“Motoring in India is already becoming not only one of the most attractive pastimes of the leisured tourist, but an inestimable advantage to the work of the official and business man. . . . It is incomparably the best and most agreeable way of seeing the country. . . . It affords a really first-hand knowledge of the native and his habits. . . . It permits rapid and exhaustive sight-seeing. It affords the impression of real novelty in touring,” wrote Charles Watney and Mrs. Herbert Lloyd in their 1913 book India for the Motorist: A Guide for the Tourist and Resident.
Travels in a Phoenix 8/10 and 11.9: The story of a British military family’s time in India follows the path of a British military officer and his family on their adventures as they travel throughout India from 1909 to 1920. In doing so, this exhibit also looks at what a family 100 years ago did for fun and the effect Britain had on Indian culture.
A Brief History of a British Officer in the Indian Army
The creator of the photograph album, a Scottish major whose identity is unknown, served as a British officer in the 40th Pathans, a regiment in the British Indian Army. A listing of the 40th Pathans in 1919 details the names and ranks of its members.
There are several men listed in this document, shown at left, that could be the Major in this photograph album. The prime candidates are: Major H.S. Tyndale, Major A.C. Cochran, Major R.S. Waters, Major M.G. Lee, or Major H.A. Hill; however, none were attached to the Pathans until 1916, 1917, or 1918.
Evidence shows that Tyndall and Cochran were decorated, meaning they probably were with the regiment in France. In addition, the Major in the album visited an aircraft factory, and Lee was with the Royal Air Force in 1919. Another possibility is Captain E. Segar who was an acting major in 1919, temporarily attached to the 23rd Punjabis, and he was with the regiment as early as June 1907.
There are many leads but currently no definitive proof that any of them are the Major in the album.
The Major is shown several times in the photograph album, sometimes alone, sometimes with family. He is featured in full military dress on the photograph album page at right. His rank as a major is denoted by the buttons and piping on his sleeves and on his epaulettes. This photograph album focuses on the Major and his family. It is believed that the Major created this album to depict his time in the military, both on active duty and on leave, as well as his travels throughout India.
The Major served in the 40th Pathans, a regiment in the British Indian Army. First assembled by Lieutenant Edward Danbrige, the 40th Pathans came into existence in 1858 after the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
The 40th Pathans fought bravely during the Second Battle of Ypres in World War I. While the Pathans fought in Europe during World War I, the Major most likely did not. Both the Major and 40th Pathans fought in the Third Afghan War or as the Major called it in this photograph album, “The Afghan War of 1919”, as well as the Jabbi Outlaw Affair in April of 1919. In the photograph album a few members of the 40th Pathans can be seen.
At the end of 1919, a monument to the 40th Pathans was constructed near Murree in modern day Pakistan commemorating their participation in World War I. The 40th Pathans are remembered at Menin Gate in Belgium.
Following World War I, the Major and the 40th Pathans fought in the Afghan War of 1919. The page at right features four photographs relating to the Afghan War of 1919, most likely of the Major's military unit's campsite. This was the third in a series of wars in which modern Afghanistan sought to gain their full independence from England. The Afghan War of 1919 took place from May 6th, 1919 to August 8th, 1919. Up until August 1919, Britain had been imposing its will on the Afghan government. In the end, Afghanistan won full independence from England. The end of the Afghan War of 1919 marked the last time the Major would enter the Afghanistan region, and the last time his family would have to travel to Afghanistan.
The Major was stationed in Landi Kotal, in what is now Pakistan, and the Major set up defenses on the surrounding hilltops as seen in the photograph album page at left. Below, the bottom right-hand photograph shows two men standing in front of a barbed wire fence, and the photograph is captioned "Ally Sloper piquet." One of these hilltop defenses in the region was named Ali Tsappar. Due to the similar spelling, and possibly sound, of the name, the Major nicknamed this hilltop “Ally Sloper” after the well-known comic strip character from home. The word choice of "piquet" is likely due to the fact that one of the French definitions for the word "piquet" is "picket." Since the fence was constructed using wooden stakes, or pickets, the Major was likely referencing both the area and the fence in this caption.
Ally Sloper, one of the first reoccurring characters in a comic strip, is credited as being as popular in England as Dennis the Menace was in the United States. Charles H. Ross and Émilie de Tessier first penned Ally Sloper in 1867. The character sloped through the back alleys of England to avoid his landlord, thus earning his name, Ally Sloper.
In 1884, Ally Sloper became so well known among the working class, that he received his own comic strip and later three feature films. During World War I, in order to promote war-time policies, the British government used Ally Sloper as propaganda. Production of the comic stopped during World War I and never restarted due to the societal changes that took place during the war. Seen at right is a drawing of Ally Sloper from one of his comics.
In addition to Ally Sloper, the red poppy also evoked memories of the Major’s homeland and likely reminded him of his country’s war-time history. Displayed during what is now called Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day, the poppies’ red color represents the blood that British forces spilled during World War I. The poppy, being engrained into British culture, possibly led the Major to take the photograph. The flower is known to grow in areas where the soil is loose. Due to the constant shelling during the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium, the churned soil allowed for poppies to grow. This photograph was taken in April 1919, which is seven months before the first official Remembrance Day.
The British not only brought cultural memories to India, they also brought military traditions, such as bagpipes. The bagpipes the 40th Pathans are playing in a photograph from the photograph album, shown to the right, are thought to be of Scottish origin, as there is little evidence that bagpipes existed in India before 1814. The British military most likely introduced the bagpipe to India in the 1800s. The most common bagpipe throughout India and the Indian army is the Scottish Highland pipe. In northern India, bagpipes are known as mashak or bīn bājā and are still found in northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Bagpipes are sometimes played at weddings and by the Indian army during ceremonial gatherings as seen in the video below.
The Mixing of West with the East in the 1800’s
In 1818, with the signing of the Treaty of Mandsaur, the British East India Company became the dominant power in the region. The British East India Company was created to further British trade with India and Asia. Unlike other British colonies that were meant to be populated by British citizens, India was intended by the British as a supply source for various goods. Initially, the British did not force any form of religion or British culture onto the Indian people except for a failed attempt to teach English. Below, a page from the photograph album depicts an Indian bazaar seemingly untouched by British culture. Once power shifted from the East India Company to the British Government more British culture was introduced, which was controversial and was one of many contributing factors to the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
India remained under the control of the British East India Company until the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The Indian Mutiny was a reaction against the changes the British were trying to impose on Indian culture. The changes to various Indian laws were seen as forcing a Western agenda on the Indian people who were mostly Hindu or Muslim.
The Indian Mutiny did not occur among the general population of India, because of the division of castes and religion, but occurred within the Indian military forces employed by the British East India Company. The Indian Mutiny was sparked when a rumor that the cartridges of the newly issued Lee-Enfield rifles were greased with cow fat. The rumor grew to include that pig fat was also used in the cartridges. Provoked by these claims, the Indian military comprised of both Hindu and Muslim soldiers began protesting because cows are sacred to Indian culture and pigs are considered unclean in Muslim culture.
The initial protestors who claimed that the British were trying to destroy Hindu and Muslim culture were arrested. The next day, an Indian cavalry unit mutinied and freed those who were imprisoned. Soon after, other infantry units followed suit.
Within a year, the Indian Mutiny ended with a British victory. In 1858, the conflict forced the British government to assume control of India from the British East India Company. This ended the Company’s control of the sub-continent and the existence of the Company itself. The photograph album page at right shows various military offices in India from 1909-1911. The photographs illustrate the military presence in India.
Traveling Through India
One of the lasting marks left by the British on the Indian sub-continent was a road and rail system. In the 1920s, car travel in India required the traveler to plan their route in advance. Gas stations were not widespread and those wishing to travel throughout India had to coordinate their stops with the train schedules. At the train stops the travelers would pick up gasoline that had been transported there via train.
Car breakdowns could very well happen when traveling India. Being knowledgeable about the vehicle and being able to repair damage with spare parts was crucial. India for the Motorist: A Guide for the Tourist and Resident advised that in the event of more serious damage, travelers would have to go to the nearest telegram office to send a message to the “nearest motor firm” to seek assistance. In addition to gasoline and spare car parts, food was also kept in the vehicle. In India for the Motorist, travelers were urged to carry “army rations” and a “Berkefield water filter” along with their thermoses, frying pans, and enameled iron dishes for cooking and eating. The Major and his family can be seen traveling through India in their Phoenix 8/10 car in the photographs. The family's luggage and spare tire can be seen, showing that they were trying to be prepared for the journey.
While food needed to be considered by the travelers, lodging existed throughout India. Various bungalows, known as dâks, were sporadically positioned on the roads as a rest stop for travelers. Here a chef would be available to cook for the guests with the food they brought. Also, the rooms were equipped with charpoys, a traditional woven bed. Below is a photograph, from the Clarence W. Sorensen Collection - Safety Negatives Collection from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, that illustrates what a charpoy might look like for various travelers.
In addition to dâk bungalows, hotels were scattered throughout India. While these hotels had many of the amenities travelers had come to expect, if a hotel did not meet guests’ standards, most train stations had sleeping quarters as an alternative. The train stations also allowed guests to call in advance and order food to be prepared in time for their arrival.
The Major and his family made many similar stops on their trips, such as one at Dera Ismail Kahn after the Third Afghan War. Dera Ismail Kahn, in modern day Afghanistan, was the headquarters of the Derajat Brigade, an Indian brigade formed after the Indian Rebellion in 1857. Dera Ismail Kahn was a segregated city. Two bazaars existed, one for the 11,486 Hindus and another for the 18,662 Muslims living in the city. Following Afghanistan gaining independence in the Afghan War of 1919, Hindus living in Dera Ismail Khan immigrated to India, while Muslims moved from India to the newly created Afghanistan. The photograph album page shows some snapshots of what Dera Ismail Kahn looked like between 1912 and 1913.
The Major and the Phoenix
While travelling Scotland on military leave, the Major drove a Phoenix 11.9 as well as an Austin 7HP, also known as “7/9 Swift” through the Scottish countryside.
Phoenix Company was founded by J. van Hooydonk. Allegedly burned as a young child, Hooydonk named his company after the mythical phoenix, a bird that would burst into flame and later resurrect itself. Originally, Hooydonk was interested in cycling, but later, his interests turned to motorcycles. Phoenix Company began by producing motorcycles, then tri-cars and finally in 1907, four-wheeled cars. However, the company only lasted 23 years from 1903-1926.
The Phoenix 11.9 had a 1492 cc four-cylinder engine, a three-speed transmission, and a worm gear axle. To the left is a photograph album page that features a photograph of the Major in his Phoenix 11.9. The 1919 model year featured a scuttle radiator while the 1921 model year featured a more conventional front radiator. One side of the cylinder block was closed off by an aluminum block, to prevent cracking during the winter months. The engine mountings were bolted to the side-members of the chassis, strengthening the frame. The crankshaft ran in three die cast white metal bearings. White metal is a combination of antimony, tin, lead, cadmium, bismuth, and zinc. The pistons were made of a light alloy. Fragments on Forgotten Makes describes the car’s drive as having a “very smooth metal cone clutch running in oil to a 3-speed and reverse gearbox with r.h. change, the lever working in a substantial gate, of which it carried the selective section.”
Initially, the Phoenix 11.9 had an overhead-worm back axle which gave the car a high ground clearance. This high clearance made the car extremely popular among the British colonies where paved roads were less common. Because of this popularity, the Phoenix Company continued to produce the Phoenix 11.9 with a high ground clearance. Brakes on the Phoenix 11.9 were operated both by foot and by hand. While the gearbox on a Phoenix looks normal, it runs in reverse of a normal gearbox.
The Major also drove what was marketed as both an Austin 7Hp and Swift 7/9, in the photograph album the Major calls it the “7/9 Swift.” It can be seen in the page from the album on the right.
The "7/9 Swift" had a one cylinder 1087 cc engine. Both the crank-shaft and the gearbox revolved in unbushed bearings. Limited in speed, the car at most reached 30 miles per hour. The cars vibrated excessively making the ride uncomfortable, which most likely contributed to its short production life of only two years.
The Major also drove a Phoenix 8/10. The car was first produced in 1907, and it possessed a twin cylinder 1272 cc engine that had an output of 8 horsepower. The three-speed transmission was connected to the wheels via a chain-drive.
Airplanes and Automobiles
The airplane the Major photographed, shown on the photograph album page to the right, is believed to be a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 which flew during and after World War I. The B.E.2 was selected as the standard home-defense airplane. While it performed well beyond the minimum safety standards, the B.E.2 had its drawbacks. The plane lacked maneuverability and the engine had performance issues. When climbing, it could overheat causing pilots to fear using all 90 horsepower.
For the past 100 years, planes and cars have had a very connected history. Early cars reached at most 3,000 rpm, but people wanted more power. Therefore, they began to put airplane engines in cars. Airplane engines were lighter, more powerful and more refined than car engines.
The first successful combination of a car and an airplane was the “Beast of Turin.” The Beast with 300 horsepower was built to defeat the 125.95 mph land speed record at the time, but never went above 90 miles per hour.
Lead engineer at Sunbeam, Louis Coatalen created the famous airplane and car combination that would eventually become the Sunbeam Mohawk. Coatalen took a 9 liter (552 cubic inch) V-12 Sunbeam airplane engine and mounted it to a Sunbeam car chassis. At Brooklands Course, the Mohawk reached a top speed of 114.45 miles per hour. The design was later sold to Packard Motor Company who used the design to create the first production V-12. Following World War I, development of the airplane engine-in-a-car continued.
Charles Watney and Mrs. Herbert Lloyd wrote in the introduction of India for the Motorist: A guide for the Tourist and Resident that “motoring in India is a most enjoyable pastime, but there do exist minor drawbacks . . .. But all these drawbacks are as nothing compared with the supreme pleasures derivable from motoring.”
This quote most certainly holds true for the Major and his family. Their cars allowed them to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B,’ to explore various regions of India, and to travel through the Scottish countryside.
The Major and his family toured India during a pivotal time in history. The Major’s 40th Pathan regiment had experienced tumultuous times, including the Indian Mutiny, British control, World War I, and its distinguished legacy continues through today.
Nothing is known about the Major after his photograph album ends in 1920, but the story of the automobile continues.