In Collaboration With Charles Griffin

Brief History
Harry Lumsden
The Corps of Guides was the most famous of the Indian Army regiments during the period of British rule. They had a reputation for bravery and efficiency that was the envy of all the other units. The North-West Frontier where they operated was rarely quiet and although many of the cavalry and infantry regiments saw frequent action there, none was engaged more than the Guides.

The corps was raised in Peshawar by Lieutenant Harry Lumsden in December 1846, comprising one troop of cavalry and two companies of infantry, about 300 men in all. It was the brainchild of Sir Henry Lawrence perhaps inspired by Napoleon's elite Guides. Recruitment was made easier by offering a higher rate of pay than normal. This attracted a large number of applicants so Lumsden could pick and choose men of high intelligence. One of their first tasks was a peace-keeping role in Lahore some time after the death of Maharajah Ranjit Singh. An effort by the Maharani to seize power was foiled and the Guides escorted her out of the Punjab, a task more dangerous than it sounds as rescue attempts were expected.

Second Sikh War 1848 - 49
Risaldar Fatteh Khan
Lord Gough had failed to supress the Sikhs at Chillianwallah (9th Jan 1849), a battle that did not involve the Guides, but the cavalry gained a battle honour at Mooltan which fell on 22nd January 1849. A Risaldar by the name of Fatteh Khan made a name for himself at this battle. After the seige, Lumsden and Hodson, his second in command, were involved in an action against a largeforce of Sikhs under Ganda and Ram Singh. These men had captured a large amount of booty from the British but it was recaptured by Lumsden's force who wiped out the Sikhs except for one man. Meanwhile the infantry seized Fort Govindgarh or Gorindghar at Amritsar and a few other Khalsa strongholds. The story of how Fort Govindgarh was captured is one of the Guides' legends.

Subadar Rasul Khan, a brother of Fatteh Khan and a force of 140 Guides Infantry were sent to reconnoitre Fort Govindgarh ahead of the main army. Rasul Khan managed to trick his way into the fort by tying up three of his men and pretending that he had prisoners for the Sikhs. He and a few others were allowed in to stand guard over the 'prisoners' and lulled the Sikh guards into a false sense of security so that they were easily overpowered in the eary hours of the morning and the rest of the Guides let in. A regiment of Sikhs and their commander surrendered to them and when the British arrived later that morning, the fort was in the hands of Rasul Khan and his Guides.

In February both arms fought at Goojerat, pursuing the Sikhs to Rawalpindi where they surrendered. The Guides had proved so useful and heroic that their strength was increased to 3 troops of cavalry and 6 companies of infantry.

1849 - 1857
The Guides were very active in the years leading up to the Mutiny. One battle that should be mentioned here occured in May 1852. Sir Colin Campbell led a punitive force against the Pathans and arrived at the fortified Utman Khel village of Nawadand. Some time after Campbell's men had settled in for the seige, the leader of the Pathans, Ajun Khan decided to take the fight to the beseigers and advanced on the British stealthily. The force was caught unawares, but an outlying picket of 20 men of the Guides Cavalry was the nearest group to the enemy. A young subaltern of the Guides, Lieutenant G N Hardinge, saw the situation and rode out to the picket and led them in a desperate charge against the Pathans to give the rest of the Force time to get into formation. This charge was such a shock to the enemy that it was entirely successful, and Hardinge, though wounded managed to return with most of his men and a captured standard.
Doctor Lyell
Another story illustrates the bravery of non-combatents when the need arises. The surgeon of the Guides, Dr R Lyell, when no-one else was available, led the Gurkha company of the Guides and a company of the 66th Gurkhas to help Lt F Turner who with 30 men of the Guides was pinned down by a group of tribesmen who had taken up a position on one of the heights. The Gurkhas overran the position, rescuing Turner and his men, and Lyell went back to his job of tending the sick and wounded.
Indian Mutiny 1857
The March to Delhi
The years between the Sikh war and the Mutiny were not quiet for the Guides, they were continuously employed in active service on the frontier. In March 1857, Lumsden, in his capacity as deputy commissioner of Peshawar, was sent on a high risk mission to Kandahar with a detachment of Guides. But on 13th May the regiment was ordered to go to Delhi to help supress the mutineers. In Lumsden's absence they were commanded by Captain Henry Daly. They set off from their base at Hoti Mardan at 6pm. On the way they were required to take punitive action against a rebel village called Karnal. They were also held up at Attock and Rawalpindi, these delays amounting to more than 5 days. But this hardly slowed them down because they arrived at Delhi on the morning of 9th June, having covered a distance of 580 miles in 26 days. They started to pitch camp but 3 hours after their arrival they were in the thick of the fighting resulting in many of them being wounded or killed, including all the officers.
They spent 4 months at Delhi, the infantry holding the main piquet at Hindu Rao's house with the King's Royal Rifle Corps and the 2nd Gurkhas, and the cavalry constantly employed around the city. The latter were especially important in their support of the 9th Lancers against the batteries at Kishenganj. The 9th were so depleted that the Guides cavalry were ordered to take their place. They perfomed so well that the commander of the 9th commented that "they stand like the Lancers". To appreciate this praise it has to be understood that at that time native units were not expected to be as commited and disciplined as their European couterparts.
Expedition against the Mahsud Waziri tribe 1860
This expidition was led by Sir Neville Chamberlain who decided to split the force and lead the larger group into the Waziri area leaving 1500 men at Pallosin to make camp and guard the stores and heavy equipment. This camp was commanded by Lumsden and consisted of Guides, 4th Sikhs and 5th Gurkhas. Lumsden prepared the camp for an attack but when it came, it was a complete surprise. Three thousand tribesmen poured out of the hills and threw themselves on the camp. There was no time to employ tactics and hand-to-hand fighting ensued. The tribesmen fought without any fear and seemed unstoppable, but at one point two subalterns, Bond and Lewis, managed to draw some of the Guides into line and this attracted more to join in until there were 200 drawn up as a disciplined formation. The order was given to "Fix bayonets!" followed by "Charge!" To a wild shout the Guides rushed forward and drove the Waziris back, clearing the camp. There were 132 dead tribesmen in the camp and many more of them left wounded or dying. The Guides lost 33 killed and 74 were wounded. This was Lumsden's last battle as commander of the Guides.
Fierce Loyalty
Before he left the regiment to take up his new post as commander of the Hyderabad contingent, Lumsden was amused by an incident that illustrates the fierce loyalty the men felt towards him. The corps was due for an inspection by Sir John Lawrence, Governor of the Punjab and during the course of this inspection Lawrence lost his temper and made some dispariging remarks publicly to Lumsden. A while later as Lumsden stood relaxing after the parade he was approached by one of his men who offered to ambush and kill Lawrence as he travelled home.
Umbeyla Campaign 1863
Daffadar Fakira
One night, a patrol of three Guides infantry under Daffadar Fakira came across 300 Pathans on their way to attack the Guides camp. Fakira started shouting a command to fall in to give the impression of a large force. His men bustled about shouting orders and the tribesmen were fooled. They started to panic and fled in all directions.
The Crag
Dilawur Khan
The famous Crag Picquet was the scene of fierce fighting in this war. The first battle was on 30th October when the 1st Punjab Infantry were forced off the hill, but it was recaptured by the Guides and Major Brownlow's 20th Punjab Infantry with a loss of 55 men. Another attempt on the Crag was made on 12th November but beaten off again by the Guides and 20th. But the third fight for the Crag was the big one involving at fisrt, the Guides and 1st Punjabis who fought hard but unsuccessfully the regain the height. A big effort was made by Major Ross who, with a detachment of Guides, 1st and 14th Infantry, reached a point close to the crest but was beaten back. Chamberlain then deemed it necessary to send in the 101st Royal Bengal Fusiliers and 20th Punjabis. They succeeded but were also driven off. The final assault was led by the 71st Highland Light Infantry supported by the Guides. They won the battle at a cost of 158 men.
A Tale of Two Rifles
A few months before the Second Afghan War the Guides were placed on guard at the mouth of the Khyber Pass, awaiting orders to advance into the Pass. A young Afridi soldier of the corps found himself in a painful dilemma becuase his home village lay in the path of the Guides and he would be expected to treat friends and family as hostiles. He was standing guard one night with a soldier from the Gurkha company who asked him to hold his rifle while he fetched something from his nearby tent. The Afridi now had two rifles and a dark night to cover his disappearance. When the Gurkha returned and found his fellow guard gone along with his rifle, he had to report it to Colonel F H Jenkins. Furious, Jenkins demanded to know how many more Afridis there were in the corps. When he was told that there were 17 he ordered them all to parade in front of him. They were orded to take off every item of Guides uniform and equipment there and then. The astonished soldiers obeyed. "Now," said Jenkins, "you can go, and don't let me see your faces again till you bring back those two rifles."

The next day, the Colonel may have regretted his rash reaction becuase there was no sign of the 17 men. The next day also saw no return of men or rifles, and the next. As time went on it became clear that all of them must have deserted to the enemy. Their places were filled by new recruits and they were forgotten. Until, that is, two years later, all seventeen men turned up at Mardan, the Guides depot - with the two rifles. They were ragged and dirty; they had spent all that time waging their own mini tribal war against fellow Afridis until they had at last found those two precious rifles.

The Second Afghan War 1878-80
Ali Masjid
The Guides were in the division under the command of Sir Sam Browne, the cavalry under Charles Gough and the Infantry under General Tyler. In the battle of Ali Musjid the main force was to attack in front while Tyler's infantry were ordered to make a detour through the mountains to cut off the enemy's retreat. In the event, the enemy's resistance was stronger than expected so the arrival of the Guides and 1st Sikhs proved timely and decisive.
Fattehabad 2nd April 1879
A small force under General Charles Gough were on the road from Jallalabad to Kabul when they were threatened by a large force of Aghan tribesmen. With covering fire from the horse artillery, the Guides cavalry and 10th Hussars were ordered to attack. The Guides were commanded by Major Wigram Battye but he was shot in the hip early on and walked his horse as the rest charged on. He was shot again, this time fatally and the charge, now led by a young Irishman called Lieutenant Walter Hamilton gathered momentum over difficult stony ground. The enemy were well placed to recieve a charge because there was a 9ft deep dry gulley just in front of them, but the Guides were going too fast to avoid it and plunged down the steep drop and on towards the tribesmen firing at them from the top of the other bank. The enemy were unnerved and fell back as Hamilton and his screaming sowars stormed up the slope and cut through them. In the fight Hamilton saw a fallen sowar trapped under his horse being set upon by three tribesmen. He leapt to his rescue, killing the three men and helping the trapped man. The Guides lost 20 men and 37 horses while Afghan losses were put at 400. Hamilton won the VC. At the time only British officers could win that medal, the highest award for Indians was the Order of Merit which was won by six of them. The dead from the British and Indian units were normally picked up and taken back in an ambulance cart but the surviving Guides insisted on carrying Major Battye's body themselves. He was the second of four members of the Battye family to be killed whilst serving in the Corps of Guides.
Heliograph Team
Sir Frederick Roberts was under siege in Sherpur in December 1879 from a vast army of tribesmen. A heliograph message was recieved by Colonel Jenkins and the Guides who were at the Lataband Pass. Their task was to cross 36 miles of mountainous terrain and make their way through the Afghan army to reinforce Sherpur as quickly as possible. They left all the baggage behind and plodded on with as much ammunition as they could carry. They hurried through the night and reached the siege army in the early hours. It was a bitterly cold night and the Afghans were too preoccupied with staying warm to keep watch. So the horses and men of the Guides found their way through unscathed to a very grateful Roberts in Sherpur.
Asmai Heights
A few days later the Guides took part in the assaults on the Takht-i-Shah and the Asmai Heights with the 72nd and 92nd Highlanders. On the Asmai Heights, another Battye was dangerously wounded, this time Captain Fred Battye, and Captain A G Hammond won the VC. The date was 14th December 1879. Hammond was at the front of the charge up the mountain and reached the top where things became difficult and they were forced to retire. He and a few others held on until the last minute to cover the withdrawl. On the way down he helped a wounded sepoy under heavy fire and assisted in carrying him to safety. Twelve other soldiers of the Guides won the Order of Merit. The Guides were not involved in Roberts's famous march from Kabul to Kandaharor the last battle of the war at Kandahar in September 1880. They had been fighting incessantly for two years during which time they had lost 248 men and 142 horses. At the end of the war they recruited 500 more men.
North-West Frontier 1895-1902
Panjkora River
As part of the Chitral Relief Force, the Guides infantry were required to cross the Panjkora river in advance. This river was reached after the Force had crossed the Swat River and the Saram range of mountains. It had to be bridged first and the Guides were to cross in the evening and cover the passage of the main force the next morning. But during the night the river rose 14' and swept the bridge away, leaving the Guides cut off. Col Fred Battye, who commanded them decided to stick to his orders and attack the neighbouring hostile villages. The main Force on the other bank were commanded by Sir Robert Low. They kept a close eye on what was happening and observed that the enemy were advancing on the Guides from the heights. Low sent a heliograph message to Battye to retire to the bridgehead and keep his five companies together. This withdrawl was carried out under covering fire and in an orderly fashion so as to avoid giving the enemy the impression of a panicked retreat. The Derajat mountin battery on the other bank were able to give covering fire when the enemy came into range (800 yards) and some reinforcements trickled across on a makeshift raft, the 4th Sikhs and a Maxim gun team of the Devonshire Regiment. Fred Battye was killed in the withdrawl and command fell to Fred Campbell. The fighting continued all day and into the night, at which point the mountain battery sent up star shells, the forunners of flares, to illuminate the enemy. This was the turning point of the battle because the tribesmen were terrified ("What new devilment is this?") and fled.
The Relief of Malakand
On the 26th July 1897 the Corps was ordered to Malakand to reinforce the garrison which was under attack. This journey involved a distance of 30 miles over flat country, 7 miles uphill and a 2000 ft climb to the summit of the Malakand Pass, all accomplished in 16 hours. On arrival they went straight into battle and were kept very busy until 2nd August. The garrison was commanded by Col W H Meiklejohn (20th Punjabis) who was anxious to provide relief for the neighbouring fort of Chakdara. This proved to be impossible after an aborted attempt by the Guides cavalry and 11th Bengal Lancers to reach them. Both forts were relieved by Sir Bindon Blood's famed Malakand Relief Force.
Swat Valley
This action as part of Sir Bindon Blood's punitive measures is remembered for the heroism shown by a few members of the Guides cavalry. Landaki is in the Swat Valley. The tribemen had been driven from a spur of the mountains that had a narrow causeway running around it. The cavalry had to go along this causeway to chase the enemy in their retreat on the other side. The first two officers to reach the enemy were Lieutenant Palmer of the Guides and Lieutenant Greaves of the Lancashire Fusiliers. They were some way ahead of the rest and soon found themselves in trouble. Palmer was unhorsed and Greaves wounded. Colonel Adams and Lord Fincastle, an officer in the 16th Lancers, with two sowars manged to reach them as they were fending off sword blows. Fincastle's horse was killed and he tried to lift the wounded Greaves onto Adams's horse, during which Greaves recieved another bullet in the body and Adams's horse was wounded. The sowars rescued Palmer and took him to safety. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Hector Maclean and 4 sowars came to the help of the others. Maclean dismounted to get Greaves onto a horse and was shot dead in the process. Greaves, Adams and Fincastle managed to reach safety. The VC was awarded to Adams and Maclean of the Guides and to Lord FIncastle who was attached to the Guides, thus establishing a record three VCs won by a regiment in one day. The sowars recieved the Order of Merit.
World War One
The Great War saw the Guide son the Frontier until November 1917 when they left to join 11 Indian Cavalry Brigade in Mesopotamia and actions at Sharqat and Khan Baghdadi. A company of Guides infantry was attached to 57th Wildes Rifles in France in 1914. The infantry also served in Egypt and Palestine. After the armistice, the cavalry stayed in Persia to counter a Bolshevik threat, not returning to India until 1921. They were some of the first to recieve the new General Service Medal with a clasp for North-West Persia.
Between the Wars
The infantry became part of the 12th Frontier Force Regiment in 1922. Although they were the senior of the regiments forming the 6 battalions they kindly allowed the 51st-54th Sikhs to take the first four number battalions so that they could retain at least the numbers 1 to 4 (ie the 51st Sikhs became the 1st battalion etc.). There were two battalions of the Guides infantry, so the first battalion became the 5th battalion of the new regiment and the 2nd bcame the 10th (training) battalion. In an action in September 1935, an under-stregth Guides battalion (370 men) faced an overwhelmingly superior force of Mohmands. All the British officers and most of the Indian offcers were either killed or wounded. Captain Godfrey Meynell MC, the adjutant, went forward to encourage his men and was overrun with them. This effort inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and earned him a posthumous VC.
World War Two
North Africa
The cavalry, who were now the 10th Queen Victoria's Own Frontier Force, became mechanised in September 1940 and were sent to Iraq where they had wheeled carriers and 15cwt trucks. In March 1942 they moved to Egypt and served on the Eighth Army's desert flank during the withdrawl from the El Alamein positions. They returned to Paiforce in September 1942 and then to India in November 1943 where they converted to an armoured car role based at Kohat. In November 1945 they were briefly equipped with Stuart tanks, then Churchill tanks for service with 2 Armoured Brigade.
It was natural for the Guides to be allocated to Pakistan on partition in 1947, but the hindus had to be exchanged for moslem units in other regiments. A Dogra squadron was swapped for a Punjabi Musalman squadron in Hodson's Horse and a Sikh squadron was swapped for a Kaimkhani squadron in the Poona Horse. Similar exchanges were made in the infantry.
Post Mutiny
Principal Campaigns and Battles
1857 Delhi
1878 - 80 Afghanistan
1878 Ali Masjid
1879 Kabul
Punjab Frontier
Punjab Frontier
Guides Cavalry
Khan Baghdadi
1917 - 1918 Mesopotamia
North West Frontier
1915 India
Bir Hacheim
Minqar Qaim
Deir El Shein
1940 - 43 North Africa
Guides Infantry 5th Bn 12th FF
1915 - 1918 Mesopotamia
North West Frontier
1914, 15, 16-18 India
1919 Afghanistan
Predecessor Units
Corps of Guides
(1847 - 1857)
1st Nasiri Local Battalion
(1823 - 1850)
The Corps of Guides, Frontier Force
(1857 - 1876)
The Queen's Own Corps of Guides, Punjab Frontier Force
(1876 - 1904)
Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force) (Lumsden's)
(1911 - 1914)
Successor Units - Cavalry
Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force) (Lumsden's) Cavalry
(1914 - 1922)
10th Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides Cavalry (Frontier Force)
(1922 - 1927)
The Guides Cavalry (10th Queen Victoria's Own Frontier Force)
(1927 - 1947)
Successor Units - Infantry
Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force) (Lumsden's) Infantry
(1914 - 1922)
5th Bn (QVO Corps of Guides) 12th Frontier Force Regiment
(1922 - 1947)
Post-Independence Fate
To Pakistan
Far Pavilions
Suggested Reading
The Story of the Guides
by Col. G. J. Younghusband

India's Army
by Donovan Jackson

Regiments and Corps of the British Army: A Critical Bibliography
by Roger Perkins

Sons of John Company
by John Gaylor

Armies of India
Painted by Lovett, Text by Macmunn

The Indian Army
by Boris Mollo

Forces of the British Empire
by E. Nevins and B. Chandler

Indian Army Uniforms - Infantry
by W. Y. Carman

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by Stephen