|LT. COL. CHARLES HAY FAIRLIE
(late 1st European Lt. Cav and
3rd Bengal Light Cavalry)
Born the 5th of September and baptized on the 29th of September, 1837 at
Galston, Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of James Fairlie, Esq., of Holmes, and his
wife Agnes Maria. He received a classical and mathematical education at the
Edinburgh Academy and at N.T. Massie's School in Croydon. The latter was a
crammer, conveniently close to the East India Company's Military Seminary at
Addiscombe, whose professors also examined cadets for the non-technical
branches of the Company's armies.
Charles Fairlie was nominated a Cadet for the East India Company's Bengal
Cavalry by EIC Director Henry Shanks, at the recommendation of William
Fairlie. His relationship with William is not stated, but was possibly an uncle
with EIC connections. Charles passed the Committee at East India House,
London on the 28th of November, 1855.
Charles left for India via the 'overland' route (i.e., Marseilles-Egypt-Bombay)
on the 4th of December, 1855.
[India Office Records: L/HIL/9/236 ff.252-58 Cadet Papers 1855]
An original carte de visite
photograph of Charles Hay Fairlie
in the uniform of the 19th Hussars.
The is no photographer’s backmark
or name on the photo, although
another photo appearing to have
been taken at the same sitting
which is in the collection of the
Regimental Museum bears the
photographer’s name of W. L.
Caney, Photographers, a studio of
some note in Durban, South Africa.
Special thanks are due to Fred
Larimore who held this cdv in his
excellent British military photo
collection and was kind enough to
allow this original photo of Charles
Fairlie to be reunited with his
Indian Mutiny medal.
|Follow this link to
An Enigmatic Enameled Indian Mutiny Medal
Named to Lt. C.W. Fairlie, 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry
Upon his arrival in India, Charles was commissioned as a Cornet on the 4th of December, 1855. He arrived at Calcutta on the
22nd of January, 1856. He was then ordered to do duty with the 2nd Bengal Cavalry on the 29th of January, 1856, and to do
duty with 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry on the 22nd of February, 1856.
Charles was posted to the 6th Bengal Cavalry on the 7th of March, 1856, but transferred, at his own request, back to 3rd
Bengal Light Cavalry on the 13th of March, 1856, presumably to be with his elder brother James who was then serving in that
Regiment. With the events to follow, this was a decision which was to have a profound effect on Charles’ life.
In 1856, the 3rd B.L.C. was stationed at Meerut, a major cantonment in the north of India. Charles was promoted to
Lieutenant in the 3rd B.L.C. on the 23th of November, 1856.
On Sunday, May 10th, 1857, the 3rd B.L.C., following a punishment parade on the previous day for the native troops who had
refused to use the new greased Enfield cartridge, rose in open mutiny against their officers. Charles’s brother, Captain
James Fairlie, who was officer of the day, and the Acting Regimental Adjutant Lieutenant Meville Clarke attempted to regain
control of the men of the Regiment on the parade ground, but to no avail. The sowars of the 3rd B.L.C. were in open revolt
and the Great Indian Mutiny had begun.
The sepoy and sowars of the various native regiments stationed in Meerut roamed throughout the city killing any Europeans
they came upon and sacking and burning the residences of their British officers. Many Europeans were saved by the
intersession of their servants and other loyal natives, but many others died horrible deaths, literally butchered by the mobs.
Eventually, after releasing all of the prisoners from the goal and breaking open the Treasury, the 3rd Light Cavalry rode
off to Delhi where the old Mogul King was to be again reinstalled on his throne. In an act, the wisdom of which is still
debated, the Commander of the Station at Meerut did not order the 6th Dragoon Guards in pursuit of the mutineers, but
allowed them to proceed to Delhi unmolested. On the 12th of May, a small detachment of the 3rd B.L.C. who had remained
loyal, under the command of Lieutenant C. H. Fairlie, rode off towards Delhi accompanied by his fellow officer Hugh Gough,
later General Sir Hugh Gough, G.B.C, V.C. (Gough, Old Memories, Blackwood and Sons, London 1897 at page 74, et seq.)
Charles is shown in the Bengal Army List issues of July and October 1857, and January and April 1858, as still serving with
the 3rd Bengal Cavalry. The July 1858 issue, however, lists him as then serving with the “1st Bengal European Light Cavalry,
doing duty with 1st Punjab Irregular Cavalry”. He also served with Colonel Jones in the Rohilcund District with Cureton’s
Multani Horse. For his services in the Mutiny, Lieutenant Charles Hay Fairlie received the Indian Mutiny medal, officially
impressed to him as a Lieutenant in the 1st European Light Cavalry. The Indian Mutiny medal was the only campaign medal
Charles Fairlie was to receive. It should be noted that the medal roll for both the 3rd B.L.C. and the 1st B.E.L.C. does not
reflect that Lieutenant Charles H. Fairlie was entitled to the clasp for Delhi, rather but rather only a no clasp medal.
Either an official mistake was made regarding the clasp or Charles felt himself entitled to the clasp, possible for the
services mentioned by Hugh Gough (who did in fact receive the clasp for Delhi), and had the clasp attached, but the medal
does have an original clasp for Delhi with what appear to be official rivets. Further, the medal is alleged to have been sold
by the family with the medal as now constituted.
Charles’s older brother Major James Fairlie did not survive the Mutiny. He died of liver failure at Meerut on the 8th of
January, 1858. James’s no clasp Indian Mutiny medal is noted on the roll of the 1st B.E.L.C. as having been forwarded to
his brother, Charles.
[India Office Records: No.688 in L/HIL/l0/63,65 & 67 Bengal Service Army Lists, and published Bengal Army List]
In 1862, the 1st Bengal European Light Cavalry was transferred to the British Army as the H.M. 19th Hussars. Lieutenant
Charles Hay Fairlie appears in the British Army List under that regiment from 30 July 1862. He is promoted Captain on
the 8th of January, 1868 and retired as a Major on the 27th of March, 1880. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 1
Charles Fairlie (then age 58) is shown in the 1891 census at living in North Norwood, Croydon, London with this wife Annie
(age 36), his son Charles A. (age 17), and a daughter Emily (age 13). His occupation is given as Retired Colonel.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hay Fairlie died on the 18th of July, 1899 and is buried in John the Baptist Churchyard in Croydon,