First of all, should we call those who fought for the East India Company in the 1857 Rebellion(or all the East India Company men at arms) till Victoria’s proclamation of 1 Nov 1858 as soldiers or mercenaries of fortune?

Internationally accepted definition of a mercenary is

A mercenary is any person who:

(a) is especially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;

(b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;

(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;

(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;

(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and

(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.

Technically, a British Soldier working for East India Company fits into the definition of a mercenary. Going point by point –

(a), (f) He is actually recruited as a soldier of British Army but is loaned to a private company which pays his salary to fight against an established kingdom. This may mean he is in a sabbatical while carrying out the duties in India

(b), (d), (e) Forces have fought wars in India under the banner of East India Company and not the English Crown

(c) Clive has spent £70000 on the forces of East India Company from his pocket(which was not claimed from the British Government), making it a personal mercenary force as against a national army where it is to be maintained by a sovereign nation. He returned back to England with a fortune of £300,000, which is way above what a Major General in a regular army can earn in is life. A Major General (on full pay for 365 days which itself is an impossibility) got around £2500p.a. With a service of 28 years, that too starting from ensign who got even less, he may not have earned more than £50000, and this includes the £70000 he spent on the army and £33000 he lost at sea. This is but an example.

The below is a selection from the list of officers who were killed/who died in the general period of the mutiny and were simply made martyrs of war even if they don’t deserve it. This was mainly done either those who died were connected or their units lacked martyrs.

Take the case of William Peel. He was injured in Calcutta but died of small pox in Kanpur. Unless his father was a front ranking politician(Robert Peel) and well connected, how can a person who died of small pox get a VC?

Take the case of George William Fraser. How do you expect a white skinned Britisher to be missing in action in India and not traced?

Take George Edward Hollings. His grave in Mussorie itself mentions that he died on 8 May 1857, the day before the rebellion. But, official records show it as 11 May 1857. Same goes for John Boon Hayes, who died on 18 Jun 1856 according to IMS rolls but on 27 Jun 1857 officially.

There was no rebellion in Ooty. But what we see is that Brackley Kennett is shot by someone disgruntled(we don’t know if it was a drunken brawl or robbery or something reputable/disreputable) and is hailed as a martyr of the 1857 rebellion.

Take the case of Lionel Percy Denham Eld . A person dying six years after the rebellion of battle wounds? Is this a joke or what?

The below table mentions some of those who are ‘made’ martyrs and are not actually martyrs.

  Unit Rank in British Army Name Reason Last Action Injured Death Age at Death
Infantry 1/24th Foot – South Wales Borderers Captain Thomas Maling Greensill  Accident Delhi    20th July 1857 29
Infantry 34th Foot – 1st Border Regiment Ensign Arthur Gilley  Accident      18th October 1857  
Infantry 88th Foot – 1st Connaught Rangers Captain John Evans  Died of Wounds Cawnpore   27th November 1857 5th October 1861 23
Naval Brigade HMS Shannon Captain  William Peel Wounded, but died of Small Pox Cawnpore   27th April 1858  
Bengal Infantry 8th Bengal Native Infantry Captain  Charles Frederick Simpson  Accident Delhi     19th November 1857 32
Bengal Infantry 9th Bengal Native Infantry Major Lionel Percy Denham Eld  Died of Wounds Trunk Road July 1857 11th December 1863 55
Bengal Infantry 10th Bengal Native Infantry Lieutenant Colonel George Acklom Smith  Missing in Action Cawnpore     26th July 1857  
Bengal Infantry 10th Bengal Native Infantry Captain  Frederick D’Oyley Bignell  Missing in Action Futtehghur     26th July 1858  
Bengal Infantry 12th Bengal Native Infantry Ensign  James Henry Barber Died of Sun stroke Jhansi     5th June 1857  
Bengal Infantry 16th Bengal Native Infantry Lieutenant James Fullerton  Accident – fell from balcony Lucknow     15th September 1857 27
Bengal Infantry 27th Bengal Native Infantry Lieutenant George William Fraser  Missing in Action Oude    8th June 1857  
Bengal Infantry 38th Bengal Native Infantry Major George Edward Hollings Died before Rebellion Delhi    Grave Plaque – 8th May 1857
Given as 11 May 1857
Bengal Infantry 74th Bengal Native Infantry Major George Parker  Died of Sun stroke Cawnpore     July 1857 44
Bengal Field Artillery 2nd Brigade 2nd Lieutenant  Somerset Edward Deane Townsend  Killed by a Dacoit Nowgong    19th June 1857  
Bombay Army   General Brackley Kennett  Died of Wounds Coonoor 8th October 1857 12th October 1857  
Indian Medical Service   Superintending-Surgeon John Boon Hayes  Died before Rebellion Cawnpore    IMS Rolls – 18 July 1856
Given as 27th June 1857