Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mhow – from the early nineteenth century till Independence

by Dev Kumar Vasudevan
As published in Mhow Diary on July 12 2007; Free Press, Indore edition

Troops under the command of a Captain Hunt had defeated the Holkars at Mahidpur on December 21 1817. It was after this defeat that the treaty of Mandsaur was signed on the 6th of January 1818 and Mhow was handed over to the British. The Scotsman Sir John Malcolm was the seniormost British official in Malwa at that time. Mhow had remained the headquarters of Sir John Malcolm till 1821 – they year the Mhow Fort was built. Prior to 1818 the Holkar Maharaja had stationed some of his troops at Badgonda village in Mhow. This was the original Bombay track and was also the way used by Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar on her way up from Maheshwar in the Nimar plains to Indore in Malwa. The Mhow Fort was used by the Ordnance Corps to store arms and ammunition. This was later transferred to Kharki, near Pune in 1907. The Headquarters of the 5th Mhow Division was in Mhow from 1913 onwards. This Division was part of the Bombay Corps. The other two divisions in this Corps were the 4th and 6th Divisions whose headquarters were at Quetta (now in Pakistan) and Poona (now Pune) respectively. The 4th Indian Division (the famous Red Eagles) was under the command of Montgomery in the African deserts and had contributed immensely in defeating the combined German and Italian Armies there.

The period 1940-48 was one of unprecedented change in Mhow. Many institutions came into existence. Prisoner of war camps were built. The Chindits who specialised in jungle warfare against the Japanese in the jungles of Burma were trained in Mhow. And the Officers Training School here did its best to make up for the shortage of officers which the Indian Army was facing at that time. It was during this time that the Infantry School and the Signals School (later the MCTE or Military College of Telecommunication Engineering ) came into existence.

Army Units Stationed in Mhow During the British Raj

This is a fascinating list of Army Units and Army Establishments which were stationed in Mhow during the days of the Raj. The names of the Regiments which were in Mhow before 1840 are not known. This list was given to me by an Infantry Officer in handwritten form in the eighties. I was able to tally it with a booklet brought out by Infantry School Mhow during the mid-eighties a xerox copy of which I found in the collection of my friend Denzil Lobo whose ancestors had arrived in Mhow during the late nineteenth century from Goa. I was also able to cross check this list with a coffee table book on the Army War College Mhow which was published a few years ago a copy of which is in the reference section of MCTE Library. Of the British regiments stationed in Mhow the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons had fought under the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo in 1815. They were part of the Union Brigade under the command of a Major General Sir William Posonby who was killed in this battle due to his own foolishness. The Brigade was destroyed by the French and it took no further part in the battle. It is interesting to note that this list does not contain the name of any Indian unit in Mhow in 1891. It was in 1891 that Dr B.R.Ambedkar was born in Mhow and his father Ramji Maloji Sakpal was a Subedar in a Mahar Infantry Battalion. Given below, in chronological order are the units and establishments which were present in Mhow during the pre-independence era. I must add that I have stopped the list in 1948, the year after independence.

Year: Unit/Establishment
1840: 2 Native Cavalry

1843: 26 Bombay Native Infantry

1857: 4 Scindhia’s Contingent
23 Bengal Native Infantry
14 Bombay Native Infantry
The Bengal Artillery
14 Light Dragoons
25 Native Infantry

1858: 5 Madras Cavalry

1859: 19 Bombay Native Infantry
92 Highlanders

1860: 17 Bombay Native Infantry
23 Bombay Native Infantry
Bombay Artillery
Dragoon Guards

1861: 72 Highlanders
Malwa Division Army
Bombay Rifles
6 Inniskilling Dragoons

1863: 6 Dragoons

1864-65: 45 Foot
103 Foot
28 Foot

1866: Royal Engineers

1867: 11 Hussars
95 Foot

1868: Dragoon Guards
2 Dragoons
95 Royal Artillery

1869: 8 King’s Regiment

1870: 15 Hussars

1873: Royal Horse Artillery
3 King’s Own (Hussars)
49 Royal Artillery

1875: 68 Light Infantry (Hussars)

1876: 108 Royal Artillery
2/17 Royal Artillery

1881: 5/11 Royal Artillery

1882: 2 Lancashire Fusilliers

1883: 17 Lancers

1884: 7 Dragoon Guards

1888-89: 5 Royal Irish Lancers

1890: 17 Hussars

1892: 7 Hussars
2 Durham Light Infantry
Royal Horse Artillery

1895-98: Brecknockshire Battalion
20 Hussars
The Royal Fusiliers

1902: 11 Yorkshire Lancers

10 Royal Hussars

1904: 104 Bengal Native Infantry
Yorkshire Regiment
6 Dragoons
Royal Horse Artillery

1907: 2 East Surrey Regiment

1911: East Lancashire Regiment
14 King’s Hussars

1913: 5 (Northumberland) Fusiliers

HQ 5 Mhow Division

1914: 125 Napiers Regiment
124 Rajputana Regiment
The Hampshire Regiment
14 Kings Hussars

1915- 19: 1 Brecknockshire Batallion

104 Rajputana Rifles

Durham Light Infantry
102 King Edward’s Own Grenadiers
1 South Wales Borderers
13 Hussars
128 Outram Rifles (4th Rajputana Rifles)

1920: 3 King’s Royal Rifles
3/60 Rifles
7 Queen’s Own Hussars
107 Battery, Royal Field Artillery
100 Battery, Royal Field Artillery

1922: South Wales Borderers

1923: 3 Prince of Wales
2 Bedfordshire Battalion

13 Pack Battery
Battery Royal Artillery

1926: 2 Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment

1931: 1 Bedfordshire Regiment
16 Field Bengal Artillery

1933: 8 Field Bengal Artillery
28 Field Artillery

1934: 1 Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment
28 Foot
6 Bengal Cavalry

1936: 3/6 Rajputana Rifles
2 Suffolk Regiment
77 Field Battery

1940: 3/57 Field Battery Royal Artillery
52 Light Infantry
25 Field Artillery
Officer’s Training School

1941: Signals’ School

1944: 2/19 Hyderabad Royal Artillery

Detachment of the Intelligence Corps Burma Armed Forces (BAF)

1945: 1 Northamptonshire Regiment
Burma Intelligence Corps

Royal Indian Army Service Corps
Army Physical Training Corps

1946: Infantry School

1948: 5 Royal Maratha Light Infantry
72 Highlanders


Ian Lawson said...

I enjoyed your account of the military history of Mhow. My father, as a very young man, escaped the poverty of working class North England by joining the 6th. Inniskilling Dragoons, initially in Ireland, then proceeding to join the Dragoons in India, in 1907. In 1914, the Regiment came back to Europe and the 'BEF' defending against the German onslaught. His brother, also an Inniskilling Dragoon was killed almost immediately, my father surviving by transferring to the Machine Gun Corps, since there was so little cavalry activity!
1945-48, I joined the 3d Hussars as an ineffective 2/Lieut, and I recall the Indian battle honors. However, I didn't get to India until 1967-8, when I joined the faculty of CMC, Ludhiana, a greatful British nation having rewarded my military ineffectiveness (in Palestine) by supporting me through medical school, in Aberdeen, where I had joined the army! India was a high point for me personally and professionally. My adult children have enjoyed returning there from time to time. Ian Lawson (MD)

Dev said...

hi ian. Many thanks for your comment which is so full of details of an era which is over. It is also interesting to read about your India connection. Please keep in touch. regards. dev



I have a photograph of the Staff of HQ 16th. Field Regiment Royal Artillery which I think according to your list was stationed there 1931-33. Do you have any further information on this unit? I would be grateful if you have as I can pass it on to a relative of one of the men in the photograph.


John Berry said...

Hi Dev, Re your list of postings the 20th Hussars were definately still in Mhow until after July 1900 as my Great Grandfather, James Alfred Berry, a saddler sergeant, was posted there with the 20th Hussars, leaving the UK on 11 September 1895 and arriving back in the UK 10 April 1901. His wife Margaret died of carcinoma in Mhow on 11 July 1900 at the Station Family Hospital in Mhow and is buried presumably in a military or hospital cemetary in Mhow. Unfortunately I have never managed to visit and find her grave. She had given birth to triplets at Ballincollig Barracks in Ireland in 1884 and received a £3 gift from Queen Victoria to assist the cost of triplets. One triplet died at Colchester and the surviving two went with then to Mhow and returned to the UK with their father.
Regards, John Berry

Dev said...

Hi HERITAGE PLUS... I will not be able to help you as I have no information on this regiment... Would the Wikipedia help? Regards... Dev (21/JAN/2009)

Dev said...

Hi John... Thanks for the fascinating information you have given me via your comment. I will definitely try to find out if the 20th Hussars were still there in 1900 as you say. DO keep in touch... Regards Dev (21/Jan/2009)

Keith Holderness said...

Hi Dev, I was very impressed with your history of the British Units stationed at Mhow. I have been trying to find out more information about a member of our family who was at Mhow certainly in the early 1870's. His name was Charles Magee and he was a Gunner in C Brigade Royal Horse Artillery. He married Harriet Holderness in 1871 in England, and they had a daughter Sarah Ann born at Mhow in February 1874. Would there have been a special army church where she was baptised in April of that year? After that I can find no trace of the family. I believe E Battery where stationed in Mhow and that Battery took part in the Second Afhgan War in 1881. Any help would be appreciated, many thanks, Keith

Dev said...

Hi Keith... Thanks for sharing this fascinating information. I will definitely try to find out something.
In case I succeed I promise to share with you. Regards, Dev