Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Anderson's Post

Anderson's Post

Following onward, we come to Anderson’s Post, one of the outer houses on the left flank of the defenses  The rebel forces were barely 40 yards to the left and approximately 80 yards along the front of the house, making it one of the most exposed and vulnerable positions in the defensive works. The post was battered mercilessly during the siege. During attacks, shells were thrown from the Post Office over Anderson’s Post and musketry fire swept over their left face from Sago’s and the Judicial Commissioners - not all the damage caused to Anderson’s Post came from without.  The close proximity to the enemy however, made it an ideal position for the digging of mines, intended more to hinder those being dug by the enemy.  It was designated a “listening gallery” attempting to ascertain in which direction the rebels were mining next. 

The rebel forces were barely 40 yards to the left and approximately 80 yards along the front of the house, making it one of the most exposed and vulnerable positions in the defensive works. It was commanded by Captain Anderson of the 25th NI, a detachment of the 32nd Regiment and 8 Uncovenanted Civilians, but never numbered at any given time, more than 20 men.

The compound wall of Anderson’s house had been demolished and a stockade put up in its place – in the stockade was a ditch, followed by a mound of about 5 feet, then another deep ditch at the bottom of which pointed bamboos had been placed. The rebel’s artillery was placed almost directly in front of the building on the other side of the wall- the constant fire from 9 guns and a howitzer that had been lost during the retreat from Chinhut caused tremendous damage. The howitzer was able to throw 8 inch shells clean through 2 walls of the house with one shot, leaving the house a ruin quite from the start.

At the commencement of the siege on the 30th of June and following the disastrous battle of Chinhat, Anderson’s Post felt the first of the desperate shelling that would accompany them throughout the siege – on this day, a gun was brought to bear on the pillars of the veranda, crashing them one after the other, until the roof caved in, burying a certain Mr. Capper alive under some three to four feet of masonry. Setting to work displacing the pieces of brick masonry and making air holes to prevent the man from suffocating, with the enemy now concentrating their fire on the spot where they were working, forced now to lay on their stomachs, protected by some six inches of wall, shoveling the debris with their hands. Only Corporal Oxenham of HM 32nd braved the fire and exposed himself above the wall, in order to expedite the digging. It took nearly an hour to free Mr. Capper, after which it was found he had not been injured, beyond a few bruises.

Shortly after, the cannonade on the upper part of the house became so severe, with round shot and shells sweeping it from end to end, the defenders were forced to move to the lower level.  The only useful room downstairs however, had been taken over by a sheltering family - rather then turn them out, Anderson and his volunteers chose to take up quarters in the corridor. They had no place to bathe or to dress, and cooking was impossible so the group subsisted for a time on whatever tinned goods they had, mostly biscuits and sardines.  Captain Anderson eventually had the family removed from the post when living conditions had further deteriorated. It was just as well– in the course of a few weeks, Anderson s Post became so damaged by shot and shell that the chances of being shot were only marginally higher than being killed by loose bricks and the defenders were buried alive two more times by falling debris. Somehow, they held on to the post until November, though by then they were defending nothing more than a pile of rubble and a few walls. 

“Then there was a constant state of anxiety as to whether we were mined or not; and we were not quite sure, whilst we were at a loophole, that we might not suddenly see the ground open, or observe the whole materials of the house fly into the air by the explosion of a mine! Shells came smashing right into our rooms...then followed round shot, and down tumbled huge pieces of masonry, and bits of wood and bricks flew in all directions…When an 8-inch shell exploded in the room, you could not see anything for several minutes, and all we heard after was the cry of individuals, asking each other from opposite directions, if it was  "all right" and now and then a poor fellow would be seen to creep out of a heap of lime and bricks, and say, "I'm not hurt, thank God." 
 A Personal Journal of the Siege of Lucknow – Captain R.P. Anderson (1858)

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