BATTLE OF SUBHRAON
|Charge of the British cavalry through the breaches at Sabraon, February 10, 1846|
By the close of first week of February, 1846, the Sikh Army had constructed formidable entrenchments about two and a half miles long on the left bank of Sutlej near Subhraon. Their batteries were placed about six feet high protected by deep trenches. These defensive works were connected with the right bank with a bridge of boats. Some twenty to twenty five thousand men and seventy guns were placed behind these entrenchments. Nevertheless, the traitors were determined once again to see the Khalsa Army beaten. Lal Singh was again re-imposed on the Army. Two days before the battle, Lal Singh again sent Shams-ud-Din to Major Lawrence with details of its defensive plan. The weakest point in the Sikh line was its right flank where the loose sand made it impossible to build high parapets or place heavy guns there; it was to be protected by the ghorcharas and light camel guns which only fired balls one or two pounds in weight; moreover the command of this wing was reserved by Lal Singh for himself. On the basis of this intelligence, Cunningham writes,
Sardar Sham Singh, also knowing that 10th February was going to be the day of battle, rose early in the morning, dressed himself in white, and mounting his white mare proceeded to address the Sikh Army. He reminded the assembled Khalsa about their glorious traditions of bravery and sacrifices in the past and begged them, as true sons of the soil, to die rather than turn their backs on the enemy. Since he had himself dedicated his life to the sacred cause, his words had the desired effect.
Dick's Division advanced according to plan and found the defences weak and easily surmountable, as Lal Singh's emissaries had reported. The 10th Queen's Regiment broke through totally unopposed, but when the entire division had penetrated some way it was suddenly fallen upon by the Sikhs and driven back. Sir Robert Dick was himself mortally wounded. 'Rally those men', the Governor-General shouted. Colonel Wood, his Aide de-Camp, galloped to the centre of the line and seizing the colours from the hands of an ensign carried them to the front. In a moment the wavering British troops had rallied and stormed the breastworks simultaneously with the Brigade of Dick's Division, who had also experienced a similar check but had soon recovered their lost ground. Now both Gilbert's and Dick's Divisions engaged in what may be called the deadliest hand-to-hand encounter with the Sikh infantry.
During the first British attack Sardar Sham Singh had been present almost everywhere. He did not allow his men to lose heart as he moved from column to column urging the men to fight on. His action stirred the Sikhs to greater efforts and the British were eventually repulsed. William Edwards, who was present during the attack, has described the scene most graphically :
|Lal Singh the Traitor|
For some time the issue of the Battle of Subhraon was hanging in the balance as the conflict raged fiercely. Cunningham, describing this contest, writes:
Gilbert's Division led the third charge on the Sikh centre. Mounting on one another's shoulders, the attackers gained a footing on the entrenchments and as they increased in number they rushed at the Sikh guns and captured them. Soon the news spread down the line that enemy troops had won their way through to Sikh positions. Sardar Sham Singh, seeing his army facing defeat, took the final fatal plunge. He spurred forward against the 50th Foot, brandishing his sword and calling on his men to follow him. But soon he fell from his horse, his body pierced with seven balls. He had remained true to his vow to the last. Bravely the Sardar had not only gone forward to defend his own positions, but had pushed deep into the enemy lines. As proof of this his dead body, according to the British Commander-in-Chief, 'was sought for in the captured camp by his followers', who were permitted to search for their dead leader. His body was discovered where the dead lay thickest. His servants placed the body on a raft and swam with it across the river. Three days later the party reached Attari. Sham Singh's widow, who knew of her husband's resolution not to survive defeat, had already immolated herself with the clothes which the Sardar had worn on their wedding day. Her Samadh along with that of her husband is still to be seen outside the village of Attari.
The self-sacrifice of Sardar Sham Singh, the hero of Subhraon, had an inspiring effect. According to Cunningham, .
Sardar Sham Singh's courage and determination had turned Sobroan into the Waterloo of India, as according to Malleson, 'victory for the Sikhs would have meant to the English the loss of India'. The Sardar's devotion to his country's cause was unique in an era of betrayals and his fidelity and self-sacrifice shone like a beacon amidst the treachery and selfishness of his contemporaries who sold their country to the foreigners. Indeed Sardar Sham Singh proved himself a prince among patriots and martyrs'.
Further treasonable negotiations and secret understandings between the English and the traitors took place during the first week of February 1846. William Edwards says, According to Griffin, Tej Singh counseled even the valiant warrior Sham Singh Attariwala to run away with him at the first British attack in the battle of Sobroan. Writing about the battle of Subhroan, where he was present, Cunningham says, .
Edwardes says, about the same battle,
According to Major Carmichael Smyth, .
Smith, Life of Lord Lawrence, 1188. Hesketh Pearson says, .
Captain J.D. Cunningham, who was present as an additional aide-de-camp to the governor-general, describes the last scene of the battle vividly in his A History of the Sikhs:
Lord Hardinge, who saw the action, wrote:
According to Secret understanding with the Governor-General, no opposition was offered to the British troops who arrived at Lahore on 20-2-1846. Two days later, a portion of the fort was garrisoned by the British Regiments.
:Anglo-Sikh Wars and its Inside Tale - Karnail Singh