Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Guides

I was searching for material on Henry Dermot Daly and came across The Story of the Guides by G. J. Younghusband. Daly led the Guides in the siege of Delhi during the Indian mutiny of 1857. The book is very short, but it reads like a Kipling story. Indeed, it suggests that Gunga Din, the hero of a Kipling poem made into a popular adventure movie of my childhood, was based on a water carrier of the Guides who was awarded the title of the bravest man in a battle, enrolled in the Guides (although that was not normally allowed for lower caste Indians), eventually becoming a native officer of the Guides and winning another award for bravery.

My son points out that the Guides were also the subject of the Kipling poem, "The Ballad of East and West":

OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

For the Victorian age, this is quite a surprising statement of the equality of people from England and India.

The Guides were an amazing innovation when created in 1846. They served on the frontier between India and Afghanistan, drawing their soldiers from the mercenaries from the border. They were dressed in khaki, designed for comfort in the Indian climate rather than in the red wool of most British troops of the time. They were to be expert in the areas in which they served, available for use as guides of other troops (hence the name) and for intelligence, as well as the normal military functions of the time.

General Sir Henry Dermot Daly

Henry Dermot Daly one of the Dalys from Daly's Grove in Roscommon, although he saw the Isle of Wight as his home in the British Isles. His father, who served under Wellington in the Peninsula Campaign, also served in India. Henry Dermot served as the Agent for the Governor General for Central India, as later did his son Hugh. Apparently my branch of the Dalys is connected to that of the Indian Dalys from some time in the 18th century, and in fact the two branches are still in touch today.

No comments: