The Bengal Brigade (Charge of the Lancers) (1954)

 

 

 

Director:     Laslo Benedek.

Starring:     Rock Hudson (Capt. Jeffrey Claybourne),  Arlene Dahl (Vivian Morrow), Ursula Thiess (Latah), Torin Thatcher (Col. Morrow),  Arnold Moss (Rajah Karam), Dan O'Herlihy (Capt. Ronald Blaine), harold Gordon (Hari Lal),  Michael Ansara (Sgt. Major Puran Singh), Leonard Strong (Mahindra).

 

Just an o.k. movie starring Rock Hudson as British army officer, Captain Claybourne, fighting to help put down the Sepoy revolt against British rule in India.

That Rock Hudson sure looks good in this movie; hardly a hair ever out of place.  And with a uniform always so spiffy.  But he does get himself into a bit of a muddle.  The Indian troops that he had trained and led fall into a trap when they attack some outlaw troops.  Disobeying direct orders to the contrary, he assumes leadership of another unit from a cowardly officer and leads this new unit to the rescue of his own unit.   He is able to save the day by his actions, but is court-martialed anyway. 

He resigns from the army and, to make matter worse, he decides to tell the lovely daughter (Arlene Dahl) of his now former commander that since he has no prospects he cannot marry her. 

From this low point, how is our hero to regain his name and fortune?  Well, lucky for him, he learns of the coming rebellion against British rule plotted among the Sepoy troops.  This knowledge gives him the opportunity to make his come-back.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

1526-1859  --  more than 300 years of Mughal rule of India.

1699 -- English East India Company constructs Fort William at Calcutta

1707  --  reign of Bahadur Shah followed by gradual disintegration of Mughal Empire into virtually independent provinces.

1757  -- the English East India Company takes over control of India.

1856  --  rumors circulate among the Indian troops employed by the English East India Company that the cartridges for the newly-issued Lee-Enfield rifles were greased with the fat of cows, which are sacred to Hindus, and pigs, which Muslims believe are unclean. By using the cartridges, the Hindu and Muslim soldiers would be ritually polluted.

A sepoy was an Indian native employed by the British army. 

1857-1859 --  Sepoy Mutiny (or Sepoy Rebellion) marks the formal end of Mughal Empire. It was begun by Indian troops (sipahi or sepoys) in the employ of the English East India Company. It began in Meerut, a military town northeast of Delhi in the Ganges River valley. 85 soldiers refused to use the cartridges; they were convicted of mutiny; and given prison sentences. This harsh treatment led other soldiers to revolt.  They freed the sentenced men and killed 40 British officers and civilians.

The sepoys march to Delhi, where other Indian regiments joined the mutiny. They reinstall the now 82-year-old Mughal emperor, Muhammad Bahadur Shah. Other mutinies follow igniting a general revolt.

The news of these events triggered mutinies throughout the Bengal army, rapidly igniting a general anti-British revolution in north and central India. Among those joining the sepoys in the uprising were Indian princes and their followers, whose territories had been annexed by the English East India Company, and people whose ways of life and sources of income had been disrupted by British trade, missionary activities, or social reforms.

The center of the rebellion becomes the capital city of Lucknow in the recently-annexed state of Oudh.  There was a massacre of the British garrison at Cawnpore (now Kanpur). The British attacked and overran Delhi and then with more than 30,000 men captured  Lucknow. There were many smaller fights.  

1859  --  British finally capture and execute their most skillful opponent, Nana Sahib's general Tantia Topi. The revolt ends.  

The results of the Sepoy Revolt included the British government abolishment of the Mughal Empire and the end of the administration of the English East India Company.

(Source: Stanley, Peter. 1998. White Mutiny: British Military Culture in India. By Peter Stanley. New York: New York University Press.)

 

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