|THE NINTH LANCERS AND
THE MAHRATTA WAR
The last campaign against the Mahrattas began at the end of 1843 against the Mahratta princely state of Gwalior. The Hindu
Mahratta confederacy had previously fought Wellesley and Lake at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the First and
Second Mahratta Wars and Lord Hastings in 1815 in the Third Mahratta War. British victories had dramatically reduced the
power and territories of the Mahrattas. However, in 1843 an internal political disputed arose within the princely state of
Gwalior concerning the regency during the minority of the son of the late ruler, with one claimant being backed by the British
and the other supported by the native army of Gwalior.
Ostensibly to encourage a peaceful resolution of the Mahratta problem, but in reality to show support of their candidate’s grab
for power, it was decided by Lord Ellenborough that a large show of force should be made by the British. Some 10,000 troops
under the command of Sir Hugh Gough, the Commander-in-Chief, were assembled within striking distance of the border of
Gwalior. Although an attempt at reconciliation was made by the claimant who was supported by the Mahratta Army, it was
decided that Gough’s army should nevertheless enter the state of Gwalior and occupy the city of the same name. The Mahratta
Army, instead of being intimidated as anticipated, on Christmas Day unexpectedly marched out to oppose the approaching
The Ninth Lancers formed part of the column under the command of Major General Grey. Lieutenant Colonel Colin Campbell of
the Ninth Lancers had been appointed Brigadier in command of the 1st Cavalry Brigade with Captain Spottiswoode, also of the
Ninth Lancer, as his Brigade Major.
The Major-General Grey’s column, ten miles in length, crossed the Scinde River at Seondha and on the 28th of December
reached the Jhansi road south of Antree. There they received word that a force of 12,000 Mahrattas was holding the pass to
the city of Gwalior. The column marched westward close to the foothills towards the Punniar Pass where they were to join up
with main army. Unbeknownst to the British, the Mahratta forces had actually been moving parallel to their column on the north
side of the ridge and had taken up a position on a second ridge overlooking the Punniar Pass to Gwalior. In the afternoon of the
29th, the Mahrattas attacked the column without warning, forcing the British to unexpectedly fight their first action of the
campaign against a larger and very determined and resolute enemy.
The Horse Artillery went into action on the first ridge, with a squadron of the Ninth Lancers as escort, covering the advance of
the infantry. The second squadron of the Ninth Lancers followed in support of the infantry attack which was let by the Buffs
on the left and the 50th Regiment on the right. The infantry crossed the first ridge under heavy artillery and musket fire,
swept down into the ravine between the two ridges and up onto the second ridge. Ultimately, the infantry attack drove off the
Mahratta forces, which after a determined stand finally abandoned their guns and took flight. The cavalry was unable to follow
up the fleeing Mahratta as the hilly and rocky terrain was unsuitable for cavalry.
The column under General Gough had also engaged the Mahratta Army on the same day at Maharajpore, with Sir Hugh Gough’s
forces also emerging victorious over the Mahrattas. With the Mahratta Army having suffered two major defeats within a single
day, all significant hostile resistance was at an end and the campaign was effective over.
The Ninth Lancers, along with the other regiments present, were granted the Battle Honour “Punniar” for their part in the
battle. The officers and men of the Ninth Lancers who participated in the battle were awared the bronze Punniar Star.
Unfortunately, no nominal roll of the recipients is known to have survived.