In Collaboration With Charles Griffin

The date of the raising of the regiment is held to be 1794 when the 2nd Battalion Berar Infantry in the Aurangabad Division came into being. This Division comprised the army of the Nizam of Hyderabad whose domain covered a large part of the Deccan in Central India. In the 18th century the Deccan was the playground of the Mahrattas, a horde of mounted outlaws who terrorised the villages in the rural areas. The Nizam needed an army to provide protection from these marauders. In the mid 18th century the Europeans made their presence felt in India. The English and French then embarked on a long struggle for supremacy. First one Nizam sided with the English, then a successor joined up with the French. In 1755 the French were driven further south by the British under Colonel Ford, and the Nizam, Salabat Jung, was obliged to befriend the British. In 1759 a treaty was signed by the Nizam, declaring his alliance with the British. French influence in India diminished in 1761 when Pondicherry was captured and the French army taken into captivity. However it had to be returned to France following the Treaty of Paris in 1763. It came under British control once more in 1793 and then returned again to France in 1814. In 1779 the Nizam found his territory threatened by Hyder Ali of Mysore and he sought the help of the British. An envoy, Mr Holland, was sent to the Nizam, and he became the first Resident of Hyderabad.
Monsieur Raymond’s Corps
In 1775 there arrived in Pondicherry a Frenchman named Michel Joachim Marie Raymond, known as Monsieur Raymond. His intention was to set up a shop but decided to follow a military career instead. He at first served under General Bussy but then in 1786 he was employed by the Nizam and given 300 men under his command. Ten years later he was in command of 14,000 men, led by French officers and carrying French Colours. At this time he was made Comptroller of Ordnance, and set up a foundry to forge guns and ammunition. He was one of the most respected Europeans in India at that time, and had a good relationship with the Nizam Ali Khan, Asaf Jah II who ruled from 1762 to 1803 and who was partially successful in subjugating the Mahrattas in the Deccan. Raymond died in 1798, some say under suspicious circumstances, and buried at Moosarambagh, north west of Hyderabad, with a tall obelisk of granite erected over his grave.
British Influence in Hyderabad 1798
At some point during Raymond’s generalship, the British Resident, Captain Kirkpatrick remonstrated with the Nizam who was about to grant extensive Jaghirs (tax paid by a village community to the overlord) to Raymond. Some modifications to this arrangement were made, but French influence was still strong while Raymond was in favour. When Marquess Wellesley, elder brother of Arthur Wellesley, became Governor-General of Bengal in 1798, he was determined to end French dominance at the Nizam’s court, and ordered the Resident to negotiate for the disbandment of Raymond’s Corps. The Nizam’s troops included a small British contingent, and, following the successful discussions it was settled that this should be increased to replace the French troops who were to be disbanded. The treaty was signed on 1st Sep 1798, a few months after the death of Monsieur Raymond so that he did not live to see the end of his beloved Corps which came about on 21st Oct 1798. There was a mutiny and the French officers taken hostage, but the sepoys were persuaded to surrender and many of them drafted into the British infantry battalions commanded by Colonel Finglass.
The Nizam’s Contingent 1799
97th Deccan Infantry
Sir John Malcolm
Colonel Finglass was an Irish officer who was taken into the Nizam’s service c1797 on the insistence of the British Resident, to dilute the French influence. His troops numbered only 800, but when Raymond’s Corps was disbanded, most of the sepoys were added to Finglass’s contingent so that it was brought up to a strength of 6,000. When war broke out in Mysore this body of men was sent off under the command of Mir Alum to link up with General G Harris’s army. The army was assembling to march against Tipoo Sahib, Maharajah of Mysore who was in negotiation with the French. But on the way the sepoys and their NCOs staged a protest on the banks of the Kistna River and refused to be moved. Mir Alum was unable to deal with the situation and there was a fear that the men would go over to Tipoo’s side. In January 1799 Captain John Malcolm arrived as the political officer and it was due to his bravery and forceful personality that order was restored and the men persuaded to obey their officers’ orders. The decision was made to form the contingent into battalions, the infantry to be under the command of John Malcolm. The march continued and they reached Vellore on 18 Feb 1799. There they were placed in a brigade commanded by The Hon Arthur Wellesley.

Seringapatam 17 April - 4 May 1799

The Nizam’s Contingent advanced towards Seringapatam on the flank of General Harris’s army. It was a vast horde of people, the followers outnumbered the soldiers five to one, so that, according to an eye witness:

‘The appearance of our army on the march from a neighbouring hill is truly surprising, and it may be compared with the emigration of the Israelites from Egypt. The surrounding plains and hills appear to be in motion. Herds of cattle and sheep conceal the soil, and the route of the troops is marked by the gleaming of arms and that of the battering trains by long slow inky lines.’

The siege of Seringapatam lasted just over two weeks. It seems that the Hyderabad Contingent played little part in the actual fighting. There were eleven regiments from the British Army and numerous regiments from the Bengal and Madras armies, Swiss mercenaries and a Scots brigade. General Harris, however, mentioned Captain Malcolm and the Hyderabad troops in his despatch of 9 June:

‘His activity in applying the power and resources possessed by the Contingent and the important assistance which he gave with the infantry under his immediate order in occupying posts for the security and providing covering parties for the supply of the army during the siege of Seringapatam are points of valuable service which it is incumbent on me to point out.’

Soon after this campaign John Malcolm was sent on a mission to Persia. In 1800 the Contingent was then under the command of a Spanish officer, Colonel Don Clementi. The various battalions were commanded by European officers: Ten British officers, six Portuguese, a Spaniard and a Dutchman.

The Berar Battalions and Russell’s Brigades
The province of Berar was made over to the Nizam, Secunder Jah, for helping the British in the Mysore war against the Mahrattas. In 1806 the Hyderabad Contingent was split up, two battalions in Hyderabad and four in Berar. There were two more battallions of 900 men each belonging to the Nawab Salabat Khan, Subadar of Berar, commanded by English officers. The four Berar battalions were under the command of Don Clementi and being for the most part descended from Raymond’s Corps, were clothed in French uniforms and obeyed French words of command. The British Resident in the Nizam’s court was anxious to rid the contingent of French influence, proposing the dismissal of those officers who were hostile to Britain, including Don Clementi. However, it was not until 1812 when Henry Russell was Resident, that changes were made to the Nizam’s troops. A mutiny occurred amongst the two Hyderabad battalions and after this rebellion was quelled the men who had remained faithful were drafted into two regiments raised by Russell. These regiments were organised on similar lines to the EIC regiments, and later increased to four battalions formed into 2 brigades. The four battalions in Berar were also re-organised and equipped with firearms and ammunition supplied by the EIC. Each regiment had a CO, adjutant, RSM and QM sergeant, all British. The rest of the officers, NCOs, musicians and privates, numbering almost 1,000, were all Indian.
The Pindari and Third Mahratta War 1817-19
The Governor-General of Bengal planned a campaign to neutralise the Pindaris who ravaged the countryside in the region of Madhya Pradesh. The Pindaris were mounted freebooters said to be 25,000 strong, and able to move quickly, being unencumbered by baggage or artillery. The Mahrattas were also still active and still a problem for both the administration and the villages of central India. The army of the Deccan sent up against these groups consisted of three Divisions under the command of Sir Thomas Hyslop. The Second Division was commanded by Brigadier-General Doveton, comprising Madras and Bengal regiments, Native Cavalry, European Infantry, The Royal Scots and regiments from the Berar and Hyderabad brigades. They marched towards Nagpore where the activities of the Raja, Appa Saheb, were causing concern for the British. Although in earlier times the Raja had been on good terms with the British Resident and had agreed to a treaty which restricted his communicating with other unreliable rulers, he was nevertheless in contact with both the Mahrattas and the Pindaris. The Raja was duplicitous in his dealings and it reached the point where battle lines were drawn up on 26 Nov 1817 and the battle of Sitabuldi began. The British force numbered around 1,300 while the enemy, mostly Mahrattas and Arabs, outnumbered them with a force of 12,000. Things went badly to begin with but a heroic officer, Captain Fitzgerald of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry, led his men, together with 25 men of the Madras bodyguard, against enemy cavalry. This saved the day and encouraged the sepoys of the infantry battalions to go into the attack. The enemy lost artillery which was used against them and the Raja was forced to surrender.

Nagpore, 16 Dec 1817

The Raja was told to disband his army and hand over weapons and military stores, being given until 16 Dec to comply. This 3 week period gave the British/Indian force time to be reinforced. On 5 Dec some of the Hyderabad and Berar units arrived from Amraoti under the command of Major Pitman. This was the 2nd Berar Battalion (later the 97th Deccan infantry) and the mounted troops known as the Reformed Horse. The rest of the Hyderabad/Berar Division assembled at Sitabuldi on 13 Dec. During this period there was no sign of the Raja’s army being disbanded and disarmed so the British/Indian force took up positions on 15 Dec in preparation for a battle. On the 16th the battle began with an action by the cavalry against the Raja’s artillery and cavalry. This was successfully accomplished with the help of Horse Artillery, while the infantry routed the right and centre of the enemy line, and captured their artillery. The 2nd Berar Infantry, along with the rest of the Berar troops were left to guard the baggage.

Operations 19 Dec 1817 - 24 Jan 1818

The battle of Nagpore had been won but the Arab merceneries of the Raja’s army were unwilling to surrender, and took possession of the Palace inside Nagpore. They numbered around 5,000 and were able to place men on all the approaches to the Palace so that the narrow streets were covered by rooftop snipers. The 19th and 20th Dec were spent preparing batteries for the bombardment of the town. On 21 Dec operations were suspended for negotiation but the enemy would not be moved. The next day a breach was made in the wall and an attack planned for the 24 Dec. This involved the Royal Scots together with sappers and pioneers but the attack on the breach failed. However, the Arabs had suffered casualties and were prepared to talk terms.

Meanwhile, a force of troops under a chief named Ganpat Rao was marching to the Raja’s aid from Girpur, 30 miles away. Major Pitman took the Berar Brigade, including 5 companies of the 2nd Berar Infantry to intercept Ganpat Rao’s approach. This was enough to unnerve the enemy and they dispersed without a fight. The Berar contingent remained in the area until mid January before returning to Nagpore. On 24 Jan the contingent marched home via Ellichpur. The 2nd Berar Infantry was detached with other troops to force the surrender of two forts which was a successful operation. They then had to patrol the districts of Akola and Amraoti a task that last up to the end of the year.

During this campaign the 2nd Berar Infantry suffered the loss of one Subedar and 12 men killed, 44 wounded. Major Elliot of this regiment was severely wounded. Only the Royal Scots suffered heavier losses (one officer and 29 men killed, 97 wounded). The regiment which became the 97th Deccan Infantry were the only regiment of the Berar and Hyderabad Brigade to be awarded the battle honour NAGPORE.

Post Mutiny
Post Mutiny
Principal Campaigns and Battles
Predecessor Units
3rd Battalion of the Aurangabad Division
(1794 - 1826)
4th Regiment of Infantry, Nizam's Army
(1826 - 1854)
4th Infantry, Hyderabad Contingent
(1854 - 1903)
Successor Units
3rd/19th Hyderabad Regiment
(1922 - 1947)
Post-Independence Fate
To India
Suggested Reading
History of the Hyderabad Contingent
by Reginald George Burton (Calcutta 1905)

The Long Road to Baghdad
2 vols by Edmund Candler (Cassell 1919)

History of the Deccan
by J D B Gribble (1896)

The Story of the 97th Deccan Infantry
by W C Kirkwood (Hyderabad-Deccan Government Central Press 1929)

Official History of the Campaign in Mesopotamia
4 vols by Frederick James Moberly (London HMSO 1923-27)

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