This book is written by the great-great grand daughter of Captain Richard Warner covering a 10-year period of 1853-1863 and another bunch of letters written by Richard'sson Ashton Warner during the Indian War for Independence of 1857 when he served as a young cavalry officer in the Bengal Army. He was only 22-year old and was trapped for four months under siege in the Residency at Lucknow. His letters home continued throughout 1858-59 during which time Ashton as ADC to Major General Robert Walpole fought continuously to make his way back to Lucknow. The author found a further series of 65 letters written by Wynyard, younger brother of Ashton, to his parents over exactly the same period of 1857-1859. He was just 18 when he arrived in India to join his brother Ashton in the Bengal Army and found himself catapulted into the action to besiege Delhi. He too, like Ashton, was later involved in the campaign to recapture Lucknow and for months thereafter marched north with the Army, chasing the rebels into Nepal.
On the morning of October 3, 1853, Ashton Warner, aged 18 left for Calcutta to begin his career as an officer in the Bengal Army. For his father Captain Richard Warner the moment of parting from his eldest son was an agony for at 71, he could not expect to live many more years. Being aware of the precarious nature of his son'scareer in the Army, he must have known he would be lucky to see Ashton again. What could be so attractive of military life in India for Ashton?
Probably the growth and success of the East India Company as can be gauged from the fact that the Company ?was effectively ruling the population of more than half the sub-continent of India? in the 1850s. During this period the British enjoyed the Indian lifestyle, married into the culture or took a bibi (a mistress), but attitudes changed in the late 1780s when people like Charles Grant, an Evangelical Christian, was ?determined upon converting the Hindus, who he believed to be universally and wholly corrupt? depraved as they are blind, and wretched as they are depraved.? The infantry in the Bengal Army, known as sepoys, were recruited as far as possible from high-caste peasants as they were considered stronger and most loyal. Most of them were high-caste Brahmins. The author writes about the complaints of most senior Indian officers who felt that ?Indians as it seems to us now, all na?ve Indian officers of whatever rank, were considered subordinate to officers like Ashton, straight from school in England and who was entitled to give orders to a senior Indian officer with 40 years of experience and expect to be instantly obeyed.?
While Ashton got adjusted to life in the Bengal Army, his younger brother Wynyard arrived in India on Sunday March 29 at Barrackpore, when a sepoy, Mangal Pandey armed with his sword and musket and under the influence of bhang, emerged from his hut, shouting to his companions, ?From biting those cartridges we shall become infidels get ready to turn out, all of you? and fired at Sergeant Major James Hewson. Lieutenant Baugh came forward and fired at Pandey. He missed and a fight ensued. It was sepoy Shaik Pultoo who managed to restrain Mangal Pandey until they escaped in the cover of darkness. By this time, Major General Hearsey appeared on the scene. Mangal Pandey took aim at the General but at the last moment turned the musket on himself and fired. He fell to the ground, wounded. He was court-martialled and hanged on of April 8.
Meanwhile both Ashton and Wynyard continued to face a hard time with many British in the Army dying of cholera. The author describes the role of Ashton and Wynyard in the War of Independence . The so-called ?White War of Independence? turned out to be the longest combined protest ever seen by the British Army and which compelled Lord Canning and the Government of India to offer the men their immediate discharge.
This is a moving story about a British major who played a valuable role in the War of Independence.
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