Capture of Banda, the Indian Mutiny.

Monday, 19 April, 1858

Inniskillings Museum Madras Colours imageAt the end of 1857, during the Indian Mutiny the 3rd Madras European Regiment was ordered into the field as part of the Saugor and Nerbudda Field Force commanded by Brigadier General Whitlock (who had been the Regiment's first commanding officer). Reaching Saugor on 5 March 1858, the Regiment detached a force to garrison the area and then proceeded to Banda, a state on the River Jumna. The ruler (Nawab) of Banda had risen against the British and his rebel force was estimated to be some 9,000 strong. En route, the Field Force inflicted a defeat on and dispersed some 2,000 rebels at Jhigan. Whitlock's advance guard next encountered the rebels near Kabrai, some 24 miles west of Banda. However, the rebels succeeded in breaking contact and withdrawing to Banda.

Halting on Sunday 18 April, the Field Force was preparing for church parade when riders brought news that the Force's forward elements had made contact with the rebel Nawab's force. Whitlock's force of 986 Europeans and 983 Indians resumed the advance so as to arrive by daybreak on 19 April. The Field Force's advance guard included the now 538 strong 3rd Madras Regiment, a strength reduced by the detachment left to garrison Saugor.

The Nawab's deployment astride the road to the east of Banda made good use of both the terrain and the cover offered by the vegetation. The advance guard deployed into line and using a hill feature for cover took a left flanking route into the rebels' right wing. Despite coming under enfilade fire from a rebel battery, two companies of the 3rd Madras were ordered to attack and drive the enemy at bayonet point from a key ravine feature. Another party of the Regiment moved at the double to seize a ridge from where it poured volleys of fire to disperse rebel cavalry threatening the advance guard's baggage and ammunition carts. When the main body arrived it further drove back the enemy into an area where they could be engaged by the Field Force artillery guns. After four hours the rebel force withdrew in the direction of Banda pursued by cavalry and mounted artillery as far as the River Kane. A rebel fort dominated any attempt to cross the river in pursuit but later raised a flag of truce. Brigadier Whitlock was then informed that the Nawab had fled Banda and ordered an advance party to enter the town. The following day, Banda was formally occupied and Whitlock hoisted the British flag.

In his despatch, Brigadier Whitlock thanked the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Madras Regiment, Colonel Apthorp, for his handling of the Advance Guard and praised the steadiness and good discipline of the young Irishmen in their baptism of fire.