The White Mutiny

Following the Indian Mutiny of 1857, it was proposed that British soldiers of the defunct East India Company should become an integral part of the Royal forces. J.M. Brereton describes the troubles that resulted.

On November 1st, 1858, an impressive Durbar was assembled at Allahabad to hear Lord Canning, Governor-General of India, read out the Queen’s Proclamation abolishing the 250-year rule of the East India Company and transferring the government of India direct to the Crown. Among the many sweeping reorganisations envisaged, the transfer of power meant that the soldiers of the three Presidency Armies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay would now be required to make over their allegiance from the defunct ‘John Company’ to the Queen, as in the British Army.

The concourse of troops and Civil officials attending the Durbar included four regiments of Bengal European Cavalry, composed of British rank-and-file, and at the conclusion of his address Lord Canning (now first Viceroy of India) congratulated them on becoming ‘an integral part of the Royal forces’.

His Excellency was, however, a little premature, for the exact terms of the transfer of the Company’s, European units were only then being debated by a Royal Commission, and as he and the British Government were soon to discover, the men themselves were in no mood for felicitations.

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