Lieutenant Colonel Robert Gordon of the Madras Army

Sir John Steell (1804-1891)


Madras (Chennai) Cathedral

This is a fine representation of an Indian soldier of the 37th Grenadiers. The Madras Army at the time comprised 52 Regiments of “Native Infantry”; only the 37th were designated as Grenadiers on account of their gallant conduct during the war in China in 1841 (the First Opium War). It is interesting that the sculptor, or more likely Gordon’s fellow officers and family, preferred a figure of an Indian soldier (sepoy) rather than of a British officer or of Gordon himself. This is quite common in British colonial monuments. As Barbara Groseclose comments; “Inclusion in a special fraternity, one based on the notion that all soldiers shared a life of rigor and duty, was awarded to the sepoy” by including him on monuments”. The soldier is shown with “his arms reversed” (meaning his weapon is pointing towards the ground) mourning at the tomb of his officer. [continued below]

Photographs and text by Tim Willasey-Wilsey

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