Myths and Ledgends of the Old British Army

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by jonwilly, Sep 24, 2006.

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  1. Gents just watching the BEEBs History of Britian By Proffesor Simon Sharma and he's doing the Indian Rebellion ( Mutiny to Soldiers).
    Two things I'd like to clear up from them that knows.
    1) Did we actually issue the 'New' cartridge geased in Pig or Cow fat ?
    or is that myths and ledgends department.
    2) Was it an actual Fact, that Mutineers where strapped to the barrel of a gun and blown away.
    We all know curtisy of George MaDonald Frasier the our Duty Hero Col Frashman was all but blown from the end of one cannon, but is this Myths and Ledgends ?
  2. 1) True

    2) Also true, a distant relative of mine was one of the mutineers dispatched in such a manner.
  3. By coincidence just came across reference to that in the book I'm currently reading - "Sahib - the British Soldier in India" by Richard Holmes. He refers to an earlier instance in 1764 when 24 men were sentenced to be "blown from guns". To quote him "it was an old Mughal punishment which involved the individual being tied across the muzzle of a field gun (6 pounder in the 1764 instance) loaded with powder but no shot". Individual was then "blown into enternity"...

  4. Cartridges were actually greased with mutton fat, but the chance to sh1t stir was too much for those who wanted the British out.
  5. Thanks for the answers so far.
    Taz no disrepect but I'm afraid you answer is just another myth, I was hoping for answers along the line of Lancslad quoting a well establish source, as in Richard Holmes.
    dudrillin is also in this catagory. I must admit I too had heard that Mutton 'Fat' was eventually used and I would agree that the 'Pandies' where given the oupertunity they had been waiting for.
    Could an old established army have been so Stupid to issue a cartridge which every Brit officer would hav known would have cause a Mutiny and not a Rebbelion by the general populace as modern revisionist would have the great unwashed beleive.
    Mind you Lancslad what happened 'Years' before may or may not have happened in the Mutiny. So anyone got any Firm facts.
  6. The Enfield muzzleloader cartridge was lubricated with a mixture of beeswax and tallow (rendered mutton fat) to keep the fouling in the barrel down. I understnd that the mixture varied depending on the ambient temperature. It is possible that the cartridges issued in India would have been pure beeswax.

    As dundrillen says... never let the truth get in the way of spin!
  7. Exellent HE117 but could you quote your Refereance outherwise just Romour control.
    Gents these are two Myths now accepted by most (myself included).
    What I would like to know is are they fact, did we follow Mughal tradition and where we rally so stupid to issue Pig/Cow fat coated cartridges.
    I know a 86 year old vet of Burma WW II. He served in an Indian unit from start of 42 to 47.
    When nothing else was available he will tell you that providing the 'Opposition' where not around, Muslims ate Bacon and Hindu's ate Corn Beef. For Opposition read Muslim / Hindu as appropriate.
  8. John,

    The link below suggests the practice was certainly adopted in the Mutiny by Brig. Neville Chamberlain in respect of two mutineers belonging to the 35th Native Regiment. Source for the information is FM Lord Roberts who was a lieutenant with the column.

    One rationale for the practice is referred to below i.e.

    "Shooting from guns is the only way, he says, that 60,000 soldiers in a strong country can keep in awe 250,000,000 natives. Superstition must be utilized. The natives do not fear to die, but they fear to die in any way that destroys the identity of the body. They cannot enter heaven blown limb from limb. Therefore this is the way to touch their souls with dreadful awe, and the English, says our artist, have always blown from guns, blow from guns today, and will blow from guns as long as India is held."


    Mind you this doesn't link into it being an old Mughal tradition that we adopted. Further research required methinks :D

  9. Jon, Richard Holmes is a family friend, by way of my fathers association with him at Sandhurst (and beyond) Through conversations with the old man, it is my understanding that the whole pig/cow fat story is simply that, a story, propoganda if you will, put about to foment rebellion in the native troops.
    As for Muslims not eating the forbidden flesh of unclean animals, its utter tosh!
    I have a good friend, Imran Khan, not the well known cricketer, but a practising Muslim nonetheless, who along with several others, crashes at my place after a heavy night out.
    In the morning, he tucks into a full English (including bacon and Lincolnshire pork sausages) with the rest of us.
    We are all sworn to secrecy, but he fails to see the hypocrisy of drinking heavily, knobbing filthy bints, and scoffing hog.
    Islam, its a farce!
  10. Thanks Lancslad, I think that a 'Statement' by an oficer of Roberts standing does confirm that we did indulge in a terrible practice, but for far more serious reasons then first seem apparent.
    Sandmanfez, thanks for your input. Richard Holmes is of such standing that I would be prepared to accept his views that the Pig/Cow story is that, a tale from long gone bye.
    As a kid I watched movies from the 30's, often US made which perpetuated this Myth. I think that as with so much of Hollywoods output WE have been contaminated in our ideas, long before WE reached an 'age' of reason.
    Brit officers in Company Service would never have allowed the cartridges to be 'Contaminated'. They where long service and one thing that continually comes across in my reading is the Love felt by the Officers for their men. The love and respect born by combat in a far off land.
  11. Just on a technical note; I presume that the guns would be fired on a reduced charge to prevent the barrel splitting (ie: muzzle blocked by Pandy's spine, leading to "catastrophic failure" of the barrel on a full charge). If it were such a recognised practice, would there have been a laid down procedure.

    Anybody got a copy of THAT pam?

    "Ordnance muzzle loading various, disciplinary employment"
  12. I know a 86 year old vet of Burma WW II. He served in an Indian unit from start of 42 to 47.
    When nothing else was available he will tell you that providing the 'Opposition' where not around, Muslims ate Bacon and Hindu's ate Corn Beef. For Opposition read Muslim / Hindu as appropriate.[/quote]


    It is a fact that during WW1 Muslims and Hindus ate bully beef and bacon whilst in the trenches. They were given dispensation in one case by the Grand Mufti, and in the other by the senior equivalent in India. Incidentally from speaking to some muslim friends I know, if the individual is starving and the only food available to save his/her life is forbidden, they are allowed to consume it then go through a cleaning/disinfecting routine at the earliest opportunity by the relevant authority. This is because it is better to retain a believer than lose one. :wink:
  13. Think its in Iran a while back
    Hope this helps the obturation problem for you themanwho!
  14. Another small matter came up today.
    When I was a young soldier and we where doing Grenade, we where told by the Full Screw Instructor that the Mills Bomb was constructed, Pinnapple shape with the External Chunks, so as to 'Break' up into 80+ ? pieces.
    Later I learned that its internal scoring that causes items to break up and not external construction. Am I correct in assuming that the external Chunks are there to aid grip in Field conditions ?
    The above came about when I was trying to find information on how DGS (Dual Shift Transmision) works in car gearboxes and one thing lead to another.
  15. john, to add my 50p’s worth of what I understand the case to be, if a pressure (expansion of the detonated charge) is applied to a surface the weakest point will break first. Hence in theory, in the case of a fragmentation grenade there should be a uniform dispersal pattern of fragments defined by the weak points in the casing. However, largely due to the pressure not being applied simultaneously to all parts of a perfect casing, dispersal patterns are always random including the bomb just splitting in two. Early grenades that had say a stick type attachment to grip when throwing, still had external segments. Having the casing segmented on the inside rather than the outside, I would say is an attempt to produce a better and more reliable fragmentation pattern. Why this was not done originally is probably down to cost/ease of production in casting the casing, and people at the time thinking any extra performance produced did not merit the extra cost/time?