South Africa, Egypt and India 1796-1854

South Africa, Egypt and India

The British government was becoming apprehensive of the Cape of Good Hope falling under the control of the French by which the sea route to India was gravely menaced.

To help in thwarting this the 8th Hussars found themselves embarking at Portsmouth and after a voyage of ninety days arrived in good order at the Cape in November 1796.

For the next five years, they were constantly occupied in restoring law and order among the Boers of South Africa, some of whom were sympathetic to the French cause.

These duties came to an end in 1801 when they were dispatched on a secret expedition that took them to North Africa to meet the soldiers of Napoleon in Egypt.

By the time they arrived the power of France in Egypt was on the wane and after the fall of Alexandria, her dominion in Egypt vanished.

The following year the regiment retraced their journey up the Nile again, marched a hundred miles across the desert and embarked at Suez on 4 June 1802 for India.

This tour would last for 20 years.


The Regiment saw continuous action throughout their long stay in India. They were initially sent in 1802 at the behest of the East India Company to combat Napoleon’s ambitions in an alliance with the Marathas and the Sultan of Mysore.

They distinguished themselves at the Battle of Leswarre in 1803.

The Battle of Leswarree, 1 November 1803

The regiment, commanded by Colonel Thomas Packenham Vandeleur, played a key role in the victory over the Marathas at Leswarree, effectively bringing about the end of the Second Maratha War. After the fall of Agra, the main body of the Maratha army was pursued through forced marches and was caught by the British Cavalry Division, under Colonel Vandeleur, near the village of Leswarree at dawn on 1 November.

The three cavalry brigades had to hold the enemy through repeated charges against heavy fire until the infantry could catch up with them.

The 8th were all mounted on white horses, but Colonel Vandeleur rode his favourite black charger and was killed at the front of the regiment during the charge.

The Marathas were held albeit at a heavy cost, but when the infantry arrived before noon they suffered a heavy defeat.

On 17 November of that year in pursuit of Holkar, another Maratha leader, the 8th came upon his force encamped under the walls of Ferruckabad and in the ensuing confusion, massacred no less than 50,000 Marathas at a cost of 15 casualties.

Insurrections by Pindaris, Sikhs and Marathas kept the Regiment busy until in 1822 Colonel Tarleton received orders that his Regiment was to be armed, clothed and equipped as Hussars and on 11 January 1823 the Regiment left India as the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars.

On returning to England the next 30 years consisted of constant moves and annual inspections. Individual squadrons of the 8th Hussars were stationed in numerous palaces during this period, from Brighton to Ballincollig, from Norwich to Newcastle; three times their duties took them to Ireland, where even the disastrous potato famines scarcely affected their routine and wherein 1849 they acted as escort to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their first visit to Dublin.

Campaign Medal

The Army of India Medal was approved in 1851 for the issue to officers and men of the British Army and Honourable East India Company. The award was given retrospectively by the East India Company to survivors of various actions during the period 1799 to 1826.

It was issued to the survivors of various actions during the period 1799 to 1826. This period encompassed four wars: the Second Mahratta War (1803-4), the Gurkha War (1814-16), the Pindaree or Third Mahratta War (1817-18) and the First Burmese War (1824-26). Each battle or action covered by the medal was represented by a clasp on the ribbon; twenty-one were sanctioned indicating service in a particular campaign or battle.

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