Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cavalry Ambush at Ramnagar

Cavalry Ambush at Ramnagar-1848

British Cavalry ambushed by Sardar

An explanation why HM 14 Light Dragoons morale was low at Battle of Chillianwallah


Major Agha H Amin
(P.A.V.O 11 Cavalry-FF)

Sardar Sher Singh Attariwalla ambushes Gough at Ramnaggar

Dalhousie explicitly forbade Gough from any operation north of Chenab River. However this did not restrain him from attacking the reportedly small Sikh Detatchment at Ramnagar on the south bank of Chenab.

Sardar Sher Singh Attariwala

Gough who was an impetuous Irishman was panting for action and decided to clear the Sikh outpost at Ramnagar on 22nd November.

General Sir Hugh Gough , the architect of British failure at Ramnagar

In reality unknown to the British the Sikh Detatchment south of Chenab was covered by two batteries of heavy guns on the north bank of the river and one battery deployed on an island dividing Chenab into two channels at Ramnagar.

The British on the other hand could not effectively reply with counter bombardment since their two heavy batteries had still not joined them.(The heavy guns joined the main body on 30th November).

In brief the British charged the Sikh infantry without adequate reconaissance,their cavalry got stuck into the sandy river bank and the net result of the action at Ramnagar on 22nd November was 12 officers and 84 men 52 of whom were killed including Brigadier General Cureton and Lieutenant Colonel Havelock commanding officer and the rest wounded.

Lieutenant Colonel Havelock

Lieutenant Colonel Havelock was a brave regimental commander and in him HM 14 Light Dragoon lost a daring commanding officer.He was buried at Ramnagar and his ill maintained grave at Ramnagar in Pakistan is no tribute to the manner in which Britain takes cares of its heroes graves.After all Britain has been long led by cheap social climbers more interested in government contracts and commissions

What had appeared at first sight a Sikh infantry Detatchment was covered by heavy artillery which was out of range of the British guns,covered in addition by Sikh cavalry which was hiding behind the sand bars.

Cavalry Charge at Ramnaggar

14th Light Dragoon saw a body of Sikh infantry at a distance in hasty retreat towards the north bank of Chenab. At this juncture Gough took the command of cavalry in his own hands and ordered 14th Light Dragoons and 5th Native light Cavalry to charge and intercept the Sikhs.

In reality this was an ambush into which 14th light Dragoons had been unwittingly lured. Cureton watching from a distance had gallopped towards 14th light Dragoons in order to restrain them when he was struck by two matchlock balls, one going through the head .

Cureton was an ex cavalry trooper who had served the entire Peninsular War in Her Majestys 14th Light Dragoons and risen to become an officer.

Brigadier Colin Campbell who was present attributed this blunder to Gough’s interference in handling cavalry,not allowing Cureton to proceed according to his independent judgement (17).

Risaldar Sher Bahadur of 8th Light Cavalry who fell in this battle was 78 years old and served the English East India Company for 60 years starting from 1789.

The action at Ramnagar illustrated Sher Singh at his best and Gough at his worst. By a brilliant combination of artillery infantry and cavalry the Sikh imposed such a punishment at Ramnagar, that at least for the next seven days Gough lost his offensive spirit.

The casualties suffered at Ramnagar severely shattered the morale of HM 14th Light Dragoons.In Colonel Havelock they lost a brave commanding officer and his successor was nowhere near him in resolution or leadership.

This was to be sadly proven at Chillianwallah on 13 January 1849

Havelock had made his mark like Cureton in Penisnular war as a famous boy soldier,earning a six bar war medal. and was popularly known as El Chico Blanco , the fair haired and the gallant !

Brigadier General Curetons abandoned grave which the British did not bother to maintain


Ramnaggar Memorial

5th Light Cavalry a regiment of Ranghars and Hindustani Muslims of Afghan,Pathan , Arab and Turkish ancestory also fought well . My grandfathers grandfather also served in this regiment which was sadly disbanded in 1857 on suspicion of rebelling.


17-- Pages-184 & 187- Life of Colin Campbell,Lord Clyde,Volume One - General Lawrence Shadwell-Edinburgh-1881-

Friday, October 29, 2010

Indian Army Centurion Captured by Pakistans 25 Cavalry at Battle Gadgor -1965

A Her Majestys Cavalry Regiment that fled the battlefield

A Her Majestys Cavalry Regiment that fled the battlefield

Major Agha H Amin (Retired ) P.A.V.O 11 Cavalry (Frontier Force)

The flight of HM 14 LIGHT DRAGOONS NOW KNOWN AS 14/20 Hussars from the battlefield at Battle of Chillianwallah on 13 JANUARY 1849

A blunder that cost the battle to the British Army

General Sir Charles Napier Commander in Chief unwittingly commended HM 14 Light Dragoons on parade during a visit in Lahore in Punjab , at which the regimental trumpeteer said " our commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel King is a coward" .Lieutenant Colonel King was severely overwhelmed and committed suicide.

Meanwhile distortions of history continue to this day when the website British Battles says that Colonel King told Brigadier Pope to attack the Sikhs whereas the actual position was that poor old man Brigadier Pope (of the indomitable 6th Light Cavalry -all Ranghars or Aghas) was already mortally wounded with a sikh sword striking his head and died the same night.

Battle of Chillianwallah,13 January 1849

This was Chillianwallah where a major British army consisting of two divisions and two cavalry brigades suffered a major reverse.

The details of the battle may be read in my article “Chillianwallah – A Forgotten British Reverse” originally published in Defence Journal in July 2000 and also available on scribd :--

Now there is a reason here.The class conscious British despised Brigadier Pope because he was from the native cavalry of the English East India Company's Bengal Army.

The flight of HM 14 Light Dragoons was hushed up in the conspiracy of silence and all blame placed on poor Brigadier Pope ,an Englishman who had the misfortune of being from the private 6th Native Light Cavalry of the English East India Companys private army !

Conduct of Pope’s Cavalry Brigade leading to diasaster on the right flank

We have earlier stated that Brigadier Pope’s cavalry brigade was tasked to protect the right flank of the army of Punjab. Pope’s cavalry brigade consisted of HM 14th Light Dragoons , HM 9th Lancers, 1st Bengal Native Light Cavalry (1 LC) , and 6th LC .

The European cavalry regiment average strength was approximately 400 Sabres and Native Cavalry Regiment strength was approximately 300 sabres.58

Brigadier Pope was from 6th LC and had more than forty years service. He was a brave and dashing officer in his earlier years but was not really physically or mentally fit to command a cavalry brigade in action.59

The 6th Bengal Native Light Cavalry the readers may note was one of the most illustrious units of the native cavalry. One of its most illustrious feats was a daring charge at the battle of Sitabldi in the Third Maratha War where it dispersed a Maratha force of about 18,000 men including 3,000 Arab mercenaries.60

This battle was unique in the sense that there were no British units present and the battle was an all Indian show barring the British officers of the native units.


Pope notwithstanding his dash as a young officer , was an invalid in 1849 , and one who could hardly sit on horseback 61.

As soon as the British advance commenced Pope with the cavalry brigade on the right flank also advanced. Immediately a body of Sikh cavalry emerging from the high ground around Rasul , made a threatening demonstration towards Popes right rear flank.

Pope detached a wing (half regiment) each of HM 9th Lancers and 1st and 6th LC under the overall command of Colonel Lane to observe them and to act as a flank protection screen. Lane deployed his force a little northwards and thus lost visual contact with the remaining British army ,because of the intervening strips of jungle . Pope continued his advance westwards with the remaining brigade, some nine cavalry squadrons, i.e HM 14th Light Dragoons (HM 14 LD) and wing each of 1st and 6th LC and HM 9th Lancers.

Soon another body of Sikh cavalry appeared in front of Pope’s axis of advance . The Bengal Horse artillery the best branch of the British immediately deployed into action to engage these Sikhs. However Pope , without thinking of anything decided to charge the Sikhs , also masking the British artillery’s fire in line formation .

The result was a weak charge without any depth or artillery support , delivered in words of Gough and Innes without speed or momentum.62

The Sikh horsemen led by Jawahir Singh Nalwa63 the bold and dashing son of Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa now realising that poor execution and bad terrain had brought Pope’s apology of a cavalry charge to an absolute halt64 now counter charged.

Jawahir Singh with his band of horsemen emerged, once again, through the wild Doab jungle, and charged Popes force, in the process of which some Sikh horsemen physically attacked Brigadier Pope, cutting him across the head with his Tulwar, and wounding him 65.

At this critical stage of the battle Pope’s brigade which had already halted and was waiting for orders, now became leaderless.

An event then occurred which the British historians right from 1849 onwards find hard to explain or account for. HM 14th Light Dragoon turned about and bolted!

The native cavalry also panicked and followed HM 14th Light Dragoon rearwards, galloping through at top speed through their own horse artillery batteries backwards! Fortescue states that HM 14th Light Dragoon bolted because Pope gave them a word of command of “Threes Right” which they heard as something like “Threes about” 66 and that’s why the unit bolted!

There is no doubt that had a native cavalry unit done so Fortescue’s verdict may have been much more harsh!

Jawahir Singh Nalwa pursued Pope’s cavalry brigade with great elan, cutting down many British Horse artillerymen including Major Christie, one of the battery commanders , destroying six guns and carrying four guns intact apart from two ammunition wagons and fifty three horses as war trophies!67

Pope’s cavalry brigade from this moment onwards ceased to be a fighting formation!


It was rallied with great difficulty by Gough’s staff and the regimental Chaplain of HM 14 LD, with his pistol! It was said that Gough recommended the Chaplain to be promoted to the rank of Brevet Bishop ,on the battlefield!68

The flight of Pope’s brigade resulted in a serious operational imbalance in the British position . Their right rear flank was now vulnerable to counter attack . Sher Singh Attariwalla immediately ordered a counter attack and Sikh infantry and cavalry west of Rasul immediately advanced down from the heights through the open gap encircling Gilbert’s division from the rear! It was Pope’s good luck that he died soon afterwards from wounds suffered in the battle.


“Pope led his brigade at the trot through the broken scrub without the precaution of skirmishers in advance. At the sight of a body of Sikh cavalry, the BLC squadrons in the centre of the line halted, forcing the British regiments on the flanks to stop in conformity. The Sikhs charged the BLC squadrons which turned about and made off. The two British regiments did the same, all attempts by the officers to halt their soldiers being to no avail.”

The precipitous withdrawal of the cavalry regiments left the brigade horse artillery battery unprotected and in the confusion of limbering up, the battery was overrun by the Sikh cavalry who captured two guns. Eventually two other guns came into action and were sufficient to drive the Sikh cavalry back.”

A 500 Pounder Bomb that did not explode

1971 War - The famous 500 pounder that dropped 5 yds from the commanding officer of a battalion of India Armys Madras Regiments  bunker during the Pak Air raid by F 86 Sabres, but failed to explode. Note the missing fin which may have been the reason it possibly dropped on its side and did not explode. Lt Col J Kumar and unidentified Artillery Major

Obituary of a General I served with

Major General Zia ul Haq


Major Agha H Amin (Retired)

Major General Zia ul Haq , Punjab Regiment left this mortal world for his heavenly abode a few days back .

It is unusual for a cavalry officer to write an obituary of an infantry officer ! But fate brought this scribe and the late general together for some 14 months in Okara Cantonment from September 1992 to November 1993.

I had joined 5 Independent Squadron in Okara Cantonment from the Tank School known as Armour School after having been an instructor at the Tactical Wing and having stood second in Armour Officers Mid Career Course.

He was my immediate commanding officer with no colonel or brigadier in between as I was commanding 5 Independent Armoured Squadron which was directly under his command .

I had not known General Zia ul Haq when he was posted to command 14 Division in Okara.

On our first meeting , a visit to my squadron he asked me if there was anything that I wanted in the realm of training.I requested him that the squadron be allowed to proceed to Cholistan for training , since the division was not going for training !

He immediately agreed and off we went to Khairpur Tamewali a place I had fallen in love with in September 1985,the first time I saw that beautiful semi desert ! The Rohi of Sufi poets !

He was known to be a religious man but he never imposed his religious views on anyone !

In early 1993 we started preparing for the corps tank sub caliber firing competition .Major General Zia ul Haq visited the firing ranges where our tanks were practicing.He asked me if he could do anything to assist in our preparations ! I requested him for extra ammunition and he on the spot sanctioned 50,000 rounds !

When my squadron won the corps competition defeating many eminent units of the tank corps ,General Zia was the happiest man in Okara Cantonment ! 

I requested him that armour should not be in Okara but in Tamewali,Sulaimanke or Bahwalnagar in writing in August 1993.He immediately agreed and intimated the General Headquarters that his divisional armour will be located in Bahawalnagar ! Unfortunately before we could move my independent squadron was converted into the new 14 Lancers and the 14 Lancers officers who came to Okara did their best to stay in Okara rather than Bahawalnagar but Major General Zia ul Haq remained solid as a rock and told them that it was  Bahawalnagar where they had to go !

He graded me quite high in the two annual confidential reports that he gave me and graded me fit for future promotion and command !

However the typical whimsical manner in which third world armies are run , fate had a different direction for this scribe !

Pakistan Army unfortunately after the untimely death of General Asif Nawaz Janjua in January 1993 , suddenly started being run on highly personalized , parochial and whimsical lines ! This fact has been given legality and historical accuracy when a person no less than General Pervez Musharraf recorded the fact in his book stating forthrightly that General Abdul Waheed Kakar was a parochial man with strong biases.

Major General Zia ul Haq left for Quetta to take over Frontier Corps Balochistan as its Inspector General and I received my retirement orders !

I did meet two fellow officers Lieutenant Colonel Majid Hassan , 46th Long Course a great friend and Captain Khurram the Aide De Campe and son in law of late Rao Sikandar Zaman.Both were serving with him in his staff at Quetta .Both the officers who had been serving with him in Okara described him as doing extremely well as IG FC .

I did not see him again after November 1993 but his death still came as a matter of personal grief to me !

This obituary is to record my personal grief for a man who is no relative of mine but one who was honest , forthright , fair and equal with every one in his professional conduct , regardless of the fact that the person in front was a fellow Gujjar of his or not !

I pray with all my strength that Allah may bless his soul and he is granted a place in the paradise !

Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."  --
Albert Einstein !!!

leFH18 A Great German Howitzer Gun

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 (German: leichte FeldHaubitze "light field howitzer") was a German light howitzer used in World War II.

The 10.5 cm leFH 18 was the standard divisional field howitzer used by the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. It was designed and developed by Rheinmetall in 1929-30 and entered service with the Wehrmacht in 1935. Generally it did not equip independent artillery battalions until after the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943. Before 1938 the leFH 18 was exported to Hungary and Spain. 53 were also exported to Finland, where they were known as 105 H 33. 166 leFH were exported to Bulgaria in 1943 and 1944 (until February 1, 1944)

It had a heavy, simple breech mechanism with a hydro-pneumatic recoil system. The 10.5 cm leFH 18 had wood-spoked or pressed steel wheels. The former were only suitable for horse traction. Initially, it was not fitted with a muzzle brake. In 1941 a muzzle brake was fitted to allow longer range charges to be fired. This increased the range by about 1,800 yards and was known as the leFH 18M. In March 1942 a requirement was issued for a lighter howitzer. This led to a second modification, known as the leFH 18/40. This modification consisted of mounting the barrel of an leFH 18M on the carriage for a 7.5 cm PaK 40 antitank gun. The new carriage increased the rate of fire as well as making the howitzer lighter. Additionally, a more efficient muzzle brake was added, decreasing the recoil. Ballistically, the 10.5 cm leFH 18M and the leFH 18/40 are identical.

Type Howitzer
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service 1939–1945
Used by Nazi Germany, Kingdom of Hungary, Spain, Finland, Bulgaria
Wars World War II
Production history
Designed 1929-30
Manufacturer Rheinmetall
Produced 1935-1945
Weight combat: 1,985 kg (4,377 lbs)
Barrel length 2.941 m (9.64 ft)
Crew 5


Shell cased separate-loading (6 charges)
Shell weight 14.81 kilograms (32.7 lb) (HE)
14.25 kilograms (31.4 lb) (AP)
Caliber 105 mm (4.13 in)
Breech horizontal sliding block
Recoil hydropneumatic
Carriage split trail
Elevation -6° 30' to +40° 30'
Traverse 56°
Rate of fire 4-6 rpm
Muzzle velocity 470 m/s (1,542 ft/s)
Maximum range 10,675 m (11,675 yds)
Filling TNT
Filling weight 1.38 kilograms (3.0 lb)