Persia 1857 and Indian Mutiny Defence of Lucknow First Relief Force pair awarded to Private John Sproson, surname also spelt Sprossam, 78th Regiment of Foot - the Seaforth Highlanders, formerly 80th Regiment of Foot - the Staffordshire Volunteers, who was originally present with the 80th Foot in Burma during the Pegu Campaign in the Second Burma War which lasted from 28th March 1852 to 30th June 1853, taking part in the capture of Prome. Having transferred to the 78th Seaforth Highlanders in July 1854, he then went on to see service during the campaign in Persia in 1857, when his regiment particularly distinguished itself in leading the attack at the battle of Khushab and at Mohammerrah. Returning to India on the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny, he was then present in the recapture of Cawnpore in July 1857, and then took part in the reinforcement of Lucknow as part of Sir Henry Havelock’s first relief force in September 1857, and then formed part of the defence of that place. His regiment gained eight awards of the Victoria Cross for the Mutiny.
India General Service Medal 1854-1895, 1 Clasp: Persia; (JOHN SPROSSAM, 78TH REGT.); Indian Mutiny Medal 1857-1859, 2 Clasps: Lucknow, Defence of Lucknow; (J. SPROSON. 78TH. HIGHLANDERS)
Condition: light contact wear, about Good Very Fine.
John Sproson, surname also spelt Sprossam, was born in Ashbury, near Congleton, Cheshire, and having worked as a weaver, originally attested for service with the British Army at Macclesfield on 20th March 1843, joining as a Private (No.3286) the 80th Regiment of Foot - the Staffordshire Volunteers, and went on to see 21 years and 5 days service with the Colours, of which 14 years and 9 months were spent on overseas service in India.
Sproson was present out in India and saw active service in Burma during the Pegu Campaign in the Second Burma War which lasted from 28th March 1852 to 30th June 1853, taking part in the capture of Prome. There is no evidence other that a statement on his discharge, that he however successfully claimed the medal with clasp Pegu, as by then he had transferred to another regimental.
Tried by Regimental Court Martial on 15th March 1853 for having been drunk, breaking from confinement, and disobedience, and was convicted and sentenced to 42 days imprisonment with hard labour. On 1st July 1854 Sproson volunteered for transfer to the 78th Regiment of Foot - the Seaforth Highlanders, and was present in India when his regiment sailed to Persia in January 1857, and disembarked at Bushire on 1st February 1857 where his unit formed part of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, the brigade being commanded by Colonel W. Hamilton, who until recently had been commanding officer of the 78th Highlanders.
The short lived war in Persia was caused by various political miscalculations by both the Persians and the British, and was triggered by the annexation of the Afghanistan city of Herat by the Persians on 25th October 1856, a city that was considered to be the key to Afghanistan. The British declared war on 1st November 1856 and instead of an expected land based invasion, the British decided to retaliate both on land and at sea. On 9th December, the fort at Reshire was captured at the expense of 11 killed in action and 29 wounded. The first Victoria Cross to the Indian Army was awarded for this action.
On the 10th, an Indian Naval Squadron commanded by Commodore Young bombarded Bushire in the Persian Gulf, which surrendered. On the arrival of Major General Sir James Outram with an expeditionary force, and advance was made inland from Bushire to Borasjoon, where many stores were captured on 8th February 1857. On the same day, during their immediate withdrawal, the force was attacked at Koosh-ab and the Persians were heavily defeated. British casualties were 16 killed in action and 56 wounded with two Victoria Crosses being awarded, both to the officers of the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry. After his return to Bushire, Outram left Major General Stalker to hold the town, whilst he crossed the Persian Gulf and advanced up the Euphrates delta to Mohammerrah, some 60 miles inland. Here on 26th March 1857, the Navy bombarded the Persian positions and forts. Naval casualties were 5 killed in action and 18 wounded. After a short while the enemy positions were either silenced or completely destroyed, and troops were landed under Brigadier General Havelock, who promptly entered the city, captured a further large supply of stores. He very generously gave full credit for the ease with which he accomplished his mission to the navy, who in turn owed its immunity from heavy casualties to the foresight of the Acting Commodore James Rennie, who gave orders for the bombarding ships to be surrounded with trusses of hay!
The Persians withdrew to Akwaz, about 100 miles up the Karoon River, where they were again attacked by a combined expedition, the navy under Acting Commodore Rennie and a small force composed of about 300 men from the 64th and 78th Foot under Captain G.H. Hunt, 78th Foot. The town was captured with no British casualties on 1st April 1857, after which the force returned to Mohammerrah, where it learnt that peace had been signed in Paris on 4th March, under the terms of which Herat was to be evacuated by the Perians. 900 men from the 78th Highlanders received the Persia clasp to the India General Service Medal, and the regiment had particularly distinguished itself in leading the attack at the battle of Khushab (Koosh-ab) and at Mohammerrah.
With the Indian Mutiny having broken out, Sproson was then posted with his regiment back to India, and took part in the recapture of Cawnpore in July 1857, and then took part in the reinforcement of Lucknow as part of Sir Henry Havelock’s first relief force.
Three times Havelock’s force advanced for the relief of the Lucknow, but was twice held back rather than risk fighting with troops wasted by battle and disease. Reinforcements arrived at last under Outram, and Havelock was able to capture Lucknow on 25th September 1857. However, a second rebel force arrived and besieged the town again. This time Havelock and his troops were caught inside the blockade.
The 78th Highlanders, who numbered 640 men, then strongly defending the residency until it was relieved on 22nd November 1857. Under the command of Colonel Robert Napier the regiment attacked and successfully took the Philips Garden Battery from the rebels on 2nd October 1857, and then defended the Philips Garden Battery in what was known as the ‘Philips Garden Piquet’. In all eight officers and men of the 78th Highlanders received the Victoria Cross for their bravery during the Indian Mutiny. Sproson was allowed an additional year added to his service for being present in the defence of Lucknow.
On 21st January 1858 Sproson was tried and convicted for habitual drunkenness, and was again so on 23rd March 1859. For the remainder of his career he was on and off in trouble for either drunkenness or absence, being tried six times by Court Martial in all, and he was eventually discharged on 29th December 1868