Allard, Jean Francois
Military Advisor to Maharaja Runjeet Singh (1785-1839)
Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, an order instituted in 1802 by Napoleon I, was born at Saint-Tropez, France, on 8 March 1785. In 1803, he joined the French army and served in it fighting in the Imperial Cavalry in far-flung fields in Italy, Spain and Portugal until its final defeat at the hands of the allies in 1815 when the Imperial Guard, in which he had been serving as a lieutenant since 1810, was disbanded. Allard returned to Saint-Tropez on demi-solde (half pay), but as soon as he learnt of Napolean’s escape and landing at Golfe Juan in March 1815, he joined the latter who promoted him Captain on 28 April 1815 and appointed him aide-de-camp to Marechal Brune in Provence and was therefore not present at Waterloo where Napolean was finally defeated. In 1818 he left for the Middle East on four months’ leave but never rejoined service and was therefore dismissed from the army on 31 August 1819 for long absence without leave. He served at Tabriz in Iran from February 1820 to September 1821. By that time the British government agreed to pay a huge war contribution to Iran on condition that all French officers in the service of Persia be dismissed and sent back to Europe. However, Allard and Ventura escaped in disguise towards Kabul and on to India.
In March 1822, Allard arrived at Lahore in company with Ventura, and secured employment at the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh only after the Maharaja had ensured that they were French officers of Napolean and not British spies. He was entrusted with the task of reorganizing the Maharaja’s cavalry on European-lines. On 22 May 1822 Allard and Ventura took command of Shaikh Basawan’s Paltan Khas and later Paltan Deva Singh (1822), and the Gurkha Paltan (1823). These formed the infantry of the Fauj-I-Khas. The cavalry (Fransisi Sowar) was originally formed by two regiments raised by Allard on 16 July 1822-Rajman (Regiment) Khas Lansia (Lancers) and Rajman Daragun (Dragoon). In place of the traditional ghorcharas, who protested against the new drills, fresh recruitments were made. Allard raised, another regiment of Dragoons in 1823. By 1825, the Fauj-i-Khas (infantry, cavalry and artillery) was 5000-6000 strong. The training was based on a French pamphlet Allard had brought with him. All the words of command were in French. Allard commanded the whole force, and took orders only from the Maharaja. Ventura, under Allard’s orders, was in charge of infantry. The uniform of the Fauj-i-Khas was inspired by the uniform of Napolean’s Grande Armee; the standards of the regiments were the tricolour French flag, inscribed with the motto Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh, and each regiment had the Imperial Eagles. Sikh cavalry, under Allard, had achieved a very high level of efficiency. His Cuirassiers, a “turbaned edition” of the steel-clad horsemen of the Garde Imperiale, were the most noble-looking troops on parade. The men and horses were well picked, their accoutrements were of the finest quality and the regularity and the order in which they manoeuvred could scarcely be matched by the East India Company’s cavalry across the border. Besides the European form of drill, Allard introduced the use of carbine among the Sikh troops.
Allard’s work won high appreciation from the Maharaja and he came to occupy position of pre-eminence at the Sikh court. In addition to a salary of Rs 30,000 a year, he was granted numerous jagirs enabling him to live in style at Lahore. He was a man of high character and amiable disposition and all foreign travellers passing through Lahore spoke very highly of him. Ranjit Singh considered Allard to be more a political and military adviser than as a commander in the field, although on extremely critical occasions he took command of the military forces in operation, as he did in 1825 in Peshawar and Derajat for pacifying the Muslim tribes along the Indus; in 1827 and 1830 for quelling the jihad of Sayyid Ahmad Barelavi; and in 1837 in the attack on Jamrud after the death of Sardar Hari Singh Nalva. From 1824 onwards, Allard was also responsible for the security of the Anglo-Sikh border along the Sutlej, from the Himalayas down to Hari ka Pattan.
The French naturalist jacquemont, who visited Lahore in 1831, calls him the Suleman Bey of Ranjit Singh. Allard often acted as host to the European visitors to the Maharaja’s court. On ceremonial occasions, he was chosen for special duties. He, for instance, escorted Maharaja Ranjit Singh at the time of his visit to Ropar in October 1831 for a meeting with the Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck. Allard also occasionally informed the Maharaja about Russian affairs as they were reported in the French newspapers or in the Russian Gazette (published in French).
In 1834, Allard along with his wife, Bannou Pan Del, daughter of the chief of Chamba, whom he had married in 1826 at Lahore, and children proceeded to France on two-years leave of absence at the expiry of which he returned to the Punjab via Calcutta in early 1837, bringing for Ranjit Singh gifts and a letter of greetings from Louis Philippe, the King of France.
Allard took part in almost all the major expeditions of Maharaja ,Ranjit Singh. In 1838, he was sent to Peshawar to help General Avitabile in the administration of the province. On 23 January 1839, he died at Peshawar, having suffered for some time from a diseased heart. His body was, as he had wished, brought to Lahore and buried with full military honours between the tombs of his two daughters in Kuri Bagh on 19 February.