Journal

Brothers in Arms: General John Lawrenson, 17th Lancers (1802-83), and Colonel George Lawrenson, C.B., Bengal Horse Artillery (1803-56)

My account a few postings back of the military career of Captain Thomas Edward Gordon, 14th Light Dragoons (my great-great-great grandfather), has led me to look at the careers of two of his wife’s uncles, one an officer in the East India Company Army and the other in the British cavalry. Together the careers of these three men cover most of the big wars of the earlier part of Victoria's reign– the first Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-6 and the second of 1848-9, the Crimean War of 1854-6 and the Indian Mutiny of 1857-9. They encompass some of the most glorified moments of war in the Victorian age, epitomised in Crimea by the 'Thin Red Line' of the 93rd Highlanders and the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava ...

 

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The Rumpa Rebellion, India, 1879-80: jungle fever and the cause of malaria

The greatest challenge facing the regimental surgeons with the Rumpa Field Force in India in 1879 was jungle fever, ‘that severe sickness that paralyses every effort, disheartens the men, and fosters the preconceived belief of the superiority and valour of the insurgents.’ The Madras Military Proceedings for 1879 and 1880, the source of this quote and others below, reveals a stark picture ...

 

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THE SWORD OF ATTILA: military map-makers, Roman and Victorian

One of the characters I most enjoyed creating in my novel Total War Rome: The Sword of Attila was Gnaeus Uago Alentius, a senior tribune of the fabri – the Roman equivalent of the Corps of Engineers – who oversees a military mapping unit in Rome. I'd imagined that by the 5th century AD, Roman proficiency in field survey and road-tracing might have led to a kind of topographical department in the army, with the fabri close to creating detailed maps akin to the early British Ordnance Survey series - something that would have been halted by the collapse of the Roman army in the west shortly afterwards, leaving us no evidence of their work ...

 

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Murder in Jhansi, 1915: Major Marmaduke Henry Littledale Gale, 8th (Indian) Cavalry

A few posts back I wrote of the First World War death of one of my great-great uncles in France in 1914. Another death on the other side of my family is recounted in the press release opposite, from July 1915.  Two Muslim sowars – cavalry troopers – went on a murderous rampage in Jhansi in central India and killed four of their British officers, including my grandfather’s first cou sin Marmaduke Gale. Their regiment, the 8th Cavalry, had been kept in India for internal security duties ...

 

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The war to end all wars: Ernest Reginald Handford, South Stafforshire Regiment, killed in action 1914

A little over ninety-nine years ago one of my great-great uncles died of his wounds near the river Aisne in northern France, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. He was one of the ‘Old Contemptibles’, the regular soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force which was all but destroyed by the end of that year, among the first of some eight million men of all sides killed by the time of the Armistice on 11 November 1918 ...

 

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The sinking of Clan Macfadyen, 27 November 1942: Captain Lawrance Wilfred Gibbins

The broadcaster and historian Dan Snow had written a moving tribute in The Radio Times to his grandfather’s experience as a merchant seaman during the Second World War, as part of the commemoration of the abatement of the Battle of the Atlantic seventy years ago that’s been taking place this summer in Liverpool and elsewhere. Because my grandfather was also a Battle of the Atlantic veteran I’ve wanted to post a few blogs remembering the role of the Merchant Navy, focusing on some of the less well-known aspects. One of those is that the battle was not just ... 

 

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War in another dimension: Lieutenant Norman Martin Gibbins, Royal Dublin Fusiliers (1915-19)

One of my great-great uncles, Norman Martin Gibbins, was a Cambridge mathematician and chess aficionado whose main claim to fame was a paper he published in The Mathematical Gazette in 1944 entitled ‘Chess in Three and Four Dimensions.’ During the First World War, after being wounded as an infantry officer on the Western Front, he’d worked as a cipher officer for military intelligence ...

 

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