Field Marshall Sir Henry Wylie Norman:
The Organiser of Victory
Henry Wylie Norman was born in the parish of St. Luke's in London on 2nd December 1826. As a boy he was left much to himself, and never saw his father until he landed in India in 1842. Norman's mother followed her husband to Cuba and other West Indian islands, only revisiting England at rare intervals. She left her son in charge of her own parents, Henry and Charlotte Wylie, who lived sometimes at Bridlington Quay, sometimes in Ireland, Mrs. Wylie's native country.
Norman's education was intermittent: three private schools played a part in moulding his mind and character, but he seems to have been more beholden to his own love of reading at every spare minute.
"My favourite subjects," he writes, "even when I was very young, were naval and military histories, voyages and biographies."
Of his father Norman wrote: "My father was a sailor, and when only twenty-two years of age went as supercargo of a ship, eventually settling in Havana as a merchant. It was usual for merchants in those days to send a vessel on a sort of cruise in charge of a supercargo, who traded on his employer's account, and when he had a full cargo, came home.
"My father had many adventures when trading, and once his vessel was in the hands of pirates, when he narrowly escaped with his life, and showed so much adroitness that the pirates left his ship without discovering a quantity of specie hidden on board."
In London, the boy Norman saw the festivities at the accession of Queen Victoria, and was inspired with a desire to emulate the great soldiers. He says: "I rejoiced to see with my own eyes the great duke, Marshal Soult, Lord Lynedoch, and others well known to me from my reading."
In Ireland he saw the parades at Limerick, while the faction fights in Tipperary stirred his blood, and perhaps his sense of humour.
In June 1842 he accompanied his mother to Calcutta in the frigate Ellenborough. The long voyage round the Cape prompted him to ask if he might take the duties of a midshipman, having learnt how to determine longitude and latitude. By the time they reached Calcutta, Norman was yearning to join the mercantile marine, but talks with his father and the news of the day—of the advance of Pollock and Nott into Afghanistan—turned the thoughts of the sixteen-year-old boy into new channels.
He was now eager to join the army, and frequently attended the parades of the 10th Foot quartered at Fort William: he also studied Hindustani and military history during the enforced leisure of eighteen months which elapsed before he got his nomination.
The doctor who examined him laughed at his small size and weight: "You are thin and must fill out," he remarked. But this Norman failed to accomplish. Seven stone and a half were all he owned of bone and flesh, but he had a good brain and constitution! Norman chose the 1st Bengal Native Infantry, because it was the senior native corps at the largest garrison, and he hoped to be able to learn his military duties better at a large station.
In June 1844, Norman left Calcutta for Dinapur by palanquin: on the third day, while waiting for a change of bearers, his old bearers decamped, and he fell asleep owing to the great heat.
He was roused from his slumbers by an English voice: a planter named Renshaw asked him to his bungalow and procured him fresh bearers.
Eleven years later it fell to Norman's lot to command a detachment of troops for punishing some Santals who had murdered this same planter and his son.
On joining the steamer at Rajmahal, he made friends with Lieutenant R. A. Yule of the 16th Lancers, who was afterwards killed before Delhi.
At Dinapur, Norman joined his regiment, then under Major Rowcroft, and spent his time in learning his profession until March 1845, when a vacancy occurred in the 31st Native Infantry, to which he was posted. This change saved him a terrible doom, for the first regiment which he left was destined to be stationed at Cawnpur, mutinied and shot its officers. At the time Norman regretted the exchange.
By 25th March he reached Almora, the headquarters of the 31st, placed on the lower slopes of the Himalayas, north-east of Delhi. Almora was a very attractive station; from this point excursions were made to the glaciers, or to tea plantations in Kumaon.
At the close of the year news came that the Sikh army had crossed the Sutlej, and the 31st were expecting to go to the front.
Colonel Weston chose Norman, to his great surprise and delight, as adjutant of the wing sent off under Major Corfield to Bareilly. He was still a few weeks under nineteen!
At Bareilly he used to take walks with his munshi, or teacher of languages, and through him he learnt reports of what had occurred in the war before the same came to the ears of the general.
Always Norman was on good terms with native officers, and from some of these he gathered information of the desire in the hearts of the people to restore the native chiefs and bring down the British Raj.
Fortunately Sir Henry Smith's victories at Aliwal and Sobraon in January and February 1846 convinced those meditating mutiny that the time had not yet arrived.
In 1847, Norman's regiment was ordered to Lahore, where Colonel Colin Campbell was in command of the garrison: hence the lifelong friendship between Lord Clyde, (Sir Colin) and Norman had its origin.
The Sikhs had been beaten but not vanquished. All the gates of Lahore had to be held by strong guards under British officers.
"Brigadier Colin Campbell," writes Norman, "always made me breakfast and lunch with him when on guard, and often employed me to copy out confidential letters. In this way I learned thoroughly to admire this kind-hearted, but quick-tempered old soldier. To me it was delightful to hear his stories of the old wars, and listen to his doctrine of the duty the officer owed to his men. . . . May we have more men like him when our next great struggle comes!"
During this year Norman got to know the three brothers Lawrence, and Lumsden, Herbert Edwardes, Reynell Taylor, and Nicholson: with such friends the young man quickly increased in knowledge, if little in stature.
In January 1848, the 31st Regiment left Lahore for Ferozepur. On his arrival the doctor diagnosed smallpox, and he was assiduously nursed by one of his own sepoys. Then on recovery he was sent to Simla for six months.
Norman had just been promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was regretting his being placed on the sick list when the news of the murder of Vans Agnew and Anderson at Multan reached his hill-station. He heard at the same time that he was recommended as adjutant of his regiment. He felt no longer sick, and hurried down to the hot plains: but his regiment was not ordered to Multan until October.
The prospect of fighting acted as a tonic on all the soldiers: the hospital soon grew empty. Only three sick men stayed behind; for the 31st were all proud to serve under so good a soldier as Sir Hugh Gough.
Norman, too, felt the magnetic influence of a general brave and yet tender, whose deep religious feeling, chivalry, and care for his men appealed to all.
The second Sikh War of 1848 gave Norman his first experiences in big battles and long pursuits. As adjutant he had many hours of work in his tent when others were resting: but he loved the work.
We cannot enter into the details of the battles in which the Sikhs fought so bravely, and nearly gained decisive successes more than once.
He served under Gilbert and General Penney in the crowning victory of Gujerat in February 1849, and took part in the final pursuit of the Sikh army.
Norman's regiment then returned to Peshawur, whence in 1850 Norman, as brigade-major, accompanied Sir Colin Campbell against the Afridis. He served also in similar expeditions for keeping down the robbers of the frontier, and was thanked by General A. Roberts, father of Earl Roberts, as "being possessed of all the qualifications for a good soldier and a first-rate staff officer."
In 1853, after going out against the Afridis, Norman married the daughter of Dr. Davidson, a lady of great character and devoted to her husband.
In 1854, General A. Roberts retired, and thanked Norman in a letter for his talent for detail combined with suavity of manner.
From such hints we can build up the character of the man: religious, conscientious, painstaking, and—the opposite of Nicholson—courteous and pleasing in manner: a lover of the natives, careful of his men, and winning their love in return; above all, learned in his profession. From Peshawur and frontier wars Norman was transferred to Ambala, and manoeuvres under Sydney Cotton.
Just as he was feeling the change irksome, news came of a rising of the Santals in Bengal: his own regiment was ordered out from Barrackpur, and Norman got leave to join it. He disliked the methods to which they were obliged to have recourse in order to drive the brave, but ill-armed Santals out of the dense jungle, where no cavalry or infantry could penetrate. Bows and battle-axes against rifles was an unfair fight; but these men had been maddened by the extortions of the moneylender and tax-gatherer, and were slaying all they met of either sex. The only thing was to draw a cordon of troops round them, and leave the tiger and wild boar and the pangs of hunger to do the rest.
But what Norman did like was the opportunity of living in close and familiar association with his native soldiers, some of whom he had known well six years before. He remained with this detachment until January 1856: in this way he became intimately acquainted with the native character and language, and learnt from his men how the annexation of Oudh had estranged them from us.
Both English officers and their native men disliked the work of firing volleys into ill-armed villages. At last the rigours of climate and disease left few Santals available for resistance. Norman went back to Peshawur and to General Reed and Sydney Cotton: the latter was carrying out a series of instructive field manoeuvres with his brigade, and Norman asked permission of General Reed to attend those field days. Sport and social attractions had never taken him away from the post of duty: his superior officers noted his enthusiastic interest in his profession, and he had not long to wait for promotion. The post of second assistant to Colonel Chester, adjutant-general, became vacant, and Norman was chosen to fill it.
This entailed a long and weary journey to Calcutta with his wife and three small children—and that, too, in the fatal month of May. Twenty-nine painful days of travelling by road brought them to Raniganj, where Lord Dalhousie's new railway conveyed them on. At Calcutta, Norman met the new commander-in-chief, General the Hon. George Anson, with whom he left Calcutta in September by river for Allahabad on a tour of inspection, visiting in turn Cawnpur, Aligarh, Lucknow, and Meerut.
At Meerut, Norman was left behind to work up reports until March 1857, meeting many officers, ladies, and gentlemen—all in the highest spirits, unconscious of coming evil,—and he was for a time the guest of Captain MacDonald, who three months later was killed, together with his wife, by his own men rising in mutiny.
Thence Norman went on to Simla, and learnt of the murder of Colonel Finnis at Meerut: but even he had no suspicion of what it meant, though he said later that he knew the General Service Order of Lord Canning, issued in 1856, had much to do with the sepoy unrest. This order made them liable to serve across sea—a thing they dreaded, for most of them were of high caste, and life on board ship offended their caste rules and customs: secondly, the rule that sepoys could not be promoted to be non-commissioned officers unless they could read and write, was now to be enforced: the result of this was that many excellent soldiers, possibly of good family, who had served twelve or fourteen years, saw themselves deprived of all hope of gratifying their worthy ambition.
Norman tells us that in his old company several men who had distinguished themselves greatly in the Punjab came to him with tears in their eyes, deploring their cruel misfortune. "No, sahib, we are too old to learn to write now," they explained.
It only shows how high authorities should not presume to introduce sudden changes without carefully consulting the men who, like Norman, Daly, and Hodson, had studied intimately the minds of the Indian. While Norman was at Simla, it being Sunday, 10th May, as the residents were quietly going to church, a native mendicant outraged their feelings by presenting himself quite naked—a form of insult.
Other signs and symptoms of discontent followed: then on 12th May an officer rode in from Ambala, where the telegraph line ended, bringing a copy of the message received from Delhi by Sir Henry Barnard. It was dated 11th May, from the signaller, W. Brendish, at Delhi, to the signaller at Ambala, and was repeated thence to all stations.
"We must leave office: all the bungalows are burning down by the sepoys of Meerut: they came in this morning: we are off: don't call to-day: Mr. C. Todd is dead, I think. He went out this morning and has not returned yet: we heard that nine Europeans are killed: good-bye."
This was a terrible and startling message to receive: the scales now fell from the eyes of the blind, and Norman had plenty to do arranging for the departure of regiments. We may explain that Todd was the telegraph master at Delhi, who had gone out to repair a wire: it may be remembered that the Meerut mutineers met a European on the bridge of Delhi and killed him. Taking a hasty leave of his wife and family, Norman left Simla with Colonel Chester for Ambala.
From Ambala he wrote to his wife on 16th May, saying he was overwhelmed with work, and had only ladies to copy orders and dispatches: no horses or carts or dhoolie-bearers.
Later he tells her that many Europeans were butchered in Delhi Palace. "Providence has tried us sorely, but with God's aid there is not the slightest cause for despondency." Already many men had died of cholera; amongst them General Anson on 27th May. Norman felt some sharp twinges, but a little brandy and laudanum and a sharp walk set him right.
On 7th June, Wilson's force from Meerut joined Reid's Gurkhas and the Ambala troops at Alipur. "The 60th Rifles came swinging along after their sixteen-mile march singing splendidly in chorus." Norman was with Colonel Chester at Badli-ki-Serai when he was killed as he sat on horseback upon a mound 800 yards from the enemy's guns: only that morning as they rode along together the colonel had been expressing his delight at soon meeting the mutineers. "He was in the act of replying to a remark I had made when a cannon-shot struck him, and passing through his horse they both sank to the ground."
We will not weary the reader by going over again the details of the siege, but a few points made in Norman's letters or journal will fill up the picture and make it more easy to realise.
He states that nearly every dead sepoy was found to have about him a number of gold mohurs (seventeen rupees each): one rifleman gained eighty gold mohurs (£136) in this way: for so many treasuries had been plundered and the proceeds had been divided amongst the mutineers.
When the besiegers knew that 300 heavy guns were mounted on the walls and bastions of Delhi, and that the mutineers outnumbered them ten times or more, they talked less of making an immediate assault. Abbot's famous gunners, too, were in Delhi after 17th June with the guns on which was engraven the mural crown ordered by Lord Ellenborough for their great glory won in the holding of Jellalabad. Yet people at home soon began to wonder why our forces did not retake Delhi. No one realised then that the full strength of the Mutiny had been drawn to Delhi, and that our forces were decimated by illness.
On 18th June, Norman heard of the death of an officer at a distance whom he much liked. As usual, this officer trusted his men too much. He with his wife and some officers had escaped from Shahjahanpur; when a mutiny broke out there on 31st May during time of service in church, they were all shot by their escort a few days later, men and women together while kneeling in prayer.
Norman knew how his friend had trusted and loved many of his men, and how many of the sepoys of the 25th Native Infantry loved their leader: it seemed to him incomprehensible, and only to be explained by religious madness.
Another friend whose loss he deplored was Lieutenant Alexander of the 3rd Native Infantry, who had only been in camp on the Ridge a few days. He was just a boy, of charming manners and appearance, and had come with a company of his regiment, escorting a long train of carts laden with ordnance stores. On reaching camp after his hot march of 200 miles the poor boy had to be told that his regiment had mutinied and his company must be disarmed.
All the bright, enthusiastic delight in soldiering left him, and he wandered from point to point disconsolately. Norman often met him and tried to cheer him and make him see the rosier side of things; but his heart was broken, and he sought danger for its own sake.
One afternoon Alexander's native soubhadar came in tears to Norman's tent: "I was with my officer, sahib; a waggon blew up and I see him no more. I must find him, sahib; may I take unarmed sepoys to search for my sahib?" The poor fellow could scarce speak for sorrow. Norman gave him leave.
Later, when Norman had lain down to sleep, the soubhadar came back saying, "We have found his body—no life, sahib—master gone!"
Utterly broken down was the faithful Indian as he told his tale; since his love for his sahib was as that of Jonathan for David.
It is only right to remember the splendid instances of good faith and devotion in the sepoy when we are moved to anger by atrocities. "How easy it is for people at a distance to criticise," wrote Norman to his wife in July. "No one who is not here knows the difficulties that beset this force. To my mind no troops have ever deserved better of their country, or could be more ready and willing for any enterprise."
Even Lady Canning, who might have known more than others, wrote in August: "At Delhi they do nothing but repel attacks; why they dread to assault we cannot understand."
Perhaps one reason why we did not assault was the ominous fact that Delhi was armed with our best guns and 30,000 well-drilled soldiers, while the men on the Ridge numbered 3700, many being sick or wounded; and already, in July, the 18-pounder ammunition was almost expended! Fortunately these brave, patient besiegers knew not at the time what severe criticism was being levelled at them by ignorance dwelling in security. Amongst the casualties we find one wound at least which proved wholesome.
Blair of the Fusiliers was shot while carrying an armful of ammunition to his men. It seemed a bad case: "He can hardly survive," said the surgeon. But the bullet had tapped an abscess in Blair's liver, and so prolonged his life, for he did not die until 1907!
Packe of the 4th Sikh Infantry was shot in the ankle while kneeling behind a stone breastwork, the enemy being in front. That looked suspicious. A few days after, Hodson came to Norman's tent with a sepoy of the Guides and said—
"I say, Norman, I should like you to hear what my sepoy has to say."
The sepoy then declared that in a skirmish in the suburbs he had seen men of the 4th Sikhs hang back and fire at the backs of their officers.
"What! Sikhs do so treacherous a deed?"
"No, sahib, no! Many Hindustanis hiding in this regiment."
The man was cross-examined and stuck to his story: also the adjutant had been shot through the back.
In the end, the Hindustanis, a fourth of the regiment, were disarmed and sent out of camp.
In July, Chamberlain's wound threw upon Norman again the duties of adjutant-general: the death of General Sir H. Barnard by cholera would have led to Chamberlain being commander, had he not been laid up.
On the afternoon of 17th July a native from Benares was brought to Norman's but: he was allowed to ramble on about Allahabad and Benares, when Norman, anxious to know how soon General Sir Hugh Wheeler could come to their relief at Delhi, lightly asked the men, "What news from Cawnpur?"
"Cawnpur, sahib? you have not heard that?" Then dropping his voice, he murmured, "Every white man, woman, and child has been put to death."
"A thrill of horror passed over me," writes Norman, "for his bearing and tone convinced me that what he said was true."
Norman took the native to Colonel Becher and they examined his report; then to the civil commissioner, Mr. Greathed: but for many days they dared not let the troops know the horrors of what had happened.
An amusing incident befell on 18th July, when, after driving some sepoys from cover on the right flank, a prisoner was brought in.
"It's a woman, sir," said the sergeant of the 60th; "so we did not kill her."
A very masculine dame she looked, and her language was Indian Billingsgate of a virulent type. The more the riflemen laughed, the fiercer the beldame grew in her denunciations.
Some officers came round to see her; one, tall and well-built, suddenly attracted her attention: her manner changed and she whispered coyly, "A very nice man to look at! never saw such kind eyes before! if he likes me well enough, I don't mind marrying him."
"It need hardly be said that the officer in question had to endure a considerable amount of chaff ": but history does not say what became of the relenting prisoner.
On 18th August a Mrs. Leeson escaped from the city: she had been severely wounded on 10th May; the bullet passed through her child whom she held in her arms, and then through herself. Both her other children had their throats cut in her presence. A citizen of Delhi out of pity concealed her, had her wound cured and helped her to escape.
In describing to his wife the work of constructing the batteries in September, Norman writes: "You may judge of its magnitude when I mention that 1000 camel-loads of fascines and material had to be taken down, besides 100 camel-loads of powder, shot, and shell: all available men took part in the construction: on the 18th, 300 Europeans and 100 natives went on duty; and two days later no fewer than 800 Europeans and 400 natives with twenty-four officers were engaged on the work.
After the capture of the walls and gates, Roberts and Norman went exploring in the streets and had some narrow shaves from stray bullets: the sepoys wore net purses round their waists under their clothes, and often had them full of looted gold. In one street Norman found a European soldier and a Punjabi struggling together over one of these purses torn from a dead sepoy. Neither of them would let go first, and Norman was obliged to beat them with all his force on the knuckles with the hilt of his sword.
The purse was full of rupees, and as their comrades stood round grinning, Norman said, "I shall distribute the rupees amongst you all; for these others have done good service while you have been intent on loot." So, he dealt them out one by one all round like a pack of cards, keeping for himself the mutineer's medal for service in the Punjab.
Johnson, Stewart, Roberts and Norman, friends inseparable at this time, were with Taylor pushing on from house to house.
Edwin Johnson was a very clever officer, with a caustic wit and amusing. Stewart had come to the Ridge with Ford from Agra, having volunteered to carry dispatches: it was a most perilous and adventurous journey and won him great renown. He died a Field-Marshal.
In passing from house to house Roberts says they found curious things, such as magic lanterns, musical boxes, and half-starved, deserted wives.
On 21st September, headquarters were removed to the palace, and the officers established their mess and sleeping cots in the famous Diwan-i-Am, or Hall of Audience. But the joy of victory was almost drowned in the lamentations for the slain. Three friends Norman mourned for in especial: Lieutenant Salkeld, hero of the Kashmir gate, was now rapidly sinking: the general had sent his aide-de-camp to tell him he would receive the Victoria Cross; but he could only smile faintly as he drifted away. John Nicholson was found by Norman unconscious, with heaving chest and a vacant, distressed look in his eyes.
Charles Nicholson, Norman's dearest friend, had spent the last week in command of Coke's Rifles, day and night on constant duty, and now lay with a smashed arm. "I am not ashamed to say that when we parted, as we expected, for the last time, we exchanged a loving kiss." Another friend was Charles Reid, the gallant holder of Hindu Rao's house during ninety-nine days of attack.
In speaking of Hodson and the shooting of the princes, Norman writes: "I don't believe in 'the threatening crowd': they were mostly terrified townspeople. . . . I believe Hodson shot them because he believed they deserved death; and was apprehensive, if he brought them in alive, their lives might be spared. In doing this he did what I think was in the highest degree wrong . . . . I am bound to say, however, that many officers thought he did right, and had displayed commendable vigour and resolution."
We ought not to leave Delhi and its brave besiegers without once more bearing testimony to the heroic deeds of Colonel H. Tombs, R.A., V.C., whom one and all admired for his wonderful handling of his battery, as well as for his valiant exploits.
Lord Roberts writes: "As a cool, bold leader of men Tombs was unsurpassed: no fire, however hot, and no crisis, however unexpected, could take him by surprise; he grasped the situation in a moment and issued his orders without hesitation, inspiring all ranks with confidence in his powers. He was somewhat of a martinet, and was more feared than liked by his men until they realised what a grand leader he was, when they gave him their entire confidence, and were ready to follow him anywhere."
Delhi had been taken after tremendous fighting, suffering from wounds and disease, months of anxiety, depression and hope deferred. For some time there was a feeling of soreness amongst the officers and men left alive to tell the tale; "from Calcutta not one word of thanks or encouragement has ever been vouchsafed to us," writes Norman. However, Norman was attached to Greathed's column as a staff officer on his way to report himself to the commander-in-chief, and marched away from the smells and dust of "the accursed city" on 24th September.
The transport animals had been worn out at Delhi, and the men in rags and ill-fed were very prone to sickness. But Lucknow called for them, and all ranks, native and European, pressed forward willingly.
As they travelled through townlets and villages they noticed that trade had ceased; dak-bungalows, police-stations, telegraph wires were all destroyed: the people, believing that the English rule was over, had begun to fortify their villages against men of their own race—as though justice had fled the earth.
It has been mentioned before how Agra had called for help, and the column had gone to assist them, and had been surprised by the enemy owing to misleading information given by the Agra authorities. Sixty or seventy of our force were killed and wounded, while the country for miles was strewn with dead sepoys. Norman speaks bitterly of "the imbecility of these wretched Agra people."
On 21st October, as Norman was riding by the side of Hope Grant, who had relieved Greathed of the command of the column, the brigadier's horse lashed out and struck Norman on the shin bone: he was thus compelled to continue his journey to Lucknow in a litter. A few words may be necessary to explain the events which had taken place at Lucknow while the siege of Delhi was being conducted.
On 30th June, Sir Henry Lawrence retired to the Residency on the bank of the Gumti after a repulse at Chinhat. The little garrison of under 2000, including 163 civilians, now stood at bay against a city of 300,000 inhabitants.
On 2nd July, Sir Henry died of his wounds and Colonel Inglis took command; death by shot and shell and fell disease and weariness reduced their numbers to 577 Europeans and 402 sepoys, until on 25th September, Havelock, with Outram serving under him, brought the first relief.
But Havelock's force had suffered so much that they could not carry away the sixty-one ladies and forty-three children: all Havelock could do was to leave 200 men under Outram to strengthen the garrison; he then posted the sick and wounded under Maclntyre at the Alumbagh: here they suffered great hardships and many died of starvation.
Sir Colin Campbell, the new commander-in-chief, left Calcutta on 27th October, and made forced marches to Lucknow, joining the Delhi column on the way early in November.
Norman was warmly welcomed by Sir Colin and General Mansfield, the chief of the staff: he now resumed his duties in the adjutant-general's department.
One morning, as he left Sir Colin's tent before daybreak, Norman was jostled by a native: angrily he ordered the fellow in Hindostani to stand away from the entrance at his peril. To his surprise the native replied with a touch of Irish brogue: "I am one of the garrison of Lucknow—Kavanagh—I have come out of the Residency with letters for the commander-in-chief."
One can imagine the changed tone in which Norman replied: "Come in! come in! excuse my mistake. You are so well disguised, I took you for a native—and the old man too—you are welcome indeed!"
Yes—a dangerous journey these two men had successfully completed through the teeming city and the enemy's lines: for this exploit Kavanagh won the Victoria Cross. Kavanagh brought something more important than letters: he had been for some years employed in the office of the chief commissioner of Oudh, and knew the streets and by-lanes of Lucknow: he brought a map of the city and its surroundings and pointed out to Sir Colin the best way of reaching the Residency.
On 11th November, Sir Colin reviewed his force of 5000 men with 26 guns on the plain about five miles in front of the Alumbagh, and especially commended the Delhi column.
When the Sikh regiments first saw the Highlanders, "bonnets and plumes and a'," they could hardly be got past them, so great was their admiration: and when they heard the bagpipes, it reminded them of the Afridi's music—"the best music we ever heard," was their verdict.
Not less interesting to all were the stalwart tars of the Naval Brigade under Captain William Peel with 24-pounder guns drawn by bullocks: the native drivers were vastly perplexed when ordered to go "starboard."
The 93rd, with feather bonnets and dark waving plumes, formed the extreme left of the line, and as the old chief, commencing with the right, halted and addressed a short speech to each corps, he slowly drew near his old regiment, 1000 strong; some 700 of them wore the Crimean medal on their breasts.
Forbes-Mitchell, who was in the 93rd, says: "The men remarked among themselves that none of the other corps had given him a single cheer, but had taken what he said in solemn silence. At last he approached us; we were called to attention, and formed close column, so that every man might hear what was said. When Sir Colin rode up, he appeared to have a worn and haggard expression on his face; but he was received with such a cheer, or rather shout of welcome, as made the echoes ring from the neighbouring woods. His wrinkled brow at once became smooth, and his wearied features broke into a smile, as he acknowledged the cheer with a hearty salute."
Sir Colin then spoke of the dangers they had encountered in the Crimea; told them they had to rescue women and children from a fate worse than death: they must come to close quarters and use the bayonet.
"Ninety-third!" he ended, "you are my own lads: I rely on you to do the work."
A voice from the ranks called out: "Ay, ay, Sir Colin, ye ken us and we ken you; we'll bring the women and children out o' Lucknow or dee wi' you in the attempt!" Thereat the whole line burst into another ringing cheer.
When at length the Alumbagh was reached, the sick and some surplus stores were left in it, to be protected by the 75th Foot. Then they marched on to storm the Secundra Bagh, when nearly every staff officer was wounded. "My horse was hit in three places in a charge of the 93rd led by Sir Colin," writes Norman, who himself seemed to have a charmed life.
The men at this time had no baggage or tents, and the cold at nights was terrible.
On 14th November, the Dilkusha, or garden house of the King of Oudh, was reached by a wide circuit made through difficult ground—Kavanagh doubtless showing the way. Havelock had threaded his way through the densest part of the city and lost many men in street fighting.
They reached the walls of the King's Park as the sun was rising: the infantry halted until a breach was made in the walls.
The men lay down in a field of carrots, and began eating them raw. The Park swarmed with deer, black buck and spotted: but they had not time to enjoy the beauties of nature, for 9-pounder shot came bowling along as they formed into line and cut down several men.
Old Colonel Leith-Hay called out, "Keep steady, men: close up the ranks."
But MacBean, the adjutant, as he stood behind the line, said in an undertone: "Don't mind the colonel: open out and let the round-shot go through—and watch the shot."
Then Roberts led the artillery to the front, and took the guns of the enemy in the flank: whereupon the sepoys bolted down hill to the Martiniere.
There the sailors quickly threw up a battery in front of their guns and escaped with trifling loss owing to their good use of the spade: their cheery ways amused and gave heart to the rest, for they were full of fun and good temper. The natives described the sailors as "little men, four feet in the beam; always laughing and dragging about their own guns."
When the Martiniere was carried by brilliant fighting, in which Lieutenant Watson distinguished himself, Norman and Sir Colin mounted to the top of the college, when Kavanagh pointed out the rebels' main positions. A semaphore was erected and communications established with the Residency.
On 16th November the advance began at 9 a.m.: every man carried his greatcoat and food for three days. First they crossed the canal and passed through a village on their way to attack the Secundra Bagh.
This was a high-walled enclosure of strong masonry, loopholed all round, and flanked by circular bastions; in the centre was a two-storeyed house from which a strong fire was kept up.
Here Sir Colin was struck on the thigh by a bullet, Blunt thrown to the ground under his dying horse, and Norman's horse was twice hit. After an hour and a half of fierce attack a hole was found big enough to let the 93rd and 4th Punjabis storm through in close rivalry.
As Norman was approaching the gateway over heaps of dead, he received a violent blow on the head: it was not a bullet this time, but the body of a dying rebel thrown at him from above!
Norman and Roberts then entered the house and found the floors strewn four feet deep with the bodies of the dead and dying. There was no doubt that the sepoys had on their side fought desperately for victory.
Norman writes: "My horse reared on receiving his second blow, and just then a bullet struck him in the side, but I managed to ride him for half an hour longer: the troops lay down in the Park, after capturing the Shah Nujeef, a strong domed mosque with a walled garden: and a nice cold night we had of it with a soaking dew."
But Norman in his modesty did not tell his wife how, when a battalion recoiled and was thrown into disorder, he had ridden amongst the men, rallied them and led them again to the attack.
Sir Colin had been sitting in the saddle with knit brows, anxious for the result of the evening's work; but no sooner did he hear the yell of his pet Highlanders than all trace of care vanished: he turned to his bivouac in the open air and slept as his men did, with his staff around him.
The Secundra Bagh was indeed a fierce retaliation for Cawnpur: it is said that 3000 dead sepoys, all slain by the bayonet, there met their fate. Forbes-Mitchell tells us the 93rd were ordered to attack with bayonets in groups of threes: the sepoys, after firing their muskets, hurled them like javelins, bayonets first, and then drawing their tulwars, which were as keen as razors, they slashed in blind fury, shouting Deen! Peen! (the Faith!)
With regard to Adjutant MacBean's advice, to let the balls go through: Sir Colin, during the attack on the Secundra Bagh, kept turning round, when a man was hit as they sheltered behind a low mud wall, and cried, "Lie down, 93rd, lie down! Every man of you is worth his weight in gold to England to-day."
We do not often remember this in the selfish hours of peace! We let men fight for us, and leave them after all to the degradation of the workhouse. As the men lay down on the cold ground to get rest and sleep, they plainly heard the pipers of the 78th playing inside the Residency as a welcome to cheer their rescuers on their perilous way.
On 17th November, Norman took a last look at the interior of the tomb of the Shah Nujeef: to his surprise he saw that the glass ornaments had been broken, and the beautiful marble pavement cracked. Presently he met a man of the Naval Brigade with a 24-pounder shot.
"Yes, sir, it's me did it all! I couldna stand any of their idolatry."
It was not until the afternoon of the 18th that the mess-house was taken, as Sir Colin had to secure his left from attack: after this the Moti Mahal was taken; they were now near the English position, and by knocking a hole in the wall communications were opened, though the space between was exposed to the enemies' fire.
Thus, when Sir J. Outram and Sir H. Havelock crossed this zone to confer with Sir Colin, three of their staff were wounded.
It was a critical time and the problem set was difficult: at Cawnpur the Gwalior army was threatening to overcome Windham and his troops: there must be no delay in returning to help Windham. But Lucknow swarmed with rebels and could not be taken in a short time.
Sir Colin decided to withdraw the troops and the 1500 women and children from the Residency, and leave Outram with 4000 men to hold the Alumbagh.
From 19th to 22nd November the women and children were withdrawn under cover of darkness, the rebels being quite ignorant of the movement, as Peel's guns kept up a "command performance" to give the rebels something to do and to think about. Norman saw Havelock before he left the Residency. He was lying on his bed in his blue uniform coat, very weak, suffering from dysentery, and "on the point to die."
The troops from the Residency were told to stream noiselessly away without military formation to the Martiniere. Sir Colin's men, under the Hon. Adrian Hope, lined the road, silent as spectres.
When all had passed, Sir Colin lay down to sleep by a fire which the Highlanders had piled up for him. The enemy were so skillfully deceived that they fired on the Residency long after it had been abandoned.
On the 24th, our men marched to the Alumbagh, and there Sir Colin left his sick and wounded and large stores,
It was on this morning that the heroic Havelock breathed his last: happily he had lived long enough to know that his countrymen and women were rescued, and his end was peace: his earthly remains were buried in a grave in the Alumbagh.
On the morning of the 27th, Sir Colin started for Cawnpur with soldiers worn out by fighting and watching, but cheerily bent on saving their comrades. The train of men extended along ten miles of road, three abreast: they soon heard the distant sound of guns thirty miles away, and an order was given that they must reach the bridge of boats at Cawnpur on the next day.
It was 11 p.m. when they reached Bunnee Bridge, 17 miles from Lucknow: here the soldiers halted till daylight of the 28th November: but the women and children had started under guard at 2 a.m.
About five miles farther on, Sir Colin, attended by Norman and his staff, ordered the 93rd to form up; when he took them into his confidence as usual. He told them that General Windham had been attacked by the Nana and the Gwalior contingent, and had been forced to retire within the fort.
If the bridge of boats were cut, it would be a serious position for the British: 50,000 enemies in the rear; a river and 40,000 well-armed men in front, and all the sick and women to guard!" So, 93rd," said the old chief with emotion, "I don't ask you to undertake this forced march, in your present tired condition, without good reason. We must reach Cawnpur to-night at all costs."
"All right, Sir Colin, we'll do it," was the resolute reply.
So, on they went, footsore and weary, but roused by the tonic of a good cannonade in front. The wounded, says Norman, were nearly jolted to death in hackeries, and the women in their strange surroundings looked frightened and wide-eyed.
About noon on the 25th, a native sprang out of the long grass and held out a letter: it was written in Greek characters to Sir Colin, or any officer commanding troops, and asked for prompt succour. Sir Colin ordered Roberts to ride forward and see how they sped at Cawnpur: at the bridge-head an excited officer met him with the remark, "We are at our last gasp!" "All right!" answered Roberts, "we are just here!"
He rode across the bridge of boats under fire and entered the fort; many came crowding round to ask the news. General Windham he found cool and collected: Captain Mowbray Thomson had kept 4000 coolies daily employed on the defences from dawn till dark, and the fortifications were not to be despised. There was to be no second Cawnpur Massacre!
But the force that went to relieve Lucknow had left all their spare kit and 500 tents, harness, etc., in Cawnpur: all this the rebels had seized and were burning on the bank of the Ganges. It was the first sight that greeted the eyes of the relieving force: they had not changed their clothes since the 10th, and the sight did not soothe their feelings.
Sir Colin, irritable and anxious, could not wait for Roberts to return. Taking Norman with him and a few more he rode to the bridge-head. The same officer made unfortunately the same remark he had made to Roberts. "Sir Colin, we are at our last gasp!"
"D—n you, sir; how dare you say such a thing to me!"
The poor officer fell back in dismay; the chief and his staff rode over the swaying bridge and entered the fort.
At once some of the Rifle Brigade recognised Sir Colin, and their deafening cheers soon showed what they thought of the value of his presence amongst them.
Next day Sir Colin transferred his headquarters across the river: gradually the men marched across, and on the night of 3rd December the women and children with 500 sick and wounded were secretly sent off to Allahabad.
On the 6th, news came by telegraph that the party had arrived at the railway station and would soon be safe within the fortress of Allahabad.
It was not until the reception of this news that Sir Colin ordered an advance against the rebels: Norman in this fighting had several fortunate escapes, while Sir Colin and General Grant were both hit by musket-balls.
Norman, beside his work in the field, had heavy duties r to perform. A new native army was being raised, and the Deputy Adjutant-General of the Bengal Army had much to do in instructing and organising. "I sometimes complained that the work almost killed me," he writes.
What Norman had been to General Wilson at Delhi he now proved to be to Sir Colin Campbell. "Norman is the life and soul of the Force," wrote Edwin Johnson at Delhi. Blunt, writing from Cawnpur, says: "Old Norman is the same as ever, only fighting fattens him. He is all in all to Sir Colin, and is worth his weight in gold."
In March 1858, our army once more set out for Lucknow: the Dilkusha Palace was taken, and the Martiniere attacked and taken on the 9th. Here Peel, k.c.b. , was wounded and laid up for the rest of the siege. Outram was co-operating successfully and by the evening of the 10th the enemy's first line of defence was carried. The entrenchments along the canal were stupendous, and in the rear every building was strongly entrenched and loopholed.
On the 11th March, Norman visited Outram's camp and the naval battery: he found Outram attempting to secure the bridges which spanned the Goomtee: but he had to hurry back to headquarters to receive the Prime Minister of Nepal, Maharaja Jang Bahadur. The interview took place with an accompaniment of musketry and artillery: before it was over news came that Adrian Hope had captured the Begum's Palace. Norman hurried off to this—"the sternest struggle in the siege."
The fight, in which the 93rd, the 4th Punjab Rifles and the Gurkhas had played so heroic a part, had raged for two hours from court to court and from room to room; while the pipe-major, John M'Leod, walked about playing the pipes as calmly as if he had been at a mess-dinner.
It was in this attack that Hodson, the Prince of Scouts, was killed. Of him Norman writes: "Though riot without serious faults, he was a most accomplished and gallant officer, and as a leader of irregulars in our time probably unsurpassed": and again, "Poor Hodson was buried last night: it was quite dark, a lantern being held up to enable the chaplain to read the service."
On the 17th, Norman ascended one of the minarets of the Imambara with Hope Johnstone, and became the target for various bullets. He was able to inform the chief that the Musabagh must be attacked. On this day Mrs. Orr and Miss Jackson were rescued by Captain M'Neil and Lieutenant Boyle: these ladies had been in prison since the previous May. On 21st March, the city of Lucknow was in our hands—the rebel loss being about 4000, the British under 800.
After the siege still more work for Norman, headaches and low fever! His friends were scattered—Roberts to England, Hugh Gough to the hills, Watson to the Punjab, Probyn invalided.
Then came the list of Delhi honours; but Norman's name was not there! Wilson a K.C.B., Daly a C.B., Norman apparently forgotten. He felt it keenly, not knowing the reason, and wrote to his wife: "I am not included, though every A.D.C. who was a captain is a brevet-major. Having been in nearly eighty actions and skirmishes, it seems odd that I cannot be rewarded, even though head of the adjutant-general's department in a large army."
However, Sir Colin showed him in his dispatch of 22nd March these words: "I must draw very particular attention to the services of Major Norman, who has performed the very onerous duty of adjutant-general of the army in the field throughout the campaign."
It was not that the War Office had forgotten him: only they had bound themselves by rules they dared not break: Norman was too young to be rewarded!
At last the Gazette gave him the local rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the East Indies and a c.b.
We cannot follow him further. After the Rohilkhand campaign, Norman became a military secretary at the Horse Guards, a member of the Viceroy's council, governor of Jamaica, governor of Queensland, governor of Chelsea, Field Marshal.
Lord Roberts, in estimating his character, notes three great qualities: (1) A natural liking and aptitude for work; sport and games had no temptations for him. (2) An extra-ordinary memory: he seemed to know the Army List by heart; he had a wide knowledge of military history. (3) He possessed sound soldierly instincts, was always on the spot, courted danger, yet was cool and brave always: he was very cheerful, and apt to see the bright side of things. He died on 26th October 1904.