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Author Topic: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war  (Read 487 times)

Offline WillieB

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Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« on: June 27, 2020, 08:21:32 PM »
Studio Miniatures will probably be re- releasing - and hopefully completing - this range and perhaps we'll get some more goodies from Iron Duke.
I've always been fascinated by this war but good resources are relatively hard to find.
Since most of the troops for this conflict are usually depicted in winter clothing I was wondering if the native contingents would have had winter clothing as well. And would it have been the same as the British troops? Grey greatcoats?
Thanks very much for any help!
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Offline Mad Guru

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Re: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2020, 07:03:54 AM »
WillieB,

Excellent question!  I wish I had more definitive information to answer with, but I don't.  My primary interest is the Second Afghan War of 1878-1880, but for many years I've also been interested in the First Afghan War of 1839-1842.  In 2009 I wrote a chapter on the Retreat from Kabul and the Battle of Jugdulluk, AKA Gandamak, for a friend's Osprey coffee-table book on "Battles of Annihilation."  The retreat and battle took place in December of 1841 and January 1842, and I think it's the primary reason why artwork and figures for this war are, as you say, often pictured in winter clothing.  I did a lot of research for that chapter, read many books, including several survivor memoirs, and searched various contemporary newspaper and magazine articles I fiound digitized online, but I found very little re: winter clothing/uniforms for the Indian troops in Afghanistan.  I found at least one mention of Indian regiments not being supplied with Winter clothes of any kind at all, which at the time struck me as a bit shocking, considering how cold it gets in Afghanistan during the Winter.  But when you think about the dire Winter clothing and supply situation that dogged the British Army in the Crimea more than a decade later, it's not that hard to believe.  There were also several mentions of Indian troops wrapping blankets over their uniforms in an effort to stay warm during the Winter, which is what the thousands of Indian camp-followers who accompanied the Army to Kabul did.  Again, I wish I could be more definitive.  Hopefully someone who knows more about the topic will chime in.

Here's a LINK to the relatively recent Osprey Campaign book on the First Afghan War, which includes a good amount of visual reference, including both period and modern illustrations, maps, and battle diagrams:

https://ospreypublishing.com/the-first-afghan-war-1839-42

RE: Your original question on Winter clothes for the Bengal Regiments in Afghanistan, the Osprey book cover, as pictured here --



-- shows Lt. Francis Warren with men of the 5th Bengal Infantry defending the Commissariat Fort on Nov. 4th, 1841.  Despite it being November, when the temperature in Kabul can go as low as 33° they're shown without greatcoats or other Winter clothes of any kind, just their standard uniforms.  I would think that the artist, Peter Dennis, was provided with the best info available re: what Bengal Army troops would have been wearing at the time.

It should also be said that although the retreat from Kabul to Jugdulluk is probably the best-known action of this little-known war, other major battles were fought during the Summer, such as the Battle of Ghuznee in July 1839, and Pollock and his "Army of Retribution" retaking Kabul in August, 1842.  So you can certainly raise troops in standard dress to fight First Afghan War battles.

On the question of resources for the war, I highly recommend "FIERCE PAWNS" by Patrick Macrory, which covers it from start to finish in about 350 pages.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2020, 09:27:48 AM by Mad Guru »
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Offline OB

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Re: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2020, 07:39:02 AM »
I've not come across any evidence so far of the Indian troops having winter clothes. I'm not even sure Sepoys even had a Winter uniform as we would understand it.

I suppose we should keep in mind that the British authorities and Commanders had no intention of making a winter march back to India. They had thought that they would over winter safely in garrison in Kabul with all necessities readily available.  The march was an emergency measure that they had not planned for.  It is possible the Sepoys marched in their Summer kit.

Online Plynkes

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Re: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2020, 08:26:21 AM »
I don't have the answer either, but I would point out that the retreat from Kabul was a single incident in a war that spanned 1839 to 1842. Unless you are modelling separate forces for every battle, you aren't obliged to go for the "Gandamak" look if you don't want to.




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Offline WillieB

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Re: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2020, 10:48:26 AM »
Thank you all for these very informative answers!
It somehow 'confirms' what I thought. No regular issue of winter clothing to native troops. Partly because it wasn't expected to be necessary, perhaps also partly because they were usually the last to receive equipment.

@ Obviously I don't have to model all my figures in winter clothing but the ones I already have, as well as the ones coming out from Studio ( British troops) are wearing those. From what i learned here I'll try to give at least some of the native troops improvised winter kit.

Now that we're on the topic of winter clothing and such. As you know I live in one of the Northern suburbs of Antwerp. Less than 750 meters from where I live there was a well documented charge of French( well Dutch actually)  Guard lancers against British troops in 1814. For years now I would love to recreate this charge (SP 2 seems perfect for this!) and consequent battle ( A French battery was emplaced where I live now) that followed.  Now French supporting troops in greatcoats are easy enough to find. Artillery men somewhat more difficult but still feasible with some slight conversions. But British Napoleonic troops in greatcoats? French Guard Lancers in greatcoats?( except for the three Perry figures from the Retreat from Moscow range)

Offline Romark

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Re: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2020, 11:31:12 AM »
Hi Guys
The ever informative,Mike Shook has clarified this for us on his Iron Duke Facebook page.
Seems the Sepoys were issued with a greatcoat for this campaign.
Much more info on his page  :)
Thanks Mike 👍
« Last Edit: July 01, 2020, 12:36:22 PM by Romark »


Offline carlos marighela

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Re: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2020, 06:21:22 PM »
I cannot find any mention in Mollo’s Indian Army of greatcoats. I’m not surprised really, prior to 1839 there really wasn’t any involvement of HEIC troops in cold weather environments.

Funnily enough I have the Studio Miniatures Brits on my painting table at this very moment. They’ve languished unloved for a long time. The sculpts are just a bit lacking IMO and the marching figures a bit flat. I bought the greatcoated chaps for Canada but for Afghanistan, I’d be inclined to stick with Foundry and the useable bits from Perry Miniatures.

Napoleonic Brits in grwatcoats? IIRC Wargames Foundry did a packet or two.
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Offline OB

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Re: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2020, 07:49:42 PM »
Romark, does Mike say when the great coats were issued?  In India before the march? I'm not on Facebook so I cannot look it up.

Offline Romark

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Re: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2020, 08:45:17 PM »
Hi OB
Mike's reply says;
Section 25  of the BNI standing orders of 1841 makes it clear the greatcoat was a standard BNI item.
Seems they were normally kept in the baggage but
Heavy marching order required the greatcoat or blanket to be rolled and strapped on top of the knapsack.
Hope this helps :)

Offline OB

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Re: Bengal and Bombay native infantry in the First Afghan war
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2020, 11:01:11 PM »
It certainly does thank you.

 

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