|GENERAL CRAWFORD TROTTER CHAMBERLAIN
|1ST BENGAL CAVALRY (SKINNER’S HORSE)
|Nominated a cadet for the Bengal Army by Russell Ellice, Esq., on the recommendation of J. H. Buckle in 1837, Crawford was
commissioned an Ensign on the 12th of December, 1837. Sailing for India aboard the Robarts, Ensign Chamberlain arrived
at Fort William on the 20th of March, 1838. Originally posted to the 28th Native Infantry at Barrackpore, in early
December of that year he was transferred as a ‘special case’ to the 16th Native Infantry in which regiment his older brother,
Neville Chamberlain (later General Sir Neville Chamberlain) was already serving, the transfer having been arranged by an old
family friend, the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Henry Fane, with whose family Crawford spent his leaves. With the 1st Afghan
War just beginning, Sir Henry was keen that Crawford and Neville should see active service as their regiment, the 16th
Native Infantry, was to be included in the 1st Brigade, 1st Division of Sir Willoughby Cotton’s Bengal Column of the Army of
the Indus. On the 10th of December, 1838, General Cotton’s column began the long march towards Cabul.
Having been present at the capture of fortress of Ghuznee on the 23rd of July, 1838, the 16th N.I. was left to garrison the
fortress of Ghuznee. Chamberlain received the medal for Ghuznee and shared in the prize money for the capture of the
heavily defended fortress.
Promoted to Lieutenant on the 26th of March, 1840, Chamberlain accompanied the 16th N.I. to Candahar in August 1841, and
having been placed at the disposal of the Envoy and Minister at the Court of Shah Soojah, in September of the year he was
appointed to the temporary command of Shah Soojah’s 5th Janbaz Cavalry, but the following month he was appointed
Adjutant of Shah Soojah’s 1st Irregular Cavalry, commanded by Captain John Christie, which was to become better known as
Christie’s Horse. Following the mutiny of some native members of the Janbaz Cavalry, Chamberlain was rode in pursuit, and
catching up with them, charged their ranks. In the ensuing mêlée, Chamberlain had a narrow escape when a rebel slashed open
the seat of his trousers and injured his horse. His brother, Neville, also had a close escape when a Native Officer of his own
regiment saved Neville’s life by cutting off the sword arm of a rebel who was in the act of cutting Neville down. Chamberlain
was continually engaged in the fierce fighting around Candahar, and in all probability accompanied Christie’s Horse in the
march on Cabul, the entrance into the city signaling the end of the war. Chamberlain received the Cabul 1842 medal with
Candahar reverse for his part in the war.
In 1843, Lieutenant Chamberlain was sent to Scinde with two squadrons of irregular cavalry as an independent command
known as Chamberlain’s Horse. In 1845, he succumbed to the effects of India and was sent on sick furlough to the Cape,
where he married his first wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of J. de Witt.
Returning to duty in India in 1846, Chamberlain was next appointed second-in-command of the 9th Irregular Cavalry
(Christie’s Horse), into which his own Chamberlain’s Horse was merged. During the Second Sikh War he was constantly in
action. He served at the battle of Chillianwalla on the 13th of January, 1849, and, with his brother Neville, managed to find
his way to the front in spite of the fact their brigade had been left to guard the baggage. On the 30th of January, after
heavy rain prevented Sir Hugh Gough from following up the enemy, Chamberlain was engaged in a particularly spectacular
cavalry skirmish, in which his patrol killed sixteen of the enemy, though he himself was wounded. Gough was sufficiently
impressed by the results of this encounter to make him the subject of a special despatch:
‘Lieutenant Chamberlain slew two of the enemy with his own hand, receiving a slight wound himself, and his energy and
gallantry were, as usual, most conspicuous, and merit the best commendation of his Excellency. Lieutenant Chamberlain
speaks in high terms of the conduct of the party he commanded on this occasion, and especially of the gallantry evinced
by Ally Buksh, sowar of the first troop; and the Commander-in-Chief is persuaded that other parties sent on the
important duty of protecting the carriage cattle of the army, will emulate the activity, conduct, and courage which has
now so deservedly elicited his Lordship’s applause.’
At the battle of Goojerat on the 21st of February, Chamberlain, not yet recovered from his wound, had to be lifted into
his saddle ‘where he remained throughout the day’. After the battle his Brigadier, Sir John Hearsey, commented in his
despatch: ‘Lieutenant Crawford Chamberlain, second in command 9th Irregular Horse, although still suffering from his
wound, was present with the regiment the whole day, thus showing his usual energy.’ Lieutenant Chamberlain was
present at the final surrender of the Sikh Army at Rawul Pindee.
For his services in the Punjab campaign, Chamberlain was mentioned in despatches, received the Punjab medal with two
clasps, was promoted Captain in his regiment and made Brevet Major. He was also rewarded with the command of the 1st
Irregular Horse, formerly known as Skinner’s Horse, which had already made its mark on the military history of India.
The regiment had been raised in 1803 by Captain James Skinner from men who had defected from the forces of Scindia
following Lord Lake’s victory at the battle of Delhi.
Major Chamberlain next commanded a column, including a squadron of his own regiment, the 1st Irregular Horse, in the
force under Colonel Sydney J. Cotton in the Momund expedition of 1854. The Momund are a tribe of Pathans, closely
allied in dress, language and customs to the Yusafzais, residing in the Northwest Frontier of India along the Afghan/India
border. They had been the subject of a previous military expedition commanded by Brigadier Sir Colin Campbell, K.C.B.,
in which the Momunds were resoundingly defeated at Panjpao in April of 1852. In the 1854 expedition, Major
Chamberlain led his forces in the capture of the fortified Momund villages of Dabb, Sadin and Shah Mansur Khel and
the subsequent destruction of those villages in an effort to deprive the Momunds of a base for cross border raids. The
members of this expedition received the India General Service medal with the Northwest Frontier clasp.
In May of 1857 Major Chamberlain was in command of the 1st Irregular Cavalry stationed at Multan when the Bengal
native regiments at the large cantonment at Meerut rose against their officers and began murdering any Europeans they
encountered. The mutiny quickly spread to Delhi where the rebels declared the old Mogul emperor the King of Delhi,
placing him on the throne. Almost immediately the rebellion began spreading to other regiments of the Bengal Army and
the loyalties of the men of all of the native regiments were soon in question.
In early June, the men of the 1st Irregular Cavalry evidenced their loyalty to Major Chamberlain by volunteering to shoot
men condemned for mutiny at Jullundur. Lord Roberts’ memoirs relate the story of an incident that happened during this
“anxious time” which is illustrative of Major Chamberlain’s mutual loyalty with the men of his regiment:
“There were several Rangars (a name applied by Hindus to any Rajput converted to Islam) in the 1st Irregulars. One day
in June, Shaidad Khan, a Resaidar of this class, came to Chamberlain, and said: ‘There was a rumour that I (Chamberlain)
had not as much confidence in Rangars as in other classes of the regiment, and he came to be comforted’! Chamberlain
asked him to sit down, and sent to the banker of the regiment for a very, valuable sword which he had given him for safe
custody. It had belonged to one of the Amirs of Sindh, was taken in battle, and given to Chamberlain by Major Fitzgerald,
of the Sindh Horse. On the sword being brought, Chamberlain handed it over to Shaidad Khan and his sect for safety, to
be returned when the Mutiny was over. The tears rose to the Native officer’s eyes, he touched Chamberlain’s knees, and
swore that death alone would sever the bond of fidelity of which the sword was the token. He took his leave, thoroughly
Lord Roberts had been a friend of Crawford Chamberlain and his wife since Roberts first returned to India as a “Griffin”
following Roberts being commissioned an Ensign in the Bengal Army. In Forty-one Years in India, Roberts discusses at
some length the explosive situation existing at Multan during the early stages of the Mutiny:
“Multan had next to be considered. Matters at that time were very unsettled, and indeed were causing the authorities
grave anxiety, but Multan was more fortunate in many places, in being in the hands of an unusually able, experienced
officer, Major Crawford Chamberlain. Consequently, the Commander-in-Chief and Chief Commissioner agreed, while fully
appreciating the great value of Multan, that the presence of British troops was less urgently needed there than
elsewhere, and it was decided they could not be spared from the Punjab for its protection.
The garrison at Multan consisted of a troop of Native Horse Artillery, two regiments of Native Infantry (the 62nd and
the 69th N.I.), and the Irregular Cavalry, composed entirely of Hindustanis from the neighbourhood of Delhi; while in
the old Sikh fort there were about fifty European Artillerymen, in charge of a small magazine. The station was nominally
commanded by an officer who had been thirty-four years the army, and had great experience amongst Natives; but he
had fallen into such a bad state of health, that he was quite unfit to deal with the crisis which had now arrived. The
command, therefore, was practically exercised by Chamberlain. Next to Delhi and Lahore, Multan was the most
important place in Upper India, as our communication with the sea and southern India depended on its preservation.
To Chamberlain’s own personality and extraordinary influence over the men of the 1st Irregular Cavalry must be
attributed to his success. His relations with them were of a patriarchal nature, and perfect mutual confidence existed.
He knew his hold over them was strong, and he determined to trust them. But in doing so he had really no alternative-
had they not remained faithful, Multan must have been lost to us. One of his first acts was to call a meeting at his house
of the Native officers of the Artillery, Infantry, and his own regiment, to discuss the situation. Taking for granted the
absolute loyalty of these officers, he suggested that a written bond should be given, in which the seniors of each corps
should guarantee the fidelity of their men. The officers his regiment rose en masse, and placing their signet-rings on the
table, said: ‘Kabul sir-o-chasm’ (‘Agreed to on our lives ‘). The Artillery Subadar declared that his men had no scruples,
and would fire in whichever direction y were required; while the Infantry Native officer pleaded that they had no power
over their men, and could give no guarantee. Thus, Chamberlain ascertained that the Cavalry were loyal, the Artillery
doubtful, and the Infantry were only biding their time to mutiny.
Night after night sepoys, disguised beyond all recognition, attempted to tamper with the Irregular Cavalry. The
Wurdi-Major (Native Adjutant), a particularly fine, handsome Rangar, begged Chamberlain to hide himself in his house,
that he might hear for himself the open proposals to mutiny, massacre, and rebellion that were made to him; and the
promises that, if they succeeded in their designs, he (the Wurdi-Major) should be placed upon the gaddi (throne) of
Multan for his reward. Chamberlain declined to put himself in such position, fearing he might not be able to restrain
Matters now came to a climax. A Mahomedan Subadar one of the Native Infantry regiments laid a plot to murder
Chamberlain and his family. The plot was overheard and frustrated by Chamberlain’s own men, but it became apparent
that the only remedy for the fast increasing evil was to disarm the two Native Infantry Regiments. How was this to be
accomplished with no Europeans save a few gunners anywhere near? Sir John Lawrence was most pressing that the
step should be taken at once; he knew the danger of delay; at the same time, he thoroughly appreciated the difficulty
of the task he was urging Chamberlain to undertake, and he readily responded to the latter’s request for a regiment
of Punjab Infantry to be sent to him. The 2nd Punjab Infantry was, therefore, despatched from Dera Ghazi Khan, at
the same time the 1st Punjab Cavalry arrived from Asni, under Major Hughes, who, hearing of Chamberlain’s troubles,
had marched to Multan without waiting for orders from superior authority.
The evening of the day on which these troops reached Multan, the British officers of the several regiments were
directed to assemble at the Deputy-Commissioner’s house, when Chamberlain told them of the communication he had
received from Sir John Lawrence, adding that, having reliable information that the Native Infantry were about mutiny,
he had settled to disarm them the next morning.
It was midnight before the meeting broke up. At 4 a.m. the Horse Artillery troop and the two Native Infantry
regiments were ordered to march as if to an ordinary parade. When they had gone about a quarter of a mile they
were halted, and the Punjab troops moved quietly between them and their lines, thus cutting them off from their
spare ammunition; at the same time the European Artillerymen took their places with the guns of the Horse Artillery
troop, and a carefully selected body of Sikhs belonging to the 1st Punjab Cavalry, under Lieutenant John Watson, was
told off to advance on the troop and cut down the gunners if they refused to assist the Europeans to work the guns.
Chamberlain then rode up to the Native Infantry regiments, and after explaining to them the reason for their being
disarmed, he gave the word of command, ‘Pile arms!’ Thereupon a sepoy of the 62nd shouted: ‘Don’t give up your arms;
fight for them!’ Lieutenant Thomson, the Adjutant of the regiment, instantly seized him by the throat and threw him
to the ground. The order was repeated, and, wonderful to relate, obeyed. The Native Infantry regiments were then
marched back to their lines, while the Punjab troops and Chamberlain’s Irregulars remained on the ground until the arms
had been carted off the fort.
Following the disarming of the native regiments at Multan, Sir John Lawrence wrote to Chamberlain: “I have to thank you
very heartily for the admirable manner in which you disarmed the 62nd N.I.; it was, I assure you, most delightful news
hearing that it had been done. It was a most ticklish thing, considering that it had to be done entirely by native troops.
I shall not fail to bring it to the special notice of Government. It would have proved a great calamity had our
communications with Bombay been intercepted. I beg you will thank yours and the 2nd Punjab corps for their conduct.”
Chamberlain’s name was duly brought to the notice of the Government in the Punjab Mutiny Report, which stated: “Too
much credit cannot well be given to Major Chamberlain for his coolness, resolution, and good management on the trying
occasion ... As the result of failure would have been calamitous, so the result of success was more favourable. Indeed
the disarming at Mooltan was a turning-point in the Punjab crisis, second only in importance to the disarming at Lahore
and Peshawur.” Although Chamberlain was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel, Field Marshal Lord Roberts commented:
It was a most critical time, and enough credit has never been given to Chamberlain. Considering the honours which
were bestowed on others who took more or less conspicuous parts in the Mutiny, he was very insufficiently rewarded
for this timely act of heroism. Had he not shown such undaunted courage and coolness, or had there been the smallest
hesitation, Multan would certainly have gone. Chamberlain managed an extremely difficult business in a most masterly
In September, Chamberlain had a close call when his regiment was attacked at Cheechawtnee by an overwhelming force of
rebels and mutineers, compelling him to withdraw his men inside a caravanserai (a roadside inn for travelers), where they
were surrounded for three days. Although sick, Chamberlain succeeded in maintaining the defense until relieved.
For the 1st Irregular Cavalry’s service in disarming the troops at Multan and their loyalty during the Mutiny, Lord
Roberts states: “His (Chamberlain’s) personal influence insured his own regiment continuing loyal throughout the Mutiny,
and it has now the honour of being the 1st Regiment of Bengal Cavalry, and the distinction of wearing a different
uniform from every other regiment in the service, being allowed to retain the bright yellow which the troopers wore
when they were first raised by Colonel James Skinner, and in which they performed such loyal service.”
Chamberlain was promoted Colonel in April of 1862, and in 1864 was appointed honorary A.D.C. to the Governor-General.
In 1866 he was made a Companion of the Star of India, and was included in the first list of twelve officers granted a good
service pension. That same year he was transferred to the command of the two silladar regiments of the Central India
Horse involved in suppressing dacoity and banditry on the Grand Trunk Road. In 1867 he was given command of the Gwalior
district with the rank of Brigadier-General. In 1869, he was officiating Political Agent at Gwalior for which he received
the thanks of the Government for his services and from October of that year until February of the next year he was acting
Political Agent at the court of Scindia.
Crawford Trotter Chamberlain
was born in London on the 9th of
He was the fourth son of Sir
Henry Chamberlain, Bart.,
Counsel-General and Charge´ d’
Affaires in Brazil and his
second wife Anne Eugenia, née
Morgan. Crawford was
educated at private schools and
tutored by the Reverend Evan
Roswell’s in Brixton.
|Photo taken at Fort Jamrud |
during the return from the Durbar
in March of 1869.
Amir Sher Ali Khan
is in the center, with Colonel
Frederick Pollock standing in the
rear, Colonel Crawford Trotter
Chamberlain sitting on the right
and to the left, Henry Walter
Bellew, Indian Medical Service,
acting as interpreter.
(courtesy of the
Promoted Major-General in 1870, Chamberlain spent the several
years on the unemployed list, serving on various commissions and
courts of inquiries until being given command of the Oudh Division
in 1874. He was promoted to Lieutenant-General in October of
1877 and relinquished command of the Oudh Division in 1879.
Upon being promoted General in January of 1880, Chamberlain
returned home to England for the first time since he had sailed for
India forty-seven previously. General Chamberlain retired from
the active list in 1884 after having served for fifty-four years.
At age seventy-five, having been a widow for two years, General
Chamberlain married Augusta Margaret, the daughter of Major-
General John Christie of Christie’s Horse fame, one of the first
regiments Chamberlain had served with. On the occasion of Queen
Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 Chamberlain was finally given a
long over-due knighthood when he was created a Knight Grand
Cross of the Indian Empire.
General Sir Crawford Chamberlain, G.C.I.E., C.S.I. , “who
retained his splendid physique” till near the end, died at his
residence in Lordswood, Southampton, on the 13th of December,
1902, and was buried near his brother, Field-Marshall Sir
Neville Chamberlain, at Rownhams.
Hodson Index (NAM);
Dictionary of National Biography;
IOL L/MIL/10/31 & 58;
Forty-One Years in India (Roberts);
The Gemini Generals (Wilkinson);
My Service in the Indian Army and After (Vaughan);
Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India (Intelligence
Branch, Army Headquarters, India).
|Brothers together ...Crawford above and Neville below.|
Buried at St. John's, Rownhams, Southampton, Hampshire.
The churchyard burial ground showing the graves together
in September 2012 is shown bottom right