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Sunday, 1 May 2016

A British Army for the First Anglo Sikh War Part 2

Previously we examined some background to the war and noted that the British army as a whole was a good and professional one.  There were of course differences among the troops.




India was a difficult climate for white troops who died like flies regardless of whether or not there was a war on. In the hottest times of the year heat and dust could impair effectiveness and thirst could even drive men beyond the constraints of discipline.


The Queen’s cavalry regiments had a fine sense of their social as well as racial standing and did perform on the battle field with notable dash.


The Sepoys and Sowars tended to be better physical specimens than many of their white equivalents.  The Company had its pick of the manhood of India. Soldiering was regarded as an honourable and remunerative occupation by sections of Indian society who had lived by it for generations .




British troops were tough and could decide to fight to the last man (Gandamack) but they could also run away (outside the cantonment at Kabul) just like any other soldiers who think all is lost.

There is also the quality of the opposition to be considered. In his memoirs a Sepoy wrote that prior to the Sikh War he was used to giving the enemy a volley or two and then charging as they began to run away.

The Sikh War was not like that and of course a British army had recently been lost in Afghanistan.  Therefore it is interesting to note that the British officer class, and consequently the men, seem to have believed that the Khalsa was hopelessly suborned by democratic republicanism and therefore no longer could operate in a disciplined manner.  Sidhu gives us a British eye witness here.

So confident were our officers and men that the Sikh army was composed of nothing but a rebel mob, that they did not believe they would hazard an engagement with us – and I heard several officers say (even after the cannonading had commenced),’O, they will run away before we get up to them – they will not fight us’, and several other expressions of similar kind, showing how very ignorant we were of their real strength and intentions; and in this ignorance of the Sikh army, it is wonderful that all were alike involved, even the Governor and the Commander- in- Chief, each of whom, it should fairly be supposed ought to have been possessed of correct information on so important a subject.”

With hindsight we can see the Battle of Mudki must have been something of a shock.

My starting point for an army list (FOB) for the Sikh War is to recognise that the strength of the British army lay in professionalism, discipline and fire power. As many of their Indian opponents testified, British command and control, mostly, worked very well indeed.  British fire power, Afghans in ambush aside, had always prevailed. The soldiers themselves were all well trained regulars save for bands of irregular cavalry.

I try to reflect a flavour of the foregoing in the ratings list.  As ever if you disagree feel free to amend as you see fit.

I am rating (FOB) all Sepoys and Sowars and the majority of other troops simply as regular. The Queen’s cavalry regiments have the combat capabilities of elite troops but remain regulars in other respects.  Queen’s infantry regiments have the combat capabilities of regulars but are otherwise Crack.  Ghurkhas and the Rifles are rated Crack. The idea is to reflect both the self - image and the reality of the various formations.  

A British army for the Sikh War might look like this.



Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
80th
Musket
 D8
D8
0-2
3-4
4-6
31st
Musket
 D12+1
D8
0-2
3-4
4-6
16th NI
Musket
D10 
D6
0-2
3-4
4-6
24th NI
Musket
 D8
D6
0-2
3-4
4-6
44th NI
Musket
 D12
D6
0-2
3-4
4-6
47th NI
Musket
 D10
D6
0-2
3-4
4-6
Ghurkhas
Musket
 D10
D8
0-2
3-4
4-6
Rifles
Rifle
 D12
D8
0-2
3-4
4-8

Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
5th Dragoons
Carbine
D12
D6
0-1
2
3
Lancers
Lance
D12+1
D6
0-1


Bengal Light Horse
Carbine
D8
D6
0-1
2
3
Light Horse
Carbine
D10
D6
0-1
2
3

Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
HM Foot Artillery
9lb Gun
D10
D6
0-4
5-8
9-16
Company Foot Artillery
9lb Gun
D12
D6
0-4
5-8
9-16
Bengal Horse Artillery
6lb Gun
D8
D6
0-4
5-8
9-16
Bengal Horse Artillery
6lb Gun
D10
D6
0-4
5-8
9-16

Irregulars
Unit
Armament
Combat Die
Defence Die
Short Range
Medium Range
Long Range
Bengal Irregular Horse *
Mixed
D8
D6
0-1
-
-
Irregular Horse
Mixed
D6
D6
0-1
-
-


The irregular horse in contemporary illustrations are shown with a variety of arms. I have given them short range fire power here to reflect a pistols and matchlocks or possibly even bows.  The *Bengalis are intended to be the fellows with razor sharp swords mentioned earlier on this blog.  


We can see that the British will enjoy an advantage in regular infantry firepower.  When we consider the artillery the pendulum swings towards the Sikhs who have heavier guns.  With the cavalry once again the Sikhs will enjoy an advantage.  The British therefore will have to rely on command and control, discipline and infantry fire power to carry the day.  I think this is entirely the right effect for gaming the First Anglo Sikh War.

3 comments:

  1. Don't want to be too picky, but I've never seen any evidence of troops from the Madras army in the Sikh wars.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You may well be right Giffy I could have been thinking of the Madras troops who stayed loyal during the Mutiny. I'll check and adjust if need be.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Giffy its now corrected.

    ReplyDelete