Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
Invalid Establishment

I have said nothing in the foregoing chapter of the invalid establishment, which is probably the greatest of all bonds between the Government and its native army, and consequently the greatest element in the 'spirit of discipline'.

Bonaparte, who was, perhaps, with all his faults, 'the greatest man that ever floated on the tide of time', said at Elba, 'There is not even a village that has not brought forth a general, a colonel, a captain, or a prefect, who has raised himself by his especial merit, and illustrated at once his family and his country.'

Now we know that the families and the village communities in which our invalid pensioners reside never read newspapers,[1] and feel but little interest in the victories in which these pensioners may have shared. They feel that they have no share in the éclat or glory which attend them; but they everywhere admire and respect the government which cherishes its faithful old servants, and enables them to spend the 'winter of their days' in the bosoms of their families; and they spurn the man who has failed in his duty towards that government in the hour of need.

No sepoy taken from the Rājpūt communities of Oudh or any other part of the country can hope to conceal from his family circle or village community any act of cowardice, or anything else which is considered disgraceful to a soldier, or to escape the odium which it merits in that circle and community.

In the year 1819 I was encamped near a village in marching through Oudh, when the landlord, a very cheerful old man, came up to me with his youngest son, a lad of eighteen years of age, and requested me to allow him (the son) to show me the best shooting grounds in the neighbourhood.

I took my 'Joe Manton' and went out. The youth showed me some very good ground, and I found him an agreeable companion, and an excellent shot with his matchlock. On our return we found the old man waiting for us. He told me that he had four sons, all by God's blessing tall enough for the Company's service, in which one had attained the rank of 'havīldār' (sergeant), and two were still sepoys. Their wives and children lived with him; and they sent home every month two-thirds of their pay, which enabled him to pay all the rent of the estate and appropriate the whole of the annual returns to the subsistence and comfort of the numerous family.

He was, he said, now growing old, and wished his eldest son, the sergeant, to resign the service and come home to take upon him the management of the estate; that as soon as he could be prevailed upon to do so, his old wife would permit my sporting companion, her youngest son, to enlist, but not before.

I was on my way to visit Fyzabad, the old metropolis of Oudh,[2] and on returning a month afterwards in the latter end of January, I found that the wheat, which was all then in ear, had been destroyed by a severe frost. The old man wept bitterly, and he and his old wife yielded to the wishes of their youngest son to accompany me and enlist in my regiment, which was then stationed at Partābgarh.[3]

We set out, but were overtaken at the third stage by the poor old man, who told me that his wife had not eaten or slept since the boy left her, and that he must go back and wait for the return of his eldest brother, or she certainly would not live. The lad obeyed the call of his parents, and I never saw or heard of the family again.

There is hardly a village in the kingdom of Oudh without families like this depending upon the good conduct and liberal pay of sepoys in our infantry regiments, and revering the name of the government they serve, or have served. Similar villages are to be found scattered over the provinces of Bihār and Benares, the districts between the Ganges and Jumna, and other parts where Rājpūts and the other classes from which we draw our recruits have been long established as proprietors and cultivators of the soil.

These are the feelings on which the spirit of discipline in our native army chiefly depends, and which we shall, I hope, continue to cultivate, as we have always hitherto done, with care; and a commander must take a great deal of pains to make his men miserable, before he can render them, like the soldiers of Frederick, 'the irreconcilable enemies of their officers and their government'.

In the year 1817 I was encamped in a grove on the right bank of the Ganges below Monghyr,[4] when the Marquis of Hastings was proceeding up the river in his fleet, to put himself at the head of the grand division of the army then about to take the field against the Pindhārīs and their patrons, the Marāthā, chiefs.

Here I found an old native pensioner, above a hundred years of age. He had fought under Lord Clive at the battle of Plassey, A.D. 1757, and was still a very cheerful, talkative old gentleman, though he had long lost the use of his eyes.

One of his sons, a grey-headed old man, and a Sūbadār (captain) in a regiment of native infantry, had been at the taking of Java,[5] and was now come home on leave to visit his father. Other sons had risen to the rank of commissioned officers, and their families formed the aristocracy of the neighbourhood.

In the evening, as the fleet approached, the old gentleman, dressed in his full uniform of former days as a commissioned officer, had himself taken out close to the bank of the river, that he might be once more during his life within sight of a British Commander-in-Chief, though he could no longer see one.

There the old patriarch sat listening with intense delight to the remarks of the host of his descendants around him, as the Governor-General's magnificent fleet passed along,[6] every one fancying that he had caught a glimpse of the great man, and trying to describe him to the old gentleman, who in return told them (no doubt for the thousandth time) what sort of a person the great Lord Clive was.

His son, the old Sūbadār, now and then, with modest deference, venturing to imagine a resemblance between one or the other, and his beau idéal of a great man, Lord Lake. Few things in India have interested me more than scenes like these.

I have no means of ascertaining the number of military pensioners in England or in any other European nation, and cannot, therefore, state the proportion which they bear to the actual number of forces kept up. The military pensioners in our Bengal establishment on the 1st of May, 1841, were 22,381; and the family pensioners, or heirs of soldiers killed in action, 1,730; total 24,111, out of an army of 82,027 men. I question whether the number of retired soldiers maintained at the expense of government bears so large a proportion to the number actually serving in any other nation on earth.[7]

Not one of the twenty-four thousand has been brought on, or retained upon, the list from political interest or court favour; every one receives his pension for long and faithful services, after he has been pronounced by a board of European surgeons as no longer fit for the active duties of his profession; or gets it for the death of a father, husband, or son, who has been killed in the service of government.

All are allowed to live with their families, and European officers are stationed at central points in the different parts of the country where they are most numerous to pay them their stipends every six months. These officers are at— 1st, Barrackpore; 2nd, Dinapore; 3rd, Allahabad; 4th, Lucknow; 5th, Meerut.

From these central points they move twice a year to the several other points within their respective circles of payment where the pensioners can most conveniently attend to receive their money on certain days, so that none of them have to go far, or to employ any expensive means to get it—it is, in fact, brought home as near as possible to their doors by a considerate and liberal government.[8]

Every soldier is entitled to a pension when pronounced by a board of surgeons as no longer fit for the active duties of his profession, after fifteen years' active service; but to be entitled to the pension of his rank in the army, he must have served in such rank for three years.

Till he has done so he is entitled only to the pension of that immediately below it. A sepoy gets four rupees a month, that is, about one-fourth more than the ordinary wages of common uninstructed labour throughout the country.[9] But it will be better to give the rate of pay of the native officers and men of our native infantry and that of their retired pensions in one table.



Rate of Pay Rate of Pension

Rank. per per

Mensum. Mensum.

Rupees. Rupees.

A Sepoy, or private soldier. (Note.—

After sixteen years' service eight

rupees a month, after twenty years

he gets nine rupees a month) 7.0 4.0

A Nāik, or corporal 12.0 7.0

A Havīldār, or sergeant 14.0 7.0

A Jemadār, subaltern commissioned officer 24.8 13.0

Sūbadār, or Captain 67.0 25.0

Sūbadār Major 92.0 0.0[a]

A Sūbadār, after forty years service 0.0 50.0

A Sūbadār Bahādur of the Order of British

India, First Class, two rupees a day

extra; Second Class, one Rupee a day

extra. This extra allowance they

enjoy after they retire from the

service during life.[b]

a. I presume this means that no special rate of pension was fixed for the rank of Sūbadār Major.

b. The monthly rates of pay and pension now in force for native officers and men of the Bengal army are as follows:

Pay. Pension.

Rank. Ordinay. Superior. Ordinay. Superior.

Rs. Rs. Rs. Rs.

Sūbadār 80 100[c] 30 50

Jemadār 40 50[c] 15 25

Havīldār 14 — 7 12

Naick (nāik) 12 — 7 12

Drummer or Bugler 7 — 4 7

Sepoy 7 — 4 7

c. Half of this rank in each regiment receive the higher rate of pay.

The circumstances which, in the estimation of the people, distinguish the British from all other rulers in India, and make it grow more and more upon their affections, are these: The security which public servants enjoy in the tenure of their office; the prospect they have of advancement by the gradation of rank; the regular