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Author Topic: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question  (Read 2515 times)

Offline OB

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A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« on: August 22, 2022, 01:24:26 PM »

So far as I can tell this was the default tactic of Sikh Gorchurra cavalry. Groups of riders rode forward and fired from the saddle at their opponents. They rode away again to reload and to be replaced by the next group.  Who did the same.  When the enemy was sufficiently weakened the Sikhs charged home as a body.

That is not to say that Gorchurra couldn’t simply just charge the foe.  They could and did.  That though required a specific intent and order.  Normally they seem to have opened with musketry in the manner described above.

Does anyone have any evidence to the contrary?

Offline Emir of Askaristan

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2022, 06:18:57 PM »
I think, and I'm willing to be corrected, that the gorchurra cavalry were tribal irregulars - very skilful individual horsemen - with lance , sword and in some cases firearms. I feel they would use wherever tactics they felt the situation required. As such, ascribing them a caracole style tactic as a default tactic is limiting.

The probably could fire and attempt to break up their enemy's formation or by retiring, draw the enemy out by means of a feigned retreat, but these are quite normal things do do for light cavalry and especially asiatic types.

A colonial rule set should allow this sort of skirmishing as well as a charge home.


Offline OB

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2022, 07:04:33 PM »
I agree with your description and I'm sure they could employ a range of tactics as you say. 

With a few exceptions, like the Kurds who simply charged,  all Eurasian cavalry employed missilery to open the fighting.  I see the Gorchurra as very much as part of that tradition. What I'm looking for is any evidence that they were not, as the Kurds were not.  So far I have not found any.

I agree with your point on colonial rules too.  You might have guessed I'm currently writing some.

Offline Emir of Askaristan

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2022, 08:12:13 PM »
The helicon books on the Sikh Army and Sikh wars may be worth a look? I don't have them sadly but they may have more clues.

Offline OB

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2022, 09:52:37 PM »
Yes, I did wonder about getting that one.  I may have to get a copy.

Offline OB

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2022, 05:02:12 PM »
Just ordered the book in the hope it will answer my question.  I did a picture search that seems to tell a story.  I think I might be on the right lines.

Offline Emir of Askaristan

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2022, 11:18:55 PM »
Reading through the summary descriptions of the battles from both Sikh wars seems to suggest that the Sikh cavalry was ineffective against the British and sepoy regular cavalry and that a charge by these seem to have dispersed the  Sikhs.

Add to this that the illustrations  you have show matchlocks I'd suggest that repeated firing isn't their chosen tactic. They could "skirmish" and "evade" but if regulars caught them they were normally at a disadvantage and suffered accordingly in most cases.

Individually a Sikh tribal cavalryman was probably a better horseman and fighter than an individual regular trooper and better mounted too....but as a unit the regulars have the edge with training and discipline to win the encounter in most cases. I recall reading that  sepoys found their swords were not as strong and sharp as the Sikh versions, but again this doesn't seem to have been a decisive factor either.

In one battle the British cavalry suffered at the hands of their opponent when their attack carried in them into scrub, which broke up their formation and they were counterattacked and suffered for it. The gorchurras could therefore charge,  but only when favourable to do so.

So as long as your rules are flexible enough to allow this fire and evade you'll be fine.

Offline OB

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2022, 12:10:23 AM »
My working hypothesis is that the compact charge of British cavalry in close formation pretty much always dispersed the Gorchurra.  That is pretty much all they did.  Gorchurra casualties were mostly slight, near invisible. Given Generals who intended to win it would have been a simple matter to rally them.

There was one notable exception.  A unit of British Bengal irregular cavalry caused absolute carnage among the Gorchurra.  An investigation duly followed and it was discovered that the Bengalis all carried razor sharp swords.  The British issue swords were much inferior bouncing off turbans. I suspect the troopers didn't keep them sharp.  The Gorchurra tactic when assailed was to bend over their horses neck presenting their turbans and the shield on their back as the most available target.  It did the trick.

Loading machlocks from the saddle isn't too difficult.  You just need time to do it.  An enemy who rapidly closes will deny that time.  Then it is skirmish and evade.

Actually the Gorchurra would always charge, even against odds.  What they needed was someone to tell them that was what was required.  No one seems to have done that in the First Sikh War.

I'm going to use Barry Hilton's order system.  That means British cavalry can be ordered to charge and they will do so subject to the usual caveats.  Gorchurra will need two orders, one to form and another to attempt a charge.  Absent that they will skirmish and evade.

That said who knows what The Rise of the Sikh Soldier will reveal.  I already have Amarpal Singh's two volumes so a bit of re reading needed there too.

Offline Emir of Askaristan

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2022, 04:12:52 PM »
Look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Offline OB

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2022, 04:17:23 PM »
Thanks, its another part of the hobby I enjoy.  You never know where the research will take you.

Online Deflatermouse

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2022, 11:27:38 AM »
Thank you both for this thread. Very interesting to read.
I was also of the impression they were Irregular "Men on Horses" rather than horsemen. (From a European description IIRC)
So I imagined them to be primarily skirmisher troops in large bodies.

Offline Peterem

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2022, 11:35:46 AM »
Hi OB,

Do you have any references for the Bengal Irregular Cavalry/Goracharra skirmish and subsequent investigation? I have seen an account put the relatively poor performance of the Bengal Light Cavalry down to them carrying standard British Light Cavalry sabres when the author believed native tulwars (like the Local Horse had) would have been better, but nothing formal.

Peter

Offline OB

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2022, 12:34:17 PM »
Hi Peter,

From memory I think it is in Brent Nosworthy when he considers cavalry.  Again from memory it is part of the relative merits of regular and irregular cavalry.  He also notes the ineffectiveness of British cavalry swords against the thick coats of their Russian counterparts in the Crimean War.

The Bengali irregular cavalry incident might also be in Amarpal Singh Sidhu's First Anglo-Sikh War.  Or, I might have read it there.  It was certainly a First Sikh War incident rather than the second one.

Sorry not to be able to give you chapter and verse-it is a while since I read either book.  If I come across it again in the course of my re reading I'll post the reference here.

The British sabre v tulwar issue seems to have been well enough known.  It turns up in the Flashman Afghan novel too.

Offline OB

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2022, 01:27:56 PM »
I thought I would have a look at the books to answer your question.  Struck lucky first time.

Pages 292-293 Nosworthy Battle Tactics of Napoleon and his enemies.  It was the Second Sikh War, source Captain Nolan.  Now I'm wondering if there were two similar incidents.

And I see Nolan will be shortly republished.  That's one I wont miss.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Cavalry-Paperback/p/18679
« Last Edit: August 27, 2022, 01:49:21 PM by OB »

Offline huevans

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Re: A Sikh Gorchurra Cavalry Question
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2022, 05:33:53 PM »
My working hypothesis is that the compact charge of British cavalry in close formation pretty much always dispersed the Gorchurra.  That is pretty much all they did.  Gorchurra casualties were mostly slight, near invisible. Given Generals who intended to win it would have been a simple matter to rally them.

There was one notable exception.  A unit of British Bengal irregular cavalry caused absolute carnage among the Gorchurra.  An investigation duly followed and it was discovered that the Bengalis all carried razor sharp swords.  The British issue swords were much inferior bouncing off turbans. I suspect the troopers didn't keep them sharp.  The Gorchurra tactic when assailed was to bend over their horses neck presenting their turbans and the shield on their back as the most available target.  It did the trick.

Loading machlocks from the saddle isn't too difficult.  You just need time to do it.  An enemy who rapidly closes will deny that time.  Then it is skirmish and evade.

Actually the Gorchurra would always charge, even against odds.  What they needed was someone to tell them that was what was required.  No one seems to have done that in the First Sikh War.

I'm going to use Barry Hilton's order system.  That means British cavalry can be ordered to charge and they will do so subject to the usual caveats.  Gorchurra will need two orders, one to form and another to attempt a charge.  Absent that they will skirmish and evade.

That said who knows what The Rise of the Sikh Soldier will reveal.  I already have Amarpal Singh's two volumes so a bit of re reading needed there too.

I would have thought that loading a matchlock in the saddle would be very challenging - control the horse, keep the match away from everything else, break out the powder and ball, physically load the gun.

Difficult to load one round, let alone keep up a steady fire, I would guess!

 

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