Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial

Great War Photos

7899878236_85c0bcc53a_oToday is the centenary of the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle, the first major British assault of the Great War. It was not the first attack on the German lines as the trench war had begun in late 1914 and in December there had been several localised attacks. But these had been small scale affairs compared to Neuve-Chapelle which saw more than 40,000 British and Indian troops make a major assault on the village. The Indian Army had taken part in First Ypres and much of the fighting in late 1914 but with the Indian Corps now accounting for a sizeable part of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders this was one of their major battles of the Great War on the Western Front.

Indian Troops 1915 Indian Troops 1915

The Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial was designed by Sir Hubert Baker and unveiled in October 1927. It commemorates more than 4,700 Indian troops…

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Cast Across the Sea: 18th c. Children Born in India, Raised in Britain

I’ve already heard from a couple of readers who have wondered why the sickly young heroine of my new book, A Sinful Deception, was sent all the way from India, where she was born, to relatives she’d never met in London. Considering the perils (shipwreck, pirates, war) of a voyage that took the better part of a year in the 18th c., wouldn’t it have been safer for her to remain in India?

Perhaps. But India, too, was an unhealthy place for Europeans, and it was notoriously true that many failed to survive two monsoons, or two years. Yet for English parents of means living in India, the strongest reason for sending their children half a world away was an almost desperate desire that they be raised as English, attending English schools with English customs and friends.

This was a serious (and costly) step. Often the parents never saw their children again, or at least not for many years. But despite how deeply my heroine’s father had embraced India, he still wished her to return to London and ultimately marry an English gentleman.

One of the saddest (to me, anyway) examples of a family torn asunder in this way is described in…

Continue reading: Two Nerdy History Girls: Cast Across the Sea: 18th c. Children Born in India, Raised in Britain.

Personal gifts from Mr Churchill – Untold lives blog


World War II propaganda poster featuring Winston Churchill ©De Agostini/The British Library Board Images Online

This week the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill is being commemorated.  There has been a flood of articles analysing his role in British history.  Untold Lives would like to highlight three little-known files in the India Office Records which show Mr Churchill’s generosity to men who had been his servants when he was a young officer in the British Army.

Churchill sailed for India with his regiment, the Queen’s Own Hussars, in October 1896.  He was stationed initially at Bangalore. In July 1943 the India Office set its administrative wheels in motion on behalf of Prime Minster Churchill who wished to send a personal gift of 100 rupees to his former servant Mr S Joshua. Mr Joshua was an inmate of the Friend-in-Need Society’s home in Bangalore.  Officials in London and India liaised to transfer the money through the Resident in Mysore to Mr Joshua after he had shown proof of his identity.  Churchill conveyed his thanks from Quebec where he was attending an Allied conference. He sent a cheque for £9 6s 9d made out to ‘Accountant-General India Office’ to cover to cost of the gift and a telegram to India.

Mr P Muniswamy wrote a letter to Churchill from Bangalore in December 1946 and again in May 1947 after he heard about the 100 rupees sent to Mr Joshua.  He claimed to be an ‘old old Servant’ who had worked for Churchill when he was stationed in India.  Churchill thought that he did remember   a servant of that name some 50 years earlier and asked the Private Secretary to…

via Personal gifts from Mr Churchill – Untold lives blog.

Sweet Dreams – Anaesthesia

The history of anaesthesia from ancient times to the present day can be divided into four distinctive periods: herbs, vapours, local anaesthetics, and ”modern-day” medications (opioids, hypnotics, relaxants, etc.).

Herbs

Mankind gradually discovered pain relieving, hypnotic properties of plants existing in nature. This dates back to 5500 B.C., as underlined by an archaeological find in a cave site southern Spain. Here found in a religious artefact, were intact capsules of opium poppy (papaver somniferum).

In 3000 B.C. (the Early Bronze Age) in the Swiss Lake dwellings caches of poppy seeds and press-cake were found. Although to date there is no evidence that it was used as a narcotic in either of the above time periods, it is plausible that in the Early Bronze Age, opium poppy was grown in Switzerland, enabling the large numbers of seeds that could be harvested to press for oil and to be ground for flour (dough).

In ancient China (1500 B.C.), India and pre-Columbian America, natural anaesthetics or soporifics were used to ease some types of pain, including that associated with surgical procedures. Among the first known records mentioning the anaesthetic properties of cannabis are from…

Continue reading: Sweet Dreams – Anaesthesia.