Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Martiniere Post

Ruins of the Martiniere Post

On the 13th of June, led by their principal, Mr. Schilling, 67 boys,  accompanied by 6 masters and the college estates’ superintendent to take up their position in a house called “The Martiniere Post.” It was a strong, single storied, flat roofed building with basements beneath it. In earlier times, the house had belonged to a native banker.  

15 of the senior boys and their masters shouldered arms.  Whereas the smaller ones were employed as messengers or servants and given hospital duty, (mainly pulling pankahs and fanning the flies off the wounded) the senior boys, besides their military duties, kept watch during the day until the masters came on duty at night, stood sentry with the soldiers, took charge of digging waste disposal pits and served as heads of sections, supervising the work of the younger boys. For the younger boys, their day consisted of 12 hour shifts pulling the punkahs and fanning the wounded at the hospital – 36 boys were so employed, with 12 boys working a shift.


As more and more servants continued to leave the compound, they became increasingly used for domestic duties which included grinding grain with a hand mill, fetching water, sweeping the compound and even some cooking.  By September their duties were reduced as the boys had begun to suffer from ill health. Only Rees seems to have shown them some pity:
“The poor Martiniere pupils who go about the garrison more filthy than others, and apparently more neglected and hungry even than we are…That they too should contribute their share of usefulness is but just and fair; but that they should be placed in menial attendance upon the healthy in the garrison is, in my opinion, far from right…”  (Rees, 167)
In spite of their hardships, the Martiniere Post was one of the healthiest in the garrison - only 2 boys died both of dysentery. 2 were shot and wounded, one while stooping to shoot and the other, named Smith, while on message duty. Their general well being was probably benefited by the enforcement of regular discipline, including a daily inspection to ensure they were maintaining their personal cleanliness.

For a month the boys and their masters defended their post mostly on their own, they were later reinforced by men of the 32nd and volunteers of the Uncovenanted Services – Mr. Schilling retained command of the post even after regular troops had been stationed alongside the boys, a rare honor for a civilian. The Martiniere Post continued to be defended by the boys until the 22nd of November and was only abandoned when the retreat was complete.  The boys were present during the last large scale assault on the 22nd, during which they were compelled to withdraw to the basement for shelter when the portico of the building collapsed. Having survived the fearsome cannonade and the final assault, they left the Residency and joined the retreating force.

Remains of the Martiniere Post
The close proximity of the Martiniere Post to the outer walls meant they were constantly under fire from cannons and bullets and the threat of mines and open assault. The most serious of these attacks occurred on the 10th of August when a mine blew up in from of the Johannes House, just short of the post. The veranda was destroyed along with 50 feet of the palisades and defenses.  The outer room, where Mr. Schilling and the Martiniere boys lived was severely damaged, though fortunately, the boys were away at prayers so no one was hurt. The door had been blown down but either due to the shock of the explosion or lack of coordination, the insurgents did not enter the room immediately, and it was it fortuitous that Mr. Schilling had presence of mind in those few minutes to barricade the opening with school tables. Later during the siege, the boys helped dig a mine, from an inner room, which then blew up Johannes House. A marble tablet, still visible, commemorates the spot where the mine was started. The eastern enclosing wall of the Martiniere Post was breached twice during the siege and was finally replaced by a stockade.

"These doorways were defended by the Martiniere boys when the front of the building had been blown up by the enemy's mine."


The Martiniere Post with the marble tablet commemorating the mine

If it wasn’t enough to be under near constant fire from the enemy, the boys also had to pay attention to the shells coming from the Post Office – fragments regularly fell in the midst of the Martiniere Post, and Hilton notes, somewhat sardonically, that this was anything but “a pleasant neighbour to La Martiniere Post.” (Hilton, p.68)

The Martiniere College of Lucknow is the only school in the world to be presented with their own colours and   the boys and their masters received the Mutiny Medal. The last medal holder died in 1940 and was one of the younger Martiniere boys. His name was Charles Palmer. Just 9 years old at the time of the siege, Charles Palmer was relegated during the siege to his brother-in-law Captain Ralph Ousely to carry messages and ammunition. Although Charles father, Colonel Palmer, survived the siege as did Captain Ousely, it must have been a bittersweet achievement - both of Charles’ sisters died, (the unfortunate Susanne and the kind Mrs. Ousley) as did both of the Captains infant sons, Ralph and Gore. 

Before we imagine that the Martiniere boys were beyond reproach, there is an anecdote that shows that finally they were still only boys. The boys who carried arms used to take ten or twenty rounds, would go up to the top of the house in which we were located and fire through the loopholes at whatever seemed a fair target. This included pumpkins and other vegetables that were growing, just out of reach, in Johannes’s garden, outside the line of defense  Unable to forage in this garden, and seeing that there was no other way they could get to the edibles without getting shot at first by the enemy marksmen, the boys made a sport of shooting at the vegetables, following the motto, if they could not have them, then nobody else could either. Following an altercation with Jim the Rifleman who was lodged on top of Johannes House which nearly led to one of the boys- Luffmann- getting killed, (the other boy was Hilton) they received a severe reprimand from the Principal who then ordered, to prevent any further target practice, that the ammunition was to be put out of their reach.

(The Johannes House lay outside the defenses of the residency and was actively occupied by the insurgents from the very beginning. As one of the houses Henry Lawrence was reluctant to tear down, it turned out to be a formidable position with high walls and a flat roof which provided an excellent position for snipers. Two of these were given fitting nicknames by the garrison – Jim the Rifleman and Bob the Nailer).

Who were the Martiniere boys? Although the list is by no means complete, or for that matter, absolute, the following names have been recorded for the boys and masters of the Martinere post:

Pupils

C. Aratoon
D. Aratoon
M. Aratoon
M. Barker
R. H. Baxter
A. Carlow
J. Cawood
W. Clarke
J. Collins
G. Coulturan
E. Creed
G. Creed
G. Curson
E. Des Crosses
J. Dillen
G. Drummond
R. Grucher
E. Hilton
J. Holden
J. Holt
A. Hornby
J. Hornley
D. Isaacson
W. Isaacson
James Luffman
John Luffman
J. Lynch
Daniel MacDonald
David MacDonald
G. Mathews
J. Mathews
W. Mathews
C. McArthur
E. Medley
G. Medley
L. Nicholls
G. Paschand
C. Palmer
J. Phillips
W. Pigott
W. Pritchard
C. Probell
J. Purcell
W. Reid
G. Roberts
J. Sangster
J. Smart
W. Smart
J. Smith
W. Smith
F. Sutton
J. Virtue
G. Wade
W. Wade
H. Walsh
J. Walsh
R. Watkins
S. Wrangle
R.K.Sahu

Masters
Archer, George            
Crank, H.                    
Dodd, Charles  
Mr. Wall
Hilton, William    (designated as an Instructor)        
Ravara, J. de      (Steward)
Schilling, G.        (Principal)
                      

2 comments:

Win Scutt said...

Really moving and interesting. Charles Palmer was my great grandfather. I only found out who he was this evening!

Eva said...

Amazing for me to hear from a relative of a siege survivor! I am glad you found my site and I hope you have found it useful. Should you need any more information regarding Charles Palmer's family (two sisters, brother in-law, 2 cousins and his father were all present) please let me know. Greetings, Eva