Taken from: Jackets of Green by Sir Arthur Bryant.

Alarming news reached England from India where, following the mutiny of the bulk of the Bengal Sepoy army in May, and the massacre of British officers, women and children which accompanied it, every regular soldier who could be spared was packed into transports for the long, crowded voyage to the Ganges, where a handful of troops were struggling against immense odds to save British rule in the East India Company's dominions.

While the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were on their way, a 4th Battalion of the Regiment was formed on September 22nd 1857 at Winchester under Lt.-Colonel F. R. Elrington, one of the heroes of Inkerman who, in command of a Company of the 2nd Battalion on that fateful day, had been largely responsible for preventing the Russians from breaking through the British outpost line and reaching the sea.

Sailing in small transports, each carrying up to 350 officers and men, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions reached Calcutta at different times in November 1857 in six separate divisions, each commanded by a Lt.-Colonel. All were rushed, as soon as they landed, by steamer, railroad, boat and bullock-cart and, after Allahabad and Futtehpore, on foot, to the decisive theatre of war five hundred miles away, where desperate fighting was in progress round the besieged city of Luck-now and Cawnpore—scene of the treacherous massacre at Nana Sahib's orders of two hundred British women and children.

The 2nd Battalion was first to arrive, its advanced division under Brevet Lt.-Colonel Woodford—who was soon afterwards killed—going into action on the morning of November 26th at Cawnpore, where less than 4000 loyal troops were facing 30,000 mutineers. Here, fighting in extended order, it was joined next day in the nick of time by the second contingent under Lt.-Colonel William Fyers, whose march, clad in thick European uniforms, of 49 miles in 26 hours in intense heat, surpassed even the 1st Battalion's famous Peninsular march to Talavera. Weary and footsore though they were, the men went straight into battle.

On the same day the first contingent of the 3rd Battalion, under Captain Atherley—which had landed at Calcutta on November 8th—joined in the ding-dong struggle before Cawnpore where, with their fine marksmanship, the assembled Riflemen helped to neutralise the enemy's enormous artillery superiority by picking off the gunners.

Their timely arrival helped, too, to cover the evacuation from Lucknow of its long besieged garrison and 400 women and children. They also succeeded in rescuing several abandoned eighteen-pounders and naval guns by dragging them under fire to safety with the slings taken off their rifles. Most of the time, and during their forced marches, exposed to intense heat by day and bitter cold at night they lived off tea, rum and a little dry biscuit, such exiguous rations some-times only affording them a single meal a day.

Before the long battle of Cawnpore ended in final victory on December 6th, the remainder of the 3rd Battalion, delayed at sea by hurricanes, arrived on the scene, a detachment under Lt.-Colonel Julius Glyn covering the last 75 miles between the evening of the 3rd and the morning of the 5th, marching for the whole of two nights and a day without sleep.

The four Companies of the Head-quarters division of the Battalion under Colonel Horsford also reached the front between December 3rd and 5th, the men lurching from side to side as they battled with sleep during the last thirty-six hours of their march. On the 6th both Battalions went into action together, deployed in line and fixing swords as they advanced, later extending to clear the woods and houses between the canal and the town of Cawnpore. Colonel Horsford was wounded but continued to lead his Battalion as the extended line of Riflemen drove the rebel army back in final rout.

Throughout 1858 the 2nd and 3rd Battalions served under the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Colin Campbell—raised to the peerage that summer as Lord Clyde—as they helped to disperse and finally destroy the still numerous rebel forces. On March 6th they led Sir Colin's army in skirmishing order , the Line regiments following in quarter-column distance, at the start of the final battle of Lucknow, which resulted, after a fortnight's fierce fighting, in the capture of the city—the capital of Oudh—and in the winning of a new and much valued battle honour for the Regiment.

In its course an officer and two men of the 2nd Battalion gained the Victoria Cross, Corporal W. Nash and Rifleman David Hawkes carrying a wounded comrade to safety under heavy fire while their retreat from an apparently hopeless cul-de-sac was covered, single-handed, by their Company Commander, Captain Henry Wilmot. Another V.C. was gained for the Regiment later that year by Corporal Samuel Shaw of the 3rd Battalion who, though wounded in the head, coolly took on in single combat, and killed, a giant fanatic Ghazee.

During the summer of 1858, with the thermometer often standing at 110 and sometimes even higher, the Regiment exchanged its green cloth jackets for a campaign-uniform of dust-coloured linen—or khaki as it became called—with black facings. For neither Battalion, engaged in ceaselessly pursuing the scattered columns of the enemy, was there much rest.

On their long marches the men suffered much from heat-stroke, some fatally; on one terrible march that June the 2nd Battalion lost nearly a hundred men. Working in close co-operation with the 7th Hussars—among whose troopers it was a standing joke "that they could not get rid of these little fellows' who kept up with their horses so gamely—the Battalion spent the autumn in routing out rebel forces in Rohilkhand. The Times correspondent, William Howard Russell, sent home a description of it at the end of the year when for nearly a fortnight it had made a series of marches of up to twenty miles with hardly a casualty: "The Rifle Brigade, who are with us, are as hard as nails; faces tanned brown and muscles hardened into whipcord; and to see them step over the ground with their officers marching beside them is a very fine sight for those who have an eye for real first-class soldiers. Lord Clyde is greatly pleased with the officers be-cause they do not ride on ponies as many officers of other regiments are accustomed to do."

Meanwhile the 3rd Battalion was similarly engaged, often operating in thick jungle where large parties of the rebels had taken refuge. On one occasion a detachment of a hundred Riflemen advancing in extended order under a young officer, Lieutenant Andrew Green, lost touch with three of their number who were attacked by a large band of Sepoys. Hearing firing, Green, who was on horseback, went to their aid but was himself set on by six assailants. Shooting two with his revolver, he was cut down while dismounting and hacked at repeatedly as he lay on the ground.

But, despite his wounds, he managed to rise and fell two more of his adversaries—now joined by three others—with the butt of his revolver and to shoot a third before they finally left him senseless and apparently dead with fourteen sabre cuts as well as a gunshot wound. Notwithstanding loss of blood, extreme fatigue—for he and his men had been under arms from four in the morning till three that afternoon—and the amputation of his left arm and right thumb, he recovered. Subsequently he rose to the rank of colonel, being universally known throughout the service as "Jolly" Green on account of his unfailing good-humour. He died in 1902 at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, where for the last thirty- two years of his life he was Captain of Invalids.

Not till the summer of 1859 were all the mutineers hunted down and the campaign at an end. During it the 2nd Battalion alone marched 1745 miles in 161 marches, keeping the field for twenty months without once going into quarters. Nearly a quarter of its officers and more than a fifth of its men had been killed, wounded or invalided. It remained in India as part of the British garrison until 1867, when it returned to England after an absence of ten years. The 3rd Battalion, which took part in 1863 in a punitive expedition against the Mohmund tribe on the North-west Frontier, did not leave India until the end of 1870, concluding its thirteen years' tour of overseas service with a year at Aden before landing at Portsmouth on New Year’s Day, 1872.


The Rifle Brigade in Action, Indian Mutiny 1857-Orlando Norrie


Citations taken from:
FOCUS ON COURAGE, The 59 Victoria Crosses of The Royal Green Jackets by Lieutenant-General Sir Christopher Wallace and Major Ron Cassidy:

CAPTAIN H WILMOT VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1858 LUCKNOW
Date of Act of Gallantry: 11 March 1858 Place: Lucknow, India

Citation: "For conspicuous gallantry at Lucknow, on the 11th March, 1858. Captain Wilmot's company was engaged with a large body of the enemy, near the Iron Bridge. That officer found himself at the end of the street with only four of his men, opposed to a considerable body. One of the four was shot through both legs and became utterly helpless; two of the men (Corporal Nash and Private Hawkes) lifted him up and although Private Hawkes was severely wounded he carried him for a considerable distance, exposed to the fire of the enemy, Captain Wilmot firing with the men's rifles and covering the retreat of the party." (London Gazette, 24 December 1858)

CORPORAL W NASH VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1858 LUCKNOW
Date of Act of Gallantry: 11 March 1858 Place: Lucknow, India

Citation: "For conspicuous gallantry at Lucknow, on 11th March, 1858. Captain Wilmot's company was engaged with a large body of the enemy, near the Iron Bridge. That officer found himself at the end of the street with only four of his men, opposed to a considerable body. One of the four was shot through both legs and became utterly helpless; two of the men (Cpl Nash and Private Hawkes) lifted him up and although Private Hawkes was severely wounded, he carried him for a considerable distance, exposed to the fire of the enemy, Captain Wilmot firing with the men's rifles, and covering the retreat of the party." (London Gazette, 24 December 1858)

RIFLEMAN D HAWKES VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1858 LUCKNOW
Date of Act of Gallantry: 11 March 1858 Place: Lucknow, India

Citation: "For conspicuous gallantry at Lucknow, on 11th March, 1858. Captain Wilmot's company was engaged with a large body of the enemy, near the Iron Bridge. That officer found himself at the end of a street with only four of his men, opposed to a considerable body. One of the four was shot through both legs and became utterly helpless; two of the men (Cpl Nash and Private Hawkes) lifted him up and although Private Hawkes was severely wounded, he carried him for a considerable distance, exposed to the fire of the enemy, Captain Wilmot firing with the men's rifles, and covering the retreat of the party." (London Gazette, 24 December 1858)

RIFLEMAN S SHAW VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1858 LUCKNOW
Date of Act of Gallantry: 13 June 1858 Place: Lucknow, India

Citation: "During the battle of Nawabgunge on 13th June 1858, a Ghazee being cut off from his companions seemed determined to make a desperate fight of it. Setting his back to a tree, he stood, sword in hand, glaring fiercely on his pursuers; at last a pioneer of the 3rd Battalion (Samuel Shaw) rushed at him and closed with him. The Ghazee wounded him on the head with his tulwar, but Shaw, drawing his pioneer's sword, sawed at him with the serrated back and dispatched him. Shaw rose from the ground covered with blood, but his opponent was slain. Many who witnessed it declared that this combat, with a lunatic determined to sell his life to stay his foe, was the greatest instance of cool courage they ever saw." (London Gazette, 26 October 1858)