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121 posts categorized "South Asia"

05 February 2019

A little piece of India

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In 1917, a new Muslim burial ground opened in Woking for Indian soldiers dying in England during the First World War.

Woking layoutPlan for layout of Woking Burial Ground IOR/L/SUR/5/8/8 Noc

In 2016 we posted a piece about the design of the Muslim Burial Ground with images taken from a military file in the India Office Records.  Today’s post develops the story using evidence from papers in the archive of the Surveyor’s Department.

The file is dedicated to the construction of the cemetery, including correspondence between designers and suppliers, plans of the layout of the cemetery, advertisements for grave and coffin prices, financial statements and the names of seventeen Indian soldiers who were buried at the cemetery.

Woking list of soldiers Indian soldiers buried at Woking IOR/L/SUR/5/8/8 Noc

Not much is said about the soldiers, just their regimental number, rank, name, regiment and the date of their death. All seventeen of the soldiers died between 1915 and 1916 and the majority of them were either a Sowar (Indian Cavalry) or Sepoy (Indian Infantry). There were also two drivers and two cooks included in the list.

Unfortunately, the information on the soldiers stops there, with no indication on how they died or where they were before being laid to rest at Woking. The plans show that each soldier was to be buried with his ‘face towards Mecca’ and ‘each stone bears an inscription at the top in Hindustani, and then follows the other details in English’. This indicates that the designers made sure that each soldier was buried according to his religion.

The site designer, T.H. Winny, took great care in the preparations and construction of the cemetery, having it built in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style. Throughout the file, there is correspondence between designer and builders going into precise detail including the ‘recipe’ of concrete to be used (‘one part of Portland Cement to 2 parts of clean washed river or grit sand and 5 parts of screened river ballast’), a building contract (‘the whole of the materials and workmanship are to be the best of their respective kinds’) and even how many cypresses to plant in the grounds (‘100, in 4 varieties, 2-5 feet high’).

A newspaper clipping gives insight into what the cemetery was like upon opening, stating that in the sunlight it ‘assumes quite an Oriental appearance’ and the representative for the newspaper was ‘struck with its beauty and the splendour of some of the stones erected on the graves’.

Woking gravesDesign for gravestones for Indian soldiers IOR/L/SUR/5/8/8  Noc

Winny and his team of designers, builders and suppliers did everything they could to make this corner of Woking into a little piece of India.

Candace Martin-Burgers
Librarianship Placement Student, RMIT, Melbourne

Further reading:
IOR/L/SUR/5/8/8 India Office Surveyor’s Department file on the Muslim Burial Ground at Woking

 

03 January 2019

The Great War Fund Fete

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On 13 January 1941 a War Fund Fete was held at Government House, Madras.  As well as raising money for the Madras War Fund, the fete was also intended as a propaganda event.

Fete programme coverIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2 f 1 Front cover of the War Fund Fete programme 

It was a grand affair with the programme featuring 91 entries for stalls, games, entertainments and food and drink establishments, along with more practical facilities including cloakrooms and parcel stores, lost property and medical stations.  Currency for the fete was in coupons and the public had to purchase books of coupons in order to make purchases or enjoy the entertainments on offer.

One local newspaper on the day of the fete described Government House as having been 'transformed into a pleasureland' for that night's merrymaking.  According to the Madras Mail of 14 January 1941, the fete was opened when 'Tough cowboys burst open the gates at Government House yesterday and their tempestuous entrance made it possible for the public to enter at last'.

Many of the stalls were similar to those featured at fetes nowadays with lucky dips, raffles, coconut shy’s, and bagatelle.  Others however had more unusual titles, including ‘Bunty pulls the strings’ and ‘Breaking up the happy home’ (similar to today’s crockery smash stalls).  There were also elephant rides, several magic gardens and even a Chinese Laundry!  One of the most popular stalls at the Fete was that of Woolworth’s.  One local newspaper the following day observed:
'Equally crowded was the excellent “Woolworth” stall, where the most effective household oddments, artfully and thriftily contrived, were sold for a song'.

Entertainment at the fete included two bandstands and a theatre which featured dance groups and musicians as well as plays.  The performances on show included the Tamil comedy The Sub-Assistant Magistrate of Sultanpet and the Tamil play The Pongal Feast.

Food and drink were also in abundance with American style diners and saloons, coffee and refreshment stalls and a Toc H Bar.  For those looking for a full evening’s entertainment there was a Tocaitchaski bar with its own orchestra, a banqueting hall with dancing from 9pm to 2am (evening dress was optional) and a cabaret dinner, promenade and bar with the cabaret performance at 9pm.

The Mail 14 Jan 1941India Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2, f 23 Front page of The Mail 14 January 1941 showing the crowds surging into the fete

According to the newspaper reports people attended the fete in their thousands: 'In they surged, school boys and girls, scores of excited men and women, mothers with babies and with chattering kiddies clinging to available fingers, happy young things on the arms of their beaux, while burnished cars and buses squeezed through as well'.

In a letter written on 16 January 1941 Sir Arthur Hope, the Governor of Madras, congratulated Captain Thomas William Barnard, Honorary Secretary to the Fete’s organising committee, on the wonderful success of the fete and also commented that 'Apart from the financial result, it was a great piece of propoganda [sic] which will have its effect'.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur C261/5/2 - The Great Fete at Government House Grounds Madras 13 January 1941
- Includes press cuttings from The Mail (formerly known as The Madras Mail) 14 January 1941

 

01 January 2019

Indian Honours List, New Year 1919

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On 1 January 1919 the India Office published its honours list approved by the King.  There is a memorandum in the archives giving the reasons why the awards were made. 

The first name on the list is Sir Dorabji Jamshedji Tata who was elevated to Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India (K.C.S.I.) in recognition of being a pioneer of industrial enterprise in India.  He is followed by European, Indian and Burmese men holding civil, military, medical, scientific and diplomatic posts, as well as by Indian princes.  The Maharaja of Baroda and the Maharaja of Alwar, Rajputana, were made Knights Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (G.C.I.E.), the first for raising cash for the First World War as well as for his life-long efforts to improve the condition of his state; the second for providing soldiers.  Many honours were awarded for services connected with the War.

Star of India investitureFirst investiture of the Star of India November 1861 - Plate 17 of William Simpson's India: Ancient and Modern.  The Nawab Begum of Bhopal appears in the centre of the picture. Online Gallery

Forty-seven women in India were honoured in January 1919, mostly Europeans. Three women were made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.). Lady Eva Cardew had undertaken religious and philanthropic work in Madras and Ootacamund, as well as charitable efforts in connection with the War.  Mrs Gertrude Carmichael had worked with the East Indies Naval Fund; Bombay University; and Lady Willingdon’s scheme for maternity homes. Mrs Miriam Isabel Lyons had served for the past three years as President of the Poona Branch of the War and Relief Fund.

Fourteen women were made Officer of the British Empire (O.B.E.).  A number had been active in the Red Cross during the War.  Mrs Maud Lilian Davys had worked as an assistant to her husband Major Gerard Irvine Davys of the Indian Medical Service in a new laboratory for examining foodstuffs at Kasuali in the Punjab.  According to the 1939 Register, Mrs Davys was still working as a food scientist at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Mrs Alice Todhunter’s O.B.E. recognised her work with the Madras War Fund Ladies’ Depot, especially her success in securing the support of Indian women.  Mrs Todhunter had also been busy with the St John Ambulance Association and with the National Indian Association, striving for the education of Indian women and the encouragement of social intercourse between Indians and Europeans.

The list of Members of the British Empire had 27 women, seven Indian.  Bai Champabahen Manibhai of Bombay was praised for carrying on her mother’s philanthropic activities, including providing equipment for the Kapadwanj Dispensary and bearing the expenses of recruits at the Anand Depot.

Three women were awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind Gold Medal.  Miss Sarah Isabel Hatch of the Canadian Baptist Telegu Mission in Madras had established an asylum for lepers at Ramachandrapuram in the Godavari District in 1899 and now had over 100 inmates from across the Presidency.  Mrs Pandita Ramabai of Bombay had furthered the education of Indian women, with a team of ‘English and American ladies working under her’.  There were now 1,000 women and girls at a mission provided entirely by her.  Miss Gertrude Davis was Principal Matron in the Australian Army Nursing Service based at the Victoria War Hospital in Bombay.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/15/41 File H224/1918 New Year’s Honours 1919
H Taprell-Dorling, Ribbons and Medals (London, 1916)

 

23 December 2018

Beware drinking at Christmas!

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Beware drinking at Christmas - you might be kidnapped!

Drunken man c13485-21Add. 74284 f.135 ‘Flights of Fancy by J.F. Herring Junr. Jany. 1. 1831’ c13485-21 © The British Library Board -  Images Online

On 23 December 1766 James West wrote to his old acquaintance Robert James, the Secretary of the East India Company, with a frantic request for assistance.  West’s son-in-law Mr Archer was MP for Coventry and was concerned for Thomas Wormleighton, an apprentice in his constituency.  Wormleighton had apparently become drunk and had been ‘kidnapped’ into the East India Company’s service.  The letter claimed that he was now to be found at Gravesend aboard the East Indiaman Calcutta which was preparing to sail to the East Indies.  Mr Archer was appealing strongly  for his immediate discharge.

Christmas drinkingIOR/E/1/48, ff 664-665: letter 294 Noc

What actually happened to Thomas Wormleighton is unclear.  The letter was never put before the Court of Directors and we can’t trace a list of names for the 84 soldiers who were mustered on the Calcutta on 31 December.  Perhaps Robert James was able to do a favour for his friend and extricate the young man from his awkward situation.

One thing however is clear from this tale, getting drunk at Christmas in the 1760s was not a wise thing to do!

Karen Stapley,
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/E/1/48, ff 664-665: letter 294 from James West of Covent Garden, on behalf of Mr Archer, MP for Coventry, to Robert James regarding Thomas Wormleighton, a constituent of Coventry.

 

13 December 2018

The Red Sea to India non-stop: Amelia Earhart, Southern Arabia, and British Obstructionism

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On 15 June 1937, Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator, and her navigator, Fred Noonan, landed at Karachi airport in their specially modified Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane.  They had been flying for over thirteen hours and travelled more than 1800 miles from Assab, in Eritrea.  By doing so they’d completed the first ever non-stop flight from the Red Sea to India, as Karachi was a part of then.

Amelia_Earhart_standing_under_nose_of_her_Lockheed_Model_10-E_Electra _smallAmelia Earhart standing under the nose of her Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane via Wikipedia

Earhart had flown from Assab that morning and had used Aden as a checkpoint along the way.  Permission had also been given to land at the British enclave should it be necessary.  From Aden, however, the Americans were restricted to flying a course along the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.  This restriction has often been attributed to Saudi refusal to grant permission to fly over its territory, but the region in question was not, and still is not, part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The flight would have passed over the Hadhramaut, at the time under a loose British protectorate, and the territories of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, where British influence and control was strong.  In December of the previous year, the United States Embassy in London had written to the Foreign Office giving details of Earhart’s plans for a round-the-world flight and requesting permission to fly through and land in British territories along the way.  The matter was passed on to the Government of India, who agreed to the flight, with certain restrictions, but envisaged complications with the stretch along the South Arabian coast.

IOR_L_PS_12_1981_0592

IOR_L_PS_12_1981_0594 Extracts from a letter from the US Ambassador to London to the British Foreign Secretary, IOR/L/PS/12/1981, ff. 296-297

Civil aviation was in its infancy at the time and the British had been developing an air route along the Arab side of the Persian Gulf from Baghdad.  For various strategic and pragmatic reasons the British had gone to some lengths to establish control over the air space in the region, securing agreements with the Arab Sheikhs that gave them a good deal of authority over the management of air traffic.

IOR_L_PS_12_2054_0271Map showing some of the Royal Air Force routes from the United Kingdom to Far East Asia, via the Arabian Peninsula and India, IOR/L/PS/12/2054, f. 134

The Sheikhs of Bahrain and Sharjah had agreed to delegate to the British the authority to refuse private aviators permission to fly through or land within their territories.  The British had so far failed to obtain the same from the Sultan of Muscat.  Earhart’s requested flight was seen as an opportunity to gain this further degree of control in the region.

The attempts of the Political Agent in Muscat, Major Ralph Watts, to secure the Sultan’s agreement to delegate such authority to the British were unsuccessful, however, and instead efforts were made by the Political Resident in the Persian Gulf and the Government of India to try to dissuade the Americans from looking to fly through or land in the Sultan’s territories.  They were told that there was little hope of obtaining permission from the Sultan and the country in question was described as “desolate, inaccessible and entirely unsuitable for any emergency landings”.  Those that did land risked death or injury at the hands of “wild tribesmen”.

T 11308_0015Al-Hawtah, capital of the district of Lahej, part of the “desolate” and “inaccessible” country the British warned of, part of 'An Account of the British Settlement of Aden in Arabia, compiled by Captain F.M. Hunter

It was this obstructionism from the British, rather than Saudi refusal, which compelled Earhart to follow a line just off the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, rather than over land.  An obstructionism given in response to the Sultan of Muscat’s refusal to relinquish yet more power to the British.

John Hayhurst
Content Specialist, Gulf History – BL/Qatar Foundation Partnership

04 December 2018

From Westmorland to India – William Lambert of the Bombay Army

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In our last post we met William Lambert, a young Cadet in the East India Company’s Bombay Army, soon after his arrival in India in 1780.  He wrote to his friend Jonathan Oldman in England giving his first impressions of his new home and joking that a cargo of ‘North Country Ladies’ would be very popular there.

UllswaterView of the lake of Ullswater, Northern England by Thomas Walmsley (1801) Online Gallery


William Lambert was baptised in the village of Bolton in Westmorland on 19 April 1759, the son of yeoman John Lambert and his wife Isabel née Longmire.  In 1778 William was nominated as an East India Company military cadet by director Benjamin Booth.  He sailed for Bombay in the Hawke in June 1779, not arriving there until 23 February 1780.  There were nine other Bombay Army cadets on board as well as a large number of troops and other East India Company personnel.  Jane Wittman and Elizabeth Priscilla Coggan gave birth during the voyage but sadly both they and their babies died and were buried at sea.

The letter to Jonathan showed how keen William was for promotion and a rise in pay.  He was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant on 11 January 1781, and then progressed to Captain in 1796, Major in 1800, and Lieutenant Colonel in 1803. 

Tannah - boatsNative boats at Tannah - William Johnson  (1855) Online Gallery

In the 1790s, William was stationed at Tannah (Thane), about 25 miles from Bombay.  He died there on 3 January 1806.  His will made on 2 February 1803 stated that his property was to be divided equally between his two ‘natural’ children born at Tannah: Harry on 4 May 1792 and Anna Maria on 23 September 1794.  Harry was to receive his watch and seals and a cornelian ring.  He named as his executors his eldest brother Thomas Lambert in England, and his friends Fletcher Hayes and William Kennedy in Bombay.

Lambert will IOR/L/AG/34/29/343 p.4 Will of William Lambert

Two months before he died, William wrote a memorandum of debts and credits: 'In case of Accidents which we are all liable too I put down these little matters to prevent trouble'.  He listed debts for cheese, coffee, oil, two pints of catsup (ketchup), a knife, and a plated coffee pot.  None of his servants deserved more than a full month’s wages except his ‘girl’ who was given 200 rupees, clothing, trinkets, furniture, lamps, kitchen equipment, and ‘other small trifles to her with Coffree Boy’ (a slave). This perhaps suggests that the ‘girl’, Bibee Shariffa, was the mother of Harry and Anna Maria. 

William's children returned to England after his death.  Both settled in London as adults so perhaps they were cared for by their uncle Thomas Lambert who was a timber merchant in Pimlico.  Harry and Anna Maria were each bequeathed £50 by their grandfather John Lambert when he died in 1829 at the age of 94.

Anna Maria married Parliamentary agent John Angus Walmisley at Margate in 1816.  They lived in London and had five sons and three daughters. Anna Maria died in 1849.

Harry married Tabitha Hatchett at St George Blomsbury in 1817 and they had three children.  Harry’s occupation is variously recorded as gentleman, jeweller, and surgeon dentist.  He also died in 1849.  Harry’s son Alfred Augustus was married in 1861 to Josephine Lambert, the granddaughter of Thomas the timber merchant.


Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917 Letter from William Lambert, Bombay Army Cadet, to Jonathan Oldman in Cumberland, 30 April 1780
IOR/L/MIL/9/255 East India Company register of military cadets
IOR/L/MAR/B/390H Journal of the ship Hawke
IOR/L/AG/34/29/343 p.4 Will of William Lambert – available online via findmypast
IOR/L/AG/34/27/389 p.8 Inventory of goods of William Lambert  deceased – available online via findmypast

Cadet William Lambert writes from Bombay

 

 

29 November 2018

Cadet William Lambert writes from Bombay in 1780

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In April 1780, East India Company military cadet William Lambert wrote from Bombay to his friend Jonathan Oldman in England.  He reported on the long voyage from England, his first impressions of India, his hopes of advancement, and a longing for female company.

Tom RawTom Raw gets introduced to his Colonel from Tom Raw, The Griffin (London, 1828)

The letter is addressed to Mr Jonathan Oldman, Bannest Hill, Caldbeck, Cumberland.

Bombay April the 30th 1780

Mr Oldman

Sir
I set me down with a great deal of pleasure to scrawl two or three lines to you.  I hope these lines will find you perfectly Happy in the Arms of your Dear ------ as I hope to be in a short time with one of the Beauties of the East.  I have arrived at the (long looked for) place, at last, after a passage of about Nine Months, which was very tedious time on Board a Ship, but knowing it was only for a time, and not for ever we spent our time agreeably as we could.  I have the pleasure of informing you that India is much pleasanter than I Expected, only the Middle of the day is rather to hold.  I thought when I left England, that I left all the Wars behind me, but have had the pleasure to find it to the Contrary, as the more danger more Honour, for the War is much hotter here than Europe, I have not yet got a Commission but expecting one every day.  I arrived on the Island on the 23rd of February 1780, this part of the World produces every thing one could wish for, the Pay of a Cadet is a Rupee per day, that is equall to half a Crown in England, and as soon as Commissioned more than double the sum; how happy I should be to be with you in Cumberland was it only for one day. 

We should have a pleasant [w]alk and an evening retreat, one might have a walk on a grass pland, but grass I have not seen in India the Sun burns all that away, so that we always walk on a Sand Bank, as on the Sea shore, which is very disagreeable for the dust.  If you will take upon you to Freight a Ship for the East Indies I will take upon me to tell what her Cargo must consist of; and that must be Ladies, for they fetch the highest prizes of any one articule.  I think some of your North Country Ladies will do very well, the Ladies here have Money plenty, we dont want you to bring any Fortunes only Beauties so if you think any thing about this affair I shall wait to purchase a part of your Cargo which I hope you’ll let me know in your first Letter which you’ll send by the First Ship that Sails for India, the News of India I have not Collected yet but by the next Ship you may Expect another line which is all at present from your ever loving and nevr failing Friend and Wellwisher

W Lambert
Cadet

NB direct to me at Bombay East Indies Ensign

PS I hope by the time you receive this to have a good step towards a Lieutenant Commission

Lambert MSS Eur C917India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917

In our next post, I shall tell you more about William Lambert and how his life in India turned out.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917 Letter from William Lambert, Bombay Army Cadet, to Jonathan Oldman in Cumberland, 30 April 1780

 

22 November 2018

Boy Soldiers

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The Regulations for Recruiting for the Regular Army published in 1903 laid out the criteria under which boys aged between fourteen and seventeen years could be recruited and the roles they were permitted to take on.  Any boy enlisting in this way had to produce a certificate of good character, his birth or baptism certificate, proof of his elementary school education to at least Standard V, and have the written consent of his parents.

Soldier of the King'A Soldier of the King', courtesy of TuckDB Postcards

For boys being enlisted to Infantry Battalions, they could serve as trumpeters, buglers or musicians and each Infantry Battalion could have up to eight boys on their roll.
 
One such boy was George Joseph Wilson Baker, the eldest son and the sixth of twelve children of George Joseph Baker, a wood engraver, and his wife Henrietta Alexandra, née Howard, a music hall entertainer.  George was born on 21 July 1891 on the Isle of Sheppey, but spent most of his childhood in Colchester, Essex.

His parents had suffered great tragedy shortly before his birth when in May 1891 their daughters Nettie, Lillie, Ada, Bessie, and Nellie, all aged five and under, died of a combination of measles, whooping cough and bronchitis.

George’s parents had two more daughters together before they appear to have separated in about 1896.  George continued to live with his mother Henrietta who had four more children with another man, Joseph Lewis, although she remained married to George’s father until his death in 1936.

George enlisted in the British Army at Tidworth on 21 March 1906 and was attested as a boy in the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry, he was fourteen years and eight months old at the time.  He remained in England until 5 December 1906 when he was posted to India, arriving there on 27 December.  The Battalion remained in India until 5 December 1908 when they went to Burma.  It was in Burma in June 1909 that George turned eighteen and having attained that age was given the rank of private.  The Battalion left Burma on 25 September 1910 and returned to India where they remained until George paid £25 for his own discharge on 30 September 1913.  During his time in the Battalion George served as a bandsman and later an unpaid lance-corporal.

It does not appear that George ever returned to England but chose to remain in India.  In 1915 he was an inspector for the Bombay Port Trust Docks when he married Margaret Paterson.  George and Margaret do not appear to have had any children and George died of pneumonia on 5 October 1918, most likely a victim of the flu pandemic sweeping Bombay.  By the time of his death he was assistant manager for the Bombay Port Trust Dock, a long way from his enlistment in the British Army in 1906 as a boy soldier.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office marriage entry for George Joseph Wilson Baker and Margaret Paterson. IOR/N/3/114, f.260
India Office death and burial entry for George Joseph Wilson Baker. IOR/N/3/120, p. 314
Regulations for Recruiting for the Regular Army, Militia, and Imperial Yeomanry. 1903. 8829.b.57
British Army Service Record for George Joseph Wilson Baker. The National Archives WO 97, Box 4293, No.76