FIELD-MARSHAL LORD ROBERTS OF KANDAHAR, V.C.:
THE YOUNG GUNNER
 FREDERICK SLEIGH ROBERTS was born at Cawnpur in September 1832. His father was General Sir Abraham Roberts, G.C.B.,
and his mother Isabella, daughter of Major Abraham Bunbury, 62nd Foot.
Lord Roberts was educated at Eton, Sandhurst, and Addiscombe, and began his army career as
2nd Lieutenant in the Bengal Artillery.
On the 20th February 1852 he set sail from Southampton for Calcutta. On landing at
Alexandria they were hurried on board a large mastless canal boat, and towed up the
Mah'moudieh canal for ten hours. At Atfieh on the Nile they changed into a steamer and
reached Cairo in sixteen hours.
After two days' stay at Shepperd's Hotel they set out across the desert in a sort of
bathing-machine, holding six persons and drawn by four mules. Roberts' companions were
five cadets, who made the journey of eighteen hours fairly tolerable; the baggage was
carried on camels together with the mails and the coal for the Red Sea steamers.
At Madras young Roberts went ashore to see Addiscombe friends, who were excited at the
prospect of a war in Burma: the transports being actually then in the Madras roads, ready
to start for Rangoon.
As an artilleryman Roberts made his way to Dum-Dum, and found only one other subaltern at
mess, as the rest had embarked for Burma. The life here was
ex-  tremely dull and the sanitary arrangements defective: the adjutant-bird, highly protected,
was their most efficient scavenger.
Calcutta, lighted at night by smoky oil-lamps, had no great attractions. The senior
officers took little notice of the juniors, and Roberts began to wish he had never come,
especially when he heard that nearly every officer in the Bengal Artillery had served over
fifteen years as a subaltern. In those days a subaltern could not return home under ten
years, and there was no going to the hills: Roberts felt home-sick, and wrote to his
father, asking him to get him sent to Burma. His father replied that when he got command
of the Peshawur division he would send for him. That gave him some hope at last: and in
August he got his marching orders to proceed to the north-west of India.
From Calcutta to Benares, Roberts travelled in a barge towed by a steamer, taking nearly a
month to accomplish it, owing to sandbanks.
From Benares to Allahabad he rode on a horse-dak; and on arrival was most kindly and
hospitably received by Mr. Lowther, the commissioner.
His next halt was Cawnpur, his birthplace. Here he stayed a few days, and then proceeded
to Meerut, where he first saw the far-famed Bengal Horse Artillery, and said to himself,
"I, too, will be a horse-gunner some day." For the men were the pick of the Company's
service, their physique magnificent and their uniform handsome.
From Meerut to Peshawur, 600 miles, Roberts had to ride in a palanquin, for there were no
more metalled roads. Eight men divided into reliefs of four carried the traveller through
the night hours; chattering coolies bore the baggage, and a torch-bearer lighted the path
in front with stinking oil.
Three miles an hour was a good pace, and dak-bungalows, or rest-houses, were erected by
Government at intervals. Here you could get a bath and shake off some of the dust;
 the khansameh, or host, would chase a thin chicken round the yard and serve it up to you
in twenty minutes.
In November, Roberts reached Peshawur, his journey having occupied nearly three months,
whereas now it only takes three days.
Sir Abraham Roberts, then in his sixty-ninth year, had just been appointed to command the
division with temporary rank of major-general. He was considered a young and active
officer for this responsible post.
Father and son had met very seldom before, but they soon made great friends, and the
younger man learnt much about the Afghans which came in very usefully when, twenty-five
years later, he commanded in Afghanistan.
The Peshawur station included Attock, Rawal Pindi, and .Jhelum, as well as the
hill-station of Murree. As the frontier was so near, piquets were posted on all the roads
leading to the hills, and every house was guarded by a well-paid watchman belonging to a
robber tribe; it was dangerous to ride beyond the line of sentries, and officers with
ladies had been attacked.
Here Roberts first began to enjoy life in India: there was plenty of adventure, and he
made good friends. The two senior officers on Sir Abraham's staff were Lieutenant Norman
and Lieutenant Lumsden; both destined to carve out distinguished careers. Like Seaton,
Roberts was horrified by having to attend a flogging parade: fifty lashes were given to
two fine young men in the Horse Artillery for selling their kits. After the flogging they
were sent to prison.
No sooner were they released than they repeated the offence, probably as a way of showing
their resentment at their ignominious treatment. A second time they were tried by
court-martial and sentenced to be flogged. A parade was ordered. One man was stripped to
the waist and tied to the wheel of a gun. The sentence was read out, a trumpeter stood
ready with a whip, when the officer in command, instead of ordering him to begin,
addressed the prisoners
 kindly, and said if they would promise not to commit the same offence again he would remit
the flogging. They did promise, and they kept their word. Not only that, but they both
became good, steady, and loyal soldiers.
In 1853, Sir Abraham, being sick, was advised to retire and go to England.
In 1854, Roberts got six months' leave and travelled in Cashmere—that hilly country
of gardens and woods. So productive is the soil that if you cut a stick and put it in the
ground, it will strike root and bear blossom or fruit in a short time: and yet Britain
sold this country for three-quarters of a million pounds! As Lord Roberts remarks, it
would have made the most perfect sanatorium for our troops, and from its height would have
proved invaluable as a colony for cultivation. As it was, the people were poor and
miserable; for the Mahommedan peasants were ground down by Hindu rulers who seized all
In November, Roberts, to his great delight, was given "his jacket," and was to remain at
Peshawur, the young officer's paradise. Nearly all the men in his troop were big Irishmen,
fine riders, as they needed to be when the horses were half wild and full of spirit.
In 1855, when at Simla, Roberts lunched with Colonel Becher, the quartermaster-general,
who was so taken by the young artilleryman that he said, "Roberts, I should like to have
you some day in my department." This meant a staff appointment, and Roberts felt supremely
In the winter he sometimes rode over to Mardan, where Harry Lumsden and his Guides were
stationed. There he had many a gallop after the hawks, hunting the aubara; it was here he
became so fine a rider.
The brigadier at Peshawur, Sydney Cotton, who did not believe in mere drill, kept them
alive with field days, preparing for real war. And yet this able officer had not yet got
the command of a battalion, though he had been forty-three years in the army and was over
 That indeed was the age of elderly generals and irresolution, and of discontented
subalterns. But Roberts was vastly surprised to hear in 1856 that he had been selected
with Lumsden to assist in the survey of Cashmere. It was just what he wished; but soon his
hopes were dashed by the Governor-General refusing to confirm his appointment, because he
had not passed the prescribed examination in Hindustani.
It was then May, and the half-yearly examination was to be in July. Roberts set to work,
engaged a good munshi, or instructor, and studied Indian literature from morning to night.
Roberts passed the examination and won the appointment.
A year later, 1857, Roberts went with General Reed on a tour of inspection as staff
officer. Jhelum was first visited; the sepoys seemed contented and respectful, and were
praised highly by their British officers.
They went on to Rawal Pindi, where Sir John Lawrence offered Roberts a post in the Public
Works Department. Roberts, not wishing to leave the army, respectfully declined the offer.
One day in April, Roberts was surveying in the hills at Cherat and found to his surprise a
camp pitched close to his tent: Lieutenant-Colonel John Nicholson was on his tour of
inspection. Roberts had heard this officer spoken of with admiration, and even awe, in the
Punjab: he had just left Bunnu, a wild district which he had ruled as a semi-divine hero.
"I have never seen anyone like him," says Lord Roberts. "He was the beau-ideal of a
soldier and a gentleman. His appearance was distinguished and commanding, with a sense of
power about him which to my mind was the result of his having passed so much of his life
amongst wild and lawless tribesmen."
During March and April rumours came to Peshawur of mysterious chupatties or unleavened
cakes being sent about as a token of some change coming. Then they heard of
 the outbreak at Berhampur and of Mungul Pandy at Barrackpur; of the disbanding of two
regiments and the refusal of the cartridges. Yet these, warnings passed unheeded: it
seemed a partial trouble; no one believed the whole Bengal army could mutiny; the officers
were positive that their own men were trustworthy.
At Peshawur the officers were sitting at mess on the evening of the 11th May, when the
telegraph signaller rushed in, breathless with excitement, a telegram in his hand, which
proved to be a message from Delhi "to all stations in the Punjab, "stating that a serious
outbreak had occurred at Meerut, and that the mutineers had reached Delhi, which was in
Instantly Colonel Davidson rose and said, "We must let the Commissioner and the General
know at once: and, gentlemen, not a word to anyone!"
Davidson then hurried off to Sir Herbert Edwardes, who, with his deputy, Nicholson, lived
close by: Edwardes, on hearing the news, drove to the General's house, while Nicholson
came to the mess-room.
He too pointed out the importance of keeping the news from the native troops. There were
at Peshawur 5000 native soldiers and 2000 European troops: in the city were 50,000 natives
who might rise and help the native regiments.
Fortunately there were some good men and true at Peshawur, and not all elderly. Edwardes
was thirty-seven, Nicholson thirty-five; Neville Chamberlain, the commandant of the Punjab
Frontier Force, was thirty-seven.
At once Edwardes seized all native correspondence at the post office: letters and papers,
when examined, showed that every native regiment was involved in the rebellion.
On Tuesday the Nth May, Roberts was summoned to a military council at General Reed's
house, when important resolutions were passed.
Edwardes and Nicholson said, "The only chance of keeping the Punjab and frontier quiet is
to trust the chiefs and people: get them to join us against the Hindustanis."
 It sounded perilous; but the thing was done, because no one knew the frontier so well as
these two men: and our trust was not misplaced: the men of the north-west responded
loyally to our demand. General Reed was to join the chief commissioner at Pindi, leaving
Cotton at Peshawur; a movable column was to be organised and the Hindu regiments were to
be scattered as much as possible. Punjab infantry was to replace the sepoys in the fort of
Attock, where there was a magazine: Attock also covered the passage of the Indus.
Chamberlain was nominated to the command of the movable column, and, to Roberts' delight
and surprise, he offered to take him as his staff officer. This column was to move on
every point in the Punjab where open mutiny required to be put down by force.
We will now relate in more detail the occurrences which happened at Meerut, and which
startled every mess in India.
The Meerut division was commanded by General Hewitt, an officer of fifty-eight years'
service; the station of Meerut by Brigadier Archdale Wilson, of the Bengal Artillery. The
garrison consisted of the 6th Dragoon Guards, a troop of Horse Artillery, a battery of
Field Artillery, the 1st battalion 60th Rifles, and three native corps, the 3rd Light
Cavalry and the 11th and Nth Native Infantry. Towards the end of April 85 men of the 3rd
refused to take their cartridges. A general court-martial was held on them: the court was
composed of 6 Mahommedans and 9 Hindus.
On the 8th May they were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to imprisonment with hard
labour for ten years.
Next morning there was a parade of the whole garrison, and the sentence of the court was
read out to the men.
The 85 troopers were then stripped of their uniform, shackled, and marched down the line
to the goal: as each passed along, he called on his comrades to rescue him, but none
The commander-in-chief wrote his disapproval of the riveting of the fetters in the
presence of the men. "This
 must have stung the brigade to the quick: the consigning the prisoners to goal with no
other than a native guard over them was folly that is inconceivable."
But General Hewitt at any other time would have been applauded for his attempt to make the
punishment as marked and public as possible. In order to understand what followed, a few
words on the plan of the cantonment will be necessary.
Meerut is placed between the rivers Ganges and Jumna, in a great plain stretching from the
lower spurs of the Himalaya towards Central India. It is one of the oldest stations in
India, and was at first a frontier post. The barracks of the English troops fronted north,
to a fine parade-ground; on the right were the Bengal Artillery, the Rifles were in the
centre, and the 6th Dragoon Guards on the left. Behind the men's lines came the hospital,
gymnasium, canteens, etc., and then the officers' quarters.
To the rear of these was a wide road named the Mall, and behind this the ground was
occupied by houses and bazaars.
The native lines, being about a mile to the rear, fronted west, and were built for seven
battalions: the officers' bungalows, each surrounded by its compound, were only separated
by a street from the great Suddur bazaar. Between these northern and western lines were
hundreds of fine buildings, residences of civil and military functionaries, public gardens
and colleges and squares, all shaded by well-grown trees.
The native walled city lay a little south of the whole: the English church was to the
north of the British lines.
How sudden and unexpected the rising of the sepoys was we can see by the accounts given.
For instance, the wife of Captain Muter of the 60th King's Royal Rifles had driven to
church on Sunday evening—the day following the manacling of the sepoys; it was about
6:30 p.m. and near sunset. As this lady sat in her carriage, awaiting her husband and
listening for the sound of the band, a gentleman approached and said:
 "You need not be alarmed, but an outbreak has taken place requiring the presence of the
troops: so there will be no service this evening." But the lady waited until 7 p.m., and
as no congregation came Mrs. Muter ordered the syce to turn the carriage and go home.
Then she saw the native lines in a blaze and heard a dull sound of voices. Men were
running in all directions, and when Mrs. Muter reached home the servants advised her to
hide in the compound as her life was in danger. Fortunately a message came from Captain
Muter, bidding her take refuge in the quarter-guard.
The chaplain of Meerut tells us he was about to start with his wife for evening service,
when the ayah, or native nurse, besought her mistress to stay indoors—"Mem-sahib,
there will be a fight with sepoys."
They took the two children in the carriage with them at the wife's request; but before the
church was reached sounds of musketry were heard from the native lines. As the chaplain
arrived at the church enclosure, the buglers of the 60th Rifles were sounding the "alarm"
and the "assembly."
The men had been standing unarmed, as for church, in groups on the parade-ground, ready to
"fall in"; when, on hearing the "alarm," they rushed tumultuously towards their
barrack-rooms and armed themselves. This the rank and file did instantly without waiting
for any order. Then Captain Muter, seeing no superior officer near, dispatched Lieutenant
Austin and a company of riflemen to secure the treasury, which contained several lakhs of
rupees to pay the troops withal. This was perhaps the best service done that day; but
Captain Muter's prompt action escaped at first the notice of his superiors and of
The mutineers had made their plans craftily; they meant to begin their outbreak when the
white soldiers were in church and unarmed. But they were not aware that, owing to the
greater heat, the evening church parade had
 been altered to 7, instead of 6:30 p.m. In consequence of this, as the mutineers galloped
down the 60th Rifle lines they came upon the men fully armed and falling in.
So they reined in, turned and galloped to the goal, broke into the cells, and released the
85 prisoners, their comrades, and all the other prisoners, being about 1200.
Meanwhile the two native regiments were firing at random on their own parade-ground and
burning their barracks. Their British officers hurried to the lines and tried to restore
order, but in vain. The sepoys, whom they had believed to be as true as steel, warned them
to be off, or they would be shot. These sepoys would not willingly kill their own
officers. But when Colonel Finnis began to exhort the men of his own regiment, the 11th,
to be true to their salt, some of the 20th came up and riddled his body with bullets: he
fell from his horse and was slashed to pieces.
Besides Colonel Finnis, seven officers, three officers' wives, some children, and many
European men, women, and children were massacred.
We must remember that it was dark almost directly after the first outbreak. General Hewitt
at first drew up his men on the parade-ground, and sent a few rounds of grape into a
humming mass which could be heard on his left: the hum ceased and all was still. Then the
men were ordered to the Mall—the wide street behind their lines—and there they
bivouacked, while a chain of sentries was thrown around the European lines.
But the bazaars and private houses were all night in the hands of thousands of Goojurs
(plundering gipsies) and bad-mashes (rogues): terrible were the experiences of many during
those hours of riot and massacre.
Next morning soldiers were sent round to collect the dead. Ladies, lying naked on the
ground, hacked with sabres and almost unrecognisable, were picked up from smoking ruins or
from streets and ditches.
In some houses a pile of dying and dead had been half covered with broken furniture.
Everything had been rifled
 and stolen; not by the sepoys, for they had ridden away to Delhi, but by the released
goal-birds and bad men from the lowest classes of the native city.
But the outrages and murders were not confined to Meerut: many villages around were
looted, their inhabitants lay dead in the streets, and a few women and children only
remained to weep over their loss and the absence of British justice and compassion. For
this was really not an Indian revolt, but a sepoy mutiny.
We have mentioned the alacrity of Captain Muter in saving the treasury: there were other
officers whom the suddenness of the shock had not paralysed. Colonel Custance, commanding
the Carabineers, had ordered out his men and sent to ask for instructions at the first
sound of firing. After a long delay, General Hewitt ordered him to proceed to a goal some
miles away: thus the services of this regiment were rendered useless to the rest of the
troops. Fortunately the Carabineers lost their way in the dark and returned to the
parade-ground, where they found the 60th Rifles and artillery waiting to be attacked.
Brigadier Wilson advised the General to return to the Mall, in case the mutineers had
moved round to attack the European quarters. The General assented; and as the troops went
south they saw lurid pillars of fire rising from many a bungalow. Search was made, but no
sepoy could be found: for they had all gone off to Delhi. Captain Rosser of the
Carabineers offered to lead a squadron of his regiment along the Delhi road, but his
suggestion was not accepted. General Hewitt would hazard nothing, and do nothing on so
dark a night. So the scum of the city were left to burn and rob and murder whom they
Even the commissioner, Mr. Greathed, knew nothing about the revolt until a howling mob
surrounded his house; though an officer of the 3rd Native Cavalry had dropped hints, and
an Afghan pensioner had given a warning of what might follow.
First he and the ladies sought refuge on the roof; but
 when torches were applied, the roof was no longer safe. The servants, as so often
elsewhere, were true, and helped to conceal them in the garden; while the rabble were led
away on a false scent to an outhouse.
But many wives were slaughtered without mercy, chiefly by the butchers of the city: these
ruffians went to Delhi next day, but had the audacity to return to Meerut, and were
promptly hanged. One Mahommedan gentleman in the city sheltered two families at great
danger to himself, and many families owed their lives to the devotion of their servants.
Thus, we see, the sepoys were permitted to get off clear, owing perhaps to the darkness
falling so suddenly: but it is difficult to learn why no attempt was made next day to
punish the marauders.
The commissioner in his report writes: "It is a marvellous thing that with the dreadful
proof of the night's work in every direction, though groups of savages were actually seen
gloating over the mangled and mutilated remains of the victims, the column did not take
immediate vengeance on the Suddur bazaar, crowded as the whole, place was with wretches
hardly concealing their satisfaction." All that the authorities did was to collect and
place in the theatre the bodies of the murdered men and women.
It must be recorded that the sepoys of the 11th Native Infantry behaved better than the
others: some of them saw their own officers to a place of safety; and two sepoys escorted
two ladies with their children to the Carabineer barracks. This regiment had joined the
rebels unwillingly. It was reported afterwards that Lieutenant Gough had been told on the
9th May, the day before the outbreak, by a Hindoo native officer, that the men had
determined to rescue their comrades.
Gough went at once to his commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel C. Smyth, and reported
what he had heard. "Pooh! pooh! my boy, quite ridiculous! You must not believe anything so
monstrous," said his colonel.
 Later in the day Gough met Brigadier Wilson and told him about the warning: the brigadier
smiled contemptuously, and naturally the young lieutenant said no more about it.
But next day, Sunday, the same native officer, attended by two troopers, galloped to
Gough's house, crying, "The hala (row) has begun, and the sepoys are firing
on their officers."
Gough mounted his horse and, accompanied by these three cavalry soldiers, rode to the
native parade-ground, where he found the sepoys yelling and dancing as if possessed, while
the glare from the burning huts shed a lurid light on faces working with the wildest
frenzy. The three troopers persuaded Gough to ride off before he was shot; on his way to
the European lines he came upon an enormous crowd of townsfolk, armed with swords and
sticks, who tried to stop him. Through these the four men charged at a gallop, and his
native friends did not leave him till he was near the artillery mess. Then they made him a
respectful salaam and rode away to join the mutineers. Gough could never hear what became
of these good friends.
Meanwhile the mutineers galloped along the flat road between Meerut and Delhi, 35 miles;
and very glad they must have been when they saw the minarets of the Jami Masjid glittering
in the rays of the morning sun. Once or twice they had drawn rein to listen for the sound
of galloping; but, strange to say, no horses of the Carabineers were on their heels that
night. So they reached the waters of the Jamnah, crossed noisily by the bridge of boats,
cut down the toll-keeper on the farther side, set fire to the toll-house and slew the one
Englishman whom they met.
They then made the best of their way to the great gate, Chandni Chouk, facing the
principal street in Delhi, Silver Street, where the jewellery shops occupied one side,
with gaily painted varandahs and Moslem arcades and porticoes, while handsome trees rose
with shady foliage on the other.
 Soon they came to an open square, in the centre of which was a tank where they stopped to
water their horses. But the horses sniffed and turned up their lips in disgust; for
already they smelt the blood of white men and women; though that tank was fated to receive
many more bodies of butchered women and children in a few hours.
The buniahs, or shopkeepers, looked drowsily forth as; the sepoy troopers trotted by on
their way to the lofty walls enclosing the king's palace; soon bastions and embrasures and
loop-holes met their gaze, and slabs of red sandstone that faced the walls made all seem
stony and massive.
There were two Englishmen who held official positions of importance inside the palace
walls—Mr. Fraser, the commissioner of Delhi, and Captain Douglas, the commandant of
the Palace Guards.
The sepoys were making no little noise in the outer courtyard, demanding admittance: the
aged king heard the noise and sent for Captain Douglas to ask why they were there. Captain
Douglas said, "I know not, sir, but I will go and see." For he thought the sight of a
British uniform would frighten these men away. The king timidly begged him not to expose
himself to danger, for the sepoys looked wild and ferocious: the king's physician added
his entreaties to those of his master.
Douglas, then, did not go down to the courtyard, but entered the balcony, and looking
down, ordered the troopers to be off, as their presence there was an annoyance to the
king. Thereat the sepoys laughed scornfully and spat towards him. They again demanded to
be admitted: it happened that the sepoys on duty at the palace belonged to the 38th Native
Infantry, and were disloyal to the core. When, therefore, the troopers of the 3rd Cavalry
attempted to force an entrance into the palace, they admitted them as comrades. Once
admitted, the mutineers made short work of all white men and women they found within.
 They cut down Mr. Fraser, Captain Douglas, the chaplain, Mr. Jennings, his daughter, and
Miss Clifford, a young lady staying with them. Mr. Hutchinson, the collector, was also
found and killed. The orderlies of the king did not look on and wonder; they joined in the
savage fray with fiendish delight.
The fury soon spread from the palace to the mercantile quarter: the Delhi bank was
attacked first; though its manager, Mr. Beresford, defended it for some time most
gallantly, he was slain and the bank was stormed and gutted: the English church and every
house occupied by Christian or Eurasian were attacked and rifled: no quarter was given to
age or sex.
About two miles from the city the cantonments for the native brigade were situated on the
Ridge, commanded by Brigadier Graves.
The morning parade was over and the officers had just finished breakfast when the
startling news came that the native troops at Meerut had mutinied and that the 3rd Cavalry
had galloped across the bridge. The officers here, too, never dreamed of suspecting the
loyalty of their men: there were quartered on the Ridge the 38th, the 54th, the 74th
Native Infantry and a battery of native artillery. Thinking the Meerut affair a mere local
disturbance, and that the Carabineers would soon be coming up, the officers of the 54th
Native Infantry led their men towards the city gates.
Even as they went some men of the 38th, at the main-guard, when ordered to fire on the
Meerut troopers who were seen approaching, refused with insulting expressions; while the
54th fired, some in the air, and some on their own officers. Colonel Ripley was wounded;
Smith, Burrowes, Edwards and Waterfield were shot dead.
The colonel of the 74th then addressed his men, reminded them of their past good conduct
and called upon volunteers to come with him to the Kashmir gate. The sepoys stepped
forward and their officers trusted their
 loyalty until they came near the main-guard, when they met some men of the 54th Native
Infantry who were returning from the city. These exchanged words with the 74th, but just
then the din within the walls of the city became overwhelming: the sepoys evidently
dreaded lest the English troops might have arrived from Meerut, and they thought it wise
to await events.
So they halted all unbidden, silent and glum, at the main-guard. Then suddenly an awful
explosion within the city shook the foundations of the main-guard. We must see what had
caused this explosion. In the middle of Delhi, not far from the palace, stood the great
magazine, full of powder, shells and cartridges.
On that morning the following officers were within: Lieutenant George Willoughby, in
charge of it; Lieutenant Forrest and Lieutenant Raynor; Conductors Buckley, Shaw, Scully
and Crow; Sergeants Edwards and Stewart.
About 8 a.m. Sir Theophilus Metcalfe, the magistrate of Delhi, came to the magazine to say
that mutineers were crossing the river and to ask for two guns to defend the bridge.
When, later, Willoughby learnt that the mutineers had been admitted into the palace, he
began to act. The magazine should be defended! All gates were closed and barred and
barricaded, guns were set at salient points, charged with grape.
But all the under-workers in the magazine were natives! However, arms were served out to
them under Willoughby's eye. He knew them well, they had been good comrades for some
years; but he did not like the look in the men's faces as they took the weapons of
However, there was no alternative to be taken; but in case things should call for
desperate remedies, these few Englishmen had a train laid to the powder magazine.
They had scarcely finished this job when there was a great beating on the gate; sepoys had
come to demand the surrender of the magazine in the name of the King of Delhi. No reply
was returned to this. Then the sepoys sent down
 scaling ladders: no sooner were they fixed than all the native workers clambered up to the
top of the wall and joined the rebels from Meerut amid loud cries of joy. For some time a
fire was kept up by the few defenders: Forrest and Buckley had been wounded, and death
seemed to be certain when Willoughby gave the order to fire the train.
Scully, who fired the train, and four of his comrades vanished into space. Willoughby and
Forrest succeeded in reaching the Kashmir gate; Raynor and Buckley somehow escaped with
their lives; for no native was just then in a position to stop them, seeing that several
hundreds of them had been blown to atoms or mutilated beyond recognition. The loud report,
the concussion, the breaking of windows in the palace warned the king and his creatures
that they had now to deal with a race who were most formidable when the odds were against
them. It was about 4 p.m. when this explosion startled the sepoys near the main-guard; at
first they were frightened, but on second thoughts it occurred to them that their friends
were succeeding. The sepoys of the 38th Native Infantry raised their muskets and fired a
volley into the group of officers near them. Gordon, the field-officer of the day, fell
dead from his horse without a groan. Smith and Reveley of the 74th met the same fate.
The only way of escape for the rest was to dash through the embrasure in the bastion,
cross the courtyard of the main-guard, then drop thirty feet into the ditch: after that
they must climb the opposite scarp, gain the glacis and so plunge into the jungle beyond.
But as the unwounded officers ran, they heard the cries of women from the windows of the
upper room and, staying their course, beckoned to them to come down.
Then hurrying all to the opposite embrasure, the officers fastened their belts together,
and so helped the women and children to descend into the ditch. With difficulty they got
the fugitives up the scarp; when this was done they pressed on into the jungle. But
whither for safety?
 Neither the cantonments nor the Metcalfe house were safe refuges, So away they ran,
throwing away every ornament, crouching in lanes, fording rivulets, hiding in woods and
hollows, carrying the little ones, falling and fainting from hunger and thirst and
fatigue, racked by fever and sun-scorched, sometimes insulted by villagers, sometimes
helped by kind Hindoos or loyal Mussulmans, until at length a small number of them reached
Meerut, or Karnul, exhausted and half dead.
Meanwhile, in the city of Delhi some fifty Europeans and Eurasians had taken refuge in a
strongly-built house and barricaded themselves in. But defence was impossible for long;
the house was stormed and the defenders were dragged to the palace and thrust into an
underground chamber, without windows. Here they stewed for five days; then they were led
out into the courtyard and stabbed or shot. Their bodies were taken away in carts and
pitched into the muddy-flowing Jamnah. After that 16th of May there were no more
Christians left in Delhi.
The poor old king, Bahadur Shah, had been compelled to assume a power and responsibility
for which he was unfitted by age; but his young queen was ambitious for her handsome son,
and urged the old king to be brave. The cry was raised, "Restore the Mogul Empire ": and
the Hindoos believed that their patriotism would secure them happiness here and hereafter.
But they had not reckoned on the feeling of the Mahommedans and the Maratha princes: as it
was, the princes of Central India thought it wiser to remain safe under British suzerainty
rather than help the Hindoo sepoys to restore a dynasty which they themselves had thrown
in the dust.
As the sepoys of Meerut had risen in revolt half an hour too soon, to find our men arming
instead of dozing in church; so the mutiny of all Bengal had exploded several days before
the date fixed in their councils, namely, Sunday the 31st of May.
 Though General Hewitt, the man of indecisive counsel, did not know it till long after, he
had by his manacling of the 85 men put a match to the local explosion too soon, and robbed
the sepoy mutiny of half its force.
If Lord Canning did not at first recognise the gravity of the crisis, surrounded as he was
by men who trusted the sepoy, yet when he heard of the seizure of Delhi, he resolutely set
to work to find means of defence. He telegraphed to Lord Elphinstone at Bombay to hasten
the return of troops from Persia; he bade the commander-in-chief make short work of Delhi;
he gave Sir John Lawrence full powers to act for the best; he sent for a regiment from
Rangoon and two regiments from Madras.
We can now return to the doings of Roberts in the North-West, having given the reader more
facts about the beginnings of the Mutiny than any officers in the Punjab had had time to
discover and appreciate.
On the 15th May, Brigadier Chamberlain and Roberts arrived at Rawal Pindi where Sir John
Lawrence then was. Edwardes was summoned from Peshawur and consulted about the wisdom of
raising levies of frontier men, as Nicholson and he had advised. Roberts, during the six
days' stay at Pindi, was occupied mainly in copying letters and telegrams, and thus learnt
all that was going on in the Punjab. He was struck by Sir John's correct judgment and by
his intimate knowledge of details: he was very anxious to collect all the wives and
children of soldiers and civilians into fortified stations, and gave orders accordingly.
Brigadier F. Brind, who commanded at Sealkot, objected to withdraw the families of his
troops to Lahore on the ground that such a measure would show a want of confidence in the
But John Lawrence insisted on the removal, and soon after this Brind's troops mutinied,
and he was shot down by one of his own orderlies.
It was reported that at Peshawur disaffection was
 spreading, English troops being few, now that the Guides and 27th Foot had been withdrawn.
Nicholson felt this in the great reluctance of the frontier men to enlist.
Hence it was resolved to disarm the native regiments, as has been described. The native
officers were loud in expressing their conviction that the disarming was wholly uncalled
for, but Brigadier Cotton soothed their hurt feelings and excepted the 21st Native
Infantry and two regiments of irregular cavalry. For in the cavalry both horses and arms
were the property of the horsemen, and it was believed that the interest men had in the
service would keep them loyal. The subandar-major of the 51st had arranged for a revolt on
the 2nd May; but this disarming spoilt his game, for when he deserted with 250 men to the
Afridis and brought no muskets with him, the Afridis seized the deserters and made them
over to the British authorities. What was the use of 250 hungry men who could not shoot?
So the subandar-major was hanged in front of the whole garrison.
On the 24th May, as Chamberlain and Roberts and Lieutenant Walker were riding in
mail-carts to Wazirabad, the road being broken in parts, the drivers raced with one
another and lashed their half-wild ponies in reckless rivalry.
One of the reins became unbuckled, and as long as the driver did not notice it, all went
well; but at last he saw what had happened, lost his head and tugged at the one rein. The
ponies went off the road, then came a crash, an upset and a scattering of bodies in
It might have been of serious moment, but fortunately nobody was much hurt. At Wazirabad
it was Roberts' duty to call upon the senior officer, Colonel Campbell, and inform him
that Brigadier Chamberlain had come to take over the command of the movable column.
The colonel was lying on his bed and never moved when Roberts entered. "I am not aware,"
he said coldly, "that the title of brigadier carries with it any military
 rank. I understand that Chamberlain is only a lieutenant-colonel, whereas I hold the rank
of colonel in Her Majesty's Army: I must therefore decline to acknowledge Brigadier
Chamberlain as my senior officer." There was another reason for a soreness in the fact
that Chamberlain was a servant of "John Company": for a certain jealousy always existed
between the two services. However, things were smoothed down, and at last Campbell, who
had only been a short time in India, consented to serve under the brigadier.
On the 31st May they reached Lahore and found it in a state of excitement: ladies and
children had been hurried thither for security: in the city there were 100,000 people,
mostly Sikhs and Mahommedans.
The headquarters of the Lahore division was Mian Mir, five miles away. Here there were
four native regiments and very few European troops. Brigadier Corbett was in command, full
of vigour, mentally and physically. The chief civil officer was Robert Montgomery, a man
of a short and portly figure, gentle and benevolent, but able and of strong character.
Montgomery, on hearing the Meerut news, got Corbett to call a parade, had guns loaded with
grape, and then Corbett ordered, "Pile arms!"
Sullenly the men threw down their arms, for the guns faced them as they were ordered to
change front to the rear.
So Lahore was saved by the decision of a soldier and a civilian, and when the movable
column came in on the 2nd of June, it was hailed with delight by all the Europeans, for
they had been living in great anxiety. But the 35th Native Infantry, which accompanied the
column, seemed capable of mutiny. Chamberlain was employing spies to watch them, and one
night—it was the 8th June—one of these spies awoke Roberts with the news that
the 35th intended to revolt at daybreak, and that some of them had already loaded their
At once the men were ordered to fall in, their arms were
 examined, and two muskets were found loaded. The two sepoys implicated were lodged
promptly in the police station.
A drum-head court-martial was called, of native officers drawn from Coke's Rifles just
arrived, composed chiefly of Sikhs and Pathans. The prisoners were found guilty of mutiny
and sentenced to death. Chamberlain decided they should be blown away from guns in the
presence of their comrades, in order to strike fear into the rest. A parade was at once
ordered. Three sides of a square were made up of the troops; on the fourth side were two
As the prisoners were being brought to the parade, one of them asked Roberts, "Are we to
be blown from guns, sahib?" "Yes," was his reply.
As they were being bound to the guns, one requested that some rupees he had on his person
might be saved for his relations.
"It is too late," answered the brigadier. The word of command was given, off went the
guns, and two human beings were no more.
The sepoys in the ranks looked startled, but more crest-fallen than horrified. The scene
they had witnessed did not deter them from escaping to Delhi. Coke's Pathans, however, in
the 1st Punjab Infantry, were well known for loyalty and bravery, for they loved their
leader, and he cared for them as a father.
During the operations in the Kohat Pass in 1850, several of the men were killed and
wounded. Among the latter was a Pathan named Mahomed Gul. He was shot in two places
through the body, and as Coke sat by him while he was dying, he said, with a smile on his
face: "Sahib, I am happy; but promise me one thing—don't let my old mother want. I
leave her to your care."
War mingles together in strange contrast the hideous and the beautiful, the savage and the
gentle elements of
 human nature. The politician, sitting quietly at home, votes for war too often without
realising all the horrors and sorrows which the soldier feels very keenly. The movable
column remained some days at Lahore: many places claimed its presence, being more or less
At Ferozepur the native regiments had broken out on the 13th May, and tried to seize the
arsenal, which was the largest in Upper India.
Multan seemed very unsettled, but fortunately was in the hands of an able and experienced
officer, Major Crauford Chamberlain. Multan was a very important post, as it commanded our
communications with Southern India and the sea. Chamberlain found out that his irregular
cavalry were loyal, the artillery doubtful, the infantry ready to mutiny at any time.
Night after night sepoys, disguised, tried to persuade the cavalry to join them. A plot
was raised to murder Chamberlain and his family. This plot was frustrated by men of the
cavalry, but it became clear that the only remedy was to disarm. But how? there were only
a few European troops near, gunners.
At this juncture Sir John Lawrence sent the 2nd Punjab Infantry, and Major Hughes, on his
own initiative, sent from Asia the 1st Punjab Cavalry. At 4 a.m. next morning the native
regiments were marched out and halted at about a quarter of a mile away; then the Punjab
troops moved quietly between them and their lines, thus cutting them off from their
ammunition. A selected body of Sikhs was told off to cut down the native gunners if they
refused to obey orders; then Major Chamberlain rode up to the Native Infantry regiments,
and explained why he was going to disarm them.
"Pile arms!" the word of command rang out sharply.
But a sepoy of the 62nd shouted, "Don't give up your arms: fight for them." Then
Lieutenant Thomson, the adjutant of the regiment, seized the rebel by the throat, and
wrestling, threw him heavily to the ground.
 The order was repeated, and this time it was obeyed.
The Punjab troops remained on the parade-ground until the arms had been collected and
carted off to the fort.
Lord Roberts says: "It was a most critical time, and enough credit has never been given to
Major Crauford Chamberlain. He was very insufficiently rewarded for this timely act of
Umritsar, being a very important place and on the road to Jullundur, where the authorities
had taken no steps to disarm the sepoys, was the next point on which the column moved. It
was reached on the 11th June.
There a telegram came to Neville Chamberlain, offering him the adjutant-generalship of the
army, since Colonel Chester had been killed before Delhi. He accepted the offer, and
Roberts was eager to go with him, but he was told he must remain with the column. Roberts'
first disappointment was tempered by content when he heard that Chamberlain's successor
was to be his friend, John Nicholson.
Then the column moved on Jullundur, which was reached on 20th June. The place was in great
confusion, the sepoys having been allowed to break into the treasury, plunder right and
left, and then get safely over the wide Sutlej in a ferry: all this for fear of hurting
the feelings of the sepoy! The commissioner, Major Edward Lake, who had repeatedly urged
Brigadier Johnstone to deprive the sepoys of their arms, now accepted the offer of the
Rajah of Kapurthala to garrison Jullundur with his own troops. And all through the Mutiny
the Rajah loyally stood by us and kept the road open, though his general took the
opportunity at this moment to show his scorn of our feebleness. But how he was reproved
and humiliated by John Nicholson we may defer to another chapter.
On taking over command, Nicholson organised a part of his force into a small flying column
ready to go anywhere at a moment's notice. Though Nicholson had spent most of his time as
a civilian of the frontier, yet Lord Roberts says,
 "He was a born commander, and this was felt by every officer and man with the column
before he had been amongst then many days." The column left Jullundur on the 94th June,
and next morning it was thought necessary to disarm the 35th, as the native troops were
too numerous. It was a great surprise to both British officers and men when the 35th were
suddenly brought to face the unlimbered guns, and the order to "pile arms" was given.
However, the commandant, Major Younghusband, looked relieved and was heard to murmur,
"Thank God!" He had been with this regiment thirty-three years, through the first Afghan
War and at Sale's defence of Jelalabad: but perhaps he was now glad they were to be saved
from disgracing the regiment. The sepoys threw down muskets and belts without a murmur.
Then came the turn of the 33rd regiment: but the British officers in this case protested,
for they believed in the loyalty of their men. Colonel Sandeman had been with them
thirty-two years, and had commanded them through the Sutlej campaign. They were all his
pride! On hearing the general's order, he exclaimed:
"What! disarm my regiment! I will answer with my life for the loyalty of every man!"
"On my repeating the order," says Lord Roberts, "the poor old fellow burst into tears."
Shortly after this, when Roberts was in the Philour fort with Nicholson, the
telegraph-signaller gave him a copy of a message from Sir Henry Barnard, the new
commander-in-chief, asking that all artillery officers not doing regimental duty might be
sent to Delhi.
Roberts realised that his hopes might now be fulfilled, though he did not like the idea of
leaving Nicholson. Nicholson, too, did not wish to lose Roberts; but as soon as his deputy
could be found, Roberts started for Delhi.
In a mail-cart he rattled across the bridge of boats for Ludhiana, and while he rested
there in the hospitable bungalow of the deputy commissioner, George Ricketts,
 he heard the tale of what the mutineers had done after breaking away from Jullundur.
Ricketts, it appears, had gallantly opposed the rebels with a few men of the 4th Sikhs and
two guns: he could have stopped their crossing the Sutlej if the Jullundur force had given
It was ever the same tale—heroic deeds done by many; foolish, ignorant or lazy
counsels followed by a few, and mostly by elderly men, who ought to have retired and gone
home before they were worn out.
On the 27th June, Roberts reached Umballa: on driving to the dak-bungalow he found it
crowded with officers, all eager to get on to Delhi. When Roberts, the young gunner,
expressed his intention of going on at once, they laughed heartily, "Not a seat to be had,
But Roberts had a little talk with the postmaster; and he said, "Make friends with Mr.
Douglas Forsyth, the deputy commissioner."
The result was that Roberts got a seat on an extra cart laden with small-arm ammunition.
He was allowed to take two other men with him. These were Captain Law, who was killed on
the 23rd July, after having greatly distinguished himself, and Lieutenant Packe, lamed for
life before he had been forty-eight hours in Delhi.
Through Kurnal they drove and Panipat, where there was a strong force of Patiala and Jhind
troops: but at Alipur, twelve miles from Delhi, the driver pulled up, shook his head and
vowed he dared go no farther.
So they took the mail-cart ponies, for a consideration, and rode on; they heard the boom
of guns and saw several dead bodies, already as dry as mummies. They had not the vaguest
notion where the Ridge was, but luckily hit on the right road, got safely through the
piquets and lay down for a long sleep.
In part, from Lord Roberts' Forty-one Years in India, by kind permission of the