19th Century Colonial India Afghan Military Interest Silver Lions Mask and Chain
19th Century Colonial India Afghan Military Interest Silver Lions Mask and Chain
19th Century Colonial India Afghan Military Interest Silver Lions Mask and Chain
19th Century Colonial India Afghan Military Interest Silver Lions Mask and Chain
19th Century Colonial India Afghan Military Interest Silver Lions Mask and Chain
19th Century Colonial India Afghan Military Interest Silver Lions Mask and Chain
19th Century Colonial India Afghan Military Interest Silver Lions Mask and Chain

19th Century Colonial India Afghan Military Interest Silver Lions Mask and Chain

c. 1850 England

Offered by Roger Bradbury Antiques

£685 gbp
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I acquired this interesting piece many years ago from an Irish lady, member of the Cleland family along with many other pieces of her family’s history. The lions mask is nice modelled and the chain is of good quality. I would imagine that at some point it would have had perhaps a whistle attached.
There is a handwritten fragment of paper which came with this piece reading;

‘LT Walter Richard Pollock Hamilton Queens Own Corps of Guides
Defence of British Embassy at Cabul 3rd Sept 1879
There fell 75 men of the Guide Cops under his command’
Belonging to; Lt Walter Richard Pollock Hamilton VC
The Corps of Guides was a famous regiment of the British Indian Army which served in the North West Frontier and had the unique composition of being part Infantry and part Cavalry. It evolved through the 20th century to become the Guides Cavalry.

It today exists as 2nd Battalion (The Guides) of the Frontier Force Regiment of the Pakistan Army

The brainchild of Sir Henry Lawrence, the Corps had Lt Harry Lumsden as its commandant and W.S.R. Hodson (the Hodson of Hodson’s Horse) as second-in-command. On 6 February 1847 Lumsden wrote to his father " I have just been nominated to raise the corps of Guides. It will be the finest appointment in the country". A few months later, on 16 September 1847 Hodson wrote to his brother "..of my good fortune... I am to be the Second-in-Command with the Corps of Guides".

The Corps had modest beginnings. When it was raised at Kalu Khan, on the Yusufzai Plain, in the Peshawar Valley region by Lt. Lumsden in December 1846, it comprised just one troop of cavalry and two companies of infantry. The first action was at Mughdara, in the Panitar Hills. Within two years, the small force of Guides had established a name for itself, under Lumsden, its founder, and Hodson . When the Second Sikh War broke out in 1848, the unit was given authorisation for a three-fold increase in size, to six companies of infantry and three troops of cavalry. The Guides maintained the quirky 'cavalry and infantry combined in the same regiment' format for many years, and even when split into two separate components, the name lingered in both elements.

The Corps of Guides became the garrison unit of a key post on the frontier, the new fort of (Hoti ~) Mardan. The building of the fort in 1854 was organised and supervised by Hodson who had been promoted commandant of the regiment in 1852. In 1857 the unit was called urgently to help relieve the Siege of Delhi. In just over three weeks the Guides marched nearly six hundred miles during the hottest month of the year, crossing five great rivers and fighting four small actions. The march coincided with the month of Ramadan meaning that the Muslim soldiers in the force could neither eat nor drink during the hours of daylight. On arrival at Delhi, the force of 600 Guides were almost immediately called upon to join the defence of the city. Men who had just completed a march of some 580 miles were thrown into a battle of such intensity that no fewer than 350 of the 600 became casualties within an hour of their arrival in Delhi.

The Corps of Guides was part of the Frontier Force brigade and developed a reputation of being an elite unit. They were the first unit in the Indian or British Armies to dress in ‘Khaki’ uniform, first introduced in 1848. Typically, the Guides were often used in small detachments, usually supported by other Frontier Force troops.

The designations of the Corps of Guides changed over time as follows:

The Corps of Guides (1846)
The Corps of Guides, Punjab Irregular Force (1857)
Corps of Guides, Punjab Frontier Force (1865)
Queen's Own Corps of Guides, Punjab Frontier Force (1876)
Queen's Own Corps of Guides (1901)
Queen's Own Corps of Guides (Lumsden's) (1904)
Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force) (Lumsden's) (1911).
In 1911 the cavalry and infantry components were designated as such. The cavalry then became, successively:-

Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force) (Lumsden's) Cavalry (1911)
10th Queen Victoria’s Own Corps of Guides Cavalry (Frontier Force) (1922)
The Guides Cavalry (10th Queen Victoria's Own Frontier Force) (1927)
and the infantry:-

Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides (Frontier Force) (Lumsden's) Infantry (1911)
5th Bn (QVO Corps of Guides) 12th Frontier Force Regiment (1922)

Walter Richard Pollock Hamilton VC (18 August 1856 – 3 September 1879) was born in Inistioge, County Kilkenny and was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He is featured in M.M. Kaye’s epic novel The Far Pavilions.

Hamilton was a great nephew of General Sir George Pollock who led the Army of Retribution in the First Afghan War. He was educated at Felsted, Hamilton was 22 years old, and a Lieutenant in the Staff Corps and Corps of Guides, Indian Army during the Second Afghan War when the following deed took place on 2 April 1879 at Futtehabad, Afghanistan, for which he was awarded the VC:

For conspicuous gallantry during the action at Futtehabad on the 2nd April, 1879, in leading on the Guide Cavalry in a charge against very superior numbers of the enemy, and particularly at a critical moment when his Commanding Officer (Major Wigram Battye) fell, Lieutenant Hamilton, then the only Officer left with the Regiment, assumed command and cheered on his men to avenge Major Battye's death. In this charge Lieutenant Hamilton, seeing Sowar Dowlut Ram down, and attacked by three of the enemy, whilst entangled with his horse (which had been killed) rushed to the rescue, and followed by a few of his men cut down all three and saved the life of Sowar Dowlut Ram.

The scene of Hamilton's death was the Bala Hissar, an enclosure within the city of Kabul. He commanded a small force of 20 Cavalry and 50 Infantry, all from the Corps of Guides, which formed an escort for Sir Louis Cavagnari the Envoy who was to set up the Residency in Kabul following the Treaty of Gandamak. After a riot by mutinous Afghan troops, who were demanding arrears of pay, the Residency was attacked on 3 September 1879. Fierce fighting took place between the Guides and the attackers, during which Cavagnari and all the Guides were killed.

On 15 May 1879, six weeks after the action at Futtehabad, the Government in India forwarded a Victoria Cross recommendation for Hamilton to London which on 6 August determined that his act was not covered by the Victoria Cross regulations. There was a change of heart when the Secretary of State for India, Lord Cranbrook, noted that Hamilton’s actions were similar to those of Captain John Cook and Lieutenant Reginald Hart who had both been awarded the Victoria Cross two months earlier. By this stage Hamilton had been killed at Kabul on 3 September and in order to avoid the precedent of seeming to approve a posthumous award the submission to the Queen on 28 September was backdated to 1 September 1879. The award was gazetted on 7 October 1879, the 12th Victoria Cross recommendation approved after the death of the recipient.

A slightly over-life-size statue of Hamilton striding over an Afghan threatening him with a knife was produced in bronze-painted plaster by Charles Bell Birch in Dublin in around 1880. It is now on display in the National Army Museum, Chelsea, as is a plaque to him (set up in the Punjab Frontier Force Chapel, then in the sanctum crypt of St. Lukes Chapel, Chelsea).
Weight 58.00g (1.86oz t)
Roger Bradbury Antiques

Roger Bradbury Antiques
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