Indian Mutiny Medal 1857-1858, 1 clasp, Defence of Lucknow J Curry, 32nd L.I. Light contacting VF
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The small village of Chinhut lies about six miles from Lucknow on the Faizabad road. It was here on June 30th 1857 (three days after the massacre at Cawnpore) that Sir Henry Lawrence on hearing of this disaster, led a column, some 600 strong, including 300 of the 32nd, against a much larger force of mutineers. The action was a catastrophe, largely owing to the desertion of the native cavalry and artillery, but also Lawrence, attacked on two flanks, did not handle his force well and suffered the appalling loss of 398 killed or missing and 78 wounded – a casualty rate of 79%!
It had proved impossible to carry away most of the wounded who were immediately massacred. The 32nd contingent, naturally, was savagely mauled, losing 4 officers and 122 men killed or mortally wounded. Of the wounded only one officer and 24 men of the 32nd escaped, such was the severity of the reverse.
As a result of having his command so severely weakened, Lawrence ordered the entire Lucknow force to retire to the Residency and so the famous siege began, lasting from July 1st until Novemeber 23rd, when the garrison was finally able to be evacuated.
Later on that day Sir Henry sent a report to the Governor General which read, in part,
“Shall likely be surrounded tonight. Enemy very bold and our Europeans very low…
unless we are relieved in fifteen or twenty days, we shall hardly be able to maintain our ground.”
Lawrence himself was mortally wounded by a shell fragment at Lucknow two days after Chinhut; his last words were, “to ask the poor fellows who I exposed at Chinhut to forgive me. Bid them remember Cawnpore and never surrender.”
The backbone of the defence was provided by the 32nd Foot and it was for their distinguished part in the arduous siege that the regiment was awarded the honour title of Light Infantry and all participants allowed one year’s service.
John Curry, however, was not destined to enjoy this benefit as he was killed in action at Chinhut. He had enlisted in January 1847 from the Dublin district and it seems that the majority of recruits for the 32nd around this time were Irishmen. This is understandable since this was the era of the great potato famine and consequent mass starvation in Ireland. Joining the army was a way of escape. There was also a private Edward Curry another fatal casualty of this action; probably these men were related.