lee-Enfield Gun and the Sepoys Rebellion

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by HA96, May 9, 2019.

  1. HA96

    HA96 Member

    Today 162 years ago in Merath, British India 85Sepoy men were downgraded for refusing to use this gun.


    Stefan.
     
  2. Vintage Wargaming

    Vintage Wargaming Well-Known Member

    Not the Lee Enfield surely, but the earlier 1853 Pattern Enfield rifle-musket, also used in the Crimean War and American Civil War.
     
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  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    The Indian sepoys refused to use the Enfield rifle because at that time, a rumour spread that the cartridge were greased with the fat of cows and pigs.

    Pattern 1853 Enfield - Wikipedia
    The Enfield P53 was introduced to Indian troops under British rule in 1856.[6] The Enfield rifle-musket was a contributing cause of the Indian rebellion of 1857. Sepoys in the British East India Company's armies in India were issued with the new rifle in 1857, and rumours were spread that the cartridges (referring here to paper-wrapped powder and projectile, not to metallic cartridges) were greased with beef tallow, pig fat, or a combination of the two – a situation so abhorrent to Hindu and Muslim soldiers based on religious beliefs.


    TD
     
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  4. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Has anyone ever established whether or not the grease issue was actually true? I note that the National Army Museum mentions the rumours but has nothing definite to add one way or the other. You'd think they'd know...
     
  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    To load both the old musket and the new rifle, soldiers had to bite the cartridge open and pour the gunpowder it contained into the rifle's muzzle, then stuff the paper cartridge (overlaid with a thin mixture of beeswax and mutton tallow for waterproofing) into the musket as wadding, the ball being secured to the top of the cartridge and guided into place for ramming down the muzzle.

    Not proof, but why would they change something that works and was standard practise - maybe the enemies of the British at that time decided to start the rumour to destroy confidence etc

    TD
     
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  6. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

  7. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

    Good question. They could tell the soldiers it was mutton fat but I'll bet the armories used any type of stuff available on any given day. Even if they ordered mutton tallow (and why would they, absent religious considerations) what was to stop the renderer from throwing anything he had into the mix?
     
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  8. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Back in Blighty, certainly. Probably a lot less likely if they were locally manufactured. Religious requirements were part and parcel of army life so the 'British officers didn't care' seems a bit of a glib excuse, though this is the time of the Company.
     
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  9. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

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  10. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

    Sorry, I didn't mean to say the officers didn't care. But did the guy at a civilian rendering factory topping off a 50 gallon barrel of tallow that was a little low care?
     
  11. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Didn't mean to imply you were, so you're OK! It's another commonly-stated cause of the mutiny: nasty British officers making the poor sepoys defile themselves with unclean/sacred cartridges.
     
  12. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Mutton tallow is fine as its neither cattle or pig fat, and they would be eating sheep/mutton anyway - just so long as the muttom is cooked low and slow - yummy

    Nighty night boys
    TD
     
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  13. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    The fact that the Muslim's were told the cartridges were covered in Pig Fat, whilst the Hindu's were told that they were covered in Cow fat, should tell you all you need to know about this myth...that it was just that, rumour and myth. The origins of these tales was suspected to be Russian agents working in the area and it should be remembered that this is the period known as 'The Great Game' when Russia was attempting to subvert British rule in India for its own gain.

    The British in Indian were very alert to local religious sensibilities and so would not have been so crass, or stupid, to have made a mistake like this. However, one thing that did underlay the Mutiny was the appearance of very many Christian missionary's trying to convert the people. This really did get peoples back's up and the areas where the local Governors allowed this to go unchecked were the same areas where the initial uprising began. There were also some economic factors underpinning all of this and drought and famine had caused some suffering amongst the people. So, it wasn't just one thing but a accumulation of things. It should also be noted that many of those who took part in the Mutiny did not seem to have much issue in using the weapons issued to them!
     
  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    I suspect the stories about Russian agents were excuses by the British to avoid admitting that their rule was unpopular with the native population. It did not need Russian agents to spread rumours.
     
  15. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    That's a bit of a low blow, lumping the Raj in with europhiles and Democrats...
     
  16. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Actually not, and I'll introduce you to Indians today who will tell you freely that Britain left India 60 years too early!
     
  17. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Short and sweet:
     
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