Britain's Fighting Elephants.

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Britain's Fighting Elephants.

Postby Josh&Historyland » 04 Aug 2013 18:38

I ran across a post from 2011 while researching War Elephants that had a pictorial display of an article from Eerybody's Magazine C 1908 called Britain's Fighting Elephants. Detailing peacetime duties and antics of an Elephant drawn artillery unit called the "Heavy Field Battery"

Link here,
http://gallimafry.blogspot.co.uk/2011_11_01_archive.htm

Anyway I'd like to ask members if they know anything about the size, organisation and equipment of this unit.

Josh.
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Re: Britain's Fighting Elephants.

Postby Mark » 04 Aug 2013 21:54

An interesting thread/question, Josh! I am fascinated by this and the use of camels etc. Sadly my knowledge in this area is somewhat lacking. There is a little information in 'War Elephants' by John M. Kistler of which there is an online copy with Google Books: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=-5RH ... ar&f=false

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Re: Britain's Fighting Elephants.

Postby Josh&Historyland » 05 Aug 2013 00:40

Ran across this article which sheds some light on organisation.

http://www.kipling.org.uk/rg_majservants_heavies.htm

But it seems, like Mark's book lightly touches on, that Elephants had been in use as transport for artillery since the Indian Mutiny and probably before. I've picked up hints from some site's that I've looked at that ordinary Artillery companies employed elephants in bad terrain. For instance in an extreme case a detatchement of 35 men of the 5th Battery 25th Brigade - Royal Artillery used Indian Elephants to transport two heavy mortars in Abyssinia in 1868. And a picture taken by Felice Beato after Lucknow 1858 shows the Royal Artillery's heavy guns harnessed to an Elephant. I am assuming that Elephant transportation was formalised sometime after the mutiny.

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Re: Britain's Fighting Elephants.

Postby Maureene » 05 Aug 2013 09:14

Josh, the FIBIS Fibiwiki has a page "Artillery Elephants"
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php?title=A ... _elephants

I have added the two links you quoted above, although the first one said the page didn't exist and I found the alternate
http://gallimafry.blogspot.com/2011/11/ ... phant.html. The article "Britain’s Fighting Elephants" was published in 1900.

Traditionally elephants had been used for a long period of time in India for military purposes, although I don't quite know when the East India Company started using them. At least one unit was disbanded c 1903, and I suspect all the British Army elephant batteries may have also been disbanded around this time. There is a c 1935 photograph for an elephant battery for Gwalior, which was a Princely State.

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Re: Britain's Fighting Elephants.

Postby Josh&Historyland » 05 Aug 2013 11:17

Thanks Maureene.

I get the impression that the EIC were using them in the early 1800s and probably before, there are some watercolours I've seen of elephants accompanying infantry regiments. I think though that they weren't formalised as official units. Rather they were organised and were supplied like bullocks were, as needed, I'm not sure when the distinctive batteries mentioned in the above link were formed.
It is also my understanding that the Indian princes kept Elephant batteries as photographs continue to appear with them in past the date you say the British disbanded them.

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Re: Britain's Fighting Elephants.

Postby Josh&Historyland » 06 Aug 2013 00:41

Look a topic on this forum which clears up where the drivers come from Sweet!!! Plus a little extra :)

http://www.victorianwars.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=6181#p24598

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Re: Britain's Fighting Elephants.

Postby Josh&Historyland » 06 Aug 2013 15:23

Does anyone know which actions, battles or sieges the Heavy Field Battery's were deployed in. I know they were in Pathan Revolt and some were sent to Abyssinia, but I'm not sure at all about their record.

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Re: Britain's Fighting Elephants.

Postby Liz » 18 Aug 2013 07:28

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Re: Britain's Fighting Elephants.

Postby Josh&Historyland » 18 Aug 2013 15:13

Thanks Liz, great photo's too!

All further info still welcome.

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