THE AMBELA EXPEDITION, 1863
Towards the end of 1863 a force moved out under Brigadier-General Sir Neville Chamberlain from Peshawar for punitive operations against some fanatical tribesmen at Malka. When the force was crossing the Ambela Pass it encountered quite unexpectedly a large lashkar which was reinforced from other districts a few days later. It became quite clear that the force was being opposed by a general combination of tribes from the Indus to the Afghan border, so Sir Neville Chamberlain immediately called for reinforcements before proceeding.
The 14th Sikhs were the first to arrive and took part in a series of fierce battles around an important post, Crag Piquet, protecting the British camp on the pass. The tribesmen made many attacks on this piquet and it changed hands several times. At the beginning of November the 14th Sikhs displayed great gallantry in recapturing this piquet and holding it against repeated attacks by large numbers of tribesmen on several occasions. The Sikhs suffered considerable casualties in these engagements and Lieutenant Davidson and Subadar Jowahir Shah, who had been awarded the Indian Order of Merit for gallantry at Lucknow in 1857, were killed.
On the 18th of November the tribesmen advanced in great strength and attacked the defences of the camp held by one hundred and thirty men of the 14th Sikhs under Major Ross. The enemy attacked with great ferocity, but the Sikhs, although they were completely outnumbered, held out with great determination until reinforcements arrived and the tribesmen were driven back. This party of the Regiment suffered seventy-two casualties; Lieutenant Mosley was killed and Lieutenant Ingles was wounded. Subadar-Major Sekundar Khan and twelve other ranks were awarded the Indian Order of Merit for their gallantry in this action.
By the 17th of December sufficient reinforcements had arrived and the British column took the offensive. Malka was destroyed and the expedition withdrew back to the Peshawar Valley. The 14th Sikhs accompanied the column, but did not have any serious fighting after the battles on the Ambela Pass.
The 14th Sikhs remained in Peshawar only a few days before moving off to Lahore, where they arrived in February, 1864. In October the Regiment took part in the Durbar held by Sir John Lawrence and then proceeded to Ambala to act as escort to the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hugh Ross.
The next twelve years were peaceful and the Regiment was stationed at different stations in India. In June, 1865, it moved to Benares and three years later to Fort William, Calcutta. After that the Sikhs went to Jullundur, then in 1872 to Rawalpindi and by the end of 1875 they were back again in Peshawar, ready for further operations on the North-West Frontier. Throughout this period of twelve years the 14th Sikhs were commanded by Colonel Ross, who was promoted to command a brigade in September, 1875, and was succeeded by Major Williams.
THE JOWAKI EXPEDITION, 1877-1878
In the autumn of 1877 the Sikhs formed part of a column under Brigadier-General Ross, their former Commandant, and moved into the Jowaki district against the Afridis. The enemy opposed the column on the Shergasha Heights and the 14th Sikhs were detailed to assault the position. The fighting was, however, not severe and the Afridis withdrew without offering much resistance. The force moved into the Bori valley and destroyed the offending villages with only slight opposition from the tribesmen. It then withdrew to Peshawar in 1878 without incident.
SECOND AFGHAN WAR, 1878
The 1st Division was assembled at Jamrud, under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Sam Browne, to take part in the Second Afghan War, which broke out in the autumn of 1878. The 14th Sikhs, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, together with the 81st Foot and the 27th Punjabis, were in the 3rd Brigade of this division.
The Afghans were known to be holding a position at Ali Masjid in the Khyber Pass and were supported by the local frontier tribesmen. Sir Sam Browne decided to capture the Ali Masjid position by sending the 1st and 2nd Brigades on a wide encircling movement, while the 3rd and 4th Brigades attacked the position from the front. The 14th Sikhs were the advance guard to the assaulting brigades and set out from Jamrud for the Khyber Pass early on 21st November. The Regiment arrived some two and a half miles south of Ali Masjid without
meeting opposition, and the two brigades formed up for the assault which, was due to take place at 1 p.m., when the two encircling brigades were expected to be in position on the flanks. At this time there was no sign of these brigades, but it was decided that the frontal attack should continue according to plan. A company of the 14th Sikhs moved forward with the 27th Punjabis in support and the 81st Foot, The assaulting troops made steady progress against strong opposition, and by 5 p.m. the Sikhs, under Captain McLean, were at close grips with the enemy under a very heavy fire. However, there was still no sign of the British turning columns, so Sir Sam Browne decided to break off this attack so as to avoid unnecessary casualties. The Sikhs, with the Punjabis in support, were in very close contact with the enemy when they were ordered to withdraw. It was a very difficult operation, but the Sikhs, displaying great gallantry and determination, managed to break contact after dark and withdraw. No fewer than eight men were awarded the Indian Order of Merit for gallantry in this action.
The British forces bivouacked for the night in readiness to renew the attack the next morning,. but at daybreak on the 22nd of November it was found that the Afghans had withdrawn. The 1st and 2nd Brigades had at last arrived and had threatened the enemy's flank and rear.
The 14th Sikhs accompanied Divisional Headquarters to Landi Khana the next day, but encountered no opposition. By the 21st of November the 1st Division was concentrated in Dakka at the western end of the Khyber Pass, where it remained for several weeks.
On the 2nd of December a number of men contracted a virulent typhomalarial fever. Many men died of the disease and the Regiment had to return to Peshawar. The epidemic continued to rage and the Regiment was sent off to Ambala by easy stages. The disease was eventually stamped out, but over two hundred men died.
The 14th Sikhs remained quietly at Ambala until April, 1881, when they were detailed to join a column forming at Bannu for a punitive expedition into Waziristan. The Regiment left Ambala by rail for Rawalpindi, arriving on the 17th of April. It then marched to Bannu and covered the one hundred and ninety-two miles in eleven days in very hot weather. The column moved forward into hostile territory on the 2nd of May and marched to Razmak by the Khaisora valley. At Razmak the column contacted another column which had moved out from Tank. The enemy offered very little resistance and soon submitted to terms. General Gordon's column was back in Bannu by the 22nd of May and then returned to Ambala. Subadar-Major Didar Singh, who had been subadar-major for ten years and had served with the Regiment throughout the Mutiny, died on the expedition.
In October, 1881, the 14th Sikhs moved to Agra, where they were stationed for three years. In May, 1884, Lieutenant-Colonel G. N. Channer, V.C., became Commandant in place of Colonel Williams and the Regiment moved to Jhelum in December. The 14th Sikhs joined the Durbar Camp in Rawalpindi in March, 1885, held by Lord Duferin, the Viceroy, and the following cold weather took part in training exercises in Delhi.
At this time instructions were received that the 14th Sikhs would be composed of all Sikhs and the Punjabi Mohammedans would be allowed. to die out, while the next year the Regiment was linked to the 15th Sikhs and 45th Sikhs and the regimental centre for the three regiments was established at Multan.
BLACK MOUNTAIN EXPEDITION, 1888
In September the 14th Sikhs left Jhelum to join the Hazara Field Force, which was formed to carry out punitive operations against the tribes of the Black Mountain country lying north-west of Abbottabad. The Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Ellis, who had taken over command from Colonel Channer, moved out with No. 3 Column of the Force in October.
There was little heavy fighting during the expedition, but the 14th Sikhs formed the advance guard of the column and sustained a few casualties in brushing aside minor resistance by the tribesmen when moving into the area. The column camped at Akhund on the crest of the Black Mountain, while small columns moved out and destroyed a number of villages without incident. The Force was broken up after returning to Oghi and the 14th Sikhs were back in Jhelum by Christmas.
In 1890 the Regiment moved to Peshawar and spent three peaceful years there before marching in relief to Ferozepore in 1893.
New Colours were presented to the Regiment on the 15th of March, 1894
In June, 1894, the 14th Sikhs were ordered to find an escort for the British political agent proceeding to Gilgit. A and B Companies, under the command of Captain C. R. Ross, were detailed for this role and left Ferozepore on the 15th of June. On arrival at Gilgit A Company, under Lieutenant Harley, was sent to Mastuj, while B Company remained at Gilgit.
All was quiet until January, 1895, when the Mehtar of Chitral was murdered. At this time the assistant political officer was in Chitral with an escort of nine men of the 14th Sikhs, so Lieutenant Harley immediately sent Subadar Gurmukh Singh with fifty men from Mastuj to reinforce the escort. On the 27th of January the British agent set out for Chitral to investigate the situation and took with him the remainder of A Company under Lieutenant Harley and three hundred Kashmir State troops under Captain Campbell. On arrival at Chitral the agent took over the fort and completed the stocks there in case of emergency.
Meanwhile, Umra Khan of Bajaur, a tribal leader, invaded Chitral territory and soon overcame the weak resistance of the Chitralis. By the beginning of February Umra Khan had captured the fort at Drosh, a few miles from Chitral, and was joined by Sher Afzul, who claimed the Mehtarship. Umra Khan supported Sher Afzul and demanded the withdrawal of the political agent and his escort. Negotiations broke down and the Chitral pretender advanced on Chitral.
On receiving information of the approach of Sher Afzul on the 3rd of March Captain Campbell took a force of two hundred men of the Kashmir State troops and reconnoitered along the road to Drosh. The enemy were encountered two miles from the fort and Captain Campbell attacked. The enemy were in much greater strength than had been anticipated and the column was repulsed with heavy losses. Lieutenant Harley was therefore instructed to bring out a party of men to cover the retreat. He immediately moved out with fifty men and took up a position in the Serai, a quarter of a mile from the fort. By the time the Sikhs were in position it was quite dark and the enemy were pressing on hard after the Kashmir Rifles. The Sikhs held on to their position. They then successfully broke contact and withdrew in good order back to the fort. Captain Campbell was very seriously wounded in this action, so his second-in-command, Captain Townsend,( *Later General Townsend and defender of Kut in the First World War.) took over command of the Chitral garrison.
The fort, which was on low ground near the river, was difficult to defend, as it was commanded on three sides by hills, while water for the garrison had to be obtained from the river.
The siege started in earnest on the 4th of March, when the enemy fired into the fort all day long. At the beginning the Sikhs were detailed to hold the southern face of the fort and the keep, while the Kashmir Rifles were allotted to the northern and western faces, covering the main gate and the water point. Steps were immediately taken to improve the defences and construct a covered way to the water point.
On the night of the 7th of March the enemy made a determined effort to fire the tower covering the waterway. They were repulsed, but the Kashmir sepoys holding the tower had been so shaken by the action on the 3rd of March. that it was quite evident that they could not be trusted to defend any of the important points in the fort. The Sikhs therefore took over the north and west faces.
On the night of the 14th of March the enemy made ferocious attacks against the western face, but were repulsed with losses by a party of 14th Sikhs under Subadar Gurmukh Singh. After this the enemy concentrated on trying to seize the water point, so twenty men of the 14th Sikhs had to occupy a sangar near the water's edge. This was an unpleasant duty, as there were always six inches of water in the sangar and there was no cover from the heavy rain and snow which fell continually at the beginning of the siege. The Sikhs accepted the duty cheerfully, as it was considered a post of honour.
Everyone was placed on short rations at the beginning of the siege and duties were very heavy, but all hardships were borne cheerfully and the men never grumbled.
On the 6th of April the enemy occupied a summer-house situated close to the garden wall outside the fort, while at about 5 a.m. they attacked the water point under cover of heavy fire on the western and northern faces of the fort. The Sikhs threw back the enemy from the waterway, but during the fighting another party of the enemy, unnoticed by the Kashmir sentries, piled up and set a heap of firewood alight at the bottom of the south-eastern tower. This fire set light to beams in the tower and there was great danger of the tower collapsing The fire was put out with the greatest difficulty, as the enemy kept up a continuous fire on that part of the fort. However, a party of Sikhs was sent to reinforce the garrison of the tower and the fire was eventually put out after six hours' hard work. Sepoy Bhola Singh was awarded the Indian Order of Merit for his gallantry when helping to put out the fire. He was severely wounded in one arm, but continued to throw water on the fire, although constantly exposed to heavy enemy fire.
On the next day the men of the 14th Sikhs asked to be allowed to hold all four towers of the fort as well as the water sangar, since the safety of the garrison depended on the vigilance of the sentries on these important posts. Captain Townsend accepted the suggestion and the Sikhs took over these positions and held them until the end of the siege.
On the 11th of April the enemy made another attack on the east and west faces, but they were again beaten back without much difficulty. On the 17th of April, after a few apparently quiet days, a sentry heard the noise of picking from the direction of the summer-house and it was soon obvious that a mine was being made and that the enemy had reached a point about twelve feet from the fort. Captain Townsend decided to send Lieutenant Harley with fifty Sikhs and sixty men of the Kashmir Rifles to capture the summer-house and destroy the mine.
At 4 p.m. the assaulting party assembled at the eastern ate, with the Sikhs in front. Harley dashed through the gate followed closely by his men, and charged straight for the summer-house. A party of Pathans, located in the summer-house to cover the men working in the mine, fired a volley at the assaulting party, but they fled down the garden wall as the Sikhs closed in with the bayonet. The enemy took up a position at the end of the garden and opened up very heavy fire on the Sikhs around the summer-house. Harley told off a party to engage the enemy while he searched for the mine. Another party of Pathans opened up from the left of the summer-house and two young Sikhs dashed forward and assaulted the position. Although these two men were immediately killed, their gallant action put the Pathans to flight and they were all killed' by fire from the fort.
The mine was well hidden and the Sikhs could not find it for some time. It was eventually discovered behind the garden wall and Lieutenant Harley and six men immediately jumped down the shaft. Twenty Pathans armed with swords tried to escape, but they were all bayoneted as they dashed forward. Lieutenant Harley immediately laid some powder bags to blow up the mine, but found that the fuse had been damaged during the fighting. While he was repairing the fuse two more Pathans tried to escape from the mine and two Sikhs opened fire and the powder exploded. The explosion opened up the mine from end to end and killed six Pathans who had remained in it. Fortunately the force of the explosion was expended by the time it reached the Sikhs at the end of the mine and Harley and a few of the men were only knocked to the ground. Lieutenant Harley had completed his task, so he ordered his men to withdraw to the fort. The Sikhs dashed back under heavy fire, taking the arms and accoutrements of the casualties and a number of rifles and swords of the enemy. The Sikhs lost only three killed and five wounded, while the enemy's casualties were at least a hundred, of which thirty-five were killed by the bayonet.
During the night, of the 18th of April a Pathan came to the fort and reported that the enemy had fled and that British troops were near. In the morning there was no sign of the enemy and the siege: was over, and on the next day Colonel Kelly arrived with a relief force from Gilgit. Captain Townsend, in his report on the siege, wrote
Younghusband, in his Relief of Chitral, wrote:
In recognition of the gallant and successful defence of the fort at Chitral, His Excellency The Viceroy sanctioned a grant of six months' pay to all ranks, while Lieutenant Harley was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and appointed brevet major. Subadar Gurmukh Singh was appointed to the Order of British India and Jemadar Attar Singh and seven men were awarded the Indian Order of Merit for gallantry.
While A Company were at Chitral with the political agent, B Company, under Captain Ross, took their place in Mastuj, where they arrived at the beginning of March. A few days later information was received that a sapper detachment and a party of Kashmir Rifles, en route to Chitral, were about to be attacked near Reshun.
Captain Ross immediately set out with his company to support this party. The Sikhs halted the first night at Buni and moved on early the next morning, the 8th of March. Soon after 1 p.m. B Company entered a narrow defile below the village of Koragh. The defile was about half a mile long and situated where the Mastuj river, a rapid and unfordable torrent, formed a gorge through the mountains. It is believed that Captain Ross was anxious to lose no time and decided to risk entering the defile without first reconnoitering the heights. This decision had disastrous results. As the column was approaching the far end of the defile the track was found to be blocked and in addition parties of the enemy were discovered to be holding the hilltops and. ridges all round.
Since the enemy were in great strength and holding strong positions, it was hopeless to try to attempt to force a way through to Reshun. Captain Ross therefore decided to withdraw and sent Lieutenant Jones with ten men to seize the Koragh end of the defile and cover the withdrawal. However, the enemy had already seized this exit and Lieutenant Jones was unable to break out and suffered heavy casualties. The attempt to break out was temporarily abandoned and the whole party took cover in some caves in the river bank. During the night two attempts were made to force a way out, but the enemy was on the alert and the Sikhs had to return to the caves. Having rested in the caves during the day, Captain Ross decided that they must break through that night at all costs.
The party moved off at 2 a.m. on the 10th of March. The enemy was, unfortunately, on the alert and offered strong opposition. Captain Ross was shot dead and many men were killed or wounded. Only Lieutenant Jones, seventeen men and two followers succeeded in fighting their way out on to the plain towards Koragh.
Lieutenant Jones halted his party a short way from the defile in order to assist any further survivors in breaking through. In this position the enemy launched two ferocious charges against the Sikhs, who stubbornly held their ground and drove the tribesmen back time after time. Three more Sikhs were killed in this fighting and of the rest Lieutenant Jones and nine men were wounded, so the party withdrew slowly to Buni, which was reached at 6 a.m. the next morning. Survivors of this disaster were only Lieutenant Jones, fourteen men and two followers. Lieutenant Jones was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and all the fourteen other ranks the Indian Order of Merit, while the followers were awarded three months' pay.
At Buni Lieutenant Jones joined forces with a detachment of Sikhs, which
had been left behind on the outward journey, and the whole party withdrew to Mastuj a week later. At Mastuj the remnants of B Company, with a detachment of Kashmir Rifles, defended the fort against a large force of tribesmen until relieved on the 9th of April. Although the enemy made; no determined attacks on the fort, the garrison was continually under fire, while snow and sleet fell most of the time.
In June the two companies of the 14th Sikhs marched from Chitral under Lieutenant Harley and arrived in Ferozepore at the end of the month. Although only one company of the Regiment took part in the siege of Chitral, the 14th Sikhs were given the honour of inscribing Defence of Chitral on their Colours.
THE TOCHI FIELD FORCE, 1897
Although the 14th Sikhs had been split up into detachments for a long period, they had gained such a reputation that they were one of the first regiments to be selected for active service when the whole Frontier flared up in 1897. However, the Regiment was unfortunate, as it was sent to a theatre of operations where no actual fighting occurred and missed participation in the Frontier expeditions farther north, where so many troops were later engaged.
The Regiment left Ferozepore by train on the 17th of June for Khusalgarh and then marched to Bannu, where it joined the Tochi Field Force. Although the Force carried out considerable journeys into tribal territory, there was no actual fighting. as the situation had quietened down. However, convoy and other duties were severe and there was a great deal of sickness in the Force. The other two regiments in the Brigade had to return to India on this account, but the 14th Sikhs kept very fit and remained in the Tochi valley to garrison the lower posts. The Regiment was finally relieved at the end of March, 1898, and then marched to its new station, Nowshera, via the Kohat Pass.
EAST AFRICA, 1897-1899
In June, 1897, a party consisting of Lieutenant Macdonald, Jemadar Bhagwan Singh and fourteen men proceeded to British East Africa and joined an expedition formed to fight mutineers and other hostile elements in the Sudan. Of this small detachment Lieutenant Macdonald and one sepoy were killed and Jemadar Bhagwan Singh and three sepoys wounded. Jemadar Bhagwan Singh and three sepoys were awarded the Indian Order of Merit for continuous conspicuous gallantry in action, and the officer in charge of the expedition, Colonel Macdonald, writing about the party, stated
The party returned to the Regiment in Nowshera on the 7th of May, 1899.
On the outbreak of the Boxer Rising; in China in the summer of 1900, troops were dispatched from India to China to join the international forces engaged in relieving the legations besieged at Peking and suppressing the rebellion.
The 14th Sikhs, under Colonel Hogge, left Nowshera by train on the 7th of July for Bombay. However, Lieutenant Currie contracted cholera during a halt at Khandwa and the Regiment had to be, segregated and their departure to China was delayed. The Regiment embarked in the S.S. Formosa at Bombay on the 12th of August and sailed to Shanghai via Singapore and Hong Kong. The 14th Sikhs disembarked on the 6th of September and went into camp just outside the International Settlement. By this time the besieged legations at Peking had been relieved and there was very little further fighting.
The Regiment joined the 2nd Brigade, which was at that time garrisoning Shanghai. Conditions there were entirely peaceful and the Brigade remained there until April, 1901. For the British officers the seven months spent in this city were a most pleasant period. There were excellent facilities for sport and games, and hospitality abounded.
By the spring of 1901 it was decided to reduce the British forces in China and the 2nd Brigade was broken up. However, the 14th Sikhs were amongst those regiments selected to remain in China and were transferred farther north. The Regiment left Shanghai by sea for Taku and then proceeded up the railway to Yangtsun, where it was responsible for protecting the Peking-Tientsin railway, which was at that time a British responsibility. The Sikhs were split up into small detachments over a large section of the railway and were employed in patrolling the railway line and occasional expeditions after bandits.
The 14th Sikhs finally left China on the 29th of July, 1902, sailing from Taku on the Royal Indian Marine ship Clive.
The 14th Sikhs disembarked at Calcutta on the 15th of August, 1902, and then went by train to Multan, where they remained until February, 1905. Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. Bunbury, transferred from the 28th Punjabis, took over command of the Regiment in place of Colonel Hogge, who had left the Regiment in China to go on pension.
In January, 1902, the Rajah of Nabha was appointed Honorary Colonel of the 14th Sikhs and held this distinction until his death.
At Multan the game of hockey was first taken up seriously by the 14th Sikhs. For many years previously there had been periodical athletic sports meetings and quoit-throwing competitions, but there had been no regular organized games for the rank and file.
The Regiment moved to Ferozepore in March, 1905, and the following November marched to Rawalpindi and took part in manoeuvres there which culminated in a big review before His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales on the 8th of December.
On the 1st of January, 1906, the Regiment was honoured by the appointment of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales as Colonel-in-Chief and its title was altered to 14th Prince of Wales's Own Ferozepore Sikhs. Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. Bunbury, Lieutenant and Ad