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The Battle of Chillianwalla

13 January 1849

Described as ‘the last attempt of Ranjit Singh to recover independence', the battle of Chillianwalla ranks as one of the most remarkable encounters of the Second Anglo Sikh Wars. Fought in January 1849, it was to be followed only a month later, by the battle of Gujarat which led almost directly to the final surrender of the Sikh forces. Chillianwalla, however, was different. So fierce was the battle, with such numerous casualties, that it created great disquiet in England.

The Sikh army had planned well, forming themselves into a majestic battle array along the furrowed hills. Bushes masked their batteries, and compact infantry and cavalry were marshalled with exactness. The battle was furious, lasting throughout the day and well into the night. However, after much heavy rainfall it became uncertain which army had begun to withdraw first. Consequently, both the Sikhs and the British claimed victory.

A memorial to the Battle of Chillianwalla and the cannons used in battle can be found at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

Armour captured by the British Commanding Officer, Colonel Thackwell, was donated by his daughter to the Ipswich Museum and was on view following an exhibition to launch the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail in East Anglia. The exhibition included a magnificent shield taken from the battlefield, providing a brilliant contrast to the more ceremonial ones on display at the Wallace Collection, the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Manchester Museum & Art Gallery.