|General Charles Dumbleton
Charles Dumbleton was born on the 13th of May,
1824, the second son of Henry Dumbleton, Esq.
of Blackwater, Hampshire, a former Writer in
the Bengal Civil Service. After attending the
lower school of the Royal Military College at
Sandhurst, Charles emerged as a College Cadet
in May, 1840.
He was subsequently nominated for the Bengal
Cavalry by H.E.I.C. Director W.B. Bayley.
Sailing for India on H.M.S. Plantagenet on
the 9th of June, 1840, Charles was given a
temporary commission as a cadet in the Bengal
Cavalry the same day. He arrived at Fort
William on the 13th of November, 1840, and
admitted to the establishment and the
temporary promotion to Cornet he had received
in July was made permanent. On the 2nd of
December, Charles was posted to do duty with
the 6th Bengal Cavalry at Sultanpore, Benares.
On the 7th of June, 1841, Cornet Dumbleton was posted to the 10th Bengal Light Cavalry. The 10th L.C. was then stationed at
Ferozepore, the site of the largest military magazine in the Bengal Presidency.
In 1843, the independent Mahratta state of Gwalior had become unstable due to court intrigues following the death of the
Maharaja in February of that year and the appointment of a Regent for the new young Maharaja installed in his place. Fearing
for their safety, the British Resident and the British-backed Regent for the young Maharaja were forced to flee Gwalior.
Cornet Dumbleton was present with his regiment when a British force under the command of General Sir Hugh Gough known as the
“Army of Exercise” was formed at Agra to operate along the border of Gwalior. The 10th Light Cavalry formed part of the 4th
Cavalry Brigade under the command of Brigadier J. Scott.
On the 16th of December, the Army of Exercise marched from Agra, having been ordered to cross the border into Gwalior.
Intelligence had reported that the Mahratta army was encamped at Chaunda on the Asin River; however, on December 27th
advance parties of the British force encountered picquets of the Mahratta infantry at the village of Maharajpore
(or Maharajpoor). Unbeknownst to the British, in order not to risk engaging the British with their army’s back to a river the
Mahratta commanders had advanced a portion of their force to Maharajpore, where their force had dug in to await the British.
On the 29th of December the British Force, still believing the main Mahratta force was located at Chaunda, marched towards
Maharajpore with the view to encamping there. General Gough plan was to launch an attack from Maharajpore against the
Mahratta force at Chaunda. He intended to turn the Mahratta’s left flank with Brigadier Cureton’s Cavalry Brigade, supported
by Major-General Valiant’s 3rd Brigade of Infantry. He then intended to attack the enemy’s center with the 2nd Brigade of
Infantry under Brigadier Stacy. However, as the British force moved forward, the cavalry and Lane’s troop of artillery made
contact with the enemy near the village of Maharajpore. Lieutenant Simeon of the 10th Light Cavalry was the first British soldier
to be fired upon by the Mahratta artillery. Charles Dumbleton was then present with the 10th L.C. and years later described
what happened next:
“…We turned to the East, and charged down on a battery of some twelve guns…there were two batteries, supported by
Cavalry. We should have been exterminated, but they had not time to lower their guns, and shot over us. We then made a
long sweep around Shikarpore, etc.”
Realizing he had made a huge mistake as to the location of the Mahratta army, General Gough immediately ordered his artillery
to the front. However, the British heavy guns were in the rear of column and the entrenched Mahratta artillery substantially
outnumbered the few British guns in action. The Mahratta round and grape shot having a devastating effect on the British
infantry, General Gough, famous for his lack of patience, ordered General Littler Brigade which was directly in the center of
the Mahratta line to advance and attack the Mahratta artillery. The 39th Regiment, supported by the 56th Native Infantry,
advanced and after firing a rifle volley when they were within fifty yards of the enemy charged the Mahratta guns with only
their bayonets. The Mahratta gunners, having fired their matchlocks, put up a desperate resistance, fighting hand-to-hand with
the British attackers but finally giving way. The Mahratta infantry kept up a heavy fire as the British advanced and the 4th
Brigade under Brigadiers Dennis and Stacy were soon ordered to join in the attack.
Meanwhile, on the reverse side of the village, the Mahratta artillery had opened fire on General Valiant’s Brigade which consisted
of H.M. 40th Regiment, and the 16th and 2nd Native Infantry Regiments. The British forces advanced under a heavy fire, and as
there was no cover, suffered heavy casualties. Firing a volley as they closed in on the Mahratta artillery, the British force then
charged with the bayonet, cold steel being General Gough’s weapon of choice for infantry. The 39th and 56th Native Infantry
Regiments also fought their way into the village.
Cornet Dumbleton was again in action with the 10th L.C. in this phase of the attack on Maharajpore. General Gough in his
Despatch states: “During these operations, Brigadier Scott was opposed by a body of the enemy’s cavalry on the extreme left,
and made some well-executed charges with the 10th light cavalry, most ably supported by Captain Grant’s troop of horse
artillery and 4th lancers, capturing some guns two standards, thus threatening the right flank of the enemy.” The enemy was
soon cleared from Maharajpore and the village set on fire.
Maharajpore having been carried, the General Valiant’s force, supported by the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, advanced to attack the
right side of the remainder of the Mahratta force which was still entrenched at Chaunda. H.M. 40th Regiment and the 2nd and
16th Native Infantries took three strongly entrenched gun positions which the enemy defended with frantic desperation.
General Littler’s force, with Captain Grant’s troop of Horse Artillery and the 1st L.C. in support, also advanced to Chaunda,
following General Gough’s original plan of attacking the center of the main Mahratta force. H.M. 39th Regiment, supported
by the 56th Regiment, advanced under a heavy fire, gaining the main entrenched position of the enemy at Chaunda and effectively
ending the Mahratta’s resistance.
On the same day as General Gough defeated the Mahratta force at Maharajpore and Chaunda, the so-called “Left Wing” of the
British force under the command of Major-General J. Grey, C.B. crossed the frontier into Gwalior. By the use of two separate
columns General Gough had hoped to cause the Mahratta Army to split it forces and this goal was achieved. The Left Wing
immediately engaged the Mahratta Army at the village of Punniar, twelve miles southwest of the City of Gwalior, and swiftly
defeated the Mahratta force. The Gwalior Campaign was soon at an end.
For his services during the campaign, Cornet Charles Dumbleton received the Maharajpoor Star. In a move that was to be copied
on subsequently occasions, the Star was made from the bronze of captured Mahratta guns. Finely engraved in running script on
the reverse is “Cornet C. Dumbleton 10th Regt Light Cavalry”. The medal was originally issued with a brass hook on the reverse in
order to attach the medal directly to the uniform jacket. As was common, Charles had a privately made silver suspender attached
to his medal for wearing and a silver ribbon bar added to pin the medal to his uniform.
Charles Dumbleton was promoted to Lieutenant in the 10th Light Cavalry on the 18th of December, 1845. In an unusual
appointment for a cavalry officer, in August of 1849, while still serving with the 10th Light Cavalry, Lieutenant Dumbleton
was ordered to do duty with the Public Works Department where he was placed in charge of the Office of the Executive
Engineer of the Mhow and Meerut Divisions. Additionally, having been placed at the disposal of Major Baker, Superintendent
of Canals, Charles was appointed Officiating Executive Officer of the Canals in the Northwestern Provinces and given a staff
salary. As a result of this appointment, it appears that Lieutenant Dumbleton did not take part with his regiment in the 2nd Sikh
Charles was promoted Captain on the 9th of July, 1855. In April of 1856, Charles married Elizabeth, the daughter of General
Sir Thomas Reed, G.C.B. General Reed was a Waterloo veteran who was destined in just a little over one year to become the
provisional Commander-in-Chief upon the death of Generals Anson and Barnard at the siege of Delhi during the Indian Mutiny.
On the 10th of May, 1857, the Indian Mutiny erupted at Meerut in Northern India. Very soon there were mutinies broke out in
other native regiment at other cantonments in the Bengal Presidency. Captain Dumbleton was serving with the 10th L.C. at
Ferozepore when the native infantry regiments stationed there broke into open mutiny on May 15th. The 10th L.C. stayed loyal
and did good service, earning the thanks of the Commander-in-Chief. However, on the 10th of July, after the native troopers
had shown signs of disaffection, Brigadier Innes as a precaution ordered the sowars of the 10th L.C. to be disarmed.
At the time the Regiment was disarmed, Captain Dumbleton was on escort duty at Umballa with a squadron of the regiment.
The squadron under Charles command was ordered to bring in a treasure chest of tax revenue located at Thaueysur which was
then being guarded by the 5th Native Infantry which was suspected of being sympathetic to the rebels. However, upon arriving
at Thaueysur Captain Dumbleton found that the suspicions regarding his own unit’s untrustworthiness had preceded them.
Captain M’Neile, the officer in civil charge of Thaueysur, refused to release the treasure to Captain Dumbleton, and ordered
him and his men to return to Umballa. While in route to Umballa, Captain Dumbleton learned at Ludhiana of the disarming of the
10th L.C. at Ferozepore. He immediately ordered his troopers to give up their arms and horses and they did so without hesitation.
On the 19th of August, having secretly rearmed themselves, the troopers of the 10th Light Cavalry at Ferozepore rose in broad
daylight and rushed the guns of the Battery of Artillery next to their own lines. Killing two gunners and wounding several others,
they temporarily seized control of the artillery. They were quickly driven off, however, but due to a blunder by the artillery,
instead of being captured, about two hundred of the mutineers were able to steal cavalry horses and ride off to join the rebel
army then occupying the fort at Delhi.
Captain Dumbleton’s remaining military services during the early to middle stages of the Mutiny are difficult to establish. His
official record of war services for the period merely state that the “Particulars of War Services Were Not Furnished by this
Officer”. The records of the Meerut Volunteer Cavalry, a volunteer cavalry regiment raised immediately following the outbreak
of the Mutiny at Meerut, records a Captain Dumbleton as having served with that unit during the early months of the Mutiny.
It is unclear, however, whether that officer was Charles Dumbleton, although given his prior experience in the Bengal cavalry,
it is certainly possible that it was.
For his service during the Indian Mutiny, Captain Dumbleton received the Indian Mutiny medal without clasp. It was named to
him as a Captain in the 10th Light Cavalry.
Charles’ service record picks up again in September of 1858 when he was appointed to officiate as Deputy Commissary of
Ordinance at the Ferozepore Magazine. Following this assignment which ended in January of 1859, Charles held various high
level engineering appointments within the Bengal Public Works Department. Although still an officer in the Bengal Army, it
appears that subsequent to the Indian Mutiny, Charles never again actually served with a Bengal regiment. Charles was promoted
Major in June of 1864, Lieutenant-Colonel in August of 1865, Brevet-Colonel in August of 1870, and Colonel in August of 1877.
The 1881 Census shows Colonel Dumbleton, Elizabeth and their five daughters and one son living in Droxford, Hampshire. Charles
was promoted Major-General in July of 1881, and in August of 1884, he transferred to the Unemployed Supernumerary List.
He was promoted Lieutenant-General in February of 1886 and General in August of 1890.
In the 1901 Census, General Dumbleton, age 76, is shown as still living in Droxford with his wife, his five daughters, his son and
their six servants. This was soon to change as the Times of 4 February 1902 reported the tragic event of General Dumbleton’s
home, Milington House, having caught fire and burnt to the ground. Two servants died in the conflagration and the damage to the
residence was estimated at £17,000.
General Charles Dumbleton died at East Horsey, Surrey in 1916, at the age of 91.