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The Story of the Guides

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The Story of the Guides
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Author(s): by G.J. Younghusband
Date Published: 06/2006
Page Count: 204
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-063-0
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-073-9

Most regiments can lay claim to renown, but some transcend this to achieve fame. The Guides - a corps. of both infantry and cavalry is one of the exalted few. Founded by Harry Lumsden (himself a figure of fame in British Indian history) its Khaki clad troops fought with distinction in a series of wars from the Sikh War to the Indian Mutiny and the Afghan war of 1878-80. They were present at the relief of Chitral and in the Malakand Expedition, but it is their consummate skill in the campaigns and skirmishes with the tribes of the ‘burning border’ that brought them to their own. This is the story of the Victorian campaigns of the Guides - from 1847 to 1900.

This was the fourth sortie Hamilton had led that day; the first with all four Englishmen in a line, the second with three, the third with two, and now alone. Over six feet in height, splendidly made, lithe and strong, with all the activity of youth, expert with sword and pistol, he was a noble specimen of the British officer, and none more fit than he to stand in the deadly breach. Out then they went and acted on the plan arranged. For a third time those fateful guns were captured, and then alone to stem the fierce assault stood Hamilton, while his men laboured at the gun; but the odds were too great, and the gallant subaltern, after killing three men with his pistol and cutting down two more with his sword, was himself borne down. And so fighting died as brave a young heart as ever did honour to the uniform he wore. Swarming over his body, the mutineers recaptured the gun and again drove back the remnants of the forlorn hope. Hamilton lay where he fell close to the gun, till darkening night settled down on the dreadful scene. But when, next morning, a witness passed that way, he mentions that the brave young fellow’s body was laid across the gun. Perchance it was the kindly act of a friend, or perchance the rough chivalry of one who had watched his heroic deeds.

It might be thought that a day so full of great deeds, of patient courage, and unshaken loyalty could, as the sun sank slowly down, produce no further spark from those exhausted, starving few. But it remained for the evening hour to produce, perhaps, the brightest flash of all.

It was apparent to all the besiegers, fighters or spectators, that one by one all the sahibs had been killed or sore wounded, and that now none remained to lead their men. At intervals during the day loud voices, as of those in command, had shouted to the garrison of Guides: “We have no quarrel with you. Deliver over the sahibs, and you shall all go free, with what loot you can take. Be not foolish thus to fight for the cursed Feringhis against your own kith and kin.” But for answer all they got was fierce showers of bullets, and fiercer still the staunch defenders cried: “Dogs and sons of dogs, is this the way you treat your nation’s guests? To hell with you! we parley not with base-born churls!”

And now, again, when all the Englishmen were dead, the voices cried: “Why fight any longer? Your sahibs are killed. Save yourselves, and surrender, before you are all killed. We will give you quarter.” Left in command was Jemadar Jewand Singh, a splendid Sikh officer of the Guides’ cavalry, and not one whit behind his British officers in brave resolve. He deigned no word of answer to the howling crowd without, but to the few brave survivors within, perhaps a dozen or so, he said: “The Sahibs gave us this duty to perform, to defend this Residency to the last. Shall we then disgrace the cloth we wear by disobeying their orders now they are dead? Shall we hand over the property of the Sirkar, and the dead bodies of our officers, to these sons of perdition? I for one prefer to die fighting for duty and the fame of the Guides, and they that will do likewise follow me.” Then, as the evening closed, went forth unhurried the last slender forlorn hope. The light of the setting sun fell kindly on those grim and rugged faces, out of which all anger and excitement and passion had passed away: they were marching out to die, and they knew it. One last glimpse we have of their gallant end. From a window hard by an old soldier pensioner, himself a prisoner, saw, and bore witness, that the leader of those pathetic few, fighting with stern and steadfast courage, killed eight assailants before he himself, the last to fall, was overborne.