|A FAMILY GROUP TO THE
|24th Pioneer Regiment, Punjab Infantry.
DCLI, RE and RAOC
Quintin (also spelled Quentin) Southey Griffith was born in 1827. Little
is known about his birth or his parents other than he was a British citizen
by birth and his father’s name was John.
Quintin story must be constructed from the rather limited information
available for a European probably born in India during the early part of
the Nineteenth Century. Some information regarding Quintin’s career in
India can be deduced from his rank and postings. As we will see, Quintin
was to receive the Indian Mutiny medal named to him with the rank of
Overseer Sergeant, a rank held only by men serving on the Town Major’s
List. Thus, we know that Quintin served on the Town Major’s List (later
called the Unattached List), which consisted of Sergeants and Warrant
Officers of the Bengal Army who were not attached to a Bengal regiment.
These men had generally been recruited from European NCOs serving in
Bengal regiments and occasionally from NCOs of British regiments
stationed in India. The men on the Town Major’s List were generally
posted for service with the Barracks, Ordinance, Commissariat
Departments, or as in Quintin case, the Department of Public Works.
The Department of Public Works was the department of the East India
Company charged with the design, building and maintenance of the EIC’s
physical plant including roads, bridges, railroads, and canals. Quintin
served in the Canal Department in the Northwest Provinces. The Director
and Superintendent of the Canal Department, Northwest Provinces was
always an officer of the Bengal Engineers doing duty with that
Department. The Bengal canal system was designed and built for
agricultural irrigation and not as a transportation system.
On the 10th of May 1857 a punishment parade was held at the large military cantonment in Meerut for 85 native troopers of
the 3rd Light Cavalry. On the previous day these troopers had refused to load their rifles with a new cartridge they feared
was greased with animal fat in violation of their religions tenants. This ill-advised parade became the catalyst for a rising by
the Bengal native regiments against the Europeans at Meerut and was the start of what was to rapidly become the Great Indian
Mutiny. Soon, most of the native regiments across the Bengal Presidency had either mutinied or had been disarmed due to
concerns about their loyalty.
The Meerut rebels placed the old Mogul king on the throne at the fort at Delhi and the influx of mutineers from all over the
Bengal Presidency soon swelled the fort to over a quarter of a million inhabitants. For strategic and propaganda purposes,
retaking the fort at Delhi quickly became of primary importance for the British.
On the Ridge outside Delhi a siege army began to gather, assembling for when the time would come for the assault on Delhi.
This Delhi Field Force consisted of European regiments, loyal native troops, volunteers, civilians, officers from disbanded and
disarmed regiments, Bombay and Madras regiments, and others. In response to the mutiny of the Bengal native troops, the
Government of India also quickly raised several new regiments.
One of the new regiments raised by the Government of India was a new unit of the Punjab Irregular Force called the Mazhbi
Company of Pioneers, generally referred to simply as the Punjab Sappers (re-designated in 1858 as the 24th Infantry
(Pioneers), Punjab Irregular Force). The Punjab Irregular Force, although a military force, was not under the command of the
Army but was commanded by the Commissioner of the Punjab, a member of the Bengal Civil Service. John Cave-Brown in The
Punjab and Delhi in 1857 told the story of the formation of this new regiment:
Then it was that Colonel Edwardes, ever ready in resource, thought of a class little known and generally despised, yet whose
physical power and spirit of endurance would render them invaluable in such a crisis—the Muzbee Sikhs. A few words
respecting these may not be out of place here. They were originally Hindoos of the Sweeper caste. When Govind Singh, the
warrior Gooroo of the Sikhs, resolved on destroying all caste distinctions among his followers, this hitherto despised class
saw the door opened for themselves to the " baptism of the sword," and though perhaps never admitted to the higher ranks
of the Sikh community, they held a recognized (sic) position among their co-religionists; perhaps the more so that the body
of the murdered Tegh Bahadoor had been brought away from Delhi by men of that caste. Of this class hundreds were to be
found in all parts of the Punjab at the annexation; and although unwilling to enter into our ranks, where the demon caste still
held fatal rule, they were ready to avail themselves of the field for labour opened before them in the extensive public
works which were soon covering the Punjab, more especially on the different canals in the course of formation in the Doabs.
Here they were employed in hundreds, when the mutiny broke out and put a stop to all such works. Thus thrown out of
employment, these men were living idle, congregated at the heads of the several Doabs till the chance of labour should
return. When the call was made upon them, they eagerly seized the opportunity, came forward for service, and were
drafted off in large numbers to Delhi…
Along with seven other Public Work Department sergeants, Quintin was posted to the newly formed Punjab Sappers with the
rank of Overseer Sergeant.
In July of 1857 three companies of Punjab Sappers marched into the British camp at Delhi to become part of the Engineering
Brigade. These three companies, totaling approximately 300 men, had already tasted battle, having fought off an attack by
mutineers on their march to Delhi. We know that Overseer Sergeant Griffith was part of this group as a dispatch from the
Secretary to the Chief Commissioner for the Punjab records that it was at this time that officers from the Punjab Department
of Public Works and Punjab Sappers were ordered to Delhi to form a unit of pioneers.
According to The Indian Order of Merit, by Parrett and Chhina:
“Prior to the final assault on the city, the Engineering Brigade was immersed in two essential tasks. The first was to
strengthen the defences on the Ridge, the British being themselves invested and regularly attacked by the rebel army
during the preliminary states of the siege. The varied work included digging trenches, repairing or constructing batteries,
clearing undergrowth and demolishing buildings to provide clear fields of fire. In the course of this work, several bridges
were blown up and various measures taken to ensure that the rebels were not mining the defences…”
The Punjab Sappers present at Delhi would ultimately grow to over 600 men. The work was dangerous and almost 100 men of
the Punjab Sappers were reported killed during the siege, although this number is undoubtedly low. Many of the native enlisted
men were not well known by their British officers who did not realized that in accordance with long standing Sikh military
tradition, a deceased enlisted man was often simply replaced by a relative without the death ever being recorded.
The assault on Delhi began at dawn on the 14th of September and parties of sappers were attached to each of the four
assaulting columns. Ten members of the Punjab Sappers were part of the demolition party charged with blowing open the
Kashmir Gate, eight of whom formed part of the actual explosion party blowing open the gates of the fort. The remaining
members of the Punjab Sappers were attached to the various columns and moved batteries, blew up barricades and even
participated in the street fighting. According to The Indian Order of Merit, overall sapper casualties, including the Punjab
Sappers, amounted to almost 300 men. Two thirds of the British Officers of the Engineering Brigade were killed or wounded
during the attack.
After the reduction of the fort at Delhi, the Punjab Sappers remained there helping to repair the city and to rebuild its
defenses, although elements of the unit were sent out with Colonel Greathed’s and General Shower’s columns which were involved
in pacifying the surrounding district.
In December of 1858 a column under the command of Colonel Seaton advanced from Delhi towards Cawnpore to meet up with
General Campbell’s force for the final attack on the city of Lucknow. Colonel Seaton’s column included Hodson’s Horse, the 7th
Punjab Infantry, the 1st Bengal European Fusiliers, as well as 120 officers and men of the Punjab Sappers including Overseer
Sergeant Quintin Griffith. Having been joined by the 1st Sikh Irregular Cavalry while on the march, Colonel Seaton’s column
met up with General Colin Campbell force at Fatehgarh.
General Campbell’s reinforced column began the march towards Lucknow on the 26th of February, arriving on the 1st of March
at the large walled enclosure about four miles from Lucknow known as the Alambagh. The following day General Campbell
commenced operations against the rebel forces. In any siege and assault the engineers and sappers play an important role.
Given the natural and man-made obstacles at Lucknow, including the river and canals, the rebel’s defenses and the sheer size of
the city of Lucknow, the services of the sappers were much in demand during the advance across the Gumti River, the assault on
the city and the urban street fighting that followed. Lucknow was finally cleared of rebels on the 21st of March 1858.
The 1859 Bengal Army List shows Quintin, then serving with the Corps of Bengal Sappers and Miners, having been promoted to
the warrant officer rank of Sub-Conductor in January of that year. As previously noted, for his services during the Mutiny,
Quintin received the Indian Mutiny medal with clasps for Delhi and Lucknow named to him as an Overseer Sergeant in the 24th
Pioneer Regiment, Punjab Infantry.
Following the conclusion of the hostilities of the Mutiny, Quintin returned to the Public Works Department in the Canal
Department, Northwest Providences, serving in various stations along the canal. He was promoted to Conductor on the 15th of
March 1861 when he was listed as “Supervisor 1st Grade, Punjab.” In March of 1869, then holding the rank of Deputy
Commissary, Quintin was given the honorary commissioned officer rank of Ensign in the Bengal Army.
On the 19th of June 1861, Quintin married Sarah Anne (one source gives her middle name as Jane) Deacon at Peshawar. Sarah
was the daughter of Joseph Deacon and was then 18 years old. Quintin and Sarah had one child, a son they named William
Henry Griffith, born on the 9th of August 1867 at Mhow, India.
On the 30th of June 1877 at Umballa, India, Quintin Southey Griffith, then an Assistant Engineer in the Public Works
Department died of apoplexy as a result of kidney disease. He was 50 years old. Buried the same day, Chaplain John B.
Brunesson performed the burial service. His wife and ten year old son survived Quintin.
Little information can been found concerning Quintin’s son William Henry Griffith. We know that on the 14th of February
1893 at Muttra, India William married Ellen Agnes Sinclair, the daughter of William Sinclair. They had a son, Stanley
Vincent, who was born at Bareilly, India on the 12th of January 1898. One source states that in 1916 William Henry Griffith
was the Officer Commanding the Military Works Department at Bombay, India, but this has not been confirmed. William
Griffith died at Bombay on the 14th of December 1917 and was buried the following day.
In April of 1906, bound for school in England,
Stanley Vincent Griffith left Calcutta aboard
the British India Steam Ship Navigation
Company’s ship Goorkha. On the 19th of July
1917, while a student at the Camborne School of
Mines, Cornwall, Stanley joined “B” Company
Inns of Court Officer Training Corps,
transferring to No. 11 Officer Cadet Battalion
on the 9th of November, 1917.
Having applied for a temporary commission in
the Infantry in the Regular Army, Stanley
received a Special Reserve Commission as 2nd
Lieutenant in the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, The
Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry, on 1 May 1918
and was attached to the 1st Battalion, entering
France on the 17th of May 1918. He was
subsequently promoted Lieutenant but in March
of 1920 resigned his commission to return to his
studies at the Camborne School of Mines.
In January of 1941 Stanley was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers from the R.A.O.C. as an Ordnance Mechanical
Engineer 4th Class with the rank of Lieutenant. As the only campaign Star he received for his service during WWII was a 1939-
45 Star, Stanley most likely saw active service during WWII in an area such as Norway or France in 1940 or perhaps Crete in
1941. His Defense medal suggests a subsequent period of service in the UK.
Returning to civilian life, as a mining engineer Stanley traveled extensively. Ship passenger lists record him as having worked in
Argentina, Ghana, Nigeria, and the United States, traveling numerous times to most of these locations. He was a member of the
Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (Great Britain) and an associate member of the South African Institute of Mining and
Metallurgy. In 1938 he authored Alluvial Prospecting and Mining, a 2nd edition being published in 1960.
Despite Stanley’s extensive business travels, Stanley and his wife Florence Lemon Griffith Stanley made their permanent
residence at Porthleven, Cornwall. Florence died on the 28th of October 1965 in Torquary, Devon. Stanley Vincent Griffith
died at Liskeard, Cornwall during the first quarter of 1980. Much like Quintin Southey Griffith, the grandfather he never knew,
Stanley served his country in time of war but once having performed his duty returned to his profession of engineering.
The son of Stanley and Florence Griffith, Lieutenant Hugh Stanley Lemon Griffith, Royal Artillery and Hong Kong and Singapore
Royal Artillery, attached 1 Heavy A.A. Regiment, is killed by the Japanese on the 5th of March 1943, one of the 600 gunners
executed in the Ballali Island massacre of British P.O.W.s. He is commemorated on Column 3 of the Singapore Memorial. The
gunners are captured when Fortress Singapore surrenders and transported by the Japanese to the small island in order to build
an airstrip. When the Japanese guards receive word that Allied forces are closing in on Ballali, they murder every British POW
on the island.