Sutlej Campaign Medal (Aliwal 1846), awarded to Cpt. Lawrence Fyler 1846
Obverse, a bust of Queen Victoria
Reverse, Victory standing facing left holding a wreath with war spoils at her feet; the exergue bears the inscription "ALIWAL / 1846"
Sutlej Campaign Medal (Aliwal 1846), 1846
In the early nineteenth century the Sikh Kingdom of the Punjab bordered the possessions of the British East India Company, and so a succession crisis from 1839 onwards that caused persistent mutinies among the Sikh soldiery caused the Company to build up its forces on the border at Ferozepur. Diplomatic relations rapidly deteriorated and on 11 December 1845 the Sikh army crossed the Sutlej River in a pre-emptive attack on the British. Initially the British feared imminent defeat, as they were outnumbered and undersupplied, but the Sikhs did not press home their advantage before the British managed to reinforce their position, whereafter they drove the Sikhs back in a series of decisive battles. The subsequent treaty of Lahore, of 22 February 1846, forced the Sikh Kingdom to surrender Kashmir to the East India Company and established a British resident in Lahore; it also resulted in the gift of the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond to Queen Victoria. Sikh resentment of the British intrusion resulted in a new outbreak of war in 1847.
In April 1846 the East India Company instituted a medal for participation in the war of 1845-1846. Four issues were made, differing in the name of the battle inscribed in the reverse exergue; the recipient was given that whose inscription was the first of those in which he had fought. Bars were issued for his battle honours subsequent to this. This medal was awarded to Captain Lawrence Fyler of the 16th Lancers, whose medal group has come entire into the Watson Collection and shows a career spent in India and the East fighting for the Crown from the 1830s to the 1850s. This medal recognises his participation in perhaps the clearest victory of the war, the Battle of Aliwal in which a Sikh bridgehead across the Sutlej River was eliminated by a British division, owing not least to the cavalry charge that Captain Fyler himself led.
The Collection includes with this item a plaque which records the circumstances of the award as follows: "`It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity of stating to you officially that your squadron, commanded and led by you, made a most brilliant charge, breaking through a large body of the enemy's elite infantry, completely disorganising and routing them.' Brig'r McDonald. C. B. Commanding 1st Cav. Bde. at Aliwal. Capt. (afterwards Genl.) Tyler [sic] was severely wounded at this battle."
This medal is attached to two others and the catalogue of the Watson Collection considers it as part of Group 8 (this comprising two assemblages and two loose medals). For provenance of the group see those entries.