The Sikh Wars, 1845-49

Sikh War Case

The Sikh War Case

In the 1840’s the 29th Regiment of Foot were on garrison duty in India, and took part in both Sikh Wars. Despite being outnumbered and against some of the best troops in the world, the British fought two bloody and successful campaigns against the Sikhs, with the 29th in the thick of the action. The 29th fought in the centre at the battle at Ferozeshah, and repeatedly stormed the Sikh fortifications at Sobraon, despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered.

During the Second War they fought at Goojerat (alias Gujerat) and Chillianwallah, where the 29th took heavy casualties taking a line of Sikh guns. A few years later, detachments from the 29th also served in the Indian Mutiny.

Sikh Jacket

The Sikh Jacket

The Sikh Jacket

This jacket, or tunic, is traditionally referred to as the ‘Sikh Chieftain’s tunic’, although its small size means that it probably belonged to a young prince or a son of a chief. It was picked up on field at Sobraon by an officer in the 29th Regiment.

Between 1845 and 1849 the 29th fought in two wars against the Sikhs in north western India. The Sikhs were a very martial nation, and their Army was very well trained and equipped in modern warfare. The battles in the two Sikh Wars were very hard and bloody, and this jacket has always been a proud trophy and a popular attraction in the museum.

 The jacket and other material from the Sikh Wars currently forms part of the exhibition ‘Anglo-Sikh Wars: Battles, Treaties and Relics’ being held at Newarke Houses Museum, Leicester from 11th March to 4th June 2017. The exhibition is being developed by the Sikh Museum Initiative and hosted by Leicester City Council.  Please follow the links for more information.Anglo-Sikh Museum Initiative

Hitler's Clock

Hilter's clock

Adolf Hitler’s Clock

Hitler’s Clock – This electric clock was removed from the wall behind Hitler’s desk in his Conference Room, above the door into his ante-room, by Major H. F. Boddington on 26th July 1945. He was an officer of the Worcestershire Regiment, but had worked in  the British Intelligence Service for most of the war. That day he was escorting Winston Churchill and other important people in a tour of the Chancellery, Berlin, which had been captured by the Red Army.

After deciding to ‘liberate’ the clock, Major Boddington gave it to the museum for safe keeping, where it has remained as a popular exhibit.

The Glorious First of June 1794

In June 1794 Britain had been at War with Revolutionary France for 14 months.  France was on the verge of starvation due to a bad harvest and political upheaval. As a result, the French had assembled a convoy of some 117 merchant ships, filled with grain and other stores, in Chesapeake Bay, in America.

The French strategy to ensure the safety of these ships was, an immediate escort of 4 ships of the line, commanded by Admiral Vanstabel, to accompany the convoy – a second squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Neilly, to sail to meet the convoy and escort it back to France while the main French Fleet, commanded by Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, was to sail from Brest to provide any necessary cover should the convoy be threatened by the Royal Navy.

In April 1794, Admiral Richard Howe had assembled the British Fleet, consisting of 32 ships of the line with attendant frigates, off the Isle of Wight. Owing to a shortage of Marines the 29th Regiment of Foot, along with a number of other line regiments, had to provide drafts for sea-service.  Over four hundred officers and men of the regiment were distributed among five ships; “Brunswick”, “Ramillies”, “Glory”, “Thunderer” and “Alfred”.

The French convoy sailed from America on 11th April and on 2nd May Howe sailed from Spithead with 26 ships of the line. After a reconnaissance of the port of Brest to confirm that the French Fleet had not sailed, Howe placed himself between the convoy and their covering force. On 19th May, Howe’s frigates report that the French Fleet had sailed out of Brest and he immediately set off in pursuit.

Loutherbourg,_The_Glorious_First_of_June

The Glorious First of June

On 28th May, at about 8:10 am a frigate made the signal for “a fleet bearing South West” directly to windward. It was not until 6 pm that action commenced and lasted until 10 pm. British casualties were only twenty-two killed and wounded. On next the morning it was hazy and the action continued from 9 am until nearly 4 pm when the French bore away to support their disabled ships. The 30th was very foggy and there was no action that day. However on the 31st, the fog cleared about 2 pm and the French were sighted far to leeward.

On the 1st of June, at 5:45 am Howe counted 34 sail of the enemy and gave chase.  The general action commenced at 9:15 am.

The “Brunswick”, with 81 men of the 29th aboard was played into battle by the ship’s band and a drummer from the 29th to the tune of ‘Hearts of Oak’. “Brunswick” was in the thick of the fighting and endured a tremendous onslaught, being engaged for a considerable time with three French seventy-fours. One of these “Le Vengeur” she sank. At one stage of the battle another of the seventy-fours seeing that “Brunswick” was much weakened, determined to board and manned her yards and shrouds with a view to running alongside and flinging in all her crew at once. “Brunswick” with great intrepidity and coolness reserved a whole broadside and waited her approach; then in one discharge the “Brunswick” dis-masted her and “scattered her crew like so many mice on the ocean“.

During the fierce fighting, the 29th detachment Commander, a Captain was killed and the Ensign and 20 others were wounded.

The 29th Foot abroad the "the Brunswick" on the Glorious First of June

The 29th Foot abroad the “the Brunswick” on the Glorious First of June

This Battle was fought far out in the Atlantic and so it has always been known by its date “The Glorious First of June”.  For its share in the engagement, the 29th Regiment was awarded a Naval crown to be borne with its Battle Honours.