.

There was a further casas belli, over the affair of Meerza Hashem Khan. He had been in the Shah´s court for many years, starting as a page in the harem, and he was married the sister of one of the Shah´s wives. Therefore this lady, whose name or picture sadly I cannot find, was a member of the Royal Family. Now, rumours started spreading that she and the British ambassador, Charles Murray, has more than "diplomatic" relations - rumours which Murray did nothing to squash when he hired a house near his residence for the wife. As the clamour increased Murray claimed that in fact he was going hire Meerza Hashem Khan as a secretary, and send him to the city of Fars. Strangely enough this didn´t help, the outraged brother of the lady took her and delivered her to the Perisan authorities, and Meerza bolted to the British mission, where he was given sanctuary. Murray demanded the wife's return, the Persians demanded Meerza, and harsh words were spoken until diplomatic relations were broken off.

Persia had possibly calculated that the British had been so weakened by the Crimean War, just finished, and so fearful of moving troops from India where tensions were rising, that they would not respond to the seizure of a city not even in British territory. They were wrong, Britain declared war.

Persian troops (Illustrated London News)

The Invasion

Relieving Herat directly would have involved marching through Afghanistan, traditionally a bad idea, so an expedition was prepared to land on Persia's southern coast.

The First division, under Major General Foster consisted of 2,300 British regulars and 3,400 Indian sepoys of the Bombay Presidency, setting sail from Bombay in November 1856. They picked off the Gulf island of Kharag on then way, before landing near Bushire, Persia's main southern port. Foster's force at this point included...

64th (2nd Staffordhire) Regiment
4th Bombay Infantry
20th Bombay Infantry
26th Bombay Infantry
2nd European light infantry
2nd Baluch Battalion
3rd Bombay Light Cavalry
Bombay Sappers & Miners
4th troop Horse Artillary
3rd and 5th Light Field batteries

Bushire was protected by an old Dutch fort at Reshire,  Commander Felix Jones, the Politial Offier, reported as follows....

"This was on the morning of the 9th, and, by noon, the enemy were observed to be in some force in the village of Reshire. Here, amid the ruins of old houses, garden-walls, and steep ravines, they occupied a formidable position. But, notwithstanding their firmness, wall after wall was surmounted, and finally they were driven from bordering on the cliffs at the margin of the sea. This was carried at the point of the bayonet, the enemy then only flying in despair down the cliffs, wheremany met their death in their endeavours to escape through the ravines of the south. The nature of the ground, however, rendered pursuit difficult to the Horse, though many were cut up in a chase of some distance. Details of this spirited affair will be given by the proper officers. I shall, therefore, merely observe, that the enemy received at first a lesson he will not readily forget, for the tribe families of Dashti and Tungestoon comprising its ranks are regarded as the most brave, as well as the most skilled, in the defence of posts like Reshire, where regular troops cannot work with full effect. Brigadier Stopford, C.B., met his death here, and other loss was experienced. The wounded were received into the ships the same evening, and provisions were thrown into the camp from seaward during the night."



 The Battle of Reshire, from the Illustrated London News

By all accounts it was a hard fight, officer casualties being recorded as Brigadier Stopford, and Lieutenant-Colonel Malet, of the 3rd Light Cavalry, and Lieutenants Utterson and Warren, of the 20th Bombay Regiment. One consequence of the assault was the awarding of the very first Victoria Cross to a member of a British Indian Army, 38 year old Captain John Wood of the Grenadier company of the 20th Bombay Native Infantry.

His citation in the London Gazette reads as follows;

"On the 9th of December, 1856, Captain Wood led the Grenadier Company, which formed the head of the assaulting column sent against Bushire. He was the first man on the parapet of the fort, where he was instantly attacked by a large number of the garrison, who suddenly sprang on him from a trench cut in the parapet itself. : These men fired a volley at Captain Wood and the head of the storming party, when only a yard or two distant from that Officer; but, although Captain Wood was struck by no less than seven musket balls, he at once threw himself upon the enemy, passed his sword through the body of their leader, and, being
closely followed by the men of his company, speedily overcame all opposition, and established himself in the place. Captain Wood's decision, energy, and determined valour, undoubtedly contributed in a high degree to the success of the attack. His wounds compelled him to leave the force for a time; but, with the true spirit of a good soldier, he rejoined his regiment, and returned to his duty at Bushire before the wounds were properly healed
."

Subedar Major Mohammed Sharief and Subedar Peer Bhatt of the same regiment were also recommended for awards for bravery.

The British/ Indian force entered Bushire on 10th December after a 5 hour naval bombarment by the steam gun sloops "Victoria,"  " Falkland, " Semiramis," and " Feroze," had silenced the guns of the city. The surrender was taken from Mehdy Khan. Sirhang, (commander) of  the Nihawed regiment, and the garrison of Bushire, who had taken charge on the death of the previous garrison commander, Sirteep, of the Azerbijan Regiment.

It was clear by now though that troops would be needed and a 2nd dvision left from Bombay, headed by General Sir James Outram, who would take charge of the whole expedition. The troops he bought included the...

Poona Irregular Horse
1st Scinde Irregular Horse
Madras Sappers & Miners

Outram marched on the city of Shiraz, taking the city of Bazjun, which was abandoned without a fight, and on February 5th they stopped near the village of Khoosh-Ab to stock up on water. All this time the Persians had been retiring in front of them, and although Outram tried to catch up on 6th and 7th Feb it was clear that he might as well retire back to Khoosh-Ab, and then Bashire. However, seeing the British depart the Persian commander in chief, Shooja-ool-Moolk, suddenly grew bolder.A night attack was lauched on the rear guard by calvalry, and an attempt to catch the British as they retired. At daybreak 7,000 men the Persian army occupied a position overlooking the British route, so Outram gathered his forces, about 4,500 men and he attacked.

The battle of Khoosh-Ab

In his official report Lieutenant-General Sir James Outram estimates the Persian forces as .....

Guards, 900
2 Karragoozloo Regiments. 1,500
Shiraz Regiment, 200
4 Regiments of Sabriz, 800
Arab Regiment, 900
Kashkai Regiment, 800 - 1.100
Sufenghees, 1,000.
Cavalry of Shiraz, 300
Eilkhanee Horse, 500- 800.
Guns (said to be), 18

His description of the battle is as follows;

"Our artillery and cavalry at once moved rapidly to the attack, supported by two lines of infantry, a third protecting the baggage. The firing of the artillery was most excellent, and did great execution ; the cavalry brigade twice charged with great gallantry and success; a standard (of the Kashkai Regular Infantry Regiment) was captured by the Poona horse; and the 3rd Light Cavalry charged a square, and killed nearly the whole regiment; indeed, upon the cavalry and artillery fell the whole brunt of the action, as the enemy moved away too rapidly for the infantry to overtake them. By ten o'clock the defeat of the Persians was complete ; two guns were captured; the gun ammunition, laden upon mules, fell into our hands; and at least 700 men lay dead upon the field. The number of wounded could not be ascertained, but it must have been very large.
The remainder fled in a disorganised state, generally throwing away their arras, which strewed the field in vast numbers, and nothing but the paucity of our cavalry prevented their total destruction and the capture of the remaining guns".



The charge at the Battle of Khoosh-Ab

The most famous incident was the battle was the charge of the 3rd Bombay Light Horse against a regiment arranged in square to repel cavalry - by the recieved wisdom of the time, such a charge was impossible. Somehow the 3rd managed it, breaking the square and destroying it, so that only 20 of the 500 escaped. Two lieutenants, Arthur Thomas Moore, who first broke into the square, and John Grant Malcolmson, were awarded Victoria Crosses for their part in the action, as described in the London Gazette..

"On the occasion of an attack on the enemy on the 8th of February, 1837, led by Lieutenant- Colonel Forbes, C.B., Lieutenant Moore, the Adjutant of the Regiment, was, perhaps, the first of all by a horse's length. His horse leaped into the square, and instantly fell dead, crushing down his rider, and breaking his sword as he fell amid the broken ranks of the enemy. Lieutenant Moore speedily extricated himself, and attempted with his broken sword to force his way through the press, but he would assuredly have lost his life, had not the gallant young Lieutenant Malcolmson, observing his peril, fought his way to his dismounted comrade through a crowd of enemies to his rescue, and, giving him his stirrup, safely carried him through everything out of the throng.
The thoughtfulness for others, cool determination, devoted courage, and ready activity shown in extreme danger by this young Officer, Lieutenant Malcolmson, appear to. have been most admirable, and to be worthy of the highest honou
r."

The British continued back to Bushire.