Monday, May 3, 2010

When will 4 Horse remove this murderer's name from its regimental crest?

I decided to blog on the above heading after reading a book by Lt General SK Sinha of the 'supersession' fame. Though the topic has never been far from my mind but the resolve to write about it as renewed after reading "A Soldier Recalls". In his chapter "Supersession", Lt Gen Sinha recounts how Gen KV Krishna Rao, who was a great friend of his, broke the news of his supersession by Lt Gen Arun Vaidya, in the most impersonal manner. He goes on to write that after he conveyed his decision to the COAS to resign from the Army and after the COAS had made the usual noise made about not taking a rash decision, Lt Gen Sinha decided to carry on with the agenda items he had for discussion with the Chief.

One of these related to the removal of the name Hodson from the regimental crest of 4 Horse.

I quote verbatim from the passage in the book, "The last case I discussed with him that day was the regimental crest of 4 Horse. This unit was raised by Hodson, an officer with a tainted personal record who had murdered the two hapless Mughal princes of Delhi in 1857 in cold blood. After Independence the name of the unit changed from hodson's Horse to 4 Horse, and so had the shoulder titles worn in the regiment. But the word 'Hodson' continued to appear in the regimental crest. I got Krishna's approval to recommend a suitable change of crest. This had to be approved by the President. Although a decision to recommend this change was taken and duly recorded, mistaken loyalty for regimental traditions has managed to prevail and to this day the change has not been effected".

Now, this book was written way back in 1991, and to my knowledge, the change of regimental crest has still not taken place and the name of the murderer continues to adorn the crest. 4 Horse is not the only regiment to take pride in its traditions and there are several regiments which still carry on with the symbols of the past British victories over native Indian princely states. But none have the name of a murderer and a philanderer written on their regimental crest.

There is certainly no harm in perpetuating regimental traditions. There are several cavalry and infantry regiments in the Army which have taken part in active supression of 1857 war of Independence. But these are only spoke of in hushed whispers in this day and age and they do not adorn the cap badge of every rank and file. The least that the armoured corps brass can do is to get this anomaly corrected, which Lt Gen Sinha tried to do even on a day when his dream of heading the Indian Army lay in ruins.

Can we expect the Colonel of the Regiment of 4 Horse, whoever that noble soul is, to initiate a corrective action. Sadly, no. that would be too much to expect from him. Not because of any personal flaw of character, but because of a flaw in the system which will look at him with suspicion the moment he tries to do anything of the sort.

On another day, we will debate how long the Highland bugle will form part of the regimental crest of several of our infantry regiments. and when will Battle Honours like Seringapatnam, Bharatpore and Sobraon be consigned to the dustbin of history....far-far from the honourable place they enjoy in the list of regimental victories.

But as of now, let 4 Horse get rid of Hodson's ghost.


  1. Good read. I once heard a story that General Dyer's portrait hangs on a wall of one of Delhi's oldest, poshest hotels.

    At the same time, our tendency to remove vestiges of the Raj and indulge in shallow parochialism also makes us change the names of our cities.

    I think a distinction needs to be made between what you recommend and what we normally do.

    But another school of thought would also say the idea of changing names and removing symbols, while doing nothing to change history, is a reflection of us in denial.

    What do you think?

  2. Mr Chinna, You Stink !!!

    Just another poor f***ing sod who never made it into the military, or was kicked out or whose dad never made it big - where do you fit ???

    Or did Hodson's Horse do you or him in ?? I have served in the Regiment, commanded it and am proud of its name which, in any case we have dropped in common reference. We are 4th HORSE. What about Scinde Horse (Sindh's across right ?), and Nepalese Gurkhas in our Army ??? Go man - find a worthy cause and don't drag your ass on my lawn like a dawg with worms back there.
    Who told you he was a murderer ? Some toilet reading material ? William Darymple ? Or a spook ?
    The Regiment is the second highest decorated cavalry regiment in India - the name is enough to give Pakis a pause to ponder ! Poor you ! Leave a word here - I get in touch & may be have drink & clear the air & yore doubts man!!!

  3. By the way, your report is historically inaccurate. Hodson certainly killed the last two Mughal princes and, to that extent, he was a killer.

    However, not even his greatest detractors allege that he was a philanderer. He was actually known for the greatest moral rectitude at a time when many white sahibs kept brown mistresses.

    Chhina Sahib, you are falling into the same trap as those who argue that a woman who drinks, must also screw around!

    Poor journalism, if that is what this is.

  4. Hodson's 'moral rectitude' didn't extend to matters pecuniary, and unless Broadsword is falling into the same trap as those who believe that chastity is the greatest form of morality, Hodson's morality can hardly be called unquestionable.
    Also, Hodson was rabidly racist (which was not uncommon in a British officer of that era, but kind of disqualifies him to be elevated to a hero).
    And one can only hope that the comments of this gentleman who claims to have commanded this unit reflect only the acuteness of his own intellect........

  5. With a Government that thrives on blowing up trivial issues to divert public attention away from it's own messy Governance, Chinna has picked up a perfect subject as fodder for it to chew.
    The Army, once considered an up-right and honest body has been a subject of some rebuke recently. Now that the Media is running out of 'Ketchep Colonels', 'Kargil Kover Up', 'Sukhna Scandle', 'Adarsh Apartments' and such-like catchy slogans, Chinna can raise a 'Hodson's Hoodoo' and earn some cookie points with some cheap publication.
    Get real, man and pick on a subject that is worth uncovering and leave well enough alone.
    This Regiment call it by any name you wish to, will for ever be a scourge of the Enemy while remaining for ever 'Tyaar Ber Tyaar'

    Get real man. Hodson's is not just a name. It is a Body of Soldiers which is professionally sound and has a proven, though less touted, reputation in Battle. Be those battles fought under the British or the Indian flag - it's presence in the field has been the scourge of the enemy.
    Who are you to raise the bogey of a name now, some 175 years later, when all you have is passing knowledge of this outstanding outfit?
    Call it by any name, it still brings panic stricken fear in some eminent Pakistani Cavalry hearts.

  6. Hi!

    Interesting! But how does re-naming a regiment take away from its history? By which I mean, that if the regiment were raised by Hodson, how can we take that away? The regiment is an honorable one, I know that officers and men serve in it with pride, so its kind of silly to want to take away the nomenclature.

    For people who have issues with the name,'Hodson's Horse', '4 Horse' is always a possibility, innit?

  7. That's right; no need for Hodson-baiters to get worked up. As long as the name inspires the regiment to excel, where's the problem?
    And then, I suppose an army unit is somewhat different from a railway station which can be summarily renamed from 'Victoria Terminus' to 'Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus', without anyone minding the distortion of history.
    Meanwhile, Hodson's votaries needn't insist that Hodson was a saint (moral rectitude and stuff); that wasn't his USP.

  8. I wonder why nobody argues for 'Sanjay Parks' in Delhi to be renamed? This prodigal son of late Mrs G of the Indian 'royal family' was a murderer in his own right and more or was that social service? Talking about, Sanjays and other such prolific characters from the 'royal family' and alike politicians, there's a lot more renaming that you got to be worried about, Mr Chinna..

  9. People are overly sensitive and unable to comprehend historical values. HH/4H is a great regiment> Leave them be.

  10. My father served in this great regiment during 50's & 60's and before him his grandfather served during 20's when it was 4th Duke of Cambridge own Hodson Horse, a lancers regiment by then. He has always been proud to serve in this regiment and I feel honoured to have been associated with Hodson's Horse family.
    The regiment, since it's raising, has been one of the best cavalry regiment in the world. It's also one of the most decorated among the Indian armoured units.
    Now, something about the person himself.
    Lt. William S R Hodson was a man of field & action, fought during second Anglo-Sikh war as a subaltern in 1st European Fusiliers, Bengal Native Army. Where he excelled in horseman ship & swordsman ship. He was never comfortable with desk jobs. Henry Lawrence personally selected him as his assistant in remaking of Punjab. Along with Lt. Lumsden he was instrumental in raising the Guides Corps on Punjab border with Afghanistan and founded Lawrence School in Sanawar.
    The allegations leveled against him of falsely imprisoning the moslem murderer of Col. Mackeson and then misappropriation of regimental funds were never substantiated by it's accuser Herbert Edwards.
    During the rebellion of 1857 if not for him we the Indians might have still be living as moslem subjects of some muhammedan ruler. Maj. Hodson knew that the King Bahdur Shah Zafar by himself was no threat to India anymore so he handed over the King & Queen unharmed to the authorities. Whereas his son Abu Bakar & 2 grandsons were co-conspirator in the murder of over 100 innocent European children & women and were instigators of mutiny in Delhi. Initially he has no intention of shooting them but as he proceeded from Hamayun Tomb towards Red Fort the mob following them grew in numbers & by the time they reached the walls on the city it has grown to around 5000 strong showing all the signs of an attack. With only less than 100 sowars from his newly raised Hodson's Horse he was quite vulnerable of such attack & expecting annihilation any moment from ever threatening mob who were bent upon freeing the Abu Bakar & Mirza Mughal he took the most sensible step only a true soldier could ever take of eliminating the enemy & hence the threat.
    Any person who loves India & it's secular values will revere Maj. Hodson for his action & sacrifice.
    Mr. Chinna and some commentators here have tried to smear the name of this great personality without giving any facts, their opinions are solely based on emotions & a story written by a socialist historian William Dalrymple. I would suggest you guys to do some research and read some substantive history, where you can actually refer to real facts, before posting any comment on Maj. Hodson.
    It's notable how the history has forgotten & obliterated the name of his accusers whereas the name of Major Hodson is going to live forever as a soldier & cavalry man.

    1. Nice response he took the step as a brave soldier.e