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