THE INDIAN ORDER of MERIT

AWARDS TO INDIAN REGIMENTS

GIRISHK, MAIWAND & KANDAHAR

 

Richard J. Stacpoole-Ryding

___________________________________________________________

 

                                   

Following the action at Girishk on 14 July 1880 and the battle of Maiwand on 27 July 1880, reports and narratives were written by the officers of the various regiments that were present that also included mention of particular acts of bravery and gallantry performed by various individuals. In general, it would be fair to say, the most well known and recorded awards are those made to the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment and E Battery, B Brigade Royal Horse Artillery, who were awarded seven Distinguished Conduct Medals and two Victoria Crosses and eight     Distinguished Conduct Medals respectively.

 

However, wrongly in the author’s opinion, there has been a tendency to ignore the bravery and gallantry of the Indian Army regiments who were also present at Girishk and Maiwand. There may be many reasons why, perhaps one being the fact that the Indian infantry regiments broke under the pressure of the Afghan forces and caused the subsequent rout of Burrows column and this has possibly clouded the issue. That aside, a considerable number of awards for gallantry were made to native soldiers with the only award being available to them being the Indian Order of Merit.

 

A brief introduction and description of the award may be helpful here.

The Indian Order of Merit, or Order of Merit as it was known until 1903 and then renamed, was introduced by the Honourable East India Company in 1837 and was the only gallantry medal available to native soldiers between 1837 and 1907 when the Indian Distinguished Service Medal was introduced. The Victoria Cross was opened to native soldiers in 1911. In 1944 the order was reduced to one class. The medal was divided into two divisions, Military and Civil and then into three classes. It is the Military Class that the Indian Army would have been entitled to.

The working of the order is quite peculiar. In the first instance a recipient would be awarded the 3rd class and then if recommended for a further award would be advanced up a class. As always there are exceptions to the rule. Some recipients were awarded a higher class if they had performed more than a single act of bravery or gallantry without having been awarded a lower one. All recipients of the IOM received an increase in their pay and pensions. These increments to salary and pensions were highly prized and valued. The order became obsolete in 1947.

This paper is concerned with the awards appropriate to the IOM issued between 1837 -1912, after which some changes in the appearance were made and therefore not of interest to this paper.

The Indian Order of Merit, in general, can be described as follows:

Obverse : An eight pointed star with a dark blue enameled center which is dome shaped with two crossed sabers in the centre and a legend surrounding the sabers with the central circular area surrounded by a wreath.

Reverse : A central screw-nut, securing the central circular dome, and directly above this the name of the award and class. Generally the awards were not officially named, but unofficially named awards have been known either in the English or Indian language.

Ribbon : Dark blue with crimson edges. Attached to the ribbon would be a clawed buckle in the same metal as the star.

Each class of medal is slightly different to the other as described below:

First Class

A gold 41mm, sometimes silver-gilt, star  with gold wreath, the center domed and in dark blue enamel with two crossed sabers in the center surrounded by the legend “REWARD OF VALOR”. The award is suspended from the ribbon by an unusual curvaceous suspender. The spelling of Valor is quite unusual and not the normal spelling as may have been expected.

Only 42 awards of the Indian Order of Merit 1st Class were made in the period 1837-1912.

Second Class

A silver 41mm star and gold wreath. It is otherwise identical to the First Class award.

Third Class

A silver 41mm star with a silver wreath. It is otherwise identical to the First and Second Class awards.

The awards to recipients were promulgated in GGO’s with citations setting out the circumstances that led to the IOM being awarded. The awards are listed below and, where appropriate, includes additional information recorded from various sources that helps to complete the picture.

GGO 59/4 Feb 1881

 

Ressaidar Dhowkul Sing

3rd Bombay Light Cavalry

 

Promoted to 2nd Class

For conspicuous gallantry in action near the Helmand on the 14th July 1880, in riding up under heavy fire and rescuing a sowar of the 3rd Sind Horse, whose horse had fallen with him near the enemy’s guns.

Promoted to 1stClass

For conspicuous gallantry during the retreat from Maiwand on the 27th July 1880 (on which occasion he was instrumental in saving the life of Lieutenant-Colonel H S Anderson, 1st Bombay Native Infantry, who was severely wounded), and in the attack on the village of Deh Khojah near Kandahar on the 16th August 1880.

 

Ressaidar Dhowkul Sing was the only man to be awarded the IOM 1st class during this particular phase of the Afghan campaign. His award of the 2nd class IOM was his part in the action against the Wali’s mutinyering troops at Girishk. His promotion to 1st class was gallantry in further actions, Maiwand and Deh Khojoh near Kandahar during the siege.  His actions at Maiwand are described by Lieutenant-Colonel Horace Searle Anderson in his official report dated 6 November 1880. Anderson had been severely wounded by an enemy shell and was being carried off the battlefield by some of his men who got him safely across the large ravine near Munderbad. Anderson now takes up the story:

 

When they got me across the nallah, Ressaidar Dhowkul Sing, 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry (the same Native officer who, I believe, saved the present Sir Evelyn Wood’s life in 1857-8), galloped up with four troopers, placed me on a pony and escorted me safely to a gun, when Captain Slade, Royal Horse Artillery, whose kindness to me during that awful retreat words cannot express, ordered me to be placed on a limber.

 

Sing’s recommendation, dated 28 January 1881, for the Order of Merit 1st class was made by Captain J. F. Willoughby who was in temporary command of the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry following the arrest, pending court marshal, of Major A. Currie on charges of cowardice and disobeying orders at Maiwand. Interestingly Willoughby also recommended Sing (and two others) for the, quote, British India (Banadár) for long, faithful and distinguished service. This award is better known as the Order of British India and awarded to native officers of the Indian Army. The recipient was entitled to use the post-nominal letters OBI.

 

There is no trace of what he did to be admitted to the 3rd class of the IOM prior to his promotion to the 2nd and 1st class.

 

GGO 60/4 Feb 1881

 

Naik  813 Rughbur Misser

3rd Bombay Light Cavalry

 

Admitted to 3rd Class

For conspicuous gallantry and coolness during the retreat from Maiwand on the        27th July 1880.

 

Misser’s recommendation, dated 28 January 1881, for the Order of Merit 3rd class was made, as in Dhowkal Sing’s case, by Captain J. F. Willoughby who was in temporary command of the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry following the arrest, pending court marshal, of Major A. Currie on charges of cowardice and disobeying orders at Maiwand.

 

 

Ressaidar Shaik Jamal

Kot-Daffadar 240 Abdoolla Khan

Daffadar 361 Sarfaraz Khan

Lance-Naik 378 Bishun Sing

Lance-Naik 502 Jaimul Sing

Trumpeter 266 Soonder Sing

Sowar 142 Beer Sing

Sowar 229 Lena Sing

Sowar 255 Jowala Sing

3rd Sind Horse

 

Admitted to 3rd Class

For conspicuous gallantry during the retreat from Maiwand on the 27th July 1880, in keeping off parties of the enemy’s cavalry who were in pursuit, and saving the lives of many wounded and exhausted men.

 

 

Lance-Naik 71 Shaik Abdoolla

Private 639 Abdoolla Khan

Private 397 Saiad Mahomed

No. 2 Coy Bombay Sappers & Miners

 

Admitted to 3rd Class

For conspicuous gallantry in the attack on Deh Khojah near Kandahar on the 16th August 1880, in endeavouring to rescue the late Captain G M Cruikshank, RE, on that officer falling severely wounded. In doing this Saiad Mahomed andAbdoolla Khan were themselves wounded, the latter severely in three places.

 

 

GGO 222/4 Mar 1881

 

Havildar 2 Ganda Sing

Private 1057 Bhagwan Sing

1st Bombay Native Infantry (Grenadiers)

 

Admitted to 3rd Class

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion in and after the battle of Maiwand on the 27th July 1880, on which occasion the save the life of Lieutenant-Colonel H S Anderson, carrying him off the field on his falling severely wounded at the close of the action.

Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson recorded the actions of these two native soldiers in his report dated 6 November 1880 thus:

 

As I was retiring, a part of the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry, under Captain Mayne, charged in the rear of us and cut up many of the enemy. The cavalry came too close to us; the infantry continued retiring without formation.

 

I was then hit by pieces of a shell in six places, one wound being severe, - Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith, Second-in-command, being near me. Immediately I was hit the men as per margin carried me to the rear, and put me into a dúlí, which they carried themselves across the nallah, defending me against the enemy.

The names listed in the margin of the report were as follows:

 

General No2        Havildar Ganga Sing

                 875    Private Mansaram Sing

                 1386  Private Babaráo Kaleykar

                 51      Private Shaik Ali Bux

                 1057  Private Bagwhan Sing

 

Although five native soldiers were listed, and presumably recommended for an award only two were finally given any recognition. One must wonder why this happened and perhaps were other factors that are not available that swayed the decision for the remaining three not to receive an award.

 

 

GGO 478/26 Aug 1881

 

Sowar 853 Burma Deen

3rd Bombay Light Cavalry

 

Admitted to 3rd Class

For conspicuous gallantry in action at Maiwand on the 27th July 1880, in having, under a heavy fire, when Brigadier-General Burrows’ horse was killed under him, promptly dismounted and given his own horse to the Brigadier-General, though he was himself at the time badly wounded.

 

Interestingly Burrows made no mention of this action in either his dispatches or narrative, so Deen’s recommendation may have been made by another officer who witnessed the incident or by Burrows himself in a separate memorandum.

 

GGO 59/3 Feb 1882

 

Woordie-Major Shaik Amir Ali

3rd Sind Horse

 

Admitted to 3rd Class

Firstly, for exhibiting great coolness and presence of mind before the enemy during the retreat from Maiwand on the 27th July 1880;

Secondly, for his energy and gallantry at the attack on Deh Khoja near Kandahar on 16th August 1880; and

Thirdly, for gallantry displayed at the battle of Mazra, Kandahar on the 1st September 1880.

 

GO 356/23 Jun 1882

 

Subadar-Major Hyder Khan

Havilda (now Jemadar) Heera Sing

Naik Suddu Sing

Bugler Chuddo Beg

30th Bombay Native Infantry (Jacob’s Rifles)

 

Admitted to 3rd Class

For conspicuous gallantry and coolness during the retreat from Maiwand on the 27th July 1880.

 

The undermentioned men, also from Jacob’s Rifles, who were killed in that action would, if they had lived, have been admitted to the 3rd Class:

 

Havildar-Major Brindaban

Quartermaster-Havildar Futteychund

Private Goolam Mahomed

Bugler Suddu Sing

 

The widows of Private Goolam Mahomed and Bugler Suddu Sing and, as a special case, the daughter of Havildar-Major Brindaban will be allowed to draw the usual Order of Merit pension for three years from the 27th July 1880.

 

It has been noted that in other sources Quartermaster-Havildar Futteychund is recorded as 173 Quartermaster-Havildar Futteh Chund; Private Goolam Mahomed as 1537 Private Goolam Mahomed and Bugler Suddu Sing as Bugler Sudda Sing.

 

It is curious that the GO mentions the names of four men who were killed in action but if they had survived the battle of Maiwand would have been admitted to the 3rd Class of the IOM. It is quite obvious that their actions were gallant enough to be mentioned and probably recommended for recognition. The author is not entirely sure, but there is a strong possibility that there was no clause in the IOM warrant that allowed posthumous awards and as mention-in-dispatches were not available to ordinary ranks then the next best source for recognition was a mention in GO’s.

 

It would seem that two of the ‘mentioned’ men were married and therefore their widows were entitled to a pension. What is unusual is the fact that the daughter of Havildar-Major Brindaban was a special case for receiving a pension. Why? The official reason is not known, but speculation would suggest that perhaps Brindaban was widowed and so the pension was passed onto his daughter as a special case now being orphaned.

 

From a medal collectors point of interest, to the author’s knowledge, none of the IOMs awarded to the above recipients have been seen on the auction scene. If any reader knows different then please forward details to the editor so an entry can be made on the Maiwand Medal Tracker.

 

The number of gallantry awards to Indian troops for their actions in Girishk and Maiwand totals 27. This is in comparison with 17 gallantry awards that were awarded to British troops. There appears to be no real reason for the difference in total awards issued between British and Indian troops. All who received such awards showed extreme bravery and gallantry under overwhelming odds and difficult circumstances.

 

The following table shows a breakdown of the awards issued including those to next of kin.

 

Breakdown of Indian Order of Merit Awards

 

Regiment

1st Class

2nd Class

3rd Class

3rd Bombay Light Cavalry

1*

1*

2

 

 

 

 

3rd Sind Horse

 

 

9 + 1**

 

 

 

 

No.2 Company Bombay Sappers & Miners

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

1st Bombay Native Infantry (Grenadiers)

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

30th Bombay Native Infantry (Jacob’s Rifles)

 

 

5+3**

 

* Same Man

** Awards given to next of kin

 

References:

 

Abbott P.E. & Tamplin J.M.A.: British Gallantry Awards. Guinness Superlatives Ltd. Enfield 1971.

Farrington, Anthony: The Second Afghanistan War 1878-1880 Casualty Roll. London Stamp Exchange Ltd. London 1986

Haynes, Edward S: The Indian Order of Merit.

Reports and Narratives of Officers, who were engaged at the Battle of Maiwand – 27th July, 1880.

 

Image:

IOM 3 rd Class Award

 

 

| BACK TO CONTENTS |