|Private James Hennes
9th Regiment and 98th Regiment
James Hennes was born at Stratford, Essex in May 1813. Little more is known about his early life, except that he worked as a
labourer until attesting at London for the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot, on the 29th September 1835. He was described as
being 5 foot 6 ½ inches tall, with dark brown hair, hazel eyes and a sallow complexion.
The 9th Regiment of Foot were known as the “Holy Boys”, a name given to them while serving in the Peninsula, when Spanish troops
had mistaken the figure of Britannia on their badges to be the Virgin Mary.
The service companies of the regiment had embarked from Port Louis, Mauritius in September 1835 for Bombay, where they
arrived in November of that year. Their depot companies had embarked from Chatham in June and arrived at Calcutta in October.
The regiment then performed garrison duties at Fort William for two months before proceeding to Chinsurah where they arrived
in January 1836. James Hennes joined a draft of new troops and was sent out to India by troopship to join his regiment there.
The regiment stayed at Chinsurah until 1838, when they marched to Hazaree-Baugh, staying there until the end of 1839. In
January 1840 they marched to Agra and then to Meerut in October. On the 1st December 1841 the regiment was ordered to
proceed to Ferozepore for active service beyond the Indus River.
In 1839 a British Army made up of Bengal and Bombay contingents, had entered Afghanistan in order to force upon the Afghans a
ruler named Shah Soojah, who was nominated by British interests. The army was fiercely opposed by Beloochee tribesmen as soon
as it entered the country. Having reached Cabul the army became an army of occupation to enforce the rule of their nominated
candidate, who was not accepted by his people. The tribesmen prepared to revolt against his cruel rule and the unrest became
worse when payments made to the hill tribes to stop them robbing travellers moving through the Kyber pass were stopped. In
November 1841 revolt broke out in Cabul and with its supplies cut off the army prepared to retreat. It totalled about 4,500
fighting troops with 12,000 followers, but the intense cold and persistent attacks by Afghan tribesmen meant that only one man
eventually reached Jellalabad safely.
When news reached India that an entire British army had been wiped out, plans were launched to avenge the loss and reoccupy the
country. General Pollock was chosen to lead the “Army of retribution” as it became known, consisting of about 8,000 Imperial
troops. Amongst the three regiments of infantry and one cavalry regiment selected for the invasion was the 9th foot.
On the 5th April 1842 the army proceeded to enter Afghanistan by way of the Kyber pass. Two columns were selected to advance
to the left and the right of the pass. Both columns included four companies of the 9th regiment and after meeting considerable
opposition, managed to gain the crest of the hills on either side. The grenadier company of the 9th then advanced to its front with
portions of the flanking companies keeping control of the heights. Although the hills were covered with the enemy who were
determined to contest every inch of ground, the gallantry of the troops could not be resisted and they carried everything before them.
Losses to the 9th regiment for forcing the passage through the Kyber pass included Lieutenant James Cumming killed and Captain
Ogle being wounded. One colour sergeant and six privates were killed and a drummer, together with thirty one privates, were
wounded. The regiment arrived at Jellalabad on the 16th April 1842 and remained there until the 20th August when it was
ordered to advance towards Cabul. The column arrived at Gundamuck on the morning of the 23rd when information was obtained
that the enemy held the village and fort at Mammoo Khail, which was about two miles away and preparation were made for an
attack to be made the following morning.
The infantry was divided into two columns with a wing of the 9th regiment at the head of each column. As the troops slowly
advanced the enemy withdrew before them. The capture of Mammoo Khail was considered to be of great importance and the
entire force consolidated there.
A party of the 9th regiment was detached to drive the enemy from the surrounding hills and the first and second heights were
carried at the point of the bayonet. The rest of the regiment destroyed the fort and village of Mammoo Khail. Total losses
consisted of five privates being killed and nine men wounded.
The regiment remained at Mammoo Khail until the 30th August when it was ordered to return to Gundamuck. On the 8th
September the regiment was engaged with the enemy at the pass of Jugduljuck and on the 12th and 13th were again engaged
in the Tezeen valley. Here the enemy came so close that frequent recourse to the bayonet was necessary to drive them back.
The regiment suffered losses of 11 men killed and 26 men wounded, while the enemy lost several hundred killed and were
The regiment was then ordered to advance to Cabul and during their advance were forced to march over the remains of their
comrades who had been slaughtered during the previous January. The advance of General Pollock’s army was marked by the
utmost savagery. In areas where the locals were known to have taken part in the destruction of the Cabul garrison, whole
populations were slaughtered and their villages burnt. The army maintained its reputation of being “the army of retribution”.
On the 15th September the army reached Cabul and camped on the racecourse. On the following morning the British colours were
raised while the band of the 9th Regiment played the National anthem.
The regiment was called upon to carry out one final task, as the enemy had concentrated in the vicinity of Charekar and a force was
assembled to disperse them. On the 26th September the regiment marched to Kohistan and two days later made camp within four
miles of the fortified town of Istalif. The following morning the 9th advanced across the plain and entered the gardens of the
town. Here they encountered many marksmen but managed to drive them from the gardens and gave them no time to reform.
The regiment suffered a loss of one man killed and fifteen men wounded. The capital of Charekar was then burnt to the ground
and the population massacred.
They then returned to Cabul on the 7th October and began their retreat to India via Gundamuck, Jellalabad and Peshawar.
Jellalabad and Ali Masjid were destroyed as well as many towns and villages on the way. The army was harassed all of the way
back to the Kyber pass and it would be thirty years before Afghanistan was entered again.
The 9th regiment finally arrived back at Ferozepore on the 18th December.
For their services during the campaign in Afghanistan the 9th regiment were granted the honour of bearing the word “Cabool”
1842 on its colours.
|The 9th regiment entering Allahabad|
after marching from Cabul
On the 14th January 1843 the regiment marched to Mobarickpore, arriving there on the 31st January and remained there until
the 12th April, when it marched to Subathoo. It remained there until the 8th March 1844 before proceeding to Kussowlie, and
was then ordered to proceed to Umballa, arriving there on the 28th November 1845.
The Sikh army of the Punjab crossed the Sutlej River on the 11th December 1845 and took up an entrenched position at the
village of Ferozeshah. So unexpected was this action that an Anglo-Indian army was hurriedly prepared to repel the invasion.
The 9th regiment was ordered to prepare for action as part of this army, which was commanded by General Sir Hugh Gough.
On the 11th December the Army of the Sutlej marched from Umballa and undertook several forced marches along sandy roads
of to engage the Sikhs. The 9th regiment arrived at Moodkee on the afternoon of the 18th in an exhausted state but within an
hour of their arrival, received intelligence that the Sikh army was approaching their position. The army of the Sutlej
abandoned their half cooked meals and moved forward two miles to take up their positions and encountered the Sikhs, with
20,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry and 40 guns. The Sikh guns opened fire on the advancing infantry and preparation were
made for the attack to commence. The 9th regiment formed part of the 5th brigade and was one of the British regiments to
lead the infantry assault, while cavalry was sent out to attack the Sikh forces on their flanks. The infantry then advanced
steadily forward in echelon of lines for a frontal assault in the gathering darkness. A private in the 9th recorded that:-
“Bullets came teeming over our heads as thick as hail stones – had we been mounted on stilts they would have knocked us off!”
After severe hand to hand fighting in which the 9th were hotly engaged, the Sikhs were driven from the field. Losses to the
9th consisted of two men killed and one officer and 49 men wounded.
The following day was devoted to rest and caring for the wounded. The troops remained under arms as information was
received that the Sikh army had reformed and was advancing again to attack. Defensive positions were adopted but no
contact was made with the enemy and at 1 p.m. the men were allowed to cook their meals.
The army remained at Moodkee until the 21st December, when at 2 a.m. the men were roused and ordered to strike camp.
Sixty rounds of ammunition were issued to each man and by 4.a.m. the troops were formed into lines of column and prepared
to move. They advanced for four miles which took nearly six hours due to the poor condition of the road. At 10 a.m. they
were within two miles of the Sikh position at Ferozeshah, and were allowed to rest and prepare breakfast. Gough made a
reconnaissance and prepared to attack at once. The troops were assembled and by 3.30 p.m. the first attack began. The 9th
regiment were in the very centre of the line which stretched for 3,000 yards and was 1,000 yards from the enemy.
The battle began with an artillery duel but it was soon apparent that the British artillery was being out-performed. A general
attack along the whole line of infantry commenced but was met with grape shot from the Sikh guns. As the 9th advanced,
smoke and dust obscured the exact position of the enemy guns and the regiment soon found themselves right under the gun’s
muzzles. Many men were killed or wounded here and the brigade showed signs of panic. Captain Borton rallied them and the
men pressed on and captured the guns at the point of the bayonet, although with the loss of 273 men killed or wounded. The
Grenadier company and part of the 9ths right wing became separated from the brigade and advanced towards the village of
Ferrozeshah where it remained until the next day. The Sikh line was breached at all points and some of his artillery and camp
captured. As darkness fell the Sikh camp burnt and although they had lost most of their defensive positions, their artillery
still pounded the hopelessly mixed up troops. Although Gough’s army was in possession of the camp it had still not subdued
the Sikh army. The troops were greatly fatigued, thirsty and hungry while the Sikhs carried out heavy firing from the
darkness. The Sikh entrenchments, which had been abandoned, were soon reoccupied by the enemy. The men of the 9th in
Ferrozeshah were isolated and came under heavy fire when the Sikhs discovered their vulnerable position.
It was resolved that a further attack should commence at daylight the flowing morning. The battlefield was shrouded in a
dense mist as the troops started to assemble and it became apparent that the entrenchments which had been carried the day
before would have to be re-taken. The line advanced forward at a steady pace and then their pace increased as they swept
over the trenches and drove the Sikhs before them.
|The battle of Ferrozeshah|
|James Hennes received a |
medal for his participation in
the campaign which bore the
word “Cabul”, although the
medal was awarded for
service at Ghuznee and
Candahar as well. There were
731 medals awarded to the
9th out of a total of 3,500
awarded to European troops.
The advance continued as they captured artillery and finally the Sikh camp. As the enemy was driven from their camp, the
victorious troops halted, desperate for water. The wells were found to have been contaminated but the men still drank the
water with unfortunate results.
The victory celebrations were suddenly halted when a cavalry officer rode in and reported that another Sikh army was
approaching from Ferozepore. Gough formed his divisions into a hollow square around the village of Ferrozeshah but the
men’s ammunition was nearly depleted. The Sikh artillery pounded Gough’s position while their cavalry threatened the British
flanks. The British cavalry charged and managed to force the Sikh masses back but their horses returned exhausted. The
cavalry then reformed and departed in the direction of Ferozapore. The infantry were told to trust to their bayonets as
most of the men had now run out of ammunition.
However, the retreat of the cavalry had confused the Sikhs, who thought that they were about to be attacked by this cavalry
from their rear. They began to slowly withdraw in the direction of the Sutlej River. This event was almost unbelievable and
it was later remarked upon that “India has been saved by a miracle”. The battle of Ferrozeshah was over.
The heaviest losses occurred to the infantry during the battle; fell upon the 9th regiment, who had 273 casualties. These
included 3 officers and 67 men killed and 6 officers and 197 men wounded. Consequently the regiment had suffered 330
casualties in three days.
The Sikhs withdrew across the Sutlej River initially but crossed it again to occupy an entrenched position at Sobraon. The 9th
regiment was ordered to observe this enemy position and on the 10th January 1846 marched from Arufkee to carry out this
assignment. It then marched to the outpost of Rhodawalla on the 1st February. The brigade to which the 9th belonged was
placed in reserve and consequently played only a small part in the battle at Sobraon, which took part on the 10th February.
The regiment suffered a further five men killed and one officer and 28 men wounded, seven of whom died from their wounds.
The Sikh army was now shattered and the 9th regiment was part of the force which marched from Rhodawalla on the 13th
February and arrived at the Sikh capital of Lahore on the 20th without any opposition.
James Hennes served through the Sutlej Campaign and was involved in three major battles without being wounded. For his
services he received a Sutlej medal with a Moodkee reverse, and clasps for Ferrozeshah and Sobraon
The 9th regiment remained at Lahore until the 23rd March when it was ordered back to Meerut, arriving on the 15th April and
remaining there until the 23rd October. The regiment then received orders for embarkation to return to England and
proceeded to Allahabad. When it arrived, the men were offered the opportunity to return to England or volunteer to join
another regiment and remain in India. James Hennes was one of the 154 men in the regiment who decided that they would
stay in India and volunteered to join the 98th regiment on the 1st November 1846.
The 98th regiment had been stationed in South Africa and had then fought in the first China war, before moving to India in
1846. It was stationed in Calcutta and Dinapore before being ordered to the Punjab in 1848, when war broke out again with
the Sikhs. The 98th regiment took no part in the fighting during this campaign, but were used as an escort to the Governor
General and also protected a large convoy which carried treasure to Lahore.
James Hennes received another medal for this campaign, being the Punjab medal but with no clasps.
The regiment then went on to serve on the North West Frontier between the years 1849 to 1851 around the area of the Khohat Pass.
The 98th regiment then moved to Calcutta where it served until returning to the United Kingdom in May 1855.
James Hennes had served for nearly twenty years in India without any serious illness, which seems incredible when the 98th
had recorded over 1,100 deaths, mainly through sickness, during the nine years that it had been in the country. That did not
mean however, that this length of service had not affected his health.
In 1856 he qualified for a Long Service and Good conduct medal, having completed twenty one years service and never
apparently appearing in the defaulter’s book. His character was described as being “very good” on his discharge papers.
The award of the Long Service medal meant that he also received a gratuity of £5.0.0d per year.
In July 1857 a regimental board met to consider the future of James Hennes. The medical officer stated that “this man
suffers from chronic rheumatism together with general debility and is quite unfit for further service”. His discharge was
arranged and James Hennes was finally discharged at Chatham on the 11th August 1857. There is no further record of him
after he left the army and his group of four medals were unfortunately split up some time later. There is only recent
provenance of his Cabul, Ghuznee and Candahar medal still surviving.