The superb and important China Boxer Rebellion Relief of Pekin and subsequent Mention in Despatches, Mekran 1901 attack on Fort Nodiz Mention in Despatches, Great War Kalat, East Persia and South Persia 1914-1919 operations, end of the Great Game and commandant of the South Persia Rifles, South Persia 1919 Mention in Despatches group awarded to Major General Sir E.F. Orton, K.C.I.E., C.B., Indian Army, formerly Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who with his transfer into the Indian Army, then with the 26th Baluch Infantry, took part in the suppression of
The superb and important China Boxer Rebellion Relief of Pekin and subsequent Mention in Despatches, Mekran 1901 attack on Fort Nodiz Mention in Despatches, Great War Kalat, East Persia and South Persia 1914-1919 operations, end of the Great Game and commandant of the South Persia Rifles, South Persia 1919 Mention in Despatches group awarded to Major General Sir E.F. Orton, K.C.I.E., C.B., Indian Army, formerly Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who with his transfer into the Indian Army, then with the 26th Baluch Infantry, took part in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in the operations to relieve Pekin, and the subsequent defence against banditry of the Peking to Shanbaikwan Railway, service for which he won his first Mention. The present during the operations on the Indo-Persian border during the Mekran Expedition of 1901 to 1902, he was Mentioned in Despatches whilst on attachment to the 27th Baluch Light Infantry during the attack on Fort Nodiz on 20th December 1901, though no campaign medal was gained for this operation. Nevertheless, having then transferred to the 37th Lancers - the Baluch Horse, he was a Brigade Major at the time of the Delhi Durbar in 1911, and then went to serve under the legendary Sir Percy Sykes, as the Inspector General of South Persia and as Commandant of the South Persia Rifles during the final stages of the Imperial Great Game in that area of the work. He was involved in a number of successful actions against rebel tribesmen, not least during the South Persia operations of November 1918 to June 1919, when he assumed command of one aspect of the operations and was again Mentioned in Despatches. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1926, and from Deputy Assistant and Quarter-Master General of Southern Command in India from 1925 to 1930 and then ultimately the Deputy Quarter-Master General with Army Headquarters in India from 1931 to 1935, for which he was Knighted as a Knight Commander of The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire in the King’s Birthday Honours List for 3rd June 1935.
Group of 8: China Medal 1900, 1 Clasp: Relief of Pekin; (LIEUTT: E.F. ORTON. 26TH: BALUCH: INFY:); 1914-1915 Star; (MAJOR E.F. ORTON, 37/LANCRS.); British War Medal and Victory Medal; (LT-COL. E.F. ORTON.); General Service Medal 1918-1962, GVR Coinage bust, 1 Clasp: S. Persia; (COL. E.F. ORTON.); Delhi Durbar Medal 1911 in Silver; Jubilee Medal 1935; Coronation Medal 1937.
Condition: Good Very Fine.
Ernest Frederick Orton was born on 27th April 1874 in Dinapore, India, the second son of the Reverend F. Orton, of Hope, Derbyshire, and his wife Alice Frances, the second daughter of Captain F.H. Mickleburgh, Royal Indian Navy. Educated in Darby, and then at the Royal Military College Sandhurst, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1894, and was promoted to Lieutenant on 2nd July 1896. Orton then transferred to the Indian Staff Corps on 4th June 1897, and saw service as a Lieutenant with the 26th Baluch Infantry, Indian Army.
Orton then found himself on service in China during the Boxer Rebellion and took part in the relief of Pekin operations from 10th June to 14th August 1900, and was subsequently Mentioned in Despatches in the London Gazette for 13th September 1901, this being the despatch written by Lieutenant General Sir Alfred Gaselee, officer commanding the British Contingent of the China Expeditionary Force. This despatch covered operations confined to the repression of brigandage and the affair near Funing, and it was specifically for his work guarding the 250 miles of railway of the Peking to Shanbaikwan Railway in the period from August 1900 to February 1901, when working under Lieutenant Colonel J.R.L. Macdonald, C.B., Royal Engineers, the Director of Railways, that Orton was awarded a Mention in Despatches.
It was after his return from China that Orton then transferred to the 37th Lancers - the Baluch Horse, and he also took part in the Mekran Expedition on the North West Frontier in 1901 to 1902, including the capture of Fort Nodiz, being once again Mentioned in Despatches for gallant and distinguished service, award for his action when serving on attachment to the 27th Baluch Light Infantry and in command of fifty medal in the capture of Fort Nodiz on 20th December 1901.
In an attempt to control banditry along their common border during the cold weather of 1901-1902, the Persian government agreed to co-operate with British forces. Local Lieutenant-Colonel H.L. Showers, Political Agent at Kalat, and his escort party moved to meet the Persians on the border. The escort commander was Major M.J. Tighe, D.S.O., 27th Baluchis. The troops in the escort were: 27th Baluch Light Infantry, comprising 300 rifles; 5th Bombay Cavalry - Scinde Horse (fifty sabres); a section of the 9th Murree Mountain Battery with two 7-pounder guns, and a detachment of Bombay Sappers and Miners, twenty-one all ranks from No. 4 Company.
On 16th December 1901, Captain Showers’ party arrived in Turbat and met Colonel C.E. Yate, the Agent to the Governor-General Baluchistan. Colonel Yate stated that cross-border outlaws had seized Nodiz Fort which was located about eight miles west of Kalatak. The Nazim of Kej and his forces had been besieging the fort for over fifty days, but without artillery they could not assault it. Major Tighe was requested to assist the Nazim’s forces.
The following day Major Tighe went to reconnoitre Nodiz Fort, accompanied by Lieutenant J.B. Corry, Royal Engineers, commanding the Bombay Sappers and Miners detachment. The Nazim showed them the fort which was a substantial one, and Major Tighe decided that he needed the guns to be brought up before an assault commenced. On 19th December, reconnaissances were made by all the infantry officers, and the next day at 09.00 hours the guns arrived under the command of Lieutenant E.G. Hart, Royal Artillery. The gunners were given an hour to rest before the assault began.
In the Camp Orders for the assault on Fort Nodiz, it states: ‘Fifty rifles under Lieutenant Orton will push their way to the east side of the fort and occupy the mosque which is outside the fort, or take up such a position as will prevent the enemy escaping.’
Lieutenants Grant and Corry raced to be the first through the narrow breach, which only allowed one man at a time to pass through. Naik Baryam Singh and Sapper Noor Din, both Grant’s men, followed them through and this quartet killed eight of the enemy before the defenders organised a response. By this time, Subedar Hamid Khan, 27th Baluchis, with about thirty of his men, had also entered the fort. An enemy sniper in the tower above put down effective fire onto the attackers, and enemy groups wielding swords counter-attacked both flanks. This resulted in Grant and Corry and three sepoys being shot and wounded. Unable to hold their position, the storming party dragged their wounded and the loose rifles back through the breach. The first assault had been repulsed.
Major Tighe then ordered his infantry up to the fort walls, and the sepoys used their bayonets to rive loop-holes through which they could shoot. The guns were ordered forward into a date grove only 100 yards from the fort. Here they had line-of-sight to the forts’ roofs – the weak points. The roofs were shelled until they were set on fire, causing them to collapse onto the defenders. Major Tighe’s bugler sounded ‘Cease Fire’ and then ‘Attack,’ and Captain Hulseberg and his Baluch infanteers swarmed into the fort again, quickly overcoming opposition. The surviving sixty-three defenders surrendered inside the fort or to Lieutenant Orton on the east side. Fourteen enemy dead and seventeen wounded lay on the floor of the fort. Thirty-three of the captured enemy were Persian.
During the assault, Major Tighe’s force expended 154 artillery shells, 1,830 rifle rounds and thirty-six pistol rounds. The action was over at 13.25 hours. The force had lost three sepoys killed, two British officers and six sepoys severely wounded, with a few more men slightly wounded. The fort was now knocked down with gun-cotton.
Orton was one of five officers to be Mentioned in Despatches for the assault on Fort Nodiz on 20th December 1901.
The next stage in operations was for Colonel Showers to make contact with a Persian delegation at Bampur on the Indo-Persian border in order to agree upon joint measures to limit lawlessness in Mekran. In effect, the Political Agent’s Escort became a flying column of all arms, with a total strength of close to 600 officers, other ranks and followers. Hampered by a train of more than four thousand camels required to carry the requisite ammunition and provisions for man and beast, it stretched back over ten miles. As it progressed through the harsh Baluchistan landscape, it carried out a number of diversions to survey the territory. It was fortunate that the country was generally quiet, the fall of Nodiz having made a deep impression on the local tribesmen. They were plentifully armed with magazine rifles acquired via Muscat, mostly manufactured by B.S.A. in Birmingham, and it would have been difficult to protect the column’s lengthy tail from well prepared ambush.
Forts linked with known bandits were destroyed en route, and there was only one place that threatened to put up any resistance. Near to the meeting point with the Persians was the fort of Magas, still in outlaw hands. The Persians had been unable to negotiate the surrender of the fort, but when the British troops approached the defenders melted away into the surrounding hills. From their supposedly safe retreats, the bandits continued to menace the loyal sirdars, and Colonel Showers took the time to send the sirdars help. One of the more dangerous episodes in this process took place near Magas on the 9th February 1902.
Havildar Subhay Khan, 27th Buluch Light Infantry, with a party of thirteen men, had been sent by Colonel Showers from Magas to assist the sirdars. Taking with him three days’ food, he boldly proceeded into the hills and coming across a party of the enemy who fired at him, promptly attacked and dispersed them, killing five and wounding four. Continuing his advance, he captured over 300 head of animals, all of which he brought in safely to Magas. It was a swift and bold raid against an enemy, who imagined himself secure in his mountain fastness, and it had a most salutary effect. For his gallantry and leadership, the havildar was advanced to the 2nd Class Indian Order of Merit. By the time the Escort returned to its depots, the infantry had marched distances varying from 1,200 to 2,000 miles. In their turn, the cavalry was proud to report that they had covered eighteen hundred miles in six months and had not lost a single horse or mule.
Having been promoted to Captain, Orton was serving back in England at the Staff College at Camberley during 1906 to 1907 being then appointed a Staff Captain on the Divisional Staff on 15th November 1908, before being appointed a Brigade Major with the Brigade Staff on 16th June 1910, and was then appointed a General Staff Officer 2nd Grade with the General Staff Branch on 1st April 1911, before being again being appointed a Brigade Major with the Brigade Staff on 20th May 1911, in which role he took part in the Delhi Durbar in 1911.
Orton was promoted to Major on 7th March 1912, and was then once again appointed a General Staff Officer 2nd Grade with the General Staff Branch on 15th November 1912. Shortly before the outbreak of the Great War, Orton was appointed a Deputy Assistant Adjutant General on 1st July 1914, and was subsequently then appointed an Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General on 20th February 1917.
During the Great War, Orton saw service on operations in Kalat and East Persia from 1915 onwards, and then South Persia as Inspector General, and it was here where he first came into contact with Sir Percy Sykes, being on special employment from 29th October 1917 as a Major and temporary Lieutenant Colonel holding the rank of temporary Colonel, and from 1st April 1918 retained this rank whilst on service as a Deputy Inspector General. Orton was officially promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 26th September 1918, and was promoted to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel in the London Gazette for 22nd March 1919, this being an award for his services in Kalat and East Persia. Then in the London Gazette for 9th June 1919, as a reward for ‘distinguished services rendered in connection with military operations on the Indian Frontier’, he was awarded the rank of Brevet Colonel, this being for his time spent as a Deputy Inspector General in East Persia.
It was his time spent in South Persia from 1915 onwards and including the operations in South Persia from 12th November 1918 to 3rd June 1919 that would be Orton’s greatest military service, when heavily involved in the dealings of Sir Percy Sykes. Orton was Sykes’ second in command initially but later rose to overall command of the South Persia Rifles, and was also for a period in command of the South Persia operations in 1919, having taken over from Sir Percy Sykes. With the South Persia Rifles, Orton was involved in operations against the local tribes.
The book ‘Persia in the Great Game - Sir Percy Sykes - Explorer, Consul, Soldier, Spy’ by Anthony Winn, mentions Orton on a number of pages. Of his time with the South Persia Rifles, Winn described Orton from 1917 onwards, as ‘a thoroughly competent British officer of the old school’ who took a dim view of the ‘well born Persians, who were too full of vices, too lazy to learn and inordinately conceited, always quick to think they knew everything there was to learn’. For the British efforts to raise the South Persia Rifles, Sykes having been given a free hand but having still failed to produce a budget therefore leading to much acrimonious correspondence with the Viceroy of India, ‘Orton, an experienced administrator, produced an acceptable plan.’ It was Sir Percy Sykes and Orton who did so much to instil British influence into the region.
The British formed the South Persia Rifles in response to German influence in southern Iran in 1915 and early 1916. The German agents influenced tribal groups who were already in rebellion against the British. As a result, the British had to divert troops to Iran rather than Ottoman Iraq. The South Persia Rifles was a measure to use locally raised troops rather than British or Indian units, so that the latter could be sent to the main campaign against the Ottomans in Iraq. With the assent of the Shah’s government, the British were allowed to form a military force of up to 11,000 men to quell the resistive tribes and maintain order.
Sir Percy Sykes was selected by the British to command the new force. In March 1916 he landed in Bandar-Abbas with a few British officers and non-commissioned officers, a company of Indian soldiers, and quantities of weapons and ammunition to equip the troops he recruited. Most of his early recruits came from pro-British tribes. Sykes and his men spread out to cities in southern Iran such as Yazd, Esfahan, and Shiraz, as well as Bandar-Abbas. Through the summer and fall of 1916 the South Persia Rifles conducted what to the British were mopping up operations. Sykes also gained formal recognition for the Rifles from the Iranian government.
By December 1916, the South Persia Rifles had brigades located at Shiraz, Kerman, and Bander-Abbas. Sykes had about 3,300 infantry and 450 cavalry, as well as a few artillery pieces and a machine gun. Training, equipment and organisation was along the lines of the British Indian Army. Winter closed many roads and brought the Rifles relief from tribal attacks. Sykes used the time to train his forces. In 1917, Sykes reached an agreement with the Qashqai tribe, ending their raids, allowing him to focus on other resistive tribes. The Rifles went after the tribes in their strongholds as well as their crops and livestock, crippling them logistically so they could not continue to raid British supply lines and garrisons.
By June 1917, the government that had agreed to the establishment of the Rifles fell, and the new prime minister and cabinet would not recognize them. Iranian attitudes towards the Rifles changed, and by late 1917 there was intense hostility towards the Rifles and the British. The British even approached the United States with a proposal to take the Rifles over, but the US declined due to a lack of officers who could speak the language or were knowledgeable about Iran.
In 1918 word of the worsening situation on the Western Front in France affected the morale of the Iranians in the Rifles and many deserted. The tribes in southern Iran became bolder, attacking Rifle outposts. The strength of the Rifles in April of that year was about 7,000. Iranian resentment towards the Rifles only increased over time. Shia mullahs played a role in encouraging resistance to the British. The Shiraz brigade experienced poor morale, especially amongst the former genderamie in its ranks. That limited its use, and it was nearly disbanded. Desertions greatly reduced the size of the Fars brigade. The Kerman brigade remained loyal. Eventually more regular British units had to be sent to reinforce the Rifles. By October 1918, most tribal resistance had been broken.
After the war, the British continued to maintain the Rifles. In the years after the war, Iran was trying to recreate its armed forces and control internal unrest. While the British supported the development of a new army to keep out the new threat of Soviet influence, they realized that in the long run, the Iranians would not accept an army based on the Rifles, an organization run by foreigners. Even so, the British were not willing to see it merged into the new Iranian Army. In 1921, they disbanded the South Persia Rifles. Many former officers and NCOs from the South Persian Rifles later joined the new Iranian Army.
For the post Great War overflow of operations against the rebel tribesmen at or near Bandar Abbas between 12th November 1918 and 3rd June 1919, the British and Persian forces were frequently engaged to assist the Persian Government in restoring and maintaining order. The priority being also to maintain a line of communication open for Sir Percy Sykes mission between Shiraz and the coast at Bandar Abbas. However back in early 1918 it became necessary to bring in Indian troops to assist, as the conflict in Mesopotamia against the Turks was by then winding down, and Bolshevism was on the rise. The influx of Indian troops however then caused a number of desertions from units within the Persian forces to occur owing to old propaganda sewn by the Germans and besmirching the reputation of the Indian troops. Some then rebelled, and known as the Saulat’s forces, after their leader who was pro German, and they actively engaged the British and Indian Forces and therefore posed a hindrance to Sir Percy Sykes Mission, which by then was more concerned with the rise of Bolshevism than the by then mostly defeated German influence. The rebellion was then fairly swiftly handled by Orton and Sykes.
As a result of Saulat’s lack of success and also with the imminent defeat of Germany, the end of June and the beginning of July 1918 saw many defections from the previously pro-German Saulat’s Forces which dwindled to about 1000 men. On 8th July 1918 an Indian column from Shiraz, under the command of Colonel Orton, decisively defeated this remnant near Chinas Rahdar.
Saulat however was not defeated, and by the middle of October 1918 had again collected about 2200 men. He then advanced against Kushk Fort, and besieged Sardar Ehtesham and his escort of South Persia Rifles some 69 miles from Shiraz. Orton lead a column of 1400 Indian troops out of Shiraz on 20th October and on the 23rd and 24th October 1918 actively engaged the enemy near Firuzabad. After a severe fight the Saulat was decisively defeated, his losses including about 150 killed, a hundred of which occurred in once place, where two companies of the Burma Military Police Mounted Infantry intercepted his line of retreat. This action finally broke the Saulat’s power, and out of a following of about 2,200, only 350 accompanied him in his flight westwards to Farrashband. The day following however a severe outbreak of influenza occurred amongst Orton’s troops, and this resulted in the loss of 227 men our of a total of 1410. The South Persia Rifles detachment suffered more severely still, and in the surrounding districts the mortality amounted in some cases to from 60 to 80 percent. The measures taken to cope with the epidemic during the return march of the column from Firzabad to Shiraz reflected great credit on all ranks, who showed a high standard of discipline and devotion to duty in most trying circumstances. Colonel Orton himself was one of those who suffered severely from the outbreak of influenza but survived. As a result of the depletion of his unit owing to illness, it could therefore not assist the forces of Major General J.A. Douglas, who was also operating in the region and known as the Bushire Field Force, attempting to open up the route from Bushire to Shiraz, and were attempting to complete the operations during the winter, in a season which would have only increased the risk of further casualties from influenza. It was not till early 1919 that Orton returning to operations warding off tribesmen between Shiraz and Bandar Abbas.
For the operations in South Persia and his time as Inspector General of South Persia, Orton was once again Mentioned in Despatches, having already received the Brevets of Lieutenant Colonel, and then Colonel.
Orton was then promoted to temporary Brigadier General and posted back to India on being appointed the Brigade Commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade located in the Khyber Pass between 25th October 1920 and 1922. During this time he relinquished his temporary rank of Brigadier General and then held the rank of temporary Colonel Commandant with the same brigade from 1st January 1921, and was confirmed in the full rank of Colonel with seniority back dated to 1st January 1919 on 28th June 1922. Shortly afterwards he assumed command of the 22nd Indian Infantry Brigade at Secunderabad, which position he held during 1923 to 1924, and on 25th October 1924 was placed on the unemployed list, having latterly held the rank of Colonel and Local Major General. Orton was full promoted to Major General on 20th February 1925.
Orton was then restored to full pay and appointed Deputy Assistant and Quarter-Master General on 14th March 1925, and then assumed this position with Southern Command in India from 27th August 1926. In that same year Orton was appointed a Companion of Military Division of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath. Orton was appointed to the honorary title of Colonel of the 15th Lancers - Cureton’s Multanis on 18th May 1928, but then relinquished his position as Deputy Assistant and Quarter-Master General of Southern Command on 27th August 1930, and was once again transferred to the Unemployed List on 19th October 1930. Restored to full pay again on 24th August 1931, he was them appointed Deputy Quarter-Master General with Army Headquarters in India on 26th October 1931, his final position which he held till 1935, service for which he was Knighted as a Knight Commander of The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire in the Birthday Honours List as published in the London Gazette for 3rd June 1935. Major General Sir E.F. Orton, K.C.I.E., C.B., officially retired on 13th July 1935, and on 27th April 1941 officially attained the age limit which prevented him from any further re-employment. Orton published the book ‘Links with Past Ages’ in 1935, and latterly lived in Guildford, Surrey.
A number of copied images of Orton exist amongst the research, and a portrait of him is housed in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.