The superb Persia Expedition 1857 and Indian Mutiny Central India Field Force Battle of Betwa River 1st April 1858 casualty pair awarded to Private John Revell, 14th The King’s Light Dragoons, formerly 44th Essex Regiment of Foot, who was present with the Light Dragoons in Persia during 1857 and in action at Mohammerrah. Subsequently he went on to see extensive service during the Indian Mutiny when his regiment formed part of General Sir Hugh Rose's Central India Field Force, with Revell being confirmed as present in numerous actions, including the capture of the fortress of Rahatgarh, the action at Barodia, the capture of the fort of Garhakota and the engagement with the rebels, the forcing of the Muddenpore Pass, the Battle on the Betwa on 1st April 1858 when he was slightly wounded, the siege and capture of Jhansi where a member of his regiment won the Victoria Cross, the action of Kunch, the Battle of Gallowli, the advance on and capture of Kalpi and pursuit of the rebels, the capture of the Morar cantonments, and the recapture of the town and fortress of Gwalior.
India General Service Medal 1854-1895, 1 Clasp: Persia; (J. REVELL, 14TH. KING’S LT. DGNS:.); Indian Mutiny Medal 1857-1859, 1 Clasp: Central India; (I. REVELL. 14TH. LGT. DRGNS:)
Condition: Good Very Fine or better.
John Revell was born in Saint Margaret’s, London, and having worked as a labourer, then enlisted into the British Army at London on 4th April 1843 as a Private (No.1549) with the 44th Essex Regiment of Foot. Revell would go on to see 20 years and 22 days service with the Colours, of which 11 years and 4 months would be spent on service aboard in India.
Revell was promote to Corporal on 21st January 1857, but then transferred as a Corporal (No.2225) to the 14th Light Dragoons on 1st September 1847, but was then tried by a Detachment Court Martial on 30th December 1848 and received a fine for 20 days of 1d per day, and was reduced to Private.
Revell went on to see service out in India, and then saw active service during the operations in Persia in 1857. Herat is a region of Afghanistan, right up in the northwest corner of the country. On it's western border is Iran (Persia) and to the north is Turkmenistan, part of the Russian empire. In 1852 Persia invaded and annexed Herat, causing trouble with Britain who were keen to prevent any incursion into Afghan territory. The Persians initially withdrew but invaded again after relations between Britain and Persia deteriorated, so a military force was sent to the Persian Gulf. The objective was the capture of Bushire and the island of Kharak, war on Persia being declared on 1st Nov 1856. The expedition was led by Major-General Sir James Outram who had two divisions.
The 14th Light Dragoons were with Jacob's Horse in the second division under Henry Havelock, brother of William who was killed at Ramnuggur. The regiment had a strength of 614 rank and file, and 25 officers. They sailed from Bombay, reaching Bushire at the beginning of February. The first division routed the Persians at Kush-ab and a fortified camp was established at Bushire. A detachment of 4,000 men was sent to the Euphrates delta which included a troop of the 14th under Captain Prettejohn. The transports became grounded in the Shat-el-Arab and rafts had to be built to disembark the men and horses.
At Mohamra they found the Persian army drawn up and the Naval warships opened fire. This had the effect of deterring the enemy who turned and fled. They were not pursued but a small force of 300 men was sent up the Karun river in steamboats. They landed at Ahwaz and met with 10,000 Persians. They had better fortune than Leonidas and his 300 Spartans did at Thermopylae, although less glorious, because the Persians again retreated. There was a signing of a Peace Treaty in Paris and the expedition sailed back to India. The 14th Light Dragoons landed at Bombay on 15th May 1857. Although there were many deaths from dysentry in the two divisions, the 14th came back intact except for the loss of 22 horses.
As the 14th Light Dragoons returned to India, the Indian Mutiny broke out, and the regiment was split up into detachments around the Bombay Presidency but 5 Troops formed part of a column sent to secure the road to Agra. They were diverted to Aurangabad where the native troops had mutinied. They managed to rescue the women and children there and had to confront an entrenchment which had been prepared by two cavalry regiments, an infantry regiment and a field battery. They were called upon to surrender which they did except for the 1st Hyderabad Cavalry. This unit took off when threatened by the whole column and the 14th tried to pursue but their horses were too tired. Over the next few days some rebels were caught and executed.
The monsoon slowed down operations until October. A column known as the Malwa Field Force was assembled under Brigadier C S Stuart to march against Feroz Shah at Madasaur. It was made up of 5 Troops of the 14th together with 4 companies of the 86th Foot, the 3rd Hyderabad Cavalry and the 25th Native Infantry and two field batteries. The mutineers were cavalry from the Gwalior State Forces and 15,000 others. The Field Force crossed the Chambal river and engaged with the rebels on 21 Oct. The 14th and Hyderabad cavalry saw action when they halted the advance of Feroz Shah's men. The next day the whole force was sent against the rebels who vastly outnumbered them. The 14th charged boldly into the enemy line and captured all of their guns. These were turned on the rebels by the 25th NI. More cavalry charges followed and enemy standards were captured. The rebels retreated to Fort Dhar and defended it against a siege until 31st Oct when they abandoned it to the British/Indian force. A quantity of treasure was found which was distributed, and about 70 mutineers were caught and shot. Brigadier Stuart intended to bypass Feroz Shah's stronghold of Mandasaur to reach Neemuch 50 miles further on. But sorties were made from the stronghold to stop their progress. The 14th and Hyderabad cavalry made several charges to push back the rebels and these turned into hand-to-hand struggles. The regiment sustained casualties in these confrontations, including the death of Lt Leonard Redmayne, but both Manasaur and Neemuch were captured.
The regiment were next selected for General Sir Hugh Rose's Field Force operating in Central India. They were split into two brigades, the 1st to march from Mhow through Jhansi to Kalpi with the object of preventing rebels from Gwalior attacking the rear of Sir Colin Campbell's army across the Jumna. Two Troops of the 14th were attached to this brigade and they set out on 16th Jan 1858 by way of Bhopal and Bhilsa, and came before the fortress of Rahatgarh. The artillery pounded the walls while a relieving force, sent by the Rajah of Banpore, was dealt with. The garrison at Rahatgarh was large but not prepared to withstand Hugh Roses's attack, so they decamped and fled. The next objective was the relief of Saugor, 20 miles away. This was accomplished and many women and children saved. The Fort of Garhakota was the next stronghold to fall. The defenders did not put up much resistance and were pursued by the 14th LD. Two Troops under Captains Robert Brown and Arthur Need chased them for 25 miles and killed about 100.
Sir Hugh Rose's 2nd brigade, containing the bulk of the regiment had left Mhow and reached Goona at the end of February. On 5 March they arrived at the fortified town of Chanderi defended by a large force of rebels. The Irishmen of the 86th regiment stormed the place and evicted the garrison. The 14th gave chase but it was difficult country for cavalry and they had to abandon the idea. Rose then marched to Jhansi through the pass of Marhat held by the Rajah of Banpur. A squadron of the 14th under Major Scudamore, with some infantry and guns made a diversionary movement against this pass while Rose put in the real attack in the Muddenpore Pass held by the Rajah of Shahgarh. These attacks were completely successful.
The regiment was reunited when the two brigades met at Jhansi but were organised in two wings, commanded by Major Scudamore and Major Herbert Gall. The CO of the regiment, Colonel Charles Steuart was now in command of the 2nd Brigade while the 1st Brigade was, confusingly, commanded by Charles Stuart of the Bombay Army. The fortress was under the control of the Rani of Jhansi. She called for the assistance of Tantia Topi who arrived on 31 March with 20,000 men which would have unnerved most commanders but Sir Hugh kept a cool head and stealthily withdrew selected sections of his besieging army, amounting to a 10th of his 12,000 force, so as to give the defenders of Jhansi the impression that the city was still surrounded. Elephants were used to bring guns quietly away from the besieging batteries. On hearing that a large enemy force was crossing the river Betwa 8 miles away he sent Brigadier Stuart with 250 men including a Troop of the 14thLD under Lieut James Giles. With the other 950 men he had to confront the main part of Tantia Topi's army numbering 11,000. In Rose's small force were 3 Troops of the 14th, under Captains Need, Prettejohn and McMahon.
On 1 April the army of Tantia Topi advanced. Rose ordered the infantry of the 3rd Bombay European Regiment and the 24th Native Infantry to lie down and fire on the advancing enemy. The cavalry on each flank moved to where they could enfilade the rebels' line. The enemy left were charged by Need's Troop while Prettejohn led the two Troops on the right. The men of the 14th and the Hyderabad Cavalry cut their way into the mass of rebels in a great show of determination and bravery. The enemy were stunned at their audacity, and were fired on by the artillery and infantry so that they became completely demoralised. The army of Tantia Topi was soon in retreat, an amazing triumph for such a small force of men who had been angered by stories of how women and children had been butchered at Cawnpore and other places. They killed 2,000 rebels, and many more drowned in the Betwa. There was action also for the other 250 men sent down river. Lieutenant Giles led a charge over very bad ground and sustained some casualties.
The regiment earned its first Victoria Cross in this battle. Captain Arthur Need galloped after some rebels up a rocky height but his horse stopped and would not be moved. He was surrounded by a crowd of Mahrattas who cut at him with tulwars. They slashed at his bridle, saddle and clothes but his injuries were not serious. At this point Lieutenant James Leith rode to his rescue and together they were able to fight their way out. The battle of the Betwa cost the regiment 5 men and 11 horses killed, 25 men and 16 horses injured.
While the battle against the relieving army of Tantia Topi was going on, another small battle was taking place at a gate to the city from which it was anticipated that a sortie would appear. Major Herbert Gall with a squadron of the 14th was sent to make a feint attack to deter any attempt to force a fight on two fronts. The same squadron made another feint attack on 3 April which had the effect of dividing the enemy so that the breach could be stormed. This was a hotly disputed battle due to the small number of British/Indians fighting against large numbers of the Rani's men. However, the city was captured and many of the defenders fled. Most were caught and killed but the Rani herself escaped on horseback with an escort of picked men, and managed to evade capture to fight another day.
After Jhansi, the next objective of the Central India Field Force was Kalpi, but the advanced guard, commanded by Herbert Gall, on arriving at Pooch, learned that Tantia Topi had formed a strong defensive position at Kunch, 14 miles ahead. This barred the way to Kalpi as Sir Hugh could see when he caught up with Gall. He decided to attack the position but first he sent Gall and the 14th to capture Lohari Fort while the rest of the field force took a well-earned rest. This was an unusual job for cavalry but they were dismounted for the task and were able to achieve the objective with the loss of one man killed and 5 officers and 15 men wounded. Gall himself was one of the wounded.
When The Field Force marched the 14 miles to Kunch, The cavalry was sent forward to reconnoitre while the 2nd Brigade prepared to attack. The 1st Brigade was sent around to the enemy flank and the 2nd made a holding attack which met with strong resistance. The 14th LD was ordered forward with the Hyderabad Cavalry in support. A soldier of the 71st HLI wrote about the cavalry action:
'Sir H.R. Ordered up the 14th Cavalry and the Hyderabads of the 1st Brigade. The enemy's cavalry being under cover, as soon as they saw ours coming down, prepared to meet them. At it they went, their sabres gleaming in the sun. It was a fine sight to see, the ground being broken in front of our cavalry (and holes dug by the enemy) wavered for a moment, as it were, but then being past the broken ground their charge was irresistible, the enemy did not wait a moment longer but to the right-about they went, and off, and our fellows after them, cutting and slashing. Then came the order for us to enter, and we entered double quick, but stand they would not, they saw the day was lost. All of the enemy who had horses to mount got away, but those who had none were cut up. The cavalry and artillery went off in pursuit, the infantry being exhausted was ordered to halt.'
The exhaustion was due to extreme heat and lack of water. Many men died of heatstroke and Sir Hugh Rose himself had to have medical treatment. The 14th lost 7 men; 5 killed in action and 2 from the heat. One officer and 17 men were wounded as well as many horses being stabbed with bayonets. The heat and the violent exertion caused 150 men to be brought to a state of semi-consciousness. The rebels under Tantia Topi's command had been defeated and were in no fit state to take advantage of the Field Force's incapacity.
The men were allowed 24 hours to recover before marching towards Kalpi. Herbert Gall's recce revealed that the enemy were entrenched along the Kalpi road. Sir Hugh, using similar tactics to those employed at Kunch, ordered the 2nd brigade to advance along the road while he took the 1st Brigade to the right to join up with Colonel Maxwell so that a flanking movement could be made against the enemy left. They were positioned before Kalpi on 18 May, and on 22 May the rebels, commanded by Tantia Topi, the Rani, the Nawab of Banda and Rao Sahib decided to attack the British/Indian force. They at first made their attack on Rose's left but that was a feint which Rose realised and therefore did not take measures to reinforce that flank. His judgement was correct because the real attack came on his right. The battle was fierce, and hard for the British troops who suffered so much from the heat, but eventually the rebels retreated. The role of the 14th and the Hyderabad Cavalry was to pursue the defeated enemy which they did for 7 miles along the road back to Jhansi. They made several charges and captured 3 guns. The artillery stayed with the cavalry throughout the pursuit and were able to cover the cavalry charges. The effort required, in intense heat, to bring up guns, unlimber and fire them pushed the gunners to the limit.
The Maharaja of Gwalior, Jayajirao Scindhia, was loyal to the British so he was obliged to flee when the rebels arrived at the fortress. The Field Force marched towards Gwalior upon hearing from Lt-Col Gall's reconnaissance that that was where the enemy were heading. Three miles from Gwalior was the Morar cantonment, a large permanent camp for quartering troops. Hugh Rose realised that his men badly needed shelter from the merciless sun, and was determined to push them hard to evict the rebels from Morar. On 16th June they attacked, and the infantry had a hard job to force the rebels out of the nullahs which provided natural cover, and the 14th were again employed in charging and pursuing the fleeing. The infantry reached the barracks and were able to take shelter and collapse on a bed. They were so exhausted that it was almost impossible to rouse them. The 71st Highland Light Infantry could only be turned out by a piper playing a reel.
The Field Force linked up with a column from the Rajputana Field Force and an action was fought at Kotah-ki-Serai, south of Gwalior on 17th June. A squadron of the 14th took part in this and the fight continued up to the walls of the fortress. During the struggles that took place in the surrounding country, the Rani of Jhansi was killed, by a private from the 8th Hussars. Further fighting continued until 20th June in which the squadron of the 14th distinguished itself by its steadiness under fire from 'shot and shell'. They captured guns and cut down many rebels. The rebel army retreated once more and Tantia Topi managed to evade capture. The Maharaja returned and was escorted back into his palace by the 14th LD and 8th Hussars.
Tantia Topi was the object of a widespread hunt and eventually caught on 7th April 1859. The 14th were kept busy with this and had several engagements, of which Ranode was typical. Captain Prettejohn's squadron accompanied a 500-strong mounted column of all arms from Gwalior, to intercept Feroz Shah (the infantry were on camels). They met him on the Scind River at Ranode and found his large force drawn up with a frontage of almost a mile. The column was ordered, by its commander, Sir Robert Napier, to attack the centre straight away. This was led by Captain Prettejohn and was successful to the extent that the whole enemy force lost heart and retreated. There was the usual pursuit after the battle, which went on for 12 miles. This was despite the captain and 13 of his men being wounded.
The regiment had spent much of 1858 based at Gwalior and Jhansi, but were ordered home in 1859. They went to Bombay in March but the embarkation was postponed until Feb 1860. They sailed home with a strength of 13 officers and 391 rank and file, with 19 women and 39 children. Two hundred men had opted to stay in India and transferred to other regiments. The ship arrived in Dublin in June 1860, the men having been absent from their homeland for 19 years, and continued to Newbridge. The losses in the Central India campaign had been 72 rank and file, and one officer.
Revell’s service record confirms that he was present during the Indian Mutiny in action with the Central India Field Force at the capture of the fortress of Rahatgarh on 29th January 1858; the action at Barodia on 31st January; the capture of the fort of Garhakota and the engagement with the rebels on 13th February; the forcing of the Muddenpore Pass on 3rd March; the Battle on the Betwa on 1st April when he was slightly wounded; the siege and capture of Jhansi on 5th April where James Leith won the Victoria Cross; the action of Kunch on 7th May; the Battle of Gallowli on 22nd May; the advance on and capture of Kalpi and pursuit of the rebels on 23rd May; the capture of the Morar cantonments on 16th June; and the recapture of the town and fortress of Gwalior on 19th June 1858.
Having returned home with his regiment in 1860, Revell was discharged on 23rd June 1863 owing to ‘being unfit for further service owing to illness’ this being bronchitis and deafness, and his intended place of residence was Fulham in London.