Untold lives blog

210 posts categorized "Conflict"

19 September 2023

William Henry Wilson of the Bombay Police

William Henry Wilson was an officer in the Bombay Staff Corps in the second half of the 19th century.  Born in Worcester on 13 September 1839, Wilson was appointed to the Indian Army in December 1856, and posted to the 18th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry.  Present during operations against insurgents in the North Canara and Bedee Districts in 1858, he was awarded the Mutiny Medal.  He had a successful army career, and served in the Bombay Police.

Decorated scroll in praise of Wilson  1891

Decorated scroll in praise of Wilson 1891 - Mss Eur F764/7/8

In 1870, Wilson was the Superintendent of Police for the Kaira District, and was called on to oversee police arrangements for the fair at Dakore held in April of that year.  The fair was a success and Wilson was commended for the judicious manner in which the arrangements were devised and carried out with due regard to the feelings of the people attending the event.  Wilson noted in his papers that, 'There was a tremendous concourse of people, especially women……The Maharajah wanted to give me a sword but I said government would not approve as I had only done my duty'.

Report of the fair at Dakore 1870  with the offer of a sword as a giftReport on the fair at Dakore 1870 -  Mss Eur F764/7/2

In 1885, Wilson was the District Superintendent of Police at Nasik. I n October of that year, he had to deal with a riot that broke out at Malegaon in the District.  The cause of the riot seemed to be a dispute between members of the Hindu and Muslim communities who were celebrating the festivals of Dasara and Muharram.  The unrest lasted four days and 42 people were arrested.  At one point, a Hindu temple was attacked forcing the police guard to fire on the rioters wounding two men.  The Government commended Wilson and the local Magistrate Mr Frost for their promptitude and discretion.  In Wilson’s copy of the report on the riot, he noted in the margin that, 'It was a hot business' and that leading Muslim leaders had asked him to release the 42 men who had been arrested, to which he had refused.  They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment of between three to eighteen months.

Report of riot at Malegaon 1885 Report of riot at Malegaon 1885  - Mss Eur F764/7/2

In 1887, Wilson, serving as Superintendent of Police in the Poona District, was involved in tracking down a gang of robbers.  Wilson reported that, 'five of the Koli gang of dacoits have surrendered to Inspector Ganpatrao Malhar and that a sixth, who alleges he was pressed into the dacoit’s service against his will, has also given himself up' . Wilson recommended that the reward of Rs.500 should be increased to Rs.1000 and distributed to local villagers 'who have done so well and have suffered in the service'.

Report of the surrender of a gang of dacoits 1887  Surrender of a gang of dacoits 1887 - Mss Eur F764/7/2

Between 1888 and 1893, Wilson served as Commissioner of Police for the Town and Island of Bombay.  During that time, he met a number of visiting dignitaries, including Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence in 1889.  The following year, he met Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, future Emperor of Russia, who was on a tour of India.  Wilson wrote that it was rather a responsibility for the Governor, Lord Harris, especially as the Indian Government 'were very jumpy'.  Of the Tsesarevich, Wilson wrote, 'He was very unformed in manners & never thanked me'. I n January 1893, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria visited Bombay as part of his tour of India during his trip round the world.  Wilson commented that Lord Harris 'found him a pleasant guest; and he specially thanked me at the railway station on his departure'.


John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
William Henry Wilson’s papers are part of a recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room: Papers of the Wilson Family, Mss Eur F764 that charts the family’s connection with India over four generations.
Papers relating to the service history of William Henry Wilson, 1866-1914, shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/7/1.
Official correspondence relating to William Henry Wilson's career, 1860-1893, shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/7/2.


24 August 2023

Seditious Publications

In the early decades of the 20th century the Government of India became increasingly concerned by the publication and circulation of what they perceived as anti-British or seditious publications.  This was a particular concern following the Amritsar massacre which sparked protests across India.  One small collection in the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting glimpse of the efforts of government to suppress these publications.

These are a collection of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces.  The notifications give the legislation used and details of the publication suppressed.  A government reviewer had also listed the paragraphs or lines of particular concern.  The legislation used was section 99 of the 1898 Code of Criminal Procedure, and section 12 of the Indian Press Act of 1910.  These pieces of legislation allowed the authorities to declare such books, newspapers or other documents forfeited to His Majesty.  Police officers could then seize them.

Notification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired IndependenceNotification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired Independence

One of the defining events, which galvanised the campaign for Indian independence, was the Amritsar massacre.  Many Indian writers and publishers took this as a subject in calling for resistance to British rule in India.  One collection of poems, ‘Jallianwala Bagh ka Mahatma’, has the line ‘Jallianwala Bagh will be immortal in the world’, and in another of the poems is written: ‘It is Jallianwala Bagh, where the martyrs of the motherland and the gems of the country were robbed’.  It goes on to advise the public to consider the Jallianwala Bagh a place of pilgrimage [folio 21]. 

Notification about Gandhi-ki-gazlenNotification about 'Gandhi-ki-gazlen'

Another pamphlet in Hindi ,‘Gandhi-ki-gazlen’, predicted ‘Scenes of Jallianwala Bagh will be repeated in every city if this Government is not driven out of this country’ [folio 48].  The reviewer noted that the writer urged Indians to follow non-cooperation and emphasised the adoption of swadeshi goods.

Notification about Asahyog KajliNotification about 'Asahyog Kajli'

The campaign to boycott British goods and use Indian products, known as swadeshi, features in many of the publications.  For instance, a pamphlet in Hindi entitled ‘Asahyog Kajli’ encouraged people to use the spinning wheel (charkha) and weave cloth for their use [folio 17]. 

Notification about Sawan SwarajNotification about 'Sawan Swaraj'

Another pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Sawan Swaraj’, written by Sallar Maharaj contain songs with the lines: ‘By working at charkhas the enemy will disappear from our sight and from India’ [folio 19].  The non-cooperation campaigns led by Gandhi are a common theme. 

Notification about Swaraj PratiqyaNotification about 'Swaraj Pratiqya'

One pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Swaraj Pratiqya’, collected poems on the subject.  One line urged: ‘Let us take the vow of non-violent non-co-operation with all resoluteness and let us try soon to liberate India from the unlawful possession of the unjust’.  A similar tone was taken in another line: ‘Let there be new sacrifices made on the altar of liberty and let us all be proud of our mother tongue and of swadeshi clothes’ [folio 118].

Notification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troopsNotification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troops

One notification concerns a leaflet in Nepalese addressed to Gurkha troops.  Printed and published anonymously it warned: ‘Just as an insect eats the wall from the inside and makes it hollow in the same way the foreign nation (British) which is deceitful and dishonest is going to make us hollow’.  It urges Gurkha soldiers to ‘Leave the services and protect your brothers’ [folio 75].

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
India Office unregistered files containing copies of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces proscribing seditious publications, together with translations and summaries of the literature, 1910-1930, reference Mss Eur F242.

Records relating to seditious or proscribed publications can be found in the Public & Judicial Department records series (IOR/L/PJ).

Indian Press Act, 1910

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.  

Publications proscribed by the Government of India: a catalogue of the collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division, edited by Graham Shaw and Mary Lloyd (London: British Library, 1985).


08 August 2023

William Henry Quilliam – the Victorian solicitor who established Britain’s first mosque

What do the names Abdullah Quilliam, Henri Marcel Léon and Haroon Mustapha Leon have in common?  The answer is that they are all aliases of William Henry Quilliam, 19th century solicitor and convert to Islam.

William Henry Quilliam was born in Liverpool on 10 April 1856.  He was of Manx descent and raised by Wesleyan Methodists.  After training and working as a solicitor, he moved to the Middle East in 1887, where he converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah Quilliam.  He returned to England and opened Britain’s first Muslim institute and mosque at 8-10 Brougham Terrace, Liverpool, in 1889.  The site was a place of worship and education, with its own science laboratory and museum.

Quilliam was given the title of sheikh-ul-Islam (leader of the Muslims) of Britain by the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II.  He also found time to edit a series of Islamic periodicals, publishing frequently under the alias H. [Haroon] Mustapha Leon.  A controversial figure in Victorian England, he received backlash for publicly renouncing Christianity, while Brougham Terrace became a target for vandals.  After leaving the UK for a short period he lived on the Isle of Man in the 1910s, changing his name for a third time to Henri Marcel Léon.

Photograph of William Henry Quilliam  alias Abdullah QuilliamWilliam Henry Quilliam, known as Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam. Public Domain

Quilliam is the subject of British Library manuscripts collection Add MS 89684, which has just been catalogued and is now available for research.  The papers in this collection were compiled by Patricia ‘Pat’ Gordon, granddaughter of Quilliam, while conducting research into her grandfather’s life history.  The collection comprises correspondence, newspaper and magazine cuttings, photographs and even a ceremonial silver trowel.  The trowel was presented by the United Methodist Free Churches to Quilliam’s mother, Harriet, on the laying of a memorial stone of the School Chapel, Durning Road, Liverpool, on 20 August 1877.

A ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs QuilliamA ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs Quilliam Add MS 89684/4/6

During the 1990s, Pat was in regular correspondence with the Abdullah Quilliam Society of Liverpool.  The Society was founded to restore the location of Quilliam’s mosque at Brougham Terrace.  Pat was invited by the Society to unveil a plaque outside the prayer hall on 10 October 1997, in a ceremony which was organised to commemorate Quilliam’s achievements.  Photographs of this event can be found at Add MS 89684/3/2.

Quilliam died in London on 23 April 1932.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Muslim section of Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, not far from the grave of the Islamic scholar and barrister Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1872-1953).  It is thanks to the work of Pat Gordon and the Abdullah Quilliam Society that William Henry Quilliam’s mosque and unique history have survived.

George Brierley
Manuscripts Cataloguer

Further reading:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – Quilliam, William Henry
Add MS 89684 – Papers relating to Abdullah Quilliam


01 August 2023

Catherine Shillcock in Agra Fort

In my recent post about Charles Daniels, an ex-soldier sent adrift upon the world, I asked if anyone could help me find what happened to his wife Catherine after the death of her second husband Sergeant John Shillcock in 1855.  One of our readers has pointed me in the direction of the Agra Fort Directory of 1857 where a widow ‘Mrs C Shilcock’ is listed.

Agra Fort Directory 1857 - front cover

Agra Fort Directory 1857 - explanation of abbreviations used and the first page of names beginning with AAgra Fort Directory 1857 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur D385 

The directory was based on a census taken by Assistant Surgeon James Pattison Walker of 5,845 people sleeping in the Fort on 27 July 1857 .  They were seeking refuge from the Indian Uprising.  Nearly 2,000 Europeans are named - soldiers, civil servants, surgeons, teachers, priests, nuns, railway employees, merchants, craftsmen, bankers, indigo planters, and wives, widows, and children.  There were also 1542 ‘East Indians’, 858 ‘Native Christians’, 1157 ‘Hindoos’, and 229 ‘Mahomedans’, but no names are recorded for these groups.

Numbers of people sleeping in Agra Fort 26-27 July 1857

Numbers of people sleeping in Agra Fort 26-27 July 1857

Mrs Shillcock was living in Block F of the Fort.  A fellow resident was twenty-year-old Rosa Mary Coopland. Her husband, chaplain George William Coopland, had been killed at Gwalior in June 1857.  Their son George Bertram Philpott was born in Agra Fort on 8 August.

Agra Fort Directory 1857 -two pages of names begiinning with S  including Mrs C Shilcock Agra Fort Directory showing entry for Mrs C Shilcock

In 1859 Rosa Mary Coopland published a memoir of her escape from Gwalior and life in Agra Fort,.  She described life in the Fort – the noise and confusion of people settling into their quarters; the staff of sweepers paid by the authorities to keep the interior clean; the butchers, bakers and laundrymen carrying on their trades within the walls; the laying-out of gardens; the making of coffins.

Agra Fort - garrison orders 1 July 1857Agra Fort - garrison orders 1 July 1857 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur D385 

The Agra civil servants had comparatively comfortable quarters in the gardens.  A large marble hall there was used as a business office and as a church on Sundays.  The military officers and their families lived in tents, as did the Roman Catholic Archbishop and his clergy.  The highest military ranks occupied a row of small houses, and their soldiers lived in barracks.  Nuns created a school and a chapel in the place where the gun carriages had stood.  Shopkeepers and merchants made small thatched huts, and ‘every available place was crammed’, with people ‘almost as closely packed as bees in a hive’.

The memoir also told the story of a woman killed at Gwalior.  Mrs Coopland couldn’t remember the woman's name, but she was the widow of a conductor in the commissariat who had risen from the ranks and saved a great deal of money.  He had died shortly before the Uprising and his widow had buried his boxes of treasure for safety.  Apparently some sepoys demanded the treasure and shot the woman when she refused to show them the hiding place.

The dead woman was Catherine Shillcock’s elder sister Maria.  She had married Andrew Burrows, a private in HM 87th Foot, on 22 October 1821 at Fort William. They had at least seven children, with three dying as infants.

By 1857 Andrew was Deputy Commissary of Ordnance attached to the Gwalior Magazine.  He died on 14 May 1857.  His will made in 1843 left everything to Maria, but did not name an executor. As Maria was dead, the estate was settled by the Administrator General in Bengal.

On 31 July 1858 a funeral service was read at Gwalior over the remains of those who died there in June 1857, including those of George William Coopland and Maria Burrows.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Mss Eur D385 Agra Fort Directory 1857 and Garrison Orders I July 1857 in Charles Lamont Robertson Glasfurd papers.
R M Coopland, A lady’s escape from Gwalior and life in the Fort of Agra during the mutinies of 1857 (London 1859).
IOR/N/1/8 f.186 Baptism of Maria Griffiths 10 August 1809.
IOR/N/1/11 f.566 Marriage of Maria Griffiths to Andrew Burrows 22 October 1821.
IOR/N/1/94 p.140 Funeral service read at Gwalior on 31 July 1858 over remains, including those of George William Coopland, died 15 June 1857, and Maria Burrows, who died 14 June 1857.
Will and estate papers of Andrew Burrows IOR/L/AG/34/29/100 pp.210-214 & 534-535; IOR/L/AG/34/27/165 p.266; IOR/L/AG/34/27/169 p.285.


13 July 2023

Deefholts: An Anglo-Indian Family of Public Servants in Calcutta

In 1947 the Indian Independence Act  was passed by Parliament.  This ended decades of colonial rule in India and paved the way to Partition.  In November 1960, unrest and violence forced my family to leave Calcutta (Kolkata) permanently.

Great-grandparents Cyril Brian and Maureen and great uncle Hans on the ship Indian Resource from Calcutta to LiverpoolMy great-grandparents Cyril Brian and Maureen and great uncle Hans on the ship Indian Resource from Calcutta to Liverpool

Great uncles Stephen and Hans  and grandfather Gerald on the Indian ResourceMy great uncles Stephen and Hans, and grandfather Gerald on the Indian Resource

My Deefholts ancestors have mainly served in government and legal affairs, customer service, international trade and engineering.  We are today an Anglo-Indian family of public servants with roots in Calcutta and ties to a unique culture which is fading away.  Anglo-Indians are citizens of mixed Indian and European ancestry.

I traced my ancestral roots using the catalogues and collections at the British Library in London. The India Office Records document British rule in India and the lives of Anglo-Indians.

The documents pictured below show correspondence conducted by an ancestor in Bengal.  In 1850 and 1854, petitions about financial matters were submitted by Richard Deefholts, an assistant in the Bengal Secretariat Office.  Then, in 1856, a financial agreement was reached between him and the East India Company in London.

Richard Deefholts' financial petition 1854


Richard Deefholts' financial petition 1856Documents about Richard Deefholts’ petition 1854 & 1856 - IOR/E/4/824 and IOR/E/4/834

My great-grandfather Cyril Brian Deefholts was a superintendent for the British trade and shipping operations in Calcutta. He began his career in the war as a pilot for the Indian Army and then worked as a civil servant.

Great-grandparents Cyril Brian and Maureen on a car tripMy great-grandparents on a car trip

Cyril Brian dressed in his army uniformCyril Brian dressed in his army uniform

I discovered tales about my ancestors in The Times of India newspaper that have revealed significant detail and amusing stories about the civic duties and private lives of my ancestors.  They were cricket players, hockey enthusiasts, civil servants, customs officers, and local merchants.  In 1847, ‘two young Bengalee Baboos’ persuaded Robert Horatio Deefholts, Head Clerk, to interfere with the mail and leak examination questions.  On 29 October 1885, The Times of India reported on ‘An event of unusual interest – the golden wedding of one of the most esteemed couples – Mr and Mrs. Richard Deefholts’.  The East Indian Railway Customs Team had its own Deefholts sports stars – C. and E. Deefholts.

Great uncle Stephen and grandfather Gerald with Cyril Brian's hockey sticksMy great uncle Stephen and grandfather Gerald with Cyril Brian's hockey sticks

Great-great grandparents celebrating at a family birthday partyMy great-great grandparents (centre left) celebrating at a family birthday party

Grreat-grandmother celebrating with family and friendsMy great-grandmother (top right corner) celebrating with family and friends

Discovering these documents and articles makes me feel proud to be a Deefholts.  The recent passing of my grandfather and great-grandmother marked the end of an era.  I want my archival research to save our culture from extinction and keep it alive for generations to come.  There is an opportunity to talk about the overlooked role of Anglo-Indians in British society, and the dispersal of our community across the Commonwealth.

Daniel Deefholts
Civil Servant
Creative Commons Attribution licence

Acknowledgements: This blog post was written in memory of Gerald and Maureen Deefholts.  Thank you to my mother Sarah for helping me select the photographs that illustrate this blog post.

Further reading:
British Library IOR/E/4/824 and IOR/E/4/834 - Documents about Richard Deefholts’ petition 1854 & 1856.
‘A Golden Wedding’ - The Times of India 29 October 1885, p.5.
‘Sporting News: East Indian Railway Win Beighton Cup - Customs Beaten’ - The Times of India 30 April 1929, p.11.
‘Calcutta Matriculation Students’ - The Times of India 14 December 1874, p.4.
London Gazette 15 March 1850, p.807. 


22 June 2023

The actor, the fascist, and the reincarnated queen

That is not the title of an unrealised Peter Greenaway film, nor the pub-going cast list of the opening line to a joke, but three roles occupied by Mary Taviner (1909-1972).

Photograph of Mary Taviner in about 1939Mary Taviner, c. 1939. British Library Add MS 89481/10, f. 50

Taviner’s acting career comprised just four films (one of which was as a nine-year-old).  Contemporary and modern critics agree that there was nothing wrong with these melodramatic stories of ghosts, spies, and murder, apart from the acting, the plots, and the scripts that is!  Her stage career lasted longer; from a 1924 London production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she continued to work until the year of her death.  Again, notices were mixed.  Her only cheerleaders seem to be have been her local newspapers, basking in the glory of having a ‘star’ in their neighbourhood.

Politically, Taviner was on the far-right.  She was a pre-war member of the British Union of Fascists and appeared in a production staged by the Never Again Association, a front for extreme nationalism and anti-Semitism.  Her 1954 film The Devil’s Jest was a vehicle for her view that Britain and Germany should have allied against communism rather than fight each other.  She even sported an Iron Cross on a bracelet.

Taviner had a confused relationship with leading fascists.  She fell in love with Oswald Mosley only to later unsuccessfully sue him for breach of promise.  In this action she enlisted the help of William Joyce (later known as Lord Haw-Haw), who had fallen out with Mosley in 1937.  Yet she later turned on Joyce, accusing him of running a 300-strong pre-war spy ring under the noses of the intelligence services.

She was still working for the fascist cause in the 1960s, and was involved with the White Defence League, Mosley’s Union Movement, and the Young Britain Movement, closely linked to the UM.  She tried to organise a conference of European fascists in Marylebone only for the local council to ban it and she stood as a UM candidate in the Kensington borough elections in 1962 but mustered just 78 votes.

What of that third role Taviner inhabited?  Her claim to be the reincarnation of Mary, Queen of Scots, (she even had her portrait painted as the queen) was the pinnacle of her many fantastical claims about herself.  She claimed her mother was the offspring of German and British aristocrats; she was not.  Taviner styled herself Baroness Marovna, the widow of a scion of the Romanovs, but no such barony existed.  She was supposedly elected spiritual leader of Scotland by an organisation that has left no trace of its existence.  She claimed to have worked in British intelligence during the war; she had not.  Her story about Joyce’s spy ring was a fiction.  All these tales smack of Taviner trying to make herself more interesting to producers and directors.

Despite such an interesting life she remains a peripheral figure.  Her death went almost unnoticed; even The Stage, the theatre’s leading newspaper, missed it.  She is not mentioned in the books written by or about the actors and directors she worked with and there are only passing mentions in a tiny fraction of the books written about British fascists and fascism.

Michael St John-Mcalister
Manuscripts Catalogue and Process Manager

Further reading:
Facts, Fictions, and Fascism: A Life of Actor Mary Taviner (1909–1972), 

Add MS 89481/10


13 June 2023

Medical equipment required for a military expedition: doolies, dandies and kujawahs

In any military expedition, the logistics of supply and transport are crucial to the success of the endeavour.  One report in the India Office Records gives a flavour of this as it relates to transport of the sick and wounded.  The report is in a thick volume of papers relating to the Abyssinia Expedition of 1868. 
Opening page of Report on Camp Equipage and Sick Carriage ‘Report on Camp Equipage and Sick Carriage’,  1 June 1868 - IOR/L/MIL/5/542
The ‘Report on Camp Equipage and Sick Carriage’, dated 1 June 1868, was written by Captain Holland, Assistant Quarter Master, General Army Headquarters, Abyssinia Field Force.  It lists the numbers of the various different types of sick carriage despatched for the Expedition as follows: 401 doolies, 40 ambulances, 241 kujawahs, 175 camel saddles, 144 mule pads and 128 stretchers.  There were also 39 European hospital tents and 50 hospital marquees.  Plus, an additional 8 swing cots, 128 dandies and 2129 McGuire’s hammocks for the conveyance of the sick and wounded.  Interestingly, the report gives brief descriptions of all these types of carriage, and some even have little sketches showing what they looked like.
Sketch of a doolieSketch of a doolie IOR/L/MIL/5/542
Doolies: very much used in India, they weighed 123lbs, were made of teak with cane bottoms and short legs suspended from a bamboo pole by a light iron framework, and covered by waterproof canvas.  Usually carried in India by six bearers, their weight and bulk made them unfit for service in hilly country without roads. 
Ambulances: drawn by bullocks, they were heavy and were only fit for use on roads. 
Sketch of a dandieSketch of a dandie IOR/L/MIL/5/542
Dandies: consisted of a light wooden framework with a cane bottom with two pieces of iron at either end supporting the bamboo pole. Weighing 54lbs, they had nearly all the advantages of a doolie, their portability making them more suitable over bad roads in hilly country. Fastening a blanket across the pole made a temporary cover.
Sketches of a swing cot and a hammockSketches of a swing cot and a hammock IOR/L/MIL/5/542
Swing cots: a framework of light wood covered with canvas, the whole being supported by a bamboo pole, they weighed 45lbs, and only required four bearers. Well adapted for carrying men suffering from slight ailments or injuries, but not suitable as sleeping cots, and uncomfortable for patients when placed on the ground, especially in wet weather. 
Hammocks: very useful for carrying men who fell out of the line of march from fatigue or temporary ailments, but not adapted for wounded men or for patients suffering from serious illnesses.  Same disadvantage as swing cots in not being placed on the ground in wet weather. 
Kujawahs (camel chair): used for the conveyance of two sick men on each camel.  A good means of conveyance for sick men in a camel country.  However, gave no protection from the sun or rain.  Similarly, camel saddles afforded conveyance for two men sitting astride on each camel.  Fitted with good backs, and in camel country they were a very suitable means of conveyance for men suffering from fatigue or slight ailments, and who were able to sit up. 
Mule pads: weighing 35lbs, generally used for the conveyance of men who had fallen out of the line of march. 
The report also gave details of the different types of camp tents used by the Expedition Force:
155 European soldier double poled tents.
312 European soldier single poled tents
863 Native soldier double poled tents
329 Native soldier single poled tents
323 English circular double fly tents
676 English circular single fly tents. 
John O’Brien 
India Office Records
Further Reading:  
Abyssinia Expeditionary Force 1867-1868: Letters and enclosures from Lord Napier, December 1867-November 1868, shelfmark IOR/L/MIL/5/542. 


06 June 2023

Papers of Sir William Hay Macnaghten and Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten

A recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers is now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room.  This consists of papers relating to Sir William Hay Macnaghten, Bengal Civil Service 1814-1841; and Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten, Judge of the Supreme Court of Madras 1809-1815 and Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William 1815-1825.

Surrender of Dost Mahommed Khan to Sir William Hay Macnaghten Bart  at the entrance into Caubul from Killa-Kazee.'Surrender of Dost Mahommed Khan to Sir William Hay Macnaghten Bart at the entrance into Caubul from Killa-Kazee' from James Atkinson, Sketches in Afghaunistan British Library X812 Images Online

In 1838, Sir William Hay Macnaghten was appointed Envoy and Minister at the Afghan Court of Shah Shuja.  The mission to Afghanistan ended in disaster and the collection contains many papers relating to the death of Sir William at Kabul on 23 December 1841 during the first Anglo-Afghan war.  Included is Lady Frances Macnaghten's claim for compensation and a copy of a letter from Captain Lawrence giving an account of the death of Macnaghten and the retreat from Kabul.

First page of note written by Eldred Pottinger
Second page of note written by Eldred PottingerNote written by Eldred Pottinger Mss Eur F760/1

There is also a copy of a note written by Eldred Pottinger, the political officer who succeeded to the position of Envoy on Macnaghten’s death. In the note, he described the desperate situation of the Kabul garrison: ‘Macnaghten was called out to a Conference and murdered….we are to fall back on Jalalabad tomorrow or the next day – in the present disturbed state of the country we may expect opposition on the road – and we are likely to suffer much from the cold and hunger as we expect to have no carriage for tents or superfluities.’  He reported that he had taken charge of the mission and that ‘The cantonment is now attacked’.

Sir William’s father was Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten, appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of Madras in 1809. The collection contains a journal written by Sir Francis from this period in his life.  He began writing the journal while on board the ship Bucephalus, which left Portsmouth on 15 November 1809 and arrived at Madras on 25 April 1810. He explained, ‘These notes and memoranda were written on ship board as the matter of them occurred to my memory. They were mainly intended to express for my own use the facts and my feelings upon them. Should they fall into other hands they will I trust be treated accordingly’.

Sketch of a water spout  Mss Eur F760-2Macnaghten's sketch of a water spout Mss Eur F760/2

The journal includes an account of the circumstances of Macnaghten's appointment to the post of Judge at the Supreme Court of Madras, preparations for leaving England, and the voyage to Madras. The journal ends with his being sworn in as a judge on the bench at Fort St George and paying a formal visit to the Nabob of the Carnatic. He includes such information as the fees of a knighthood and some facts on the Bucephalus. Macnaghten also drew a sketch of a water spout which the ship encountered along the way. He described that on 16 December 1809: ‘Saw a water spout. The store ship which we had under convoy fired a gun at it and we saw it regularly dispersing – It emptied itself regularly from its bottom or lower part and we perceived the sea where it fell very much affected by it. It had the appearance of smoke rising from a distant fire’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers relating to Sir Francis Workman Macnaghten (1763-1843), Judge of the Supreme Court of Madras 1809-1815, Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, Bengal 1815-1825; Sir William Hay Macnaghten, Bart (1793-1841), Madras Army 1809, Bengal Civil Service 1814-41, Envoy and Minister at the Afghan Court of Shah Shuja from 1838; and other members of the Macnaghten family, collection reference Mss Eur F760, available to view in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, and the catalogue is searchable on Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

Other Macnaghten papers at the British Library:
• Addresses presented to Sir Francis Workman-Macnaghten (1763-1843), Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, Bengal, on his retirement and departure for Europe, 1822, shelfmark Mss Eur F718.
• Letter book, dated Feb 1839-Mar 1841, of Sir William Hay Macnaghten containing copies of his letters to the Governor-General Lord Auckland, and other British civil and military officers, on foreign political and administrative matters, and in particular on policy towards Afghanistan, shelfmark Mss Eur F336.


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