published the 12th January, 2016
One eyewitness was horrified at what he saw:
The scene and stench were overpowering. I felt myself terribly convulsed, and could observe that the numerous native spectators were awe-stricken — that they not only trembled like aspen-leaves, but also changed into unnatural hues. Precaution was not taken to remove the sponge-and-load men from the muzzles of the guns; the consequence was that they were greatly bespattered with blood, and one man in particular received a stunning blow from a shivered arm!
The main immediate cause of the revolt seems to have been the wrapping used for rifle cartridges. The rule was that soldiers had to bite the end off each cartridge before firing. The cartridges were rumoured to be lubricated with beef or pork tallow, making them taboo for the mainly Hindu and Muslim soldiers.
Bengal Brigade is a 1954 film starring Rock Hudson set during the revolt. Hudson plays a brave British officer who sides with the men under his command rather than the army hierarchy.
Following the first wave of revolt, Britain decided to take India in hand. Though the vast Indian territories were considered the jewel in Britain’s imperial crown, they were in fact under British colonial domination for under a century. In 1919, a British general ordered his troops to shoot at a crowd of non-violent demonstrators. The Amritsar massacre, as it became known, killed several hundred people and was a major factor in the movement that eventually led to Indian independence in 1947.