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Fort Beyt 1859

In October 1859 the 28th Regt was at Colaba barracks, Bombay, having recently arrived in India from Malta. It was noted in the Regimental history that the Regiment arrived "to find that the Mutiny was nearly finished, and they were too late for the Mutiny Medal." Among the ranks were many who had served in the Crimea and probably were hoping to add another medal.

That month an expedition was sent to deal with a band of 'pirates and rebels' (mutineers?) active off the Coromandel coast and based on the island of Beyt. The force consisted of a wing of the 28th Regt; commanded by Major William Roberts (served in the Crimea), the 6th Bombay Native Infantry and a detachment of artillery.

The expedition was transported aboard "two frigates of the HEIC Marine and a hired transport" (4274 Colour-Sergeant-Instructor of Musketry Albert Robinson, letter quoted in Regimental journal 1925). The two warshipswere the 'Feroze' (13 guns, paddle steamer) and 'Zenobia' (9 guns, paddle steamer).

6th October 1859 the force arrived off the island - "On arriving at Beyet island the men-of-war opened fire on the fort, causing a breach. We then put off in small boats and stormed the fort using escalade ladders. On reaching the summit we had many casualties, the number in the 28th being 58 killed and wounded, including Dr. Brice* and Lieutenants McCormack and Wade."** (Albert Robinson)

The 28th Regiment lost 13 men killed and 5 more died of wounds, including Lieutenant James W. MacCormack. 'History of the 28th Regt' (F. Brodigan) - "The officer killed was Lieutenant MacCormack who was shot through the femoral artery."

Assistant-Surgeon Don*** wrote - "When the wing left Bombay, MacCormack was on the sick list with a bad toe and could not get a boot on properly, but poor 'Dandy Jim' as we called him, insisted on going with his company and was one of the first struck down. Some brave and good NCO's and men fell on this fatal 6th October, among them were such model soldiers as Colour-Sergeant Coates and Corporal Norris. The Wagheers fired all sorts of missiles from matchlocks and old guns, and when the wounded were got down to Bombay I assisted to extract from their wounds bits of glass and telegraph wire and from Private Corbett's elbow-joint a large rusty iron nail."

I don't know how many men of the 6th N.I. were killed, but one officer fell: In the Regimental Journal (1928):
A grave in Okamundel -
"Edward Tanqueray Willaume Ensign 6th Regiment Bombay N.I. and Captain M'Cormac 28th Regiment of Foot. Killed on 6th October MDCCCLIX."

During the assault a Bombay Engineers officer, Lieutenant Charles A. Goodfellow, won the Victoria Cross "for gallant conduct at the attack on the Fort of Beyt, on the 6th October 1859. On that occasion a soldier of the 28th Regiment was shot under the walls in a sharp fire of matchlocks and bore off the body of the soldier who was then dead, but whom he had at first thought was only wounded."

That night the rebels retired inland to Dwarka and the Fort was occupied. The soldiers looted the temples of their gold, which was ordered to be handed to the prize agent (Lieutenant Thomas S. Kirkaptrick, 28th Regt, served in the Crimea). Later it was decided that the priests had nothing to do with the rebels and the Government ordered the loot to be returned to the temples.

The force advanced to Dwarka and another assault captured the town. The expedition over, the 28th sailed back to Bombay: "All being now settled we embarked for Bombay, with no batta money, no medal and no thanks." (Albert Robinson).

One disgruntled old soldier did something about it. In the Glosters Museum is a medal group to Francis J. Jordan. It consists of a Crimea medal (28th Regt), Afghanistan medal (no bar. Superintendant, Post Office, Kyber Colony), Turkish Crimea medal and a miniature Indian Mutiny medal with an extra metal disc attached around the miniature disc. This is engraved - "HM 28th served in India 1859, engaged in the storming and capture of Beyt and Dwarkia, India medal (fairly earned) was not granted. F.J.J."

Casualty Roll (from WO 12/4466, the musters for the 28th Foot for April 1859 to March 1860)

Action at Fort Beyt, 6th October 1859. All are Killed in Action unless otherwise stated.

Officers & NCO's
Lt. J.W. McCormack
1635 Col. Sgt. Richard Coates
1897 Sgt. James Carson (DOW 18/10/59)
4235 Cpl. Henry Calloway
3135 Cpl. John Jones
1903 Cpl. George Norris

3628 Michael Brennan
3846 Albert Brice
3745 George Burt
3345 Thomas Cleary (DOW 23/10/59)
4326 James Ella
3522 Mark Giblin
37 James Haynes (DOW 05/11/59)
486 Lawrence Hughes
479 George Jack
4095 Nathaniel Johnson (DOW 12/12/59)
3010 Simon Roe (DOW 13/10/59)
1821 Thomas Wallace

* Assistant-Surgeon William Henry Brice (served in the Crimea, died 2nd July 1862 at Poorhundhur Sanatarium, near Poona)
** Lieutenant Mark F. Wade. (He died in 1860 on the march to Ahmednuggur)
*** Assistant-Surgeon William Gerard Don (Baltic medal, earned as 'Hospital Dresser' on board the Duke of Wellington)

There is some confusion about the date of the assault on Fort Beyt; in Cap of Honour they give 26th October, but as both the V.C. action, MacCormack's gravestone and the letter of Albert Robinson give the 6th, that would appear to be correct. In Hart's Army List, Major William Roberts has a 'reconnaissance towards Dwarka on the 26th October.

My thanks to Kevin Asplin for compiling the casualty roll.

In 1860 Lieutenant Mark F. Wade died on the march to Ahmednuggur. When the regiment was at Nuggur, a detached company was sent to relieve the 18th Royal Irish at Asseerghur, in an old Mahratta fort. No.3 company was commanded by Captain Messiter, with Ensign Turner and Assistant-Surgeon C.G. Irwin. On 12th February 1862 they returned to the regiment. Also in 1861 Lieutenant Irwin died of cholera. On 21st November 1861 Lieutenant W.H. Steward was shot by his native servant. The servant, who then committed suicide, had been a mutineer from the Gwalior Contingent Cavalry. On 2nd July 1862 Assistant-Surgeon W.H. Brice died at Poorhundhur Sanatarium, near Poona. In 1864 Surgeon Irwin left the regiment for England.

1865 regiment returned to England and in 1866 moved to Ireland. There they were issued the Snider rifle in April 1867. In 1872 authority was given for the sphinx to be worn on officers forage caps. The sphinx was also to be worn on the mens' collars.

In 1876 Lieutenant C.H.E. Lodwick died at sea. On 29th January1880 Lieutenant Lyttleton died at Bristol.