SAS Wargames Club

SAS Wargames Club
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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The First Sikh War battles

by Dave Vallance

Here's a rough outline to the 4 battles of the first war..1845-1846

Mudki - 18th December 1845 
first battle, Sikhs under Lal Singh (remember him?)
bump into Sir Hugh Gough's advancing force (now known as the Army of the Sutlej) near the village of Mudki ..British win (huzzah!) and 3rd Light Dragoons win battle honour for charging down the Sikh gun lines

Ferozeshah - 21st - 22nd December 1845
Lal, having been given a bloody nose, retires to the village of Ferozeshah, where he digs in, throwing up earthworks around the village, in a horseshoe shape. He realises that his troops cannot manouevre in the open as at Mudki as well as the British, , so from now on the Sikhs develop the tactic of throwing up earthworks etc, with their heavy artillery well placed, and await the British attack..this tactic is now the norm for the remaining battles..a Sikh fortified defence attacked head on by the British and Sepoys.

Anyway, Sir Hugh Gough wants to attack straight away, but he is reined in by the Governor General, Sir, Henry Hardinge, who although acting as a subordinate. insists that Gough waits for another team to arrive, under Sir Charles Littler, who has been bottled up in the town of Ferozepore (not shah) which is on the River Sutlej, the border between us and the Sikhs, and to the north of Ferozeshah.

 Littler has been bottled up by another Sikh army, under their C in C, Tej Singh, but Littler manages to get out during the night and joins Gough.

Gough attacks on the 21st , wins with a Phyrric victory, drives the Sikhs out, but as the water in the village has been contaminated by the Sikhs, he is forced to retire to his start lines to get food, ammo, water etc.. during the night, the sneaky Sikhs retake Ferozeshah, and start bombarding the Brits again with their guns that the Brits hadnt spiked etc.

Gough, wants to attack during the night, but is again reined in by Hardinge (yes there is an 'e' at the end of his name, its not a typo)

The next morning, Gough attacks again and retakes Ferozeshah in a hard fought battle...we win again (another huzzah!!). however we are exhausted, thirsty, tired (having been shot at all night by the Sikh artillery) and down to our last rounds..when....Tej Singh's army turn up!! Oh crap, we are in deep shittings! 

Off we go again...the knackered Army of the Sutlej stand too, realising that they've got to fight again against a fresh Sikh army...however, Tej retreats when he sees British cavalry heading towards the flank....remember the plan to destroy the Khalsa from previous mails? Tej realised that he could beat the Army of the Sutlej, but the plan is to have the Khalsa beaten..."treachery, treachery", is the cry from the Sikh soldiery..The Brits and Sepoys breath a big sigh of there comes a 'what if?' What would happen if Tej attacked?

Could this have led to a general Indian uprising?

Aliwal - 28th January 1846 - 'the battle without a mistake'
well we won't be doing this game!

Another Sikh force under a Ranjoor Singh was trying to cut off our supply lines and Gough sent Sir Harry Smith to stop him, which he did (shall we have another huzzah?) at the village of Aliwal.

16th Lancers charge and break a Sikh regular infantry square, another battle honour

 Sobraon - 10th February 1846

By now the Sikhs had retreated back to the River Sutlej, this was
their last stand..again earthworks on a semi circle, their rear on the river itself with a bridge of boats going across, artillery on far bank proving support..another frontal assault, Gough by now had some heavy seige guns which he used effectively, but when told they were running low on ammo, his famous quote of "thank god, at last I can get at them with the bayonet" came about here. Once the lines were breached, by cavalry no less, and help arrived, the Sikhs headed for the river , some swimming, some trying to cram across the bridge which it became a turkey shoot for the Brits..the Khalsa was effectively destoyed and the remainder surrendered..the First Sikh war was over...

All of these battles were hard fought affairs, the British being surprised and impressed by the unanticipated courage and determination of the Sikhs. Many British officers thought that Ferozeshah was ' a very desperate affair'.. the Sikhs actually claimed it as a victory. If it was a British victory, then it certainly wasnt a decisive one. General Gough also admired the martial qualities of the Sikhs . He one said "Never did a native army having so relatively slight an advantage in numbers fight a battle with the British in which the issue was so doubtful as at Ferozeshah"

Check out Dave's excellent Sikh Wars Introductory article <here>