On this day, 22nd November, in 1848 the 14th Light Dragoons fought at the Battle of Ramnuggur (Ramnagar), a day still celebrated by The King’s Royal Hussars particularly the Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess.
The bravery displayed by the 14th Light Dragoons at the battle led one witness to comment afterwards ‘All agree in one thing, however nobly the Fourteenth gained their laurels in the Peninsula, no charge they ever made could surpass this in gallantry, and yet no more than four or five of the officers and men has ever been under fire previously’.
The Battle of Ramnuggur was fought during the Second Anglo-Sikh War on the banks of the Chenab River near Ramnagar (now in Punjab Province, Pakistan). The British cavalry at the battle were under command of Brigadier-general Charles Robert Cureton, who had served in the ranks of the 14th during the Peninsular. During the battle the 14th Light Dragoons, led by Colonel William Havelock, charged twice into the Sikh forces but were heavily outnumbered. Struggling to advance through the rough terrain, they came under heavy artillery and infantry fire and were forced to retreat.
The experience of the 14th is well-told by an officer who on the 25 November 1848 wrote ‘ … the Fourteenth, when ordered to charge, galloped on to the enemy’s cavalry, who retired through the nullah on to the island, while the enemy’s batteries opened their fire, and their infantry on the island poured in their volleys. Nothing daunted, Colonel Havelock cheering led on the first and second squadrons of the Fourteenth down to the bank, then into the nullah, crossed it at a gallop, sabred hundreds of the enemy under the most frightful shower of missiles from their guns and infantry. They then retired a short distance, formed up, were joined by the other squadrons, and the 5th Light Cavalry who had crossed a little higher up, and charged again.
In this, the second charge, Colonel Havelock met his death, it was supposed, for he was not seen or heard of after General Cureton joined them with orders to retire, as, though the Fourteenth seemed so determined to destroy the enemy, they were utterly indifferent to their own loss. The Commander-in-Chief having cleared the left bank of the enemy, did not wish for more. While General Cureton was giving the order to retire, a matchlock ball struck him in the throat, and another in the forehead, and thus fell this glorious man, the finest cavalry officer of the day… The 14th Light Dragoons then retired in order, formed up, and the roll was called, when 45 men were found missing and about 50 horses.’
Aside from Brigadier Cureton and Colonel William Havelock, the 14th Light Dragoons also lost Captain Fitzgerald and 14 other ranks who were either killed or died soon after of their wounds. Five officers and 25 other ranks were also among the wounded.
The 14th had charged alongside the 5th Bengal Light Cavalry, who sometime afterwards presented the Regiment with a silver cup to commemorate this and the many other battles that they fought together. Known as the Ramnuggur Cup it is still given pride of place in The Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess.
The anniversary of the Battle has been celebrated in The Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess with a Ball or Dance for the Warrant Officers, Sergeants, their ladies and guests. During the celebration, the Commanding Officer, the Regimental Sergeant Major and all Warrant Officers and Sergeants enact the Ceremony of the Horseshoe.
More on The Battle of Ramnuggur: HERE