Edinburgh Castle sign hailing ‘hero’ British soldiers will be replaced after complaint

Edinburgh Castle has revealed it will replace a sign calling British soldiers who fought in the Indian Mutiny ‘heroes’ – after a visitor blasted it for ‘pandering to imperialism’.

Junior doctor Vivek Majumder, 26, was ‘infuriated’ when he saw a ‘distasteful’ sign claiming Lucknow had been ‘relieved’ following a siege in India in 1857.

Bosses at the tourist attraction said an historian is currently working on replacing the sign with something more ‘accurate and balanced’. 

The sign, next to the India Cross on the castle’s esplanade, was ‘too celebratory of the British and dismissive of the Indian forces’, according to Dr Majumder.

Dr Majumder, from Marchmont in Edinburgh, said: ‘The description of the battle wasn’t inaccurate, it was more how the belligerents were presented I took issue with.

Junior doctor Vivek Majumder, 26, was 'infuriated' when he saw a 'distasteful' sign (pictured) claiming Lucknow had been 'relieved' following a siege in India in 1857

Junior doctor Vivek Majumder, 26, was 'infuriated' when he saw a 'distasteful' sign (pictured) claiming Lucknow had been 'relieved' following a siege in India in 1857

Junior doctor Vivek Majumder, 26, was ‘infuriated’ when he saw a ‘distasteful’ sign (pictured) claiming Lucknow had been ‘relieved’ following a siege in India in 1857

‘In my eyes it was blatant pandering to imperialism.

‘It was not the first time I had seen distasteful imperialistic things in Scottish public spaces, but this was the first that painted the British as ‘Heroes’ and that Lucknow was ‘relieved’.’

The Siege of Lucknow followed a mutiny of most of the 100,000 soldiers in the British East India Company’s Bengal Army, stationed in North India, in 1857.

The events are often referred to as the Indian Mutiny, or Indian Rebellion.

Sir Henry Lawrence, the East India Company’s Commissioner in Lucknow ordered his garrison to retreat into the British residency in the city.

The soldiers survived for six months before they were finally reached by a force including the 93rd Highlanders, under the command of Scottish general Sir Colin Campbell.

After reading the sign, British Indian Dr Majumder said he was initially shocked, then ‘infuriated’. Just a week after he emailed Historic Environment Scotland, who are responsible for the sign, officials accepted his criticism and promised to change it.

The sign, next to the India Cross (pictured) on the castle's esplanade, was 'too celebratory of the British and dismissive of the Indian forces', according to Dr Majumder

The sign, next to the India Cross (pictured) on the castle's esplanade, was 'too celebratory of the British and dismissive of the Indian forces', according to Dr Majumder

The sign, next to the India Cross (pictured) on the castle’s esplanade, was ‘too celebratory of the British and dismissive of the Indian forces’, according to Dr Majumder

British Soldiers Were Seen Fighting Their Way Through The Streets' (1908), from 'Our Empire Story,' by HE Marshall around 1920

British Soldiers Were Seen Fighting Their Way Through The Streets' (1908), from 'Our Empire Story,' by HE Marshall around 1920

British Soldiers Were Seen Fighting Their Way Through The Streets’ (1908), from ‘Our Empire Story,’ by HE Marshall around 1920

Edinburgh Castle (pictured) is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland from its position on the Castle Rock

Edinburgh Castle (pictured) is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland from its position on the Castle Rock

Edinburgh Castle (pictured) is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland from its position on the Castle Rock

Dr Majumder said: ‘I don’t think Britain’s past should be forgotten, nor its attitudes in the past. There’s an 8ft stone celtic cross there that needs explaining.

‘But I think this is a step in the right direction in how we should explain the past and examine it from a neutral light.’

Dr Crispin Bates, Professor of South Asian History at the University of Edinburgh, said although Britons saw the event as a ‘great victory’, Indians viewed it as The First National Indian War of Independence.

He added: ‘The crushing of the uprising was seen in Britain as a great victory of British civilisation over violent and barbaric Asiatics.

‘Unsurprisingly, Indians see these events very differently. In 1910, Indian nationalist V.D. Savarkar called it “The First National Indian War of Independence”.

Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, British soldier and statesman in India, with a picture of his family. By July 2, 1857, Sir Henry Lawrence had been mortally wounded. A shell had burst in his room at the Residency and he had a wound in his hip. He died two days later

Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, British soldier and statesman in India, with a picture of his family. By July 2, 1857, Sir Henry Lawrence had been mortally wounded. A shell had burst in his room at the Residency and he had a wound in his hip. He died two days later

Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, British soldier and statesman in India, with a picture of his family. By July 2, 1857, Sir Henry Lawrence had been mortally wounded. A shell had burst in his room at the Residency and he had a wound in his hip. He died two days later

‘Many continue to use this term, seeing in the events of 1857 as an occasion when peoples of all classes and faiths in North India came together to fight successfully for freedom.

‘The 150th anniversary of the Uprising in 2007 was a major occasion for national commemoration.’

A spokesman for HES said the sign would be updated to include a ‘fuller context’, including from the Indian perspecitve.

They added: ‘We agree the use of the contemporary British description of the regiment as the “Heroes of Lucknow” lacked qualification in the context of the siege and the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

‘A fuller context of the siege, including from an Indian perspective, is critical for our visitors to better understand this event and why it led to the erection of the India Cross on the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle.

‘As such, one of our historians is currently undertaking research into the siege and the Rebellion of 1857 to ensure the new content on an updated panel, is accurate and balanced.’ 

The Siege of Lucknow: Dramatic chapter in history of the Raj that held Victorian England agog

The Siege of Lucknow began in May 25, 1857, when British-employed Indian soldiers, known as Sepoys, mutinied in the city of Lucknow – in the north of India.

The group of around 5,000 Sepoys, which later grew to around 30,000, besieged the residency – the home of the British Resident General in the area.

At the time, the role was held by experienced administrator, Brigadier-General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, who had only been appointed to the role six weeks earlier.

He faced mounting discontent in the region, which had been annex by the British East India Company a year earlier.

At the time, Sepoys, who formed part of the company’s vast private army, were becoming increasingly concerned their own religious customs and traditions were being pushed aside for more Christian values and activities.

The British had earlier replaced Indian aristocracy with British officials, while Christian missionaries were challenging the religious beliefs of the Hindus.  

A year before the rebellion, in March 1857, a Sepoy called Mangal Pandey attacked British officers at the military garrison in Barrackpore.

He was arrested and then executed by the British in early April. 

But the flash-point came over the introduction of the company’s new Enfield Rifle.  

The British Residency in Lucknow, India, 1858. The Residency was the centre of the first Siege of Lucknow and the scene of the death of British military commander Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence

The British Residency in Lucknow, India, 1858. The Residency was the centre of the first Siege of Lucknow and the scene of the death of British military commander Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence

The British Residency in Lucknow, India, 1858. The Residency was the centre of the first Siege of Lucknow and the scene of the death of British military commander Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence

To use the gun, soldiers had to bite off the end of a cartridge before loading a shot into the rifle.

But the cartridge was rumoured to be lubricated with the fat of both cow, which was sacred to Hindus, and pork, forbidden by Muslims.

As a result, neither group could put the fat of the animals into their mouths without going against their religions. There is no evidence the cartridges were actually lubricated with animal fat. 

Two weeks before the Siege of Lucknow began, a mutiny broke out in a city to the north-west, called Meerut, and the soldiers marched on Deli.

There the local Sepoy garrison joined the Meerut men, and by nightfall the Mughal emperor Bahādur Shah II had been nominally restored to power. 

The mutiny quickly spread to Agra and Kanpur, with mutineers commonly shooting their British officers before carrying out massacres in Delhi and Cawnpore – murdering women and children. 

The battle that broke out in the Bengal Army was known as the Indian Mutiny to the British, but the First War of Independence to Indians and continued for two years until the fall of Gwaliar on June 2, 1858.

Back in Lucknow Lawrence, sensing the danger, called women, children and pensioners into the residency – while others came of their own will – and began to prepare for a siege.  

On May 30 – the Muslim festival of Eid most of the Oudh and Bengal troops at Lucknow broke into open rebellion. Lawrence, initially with an army of around 1,700 soldiers, including the 32nd Foot Regiment, managed to drive the rebels out of the city.

In an attempt to prevent the rebels reforming, Lawrence led an expedition to attack the group, but it was unsuccessful and the British were themselves driven back to the Residency.  

Lieutenant William George Cubbitt, of the 13th Native Infantry, was awarded the Victoria Cross – Britain’s highest honour – several years later, for his act of saving the lives of three men during the retreat.

Bombardments began on June 30. In once incident, a roof fell and trapped a civilian. Corporal William Oxenham saved the civilian, in the midst of heavy rifle fire, and was also awarded the Victoria Cross.

The attack was repulsed, but By July 2, Lawrence had been mortally wounded.

A shell had burst in his room at the Residency and he had a wound in his hip. He died two days later.

Those inside survived on diminishing rations and diseases such as smallpox and scurvy were rife.

Damage caused by a mine to the Chattar Munzil, also spelled Chutter Munzil, during the siege of Lucknow

Damage caused by a mine to the Chattar Munzil, also spelled Chutter Munzil, during the siege of Lucknow

Damage caused by a mine to the Chattar Munzil, also spelled Chutter Munzil, during the siege of Lucknow

The first relief attempt came on September 25 when the 78th Highlanders, under the command of Major General Sir Henry Havelock, fought across rebel-held territory. 

By the time the army reached the Residency too many men had died and it was too risky to rescue those stuck inside. Instead, the men joined the garrison and improved defences.

On November 16, a much larger force led by Lieutenant General Sir Colin Campbell stormed a walled enclosure that blocked the way to the Residency.

They reached the Residency on November 19 and by November 27 those inside had been evacuated.  

Following the mutiny The East India Company was abolished in favour of the direct rule of India by the British government. 

Another significant result was the beginning of the policy of consultation with Indians.

The Legislative Council of 1853 had contained only Europeans and behaved as if it were a fully-fledged parliament. 

Insensitive British-imposed social measures that affected Hindu society came to an abrupt end. 

Losses: British, 2,500 casualties of 8,000 troops; Indian, unknown number of casualties of some 30,000 rebels. 

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