The Battle of Aliwal by Jason Askew. (GL)
The Battle of Aliwal was fought on 28th January 1846 between the British and the Sikhs. The British were led by Sir Harry Smith, while the Sikhs were led by Ranjodh Singh Majithia. The British won a victory which is sometimes regarded as the turning point of the First Anglo-Sikh War. 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.
Comment from the artist, Jason Askew.
This painting shows the extremely violent and brutal clash between British cavalry (16th Lancers) and Sikh infantry at the battle of Aliwal. The Sikh infantry formed 2 triangles, a version of the famous Allied/British squares used at Waterloo, but the Sikhs, after firing a ragged volley at the attacking horsemen, dropped their muskets and assaulted the cavalry with their traditional Tulwars (sabres) and dhal shields. These shields are also used offensively, to punch, and to slice with the edge. Although the British horsemen claimed a victory as they felt they successfully dispersed the Sikh triangles, and forced the Sikh infantry to retreat to the nullah (dry stream bed) in the Sikh rear, this opinion is open to debate. The Sikhs traditionally fought in loose formations, with tulwar and shield-taking full advantage of their abilities as swordsmen, blades being weapons with which the Sikhs are particularly skilled in the use of. The Sikhs actually inflicted more casualties on the 16th Lancers than the lancers inflicted on the Sikh infantry. British eye witnesses spoke of the sight of the grotesquely swollen and distorted dead bodies of men and horses of the Her Majesty's 16th Lancers, stinking in the sun and littering the ground at Aliwal - testimony to the progress of their charge. The regiment lost 27% of effectives out of a total strength of over 400 effectives. The lancers were dreadfully hacked about, many being cruelly maimed for life, losing hands and limbs to the slashing strokes of the Sikh blades. The Sikhs had no compassion for the cavalry horses either - many of the poor animals (over 100 by some accounts) had to be shot, due to having their legs hacked clean off, or being literally disemboweled by Sikh Tulwars. In the painting, the central figure with the wizard-shaped Turban, is in fact an Akali - a sect of extremely religious Sikhs, who disdained the use of armour, and often fought to the death with a fanatical and suicidal devotion.
|Item Code : DHM6114GL||The Battle of Aliwal by Jason Askew. (GL) - This Edition|
|Limited edition of up to 50 giclee canvas prints. || Size 36 inches x 22 inches (92cm x 56cm)||Artist : Jason Askew|
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