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Authors: Garry Douglas Kilworth

Rogue Officer

BOOK: Rogue Officer
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Garry Douglas Kilworth
was born in York into a military family. He spent seventeen years in the RAF before embarking on a dual career working for an international telecommunications firm and writing and now is the author of some fifty novels. He has won the British Science Fiction Award and the World Fantasy Award and was longlisted for the Booker Prize and twice shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.

 

 

 

Other titles in this series by Garry Douglas Kilworth

Soldiers in the Mist

The Winter Soldiers

Attack on the Redan

Brothers of the Blade

Rogue Officer

Kiwi Wars

Rogue Officer
A Fancy Jack Crossman Adventure

Garry Douglas Kilworth

 

 

Constable & Robinson Ltd
55–56 Russell Square
London WC1B 4HP
www.constablerobinson.com

First published in Great Britain Severn House Publishers Ltd, 2007

This edition published in the UK by Constable,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd., 2013

Copyright © Garry Douglas Kilworth, 2007

The right of Garry Douglas Kilworth to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in
Publication Data is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-47210-923-1 (ebook)

Cover design by JoeRoberts.co.uk

This one is for David Ross

Acknowledgements

Thanks go to Major John Spiers of the Light Infantry Museum, Winchester, for his assistance.

Author’s Note

Whether the uprising of 1857 in India was a mutiny, rebellion or war is hotly debated by historians. This work of fiction is seen through the eyes of British soldiers while they are still currently involved in the action and therefore it is regarded as a mutiny by them. It began at a place in northern India called Meerut on the 10th of May, 1857, when 85 members of the 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry were thrown into prison for refusing to use cartridges they believed to be greased with either pig or cow fat. The Hindu soldiers were revolted at the thought of the latter, the Muslim soldiers at the idea of the former. Whether the cartridges were indeed greased with animal fat was almost irrelevant to the outcome. A number of grievances had gathered to a head at that time: a belief that local religious practices were being threatened; the growing arrogance of British officers of the East India Company; fear of having to do duty overseas – and the situation in India was ripe for explosion.

At Meerut the Indian troops rebelled, releasing their comrades from prison and killing British officers in the process. The rebels then marched on Delhi, which was the home of the Bahadur Shah, the aged Mughal Emperor, who was a figurehead for the mutiny. The rebellion gathered momentum, drawing into it Indians who were not sepoys but civilians, ranging from disaffected land owners to opportunist vagrants. Delhi fell to the rebels and British families were slaughtered. The British rallied at this point and a siege of the city began. There were in fact only around 35,000 British troops in the whole of India and they were vastly outnumbered by Indian troops, but a force of 4,000 men were in position by June, two thirds of them consisting of Sikhs, Punjabis and Gurkhas. This number increased to nearly 10,000 by September, including General John Nicholson’s reinforcements from the North West Frontier. Eventually the city was stormed, desperate and bloody street fighting ensued, and finally Delhi was retaken with the loss of John Nicholson and many other lives on both sides.

Further east, in Cawnpore, rebels under their leader Nana Sahib massacred British soldiers and their families. Reprisals, once Cawnpore was retaken in June, were swift and devastating. Many innocent Indians were caught up in the fury which followed and were either hung or dismembered by being blown from cannons (a method of execution adopted from the Mughals). The British troops were in no mood for leniency or mercy and the thirst for revenge continued for some time afterwards.

In the meantime the mutiny had spread to Lucknow, where the rebels began attacking the Residency in July 1857. The Commissioner of Oudh had been forewarned and had gathered supplies and fortified the Residency ready for a siege, having only 1,500 troops at his disposal, half of them Bengal sepoys who had remained loyal to his command. The Commissioner, Henry Lawrence, was killed in the first fighting and command passed to the colonel of the 32nd Foot. The battles were fierce and unrelenting and many died on both sides. A relief force under Major-General Havelock arrived, but this new force was unable to free the defenders of the Residency. Finally General Sir Colin Campbell arrived and on the 16th of November his men stormed the rebel enclosures. Campbell’s British soldiers had received news that at Cawnpore British women and children had been butchered and thrown down a well. Their blood was up and they massacred the Indian mutineers in the grounds of the Residency. Tantia Topi, a leader who had risen amongst the rebels, then attacked Campbell with a large force in December, but was defeated with the additional help of Gurkha troops sent by the King of Nepal to aid the British in recapturing Lucknow.

At the opening of
Rogue Officer
it is April 1858 and mopping up is taking place in Central India. Lieutenant Jack Crossman and his men are in Rohilkand, where there are battles still to be fought, notably Bareilly and Gwalior, and rebel leaders still to be subdued, amongst them that fierce female warrior, the Rani of Jhansi. The East India Company itself is in deep political trouble back in Britain, where there is talk of abolishing it and transferring the government of India to the British Crown. The Company’s Army is about to be reorganized under direct British rule and its Indian troops will no longer be commanded by East India Company officers.

One

Oudh, India, 1858


G
entlemen, are you ready?’

‘I will be when I get these damn boots on,’ snarled Captain Deighnton, one of the three duellists about to indulge in single combat with fellow officers. He was sitting on the stump of a tamarisk tree allowing a sweating Indian servant to force his feet into a pair of brown leather boots. ‘Damn your clumsiness, you oaf,’ shouted Deighnton. ‘Get those bloody boots on.’

‘The captain’s feet have swollen,’ murmured the servant.

Deighnton struck the man around the side of his head with his fist, knocking him off his feet.

‘I’ll tell you when my feet have swollen.’

Captain Deighnton had arrived in slippers, but insisted on changing his footwear before fighting, as if it mattered whether he killed or died in outdoor footwear.

His efforts were watched impatiently by three clusters of officers. Captain Deighnton had elected to fight two duels on the same morning, such was his crowded timetable in these matters. The army was just about to march and there would be no space for duelling once they were on campaign.

Deighnton finally rose from his seat only to find his trousers were covered in a white sticky substance known as manna, which tamarisk trees exuded after they had been attacked by insects.

‘Hell and damnation!’ roared the cavalry captain.

Lieutenant Jack Crossman, waiting in the wings for his turn to have his head blown off by the captain, remarked mildly, ‘Well, as I see it you have three choices. You can fight with dirty pants, you can change ’em, or you can take ’em off and fight bare-bottomed. Which is it to be?’

Deighnton ignored him. Instead the captain indicated that the first duel should begin. This was with a much younger man than the captain; a boy not beyond two decades. The youth’s father had purchased him an ensigncy. Naturally this was in an infantry regiment, a section of the British Army Captain Deighnton despised. In his opinion the only true warrior was one who went into battle with a thoroughbred horse underneath him. Those infantry officers who had made the rank of field officer – majors and above – were nearly acceptable since they were permitted steeds. Any officer of foot below that rank was fair game for his spitefulness, which of course engendered fury.

Deighnton’s youthful adversary was deep in conversation with two brother officers, about the same age as he. They were all Indian Army – John Company’s men – another reason for Deighnton to pour scorn on them. Jack Crossman could see the boy was afraid. He was pale, shaking a little, and obviously anxious. It was right for him to be so. The captain was a notoriously good shot with a pistol. He had already dispatched two opponents in previous duels and should have been court-martialled long ago.

One of Deighnton’s seconds went to the group of young men and asked whether Ensign Faulks was ready.

‘I – I am as ready as he,’ said the young man nervously.

‘Gentlemen,’ called the adjudicator, ‘please take your places.’

White shirts, tight trousers, brown boots. Both men, dressed alike, stood back to back. In the branches of bare trees, standing just forward of the village huts, some local children were sitting and watching silently. Adults too, stood in the shade while their breakfasts were cooking on open fires. This early-morning activity was entertainment. Would that all
firinghis
killed each other in these strange rituals and rid them of masters. Of course the Moguls would then return, but at least change was interesting.

A cavalry officer Jack did not know took him to one side. ‘I’m sure he’ll just wound the boy in the arm. There’s no great honour in killing a youth of his years. Deighnton is quick enough and a good enough shot to do so without danger to himself. Yes, I’m certain he’ll just wing the stripling before the boy can get his shot off.’

Jack fervently hoped so.

‘Just a minute!’

Deighnton’s opponent began fiddling with his belt. All could see his fingers were shaking madly. Jack felt a lump forming in his throat. The boy was terrified. He, Jack, felt afraid for the young man, and afraid for himself. He was next up to face this madman Deighnton. There ought to be a name for officers like him, who enjoyed killing, who seemed to have not a jot of compassion in their souls. Young, old, inept, stupid, it mattered not to Deighnton, a serial duellist. It seemed to be like a drug to him. How he managed to avoid censure from the high command was beyond Jack. The man must have had very powerful friends in very lofty places.

‘All right,’ croaked the young ensign, ‘I’m ready now.’

There was nothing wrong with the boy’s belt. Jack had seen his lips moving rapidly. He had been saying a prayer.

The commands were issued in a clear, calm voice.

‘Walk.’

Deighnton strode, the youth trotted.

‘Turn.’

The ensign actually turned first.

‘Fire.’

A single shot echoed in the morning sending birds into a panic in the bushes and trees.

Deighnton was still standing like a statue, his smoking pistol at a stiff arm’s length.

His adversary fell backwards. As he did so, he spun round. All the witnesses could see a large jagged hole between his shoulder blades where the bullet had made its exit. Blood had soaked the whole of the back of his silk shirt. His body hit the ground sending up a puff of dust.

‘Help!’ A plaintive cry went up. ‘Help! Help!’

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