In Collaboration With Charles Griffin



Raising of the Regiment 1857
During the siege of Delhi, on 19th May 1857, the following order was issued by the C-in-C, General Anson: 'Lieutenant W S R Hodson, 1st European Fusiliers, and officiating Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General, is appointed Commandant of a corps of Irregular Horse, which he is directed to raise at Kurnaul'. This was later published in General Orders to the Army, dated Calcutta 24th October 1857.

On 25th May, Hodson wrote: "My commission is to raise a body of Irregular Horse on the usual rates of pay and the regular complement of native officers, but the number of troops to be unlimited - ie., I am to raise as many men as I please: 2000 if I can get them. The worst of it is, the being in a part of the country I do not Know and the necessity of finding men who can be trusted." The finding of men who could be trusted was certainly a problem as regiments had been disbanded and there were many ex-soldiers seeking employment, some mutinous, and some loyal to the British.

Hodson sought assistance from Robert Montgomery, Judicial Commissioner of the Punjab. Montgomery asked two Sirdars to raise a rissalah each and he raised one himself. The 3 rissalahs left for Delhi on 23rd June 1857 under the command of Man Singh who became the Risaldar-Major of the 1st Regiment from 1866-1877. Mr Montgomery sent two more on 9th July.

Delhi 1857
The British force was based on the Delhi Ridge where they were sometimes under attack from rebels who held the city. The rissalahs sent to Delhi by Montgomery were placed under the command of Lieutenant C T M McDowell, while Hodson was kept busy with his intelligence work and with command of the Guides.

Their first action was on 14th July in the Delhi suburb of Sabzi Mandi in which they fought alongside Hodson's Guides, as well as infantry and horse artillery, and drove the enemy back into the city. Another engagement in the same area took place on 18th July.

Rohtak 1857
Hodson's Charge
The first battle or skirmish that involved the whole of the newly raised regiment was on 17th/18th August. They were sent, with a squadron of Guides, to follow a group of mounted rebels who had come out of Delhi on the Najafgarh road. They left on the 14th and on the 15th were informed that the, rebels were in the village of Samplah, while at Khurkowdeh a troop of enemy cavalry were staying in one of the houses. They surrounded the village and entered on foot. A gunfight ensued which caused some sowars to be wounded as well as Lieutenant H Gough.

Captain C. J. S. Gough at Khurkowdah
On hearing that the main body of the enemy was heading towards Medinha, Hodson went to Rohtak to intercept them. On the 17th they found armed men ranged in front of the old fort who attacked them but were repulsed with the loss of 13 of their number. At 7am the next day a large body of horsemen issued from the town followed by 1,000 men on foot armed with swords and matchlocks. They dashed into a group of 25 Jind horsemen who had come to reinforce Hodson's Horse and this caused them to lose momentum. Hodson's men mounted up and the first 20 or so charged at them while the rest formed up in three lines. They expected another attack but it did not come so they lured them out of the town by feigning a withdrawl.

The rain had been very heavy the previous day and Hodson wanted to draw the enemy into an open and comparatively dry space. The ruse worked and the horsemen charged out to attack them but Hodson ordered his men to turn and they rushed at their attackers, the Guides at the front, followed closely by Hodson's regiment. They enemy were completely taken by surprise and fled back to Rohtak, losing 50 killed and many wounded. None of Hodson's men were killed. The three days of fighting had caused only six men to be wounded: Lieutenant Hugh Gough, Naib-Risaldar Hukm Singh, Jemadar Ahmad Beg, and three sowars.

The Storming of Delhi 1857
The regiment was not actively engaged for the remaining 3 weeks of the siege of Delhi. The opportunity was taken to drill the men and form them into a more military group of horsemen. Their first parade all together was on 2nd September which Hodson described as 'a respectable show'.

After an artillery bombardment that started on the 8th the storming of Delhi took place on the 14th September. The cavalry were formed into a brigade under Hope Grant of the 9th Lancers. There were 200 of the 9th Lancers and 410 men from the Guides, 1st, 2nd and 5th Punjab Cavalry and Hodson's Horse. They were required to form up behind the artillery and check any counter-attack by the enemy. When the rebels swarmed out of the city and into the suburbs of Kishenganj and Teliwara, the cavalry charged them and re-formed near the Kabul Gate. There they came under fire from small arms and artillery so had to retire a short distance. But this encouraged the enemy to advance and they were ordered to hold their ground.

What followed was the worst part of the battle for the cavalry. They bore the frustration of standing inactive, suffering casualties from constant fire. There was a degree of protection from the horse artillery but this went on for two hours in which time the brigade lost 10 officers, 116 men and 56 horses. The rebel fire was aimed mostly at the Europeans so Hodson's Horse suffered few casualties.

Capture of the King of Delhi
Bahadur Shah II
The British finally gained control of Delhi on 19th Sept, forcing the rebels out of the city. Hodson's Horse were kept busy once the enemy were out in the open. However, on the 20th Hodson received information that the King of Delhi, Bahadur Shah II, and his family were hiding at Humayun's tomb, 3.5 miles south of the city gate. He was given permission to capture him and bring him unharmed to General Wilson, C-in-C of the Delhi Field Force.

Hodson took 50 men from the regiment and rode to the tomb which is housed in in a magnificent building of red sandstone surmounted by a white marble dome 150ft high. In front of it are two huge terraces on different levels. Humayun was the 2nd Mughal Emperor who ruled India in the 16th century. His tomb is in a high vault below the centre of the building. There were thousands of people around the building when Hodson arrived so they hid in some nearby buildings and sent in emissaries, led by Maulvi Rajab Ali, to the wife of the King with demands for him to be handed over. After a tense two hour wait the King offered to come out. Then Hodson boldly stepped onto the road, in front of the gateway to receive him.

The King was carried in a palki (palanquin) which could only move at walking pace so the journey back was slow and very tense as a huge hostile crowd followed the whole way. It was made clear that any interference would result in the instant shooting of the King. On his return to Delhi Hodson was feted as a hero for this act but he had to return there the following day.

Execution of the Princes
Execution of Princes
On 21st Sept, Hodson returned with Lieut McDowell and 100 men to bring in the Princes. These were Mirza Mogul, the King's nephew, Mirza Kishere Sultamed (Khizr Sultan) one of the rebel leaders, responsible for the deaths of women and children, and Abu Bukr, heir to the throne.

Despite the thousands surrounding the building, the princes, encouraged by the safe passage of the King to Delhi, gave themselves up. As they progressed, Hodson and McDowell kept the crowd back and eventually had to order them to lay down their arms. They complied, much to Hodson's surprise and the two officers spent two hours collecting weapons. This gave the prisoners' escort time to get away, but when Hodson caught up with them he found them being threatened by a large crowd.

It looked as if the crowd were ready to seize the princes so Hodson decided that they had to be executed there and then. The manner of their execution varies from one account to another. One story claims that he took a carbine from one of his men and shot the princes one at a time, another claims that he shot two of them and 'pistoled' the last one. Whether that means he clubbed him to death with the butt or just shot him is not clear. Many people in India and Britain were appalled at this action but the circumstances on that day called for desperate measures. From Hodson's own re-telling of the story he had no regrets.

Bulandshahr
A force was sent out on 27th Sept 1857 to pursue rebels heading for Rokilkhand. This was led by Brigadier Greathed and contained artillery, engineers, infantry and the 9th Lancers, with detachments from native cavalry units. Lieutenant Hugh Gough commanded the detachment from Hodson's Horse. The action resulted in two wounded men and two horses killed. Gough was highly praised for his leadership and the regiment was also praised for their conduct.
The Agra Parade Ground
On 10th Oct 1857 they came to the end of an exhausting 44 mile march and were pitching camp when they were attacked by rebels who were unaware that the force was so large. The enemy was routed and Hodson's Horse pursued them across the Kala Naddi, killing many. One sowar was killed, an Indian officer and two sowars were wounded.
Cawnpore
Command of the force transferred from Greathed to Hope-Grant soon after this. Major-General Hope-Grant had been commanding officer of the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers until a few months previously so his expectations of cavalry were very high. The Sikhs under Gough's command were still undisciplined, so that when Hope Grant paid a visit to Hodson's Horse as they did picquet duty he was appalled at their laxity. The whole detachment was punished by making them ride as perpetual rearguard to the column, a position distinctly lacking in kudos.

Some time later, however, a party of around 200 enemy horsemen attacked the baggage carts and Gough was sent forward to find out what was happening. He only took 15 men and they were fired on but suffered no injury. Gough brought up more of his men and having now a group of 40, charged headlong into the enemy which caused them to break up and flee. They pursued them for a while and returned triumphant having demonstrated their bravery beyond doubt. Hope-Grant was proved wrong and from then on they were posted to the advance guard.

Alam Bagh
Alam Bagh
By 12th Nov the column was reinforced and Sir Colin Campbell had joined them. They marched towards Alam Bagh but on the way they encountered about 2,000 enemy infantry and guns. Hope-Grant ordered Hodson's Horse to capture or spike the two guns. Hugh Gough led his men around for a flank attack under cover of some sugar cane. The guns were on a mound with a mass of infantry behind them. They approached under cover and managed to surprise the enemy completely. At the last minute they charged at the mass of men who were unable to realise how few of Gough's men there were.

The enemy were scattered and tried to run for it but were cut down by their pursuers. Hodson's Horse suffered few casualties but inflicted great damage. The guns were captured and brought back in triumph. The scene was witness by Sir Colin Campbell who recommended Gough for the VC for his courageous action.

Lucknow 1857
The force camped at Alam Bagh and set about relieving Lucknow. The cavalry were required to protect the flanks and communication, during the course of which they lost a British officer, Lieut Craigie-Halkett, and one sowar. Also in the course of the siege, Hugh Gough's detachment accompanied Lieut Frederick Roberts (the future Field Marshal Lord Roberts) on a dangerous mission to bring ammunition to Alam Bagh.
Suraj Ghat
Word arrived from Cawnpore that they were hard pressed by Gwalior rebels under Tantia Topi, so a force was sent off and arrived there on 30th Nov. In early December Cawnpore was attacked in an infantry operation. The cavalry were employed in the pursuit of the retreating enemy. They caught up with them at Suraj Ghat on 8th Dec, crossing the Ganges. Hodson's Horse fought against enemy cavalry that was trying to attack British artillery. They were completely successful and sustained no casualties.
Gangiri, 15th December 1857
On 7th Dec, a column left Delhi under the command of Brigadier General Seaton to escort a convoy to Cawnpore. This force contained British cavalry, one troop of the 6thDG, and a detachment of the 9th Lancers; 140 men. The rest of the cavalry was provided by Hodson's Horse, 550 men, commanded by Hodson himself who had been on leave in Ambala and been promoted to Captain. At Gangiri, in the Aligarh district, they were confronted by rebel infantry, artillery and cavalry. Their cavalry moved around to attack the British right flank while their artillery fired on them. The 9th Lancers and 6DG attacked their guns while Hodson dealt with the enemy cavalry. Although Hodson was completely successful and pursued the enemy for some distance, he lost an Indian officer, Muhammad Taki Khan, and three other men. Two NCOs and 17 men were wounded. Hodson was again mentioned in despatches.

A few days later there was a battle at Patiali which involved Hodson's Horse, causing the death of a daffadar and one sowar wounded. After this the column rested a few days but Hodson's men were kept busy with reconnaissance work. Another action at Mainpuri was over very quickly but required Hodson's to pursue for 16 miles before returning with six enemy guns.

Shamshabad, 27th January 1858
The regiment had a break from fighting for about 3 weeks until 25th Jan when Hodson, with 200 of his men and three other British officers were part of another column commanded by Brigadier Adrian Hope. They were up against an army of 5,000 rebels encamped at Shamshabad. The enemy position was well fortified and defended with artillery. When they arrived, Hope moved off the road with his staff and accompanied by Hodson and his 2nd in command, McDowell. The enemy guns opened fire on them and one shot took off McDowell's leg and passed straight through his horse. McDowell died a painful death a few hours later, he was 28. Hodson's Horse positioned themselves the other side of a bridge beside a battery of Horse Artillery. Charles Gough tells in his memoirs of the terrible sound of enemy round shot flying past them.

They charged at the enemy cavalry and Gough levelled his sword point at their leader who was aiming his carbine. He suddenly found that his sword had gone. On looking round he saw it sticking out of the man's chest. For the rest of the battle he had to use his revolver. He was wounded twice in the melee and was saved by Hodson at one point. Hodson himself was badly wounded in the arm and on his thumb. Three other men were killed, 13 wounded and 3 missing. Gough's actions earned him another citation for the VC.

Mianganj, 23rd February
Charles Gough was in action again with a detachment of the regiment as part of Hope Grant's column sent from Cawnpore to protect the road to Lucknow. They laid siege to a town called Mianganj and the cavalry were placed around it to deal with anyone trying to leave. When they did make a run for it Gough was ordered to attack them in a field of dhal where they were hiding. It was not a task he relished but he led his men with great courage as they advanced through the crops and managed to clear it. They lost an Indian officer, Naib-Risaldar Hukm Singh and three men wounded. Charles Gough was again recommended for the VC.
Alam Bagh 25th February 1858
There was a build up of British troops, under the command of Lieut-General Sir James Outram, at Alam Bagh, about 40 miles south east of Lucknow. This army faced 96,000 rebels led by the Begum of Oudh. They attempted to attack both flanks of Outram's force simultaneously but the British advanced against the threat on their right and pushed them back to Lucknow. A cavalry force led by Colonel Campbell of the Queen's Bays attacked the left-hand column. Hodson's Horse was part of this force and numbered 374 men. Hugh Gough described the regiment at this stage:

'This was my first day in action with Hodson's Horse as a complete regiment, for when at the Siege of Delhi the corps was in it's infancy, and when I left Delhi with my wing it was certainly not weaned: but now we were a full-blown regiment, men better equipped, clothed and drilled, and the horses of a better stamp, and with decent saddlery and accoutrements.'

Hodson was back on duty after recovering from his injury but had his arm in a sling. As they approached it was clear that the enemy were withdrawing, having seen that the British were in greater numbers than they first thought. It all seemed too easy to Hodson's men who chased after them, but they soon became fragmented. The rebel leaders saw the vulnerable position that the cavalry was in and started to rally and form up. They still had the use of one gun which fired grapeshot at Hodson's Horse.

At this point it looked as if the regiment was about to retreat but Hodson and Gough gathered 12 men and charged the enemy infantry. The musket fire, however was too heavy and three men were killed, the rest wounded. Gough and Hodson lost their horses but Gough managed to find another and tried to rally more men. Just then the 7th Hussars and the Military Train came to their aid and put the rebels to flight.

After several miles pursuit, Gough found himself alone, facing two sepoys, one of whom shot him in the leg, the bullet also killing his horse. He was about to be bayoneted when a trooper from the Military train came up and killed the man with his sword.

The Death of Hodson, 11th March 1858
Hodson's Grave
While the regiment remained at Alam Bagh, Hodson went alone to Lucknow to army HQ for a meeting with Sir Colin Campbell. After having lunch with him he joined Brigadier-General Robert Napier who was inspecting a breach in the wall. They became separated and he went to look around the palace with a Captain Taylor. The enemy had been cleared from most parts of the city but areas remained where rebels were hidden. The two men had a look inside one dark room which turned out to contain sepoys. One of them shot at Hodson and he was hit in the chest. He staggered back a few paces and fell. A group of Highlanders, when they saw what had happened, went into the room and killed every man they found.

Hodson was taken to Banks's House and had his wound dressed. He was conscious and knew he was going to die. He left messages for his wife but became weaker and died around 1.30am that night. He was buried on the evening of 12th March in the grounds of La Martiniere School in Lucknow.

Reorganisation
The position of Commandant of the regiment was given to Henry Daly of the Guides. It was a difficult task, filling the shoes of Hodson, a man who was regarded as highly as any man could be by the men of his regiment. Although Hodson had been a wonderful leader and loved by his men, he was no good at writing things down. There was no muster-roll apart from a few names noted by Hugh Gough, and no accounts written up. An officer had to be brought in to sort these out. Lieut R B Anderson of 1st Bengal Fusiliers along with the principal munshi, Dumichand, took nine months to make sense of it.

At this time the regiment, at Lucknow, numbered around 750. There were 400 more in Meerut, mostly without horses. Four more Troops arrived from the Punjab brought in by Man Singh. Daly reported at one stage that 1000 men had no saddles. There was clearly much to be done. The number of men was too great for one regiment so Daly at first suggested splitting it into two regiments, then later said that three would be better. He also wanted to recruit a squadron of Pathans for each regiment and sent an officer to the frontier for that purpose. Sir John Lawrence, however, vetoed the idea. In the end 100 Pathans were drafted into the third regiment.

Nawabganj, 13th June 1858
While all this was going on the regiment still had a job to do. An army of 15,000 rebels were in a well defended position at Nawabganj, 18 miles from Lucknow. Hodson's Horse were brigaded with 2nd Dragoon Guards , 7th Hussars, 1st Sikh Cavalry and a troop of Mounted Police. They were accompanied by artillery, engineers and two battalions of the Rifle Brigade. The whole column was commanded by Hope Grant.

After a night march they decided to attack the right flank of the enemy position which involved a further march of 12 miles. They arrived at dawn so were able to surprise them. There was a fierce struggle and a detachment of enemy troops tried to move around to the British rear to seize their baggage. They were met by Hodson's Horse who split into two. Major Daly made a frontal attack while Lieut Mecham went around to their left. Mecham had 100 men with him and during the attack he was severely wounded.

With the help of horse artillery the enemy were beaten back but another large group came charging at them and would have overwhelmed them but for the intervention of the 7th Hussars and more artillery. The rebels were driven off having lost 9 of their guns and leaving 600 dead. Regimental casualties were 3 men dead, the wounded included Mecham, Lieut the Hon J H Fraser, Risaldar Man Singh, Jemadar Hussain Ali Khan and 19 other ranks. Five members of the regiment were mentioned in Hope Grant's despatches.

Three Regiments
The date of the establishment of the 1st and 2nd Regiment of Hodson's Horse was 26th August 1858. The 3rd Regiment was officially formed on 9th September 1858 and disbanded following an order issued on 5th January 1860. A large proportion of the officers and men of the 3rd regiment removed to a new regiment, Fanes Horse, which became the 19th Bengal Lancers. This regiment was raised to serve in China.
Badge
EIC Badge
Colours
1857
Uniforms
1857
Commanding Officers
1857
Soldiers
1857
Nicknames
Flamingos
Plungers
Battle Honours
DELHI
LUCKNOW
Titles
1858 1st Regiment of Hodson's Horse
1861 9th Regiment of Bengal Cavalry
1886 9th Regiment of Bengal Lancers
1901 9th Bengal Lancers (Hodson's Horse)
1903 9th Hodson's Horse
Successor Units
1921 4th Duke of Cambridge's Own (Hodson's Horse)
1922 4th Duke of Cambridge's Own Hodson's Horse
1927 Hodson's Horse (4th Duke of Cambridge's Own Lancers)
Post-Partition (To India)
1947 Hodson's Horse
1966 4th Horse
Further Reading
Hodson's Horse
by Major Francis G Carden

Remarks on Captain Trotter's Biography of Major W R S Hodson
by General C T Chamberlain

Rider on a Grey Horse
by B Cork

Bengal Cavalry Regiments 1857-1914
by R G Harris (Osprey 1979)

Hodson of Hodson's Horse or 12 Years of a Soldier's Life in India
Being Extracts from the Letters of the Late Major W S R Hodson Edited by his Brother The Rev George H Hodson, Trench 1883

Four Famous Soldiers
Sir Charles Napier, Hodson of Hodson's Horse, Sir W Napier, Sir H Edwardes by T R E Holmes, 1889

Leader of Light Horse: The Life of Hodson of Hodson's Horse
by Captain L J Trotter



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by Stephen Luscombe