This award (relative to the First Sikh War) was sanctioned tho the Army of the Sutlej on 17th April 1846 and was the first officially barred campaign medal given to both officers and men. First Sikh War With the death of Ranjit Singh, 1839, a state of anarchy ensued due to feuding factions within the Punjab. The most powerful anti-British army became increasingly dominant in the state’s internal affairs and war with the Sikhs of the Punjab was an inevitable outcome. The Sikh Army which numbered over 60,000 men and 200 Guns was almost double the size of the Anglo Indian forces which only numbered 35,000 with 100 Guns. The Sikhs crossed the Sutlej into British territory and the British, commanded by General Sir Hugh Gough, anticipating the move, marched to meet it and during the cold weather of 1845-46 four pitched battles were fought.
- Moodkee – 18th December 1845 – Gough with 12,000 men confronted 15-25,000 Sikhs. Sikh casualties were heavy and 17 of their estimated 40 guns were captured. Anglo indian casualties numbered 870.
- Ferozeshuhur 21st – 22nd December 1845 – Gough with a reinforced Army encountered a fortified encampment of 50,000 Sikhs led by Lal Singh at Ferozeshuhur on 21st December. The Anglo Indian force reached 18,000 with the arrival of reinforcements and the battle commenced on 21st and carried on throughout the night. On the 22nd Gough finally cleared the camp only to be opposed by fresh Sikh troops under Tej Singh. Casualties were heavy and supplies of ammunition became short, however the British were fortunate that Tej Singh only made a half hearted effort and was content to withdraw. Sikh losses were estimated at 10,000 with Angl Indian losses at 2,800.
- Aliwal 28th January 1846 – Another Sikh force or about 20,000 men under Ranjur Singh fell back to the Sutlej at Aliwal where Major General sir harry Smith with 10,000 men fought Ranjur on 28th january. Ranjur’s force was relentlessly demolished following an attack spearheaded by the 16th Lancers who broke through and were able to attack the rear. Sikh losses were over 3,000 compared to Anglo Indian losses of 589.
- Sobraon – 10th February 1846 – After Aliwal, the Sikhs withdrew to a strong semi-circular entrenchment backing on to the Sutlej at Sobraon where the final battle was fought on 10th February 1846. Action began in the morning with an artillery bombardment of Sikh positions though this had to be stopped after a couple of hours due to lack of ammunition. Infantry attacks then followed. Eventually the Sikh position was penetrated and Gough was able to cross the Sutlej and finally entered Lahore on 20th February 1846. The Treaty of Lahore was signed on 11th March formally ending the war. The Punjab paid an indemnity, reduced it’s Army, ceded land and became a British Protectorate.
The Battle of Aliwal
The Sikhs had occupied a position 4 miles (6.4 km) long, which ran along a ridge between the villages of Aliwal, on the Sutlej, and Bhundri. The Sutlej ran close to their rear for the entire length of their line, making it difficult for them to manoeuvre and also potentially disastrous if they were forced to retreat.
After the initial artillery salvoes, Smith determined that Aliwal was the Sikh weak point. He sent two of his four infantry brigades to capture the village, from where they could enfilade the Sikh centre. They seized the village, and began pressing forwards to threaten the fords across the Sutlej.
As the Sikhs tried to swing back their left, pivoting on Bhundri, some of their cavalry tried to threaten the open British left flank. A British and Indian cavalry brigade, led by the 16th Lancers, charged and dispersed them. The 16th Lancers then attacked a large body of Sikh infantry. These were battalions organised and trained in contemporary European fashion by Neapolitan mercenary, Paolo Di Avitabile. They formed square to receive cavalry, as most European armies did. Nevertheless, the 16th Lancers broke them, with heavy casualties.
The infantry in the Sikh centre tried to defend a nullah (dry stream bed), but were enfiladed and forced into the open by a Bengal infantry regiment, and then cut down by fire from Smith’s batteries of Bengal Horse Artillery.
Unlike most of the battles of both Anglo-Sikh Wars, when the Sikhs at Aliwal began to retreat, the retreat quickly turned into a disorderly rout across the fords. Most of the Sikh guns were abandoned, either on the river bank or in the fords, along with all baggage, tents and supplies. They lost 2,000 men and 67 guns.
Battle of Moodkee
In the late evening the Sikh guns opened fire. As 30 of Gough’s light guns replied, the Sikh cavalry tried to outflank both flanks of Gough’s army. Although the irregular cavalry, the Gorchurras, were the elite of the Sikh army, and individually very skilled (for example, being able to spear a tent-peg out of the ground at full gallop), they were comparatively ineffective against the disciplined British and Bengal units. A counter-charge by a British light dragoon regiment cut down many Sikh gunners, but in turn suffered heavy casualties from the Sikh infantry. After the initial cavalry actions, the British and Bengal infantry advanced. In the gathering darkness and the clouds of smoke and dust, the advance quickly became disordered. Some Bengal infantry regiments caused casualties among the British units with confused fire. Although outnumbered five to one, the Sikh infantry resisted desperately, and their gunners kept firing volleys of grapeshot until they were overrun. Eventually, after two hours of darkness, the last Sikhs were driven from the field. The British returned to their camp. The British army was unused to fighting or manoeuvering at night, and the battle was nicknamed, “Midnight Mudki”. Casualties among British senior officers were heavy. Among those were two brigade commanders: “Fighting Bob” Sale, who was mortally wounded and died on 21 December, and John McCaskill. Another senior officer killed was Major George Broadfoot, formerly the British representative to the Punjab and now on Hardinge’s staff.