Robert Blair VC

Robert Blair was born on 13 March 1834 in Linlithgow, Scotland. He was a graduate of University of Glasgow and a Snell exhibitioner at Balliol College, Oxford. He was commissioned as a cornet into the 9th Lancers on 16 Dec 1853. He then purchased a lieutenancy on 2 Nov 1855, and exchanged into the the Queen's Bays on 20 Dec 1856. The Bays did not arrive in India until a year later so he continued to serve with the 9th Lancers, technically on attachment. On 28 Sep 1857 a brigade of mutineers was encountered entrenched in the village of Bulandshahr. The horse artillery opened fire but the infantry could not be persuaded to move. Lt-Col Ouvry of the 9th Lancers decided to rush the position. They dashed along a street under a hail of bullets without much loss and ended up on the other side of the town. In his despatch of 10 Jan 1858, Maj-General Hope Grant wrote, " A most gallant feat was here performed by Lieutenant Blair, who was ordered to take a party of one sergeant and twelve men and bring in a deserted ammunition waggon. As his party approached, a body of fifty or sixty of the enemy's horse came down upon him, from a village, where they had remained unobserved: without a moment's hesitation he formed up his men, and, regardless of the odds, gallantly led them on, dashing through the rebels. He made good his retreat without losing a man, leaving nine of them dead on the field. Of these he killed four himself; but, to my regret, after having run a native officer through the body with his sword, he was severely wounded, the joint of his shoulder being nearly severed."

In this action the 9th Lancers won 4 other VCs and Lt Robert Blair became the only officer of the Queen's Bays to be awarded the Delhi clasp to his Mutiny Medal in addition to that of Lucknow. He later achieved the rank of captain and died of smallpox at Cawnpore on 28 March 1859. He was the cousin of another Indian Mutiny VC recipient James Blair of the 2nd Bombay Light Cavalry. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Queen's Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum in Cardiff Castle, Wales.

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by Stephen Luscombe