Indian Mutiny Medal, with bars for Delhi & Relief of Lucknow, awarded to Pvt. William Baxendale, 1858
Obverse, a bust of Queen Victoria
Reverse, Britannia before a lion standing facing left, she with a wreath in her right hand
Indian Mutiny Medal, 1858
The Indian Mutiny of 1857, now regarded in some quarters of India as the First Indian War of Independence, has a history far too complex to be fairly explained here. In briefest summary, resentment at British snubbing of both Hindu and Muslim religious practices among the Sepoy (indigenous) troops of the British East India Company, whose complaints were regarded as mere superstitious nonsense by the European officers of the Company, became the spark that ignited a metaphorical powder keg of Bengali and Northern Indian resentment at the Company's taxation policies, its ever-more-extensive expropriations of Indian landowners' and rulers' territories under threat of arms, and its rearrangement of the Indian economy to suit the Company's entirely commercial interests.
Initial arson attacks and insubordination in early 1857 were followed by whole-unit mutinies and before long coordinated attacks by indigenous soldiery on Europeans in Indian towns. Full-scale war followed, and an initially-slow British resistance, still aided by many Indian troops, entailed perhaps as vicious a set of atrocities against the rebels as they or their civilian cohorts had committed against Europeans. Indian forces were uncoordinated, despite Bahadur Shah Zafur, Emperor of the Mughal rump state around Delhi, being proclaimed Emperor of all India and Sepoy rebels rallying to his standard. British and pro-British forces had secured the country again by mid-1858, and a programme of purges that became known as "the Devil's Wind", including thousands of executions, sometimes of whole village populations, attempted to ensure that the event would not be repeated. Bahadur Shah was exiled to Rangoon, and the East India Company's rule taken over directly by the British Crown.
One of the first British counter-moves was to send two columns to Delhi, where Bahadur Shah's rule offered an obvious target. A battle against the main rebel force at Badl-ke-Serai drove the Sepoys back onto Delhi and the British there besieged them as far as possible, this and their artillery support not being sufficient to take the city before two months had passed.
Elsewhere in India, the British garrison at Lucknow, in the recently-annexed state of Oudh, was warned of the rising in time to fortify the British Residency. Despite a 90-day siege in which the Sepoy opposition brought up artillery and in which the 1700 British or loyalist troops were reduced to 650 fit for battle, the Residency was held, although an initial relief expedition could not lift the siege and had to join the garrison for a further month of siege. Lucknow was finally relieved in October 1857, evacuated and retaken in 1858.
The bars to this medal indicate that its recipient, Private William Baxendale of the 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, was part of the forces that besieged and captured Mughal Delhi and then marched to the relief of Lucknow. The latter force also went on to relieve Kanpur, but by this time Baxendale appears to have no longer been fighting. Lester Watson purchased his medal at some point before 1928.