Punjab clasp Chilianwala,
E. Johnson, 3rd Light Dragoons
Killed in action at Chilianwala,
Farrier of Unett’s ‘Greys’ squadron whose charge on the left flank was a pivotal moment in the battle. The recipient is commemorated in a fine painting. and was accompanied into the battle by his dog ‘Albert’ who remained by the side of his master’s body fo two days
On the left flank, White’s cavalry brigade found itself confronted by a large force of Sikh Gorcharra irregular horsemen. Captain Unett of the 3rd King’s Own Light Dragoons led his squadron into the charge, galloping as best they could through the broken jungle. General Thackwell, the commander of the cavalry division, ordered the 5th BLC up in support, but the regiment failed to follow Unett’s squadron into the dense mass of Gorcharras. Unett’s light dragoons cut their way through the Sikhs and, turning, charged back, dispersing the threat to the left flank. All the officers of the squadron were wounded.
On the right flank, Pope directed his brigade to advance in line of regiments; two squadrons of HM 9th Lancers on the right (the remaining two squadrons had been sent away towards the hills), three squadrons of 1st and 6th BLC in the centre and HM 14th King’s Light Dragoons to their left, with ten guns of Huish’s and Christie’s troops of Bengal Horse Artillery on the extreme left of the brigade. No unit was retained as a supporting line.
Pope led his brigade at the trot through the broken scrub, without the precaution of skirmishers in advance. At the sight of a body of Sikh cavalry, the BLC squadrons in the centre of the line halted, forcing the British regiments on the flanks to stop in conformity. The Sikhs charged the BLC squadrons which turned about and made off. The two British regiments did the same, all attempts by the officers to halt their soldiers being to no avail.
The precipitous withdrawal of the cavalry regiments left the brigade horse artillery battery unprotected, and, in the confusion of limbering up, the battery was overrun by the Sikh cavalry who captured two guns. Eventually two other guns came into action and were sufficient to drive the Sikh cavalry back.
The retreating cavalrymen from Pope’s brigade found their way back to the camp at Chillianwallah, where they were rounded up by officers of the non-combatant services, including a padre. (Gough, on hearing of the conduct of the padre in halting and calming the retreating cavalrymen from Pope’s brigade, wanted to promote him bishop, but was told that he did not have the authority to make promotions in the church.)
The cause of the collapse of Pope’s cavalry brigade was attributed to Pope’s age and inexperience. He was elderly and so ill that he had to be helped to mount and had never commanded more than a squadron in the field.Chillianwallah was an iconic battle for the British cavalry for widely differing reasons. Unett’s charge with his squadron of the 3rd King’s Own Light Dragoons on the left flank was held up as a paragon. The squadron was mounted entirely on greys. The conduct of Pope’s brigade on the right flank became notorious. It is said that the slur cast on the competence and courage of the British light cavalry continued to reverberate into the Crimean War,
The medal is c. NVF having general bumping and bruising but a historically fine medal to a confirmed member of the ‘Greys’