A Brief History of a British Officer in the Indian Army

Indian Army List For April I -1919

Indian Army List For April I -1919

The creator of the photograph album, a Scottish major whose identity is unknown, served as a British officer in the 40th Pathans, a regiment in the British Indian Army. A listing of the 40th Pathans in 1919 details the names and ranks of its members.

There are several men listed in this document, shown at left, that could be the Major in this photograph album. The prime candidates are: Major H.S. Tyndale, Major A.C. Cochran, Major R.S. Waters, Major M.G. Lee, or Major H.A. Hill; however, none were attached to the Pathans until 1916, 1917, or 1918.

Evidence shows that Tyndall and Cochran were decorated, meaning they probably were with the regiment in France. In addition, the Major in the album visited an aircraft factory, and Lee was with the Royal Air Force in 1919. Another possibility is Captain E. Segar who was an acting major in 1919, temporarily attached to the 23rd Punjabis, and he was with the regiment as early as June 1907.

There are many leads but currently no definitive proof that any of them are the Major in the album.

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 2

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 2

The Major is shown several times in the photograph album, sometimes alone, sometimes with family. He is featured in full military dress on the photograph album page at right. His rank as a major is denoted by the buttons and piping on his sleeves and on his epaulettes. This photograph album focuses on the Major and his family. It is believed that the Major created this album to depict his time in the military, both on active duty and on leave, as well as his travels throughout India.

The Major served in the 40th Pathans, a regiment in the British Indian Army. First assembled by Lieutenant Edward Danbrige, the 40th Pathans came into existence in 1858 after the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 28

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 28

The 40th Pathans fought bravely during the Second Battle of Ypres in World War I. While the Pathans fought in Europe during World War I, the Major most likely did not. Both the Major and 40th Pathans fought in the Third Afghan War or as the Major called it in this photograph album, “The Afghan War of 1919”, as well as the Jabbi Outlaw Affair in April of 1919. In the photograph album page at left, a few members of the 40th Pathans can be seen.

At the end of 1919, a monument to the 40th Pathans was constructed near Murree in modern day Pakistan commemorating their participation in World War I. The 40th Pathans are remembered at Menin Gate in Belgium.

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 26

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 26

Following World War I, the Major and the 40th Pathans fought in the Afghan War of 1919. The page at right features four photographs relating to the Afghan War of 1919, most likely of the Major's military unit's campsite. This was the third in a series of wars in which modern Afghanistan sought to gain their full independence from England. The Afghan War of 1919 took place from May 6th, 1919 to August 8th, 1919. Up until August 1919, Britain had been imposing its will on the Afghan government. In the end, Afghanistan won full independence from England. The end of the Afghan War of 1919 marked the last time the Major would enter the Afghanistan region, and the last time his family would have to travel to Afghanistan. 

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 36

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 36

The Major was stationed in Landi Kotal, in what is now Pakistan, and the Major set up defenses on the surrounding hilltops as seen in the photograph album page at left. The bottom right-hand photograph shows two men standing in front of a barbed wire fence, and the photograph is captioned "Ally Sloper piquet." One of these hilltop defenses in the region was named Ali Tsappar. Due to the similar spelling, and possibly sound, of the name, the Major nicknamed this hilltop “Ally Sloper” after the well-known comic strip character from home. The word choice of "piquet" is likely due to the fact that one of the French definitions for the word "piquet" is "picket." Since the fence was constructed using wooden stakes, or pickets, the Major was likely referencing both the area and the fence in this caption.

Ally Sloper's Summer number, page 19

Ally Sloper's Summer number, page 19,

From Villanova University Digital Library

Ally Sloper, one of the first reoccurring characters in a comic strip, is credited as being as popular in England as Dennis the Menace was in the United States. Charles H. Ross and Émilie de Tessier first penned Ally Sloper in 1867. The character sloped through the back alleys of England to avoid his landlord, thus earning his name, Ally Sloper.

In 1884, Ally Sloper became so well known among the working class, that he received his own comic strip and later three feature films. During World War I, in order to promote war-time policies, the British government used Ally Sloper as propaganda. Production of the comic stopped during World War I and never restarted due to the societal changes that took place during the war. Seen at right is a drawing of Ally Sloper from one of his comics.

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 22

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 22

In addition to Ally Sloper, the red poppy also evoked memories of the Major’s homeland and likely reminded him of his country’s war-time history. Displayed during what is now called Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day, the poppies’ red color represents the blood that British forces spilled during World War I. The poppy, being engrained into British culture, possibly led the Major to take the photograph seen in the center of the page at left. The flower is known to grow in areas where the soil is loose. Due to the constant shelling during the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium, the churned soil allowed for poppies to grow. This photograph was taken in April 1919, which is seven months before the first official Remembrance Day.

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 20

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 20

The British not only brought cultural memories to India, they also brought military traditions, such as bagpipes. The bagpipes the 40th Pathans are playing in a photograph from the photograph album, shown to the right, are thought to be of Scottish origin, as there is little evidence that bagpipes existed in India before 1814. The British military most likely introduced the bagpipe to India in the 1800s. The most common bagpipe throughout India and the Indian army is the Scottish Highland pipe. In northern India, bagpipes are known as mashak or bīn bājā and are still found in northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Bagpipes are sometimes played at weddings and by the Indian army during ceremonial gatherings as seen in the video below.

"Military bagpipers band at Beating Retreat ceremony in Delhi" by WildFilmsIndia, https://youtu.be/yArSKVyvox0

A Brief History of a British Officer in the Indian Army