Monday, July 24, 2017

Michael Griffith and the Indian Rebellion

A watercolour of the rebellion of 1857 by British artist G F Atkinson.

On 27 April 1857 Michael Griffith made his attestation in the recruiting office of the East India Company in Liverpool.   While Michael was getting used to his new uniform and the drills of the Bengal Artillery, a mutiny of Sepoys, who refused to use the new pork or beef grease-wrapped bullets for their Enfield Rifles, took place at the garrison town of Meerat, 40 miles northeast of Delhi.  The East India Company cracked down on the mutineers, but the dissafection spread and a period of rebellion, battles and massacres brought the East India Company to its knees.  Great Britain brought in its own troops in to quell the unrest.  It was the end of the East India Company after 250 years of domination in India, and the beginning of the British Raj.

From 1853 the Bengal Sappers and Miners had been stationed at Roorkee in northern India in the state of Uttarakhand, with two artillery units attached. The Bengal Artillery was amongst the HEIC units which rebelled, and were disarmed and disbanded.   Not long before landing in India, Michael was transferred to the Sappers and Miners.

Later the Bengal Sappers was one of the few remaining regiments of the former Bengal Presidency Army which survived the Rebellion of 1857, doing sterling work in the recapture of Delhi from the rebels and other operations in 1857–58. 

Michael served with the Sappers from 19 April 1858 until 6 August 1861, and undoubtedly participated in some difficult field campaigns. As Michael was still a Gunner during his period with the Sappers,  he was presumably serving with the artillery companies.   On 1 November 1858, the British granted amnesty to all rebels not involved in murder, and declared the hostilities formally to have ended on 8 July 1859.

In the aftermath of the Rebellion, control of India was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown. The "European", units of the company's army were transferred to the British Army.

The Bazaar, Roorkee, where the Bengal Sappers and Miners were stationed in 1853.
Michael transferred to the Royal Artillery, and moved south to Barrackpore where the Royal Artillery was stationed for the rest of his period in India.  See  Stations of the Royal Artillery in India

Barrackpore is close to Calcutta, a destination which would provide added interest during Michael's time in India.

Bengal Artillery Mess House, Barrackpore. 

Hindoo Pagodas below Barrackpore on the Ganges. George Hunt. 1824. Courtesy: British Library.

Eastbourne Pier.

It must have amused Michael no end on his posting to Eastbourne in 1871 to find an Indian palace in miniature at the end of a pier!

And did Michael's niece, Mary Jane Griffith, know that her uncle had played his part in saving the Indian tea trade when she bought her tea at the local grocer's store?  This image was chosen by chance for a post back in February.


  1. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris

  2. Thank YOU Chris, you are very kind.