Untold lives blog

9 posts from November 2021

30 November 2021

Report of a crash-landing of a Japanese bomber

The papers of Frank Owen Bell, Indian Civil Service officer, contain some fascinating reports of a fire-fight between local police and a group of Japanese airmen during the Second World War.  The file in the India Office Private Papers consists of reports and telegrams between 25 and 30 December 1942 circulating between local government officials in the area of Kalapara in the District of Patuakhali in Bengal (now Bangladesh).  As the reports circulated, a picture began to build up of a dramatic skirmish as the Japanese air-crew attempted to evade capture.

Telegram concerning the report of a crashed aircraft 28 December 1942Telegram concerning the report of a crashed aircraft 28 December 1942 Mss Eur D733/40 f.3  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

On 24 December at 10.40 in the evening, a Japanese bomber crashed at Dhulasar, a few miles from the sea shore.  The plane had been struck by anti-aircraft fire causing it to crash heavily.  The seven crew members all survived, with only 2 being slightly wounded.  No doubt frightened and confused, they approached a nearby house, but the residents fled thinking them to be robbers.  The following morning, having taken shelter in the house for the night, the Japanese airmen looked for someone who could help them escape by sea but were hindered by being unable to speak the local language or any English.

Around this time local police officers, consisting of a head-constable and four constables, arrived and began searching for the airmen.  At about 11.00am, they spotted the Japanese airmen crossing a river, and immediately opened fire.  The Japanese retaliated with machine gun fire before retreating into the jungle.  No-one was hit and the policemen kept guard on the river bank.

Report about the crashed bomber 30 December 1942Report about the crashed bomber 30 December 1942 Mss Eur D733/40 f.1. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

At around 3.30pm, the Japanese airmen emerged from a different part of the jungle, and rushed a large boat firing revolvers and a machine gun.  The fishermen on the boat dived overboard and swam to safety.  The boat was loaded with rice and vegetables, and was equipped with a sail.  The airmen set sail out to sea, and were not seen again.  In a printed report of the incident sent to the Inspector General of Police in Bengal, it was estimated that it would take four days to sail to Burma.  Search aircraft attempted to locate the Japanese airmen without success.  A handwritten note on the back of the report commented that the villagers were naturally frightened but showed no pro-Japanese or anti-British sentiments.

Born on June 1907, Bell was educated at Christ’s Hospital at Horsham, and Christ’s College, Cambridge.  He joined the Indian Civil Service on 16 October 1930, and arrived in India November 1930.  He served in Bengal as Assistant Collector and Magistrate; and in December 1931 was promoted to Joint Magistrate and Deputy Collector.  From October 1936 he was a Settlement Officer.  He was awarded the OBE in January 1946. On returning to England in 1947, Bell qualified as a solicitor and worked for the Greater London Council.  He died in 1991.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Correspondence connected with the crash-landing of a Japanese bomber at Dhulasar, Bengal, 24 December 1942, BL shelfmark: Mss Eur D733/40.
India Office and Burma Office List (1947) page 142, for brief details of Frank Owen Bell’s ICS career.
Papers relating to Frank Owen Bell's service as a councillor in Chesham UDC and Buckinghamshire County Council, held at Buckinghamshire Archives, reference D_190

 

25 November 2021

‘So Long’ from King Naimbanna II - Manuscripts from an 18th Century African King

Within the Clarkson Papers there are a number of volumes relating to the settlement of Freetown, Sierra Leone, from 1791 onwards.  These were explored in a series of Untold Lives blogs called The Lives and Letters of the Black Loyalists.   We return to these papers to explore a number of fascinating folios of correspondence between John Clarkson and King Naimbanna II.

King, or Obai, Naimbanna II (1720-1793) was a leader of the Koya Temne Kingdom on coast of Sierra Leone.  Agents of the Sierra Leone Company negotiated with Naimbanna in 1788 and persuaded him to sign over some of his land for the Company’s settlement.  Naimbanna later stipulated that the deal had been negotiated too hastily and should not have been given consent.  A digitised version of this treaty is available to view via the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme.

When John Clarkson arrived in Freetown at the end of 1791 he made a conscious effort to engage with Naimbanna as the local leader.  Documents from his papers show that collaboration was deemed essential in order for the new settlement to succeed.


Instructions from abolitionist Thomas Clarkson to his brother John  the Governor of Freetown  to ‘ingratiate yourself with Naimbanna and his secretary Elliot’Instructions from abolitionist Thomas Clarkson to his brother John, the Governor of Freetown, to ‘ingratiate yourself with Naimbanna and his secretary Elliot’. Add MS 41262A, f.65. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A note from John Clarkson to King Naimbanna inviting him to dine with him and explaining he has a letter for him from his son  12 May 1792A note from John Clarkson to King Naimbanna inviting him to dine with him and explaining he has a letter for him from his son, 12 May 1792. Add MS 41262A, f.105. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A working relationship was established, as the documents below illustrate.  Naimbanna gave these folios to John Clarkson when the governor was due to depart Sierra Leone for England at the end of 1792.

First of two folios from King Naimbanna to John Clarkson  described as ‘His gift to Mr Clarkson on taking leave’ 23 December 1792
Second of two folios from King Naimbanna to John Clarkson  described as ‘His gift to Mr Clarkson on taking leave’  23 December 1792Two folios from King Naimbanna to John Clarkson, described as ‘His gift to Mr Clarkson on taking leave’. 23 December 1792. Add MS 41262A, ff 211-214. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

These fascinating folios stand out among Clarkson’s papers.  They are described as prayers or good luck charms.  Written in Arabic, they consist of scraps of sentences from the Koran that the author hopes will protect the bearer on his journey.  Other notes present with these papers describe the folios as badly written, but despite this criticism from Clarkson’s contemporaries, these letters are important historical documents in their own right.  They illustrate Naimbanna’s cautious engagement with the new settlement and his relationship with its governor Clarkson.

Naimbanna engaged diplomatically with the new settlement believing it could offer certain benefits.  He backed the original abolitionist mission of its founders, aimed to benefit from a proliferation of trade and sought out specialist education for himself and his sons.  Naimbanna sent his children abroad to experience different educations in different parts of the world.  His son Prince John Frederic would travel to England in 1791 to receive an education under the sponsorship of abolitionist and activist, Granville Sharp.

Announcement of the death of Prince Naimbanna  Bury and Norwich Post  1 January 1794Announcement of the death of Prince Naimbanna, Bury and Norwich Post, 1 January 1794. British Newspaper Archive.

With this openness and pragmatism of approach, Naimbanna hoped to both take advantage of the opportunities the new colony could open for the Kingdom, whilst retaining power as the rightful leader of the region.  However, cordial relations would not last.  Naimbanna died in 1793 as did his son, Prince John Frederic, whilst in transit back from England.  Successive Temne dynasties fought with neighbouring communities in an effort to consolidate their lands, but ultimately these lands were taken by the British in the latter half of the 19th century.  The British made Sierra Leone a British protectorate in 1896 and despite the Temne revolts in 1898 they would govern until Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
Lives and Letters of the Black Loyalists, Parts 1-4.
Ijagbemi, E. A. 'THE FREETOWN COLONY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF ‘LEGITIMATE’ COMMERCE IN THE ADJOINING TERRITORIES', Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, vol. 5, no. 2, Historical Society of Nigeria, 1970, pp. 243–56.
Kup, A. P. 'John Clarkson and the Sierra Leone Company', The International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, Boston University African Studies Center, 1972, pp. 203–20.
.

23 November 2021

Miguel of Mazagon, Mumbai- Part Two

We continue our story of Miguel de Lima e Souza.

Miguel was now part of the British establishment in Bombay, both politically and socially.  He was a member of the Insurance Society, a key association of those who mattered financially.   The Bombay Almanac of 1798 announced the birth of his son and listed him among the ten most prominent European merchants in Bombay.  Father Ernest Hull wrote that Miguel was one of the richest people in Bombay. 

Description of the estate formerly owned by Miguel de Lima e Souza when it was sold ini 1823

Bombay Gazette  29 October 1823 British Newspaper Archive 

Miguel's connections destined him to play the leading role in the Padroado-Propaganda struggle, which at one point threatened the future of the Catholic Church not only in Bombay but also the whole of Asia.  This was a very complex matter with its roots going back to the early 16th century.   In Miguel’s time, Rome was attempting to take on greater responsibility for the Church in the East, a role which was strongly resisted by the Portuguese state and church which had traditionally had the right of ‘Patronage’, or the authority to manage and have the last word in all ecclesiastical issues in the region.

View from Belmont looking towards the back of the harbour including part of the village of Mazagon, the islands of Carranjar, Elephanta and Butcher bounded by the hills of Mahratta countryView from Belmont looking towards the back of the harbour including part of the village of Mazagon, the islands of Carranjar, Elephanta and Butcher bounded by the hills of Mahratta country - from James Wales, Bombay Views: Twelve Views Of The Island Of Bombay And Its Vicinity Taken In The Years 1791 And 1792 Shelfmark: X 436 

At that time, Bombay was under Propaganda or the direct authority of Rome.  Sir Miguel now fell foul of the local authorities.  According to Father Hull, Miguel asked to have a prominent Protestant stand as godfather to his son, and this request was refused as being contrary to Church law.  This apparently was so offensive to Sir Miguel that he set in motion a process with the support of the British both locally and in London, as well as the backing of the Primate of Goa and Lisbon, that led to the transfer of Bombay to the jurisdiction of the Padroado Archbishop of Goa.  This proved unpopular locally with both the foreign elite as well as the lower classes of indigenous Catholics and the decision was reversed.  Miguel however leveraged all his political and social status to reverse this decision in turn and this led to a lot of ecclesiastical turmoil eventually leading to what is called the Double Jurisdiction, with some Churches under Rome and others under Goa.  The resulting bitterness led to a serious rift amongst the Catholic population, both people and priests, with one group of priests coming under the threat of excommunication in what is known as the Salsette schism.

Miguel was the spearhead of the Propaganda party initially, aiming to make the local church self-sustainable by founding a seminary known as the Bombay College on his own property.   But his efforts for local autonomy were not successful and the Propaganda parishes came under the tight control of the authorities of Goa.  There were stories that Miguel later regretted his role in the split and reportedly was reconciled to Rome and Propaganda on his deathbed.  While there is no direct evidence for this, his grandson Miguel de Lima e Souza (Junior) owed allegiance to Propaganda.  But that is another story!

Megan deSouza, independent researcher and blogger
Denis Rodrigues, amateur historian interested in the history of Bombay

Further reading:
The Home People 
Ernest R Hull, Bombay mission-history with a special study of the Padroado question (Bombay, 1927, 1930) British Library shelfmark Asia Pacific & Africa V 2145
The Portuguese Militia in Bombay
British Newspaper Archive also available via Findmypast

Miguel of Mazagon, Mumbai- Part One

18 November 2021

The danger of supporting German Cathedrals during the Second World War

Showing support for German creations when at war was dangerous, as Sydney Cockerell found out four years into the Second World War.  The former director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge penned a letter to The Times on 10 July 1943 lamenting the damage to Cologne Cathedral made by British forces.  Whilst he wrote that it was probably unavoidable, he argued that as a nation Britain should not be afraid to express regret of damage to historical monuments, even those situated in enemy countries.  The reaction to this statement is contained in dozens of letters sent to him, collected in the British Library’s Modern Archives.

He received numerous statements of support for his view, with many providing detail of the damage sustained.  Others agreed with him that it was probably unavoidable, and even that the Germans may have known that British forces would hesitate to harm such beautiful buildings.  However, other commentators were not so positive, as can be seen in this letter below which assumes he must be ‘a tottering silly old fool for writing such tripe’.

A letter sent from Newark to Cockerell 13 July 1943A letter sent from Newark to Cockerell 13 July 1943 – Add MS 52771 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

A harsh reply, but arguably the worst was to follow.  Another man wrote to Cockerell saying ‘people with your namby pamby views are not wanted in this country & are unworthy of the freedom enjoyed here’.  He goes on, ‘You are not fit to be called an “Englishman” & should be denaturalised & sent to Germany…you would promptly be shot, in some ways the Germans know better how to deal with your type’.

A more rational reply was given by an inhabitant of Coventry, arguing that instead of showing support for German cathedrals, he should focus closer to home, specifically on Coventry Cathedral.  She writes of the ’11 hours of diabolical bombing’ which ‘utterly destroyed it’ in November 1940.  Furthermore, her husband was killed that night on duty as an Air Raid Warden, and her home destroyed.  Included with her letter were two postcards showing the damage done.

Interior view of Coventry Cathedral before the bombingCoventry Cathedral before the bombing Add MS 52771, f. 104v Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The shell of Coventry Cathedral after the bombingCoventry Cathedral after the bombing Add MS 52771, f. 105v Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Following all these replies, Cockerell went on the offensive. In a further letter written to The Times nine days after the initial one, he asserts that ‘fine architecture is part of the common heritage of humanity, irrespective of frontiers’.  He also bemoans the angry replies, arguing if such people would feel no regret if Beethoven or Mozart were forgotten, ‘As patriotic Englishman, should we now repudiate these enemy composers?  Fine architecture is music and rhythm in stone’.  His archive contains many more letters of support than negative replies, though many are keen to stress that damage is often inevitable, a point he himself makes on multiple occasions.

Cockerell would continue to lament damage to historical monuments throughout the War, including Rouen Cathedral.  He received an interesting reply in an unsigned and undated letter: ‘Most people…would rather see a fine, modern power station (the symbol of a full and glowing life for everyone) than an old cathedral (the symbol of an evil past)’.

Whatever the truth of this statement, this short episode shows how expressing support of historical monuments situated in enemy countries was risky and could lead to vitriol and hatred.

Jack Taylor
Doctoral researcher at the Open University.  His CHASE-funded research explores sexual violence between men in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

Letters, original illustrations, photographs, books and leaflets, together with items issued to air raid wardens form part of the Life on the Home Front display in the British Library’s Treasures Gallery. The free display gives a flavour of the experience of those living and working in Britain during the Second World War.  It runs from 14 September until 11 December 2021. 

Further reading:
Add MS 52771 - Cockerell Papers, Vol, CXLIX, Correspondence rel. to the bombing of Cologne Cathedral, 1943 (ff. 92-122b); Correspondence and photographs rel. to the damage to Rouen Cathedral, 1944 (ff. 123-162).
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Alan Bell, ‘Cockerell, Sir Sydney Carlyle (1867–1962), museum director and book collector’.

 

16 November 2021

Miguel of Mazagon, Mumbai – Part One

Some years ago, I walked through narrow streets in Mazagon, Bombay (Mumbai), looking for the site of the old Gloria Church.  It was originally the personal chapel in the estate of my ancestor, Sir Miguel de Lima e Souza, who lived there from around 1750 to 1806.  This search was part of a larger quest to trace Sir Miguel’s roots back to the earliest Portuguese Fazendar, or estate owner, Antonio Pessoa in 1547.  That quest floundered in the historically murky era between the conquest of the Portuguese Norte India Province by the Marathas and the recapture of most of that area by the British in 1775.  I never was never able to document fully the family tree prior to Miguel and his father, but I had stumbled upon an intricate web of relations between Miguel's family and the East India Company at the time the Company was metamorphosing from a faltering trading enterprise to opulent overlord of much of the Indian subcontinent.

The cross that marks the spot of the original Gloria Church

The cross that marks the spot of the original Gloria Church (photo taken by Megan deSouza) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Miguel and his brothers seem to have played a significant part in this hinge period: Antonio based in Madras, Thomas in Calcutta, and Manoel in the Far East.  Miguel’s role is well-documented even though his emergence into prominence is something of a mystery.  There is little evidence of his presence before 1775 when the British conquered the island of Salsette north of Bombay from the Marathas.  Initially he was one of the merchants who leveraged the rising military power of the British to monopolise the cotton market in Gujarat and to create a coastal trading system between India and Eastern Africa, with ties to his brothers in Madras and Calcutta.  This mercantile base gave him entry into the newly established British corridors of power in and around Bombay.

Mazagon from the sea, with boats and ships in the foregroundView of Mazagon by Jose M. Gonsalves (fl. 1826-c.1842). Plate 6 from his Lithographic Views of Bombay published in Bombay in 1826. British Library W7506(6)  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

One early British connection was an important British official, William Gamul Farmer, who played a prominent role in the wars with the Marathas.  There is a charming account by Farmer’s great granddaughter telling of how Miguel (presumably with his brother Manoel’s help) obtained for Farmer some orange saplings from the Far East.  But Miguel’s presence on the main stage came from his strong and close relationship with the British Governor Jonathan Duncan.

Initially Miguel was Duncan’s emissary in Gujarat to help build a permanent political and military presence.  Duncan appreciated his help enough to specially petition the Governor General Wellesley for a special reward.  However, Miguel was destined to play an even more important role in averting a major crisis during the Napoleonic Wars.  When Napoleon invaded France, the British feared that this would embolden their enemies in India to form an alliance to overwhelm them.  The British feared that the French allies would capture Goa and that the Portuguese were in no position to defend that port which would provide lines of communication between the French in Egypt and the French alliance in India.  Miguel was deputed to negotiate a deal with the Portuguese, and he smoothed the way for a virtual occupation of Goa by the British which secured Goa under British protection as long as the danger lasted.  His role was recognised by both parties with the Portuguese government bestowing on Miguel the Order of Christ, Portugal's highest civil honour, and with British Governor Duncan personally investing him with the same.

Megan deSouza, independent researcher and blogger
Denis Rodrigues, amateur historian interested in the history of Bombay

Further reading:
The Home People 
The Portuguese Militia in Bombay
British Newspaper Archive also available via Findmypast

Miguel of Mazagon, Mumbai – Part Two 

11 November 2021

Life on the Home Front

From descriptions of shared conditions such as bombing and rationing to individual accounts of evacuation, internment and civilian war-work, a small free display running until 11 December 2021, gives a flavour of the experience of those living and working in Britain during the Second World War.  This is a brief introduction to the items on display at St Pancras.

View of Home Front exhibition cases at the British LibraryView of Home Front exhibition cases at the British Library Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Bombing raids had a devastating impact on civilian life.  On display are the air raid appointment cards, badges, chevrons and whistle of Edgar and Winifred Wilson who served as air raid wardens in St Albans, and a copy of Bombers over Merseyside giving an indication of the heavy bombing of Liverpool.


Opening of book entitled Bombers over Merseyside showing LiverpoolBombers over Merseyside. [Liverpool], 1943. 9101.ff.7 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The British Museum in London was also hit by incendiary bombs.  This photograph shows the damage in 1940 to the King’s Library Gallery, built to house the collection of King George III.

Damage in 1940 to the King’s Library Gallery at the British MuseumKings Library Gallery, British Museum, [1940]. British Library Corporate Archive, Photograph Box A1, no. 51 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In order to escape the bombs, children were evacuated to the countryside.  For some this was a happy episode but for others it was a miserable, dislocating time.  An account by Rita Cowell describes her experience of evacuation to Exmouth, Devon, during which she was treated as a ‘domestic skivvy’.  Another account is taken from News notes produced by the League of Coloured Peoples, an organisation which campaigned against racism.  It describes the prejudice faced by two young boys evacuated to Blackpool.

‘Back to the land’  pen and ink cartoons by Baroness WentworthJudith, Baroness Wentworth, ‘Back to the land’, pen and ink cartoons. Wentworth Bequest. Add Ms 75276  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Other items reflect the hardships of rationing.  Civilians were advised to grow their own vegetables and to salvage waste for reuse.  Some women as in this cartoon were sent to work on farms to help food production.  Not all foods were rationed and the restaurant Maison Prunier remained open through the blackouts, offering oysters to its clients.

Other documents record the work of volunteers including Vera Lloyd’s diary of her time with the Women’s Timber Corps.  Dilys Powell, film critic for The Sunday Times, volunteered as an ambulance car driver and George Orwell, novelist, as a member of the Home Guard.

Many men and women registered as Conscientious Objectors.  They were assessed at a civilian tribunal on the strength and sincerity of their beliefs.  The Scottish poet Ruthven Todd describes working as a stretcher-bearer until his tribunal.  Michael Tippett, the composer and pacifist, writes to his friend Evelyn Maude on the back of the Wormwood Scrubs Prison paper with a list of requests.  Tippett was imprisoned following his refusal to accept the result of his tribunal to undertake non-combatant military duties.

Letter to Evelyn Maude from Michael Tippett  Wormwood Scrubs Prison  1943Michael Tippett, Letter to Evelyn Maude, Wormwood Scrubs Prison, 1943, MS MUS 1757/5 f.26 Case 4
Usage terms - Reproductions of Michael Tippett’s writings are included by kind permission of the Trustees of the Sir Michael Tippett Will Trust.  Except as otherwise permitted under your national copyright law this material may not be copied or distributed further.  Held by© The Sir Michael Tippett Will Trust

Many Germans and Austrians fled the Nazi regime and thousands of refugees arrived in the UK.  However, on the outbreak of war, all Germans and Austrians resident in the UK were classed as ‘enemy aliens’.  Large numbers were interned in camps across the country.  The letters and diaries of Ernst Roth, Konrad Eisig and Gwyneth Hansen reveal some of their experiences.

The final items on display reflect the war-time experiences of the novelist E.R. Braithwaite and The British Honduran Forestry Unit.  Members of the Unit, sent to help fell trees in Scotland, were greeted with substandard accommodation and a lack of warm clothes.  In his book, Amos Ford, one of the first contingent, recounts that the Hondurans often felt isolated in the remote Scottish forests but that, after initial mistrust, relationships with the local population improved and some married local women.

Photograph of members of the British Honduran Forestry Unit in Scotland from Amos A Ford  Telling the truthMembers of the British Honduran Forestry Unit from Amos A Ford, Telling the truth: The life and times of the British Honduran Forestry Unit in Scotland. London, 1985. X.329/20351  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The items on display represent only a small selection of the wealth of material relating to the Second World War in the Library’s collections and much more can be found via our catalogues.

Laura Walker
Lead Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Life on the Home Front at the British Library St Pancras

09 November 2021

Invalids in the Nilgiri Hills

In The Bengal and Agra Annual Guide and Gazetteer for 1841 is a section on the benefit of the climate of the Nilgiri Hills for invalids, followed by hints for those trying to recover their health.

View of the Nilgiri Hills showing lush greenery and an Indian man and woman following a line of buffalos walking downhill.View of the Neelgherry or Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu by Captain Richard Place Barron  - British Library 1784.c.10 plate II Images Online

The Guide stated that the restorative powers of the climate in the hills for those suffering from Indian diseases was evident, but the preventative powers of that climate were overlooked.  It recommended that people suffering from the following diseases should be transferred at once to the hills –
Fever (unknown in the hills)
Dyspepsia (when not connected to a ‘serious derangement’ of the liver)
Debility ‘in every degree’
Habitual constipation
‘Local and cutaneous affections of every description’
All pulmonary complaints
‘All female complaints, properly so called’
Diarrhoea
Dysentery
‘Hepatic diseases in their milder forms’
Rheumatism ‘muscular or mercurial’
Gout – improvements in the condition were possible rather than cure

The hints for invalids recovering in the hills started by stressing that warm clothing was of vital importance.  ‘Every invalid as he values life’ should be provided with a good stock of flannel clothing - banians (jackets or shirts), cummerbunds with strings to tie round the middle, and drawers.  Footwear should be stout shoes and boots worn with worsted stockings.  Cold feet was a general complaint of newcomers, especially females, and could be remedied by wearing lambswool or worsted stockings.

The invalid should avoid exposure to the night air and never be out after sunset.  Early rising was neither necessary nor prudent, and the invalid should wait until the sun had risen sufficiently to drive away the cold and moisture of the night.  However care must be taken to return home before 9am to avoid the powerful effects of the sun.

A diet of light animal food with bread or biscuit was recommended, with vegetables, pastry and cheese.  Port or sherry was preferable to lighter wines, and beer unnecessary.

Exercise should be taken so that it produced ‘a gentle action on the skin’ and not fatigue, and exposure to the sun should be avoided.  Riding was better than walking, ‘it being less exciting’.  Once acclimatized, exercise should be increased gradually.

When recovery was well advanced, daylight hours should be spent in the open air as far as strength would permit.  Those who had suffered from fever should avoid the jungle at the foot of the hills.  If unfortunately detained there, a course of purgatives should be taken followed by small doses of quinine.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
The Bengal and Agra Annual Guide and Gazetteer for 1841

05 November 2021

Fireworks in India for Queen Victoria

A Royal Proclamation was published in India on 1 November 1858 transferring government from the East India Company to the Crown.  The document, addressed to the Princes, Chiefs, and people of India, was read out in the open in many places in both English and vernacular languages.  Public displays of fireworks and illuminations were organised to celebrate the change.

Copy of the Proclamation by the Queen in Council dated Allahabad 1 November 1858, announcing the transference of the government of India from the East India Company to the CrownCopy of the Proclamation by the Queen in Council dated Allahabad 1 November 1858, announcing the transference of the government of India from the East India Company to the Crown - British Library Mss Eur D620

The transfer of power from the Company to the Crown took place in the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion. Viscount Canning was appointed first Viceroy and Governor General.  The proclamation announced that all Company civil and military personnel were confirmed in post ‘subject to Our future pleasure’.  Treaties and engagements made with Princes of India were to be ‘scrupulously maintained’.  No extension to present British territories was desired and the ‘Rights, Dignity, and Honour’ of the Princes would be respected.  Internal peace and good government would secure social advancement for the whole of India.  The native peoples of British India would be treated with the same obligations of duty as all Queen Victoria’s other subjects.  There was to be no imposition of Christianity, no discrimination on religious grounds, and no interference with belief or worship.  People of any race or creed would be able to hold office if qualified ‘by their education, ability, and integrity’.  Ancient rights, usages and customs would be respected.

The proclamation also spoke of the Rebellion, lamenting ‘the evils and misery which have been brought upon India by the acts of ambitious men’.  Pardons were offered for all ‘Offenders’ except those convicted of ‘having directly taken part in the Murder of British Subjects’.

Viscount Canning presided over the proclamation ceremony at Allahabad, which began with a salute of nineteen guns and the national anthem.  The document was read out in English, followed by an Urdu translation.  A firework display lasted from 8.30pm to nearly midnight – ‘trees of fire, crackers, squibs, whirligigs, and rockets’.

In Calcutta, large numbers of people gathered to hear the proclamation read from the steps of Government House, first in English and then in Bengali.  The royal standard was hoisted, cheered by the Europeans in the crowd.  At night there was a wonderful display of gas light illuminations.  The Homeward Mail was impressed: ‘ No other city in the world could have prepared such a sight... The City of Palaces shone a city of fire… we do not think any pen can paint the beauty of the scene’.  Even the smallest shops were decorated with a few lights.

Crowds flocked to the fort in Bombay to hear the proclamation in English and Marathi.  Ships in the harbour then fired a salute of 101 guns.  The fireworks were on a scale never before seen in Bombay and workmen had spent days constructing elaborate illuminations on government buildings and the private mansions of prominent Indians.  Poor citizens had decorated the narrow streets and alleys.

At Madras the proclamation was read in front of an invited European audience of about 100, and there was a gun salute.  According to The Homeward Mail the only Indian present was the man who translated the document from English.  However a week later there were ‘some bad fireworks’, dancing girls and jugglers, and a state ball at the illuminated banqueting ball.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Library Mss Eur D620 Copy of the Proclamation by the Queen in Council dated Allahabad 1 November 1858.
British Newspaper Archive also available via Findmypast e.g. The Friend of India 4 November 1858; The Homeward Mail 6 December and 15 December 1858; Evening Mail 6 December 1858.

There are a number of files in the India Office Records about public ceremonies held to celebrate the proclamation e.g.
IOR/L/PS/6/495, Coll 76/312 Measures taken to publicize the Royal Proclamation announcing the assumption of the Government of India by the Crown, October 1858-June 1859.
IOR/L/PS/6/463, Coll 36/9 Notification to the Princely States of Northern India of the Royal Proclamation transferring the government of India to the Crown - reports on the public ceremonies held in celebration - complimentary letters from some of the Native Princes, October 1858-January 1859.
IOR/L/PS/6/489, Coll 76/14 Papers relating to the North Western Provinces - expenditure incurred on illuminations in the Rohilkhand Division during the ceremonies accompanying the formal transfer of power from the East India Company to the Queen, November 1858-January 1860.
IOR/L/PS/6/490, Coll 76/46 North Western Provinces - expenditure of 38 rupees 5 annas on illuminations at Jalalabad Fort on the occasion of the reading of the Royal Proclamation, January 1859-January 1860.
IOR/L/PS/6/490, Coll 76/39 North Western Provinces - expenditure of 5446 rupees incurred on providing fireworks and illuminations at Allahabad on the occasion of the reading of the Royal Proclamation, January 1859-January 1860.
IOR/L/PS/6/490, Coll 76/36 North Western Provinces - expenditure of 500 rupees incurred on illuminations and fireworks at Banda during the occasion of the reading of the Royal Proclamation, January 1859-January 1860.