Assam Valley Light Horse

Please click on Headline to see story

Talking about the Khasis

Pam Gardiner's Grandfather  AVLH

Avlh  Tezpur 1915

C M Spaull career

Dibrugarh Camp in the 30's
John Wright --Militaria & AVLH
Indian Labour Corps 1914 -1918 --Looking for information on 

Col Eden Currie Showers
 again thanks to Mike Nancollas
London Gazette 1912  

               Thanks to Mike Nancollas

Circa 1890 SVLH  
             Thanks to  Kirsty Dunkerley of Western Australia
Surma VLH pics  
            Thanks to Mike Easterbrook
The 13 AVLH Photo 
           Thanks to Mike Nancollas
Surma Valley 
           Thanks to Dr Imdad Hussein  
How it all started  
          Thanks to Mike Nancollas
Bill Charlier Trophy  
           Thanks to Bill Charlier
Three AVLH pics from Bob Powell Jones
Short history of the AVLH 
          
Thanks to Mike Nancollas


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December 21 2013

An interesting story told of life before 1945 about Shillong


055 (a) Mrs. Mullan: talking about the Khasis, and her daily life in Assam.

(15th September, 1973).

Miss Thatcher:- "Now, Mrs. Mullan, perhaps you'd tell us something about the Khasi people

amongst whom you lived for some time in Assam [now Meghalaya]."

Mrs. Mullan:- "Yes, well I'll do my best. I spent very happily a great many of the

years that I spent in Assam were spent in Shillong, which lay in open rolling country. The

spectacular peaks, the Himalayas, were far away to the north and the Khasi and Jaintia

Hills, as the district was called, was made up of a number of small Native States, some

quite tiny each with it's own Syiem [or Siem] or Chief.

The township of Shillong was a small enclave of British India in the midst of these

small States and was the headquarters of Government for the whole of Assam. The Khasi

people were quite unlike the people of the Plains, rather Mongolian looking in features, and

when young, the girls were most attractive, their skins quite fair and almost peach-like but

unfortunately they lost that bloom very early. The women were the workers in every sense

of the word. They carried enormous loads in cone shaped baskets on their backs. Nearly

always surmounted by a baby, and travelled miles on bare feet but invariably knitting as

they walked the puttees [pattis] that they wore on their legs in cold weather.

Not only did the women do most of the work but they really wielded the power, and

the whole system of property tenure was matriarchal. Everything descended through the

female line because you could be sure who your mother was, but very far from certain who

your father may have been. Husbands were hired and fired at will and the net result on the

male population was a rather feckless individual, shorn of responsibility and given to

archery and locally brewed liquor.

In their natural state the Khasi people were animists and Christian Missionaries of

various denominations shared the field. The Welsh Mission Hospital trained their girls into

the most excellent nurses, with no caste prejudices to contend with. They achieved

standards which could be envied nowadays elsewhere, and I personally really enjoyed the

two confinements I had under their care. They were not without their lighter moments of

pleasure and amusement. When my eldest son was born, the labour ward seemed to me

unnecessarily full of staff, but not until my protesting infant was delivered did I realise that a

choir was necessary. His first vocal efforts were drowned by a burst of song, in the Khasi

language, led by Dr. Roberts and the Welsh Sister-in-Charge, in thanksgiving for the safe

deliverance of a child into this world. It was really very moving and took my mind off my

own troubles. It was a night of events as, to start with, the new infant was born with a caul.

In many countries, and particularly amongst sea-going people, this is considered a great

sign of good fortune and a sure security against death by drowning. When things had

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quietened down for a much needed rest for all, we had an earthquake, quite sufficient

movement to get me instantly on the alert to rescue my new and hard-won son. However, it

was of no consequence as earthquakes go, but further consternation was caused in the

morning when the proud father turned up, much more interested in retrieving the caul, than

admiring his son.

The nurses, when qualified, did valuable work in the remote villages, on their own,

and one enterprising lady set up in Shillong as a dentist. I doubt if she had any

qualifications other than a powerful tug, but the notice on her door was quite clear in it's

meaning 'Mary Lindo, Dentist. Extractions = 3 rupees with pain, 5 rupees without'.

For those of us who employed the Khasi women as ayahs for our children, how

fortunate we were, and how often I have wished that my daughters and daughters-in-law

had the similar care and attention to rely on to relieve them of some of their maternal

duties. They were patient, kind, and as the children grew older, totally hopeless as

disciplinarians, but faithful beyond words. And their own babas were absolutely without

comparison when it came to comparing them with the next door children, and tremendous

rivalry was set up as to what party frocks should be worn to the Club next week, so as to

out-do the ayah round the corner, who had worn hers two weeks running, and it was time

they had something new.

But the Syiems already mentioned, the more or less rajahs in a small way,

essentially clung to their ancient customs and more particularly funeral customs. The death

of a chief entailed propitiating their ancient deities, and for a Khasi this always meant a

prolonged party, with heavy consumption of local brew. Eventually the corpse of the

departed was embalmed in honey, and when the comb had thoroughly set, Grandpa was

propped up in a corner of the house where he apparently caused no inconvenience to the

rest of the family for at least a year, when further celebrations took place, and this time,

culminating in the burning of the revered corpse, who certainly want off with a bang, with all

that highly inflammable beeswax to get things going. At certain times of the year we used to

buy the most delicious honey in the comb, gathered in the wild from hollow tree trunks, but

we were always careful to ascertain that it was not on the market following one of these

cremations. The frugal Khasi women would rescue what they could, to try and turn an

honest ?...?

A local custom pertaining to marriage, which among the Khasis was a very loose

affair anyway, took place in the spring at a village called Nongkrem, where the annual

nautch was organised. It was really a marriage mart, where all young men in search of a

wife, and all eligible girls assembled. The nautch, or dance, was a very discreet shuffle, the

girls in a circle in the middle moving in one direction, and an outer circle of young men

shuffling in the opposite direction, all to the strains of a phoo-phoo band and drums. All

were dressed in their very best, the young men moving horsehair flywhisks, the girls very

demure with downcast eyes, looking delightful, and wearing all the family jewelry, which

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consisted of large coral bead chains round their necks, ear-rings and nose-rings, with a

good deal of gold leaf decoration. And of course the girls who had the most jewelry had a

flying start over the others. They invariably wore velvet blouses in rich, pure colours under

their chuddars, which must have been very hot for such prolonged activity, but each girl

had a thick wad of newspaper under each armpit, which you were not supposed to notice,

as the girls kept their arms straight down, all the time. By the end of the day the nautch

broke up into smaller circles, and by nightfall no doubt every couple had been suited.

There were lovely places to go for picnics, which we very often achieved on

Sundays, and long rides through the hills, which a great many people enjoyed for paper

chases, though we were generally pedestrians, loaded with baskets and kettles for our

Sunday picnic. And these were always outings that were a wonderful break in the normal

routine, and getting away from it all, which was about the only respite in the week's work

which the father of the house got. The rest of us led a much easier life than he did."

Miss Thatcher:- “Now, can you tell me something about your daily life in Shillong? What

time did you get up in the morning?"

Mrs. Mullen:- "Well, we were fairly early risers. Luckily for us the early morning tea

was brought to us at about half past six, and Ayah arrived, smiling, with orange juice for the

children."

Miss Thatcher:- "And she had been sleeping where?"

Mrs. Mullan:- "At home; in her own home. She went home and spent the night at

home with her own family, but she always seemed to arrive absolutely bang on the dot,

though of course we'd had them for the night. Not that they were any trouble, because they

were all good sleepers like their parents, but they had their orange juice, got up and went

for a walk, and the syce brought the pony round, and they took it in turns to go on Boga, the

pony, and once round the polo ground, and then back again in time for breakfast with us.

During the pre-breakfast time, my husband would have done an hour or two in his

daftary as it was called, the office attached to the house, and after breakfast he would be

off to the Secretariat or cutchery, or whatever his job happened to be, and was there for the

rest of the day. He did come home for lunch, but that was a very loose arrangement as far

as he was concerned, because he never was punctually there at one, and I used to always

have lunch straight away at one, with the children.

The morning went for me mostly in confabulations with the cook, all the delightful

parts of housekeeping like counting the linen, and doing the flowers, and all the things that

are the niceties that people do now when they have time, but at eleven o’clock the Ayah

had three hours off, always, it was absolutely the thing. She had her own family to look

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after. Oh yes, you see, she had her own children. Luckily for her, there was always a good

supply of grandmothers and aunts, who coped with her family because they were single

parent households. All those Khasi women coped with their families without much help from

the husbands, who were a pretty nebulous quantity at the best of times. And so she was off

back to, quite a long distance, to her own little house and had three hours off from eleven

till two, during which time I just about managed to cope with my offspring unaided. I gave

them their lunch, and then everybody had a little rest after lunch, and then as soon as it got

cooler it would be another little walk, and another little ride, and perhaps I might cajole my

husband up for a game of tennis, at the Club, or I might go on my own, and have a game

with somebody else. And the children had their tea rather late, a sort of high tea at about

five, and I was always back for that because that was the big moment - we had great

musical games with a piano, and singing, and reading, and my husband used to turn up

when he could. And we were not very great Club people - in fact our going out in the

evening was generally going out to dinner once the family had been bedded down, and it

was about the only time of the day they saw their father really. And as they got bigger,

great gambling games. There was a wonderful game called 'Sorry' which they loved, and

that used to cause great excitement. And as they got older he used to coach Eileen with

her Latin, and at a later date, when we had Ann, we took an English Governess out with us

for the last few years of the girls’ time in India. They did their lessons on the PNEU

programme, which worked out very well because they certainly got plenty of individual

attention and seemed to get into the right classes when they were left at home at school

eventually and didn't seem to be backward at all. And they led a very simple, rather

Victorian life you see, there was none of this telly or wireless, no wireless: we had an old

gramophone that you had to wind up, and we had the piano, and a great deal of singing

and playing the piano, and singing games; and when we had our Governess, we had a very

nice dancing class every week, which she ran at the Club, and all the small fry of Shillong

came to the dancing class, and it was great fun really."

Miss Thatcher:- “What was the Club like, because I think people today think of them as

the height of sophistication, rather like Hurlingham, but actually it was just a little Club

house where people fore-gathered wasn't it?"

Mrs. Mullan:- "Well, actually the Shillong Club was quite an imposing building, with a

big ballroom. I mean it was really quite a big Club, and a place that big social events could

be held in at the time of the Puja holidays, and that sort of thing. But then as a contrast

you'd have a tiny Club in a small district station in the Plains, where you might have a

billiard table in one room, and a bar, a few bridge tables in another room, and a few

apathetic ladies sitting round looking at last month's 'Queen', and scratching themselves

because the mosquitoes were having a go at them, and begging their husbands to take

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them home. No, they varied very much.

Of course, some of the Plains Clubs centred very much round games and, of course,

polo was the tremendous thing amongst the tea planters. Oh yes, they all played polo and

in fact every young tea planter had a polo pony. They had very small pay when they first

came out, but they had certain perquisites, a free house and things like that, and the polo

pony was pretty well essential, and they got a free syce to look after the pony and fodder

and that sort of thing.

But the actual long term object of this was to form the Assam Valley Light Horse,

and in the case of the Surma Valley, the Surma Valley Light Horse, which was a reserved

force of young tea planters who were there in case of emergency. And in point of fact my

husband had to call on them on one occasion, in Jorhat, when he was Deputy

Commissioner of Jorhat. The local armed police went on strike and a very nasty situation

arose in which they mutinied. And these armed police were not local chaps, they were

actually the descendants of the original Pandays who mutinied in the Mutiny in 1857. They

were people recruited from Bihar and they were the same type of people. They were

difficult to handle but had to be imported because the local Assamese was a very peaceful

person, and not at all anxious to shoulder arms for anybody: and these armed police had to

be relied on. Well in this particular instance, I don't remember what their grievance was, but

they did mutiny. I happened to have just left Jorhat, with the children, to go up to Shillong in

the hot weather for a month or so, so I managed to evade that issue because I think all the

women were put together in a kind of safe custody spot in the cutchery, while the armed

police were dealt with. And my husband had to call on the Assam Valley Light Horse, who

were all the planters in the area, and they came together very rapidly, very efficiently, and

the armed police were disarmed without any bloodshed. And my husband got specially

commended by the Government for the affair, and also he made a particular point of

recommending for special commendation a very young Superintendent of police, who had

only really joined the force and done awfully well. His name was Burbage and he was a

very stout young man and did very well subsequently. And that all simmered down and all

these Pandays were bundled off, and, I can't remember, I presume they were stood down

because they were thoroughly unreliable, they couldn't go on with that lot. But it did show

how very necessary the A.V.L.H., as they called themselves, the Assam Valley Light Horse.

And so this polo playing was just a spare time way of using their horses which they needed

for military purposes very occasionally. I mean, I can't remember any other occasion in all

our time in which they were ever called out."

Miss Thatcher:- “What happened in the war? Did they form a corps at all in the war?"

Mrs. Mullan:- 'Well I wasn't in Assam during the war so I wouldn't like to be too

dogmatic, but I fancy a great many of the younger tea planters joined the ordinary

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regiments, joined up in the ordinary way you see, and possibly a very heavy burden was

placed on the older men, as happened in every walk of life during the war."

Miss Thatcher:- "I was wondering, could you say something, perhaps, about the

contacts you had with Indians. Did you meet them socially on an equal level at all?"

Mrs. Mullen:- "Oh yes. Very much so. I mean we had a lot of very good friends

because, of course, at that stage the Services were being Indianised, you see, and I can

think of three or four on the Cadre in Assam who were members of the Indian Civil Service,

and they were educated at Oxford and Cambridge, and that sort of thing, and they were

very sophisticated, and lived in a European way."

Miss Thatcher:- "Did their wives live in a European way'?"

Mrs. Mullan:- "Oh yes, indeed. But there were degrees. I mean, then you'd find

others who the wives hadn't advanced quite so far, and it was more of an effort for them to

meet one on a sort of natural level, socially, though they liked to be asked to tea and to

bring their children and that sort of thing."

Miss Thatcher:- "Well I always thought they were extremely brave in this because they

hadn't been educated, like their husbands."

Mrs. Mullan:- "No, it was a very big step for them because an Indian woman is

naturally shy and retiring, and I remember in my very early days, going to purdah tea

parties. Well they came to an end fairly soon because strict purdah was not enforced for

very long after I got to India, but I distinctly remember purdah tea parties in which I, and a

few other European women were asked, you see, and we had to try and make

conversation with all these young women, and older women, all in one room, all gazing at

you, fingering your clothes to see whether it was silk or cotton, asking you how many sons

you had. And that was a little embarrassing when you were only just married, you see. And

then they'd bring in the refreshments, and you were plied with all sorts of sticky cakes and

things, And when I'd been to one or two of these things I began to get rather clued up on

what to do. I used to take a grease-proof paper bag, and put it as a lining into my handbag,

and every half-eaten sweet, or cake, or sticky thing that I simply couldn't get through, I

popped it into my bag, you see, because you never could say no. If they asked you to have

something, you could never say no: it was bad manners, you see. And they kept on plying

you until you nearly… in the end you had to say, 'Well, I must be excused: I have to go

home', you see, and it was bad manners to ever refuse anything."

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Miss Thatcher:- "But they didn't mind you popping it in your bag?"

Mrs. Mullan:- "Oh no, no, no. I had to do that very surreptitiously, and when the bag

got too full, it was time to go, you see. But the only male was the husband, you see, who

occasionally popped in anxiously to see how things were going. And he was probably

entertaining my husband, and a few other men outside, to tea, and they were having their

sticky time with the sticky cakes, you see."




May 15 2013




Russell Kilmister sent this to Mike Nancollas who passed it on to the Editor of Koi-Hai
 
"I was going through some of my grandad, Stan Mills,  old stuff that has been in store for ages and
came across this cup, engraved "AVLH 3rd Squadron Camp Tezpur 1915 Proficiency Examination 1st Prize."  
You remember there was some query about the date and location of that old photo I sent you some time ago? 
This cup would seem to indicate that it may well have been taken in Tezpur 1915 (or thereabouts). 

You might like to pass this photo on to the Koi Hai editor - another interesting titbit!
 
 
 
 






March 12 2013
Here we have the medals earned by C M Spaull who completed his career as
Manager Daimukia T E in Assam in 1949




Medal group of Cecil Mickleburgh Spaull
Born London 1897; died in Rhodesia in 1970.
Believed to have been a planter in Assam.
Served as Lieut/Captain in 43rd Erinpura Regt in Mesopotamia 1917-19
and then in 87th Punjabis (Catain) in Iraq and Kurditsan 1919-21.

Long-serving Trooper in the Assam Valley Light Horse (Indian Volunteer Long
Service and Good Conduct medal, bar India).
 
From "The Assam Directory' we are told that:
C.M.Spaull was on Daimukia Tea Estate in 1949. in Assam
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December 16 2009

We are grateful to Russell Kilmister for sending these two photographs of his grandfather
Stanley Mills who was born in 1888 --He went to Assam as a Tea Planter 

The second picture shows an enlargement of his grandfather from the first picture

More history about Stanley Mills is being worked on thanks to the help of Mike Nancollas and it will be shown when finalised



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November 16 2009
We thank Derek Stewart
who has kindly shared the family  photo of his father at an AVLH Camp in the 30's

" Amongst our family photos is this rather long group photo of members of the AVLH that I believe was
taken sometime between 1932 - 1936, sorry I am unable to be more accurate.  Location again unknown,
but probably their HQ in Dibrugarh.

The only two persons I can identify are (standing on the extreme left)
Frazer Sharp, a long time friend of the family and standing next but one to the right is my father
D.E.Stewart.  At that time I believe my father was an assistant or junior manager to a Mr Buckler
of Hazelbank Tea Estate."

As it is not practical to recognise the AVLH personnel the Editor has broken down the picture into 3 parts --from left to right

Left Hand side of main picture


Middle section



 
Right hand

An historian at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Radhika Singha, is working on the Indian Labour
Corps in the World War One,  He would be very grateful for memoirs, photographs or any other
material relating to this theme. If any one can help can they please e-mail Radhika  at
singha.radhika@gmail.com   or the Editor

at   Editorkoihai@aol.com

 

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March 4 2009

Thanks to Mike Nancollas who spoke with
John Wright of Q&C Militaria and we can show the
contribution  thanks to "John Wright Militaria"   email qcmilitaria@btconnect.com"

 

British War Medal  CAPT. H. WILLIAMSON

Victory Medal   CAPT. H. WILLIAMSON

Indian Volunteer Decoration (GV)  CAPT. H. WILLIAMSON, ASSAM VALLEY L.H. A.F.I.

Volunteer Long Service Medal (GV)  Serjt. H. Williamson, A.V.Lt.Horse.

Humphrey Williamson was commissioned 12 April 1917 (I.A.R.O.). MIC shows service
with Labour Corps (IARO), 34th Khasi Labour Corps and 12th Assam Labour Corps. He
appears in the Indian Army List, Auxiliary Forces 1928 as Major Humphrey Williamson,
MBE, VD. Have not been able to confirm the MBE yet. Someone named Humphrey
Williamson died 16 December 1928, late of the Keremia Tea Estate, of the Tyroon Tea
Company Ltd, Jorhat, Assam. Don't know if it is the same man.

Group: £675

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Once again Mike Nancollas finds items for us to enjoy--he recently took these photos from a
wooden box in the Library--Thank you Mike.

All five photographs below are attributed to the Library for South East Asia Studies Cambridge
UK and we thank them for permission to show here


A V L H  On the field--1902


A V L H Sergeants and Staff Sergeants--1902


A V L H  NCO"s, 1902


Lastly  --The Officers of the A V L H 1902

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November 9 2008
Thanks to Mike Nancollas we have this additional information on the history of the Surma
Valley Light Horse

SHOWERS
         Eden Currie        
Lieutenant Colonel, who took a demotion to become 2nd-in-command of Lumsden's Horse
and late Commandant Surma Valley Light Horse Volunteers, He was killed in action near
Thaba N'chu, April 30th, 1900. He was the son of the late Major General St. George Daniel
Showers, of Fort William, Calcutta, and late of Cheltenham. Lieutenant Colonel Showers
was educated at Edinburgh Academy, and at Wellington, where he was in the Blucher from
1859-62, and played for the school in both the cricket and football teams. He served for
some time in the Bengal Constabulary, and had been a tea planter in Assam, A monument,
raised by public subscription, has been erected to his memory at Silchar.

Source: The "Last Post": Roll of Officers Who Fell in South Africa 1899-1902 by Mildred G Dooner
reprinted by Naval & Military Press

May 7 2008
London Gazette--1912

We are indebted to Mike Nancollas who has just completed a search of the London Gazette for
AVLH and found the following to add to that which he had already submitted some time back.

THE LONDON GAZETTE, 16 JULY, 1912.

NOMINAL RETURN OF OFFICERS WOUNDED.   6179
Rank. Captain
Name. J. R. Hutchison, Adjutant,.                                     Assam Valley Light Horse.
Description of wound - dangerous, severe or slight.             Severe
Nature of wound.                                                                                 Arrow wound, right thigh.

1524 THE LONDON GAZETTE, MARCH 6, 1900.
COLONEL LUMSDEN'S CORPS.
Lieutenant-Colonel Dugald McT.Lumsden, Assam
Valley Light Horse Volunteers, to be Commandant, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant-
Colonel in the Army- Dated 7th March, 1900.

Lieutenant-Colonel Eden Showers, late Commandant - Surma Valley Light Horse Volunteers,
to be Second in. Command, with the temporary rank of Major in the Army. 
Dated 7th March, 1900.

Captain J. H. B. Beresford, Indian Staff Corp*, to he Company Commander. Dated 7th March; 1900.
To be Captains, with the temporary rank of Captain in the Army. Dated 7th March, 1900 :-

Major Henry Chamney, Surma Valley Light Horse Volunteers.
Captain Francis Clifford, Coorg und Mysore

Volunteer .Rifles.
Second Lieutenant Bernard "W. Holmes, East India Railway Volunteer Rifles.
Second Lieutenant John B. Rutherfoord, Behar Light Horse Volunteers.

To be Lieutenants, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant in the Army. Dated 7th March, 1900 :-

Lieutenant Charles L. Sidey, Surma Valley Light Horse Volunteers.
Herbert O. Pugh, Gent.
George A. Nevill, Gent.
Charles E. Crane, Gent.

Captain Neville C. Taylor, Indian Staff Corps, to be Adjutant. Dated 7th March, 1900.

Surgeon-Captain Samuel A. Powell, M.D., Surma Valley Light Horse Volunteers, to be
Ue'lical Officer, with the temporary rank of Captain. Dated 7th March, 1900.

William Stevenson, Gent., to be Veterinary Officer, with the temporary rank of Veterinary-
Lieutenant. Dated 7th March, 1900.

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, JANUARY 1, 1909.

The KING has been graciously pleased to make the following promotions in and appoint-
ments to the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire under the above Statute:-
To be Companion to the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire

Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Thorp Jessop, V.D., Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the Lieutenant-
Governor of Eastern Bengal and Assam, and Commandant of the Assam Valley Light Horse.

THE LONDON GAZETTE, SEPTEMBER 30, 1898. 5735

  LIST CCCIX of the Names of Officers and Soldiers deceased since 1865 whose Personal Estate is
held by the Secretary of State for War for distribution amongst the Next of Kin or others
entitled.-Effects 1897-98.

  Lishman, William 1st Class Sergeant- Instructor 1st Battalion East Kent Regiment and
Assam Valley. Light Horse     £42 15 9

  7566 SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 23 SEPTEMBER, 1914.

Reserve Regiments

Walter Hervey St. John Mildmay, late Major, Assam Valley Light Horse, is ; granted the
temporary rank of Captain. Dated 24th September, 1914

8892 THE LONDON GAZETTE, 3 NOVEMBER, 1914.

8th Battalion, The Worcestershire Regiment;

The undermentioned to be Captains Hugh Warburton Davies (late Second Lieutenant,
Assam Valley Light Horse). Dated 5th September, 1914. Dated 1st October, 1914.

  38-74 THE LONDON GAZETTE, MAY 21, 1909.

INFANTRY. 8th Battalion, The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) ;
Robert Anderson (late Second Lieutenant, Assam Valley Light Horse) to be Lieutenant.
Dated 12th February, 1909.

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 1 JANUARY, 1921. 7 Most Eminent Order of the
Indian Empire: -To be Companions of the said Most Eminent Order

Lieutenant-Colonel Lionel Augustus Grimsiton, V.D.,O.B.E., Commanding: the 6th. Assam
Valley .Light Horse (I.A.F.), Assam.

7206 SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 17 JULY, 1917. TERRITORIAL FORCE.
Kent Volunteer Regt.
8th Bn.-The undermentioned to be temp. 2nd Lts. 6th June 1917: -
Thomas Barton Cheesman.
Ernest Cyril Coulthurst Holder (late 2nd Lt., Assam Valley Light Horse).

THE LONDON GAZETTE, MARCH 6, 1900. 1531
Infantry ---The Limerick City Artillery (Southern Division),
Sydney John Brasier-Creagh, Esq., late Assam Valley Light Horse Volunteers, to be Captain.
Dated 7th March, 1900.

5176 THE LONDON GAZETTE, 16 JULY, 1912,
No. 1199-A., dated Kobo, the llth April, 1912.
From   Major-General H. Bower, C.B., Com manding, Abor Expeditionary Force,
To the Chief of the General Staff, Army Head- quarters, Simla.

Orders for the demobilisation of the Abor Expeditionary Force having been received, I
have the honour to report as follows for the information of His Excellency the Commander- in-Chief: -

* * * * * Probability of Abor Coalition (summary).

32. Previous to the advance of the force information pointed to the great probability
that we would not only be opposed by the Minyong but that several other tribes would
coalesce with those responsible for the massacre in opposing our advance and from
information obtained afterwards it appears that very many villages assisted in the
preparation of stockades and stone shoots. It was soon, however, apparent that the
tribes who promised their support to the Minyong had done so under the belief that the
punitive force would be on the small and insufficient scale that has been such a marked
feature of former expeditions against the Abors. As soon as our strength became
manifest the coalition fell to pieces and the guilty villages were left to fight out their
own quarrel with us alone. This materially re- duced the active opposition.

Physical Difficulties (summary).

• 33. On the other hand, the physical difficulties of the country presented even a greater
obstacle to rapid advance than had been anticipated. The Abor paths were quite unfit for
use by laden carriers, and as an example of the difficulties encountered I may mention
that a small exploration party leaving camp soon after daylight only completed a march
of 1| miles by 4 p.m. Many other cases showing the difficulty of rapid movement could be
quoted, and the necessity for searching out and destroying stone shoots, of which an
incredible number had been prepared, also involved delay.

Results (summary).

34. As the result of the operations the culpable villages have been punished, six men who
took part in the massacre of Mr. Williamson's party have been captured, tried, five found
guilty and sentenced. The rifles taken ha,ve been restored, and our capability to punish
evildoers, which hitherto has not been credited, has1 been brought home to the tribesmen.
Practically the whole Abor country has been visited and excellent relations established.

The domination exercised by the Kebang- Rotung1 group of villages has been broken, the
villages in the interior can now trade with India which they express a great desire to do.

The part of the north Lakhimpur Districts lying to the north of the Brahmaputra can be
recolonised, there being now nothing to fear from Abor raids.

Mule Roads (summary).
35. A good road fit for mules has been con structed from Kobo to Yambung, and Abor paths
improved as far as Shimong and Riga and between Mishing and Kalek.

Survey .(summary). r. .. ^.^

36. The absence of maps, native information being often misleading, was a difficulty.
In spite of the fact that the weather, could hardly have been less favourable than it was
for sur veying, the following results were obtained: -

(a) An accurate series of triangulation, emanating from the Assam Longitudinal series of
the Great Trigonometrical Survey, has been carried over the outlying ranges to the latitude
of Kebang, terminating in the base Sadup h. s. Namkam h. s. This will prove of the greatest
assistance to future surveyors or explorers.

(b) From this series and an extension of reconnaissance triangulation to the latitude of
Simong several large snowy peaks have been fixed on what appears to be the main Himalayan
divide, including one very fine, peak over 25,000 ft. high. Many more snow peaks have also
been fixed on the watershed between the Dihang and Subansiri rivers, which seems to be a
very prominent spur of the main divide. It has only been possible to obtain a mere
approximation of the topography of these snowy ranges', but the geodetic results are in
themselves of great value.

(c) About 3,500 square miles have been more or less rigorously mapped on scale
4 miles = 1 inch, including the whole of thq Yamne and Shimang Valleys, a portion of
the Siyom River, and the whole of the Dihang Valley as far north as Singging. Although
I venture to think it is now possible for very small parties to travel about the country.
It was found necessary, in the first instance, that exploring parties showed strength.
In. addition to reasons of safety a considerable' number of men were required to clear
hill tops1.

Conduct of Troops (summary).

37. Campaigning in a country where, the difficulties of transport are so great necessarjl^v
involved considerable hardships on the men, and great extremes were experienced from 
tropical heat to bivouacking in snow. In one place this was lying 9 feet deep. The continuous
bad weather experienced during part of the operations was a greater hardship than it would
be in a campaign on which tents could be carried. The work was hard, unremitting, and
continued watchfulness was required against, an enemy ever readjr to take advantage of-
any opportunity. Difficulties of exploration were accentuated by- the. impossibility .of
columns living'on the country. The Abors grow only..........

...........Corps and Departments.

41.Assam Valley Light Horse Dismounted Detachment.

-The members of this detachment showed a most soldierlike spirit in volunteering, in many cases1
at great personal inconvenience and pecuniary loss, to accompany the expedition. They underwent
considerable hardship in a most cheerful spirit and played an important part in the taking of the
Kekar Monying position. Captain C. L. Lovell commanded the detachment in an efficient manner

5178 THE LONDON GAZETTE, 16 JULY, 1912.

Surgeon-Captain J. M. Falkiner, Assam Valley Light Horse, served as a Volunteer Medical Officer
with the Ledum Column and Lakhimpur Military Police. He has served throughout without
remuneration and I consider his services worthy of commendation.

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 1 JANUARY, 1931. 7

CENTRAL CHANCERY OF THE ORDERS OF . KNIGHTHOOD.
St. James's Palace, S.W. 1, •'•'•"-• 1st January, 1931-.

The" KING has been graciously pleased to give orders for vthe following promotion in, and
appointment^ to, the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire:-

To be Companions of the said Most Eminent Order:-

Lieutenant-Colonel (Honorary Colonel) Horace Craigie Manders, V.D., Auxiliary Force, India,
Commandant, Assam Valley Light Horse, A.F.I.  

******************************


April 23 2008
A young lady Kirsty Dunkerley from Western Australia has kindly sent us a photograph of her
grandfather  F H CARSLAW  when he was in the Surma Valley Light Horse-- Kirsty believes from
her father's 
annotations  : and I quote :



Surma Valley Light Horse
"Maud Powell 2nd lady from left
F H Carslaw 3rd in Uniform behind her
Probably sick looking lady No. 1 is Evelyn Victoria Carslaw ** (His Mother) sister of Maud Powell "
No date but I would suspect late 1890's as grandfather does not have captain's pips perhaps the
Sam Brown is a give away to you historical buffs ?? - what splendid handle bars though!

Kirsty is planning a visit to Assam either later this year or 2009 and we thank her for sharing this
100 plus year old picture with facts with us


    SURMA VALLEY LIGHT HORSE
The photographs below have been kindly sent in by Mike Easterbrook  whose Great Grandfather
was Robert John Easterbrook who served in the SVLH for ten years from 1893 to 1903 as
Sergeant Major and Instructor. 

Mike inherited  the plates which are in excess of a century in age --scanned them and sent
them to the Editor--thank you Mike for helping us build up a picture of yesteryear.

This is the first of twelve pictures---please click here to see the rest


************************************

August 21 2005

The following four pictures show a combined newspaper cutting with a picture in the middle.
In order for it to be readable, I have had to break it into four pics

In order to see them please click on the line here_______________________________________________________________


Mike Nancollas has kindly added this to his previous input and we thank him

   AVLH

This photo was taken between 1914 and 1920 I think, only identity on here is My Gt Uncle Frederick
Williamson second in from left on the mid row.  Photo recently sent to me by his Grandson William White.


Photograph is of members of the AVLH circa 1912 to 1920 kindly supplied by Hilary Eade,
Granddaughter of Stanley Lloyd of the Jorehaute Company who retired in 1939 plus memorabilia



 




We have to thank Dr Imdad Hussain, Professor of History and Dean of the School of Social Sciences 
of the North Eastern Hill University Shillong for this very informative item  taken from a paper he created 
THE SURMA VALLEY
LIGHT HORSE
A FORGOTTEN
CHAPTER IN THE
HISTORY OF CACHARS
INDUSTRY
Dr Imdad Hussein

Without doubt few events had left a more lasting impression upon European tea planters in
Assam and Cachar  than the massacre of Englishmen, women and children in Northern Indian
during the summer of 1857. The lessons they learned of their own exceedlingly isolated and
vulnerable situation miles away from the nearest civil station were not easily forgotten . The
result was the development in North Eastern India of the Volunteer movement that was to
become one of the pillars of the colonial internal security system in India .

Until August 1857, however, things were rather quiet in Assam and eastern Indian generally.
Bengal had remained unaffected and its interposition between northern Indian and the north-
east each gave a sense of immunity to the planters, missionaries and government officers.
But after Jagadishpur in Bihar rose a rebellion considerable anxiety began to show itself
among the local officers and planters. None could ignore the fact that a large proportion of
the men of the 1st Assam Light Infantry Battalion at Dibrugarh came from that region.
There were no regular regiments of the Bengal Army stationed in territories beyond what
was the Eastern Frontier of Bengal before the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-26). Assam
was defended  by two local battalions of the Assam Light Infantry, the first located-at Dibrugarh
and the second at Gauhati, the Headquarters of Assam's Commissioner. The Sylhet Light
Infantry with its Headquarters at Cherrapunji was responsible for the defence of Sylhet
and Cachar_

For the numerous frontier outposts_there were several companies of irregulars somewhat
on the lines of what today are called the para-military forces. The locals and the- irregulars 
were-fairly well armed and ­in Assam there were soon anxious reports of anti­ British intrigues
developing. In this situation   Donald Mackay of the Assam Company immediately brought to
be-notice of the-Bengal Government the-want-of _European Troops-in Assam . Calcutta
could spare none and so sent two Battalions of European sailors, or "Jack Tars" in the parlance
of the day. The first consisting of about 104 men under Lieutenant Davis was stationed at
Dibrugarh, and the second under Captain Brown that followed was sent to Sibsagar. Cachars'
planters had little reason for worry. At least not until March 1858, when the 34th Bengal
Native Infantry Mutineer at Chittagong and began to move north, towards Sylhet and Cachar.
On the 18th anengagement took place between the mutineers and a detachment of the
Sylhet Light Infantry -at place-called Latu. Though its distinguished Commanding Officer
Major Byng lost his life in the encounter the mutineers were completely routed and fled in
twos. and threes into Cachar. The tea planters quickly joined in the hunt for the rebels and
as Cachar's Superintendent Major Robert Stewart told the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal
at Calcutta of:"They (the mutineers) were tracked up Jay-the Koakie-Scouts these Scouts
were men of Kookie Village in the lands of the Cachar Tea Company, supplied by me_ with
firearms and I beg to bring to your Honor's favourable notice the conduct of. Mr. James
Davidson, the -Manager of the  Company, who directed them and who during the five days
the mutineers were wandering in the wilderness, kept me continually supplied with excellent
and- reliable information. concerning-their movements."
Immediate anxiety for Assam and Cachar soon passed over. But the future continued to
haunt the Europeans, both planters and officials  And there were good reasons for it.  In 1860
occurred an uprising in neighbouring Jaintia bills which the Sylhet Light Infantry had no difficulty
in crushing. In Assam a serious agrarian disturbance took place in  the following year at Phulaguri
near Nowgong in which a British Officer was killed. In January 1862 the Jaintias, again rose up
in open rebellion. This time the Sylhet battalion, whose strength had in the past few months been
reduced as part the post mutiny army reform and reorganization found itself rather weak to control
and the uprising soon turned too extensive for the local authorities to handle it. The Jaintia uprising
and the continued disturbances in several tribal areas led to a re-examination by the Bengal
Government of the defence of North East India. There was some reluctance in taking this up as the
question of the defence of Bengal had only recently been settled after the completion of the army
and police reforms of 1860 - 61. Nonetheless in May 1862 Brigadier General St. George showers,
the celebrated GOC of the Presidency Division was directed to proceed to the Jaintia Hills to
assume personal command of the operations and to report on the military requirements of
the region.
For some three years before this, the question of locating European troops in north eastern
India had been the subject of a protracted correspondence between Assam , Bengal and the
Government of India. It started with the Mutiny itself when Colonel Simon Fraser Hannay, the
Commanding Officer of the 1st Assam Light Infantry and the senior most military officer in the
region suggested as-a measure of security that a European Artillery Company should replace
Dibrugarh's Local Artillery Battalion, which was composed wholly of Hindustanies. Differences
among both Civil and Military Officers of the relative merits of artillery over infantry for service
in the north east considerably delayed the submission of formal proposals for European troops.
It was only in January 1862 that Bengal's Lieutenant Governor Sir John Peter Grant could ask
for a military garrison of five Native Infantry Regiments and a few European troops, both
artillery and infantry.  

General Showers who submitted a lengthy report on the defence of the North East Frontier
in September 1862 endorsed Grant's recommendations. But the GOC made it clear that
European troops were not required for the defence of the region from the military point
of view, and that this part of his recommendation was made only to satisfy the planters,
to inspire confidence in them and give a stimulus to their development. The Commander-in-­Chief
  Sir HughRose in forwarding Showers report to the Government of India further emphasized
the political reasons for European regiments. But he was concerned equally about the health
of such regiments and therefore, should Government agree, he would locate the bulk of these
in Shillong   (Whose suitability as a miIitary Station was then being favourably reported) with
just a few companies in Dibrugarh.

That a large military garrison commanded by a Brigadier General was required for the North East
was generally agreed upon by the both Bengal and Supreme Governments. But as regards
European regiments Grant's successor Sir Cecil Beadon had with good reason considerable
misgivings. There had been an unusually high rate of mortality among the Jack Tars in Upper
Assam and the Khasi Hills did not need them. He therefore told Sir John Lawrance, the
Viceroy and-Governor General, that he had " no wish to seen an European Soldier stationed
anywhere to the eastward of Calcutta on Dum Dum.
When in March 1864  the Government  of India  finally decided upon the military garrison and
created the Eastern Frontier Command with four a half regiments of Native Infantry  and
one battallion  of Artillery  there was no mention of European Regiments . It was in these
circumstances that the planters in Assam and Cachar took to volunteering.

The uncertainties before the tea industry in the years immediately following the Revolt of
1857 - 58 and the almost total dependence of the planters upon the. Government for their
security, especially though the agency of European troops, had made them some what
lukewarm to the idea of Volunteering The-tea boom had not yet occurred and the expansion
of the industry in Cachar was still a few years in the future. The Volunteer movement had
began during the Mutiny when the necessity for organized self defence prompted Englishmen
to enroll themselves into volunteer units in Bihar, Punjub and other places where there was
an immediate threat to life and property. Calcutta too had its volunteer group. Significantly it
was General Showers who first suggested such a step for Cachar when he was on his way to
the Jaintia hills. Major Stewart thus recorded_ in May 1862 that of "(General Showers)
called my attention to the possibility of forming a volunteer Rifle corps in Cachar from
among the European residents as one of the most likely measures to insure future peace
and security and quietness in the District and prevent internal disturbance".

Major Stewart said that the General had assured him of-his "hearty co-operation" of in any
such movement that the planters might organize and promised not only to depute competent
drill instructors but also provide arms form Government arsenals. It was not for nothing that
General Showers' sympathy for the tea planters should go beyond what his profession demanded.
It was also personal  Showers had developed a keen interest in the industry. Of his seven sons
four went into tea. The eldest, Major Eden Showers, left the IndianArmy to join Octavius Steel
and during 1895 and 1900 was Commandant of the Surma Valley Light Horse. He was killed in
South Africa , in the Boer War in April 1900. Another son, Charles James; who was with the
Jorehaut Tea Company and also with the Salonah Tea Company, briefly commanded the Assam
Valley Light Horse. It too was an age when the involvement of Government officials and
military officers in the tea plantations was not frowned upon. Colonel Hannay had already
opened a large estate near his cantonment in Dibrugarh. And after his death in 1861 it passed
(along with his widow) into the hands of Major Charles Holroyd, well known in Assam for his
role in hanging Maniram Dewan in 1858. Again, Major General Herbert Raban, who had
organized Assam Police in the early 1860's had brought the Goloonga estate and put a younger
son as its manager in 1866.

In early 1865 the move towards volunteering in Cachar began in earnest, On 23 May Major
Stewart wrote to Calcutta for uniforms, helmets and other accoutrements. Letters were
also dispatched the same clay to the Commandants of the Calcutta Volunteers and the
Punjab Crops in Lahore for copies of rules, regulation and by laws. Notice for a general
meeting was issued on 6 June and when it met on the 19 the members formed the Cachar
Mounted Volunteers. Two days later measures were, taken to from another unit at Hylakandy.
The Sylhet Volunteer Rifles Crops was formed much later in 1880.

The Assam tea planters followed suit during August and September 1965. In Dibrugarh some sixty planters formed a unit of troopers with Major Comber, the Deputy Commissioner, as Commandant. In Sibsagar another body of forty one effectives enrolled themselves under one Sherlock Hare, For administrative purposes these two units formed on corps, the Upper Assam Volunteer Cavalry. At Golaghat, the scene of much restlessness among the Hindustanis  --,a detachment of the 1st Assam LightInfantry during August 1857, the planters formed the Golaghat Rifle Volunteer Corps, an infantry unit  under W D.A. Beckett of the Assam Company as Commandant. Like the Cachar and Sylhet Volunteers arms and- ammunition were supplied fromGovernment stores and instructors from the regiments were deputed for drill and training.­
Arrangements were also made at the same time for the periodic inspection of the volunteers corps by senior military officers.
The volunteer movement in Assam and Cachar  gave a degree of security to the Tea Planting community There is, however, sufficient evidence to suggest that one of its less commendable features was a spirit of arrogance that military training bred among the planters. This is borne out in their relations with the tribes in the hills bordering tea estates. Until then the planters appear to be reasonable lot and were conciliatory towards the tribes. In the Sibsagar and Lakhimpur districts of Assam , for instance, many Nagas, had found employment in the tea estates and_managers were on friendly terms with them. From about the middle of the sixties this attitude had definitely changed. Conciliation  gave way to aggression; the Naga's right of way though gardens was sternly stopped, and is at least two instances managers had been guilty of unprovoked violence of trading nagas. Such was the conduct. of some of-these-planters that the Commissioner Colonel Henry Hopkinson warned that unless they were reined in the planters would at any moment involve the Government in costly frontier-wars.

 in
Cachar the recklessness of the planters showed itself in, pushing tea gardens deep into-exposed tribal  territory south of the district towards what was-then the  Lushai hills. And like Hopkinson in Assam , Cachar's Deputy Commissioner such as the designation of-the district officer now was, the highly regarded John Ware Edgarhad been equally- critical of the planting community. The Lushais themselves resented encroachments into what they considered their traditional hunting and rubber tapping grounds. Little wonder that their frontier raids in the late sixties and early seventies should be directed at the tea gardens . It was such developments in Assam and Cacharthat the Inner Line Regulation was enacted in 1873-7
By the closing decades of the nineteenth century the concept of the volunteer movement under went a change: it was no longer confined in the security Europeans against internal danger but was now considered -as a supplement to the Indian Army. As the Viceroy Lord Dufferin emphasized in 1888 its function was to fill up the gap in the event of European troops moving out beyond Indian frontiers on active service  A corresponding change accordingly occurred in the organization of the Assam and Cachar volunteer units. On 6 April those in Cachar became the Cachar Mounted Volunteer Rifles Crops and were amalgamated with the Sylhet Crops to become on 26 September 1884 the Cachar and Sylhet Mounted Rifles. In August 1886 its title was changed to the Surma Valley Light Horse, and this remained unchanged till the British left India . like wise, the Assam units too had undergone transformation as the Assam Valley Light Horse.

The Surma Valley Light Horse saw active service in the Manipur operations in 1891 following the killing at lmphal of the Chief Commissioner James Quinton and other officers. Units also took part and distinguished themselves in the Boer War in South Africa in 1900 and in the campaign against Kuki rebels in 1918 -19. The Assam Valley Light Horse  took part in several frontier operations; including the Abor Expedition of 1911.-12.  How important the Assam and Surma Valley Light Horse were to the British will be seen in the issue to them of the newly introduced rapid fire maxim guns at a time when no Indian was allowed to go near them.

  *************************************************************

Assam Valley Light Horse --
How it all started 
from information by kind permission of Mike Nancollas

A number of volunteer forces were raised in Assam as they were in many other regions of India from 1815 onwards and particularly after the Indian Mutiny in 1857, for the protection of local populations and installations. And it is recorded that the following units existed in this area of North East India.

The Sibsager Mounted Rifles

The Darrang Mounted Rifles

The Lakhimpur Mounted Rifles

The Newgong Mounted Rifles

On the 6 November 1891 these units amalgamated and were designated the

Assam Valley Mounted Rifles who were to form part of the Assam Valley Administrative Battalion.  In turn they were reorganised and The Corps was designated The Assam Valley Light Horse by G.G.O. No 1086 dated 25 September 1900 and their Headquarters were in Dibrugarh.  

*****************************************************

WJC (Bill) Charlier was a member of the regiment from 1946 until disbandment in 1947. Please see
Bill's full story on the Bill Charlier page on CORRESPONDENTS 
Above is the the silver rhino which was given to all serving  members
at disbandment in 1947
****************************************************

Three AVLH photographs -kindly supplied through the good offices of Alan Wood  by Bob
Powell Jones  from the collection of his late  father-in-law  Macdonald Smith 


AVLH in the thirties in camp at Dibrugarh-
Macdonald Smith  is on the far left back row



Dibrugarh Camp
Please note Brahmaputra river in background
__________________________________________________________


Mesapotamia 1919
 Macdonald Smith is in centre 

Pam Gardiner from New Zealand tells the Editor;  

Have just looked at Mike Nancollas's 13 AVLH photos.  We recognise our Grandfather Francis Henry Hawkins in 3rd photo top row or middle photo on top row.  He is (facing photo) sitting on ground 1st on left.  He is also in another photo NCO's 1902.  So this was a surprise for us.

I attach two photos that may be of interest to someone.  Group photo persons seated - last person on right (facing photo) is Francis Henry Hawkins whom I think is an Officer.  2nd photo group with gun, don't know who they are.  I wonder if anyone has recognised anyone in photos

Photos below




 


**************************************
ASSAM VALLEY LIGHT HORSE

   Michael Nancollas has supplied this section.  Mike is hoping to get more information and also permission for us to be able to show the photographs from the Museum--we thank him for his help and permission to use his notes

This is the story of The Corps of the Assam Valley Light Horse Cavalry and  Squadron Staff Sergeant Major  Frederick Williamson& Mrs Rene Williamson

A short history of the    AVLH

Among the various papers left to me by my Grandmother Mary Elizabeth NANCOLLAS nee SIMMONS was a box of photographs.  Many were anonymous, in that the reverse bore no indication of who they were.  Some had various notations some with names and some with other comments.  "Isn't this an awful one of me"  "Me on my pony"
One picture was of a lady in white with a baby and a lone soldier standing by her side. - a family group;  but who and where?  

  After many years touting the photos around my relatives, I visited Aunt Beatrice (Betty) at Brighton to see if she had any photos of my great Grandfather Alfred SIMMONS or any of his brothers or sisters.  I knew her Grandmother was (Teresa) May SIMMONS .Alfred's sister before she married into the WALKLEY family.  What a surprise it was to find that she had a picture of the same lady in white with the baby and lone soldier.

As you can expect the purpose of my visit was soon forgotten as Aunt Betty related her story.  The baby in the picture was her and her mother and father Rene and Fred Williamson.  I had met Auntie Rene and Uncle Fred when I was ten (1951) when I went to see them with my Dad.  They lived in Brighton in Hollingbury Road .

  Among all the other things I was told was the fact that Uncle Fred was in the
  CORPS of ASSAM VALLEY LIGHT HORSE

  They lived in India and Betty (Beatrice), June, John & Gloria, (twins) had been born there before they all returned to England in 1925 to live at Brighton .   In an old address book of my Grandmother I found Rene & Fred Williamson c/o The Post Office, Makum Junction , Upper Assam . India   I was determined to find out more about this unit and this is the story that unfolded.   
by Michael Nancollas.

Modern Assam is tucked away in the very north East of India joined now by only a very narrow corridor to the rest of the country.  At the time of the British Raj India and some of what is now Pakistan formed part of the region then known as Assam .  Even today after many years since India and Pakistan split, the borders are still in dispute.  It is here that the story of the Assam Valley Light Horse unfolds.

The History of The Assam Valley Light Horse

From Roger Perkins book [1]Regiments and Corps of the British  Empire and Commonwealth 1789-1993 I found some references to the AVLH accounts 1914‑1915; 1915-1916 1916-1917 which are held in the National Army Museum Chelsea.

From 1815 -1917 Volunteer units trained for local defence to protect vital railway and telegraph installations in India .

From 1860 onwards following the uprising, the Government of India gave active support to the raising of permanent part time Volunteer units in many parts of Bengal , Madras , Bombay , Assam , & Burma .

The authorities encouraged higher standards of training by providing the services of regular officers as Adjutants and experienced BNCO's as permanent instructors.  (British Non Commissioned Officers)

The Accounts held in the Army Museum are in a single bound black book and give a host of information about the Corps but importantly Frederick Williamson's name appears.  The Accounts for these years are similar to those Army lists held in the India office but they do give more information about the non commissioned officers.  In the 1914 accounts it shows Fred as being Squadron Staff Sergeant Major seconded from the 14th Hussars of India's reserve cavalry brigade

There was a short write up describing the beginnings of the Volunteer bodies that were set up in India as one of the non-commissioned officers.

The India Office collection in the British Library was hopefully going to provide more information.  Reference to the Indian Army Lists was helpful and the names of officers could be traced over the years.  The following information was gleaned from the records.

A number of volunteer forces were raised in Assam as they were in many other regions of India from 1815 onwards and particularly after the Indian Mutiny in 1857, for the protection of local populations and installations. And it is recorded that the following units existed in this area of North East India.

The Sibsager Mounted Rifles

The Darrang Mounted Rifles

The Lakhimpur Mounted Rifles

The Newgong Mounted Rifles

On the 6 November 1891 these units amalgamated and were designated the

Assam Valley Mounted Rifles who were to form part of the Assam Valley Administrative Battalion.  In turn they were reorganised and The Corps was designated The Assam Valley Light Horse by G.G.O. No 1086 dated 25 September 1900 and their Headquarters were in Dibrugarh.

A description of the town from a 1901 guide says about the area:-

DIBRUGARH, a town of British India , in the Lakhimpur district of eastern Bengal and Assam , of which it is the headquarters, situated on the Dibru river about 4 m. above its confluence with the Brahmaputra . Pop. (1901) 11,227. It is the terminus of steamer navigation on the Brahmaputra , and also of a railway running to important coal-mines and petroleum wells, which connects with the Assam-Bengal system. Large quantities of coal and tea are exported. There are a military cantonment, the headquarters of the volunteer corps known as the Assam Valley Light Horse; a government high, school, a training school for masters; and an aided school for girls. In 1900 a medical school for the province was established, out of a bequest left by Brigade-Surgeon J. Berry-White, which is maintained by the government, to train hospital assistants for the tea gardens. The Williamson artisan school is entirely supported by an endowment.

On the 1st May 1906 The Shillong Volunteer Rifles amalgamated with the Corps as a dismounted detachment G.G.O. 100 of 1906.

  The Corps motto was           "Sempar Paratus"                 (Always Ready)

In 1914 The Corps of AVLH had troops at Sibsagar, Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Mangaldai, Shillong and Darrang.

At that time their establishment was:[2]   6 Troops

1 Reserve Squadron   1 Infantry Company

Enrolled strength 1912-1913 - 588      Efficients- 506

Their Uniform was Khaki Drill.  Their Mess Uniform was Blue with white facings.
****************************************************

The photograph of Uncle Fred had become a reality.  His badges showed him to be a Staff Sergeant at the time although we know he progressed to being Sergeant Major by around the mid 1920's.  The Indian Army Lists were able to provide the names of the officers of the Corps.

Having now got the bit between my teeth I trawled around for any references to the AVLH or its predecessor units.  After some time I found a note in the Collins Collection[3] in Cambridge University indicating that there were some photographic records of the Corps in 1902.  This was a real find and brought the environs of the Corps to life. 

In a wooden box designated "Franz Kapp's Prize" on a silver pate on top of the box was an album of photos from 1902 showing all the men of the Corps photographed in uniform in their various troops with officers.  Far too many to be included here but the index I have prepared gives some ideal of the range of photographic history in the collection.
 Inglis-Smith has supplied these photographs and  we thank him for his permission to use the pictures on this website and recognise his copyright

These  photographs are of  the AVLH Troops dated between 1920 and 1930









 

 














These  photographs are of  the AVLH Troops dated between 1920 and 1930
 
Click on the pictures below to make them larger - then click again to make them smaller so you can see
the next picture.