"In those days we had no water laid on and our water was in big, cool rooms. Everything was dark and we had all our water put into great big mutti vessels which evaporated, so we really didn't suffer very badly, I don't think. And paraffin oil lamps, which gave you a beautiful glow in the evening."

- Merryel Hatch-Barnwell

Exhibition Navigation

An Introduction

1. The Passage to India
2. Running Your Empire
3. Life in the Bungalows
4. Imperial Diversions
5. Never the Twain?
6. No More India to Go to

Chapter 1 interviews
Chapter 2 interviews
Chapter 3 interviews

Chapter 4 interviews
Chapter 5 interviews
Chapter 6 interviews

Life in the Bungalows


On the Verandah

Major-General William Odling:

These bungalows in nearly all those Indian stations were very similar. Very thick walls, very deep verandah all around, with usually two big rooms in the center -- one a sitting room and one a dining room -- very big rooms indeed. And a room at every corner was a bedroom. And the corner rooms had -- the whole lot had French windows -- and the bedrooms had what we called a ghuslkhanah, that is to say a bathroom, which was really a dicky sort of annex. Of course there's no water laid on. And you'd have what we called a thunderbox. It was just a bucket inside a seat which you squatted on. Now when you had a bath you had to give a little bit of notice, because they had to boil enough water in kerosene tins which held two gallons, I think. You had a couple of those boiled up, and this was done by the bhisti, who was the water carrier. He'd get the water out of the well and he'd boil it up on some sticks, some cow dung, and put it in your bath when you wanted it. And your thunderbox was emptied of course by the sweeper, because he was untouchable, and nobody else would be near it. And that was all there was in the bathroom. But of course to run the water out of the bath you had to tip it -- there was a little curb around where the tub was. You tipped the water out and it ran out through a hole in the wall, which was a very convenient place for snakes to come in. They liked coming in because the ground was usually damp, because the water had run out and it was shady and nice and cool. And this was always a bit of a hazard.

We had a mess which generally speaking had no sleeping accommodation at all. We didn't live in the mess, but you had your meals there. Then around the mess, every house stood in its own grounds very much. And in this garden, which was more or less a jungle, you kept your horses and all the servants. And they had cabins, if that's the right word, and there were stables as well. Well now, leaving the mess for the moment but going to the next house, where you might be living, or the next but one, there'd be four bachelor officers, one in each corner. And almost certainly the two central rooms wouldn't be occupied at all. And you would have your own bearer, who was your number one servant. And then you would have a groom, called a syce, for every horse. And you would share the bhisti, this was the water carrier. You'd share the sweeper. You'd share the gardener, the mali, who would just keep a few plants going down the drive and that's about all. You would share a chowkidar -- that's a night watchman, who slept all night, but he allegedly was in league with all the thieves, a sort of insurance. Sometimes people really got hold of a tough sort of night watchman, an ex-Gurkha or something, and he very often got killed. It happened in our mess. He was beaten up really badly because he wasn't in with the thieves, he was an honest man. And then all these people would have a wife and two or three children and maybe a mother-in-law and so on. It came to quite a lot if there were three or four young officers living in one of these bungalows. I did a count one day -- I think it came to sixty-seven or something like that, living in these cabins.

And you had some horses, too. You were entitled to two horses, and you probably hired one or two horses from the government as well. When I really got pigsticking [wild-hog hunting] out in this place Muttra, I never had less than five horses. I used to have the tent club [wild-hog hunting organization] camel in my garden, too, and then we were given a camel and the camel was pregnant, and then we had three camels.

And in the garden there was a well, and you might hire a couple of bullocks once a week to irrigate the garden, and some people got mad keen on gardening and gardens did very beautifully. And we used to take a lot of trouble over the mess garden, all of us. There was a great big well and a great bucket made of skin, a sort of iron rim round it. A shallow well and a ramp and these animals would work the thing by themselves. They didn't have to be driven, they got used to it. And when the bucket came up, the chap used to give a call telling them to stop, but as they got to the bottom of the ramp, they couldn't go any further and he just pulled the thing onto a flat table, so to speak, and of course the bucket collapsed, because it was made of leather, and then it ran off into a channel. And you got it all round the garden just like you irrigated the fields. You used the water for your bath, too. And all these sixty or seventy people who were in your compound relied on the well, too.

You had electric light. You had fans in every room, but they don't really keep it cool. They just move the air. We used to sleep out. You'd take a bed out into the garden. And then when the rains came, we then slept on the verandah. If you took a chance and went outside, then the chowkidar used to come round when it was raining and help you bring your bed in. But I used to have two beds. I used to have one made up in my room and one out in the garden, and I reckoned I could get from my garden bed to my indoor bed without really waking up. It seemed a sensible thing to do. But if the chowkidar helped bring in about three beds, you're pretty wet by the end of it, and you'd woken up, and then you had to carry the damn thing in. And of course in the hot weather you just wore some little sort of loin cloth -- no bedding, no pajamas, no nothing, and absolutely, your bed was wringing wet with sweat. In the winter it was a different thing. Then you would be inside with a blanket.

We lived in this very old bungalow, which was one of the original ones, and it had very, very thick walls -- mud. And mud floors. And you had these, what they call chittai, which was rush -- woven, beautifully woven, by the men. You got them to come and do it. And they made a fitted chittai carpet, really, exactly the shape of your room, or rooms. I mean all the rooms were the same. And otherwise you had more or less ordinary English furniture. You took your own pictures, and china, and silver, and glass, and linen, and those sorts of things. But the actual furniture you hired. In Kohat we hired our furniture in the bungalow, which was a big bungalow. It had two double bedrooms and dressing room and bathroom, that sort of thing. And a large sitting room, then a small bedroom, a dining room, and of course a kitchen at the back, separate. And you had these wide verandahs, which of course were meant for keeping the house cool in the summer. Because the heat in Kohat during the hot weather was something around one hundred twenty. Very, very hot. But in the winter, beautiful climate, very cold. I mean ice and snow, and you wore just the sort of clothes you would wear in England.

Brigadier John Dinwiddie and Lady Daphne Dalton:

Brigadier Dinwiddie: The Persian carpets were brought down on camel into India for sale. They penetrated as far down as the Punjab, Lahore, or even farther, selling these carpets. That would happen during the cold weather. And they'd go back to their highlands when it started to get hot. Often they had a residue of carpets they hadn't been able to sell. That's when the cunning British officer or his wife went into action. They had to sell. They came into Quetta and Peshawar with things like that, all along the Frontier. That was the killing ground.

Lady Dalton: They'd come around to your house and produce all these carpets and lay them out and you'd sort of pick out the ones you liked and then you'd start haggling. They'd start off and you'd offer them half and you'd never get quite together. They'd say, "Why don't you keep it for a few days," and lay it down on the floor, very trusting. Off they'd go and a few days later they'd come back and you'd start haggling all over again. Eventually you'd come to some sort of an agreement.

Kate Garrod:

We went to a place called Ahmadnagar for our first station. We were only there for a year. A small place, all very interesting to me. The first night, there was no bungalow for us, and we slept in this tomb bungalow. It had been a Mohammedan tomb but it was converted into a little tomb bungalow. I never knew the history of why it had become disused, but they turned it into a bungalow, for touring officers and people going through.

Robin Adair:

How one lived in India in those days -- one would have expected in a place like Patna, which was the headquarters of the province, more of the amenities of civilization. One of the things that surprised me when I first went out there was the fact that there was no actual sewage system, there was no plumbing. In the bathroom you had what was called a thunderbox and this was cleared out by a sweeper who took it away and emptied it into a cess pit. You had a tin tub for a bath and they would bring in cans of water heated over a fire somewhere and empty these cans.

There was no running water. This was even in Patna, let alone in the outback and the areas like the districts and the subdivisions. This was in headquarters. When I first arrived I stayed with the Chief Secretary. Though it was the most palatial and beautiful bungalow, beautiful grounds and beautifully kept, here was this complete lack of what one would have thought almost the basic amenities of civilization. No central water supply, not even a bore hole well and electric pump.

Of course they had electricity; in the districts usually you didn't have electricity at all. You had pressure lamps, petrol lamps, that was the normal system of lighting, all by paraffin. You had pull punkahs [for fans] with a rope going over a pulley and a little man pulling the rope back and forward; usually he used to attach the rope to his toe and just sort of drift off to sleep and that was the means of keeping cool. Let alone air conditioning. There weren't even electric fans. Life was fairly primitive in those days. Surprisingly enough one didn't miss these things because you weren't used to them. You accepted the way of life that was there. And this was in 1937.

Major-General Sir Charles Dalton:

When we first went out to India we had hand operated fans known as punkahs. And the boy whose job it was to work these was called the punkah wallah. And his job was to pull this curtain; it was hanging from the roof -- it would go the width of the room -- and it was made of cloth. It was on a framework, and by pulling the rope and letting it go, pulling it and letting it go, you automatically disturbed the air. All houses of any sort of note would have this and they had the punkah wallah. He occasionally went to sleep and had to be roused by the sahib, waking up with a start and sweating, and the chap would hastily wake up and pull his punkah.

Lady Daphne Dalton:

When we were in this place in Rajputana, Nasirabad, it was extremely hot. And although we had electric fans -- the bungalow was quite modern -- we couldn't really keep cool in the daytime. What we had was, the back doors opened -- they were like French windows, right down to the ground. And fixed up against the outside of these doors were two screens made of a special sort of grass, woven like a blind, which was let down right across the doors. And then you employed a little boy with a can of water, and he sat on the verandah and his job was to splash water on these grass mats hung over the doors, and the wind blew through these and cooled the room down degrees really. They were known as cuscus tatties. Every now and then in the middle of the very hottest part of the day, suddenly one would get terribly, terribly hot and stuffy and you'd realize the little boy had dropped off and was no longer throwing water over these things. So you'd give a loud shout, or rattle something, and he'd start off again. It was quite a nice smell, a sort of a hay kind of smell, which was rather pleasant, and it also made things much, much cooler.

The other thing that one had, of course, was scorpions -- plenty of those -- and praying mantis and the rather attractive little lizard things that run up and down -- geckos. Quite useful -- they used to catch flies. They were quite nice. In those old bungalows in Meerut, when I first went to Meerut, most of the bungalows had these sort of thatched roofs, and they had these sheets. Instead of having a ceiling, you had a white sheet to fit the ceiling, and all sorts of creepy crawlies. You'd be sitting there and you'd suddenly see something between the sheet and the roof, the ceiling, running along the top. Probably something quite not dangerous at all. But it kept the creepy crawlies from actually dropping through the thatch on to the floor.

Brigadier John Dinwiddie:

The Prince of Wales visited India in the Cold Weather of '21 or '22 and he went all around India and eventually he arrived in Rawalpindi. There was very little mod cons there or anywhere. He stayed in the Commissioner's house and there were no pulls and let-goes there on the w.c. All the bungalows in India mostly have flat roofs and so some bright chap had a tank of water taken up to the roof, water pumped up into it. When the prince pulled the chain, that picked up a little red flag on the roof upon which the bhisti [water carrier] then stepped forward and poured a bucket down.

Geoffrey Lamarque:

Of course food was a problem when I first went because I had no electricity and no refrigerator. I had a curious thing that was run off kerosene. It didn't work very well. Anyway, the great thing was that I wasn't far from the main railway line from Madras to Tuticorin or Travancore. So I would send the car and bearer once or twice a week to the station where the train stopped and he would get hold of a lot of ice from the dining car of the train and bring it back and it would keep this going for a few days. It was an elaborate bandobast [business], but it worked.

Catherine Oliver Gardiner:

My mother got me the most expensive and beautiful evening clothes. Her idea of India was balls and Viceregal Lodge, that sort of thing. But of course my husband was a soldier and went into railways. Directly we arrived we were moved upcountry to a place where I was the only white woman. Dick was in charge of a vast mileage of track. We had a superb bungalow but not one stick of furniture, and we couldn't afford to buy it. So my evening dresses were no good at all. I had to get into riding trousers and an old shirt! But I realize that I saw an India that very few white women saw. I made friends with the doctor. She was colored but had Portuguese blood, a wonderful woman. She took me in tow. I suppose she thought, "Ignorant little thing, she ought to be taken round and shown a few things." That gave me a love of India, not seeing the sort of superficial life of the cantonments.

Kate Garrod:

What the Europeans put up with and did, on the whole -- what the memsahibs did -- was wonderful. Because you don't have stoves and all that sort of thing to cook with. You have a big brick wall built up about four feet high. And it has holes in front and holes on the top. And you put in wood, you cook with wood. And you have a tandoor, that's a big round thing. And they make your bread and everything, and soups and everything. But you don't have a Hindu cook, because he won't cook beef. He won't touch beef. And a Mohammedan won't touch pork.

Friends of mine at home, my own relatives, thought we just lived at ease and did nothing. But it was a very busy life for a memsahib.

A memsahib, if she wanted to keep fit and keep her husband fit, she had to supervise. You had to boil all your own water and see it boiled, and your milk. And you had to bottle it. And you had no frigidaires, no ice, no nothing. You bottle the water and cool it, wrapping linen round. You have long tables with all your drinking water. And your milk you put in a pingeri. A pingeri is like a frigidaire. No frigidaires, no electric light. You may have a table lamp if you're lucky, or you may have hurricane butties. And you never go out when it's dark without a hurricane butty, because of cobras and kraits and what have you. And you go and inspect your kitchen once a day. That is enough.

You have a lot to do in your bungalow, if you want to keep well, supervising all the food. And I had a garden. I was fond of gardening. You have a mali, a gardener, of course, and he has coolies to help. And this place where we were the only two white folk, we had five years there, and we kept our own cow, and our own sheep, and our own chickens, and geese, and duck, turkey. You have a big compound, and all the servants and their children, you see that they are cared for properly. They're rather sweet. The political side of life doesn't interest me too much. I did Red Cross work there, I helped with the hospitals. And with all those servants and all their children, and your husband, and your own compound and the animals, it's quite enough to do. It involves much more work than in England, where it's nothing running a house, because you've got all the modern conveniences. This is why it fascinated me, the pollutedness of the place, and yet you did everything every day, you did the same every day.

Margery Hall:

I was in India during the War Years, so in a way it had changed quite a lot from the earlier days. But the standard of living was extraordinarily high. And having lived since in Borneo, and Sarawak, and places like that, the one thing that struck me was the high quality -- and I mean this in its narrowest sense -- of women who went out to India that they trained the servants to such a degree of perfection -- table laying, housekeeping, silver, glass, cutlery. Because it was extraordinary.

The standard of European living was high in its appointments -- in the big places, like Delhi and so on. Of course when you're in the outback, the standard was appalling. But what I'm saying is that the quality of woman who went out and trained these servants was originally -- and you go a long way back, to past the Mutiny -- a woman who was at home had been used to servants and a standard of living, because you cannot train a servant unless you know how to do it. And it says (a) for the memsahib a great deal, the original memsahib, and (b) for the Indian, who had adapted so wonderfully. And in some of the hotels, even when I first went out, for instance the Hotel Cecil in Simla, they could turn out a meal with the sort of food from Fortnum and Mason's. But that was when I first went out in '40.

Lady Daphne Dalton:

Another interesting thing was the domestic side of life -- the daily seeing your cook sort of thing. He did all the shopping -- the meat, the fish, the chicken, the vegetables, the fruit -- out of the bazaar, where he went every day, probably on his bicycle, to do the shopping. And then he'd come back and produce his account book, which you would go through and then you would order what you wanted for lunch, or dinner, or whatever it was. And then if there was something special he would go and get it. And quite likely your bearer, who was the head servant, would be present at this session, in the dining room usually, and the cook would come in, all very clean and smart, and the bearer would be at your elbow -- supposedly be on your side. Then you'd have a polite argument with the cook -- that he'd spent too much money buying a chicken or whatever. So then you'd chop off a few pice or whatever, knowing full well that the same price would be back the next day in some other guise. So it was a sort of good natured kind of wrangle. Then you'd order your meals. Most of the cooks spoke enough English to understand what you wanted. But the remarkable thing was that most of them would never have touched any of your food. So that when you said, "Well, that pudding wanted a bit more sugar," or "The meat wanted some more salt," or whatever you said about it, they wouldn't have a clue as to what it ought to taste like, because they would never taste it. So it was really quite remarkable, because some of the cooking was really high class. Very, very good indeed. As good as anything you'd expect to meet in a good hotel in England.

Then after your arrangement with the cook, you'd go and inspect the kitchen, and the sort of cook's boy, who'd be the kitchen maid in this country, he'd be on parade as well, all very clean and tidy. And you'd inspect all the cooking pots -- turn them all upside down and look inside and everything. And then you'd walk out and say, "Thank you very much," and that would be that for that day.

Patricia Edge:

You had to learn the language even as a woman, or you missed so much otherwise. It was essential. I had a munshi to teach me, but he always taught me along military lines, because that was what he was used to. He would say, "Go to the adjutant, and tell him that number three company has mutinied." And all I wanted to know was how to say, "The meat is tough."

Catherine Gardiner:

My mother in law was absolutely marvelous. When I went out there, she told me that she had taken three children all round India in trains and things, and they never were ill. In those days it was a question of no injections for any of these things. She said the one good rule when you had children out there, for milk, you had to get hold of a good cow and the man who brings it has got to first have a bowl with water and soap and he's got to scrub and wash his hands. Then he milks it into your utensil with your own bearer within one inch of it, because for two pence he'd pour some dirty in, you see. Then it's brought in and then it's boiled. I think she was amazing. I went to quite a few jungly places and we moved about and so I didn't have the children with me. But I'd have been scared, I think.

Jean Salmon:

Of course you had your servants and there was very, very little for a woman to do, unless you used your own initiative and got on and learnt the language or took an interest in the hospitals or something or other. It was up to you to do it and you could do it, but not all the women who went out were prepared for this. Then you get the rather silly memsahib attitude that is put over so much now. Just the social life and silly sort of bickering that went on, that sort of side to it. I think it was a very difficult life for British women in India.

The climate -- you didn't have all the things you have now like air conditioning. You had fans. Way back you had punkahs, then you had fans, and now of course there's much more. But it was a difficult life, a very difficult life. And then they were separated from their family. And they were waited on hand and foot. You couldn't do otherwise. It wasn't possible to do housework. It would have upset the whole strata, because one chap's allowed to do one thing and another's allowed to do another. And the whole system would have collapsed if you'd interfered.

So what you could do was to interest yourself in the arts. And a lot of them did a lot of painting, music, but they did have to make their own interests. And those who had not got the capacity for doing that naturally got into trouble, and caused trouble. There was an awful lot of exchanging husbands, and that sort of thing, just because life was very difficult.

I was only there a comparatively short time, and all the time I was there -- we weren't married, you see -- I was in Government House with my uncle. And there was a lot you were expected to do. And you were expected to go and visit the hospitals. And then, though I was only out there a year, I took Urdu lessons. We got in a lot of sport, of course, we rode every morning. And then you played a lot of tennis, and also in Karachi where we were, there used to be sailing. But in between that there was a tremendous lot of entertaining which we had to help my aunt with. Not the actual preparation, but we were supposed to be there to talk to the people, and make them feel at home, and that sort of thing.

But we were made to understand that it wasn't just our lives, there were the Indian lives as well, that we were lucky. As I say, we had the right background. People who came out from home without any....

Fergus Innes:

You got quite a number, especially among the women I would say, who never were happy in India. If you went out there with an open mind, what scope you had. If you only took interest in birds, for example, you had wonderful opportunities. But some people went out with suburban minds, closed to everything except the little life of the station. The average man always settled down better because he had a job to do, and mostly the women didn't. And they missed their kind of social life. They used to let the Indian servants get on their nerves. After all there was a certain amount of peculations and fudging of accounts, and it bothered them, I suppose, and they used to get very irritable. We all got irritable, of course, with the Indian, I'm afraid, from time to time, but on the whole we got on very well with them. You'd have thought that any memsahib going out there would have been very happy to have so many competent servants. Bit of a nuisance having to keep so many, you had to pay them all, but one man wouldn't do another man's job, so you had to have about seven. You had your bearer, your khitmagar, your dhobi, your sweeper, your mali, your syce, then an ayah for your children.

Most of the men went out and they found the job fascinating. It's a fascinating country to work in. And for sport, too, for that matter. They took to it well. There were quite a number of the memsahibs who never really became anything other than English housewives in the wrong place. But a lot of them did very good work too.

Health, of course, made it difficult. Now my own mother, who was the most saintly woman I know, never really took to India, never liked it, because, I think, she had this awful business of not only bad health herself -- Madras being a very bad climate -- but also being absolutely devoted to her husband, absolutely devoted to her five children. She was always separated from one or the other. She got to hate that journey to and fro.

She got to really dislike India, just dying to get home and be with her family again. That I suppose was very typical. There must have been a lot of very, very good women who didn't get on with India because of all this separation.

Margery Hall:

The people looked nice, and they were always well groomed, because even if you had a brood of children, you got up in the morning and the ayah had done all the children and you sat down to breakfast. So you had time. The average memsahib was a well-cared for, well-groomed person.

When people live so far from home, away from their roots, and away from their families, and away from the sort of things they've grown up with, I'm quite sure they do things that they'd never do if they lived in the area where mother was, or their sisters, or somebody who'd say, "Look, you can't do that!" And life in a way was different because if a mother walked out, if she just took off and left children with the ayah, ran away with somebody who took her fancy, well there was an ayah there. There was a house there, it was furnished, there were servants, food was cooked. Well, if somebody like me thought to run away in England, I couldn't run away because I couldn't just leave the children with nobody. So it all in a way was easier than it would have been in other places which had a different sort of living arrangement.

C.J. Pelly:

In my time children in India were very soon sent to England for their education. There were some people who tried to keep them out there with governesses, but it was generally not thought a good idea. Of course the servants were very good to them, they were charming to them. I've heard people sneering at what they called "back of the verandah" education, meaning just keeping them on and letting them have local people. I think the general feeling was they wouldn't be equipped for getting on without being sent to England. What was obvious was the strain particularly on the mothers of losing them and then perhaps having the division between wanting to be with her husband and wanting to see her children. I think it was particularly hard on them. And then in some cases -- you know how children are -- at a certain age they'd go away for a while and when they come back they don't want to know you, they've forgotten about you. That did persist and created a lot of tensions.

Major-General R.C.A. Edge:

The theory was that you had to send them [children] back to England when they were getting about eight. Of course in those days you couldn't send them back for a holiday or anything, because it took nearly a month to get home -- by ship. So when you were out there you stayed. And so most families had to face the awful decision of whether to stay there with your family, or send the family home to school and either leave them parentless in England, or else you'd be familyless in India. This was a great difficulty for many parents.

It was the theory that it was the thing you had to do, and whether it was a baseless theory or not I don't know. Of course it was difficult to get very well educated in India. And once a girl started to get up in her teens, certain hazards began to present themselves. Well, at least they were thought to present themselves -- whether they really were there I doubt very much. I don't think in fact that Indians really had quite the sort of lustful natures that they were sometimes credited with. But it was really the education. It was difficult to get a child educated out there. You could get a governess, but that wasn't really very satisfactory.

It was an unsatisfactory feature of life in India, this awful problem of what to do when the children started to grow up. Possibly it would have been more sensible to keep them out longer than most people did, and have them with you. But they had to come home sometime, and if you entered the educational stream much older than your fellows, that made life difficult for you.

Audrey Spence:

I think if you were born of parents who lived in India you more or less accepted that when you were six or seven you came back to England and you were educated in England. You expected not to see your parents except when they came home on leave from the age of seven until about the age of eighteen or whenever your parents retired. Maybe if they weren't retired by the time you were eighteen, you perhaps went out and joined them, or you did if you were a girl, say. I know that my mother felt strongly about this and in fact she did come home every six months just to see us, so she always used to come home on her own in the summer holidays and we would rent a house in Cornwall for a month and then go to my grandparents. And then the other two holidays -- well, a couple of them we came here to this aunt when she came home from India. One of them we spent at school, which was really dreary. We were lucky because my father had leave every three years, but there were some children whose fathers only had leave every four years, so they only saw their parents every four years and they spent the rest of the time with all sorts of strange people. Rather like Kipling in that story of his. There were quite a lot of people who advertised to have children whose parents were abroad. But of course one used to always get this weekly letter and I was considered very lucky at school because my father wrote as well as my mother, so I had two weekly letters. But mostly it was the mothers that wrote.

My grandfather brought his three children back to England when his wife died and first they went to his mother and then he and his mother had a disagreement; he took a house in Inverness Terrace in London and she said it was very unsuitable, and they had a disagreement and she refused to bring up the children, so instead he hired a sort of governess-housekeeper and she lived with the children for a time until he retired. But I think my two aunts and my uncle and my father had rather a dreary sort of upbringing with this governess. Although she was very conscientious and she wasn't unkind, it was cheerless. You accepted it fairly stoically.

Douglas Fairbairn and Agnes Fairbairn:

Agnes Fairbairn: The children pick up the language very, very readily from being with the servants. My eldest boy, Alistair, didn't speak English to my youngest, Mark, and I said, "Alistair, why don't you speak English to Mark?" and he said, "But Mark doesn't understand English." I came home with them, brought them home for the first time on board ship. On board ship there were some very sort of snooty memsahibs. We were all sitting looking at this film for children on the boat, a film called "Who Killed Cock Robin?" and Mark was very excited beside Alistair and he was saying in Hindustani, "Alistair! Alistair! Look! Look! Poor Cock Robin's dead."

And all these memsahibs were looking at him. And then when he came home the family had not seen him, of course, and they wanted to hear him speaking Hindustani, but he knew there was something wrong by then about this language nobody else spoke. They tried so hard to get him to speak it. One day upstairs Mark shut himself in the bathroom and he was jabbering away at Hindustani all by himself.

Douglas Fairbairn: I remember meeting the family. I'd flown home just before VE Day and I met them at Tilbury Docks when they came off the ship. My little boy -- he was only about three and a half -- he came running up to me with an absolute flood of Hindustani. He said to me, "Well at last here's somebody who will understand me."

Behind the Bungalow

Major-General R.C.A. Edge:

One had an awful lot of servants in my childhood days. My wife and I had far fewer servants when we went out. I'm trying to think how many servants my father must have had. Let's see, this was at the end. We had an English nanny. You only need an ayah for a very small child, so I think we had got rid of the ayah by then. We had a bearer, who is the head servant. And a khitmagar, who's the kind of number two to the bearer. And one or two masalchis -- these were the people who would do the washing up and that kind of thing. And a cook, certainly, and I should think we had an assistant cook, but I can't remember. Then one or two sweepers -- of course the sanitary arrangements were fairly primitive. There was no water borne sanitation in those days. And one had one's own dhobi, the chap who did the washing. And at least two gardeners. And a syce -- two perhaps -- to look after the horses. My father had a driver for his car. It was a fairly large establishment.

You tended to have your own personal service for everything, because it was the only way you could be sure of things being hygienic. We had our own cow, and our own chap to milk the cow.

The servants lived in things called godowns, which were always separated by quite a distance from the house. And the kitchen, where the cooking was done -- that was also separated from the house.

Major-General Sir Charles and Lady Dalton:

Lady Dalton: In the British Army life our servants weren't dressed extravagantly at all. They were dressed in white coats, and white trousers, and a pagri, which they always wore, of course. And then, if you wished, they could wear your own, say, a regimental belt, a cummerbund, and the regimental crest. But they were all just in white coats.

Sir Charles Dalton: No shoes, of course, and no socks. Bare feet. It was an insult for them ever to put on shoes in our presence. And anyway they didn't want to, because it was natural for them not to. But if they did have them on for some reason, they would take them off before they came into the house.

Lady Dalton: But of course, the higher up the social scale and the more rich you were, the fancier your servants' dresses. Some of the Indian princes' servants were beautifully turned out, in all sorts of extravagant clothes.

Major-General R.C.A. Edge:

They had a very good system there, whereby all the thieves, and the fraternity which produced the chowkidars -- which in English would be night watchmen -- they all belonged to the same sort of caste, and jat, and so provided you recruited your chowkidar from the same jat the thieves came from, you were perfectly all right, you see. But if you went into the wrong union, you were in trouble.

Kate Garrod:

You also had a night watchman, to guard everybody in that station, a night watchman. And they were criminal tribesmen from the jail. And as long as you had a criminal tribesman then you never lost anything. Anyway, the new padre said he couldn't have a criminal tribesman. It was against all his ideas. And so, he didn't have one. And when he got up the next morning, they hadn't a stitch of clothing in their bungalow. And there are very high trees, and the whole of their clothes were decorating the top of these high trees. And so he had to have his criminal tribesman, and they were happy ever after.

Diana Debrett:

We had a chowkidar, and he had a wayward daughter. And I happened to notice that the postman and various people spent a long time leaning against the chowkidar's door. And one day our bearer came and said the chowkidar was keeping a bad house in the compound and that it was not right. If he wished to keep a bad house, he must go down and have a house in the town and it was not right. And so we had to get rid of the chowkidar. We then got one who called himself a police chowkidar -- who to our fascination arrived with an alarm clock, which we thought was the best thing out!

Major-General Sir Charles and Lady Dalton:

Sir Charles Dalton: We found one of the best things about life in India was the dhobi -- the washing arrangements. One got hot of course and dirty and one wore a different set of clothes every day -- white drill or khaki drill or whatever uniform -- it was all drill, and washable. Except in the cold weather when you had a very light sort of gabardine serge jacket and trousers. But the rest of it was all washable, and all your other clothes and underclothes and sports clothes and things were all washable and were washed every day. And you didn't have to have very many, because you always got them back the same day. It was very destructive to buttons and things, because their method of washing things in the East was walloping them on stones in the river, or the equivalent in their godowns. But it was fairly effective, and beautifully ironed, and literally it was the same day service, and not too expensive. And if you were an important person you used to keep your own tame dhobi -- who did nothing else. It was rather like you kept a cook.

We were always advised before people went out not to have a lot of expensive uniforms made for them in London at a London tailor, but to have one good example of each thing they wanted and use that as a pattern and have everything else made on the spot. I think that's true of most Oriental places -- they know what's wanted in the country better and at a fraction of the price.

Lady Dalton: If you wanted any sewing done you had a durzi who used to come and sit on your verandah all day and literally sit on the floor and make anything you wanted copied. He even went as far -- this is the story anyway -- they copied the patch in somebody's trousers. They were wonderful. They used to wear no shoes and when they were threading their cotton they would put the cotton through their toes.

Sir Charles Dalton: The man who worked the leather was of very low caste. You know the caste system in India was very important to them. And you were either high caste or all sorts of levels. And the lowest man of all was the sweeper -- the man who emptied the buckets from the house. He was untouchable. He swept the floor as well. But one of the lowest above him was the man who worked in leather, because leather came from the cow. And the cow was sacred, and shouldn't really be killed. And why the fact that it was sacred meant the man who worked in its hides was low caste I'm not quite sure. But it was so. They very strictly kept to their caste system.

Lady Dalton: A lot of very low class people were got at by missionaries and made into Christians, but were very much considered to be not very much good -- by anybody. But sweepers, very, very low class, were converted to be Christians, and they thought in their simple way that because they became Christians they would get a lift up out of their very low caste. But in fact I don't think it really worked terribly well.

We had one quite funny thing in Kotagiri, where I had a sweeper -- a woman. And I was going to have a little sort of party and I had some nuts, cashew nuts or peanuts or something, which had to be roasted. I gave all these orders and everything and went out of the kitchen. Then quite by chance I happened to walk round back of the house later and there I found the sweeper with her dustpan, which was used pretty well for most things, I suppose -- the floors to say the least of it. There were my nuts all being rattled around in this thing previous to coming to the table. I nearly had a stroke.

Major-General William Odling:

I took my bearer once to a pig sticking competition with a friend of mine. And his bearer had gone sick or something. And we drove back, with my chap, and it was a long way and we stayed the night. We had all our camp kit with us because we'd been out there four or five days. And we asked this chap if he'd got anything to eat for us and he said no but he'd fix it if we'd stop in the next village. And we bought a loaf of bread and some butter and a chicken which somebody killed and put in the back of the car. And that night he produced a dinner which was about four or five courses. We had chicken soup, chicken liver on toast. We had roast chicken or boiled chicken. And then we had some other kind of chicken at the end. It was all very simple, and you can see that life was extremely cheap living like this.

Colonel W.A. Salmon:

That was another funny thing. There's a terrific amount of entertaining, naturally, in the cantonments, and as bachelor officers -- subalterns -- you were asked out, and then there came a time when you felt you had to return the hospitality. And there came the time when four of us sharing a bungalow in Peshawar said, "Look, we've had a lot of hospitality. Let us throw a dinner party." So we called our bearers in, and of course they loved it. We said, "Look, we want dinner, and we're inviting twelve people." We had one big sitting room which we shared and we said, "Right, bearers, make this the dining room." And then we turned out the largest of our bedrooms to get furniture. Again you said, "Bandobast karo" to get what you wanted. He'd salaam, and off he'd go and do it.

Well, of course living on your own and feeding in the mess, you didn't have any silver or forks or spoons. But when the time came, the table was beautifully laid. Well, we had the CO and his wife, and we had various other people. And as the dear ladies sat down, one turned across the table and said, "I think I recognize the salt cellars." And another one said, "Yes, the candlesticks are rather familiar to me." Well, of course, the bearers had gone all round the cantonment and borrowed everybody else's bits and pieces. But they all went back the next day.

But the real joy of it all was, we were lingering on rather a long time at the table. It was the peak of the party, going very well. And we saw the bearers hanging round. So I was the senior, so I said, "Hamid Khan, what's the matter?" He came and he salaamed and he said, "Please, will master and master's guests go into the sitting room?" I said, "Oh, well, we're enjoying ourselves." We were drinking our port or whatever. He said, "I know, sahib, but we want the sheets to make the beds." It was marvelous the way they could improvise.

Sir Charles and Lady Dalton:

Sir Charles Dalton: The thing I remember about parties, in a more civilized place, say in Delhi, where you were having a quite a big dinner party, and you would ask people from different houses, different bungalows in the station -- you'd ask the station commander and so on. And you'd all meet, and you'd all go in to dinner, and suddenly one of these people who were your guests would recognize their own silver -- or their own plates. And nobody ever asked anything. There was a sort of freemasonry amongst the servants. And if the sahib -- the Dalton sahib -- hadn't got enough knives or forks for the numbers involved, he would just go round and say, "Your sahib's coming to dinner tonight. May I have four forks?" And it was taken for granted. Nobody ever lost anything. They were returned tomorrow morning. And you certainly found yourself eating off your own plates.

Lady Dalton: There was a tremendous sort of camaraderie, really, among the servants and everything.

Rev. John Debrett:

You got very attached to your own bearer or whatever. Of course I was very young. I remember moving heaven and earth to try and get some sort of attention from a specialist for my bearer's eyes, because he had cataracts. And I even got him down from Razmak, which is right up on the Northwest Frontier. I managed to organize a trip for him right down to Bombay to see a specialist. I arranged this trip for him, and I even paid for it, which was quite something in those days on a second lieutenant's pay, to get him down to see this specialist. And I had a very nice letter back from this specialist saying that he'd seen him, and that he appreciated the fact that I'd sent him down, and so forth, but he couldn't do a great deal about it. But looking back on it now, you see, I'd moved heaven and earth for that chap, who was an Indian, because I knew him, and he was a friend of mine. And yet, at the same time, I could have this antipathy to Indians in general. So I really hadn't thought the thing out at all. I was twenty-two.

Edith Dixon:

Well, this Bhur Bhor Singh was a Sikh. Bhur Bhor Singh's father had served my grandfather. My father was one of four boys, and Bhur Bhor Singh had grown up with them and played with them. And then he went into service with my father and he had served my father all his life until my father retired, and then he went down to Bombay with my father when he left for England. He went on board and he knelt down and he kissed my father's shoes. And he cried. It was just that there was absolute and complete devotion. He'd have done anything -- anything -- for any of us. He would have gladly thrown me to the jackals if the choice had been between me and my little brothers. Of course boys were regarded as little kings, little princes. Chota Lat Sahibs -- the little lordships. Bhur Bhor Singh was everything to us. He was my father's confidant and friend and he was our playmate. I can remember knocking off his turban. That for a Sikh is rather serious; there's something sacred about that; there's a topknot with a comb in it. He pulled the comb out and then he got rather upset, so we kissed him and hugged him and told him it was all right. Once when my parents were both out to a dinner party and I couldn't sleep I remember Bhur Bhor Singh kneeling beside me by the bed and gently rubbing his hand up and down my spine and helping me to go to sleep. My father would have trusted him with anything. The other servants were all just nameless -- the khansamah and the masalchi.

Colonel C.A.K. Innes-Wilson:

There was another thing about India really, from the man's point of view. He was always accompanied by his personal servants. I suppose that my personal servant, Nuz Mohammed, was the best friend I had in India. He defined himself as my sort of nursemaid. He looked after me, loaned me money if I was short, would steal it from me if I wasn't. And we had a very friendly relationship for many years. All his family worked for me at times. They used to turn up.

In Murree one day I was suddenly being waited on by a stranger. I said, "Who are you?" He said, "I'm Nuz Mohammed's brother." I said, "What's happened to Nuz Mohammed?" "Oh, there's a warrant out for his arrest." I said, "What's he been doing?" "Cutting wood in the reserved forests and the forester caught him." I said, "What's the good of going underground? He's bound to come out sooner or later." "Oh no," said the chap, "he's waiting until you go out to camp, then he'll join you." So when I went off to camp Nuz Mohammed came. There was no dishonor to having the police after you. It was assumed I was against the police the same as they were. Avoiding the police was the national sport.

I can remember in a crowded railway station in Bengal, thousands of people on the platform both sides. I suddenly saw Nuz Mohammed with a large pole in his hands, a sort of cudgel, beating some wretched Indian on the head standing on the railway line between platforms, the train due to come in any moment, beating this man. I didn't intervene. I saw it from some distance away. The stationmaster went out to intervene and Nuz Mohammed hit him on the head, too. So I said I must go round and find out what was going on. And Nuz Mohammed said this man had said something offensive about his sahib. That was me. I hustled Nuz Mohammed away. He was that sort of person, you see, very loyal.

At the end, in Delhi, in 1947, he was with me and of course being a man from the hills -- north of Rawalpindi -- he was very contemptuous of the people of Delhi, who were going around killing Muslims. He was Muslim too. I suggested, "You mustn't go out, you'll be killed." However, he was not to be stopped. Eventually I had to put him on an airplane and send him off to Pakistan. I went into the plane to see him off. He said he was very embarrassed and I said, "Why are you embarrassed?" He said, "I'm sitting here, sahib, and the memsahib keeps coming and offering me cups of tea." The stewardess.

Sybilla McCallum:

My father went on tour and old Dher Khan was a tremendous character with his wonderful pagri sticking right up in the air, and he was a great sort of boaster. He said he would guard us well and he guarded us well and truly because he brought his bed into our dining room. My mother and I went off to a party and there he was, sound asleep, snoring. We crept by our guard and we got in, and the next morning he told us robbers had been round and he shouted at them. Wonderful, really.

Diana Debrett and Major-General R.C.A. Edge:

Diana Debrett: When my father was in camp, and we were alone, my mother had quite a bit of money and she hid it somewhere. And we went off somewhere, and we came back and it had vanished from where she had hid it. I think she hid it in one of those enormous almirah things one had. And she said, "Oh, it's gone." And the bearer came along and read my mother a lecture on leaving money about and produced the whole thing. He had gone round the house and he'd found all the places she'd hidden it and he collected it. And he handed it back with a rocket.

Major-General Edge: Well, there's the other classic story -- which I think is true -- of the chap who had a cook he'd had for a long time. And the system was that you asked your cook to do all your shopping for you. And he did all the shopping, and he presented you with a bill. And it was well understood that he always added a percentage for himself, so that he got that much more. And one knew this was happening. But this particular chap had had this servant for a long, long time, and he thought it wasn't right that there should be this element of mistrust in their relationship. So he said to him, "Look, Khansamah-ji, I know perfectly well that you always add on a bit to the bill, and then you charge me for it and put it in your pocket. But that's not very nice between friends, is it, to have this situation? So if you would tell me perfectly honestly how much you expect to make over and above your pay, I'll put your pay up by that amount. And so if you could just work it out, we'll come to an agreement, and then we'll be absolutely fair and square about it all." And so the khansamah was a bit surprised. He said, "Yes, Sahib. Well, I always reckoned to make another fifty rupees a month above my actual pay." Says, "Well, put your pay up by rupees fifty. And you promise to make all your accounts absolutely honest." "Yes, sahib, all right, I'll do that. That's fine." And so they went on like that for a bit. And he noticed this chap getting sadder and sadder and sadder. And finally he said, "Well, what's the matter, Khansamah-ji? You look miserable these days." He said, "Sahib, I'd like you to reduce my pay by fifty rupees, if you would. It's taken all the excitement and interest out of life."

We criticize them -- well, I don't know that we criticize them -- but we're merely pointing out the fact that everybody's honesty has a kind of limiting level. So why criticize your khansamah for adding on a little bit?

Brigadier Richard Gardiner:

If you could get a good set of servants they were absolutely marvelous. And they'd follow you all over the place and they became completely part of the family. Literally. Usually, if you were an Indian family [i.e., British family in India] you'd find one bearer sort of following on and if you went away for five or six years and the next member of the family came out he'd pop up again and be taken on. Extraordinary.

Normally what happened if you went out for the first time, whoever was looking after you -- in a unit probably the adjutant or somebody like that -- he'd say, "Look, I'll look up the list of servants we have on our record and I'll send one or two around. Have a look at their chits." They all have a packet of chits [letters of recommendation]. The only trouble with the chits is that so many are forgeries. They sell them one to the other, you see. Some of them, if you look carefully, you spot that there's a sort of code in them. The really clever people write a code into the chit if he's a really bad servant and if you're clever enough you spot this code and realize that the chap's an absolute villain. Usually then the bearer finds the rest of the servants. The Indian servant system was second to none. It was master to master and master to master and master to son. They were so faithful, they honestly were. Very, very faithful. They live in your compound, your bungalow area. They were so reliable too. If you went home on leave they used to go off and either get a temporary job or go home. But they'd be back at the ship's side on the day. There was no question of saying, "I wonder if he'll turn up." He was there.

Major-General Sir Charles Dalton and Brigadier John Dinwiddie:

Sir Charles Dalton: When we first went out to India we were given the name of a man -- Mohammed something -- who was a very good bearer and was free. So we wrote out ahead and said we would engage him. And in due course he was on the quay at Bombay, and told us the ropes. We'd never been to India before, and he knew we had a baby, and everything was organized very well. We went up country to Nasirabad. He stayed with us for about three or four months -- perhaps it was six months -- and one day he said he must go home. He lived right away up in Kashmir, and it took a long time to get there and he wanted leave. And he never came back. And we discovered he had gone back to his old master. He'd never meant to stay with us. He belonged to somebody else, but he hadn't let on to us. We always slightly had it in for the other chap. We thought he knew, probably all the time. When he came home on leave he probably said to Mohammed, "Now, don't forget, you're my bearer, and I expect to find you at Bombay whenever I come back." He quite likely was being paid by the other chap -- a retaining fee.

Brigadier Dinwiddie: The best story I ever heard concerned the Chatfield Commission. Just before the war this was a thing that took place in 1938. They'd seen the war coming and were trying to get some modernization, buying more modern weapons for the Indian Army. Amongst the staff sent out to India was a Guardsman who'd been BGS of Eastern Command -- Brigadier General Staff, Eastern India. He went back to England where he was made a major general and he was on this staff -- the Chatfield Commission. The originator of it all was Auchinleck, who went to meet them. He flew out to the Middle East to meet them and then came on by ship to Bombay. All very hush-hush. No one knew anything about it. Standing on the dockside when the ship docked in Bombay was this old Guardsman's old bearer and he said, "Oh, Sahib, I heard you were coming. Will you take me on again?"

Sir Charles Dalton: This extraordinary bush telegraph. How did they know that you or I or anybody else was coming back from leave? It was a wonderful piece of intelligence. If you are in India and you come home on leave, without doing anything about it, you'll find your bearer on the quayside in Bombay. Nobody knows quite how this works, but it happens.

Colonel W.A. Salmon:

I sent my bearer a Christmas present, and he wrote back to thank me. And you see these chaps, what they usually do is, most of them couldn't write. They can't even write their own names. But I'd sent him a Christmas present, and in due course he wrote back to me -- a wonderful letter -- and he ended it like this: "And may the great almighty God, which gentleman your honor much resembles, grant you health, wealth and a long life."

"Quite a Fantastic Thing":
Protocol and the Social Whirl

C.J. Pelly:

It was terrific fun, a lot of it. Most British like dressing up, you know. There was a lot of that, and a lot of ceremony, a lot of protocol, particularly in a place like Simla. The detractors called it snobbery, and it was, I suppose.

Lady Daphne Dalton:

Life in a cantonment for a young girl was very gay. Because you were quite probably the only unmarried female about the place. There might have been one or two others, but really very few compared with the amount of men, officers. There were four or five regiments, you see. Quite a lot of the officers of course were married, but the young ones weren't, the subalterns weren't. So you really had a very, very social life. And these Weeks -- Polo Weeks and things that you went to -- you made friends all over the place. And you were asked to stay, just as you would in England. You know, you go and stay in a house party. And there was riding and dancing and polo. A regiment would probably be the host, in a particular cantonment, and lay on all sorts of entertainment for their guests. One Week we went to we had a progressive dinner, in which you had your courses in different houses in the cantonment and you had to get between one and then the next the best way you could -- soup in one bungalow, and the fish in the next, and the meat in the next. But it was all really good light-hearted fun really.

And then there were people like the governors of the provinces, who usually had house parties for various functions. Dances or shooting, or whatever. There was a lot of social life, which was great fun. I was a quite good rider, and that in itself produced quite a lot of extra sport in the sense that you were asked to ride ponies for people or you were asked to ride in a show or go out hunting or whatever. The shooting was a lot of fun at the weekends.

Ivan Ellis Jones:

After my first tour, Christmas week we were invited in -- all the new Assistant Commissioners -- to spend the week at Government House as guests of the Governor at Lahore. They had a Week with a capital W, which means tournaments and dances and so on. I was rather surprised when I found the invitation waiting for me. I was also surprised to be told to "bring your own bedding." This wouldn't surprise anyone who understood any traditions, because you had a great valise -- canvas roll -- into which your bedding went, your blankets and sheets and pillow and so on, and this could be rolled up and struck. For example, in traveling on the railway this was unrolled when evening came. Although at Government House as a rule they were wealthy enough to provide bedding, we were in fact being housed in tents -- extended accommodation. People carried their bedding around, which was a normal thing.

This was my first introduction to official society -- provincial headquarters type. His Excellency and all that kind of thing. I arrived in a small hired vehicle drawn by a horse and I arrived outside of Government House. The man didn't know the correct way and so I arrived at what was the back, instead of arriving at the place where there would have been plenty of people to greet me. There was nobody but a sentry there who took no notice of me whatever. Perhaps he saluted me and I kind of stumbled up the stairs and found my way in without anyone hindering me. And staggering on I eventually saw a room where a number of people were sitting having drinks, most of them in riding clothes of some kind, and I eventually went in there rather blinking and I said, "Excuse me, I wonder if anyone can tell me where I'd find Major P." -- the Military Secretary to the Governor. At this point an elderly gentleman got up. "Oh, you're looking for old Douglas, are you? I'll find him for you." So I had begun my visit there by sending the Governor to look for his secretary!

Margery Hall:

Simla's Government House was beautiful. They'd throw open the doors and the lackeys would come down in their uniforms and the Gurkha soldiers looking like angels out of heaven -- almost like pictures, they were so still and beautiful with their brown faces and their immaculate uniform. And the doors being thrown open by the flunkeys, and the Viceroy coming down and everything, and everybody in their splendid clothes. It couldn't be better. And I was only visiting India and I'd got a blue felt hat on this time, and a little old silk dress and some green shoes. They were all the clothes I had, and somebody'd asked me. I thought, "Well, I'm not going to say no," but I hadn't any money to buy clothes. And they were saying, "Oohh!" And picture dresses and picture hats, just like something out of a film. And I heard them say, "Well, it took about three months and cost nine hundred rupees." And I was dazzled. I thought, "It's wonderful to look like that and to be able to buy things like that." And I looked and I thought, "Oh, this is incredible!" It was so beautiful, and the people were so clear-cut as they are in the Indian light, you know that clear-cut sound and clear-cut vision. And I thought, "This is gorgeous," and there I stood.

And the Viceroy came down the stairs, and he looked at all that. And they made a pathway for him, and they all curtseyed. And he walked through this split, and everybody said, "Ahh!" Longing. And he walked right across the room, and he came straight to me. And he said, "What are you doing here?" And I said, "Oh! Well, I'm on a holiday, actually." And he said, "Are you enjoying it?" "Yes," I said, "It's marvelous." And he said, "Well, you go on enjoying it, too." And I thought, what a nice man.

Lady Daphne Dalton:

The Viceregal Ball was -- in the winter -- held at Viceroy's House and it was quite a fantastic thing. The Indian princes wore their most beautiful clothes and jewels by the ton. Quite fantastic. The colors! All the officers were in uniform mess kits, some red coats, some yellow. Fantastic color in this wonderful setting. The bodyguards lined the stairs up to the ballroom. The Viceroy's ADC's wore dark blue tailcoats with pale blue facings, so you knew straight away who the ADC's were.

H.P. Hall:

The Resident and his wife went on leave and D.F. took over and acted for them. I went to Mhow to take a promotion exam and met a number of people there and I phoned up Mrs. F., the Acting Resident's wife, and I said, "I've met a number of people here and I'd like to throw a party for them." She was very keen on this. She said, "Oh, what would you like?" And I mentioned caviar, thinking of these little biscuits with little bits of caviar on them. The party was to be around the swimming pool at night -- fairy lights and so forth. She organized all this for the night when I came back. To my horror I discovered the caviar in fact were in blocks of ice hollowed out with whole helpings, which I was paying for. It was a grand party. But the relationship between a very junior and a very senior person was always very friendly.

Colonel W.A. Salmon:

I must tell you another lovely story. This happened in the Sind. The big club was called the Sind Club, it was quite famous throughout India. On one occasion, for St. Andrew's Day, the Sind Club decided they must, because there was quite a Scottish contingent there, they must have a dinner. Well, they went to the Scottish regiment. "Can you lend us a band and your piper?" The Scottish regiment said, "We'll lend you the piper, certainly, but we can't lend you the band because we're having our own St. Andrew's Night dinner." So they went to the other British regiment and they were doing something else and couldn't loan their band. So eventually they got the band of the Goan Society. Well the Goan Society had a very good band, and I must say their bandmaster was a very nice little man called Mr. Gomez, tiny little man. The president got hold of him and he said, "Now, Mr. Gomez, when you play I leave it entirely up to you what the music should be. It's St. Andrew's Day, as you know, so pick plenty of Scottish tunes. And at the end we drink the toast to His Majesty the King Emperor. So that'll be 'God Save the King.' Now the American ambassador is present, that's number two, so you would play the American anthem. The next one is the French, so play 'La Marseillaise.' And there's also the Belgian charge d'affaires. It'll be in that order, so no difficulty. And you want to practice the anthems, get them absolutely right. Thank you very much."

Well, what the president forgot to tell him, which was most unfortunate, was that when all the toasts were drunk, the president rapped the table and called, up standing, for the silent toast to our patron saint, St. Andrew. Well, they were in the big dining room with all the windows open -- it was very hot -- and the band was on the terrace outside. Well, they had the loyal toast for the King Emperor, then the American anthem. It went beautifully. Then suddenly to Mr. Gomez's horror chairs were pushed back and he saw everyone standing and waving their glasses. "Let me see. King Emperor, American ambassador.... It's not right." And just as they were about to put their glasses to their lips to drink the silent toast, there blares out: "For he's a jolly good fellow, For he's a jolly good fellow."

Colonel W.A. Salmon:

In British regiments you had a British mess sergeant. But the servants were all Indians. Many's the time I've been dining with friends in an Indian regiment, and the old mess havildar comes and it was the same drill: curtain pulled aside, and the old man would stand there, gold medals on his chest, with his mess havildar's uniform on. "Sahib huzoor," he'd say, which means Your Highness. "Khana teyyar hai!" Dinner is ready. And then he'd depart.

And then you went in to dinner in strict order of seniority. The colonel would lead the way and go to his place, and the second in command would pass up the table. And the majors would go and they would sit where they wanted, as senior officers. And then the subalterns. And there was on occasion a most undignified scamp around the table, as the last two subalterns through the door were left two empty places on either side of the CO.

Sunday evening was the only informal night, because you wore mess kit every other night, and then on Sunday night you could wear a dinner jacket. And that was a moveable feast. You'd come in at any time, but if you went after nine o'clock you didn't get any food. So anytime between eight and nine, you could come in and have dinner, go, or stay and read the paper, do whatever you wanted to.

But we had the most amazing dinners in those days. It was always the same. You had soup, you had fish, you had chicken, usually, or game. Then you had the main course, meat. Then you had pudding. Then you had a savory. Then you had fruit, and then you had coffee. My, how we did it I just don't know. Be it the hot weather or the cold weather, it didn't matter a bit. And day after day, the same thing. I mean there have been times when I've sat at the mess table for a solid two hours or more, aching to get up and go, but oh, no, you couldn't.

The officer's mess, you see, it was the home of the regiment. And you had your customs. Some were very funny, perhaps, some darned stupid. But it was all built on tradition. And most of them really were homes. You could always sense a good regiment when you went into the mess, what the atmosphere was like. It was quite incredible.

Major Christopher York:

Dinner was always a very formal affair in mess kit, which first of all was always a stiff shirt and a wing collar, and a black tie and overalls -- which is the tight trouser. Then you had a white Eton jacket -- the short jacket you sometimes see waiters wearing -- with our regimental buttons on, and a dark blue weskit, also with regimental buttons. Once a week we would have a guest night and the regimental band would be playing outside. We had a lot of lovely silver and we always drank whatever the main drink was out of silver goblets eight inches high. At the end of the dinner the Royal Dragoons had a particular privilege derived from the time that we once had a monarch that sailed with us somewhere on a ship. You can't get up in a ship because the decks are so low and he gave us permission not to rise to drink the Loyal Toast because he knew that we were loyal. That tradition carries on and the band played "God Save the King" outside on the verandah. We took no notice at all inside and went on talking and drinking. But we couldn't smoke until after the band had played "God Save the King." We used to have guests from the Indian Civil Service or some other regiment or the brigadier. That happened once a week.

H. P. Hall:

When I first went up to Fort Sandeman, although it was a frontier station -- no electric light, no laid on water, no women -- you used to change into full mess kit, with stiff shirts, every night. But literally, you had to put on a stiff shirt, a stiff collar, a black tie, and a full regimental mess kit. In fact you worked it out with your bearer. You were dressed by your bearer, valeted, and you got so expert at this that you could come back from playing a game of tennis or something or other at the club, and you could hop into a bath which was all laid out for you. A tin tub, no taps or anything, but the water at the right temperature. And you'd have a bath and the towel would be handed to you, you'd dry yourself rapidly and you'd be helped into your clothes, and you'd put your socks and shoes on -- you never put your own socks and shoes on -- and you'd be dressed. And you could do it in about five to ten minutes like that. And you'd hop off to the mess for your dinner.

Philip Mason:

One did have a feeling very quickly that there was something you'd got to avoid being overcome by -- this sort of slipshod sort of dirtiness, having everything comme si, comme ca. I mean we were really fussy about being punctual, and we were very fussy about wearing the right clothes for specific occasions. I think it did accentuate that sort of thing, the determination not to be [overcome by it all].

You had to sort of keep up a front and maintain your standards and dress for dinner in the jungle and so on, and I have actually done that. I have actually once put on a dinner jacket in the jungle because it was in my very first camp I was at, and only on Christmas night. We did it on Christmas day and we were in the jungle. But usually we in my day used to wear just a jersey and a dressing gown very often in camp. But still it was traditional. It was putting up fronts and it was partly because one wanted to preserve one's standards and not sort of go down hill, but also it was because we were one to -- whatever it was, six hundred thousand -- and you had to sort of keep yourself aloof.

Sir George Abel:

When I was secretary to Wavell, the Tibetan government sent a legation -- I think it was a conventional thing to do. They sent one to each Viceroy once to pay their respects and ask that their good relations with India should remain the same. They came from the north over the Himalayas, you see. Always under pressure from the Chinese. They came to Delhi and their conventional clothes are a round, sort of velour hat, a homburg, a round felt hat. Then they have white trousers underneath a long black coat and their hair is kept long and they plait it, wind it round their heads and put the hat on top and they wear the hat indoors. And six of them, or eight of them, turned up. A deputation of leading Tibetans to see the Viceroy, and he received them according to tradition in the Durbar Hall, which was a place like a great lake of marble with huge pillars round the sides. And there were members of the bodyguard standing up against each pillar with lances in their hands and huge turbans on their heads. White britches and black boots. This was a very formal occasion. Indeed everybody frozen and these eight little men in the middle to make their presentation to the Viceroy, which consisted of a silver tea pot. On these occasions they also have a white shawl which they put across their arms, and they bring it out and it's sort of a ritual gift. And they all have these white shawls over their hands, and one of them had the silver tea pot in his hands, and they walked across this lake of marble, as I said, people looking all around, bodyguard there, Viceroy on the throne. And they got halfway across and the man who'd got the silver tea pot dropped it on the marble with a clang. Total silence. We thought, "Oh, no, the whole party's broken up, what's going to happen now?" None of them smiled, none of them cried out. They just halted and stopped. The man who dropped the tea pot put it back on his arm. They walked up and made their presentation to the Viceroy and so the formal part of the thing ended. And it was rescued by the extraordinary calm of these characters, who looked right out of this world. Nobody'd ever seen anybody looking like this before.

This was to be followed by a luncheon party given by the Viceroy. Now I was at the party and I knew no language that I thought these strange characters from the other end of the world would know. And I wondered what would happen if I sat next to one. Sure enough, I sat next to one of these senior members of the Tibetan government and I thought, "Now, shall we try French, or shall we try Hindustani, English or what?" And I thought, "Probably we shall have to mumble in our food and say nothing." And then this man next to me -- he'd taken his hat off, he'd still got the plait round here -- he turned to me and said, "I was at Rugby. Where were you?"

Major General R.C.A. Edge:

Did Fergus Innes tell you the story about his father's dress uniform? When his father retired from being Governor of Burma, he came back to this country, and being a Scotsman he thought he would realize as many of his assets in cash as he could. And he thought, "Well, I shan't need this full dress uniform any more, and I'll flog it." So he took it up to Moss Bros. and offered it to them. And they looked at it and said, "Well, it is in beautiful condition, but of course you must realize that it's not very often that we get any requests for the full dress uniform of the Governor of Burma. I'm afraid we can't offer you very much for it, but we'll give you ten pounds." So he thought, "Well, ten pounds is better than nothing." So he took the ten pounds, handed over his best dress, went home, and a month or two later one of these enormous envelopes -- with the royal household seal on it -- appeared in his letter box, saying that Her Majesty commands you to attend a levee at Buckingham Palace/St. James Palace on the occasion of your handing over your duties as Governor of Burma. So he thought hard, and he said, "Well, I'll have to go and hire a uniform." So he went back to Moss Bros., and he said, "Well, I've got to attend a levee as Governor of Burma, and I wonder if I could hire the uniform." And they said, "Well, you must realize that it's not very often -- you know we keep these things in stock, but it's very expensive to keep them in stock, because there's not much demand for them, and I'm afraid they arerather expensive to hire. The fee will be ten pounds." And he was so impressed by the perfect justice of it that he paid up and hired his own full dress back.

C.J. Pelly:

It's an instance of the persistence of the Victorian tradition, in that you had also to pass an exam in riding to enter the Indian Civil Service. I had ridden as a child, because most people brought up as I was in Ireland did. One went down to Woolwich Arsenal to the Gunners and a Gunner major took you on a course on a horse that was like a circus horse actually. That emphasis persisted the whole time. I went out in '31. The tradition of having to go out on tour, to meet the people and camp, that persisted for a long time.

The panoply was all there. These things don't die quickly, you can't wind them up overnight. I remember my own first Deputy Commissioner in Sialkhot -- I was Assistant Commissioner -- deploring the fact that one of my colleagues had taken Modern Greats instead of Greats, the classics, at Oxford. It was part of a tradition carried on not only in India, but all over the colonial Empire.

Philip Mason:

British culture in India was always at least thirty years behind the times -- at least thirty years, and in some places far more. And this is really natural when you come to think about it, because the sort of tone of British society in upper India -- I don't know about Calcutta and Bombay, but in the U.P. and Punjab and Delhi -- it was all official, and so the sort of ruling lights were people who had been thirty-five years in India, and their sort of outlook on life and society was very much what it had been when they left Oxford. And we did all leave Oxford very immature. You know, you go to a boarding school without any girls and then you go to Oxford, and in those days they had segregated colleges and it was a very segregated life, indeed. Well, that's one point, you see, it was very out of date. And servants, you see, also had very often been trained [by an earlier generation]. Certainly in my very early days I stayed for part of the summer with a man who was about ten years older than myself, but his parents had been in India, and he had inherited his parents' values and his parents had retired before the First World War, actually, so their life style had been old fashioned, by English standards, when they went home. And their bearer had been trained by them in the early days and his training went back to a sort of pre-Edwardian period. And they would lay a table in a sort of late Victorian, or early Edwardian sort of style. A great deal of life and the outlook on life was very much out of date.

But against this, of course, there was also what I regard as the ADC's Room element, which is quite a different sort of little world. The Governor had two ADC's, who were always very smart young men, from fairly expensive regiments, sometimes cavalry regiments, sometimes the rather good British regiments, and their ideas about life were really quite different from those of most of the Anglo-Indian people who surrounded them. And there would be favorites who would be entertained at Government House. And this was more marked in Delhi, I think, than in the provincial capitals, but the feeling was there, both in Lucknow and Delhi. It was this sort of more up-to-date, young thing element in the ADC's Room, and if you're in a place like Lucknow, you've also got a British cavalry regiment, you see, who had money, who had been in London, who were much more up-to-date in every kind of way. I spent one summer in the cavalry regiment at Lucknow, and I lived in their mess, before I was married, and I saw a lot of them, and I really enjoyed it very much. It was great fun. It was a complete change. They were very nice, but they did really despise all that sort of Anglo-Indian society all round, and most of the Indian cavalry -- even the cavalry regiments. So there was a gap in this facade of old fashioned, Victorian Anglo-Indian culture.

The Warrant of Precedence

Fergus Innes:

It was all rather absurd, but you had this Warrant of Precedence laid down. It was all down in black and white. Well, I suppose when the memsahib gave a dinner party, she was so anxious not to offend anybody, she just looked it up. For example, the Deputy Commissioner in his own district ranked superior to the Brigadier in military command of the station. But one was careful to treat one's elders and betters with due deference, even though one was technically superior to them. You find that all in Kipling, don't you? Everybody knows exactly what everybody else's pay is and what their place is in the Warrant of Precedence. Yes, it was all rather absurd. A very formal society, I suppose. A very friendly one, also.

Edith Dixon:

Now my mother used to tell a story. The lowest of the whites were the box wallahs. Now a box wallah is a peddler, a man who sells. So anybody in trade was a box wallah. They might entertain him perhaps. The most junior subaltern would really speak rather contemptuously of him. Well, the story goes that in a club one day one lady said to another, meaning to insult her, "Good evening, Mrs. Mappin. Or is it Webb?" Mappin and Webb are the big goldsmiths, silversmiths, in London, so just by saying, "Or is it Webb?" she's as much as saying, of course, "You've been in trade." The most damning thing. Mr. Webb would have been wealthy compared to poor Mrs. Whoever Was Doing the Insulting. It was quite crazy.

Keith Roy:

In my days, when I went out in 1934, Calcutta, although no longer the capital, was still the commercial capital of India, and if you saw the wealth of the commercial nabobs, as they called them, and the way they lived, you just can't believe it. They lived extremely well.

There was this social distinction in Calcutta -- it's a difficult thing to put your finger on. We were the ICS and they called us the heaven born. To be quite frank about it, that's what they called us. Then they had the commercial people, and they were called the box wallahs. Now you could have, and indeed we did have, in these big companies in Calcutta a young boy of my age, twenty two, twenty three, shall we say? I go out in the ICS, I've already got a degree from a university, I've been through this heck of an examination, and you got there. Now on the other side of the line is a young boy of twenty two, English boy, who had no university education, but he comes out as a clerk in one of the bigger European companies. He would be earning at least three or four times as much as I was. But these boys could not get into the clubs. Whereas I could go to almost any club, these boys had to set up their separate clubs, where they could go and move. It was a social fact of life.

When I was posted up country, here was one of the largest districts in Bengal. The Deputy Commissioner was the guy in charge. My boss was an English ICS officer, he was in charge of the whole kapootz, literally. Rajshai was a very important district, and we had an English ICS officer, I was there as his assistant, we had an English IMS officer, we had an enormous jail where there was an English superintendent, we had a very, very active English missionary set up. Round the corner we had the Bengal Zemindari Company, one of the biggest British commercial operations in jute in that area, because Rajshai was a jute growing area. Entirely manned by Europeans. They were enormous, thousands of acres of land, but it fell within our jurisdiction. Here we were in charge of the whole bang shoot, law, order, revenue, everything, earning say a thousand dollars -- I'm only using illustrative figures now -- a month, and here was the English commercial man earning four, five, six times the amount of money, living in a house which you just cannot believe, and yet we couldn't talk to each other.

Margery Hall:

Only last year I met someone who is now an ambassador, and his wife was telling me they'd been in India recently and the Delhi diplomatic business now was a total enclave. So all their houses were together. When we were in Delhi, we were in tents. And all their houses were in a diplomatic enclave, so they all lived in this little village all together. And she said to me in all seriousness, and this was two or three years ago, she said, "And you know the Indians are such snobs. You could never imagine the snobbery that goes on in that enclave in Delhi." So before I could stop it, I said, "Oh, we did teach them well, didn't we!"

Snobbery existed to an enormous degree in the English society in India. There is no question. Protocol was built on this sort of thing, from the Viceroy down to the Political Service, the ICS, through the Political. The ICS were the cream of the Indian services.

Fergus Innes:

The Army used to call us ICS officers the heaven born. They used to think we were a bit stuck up, because we didn't have the time, perhaps, to go enough to the club. To tell the truth, going to the club and sitting round with round after round of drinks was just a bit of duty you carried out perhaps once a fortnight. You'd far too much to do at home. You wanted generally to work. You didn't want to sit round chatting, so they possibly thought you were a little bit stand-offish. And we were intellectuals and all that, and they usually weren't, and we spoke the languages a lot better than they did.

I don't remember any feuds among the Europeans. Just a few unfortunate cases where somebody had gone off with somebody else's wife and that sort of thing. We were certainly in the Punjab a band of brothers. We inherited the tradition of the Lawrences, where they really were a band of brothers. They were tremendously cohesive.

You felt above all that you were members of the Indian Civil Service, which we all felt was the greatest service in the world. But within that you were very much a man of your own province. I would say that the Punjab had a tradition of being very much the good district officer type, the open man who knew his people, liked that sort of work. The United Provinces perhaps much the same, tremendous people for sport and all that. Madras frightfully hard working. Very good people, and they had enormous districts in Madras. The Collector, as they used to call the district officer in Madras, had a most colossal district and he had a tremendous amount of work.

You never transferred from one province to another. You transferred from your own province to the Government of India, or you could transfer altogether, leave your province and go to the Foreign and Political Service, which was made up roughly half of Indian Civil Servants and half of Army men. And we used to say -- rather naughty of us, it was very untrue -- we used to say it was made up of civilians who won't work and Army men who won't fight. Most untrue, but they did have a cushier life. The Residents in an Indian state had a very comfortable life indeed.

Margery Hall:

I went out of every door last, because my father was nothing in India. And I was nothing. I was nothing at all. I was next in caliber to the Anglo-Indians [Eurasians]. Father had to be something -- or you had to be something, but usually father. So that when I'd been there a week, my friend said, "There's something I've got to tell you. I'm sorry about it, but you must know." So I said, "What's that?" She said, "You must not walk out of doors before people more senior to you." So I said, "But what is my status?" And she looked very embarrassed and said, "You haven't got one." So I said, "Well, I go out of every door last?" She said, "Yes." So for those two months I went out of every door last, and as I said, I knew everybody's behind better than anything else in Simla. And that also came to using the lavatory, which were thunderboxes, and I had to go and use the lavatory when everybody else had finished. It made me quite hysterical with laughter at times.

People were very obsessed with status. They'd built the whole pattern of Indian life on protocol. Nobody stepped out of line, except the American girl who was at a party I was at. And we were all waiting to use this one thunderbox, which was this sort of Welsh tin hat -- like a commode -- we were all waiting to use that. And I was in my usual place at the back of the room. It didn't matter what your need was. You still waited till the senior ladies had gone first. And she suddenly looked round at all of us waiting, and she said, "Well, I dunno," she said, "I'm bustin' and you'll all have to wait."

The snobbery was absolute. The integrity was equally absolute. You didn't have British officers doing anything but a splendid job. They did a wonderful job. The establishment of law and order and lack of corruptibility -- as an Indian will tell you today if he's honest -- gave something they can never lose, which was wonderful. But the snobbery! I think myself that they were very cruel, even to people like me, who were nobody. I remember going to a senior lady's house -- her husband had been knighted by that time -- and I had one of my two pairs of new shoes. And I went to her house with these people who were Foreign and Political Service and quite acceptable socially -- in Simla of all places. And she never even said good afternoon to me, nor did she speak to me once, nor did she say goodbye to me when I left. I was, socially, totally unacceptable.

And she told the story that she'd got some very, very priceless little mats for her finger bowls. You see, the bearer would have cleared all the plates and things. And you would then lift your finger bowl up and put it on your right, over the mat. She had these priceless old mats. And one girl got so terrified that she took a helping of stem ginger and cinnamon onto her precious mat. And she got in such a state about it that she ate mat, ginger and the lot!

Sir Alec Ogilvie:

As a young bachelor -- heaven knows how this custom survived as long as it did -- at the start of the cold weather in Calcutta, the nice weather from mid-November, every single married couple home of any seniority had a little calling box at the gate with their name on it and it was our duty as a young bachelor to go round and drop a visiting card every year. And what's more you wouldn't be asked to a meal unless you'd done that. Now that faded out very quickly in the forties.

Colonel W.A. Salmon:

[Dropping cards] was very much the thing to do. When you arrived in the station as a newcomer, within the first week you had to call on your commanding officer -- if he was married and his wife was there; if he was a bachelor, you met him in the mess and didn't bother. The first thing you had to do, within twenty-four hours, was call on your own brother officers in the mess and you left your cards. The times were from around drinks time until eight o'clock. You would go and call. You had to shoot your cards, one for the CO and one for his lady. The senior subaltern would always tell you who were the people you had to call on. There were the married officers of your own regiment, the commanding officers of any other regiment that happened to be stationed there, plus the chief civilian. He might be an Indian or he might be British. Still, you went to call. But you had to be careful. If he was a Mohammedan, you didn't call on his wife, you merely left your card on him. If he was a Hindu, then you called on both. And he might be in, in which case he'd receive you, give you a drink or ask you to tea or something. And then invariably in the course of time you'd be invited to dinner. Oh, the etiquette was terrific.

There's one lovely story that will amuse you. A very dear brother officer of mine, he was an idle old thing. He didn't go call on the CO or the CO's wife. Well, the CO's wife was a very domineering person and when we'd been there about six weeks, the mess had a reception after church on the mess lawn. And Mrs. McC. spotted us both and she said to him, "Come here, Mr. S. Now will you explain, please? I gather you have been in this station for nearly two months. Why have you not been to call on me?" And he said, "Mrs. McC., I do apologize, but I do assure you the road to your house has been paved with my good intentions." Fortunately, she had a sense of humor.

Margery Hall:

The Indian cantonment is like a village dropped down into a great city, and you lived within it. Your social life is it. All the officers' wives do things together. And this is the narrowness of it. You have your supplies, you have everything. So you don't live in the country, you live in this little separate world.

I would think the military were the most self- contained, because you had this cantonment thing. The short time I spent in the Army in Poona, it seemed to me terribly self- contained. It was an Army major's wife put to look after me. We were very poor, because my husband was in the Political, he'd been called back to the Army, he was twenty-six, and his rank didn't entitle him to a married allowance. And he couldn't be regarded as single because he was married. And this woman, N., was a fearful snob. We had no money at all. And we had all these servants to keep. And I was pregnant, which turned out to be twins, so basically we were very, very poor indeed. And N. was given the task of looking after me. She was a major's wife, and my husband had known her in his regimental days before he joined the Political. So she was given this job of shepherding me around and looking after me and so on. Well, she was the most terrible old snob.

You had to keep whiskey in the house, because when people called they had to be given a drink of whiskey. Why they couldn't have been given a drink of something else I have no idea, but this was the pattern. You had to have this whiskey in your cupboard. We bought one bottle a month, because we had no more money. And you called on everybody, all the senior people, people living round you, and you were supposed to exchange cards, leaving a certain number of cards for husband and wife, and then they would call. And they drank with you and you drank with them, and you'd establish this courtesy of returning calls. Well, of course it wasn't any use us calling on people, because we hadn't any whiskey when they came back. So we got this bottle of whiskey, and we were terrified lest anybody called on us, lest they wanted a drink. Because when it was finished, it was finished. Because we hadn't any money to buy another bottle. If we survived the month, we were clever.

And so N. was given the job of looking after me. So she summoned me to her house one morning, and I was given this interrogation. How many people had I called on? And she wanted the names. How many people had called back on me? And she wanted the names. And she kept peppering me with these questions. And I soon tumbled to the idea that I was up against something very tough, that I had no idea how you coped with at all. I didn't live like that at home at all, although I had come from an ordinary middle class family. And every question she asked me I said "no," and I thought, "Well, in the end, the penny will drop on this thick skinned woman that she's going to get nothing out of me." Had I called on So and So? No. Had So and So called on me? No. Had I done this? Had I done that? No. No. No. And this went on for quite a time. And she finished up by saying, "Have you got a fridge at home?" And I thought, "Now that is getting too much." Oh, she told me she came from the biggest seat in Northumberland, which made me feel much smaller and meaner than I did when I arrived, and I went on with all this "no, no, no, no." And when she got to "Have you got a fridge at home?" I couldn't work that out. So I'd had enough of her, and so I said, "Yes, two." So I thought that should shut her up, and I said, "Now, I'm going home." I wasn't going to tell her I was pregnant and we hadn't got tuppence. But she must have known what our pay was, because it was known to everybody.

But I got it back on her, because we were in the Signal School with all the subalterns there, and I said to the subalterns, "I can tell you something about N. you don't know." And they said, "What's that?" I said, "She's got the biggest seat in Northumberland." And she had. She was about that wide. We all howled with laughter. And they went about saying, "She's got the biggest seat in Northumberland."

Lt. Col. John Masters:

You did feel after a time that you were a member of a closed society which the others didn't know. You started of course with your knowledge of the language and everything that you learned you built up. You learned Gurkhali. I learned Gurkha songs, Gurkha customs. And then in the evenings you'd meet some other regiment out on maneuvers and you'd be swapping. You'd learn about Sikh customs over some whiskey in a tent out in the middle of the Punjab desert on maneuvers.

And then there were stories, particularly about characters, famous characters of the Indian Army. Everybody knew somebody whose name I've forgotten, but he was a Commissioner, very high ICS officer who'd never get to be a Governor because he was an alcoholic. He'd wake up in the morning first thing and have a full tumbler of gin with fruit salt in it, and that was his breakfast. He'd eat nothing but. And he was always soused. But nobody moved in that division without his knowing it, and you know he'd suddenly wake up and send a letter or telegram to his DC saying, "How many of the Such and Such tribe moved into your area yesterday? I believe three of them are wanted for murder." And the DC didn't even know himself that they'd come into his district.

And there was a man who was a great sex pot and lover. He is reported to have come down to breakfast one day rubbing his hands and saying, "Mother and daughter before breakfast."

And everybody knew ghost stories of the Indian Mutiny, mainly Indian Mutiny ones. Cries and screams on May the 10th, which is the day the Mutiny broke out. People were herded into a church and set fire, and then right on through the years, a century later in the church they would hear screams and see flames reflected on May the 10th. And these stories are very common. A ghost, the guard commander. The field officer of the week goes around and turns out the guard, and he finds it rather slow, and he goes to fill in the book and he finds that it's already been turned out. And the sentry says, "Well, a sahib I didn't know came up on a horse." And this is the ghost who turned out the guard. There are a whole lot. They are practically all connected with the Mutiny. Or some of them pre- Mutiny.

There is definitely an overall lore. The British- Indian society was so small and so tight-knit that after five to ten years, there wasn't a person you didn't know by name and reputation. And a lot of the women, too. I mean you'd hear news of some lady down in South India who was know as "the passionate haystack" and so on. Oh, there was definitely a lore.
Margery Hall:

I think one did exchange more stories in India because you dined out quite a lot. It was your life. You had no cinema. You'd no television. You'd nothing. And therefore I would say that there was an exchange of stories. And of course there has always been a lot of stories told about senior people. I mean this is the sort of thing they -- I hear them still today. "Remember old So and So."

Roy Metcalf, Indian Army, later Indian Political Service:

Oh, yes, it was a marvelous country for eccentrics. Well, you see, it was so virtually due to right because we were the ruling class. The ruling class. I had a Resident in Central India who used to go riding around early in the morning. People would sleep out in their gardens frequently. He would take his horse over the gate and over their beds and out again. And the first time I met him officially -- I was his undersecretary, and the secretary would go in in the morning with whatever had to be discussed, you know, and it would be my turn, you see. And I tapped on the door. "Come in." I went in and I didn't see anybody. And a voice said, "What have you got for me, Metcalf?" I said, "Oh, something about coal" or something. He said, "The hell with coal." I said, "Where are you?" He said, "I'm here." He was under the desk carving a wooden boat. He had a big desk. He was under the sort of well, carving away at a wooden boat. In the end he fetched up as Governor of Somaliland no less. But they weren't quite so eccentric in my time as they had been years previously. But there were still quite a few eccentrics around. It lends itself to eccentricity. Provided you stayed within the law, there was nobody who would say anything about you.

My Resident in Central India, when he had a reception or something like that, which he was always having, he'd creep up behind somebody, stand behind them and give them a good old kick in the backside, see? They'd turn around to see the Resident. They couldn't possibly be kicked by the Resident.

Lt. Col. John Masters:

Oh, it had its rules, yes, but a lot of rules didn't apply to the British officer in the sense that you could do just about anything and get away with it because who would arrest you? Who would say nay, except your own rules, the rules of the governing society, you know. It's not done to do so and so, but one time or another India was wild enough so actually everybody did whatever he was supposed not to do.

One of my friends was a South African Jew in the Rajput Regiment who used to smoke a cigar all the time. He was a quarter-miler. He held the India record. His name was E. He'd walk up to the start of a track meet with this large cigar in his mouth, puffing away. Just as they'd settled down on the starting deck, he'd put the cigar down on the track and then go voom around and break the record. And when the war began he was in Tibet, in Ladakh, in Little Tibet, in a monastery as a monk. He was a lieutenant in the Rajputs, the 2nd or 7th Rifles. When the word reached him about the war, he set off at once and traveling by the fastest means available to a yellow-robed monk with a shaven head and everything, he reached his battalion just as it was passing through Sibi Junction. He came into Sibi one way and there was the battalion across the platform. So he walked across the platform and took command of his company in this monk's robe, saffron on his forehead, and no one thought it peculiar.

He'd served in Assam at one point and he was very fond of tradition. And in my father's time an Indian would not pass you with his umbrella or parasol up. He'd lower it passing you on the street anywhere, and also he would not raise an umbrella or something next to you in a public conveyance. Well this guy E. was crossing the Irrawaddy on his way to the Assam Military Police, where he was serving to earn more money to pay off his debts. In the Assam Police you got more money and you couldn't spend it anywhere. And an Indian raised his umbrella right in front of him and E. threw him into the river, which is about five miles wide at that point. So they had some trouble fishing him out. The captain of the boat took his name, and the police report was made out, and finally E. got the official censure of the Viceroy of India for his behavior. And he sent it back with a very polite note saying, "Could I please have this on vellum, as I want to have it framed."

Fergus Innes:

In the Punjab we had a few eccentrics. We had one who I'm afraid was eccentric because he'd hit the bottle too hard, and he was extremely lazy toward the end of his time. But somehow he seemed to know what was going on in his district and kept everything from turning over all right. He never did a stroke of work. And he used to start his breakfast with a glass of gin, that sort of thing, and he had periodical bouts of DT and so on. He should have been thrown out. And we had another remarkable character who was really very eccentric, who worked awfully hard but at the wrong things. Never did any work he should have been doing. He was frightfully bothered by his health. Stories about him used to go round, how he got out of the train coming into Lahore to see a specialist and walked on all fours across the platform because his heart couldn't stand walking upright. I don't know that that's true. These stories used to go round at the clubs.

Robin Adair:

There were plenty of odd characters. One I remember in particular was a High Court judge's wife who used to appear at the club with nothing on but a python around her neck. She had a pretty lurid reputation.

Arthur Barlow:

There was a certain Resident of the Eastern States whom I didn't get on with very well -- and he and his wife were on tour with me. When you went on tour, you see, the Political Agent of that group came with you. And the Political Agent of this particular group of states was rather flashy -- a bit unusual -- an army officer. He [had] a small mustache, brushed back like an army officer. Not much patience with ceremonial. And his wife was a lady who also was rather modern and had no patience with authority or her superiors either. When we arrived there this colonel [the Political Agent] met us at the train and he said to the Resident, "Do you mind if our tiger cub comes too?" The Resident looked rather astonished and said, "Oh, put him in the other car." The Resident and his wife and the Political Agent went in one car and I came behind with the tiger cub and his keeper.

When we got to the guest house of this place there was an entrance hall with a lot of chairs in it, you see, and the Political Agent said to the Resident, "You sit there, sir." The tiger had gone away by now with his keeper. And I sat down facing the door and the Resident and the Political Agent sat with their backs to the door. He offered us a drink and we began drinking, and presently to my horror there was the tiger out and he was stalking. The Resident had his back to him all unconscious of this. I sat there transfixed, and presently if the tiger cub didn't take a flying leap and land on the Resident's head! Pandemonium. It was one time when I really was sympathetic with this man. The result of that was they retired upstairs -- it was a two storey. They even sent for a carpenter and had a door built at the top of the stairs, and the tiger cub and I and the Political Agent and his wife were left downstairs.

At that time -- it was from Calcutta that we came and there were a lot of shootings and assassinations in Calcutta at that time -- the terrorists -- we all had bodyguards and I had a very nice fellow as a bodyguard. I had arranged that he should sleep outside my room. And the next morning -- I fortunately had a mosquito net tucked under the mattress -- I woke up in the morning and I said, "What's that funny scratching noise?" To my horror it was the tiger. He was doing this all around my mosquito net. So I called "Ahmed! Ahmed!" to the bodyguard. He said, "Yes, sahib." So I said, "Come quick, there's a tiger." He said, "What?" Laughing, you see. He came round the corner with his pistol held ready and he took one look at the tiger and fled! Eventually he went away. Honestly I think he was only a playful tiger cub but he became very objectionable. He used to run after the servants and tear their trousers. Eventually they had to get rid of him.

H. P. Hall:

I went off to Delhi and I met all the brass of the Indian Political Service. I went through these various interviews with really the top people in the Indian Political Service, the top men. Then I had to go down to Viceroy's House to have lunch with Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy, because he was the chap who had to do the final decision. We had a general chat.

When I got back to the hotel where I was staying, the manager was in terrible excitement. He said, "Oh, the Private Secretary of the Viceroy has been on to the hotel. He wanted to see you. He's sorry he missed you and he's sending a Viceroy's car for you." So, one of the viceregal cars drove up to the hotel, with a crest, et cetera, on the top. This made my name with the hotel, of course. I said to the hotel manager, "Who's the Private Secretary to the Viceroy?" And he said, "It's a chap called G.L., but he's on leave and it's one of the ADC's who's acting as Private Secretary."

So I drove down back to Viceroy's House in this car and was met by one of the bodyguards and shown up into the Private Secretary's office, which was a very nice office indeed, and greeted this chap, who didn't say what his name was. And I was assuming that he was an ADC to the Viceroy, one of the ADC's -- there were several of them -- acting as Private Secretary. Private Secretary to the Viceroy was a very important chap indeed. This chap, as far as I was concerned, was just an ordinary human being. So, in fact, we had a very frank discussion. I also said I wasn't necessarily certain I was going to join the Indian Political Service. It was a question of job satisfaction. It seemed to me that the sorts of jobs they did were likely to be more satisfying than the Army in peacetime. And I went away.

Later, after I'd joined the Political, we went to visit one of these little states miles away, not far from Jhansi, on an annual tour, and we stayed in the palace there with the maharajah, in the guest house. Linlithgow and his entourage were paying a state visit to this particular state. He came on his own special train, hundreds of people. They were going to have a state banquet for Linlithgow, the Viceroy, and his party. I looked at the list of guests -- the Resident, his secretary, and myself were on tour there -- and who should be on the guest list but this ADC, the chap who was supposed to be acting as Private Secretary when I visited the Viceroy's House. They came to this dinner party -- they had juggling shows and all the rest of it -- and we were all sort of put in a circle and introduced to the Viceroy. I saw this chap and greeted him as a long, lost friend. And when they had the juggling things, I said, "You don't want to watch this, do you? I know where there's a private bar. We'll have drinks and watch the thing going on." We spent the evening together chatting away. I still thought he was an ADC and he asked me stories about various people, and I told him exactly what I thought of various things, because I thought I was talking to somebody who was sort of equal, at least slightly more than equal but not all that more than equal.

They caught their train at midnight, the Viceroy's train went off, and I hopped a lift into Jhansi, went to the club, and bought up a few bottles of Australian champagne. The next day we were being joined by the Governor of the Central Provinces. When we were on the train, we had our own coach. The Resident had his own coach which was divided into a sort of dining room and a sitting room and a bedroom and another smaller dining room and a couple of compartments for the staff. The Governor of the Central Provinces had his own coach attached to the same train. The Governor and the Resident and others had lunch in the Resident's car, and he was the host, and the junior staff had lunch in our staff dining room, but we had champagne, because I'd brought it from the Jhansi club. That was one- upmanship. The Resident's secretary said to me, "I didn't know you knew G.L." I said, "I've never met him. I've never met him at all." He said, "You spent the whole evening with him." This was the Private Secretary to the Viceroy!

Well, years later, Sir G.L. became Permanent Secretary to the Commonwealth Relations Office and I met him at one of these parties and I told him this story. I explained that when I was having all these bloody chats with him at this maharajah's palace, I didn't know who he was. Do you know, he wasn't amused at all.

"Never Eat the Fish at Moghul-Serai":
Danger, Disease and Death

Catherine Gardiner:

I can remember at Moghul-serai the stationmaster's wife; she was an awfully nice woman. She said to me, "Never eat the fish here." Because somebody she had known had been up and had eaten some fish on Sunday, and she said, "She ate some fish and by tea time she was dead." I've always remembered: Never eat the fish at Moghul-serai.

H.P. Hall:

When I went out to India in 1933, there were about fifty of us or so, and when I came home on leave in '37, thirteen of those people had been killed already. And this was before the war.

Major-General R.C.A. Edge:

You can't transplant yourself from northern Europe to Southern Asia without something happening. India was a place which created tensions. No doubt about that.

I think, going anywhere other than the village you've been born in and brought up in created tension, and so if you go to a very distant land, it creates rather more extreme tensions. And if you add to that the generally speaking total imbalance between the males and the females of the European society, that creates tensions. And the climate itself. I mean, this country is a soft climate, without extremes, and so everybody tends to be reasonable. But in India, it's extremes. I mean either it's parching dry, or else it's absolutely belching with rain. Either you're scorching on the plains, or else you're literally freezing to death in the Himalayas. It's a country of contrasts. And this affects people.

Major-General William Odling:

Jolly hot, jolly hot. We lived in the most tremendous discomfort. In the hot weather it was frightfully hot. A lot of people found they really couldn't sleep till about one o'clock, and then there was a fashion to have your main parade of the day before it got too hot, so that was very often at five, meaning getting up, you know, before then. Then we probably took the afternoon and slept. Whether this was a good thing or not, we younger people always rebelled against it because we could sleep at night. It seemed that there was a lot to be said for parading when it was hot and sleeping when it was cool. We did have fans, but there was no air conditioning, no fridges, nothing like that at all. So we were often pretty uncomfortable.

The glue on the sticky part of an envelope was always curled right up. If you put on a piece of clothing, the one next to your skin was always hotter than you. It was quite a strain. Then about the twentieth of June, the monsoon came -- unless it failed, and that only happened perhaps once every twenty-five years. The monsoon came and one got a tremendous amount of rain, lovely hot rain. You had the most tremendous urge to rush out into the rain, naked or nearly naked. It was such an immense sort of relief. Then you were in another climate, damp as damp. Mushrooms used to spring out of your shoes. The most incredible change. I'm not exaggerating about this.

Major-General Sir Charles Dalton:

Another thing that I remember very well when I first went to India was the extraordinary feeling before the monsoon broke. About the first of April was the beginning of the hot weather and it got hotter and hotter from then until about the middle of June when the monsoon broke. And you got very bad tempered and very irritable in this hot weather. And then you smelt the rain on the wind. You got news that it had arrived someplace in the south of India and you counted the hours almost. One day you went out and you smelt this thing. You get it sometimes in this country after a long drought, where the ground gets wet and you get quite a distinctive smell out of the wet ground. And this was absolutely wonderful. And your compound, the area outside your bungalow, which was arid, dry, dusty, and absolutely yellow, nothing living at all -- within a few days, literally days, we had let the grazing of our compound to a local farmer for a few rupees. The grass was growing, and you could almost see it growing, in what had been sand, apparently sand, after this tremendous drenching that it had had. And then for about six weeks or two months life was quite pleasant. The rains were very, very heavy to start with, but they gradually let up and then you had a gradual return to the hot weather again. But it was the most wonderful feeling at the first onset of the monsoon rain.

Rev. John Debrett:

There were stations and stations in India. You had a station like Poona, which was absolutely marvelous -- what was it, four thousand feet up? Anyway, very nice, surrounded by hills. And there was plenty going on. But of course what one overlooked was the fact that most of the British in India served in horrible little stations on plains, where you looked out, and you could see absolutely flat country for a hundred miles. Not a feature on it. Plenty of dust. And really there wasn't a great deal to recommend it at all.

Diana Debrett:

We always had a certain number of suicides. Not in the hot weather, more in the rainy season. When you got about twelve inches in one weekend, everything steamed. Everything you possessed became mildewy. Oh yes, you had those curious things called sigheri baskets. You had a little charcoal stove and an enormous sort of wicker work thing like a dome. And you'd light your little -- or a servant would light your charcoal stove thing and he'd put this over the top, and he'd hang all your clothes round it. All your leather things, all your shoes, got green mold. And they could do it between Friday and Monday. If you didn't use your riding boots Saturday and Sunday, Monday they were all moldy.

And then you got all those insects. Awful little flies, drive you nutty.

Major-General William Odling:

Before I went to Muttra I happened to meet somebody who was there. There had been a tremendous wangle to get to Muttra, because it was the cream of the pigsticking. I said to this chap, "Just give me some idea of what I'll find when I get there," expecting him to say, "Oh, you'll be pigsticking from this month to that month." He just said, "Well, there's only one tip I can give you. Don't get appendicitis after ten o'clock." And he was right. I told you the place was uncomfortable. It was very primitive, and we were very short of everything, and we couldn't have afforded any more anyhow. The whole thing was run on a shoestring. On the other hand, the training was frightfully good.

Margery Hall:

We had this terrible sojourn in this place, Jacobabad. We were there about eighteen months. I had three small children, that was what was so terrible. My husband got a book on it, so I said, "Oh good, let me read it." And it said: a terrible place, the temperature was the highest anywhere in the colonial Empire, and the nights were more terrible than the days! And I spoke to one or two people, a couple who had just come back, and I said, "What's it like?" And she said, "It's absolute hell. I don't want to talk about it." And so I thought, "Well, this is terrible." Then I spoke to an Indian chap about it, a Hindu, and he said, "Oh, it's fascinating. There's a Persian wheel there." So I said, "A Persian wheel? What's that for?" "The water." And I said, "Haven't we got any water?" "Oh, no." And then he said, "You've got a blindfolded buffalo, and he goes round and round and round."

Well, it was so dreadful. We hadn't a fridge. We hadn't meat. We hadn't milk. We hadn't vegetables. They had to come down three hundred miles and at a certain time of the year you could get them down and after that they just went putrid, you see. When I got back I couldn't talk about it for a long time. They've no right to post families to places like that. It was criminal. I mean, you got up in the morning, you died in the afternoon, you were buried at night! Because you went bad so quickly.

And when I got back, I said to one or two senior people -- very pleasant people, and I'm sure it's they were right and I was wrong. And I said, "We've been in that terrible place. We've had a dreadful time." And she said airily, "Oh, we've all had these sort of things to put up with," and went off.

There were some people in India who escaped all the horrors. Always, everywhere. And they are quite in a way unrealistic. I've heard people say in Quetta, "This is our spiritual home." And I believe but I'm not certain about this, that those people lost a child in the earthquake. Well, nowhere would be my spiritual home where I'd lost a child. But then that's me.

In India you became a bit more of what you were. It might be good, it might be bad, and it might be even indifferent. But whatever you were, you were caricatured. It wasn't always nice. I don't like the person that terrible place in the desert made out of me. It made a different person, but it wasn't always the person I particularly wanted to be or admired, but certainly it changed me, made me a fighter.

Major-General R.C.A. Edge:

It was a very unsettled way of life. We once counted the moves we made during our married life -- I think it was thirty-nine. But we didn't mind moving. Everybody wasn't like that, of course. People who were in the Secretariat in Delhi, in the ICS, some of them would have one house in Delhi and another in Simla, and they'd live in it for years. But service people moved around a lot. And the Survey of India of course moved almost more than anybody. It meant that it wasn't very easy to have a beautiful home, with beautiful furniture. You never bought any furniture. You always hired furniture wherever you went. And you just made yourself as comfortable as you could with that, but you could make yourself quite comfortable. Even when we were in tents it was quite comfortable. But there was a sort of temporariness about everything in India.

In a small place all the bungalows were government bungalows and they were allocated. But in places like Delhi, bigger places, you might get a government bungalow or you might hire one privately from somebody. Or you might even buy one. Some of the civilians -- if you were in the Secretariat, you tended to be fairly static. But the ICS, although they had a very nice house in the headquarters of their district or division or whatever it was, they had to do a lot of touring too, because they had to go all round in these areas, and they were pretty vast areas. And the district which was the ordinary responsibility of the more junior officer would be the size of a small country. And he had to be continually going round to hold court in the various provincial or district centers. So they did a lot of traveling too. But I should think probably the Survey of India must have done more traveling, and wider traveling, than anybody, because we were responsible for the whole of India. I think I saw almost all of India during my fourteen years out there. But you got very used to traveling. One of the things about coming back to this country was that it took a bit of time to condition yourself to the idea that you were going to stay put anywhere for any length of time. I think it is noticeable that people whose parents have served in India had inborn into them a wish to travel more than most people. Both of our children have it.

Fergus Innes:

Then came the hot weather and up your wife and family went to the hills. You could not keep children down there, and your wife and family went to the hills, which, incidentally, made it really impossible for you to live without the maximum overdraft your bank would allow you. You were absolutely dead broke, because you had to keep them all up in a separate establishment in the hills, while you were running your own establishment below.

As the district officer, you very often had visitors. Your Commissioner and his wife would probably come down and stay with you for a week perhaps. Perhaps one or two people from headquarters, or you got a visiting VIP wished on to you. All of this, I remember, was also a considerable strain on your finances, because we had no entertainment allowances. All this came out of our own pockets. Any sort of subscription -- the Viceroy's Earthquake Fund, or Tuberculosis Fund -- you had to head the list of subscriptions in your district. So we were always completely broke.

It really amuses me to see the way young men, certainly since the war, have been sent out to India or parts east, businessmen, provided with a house, fully furnished, crockery, curtains, soft furnishings, car, everything all provided. We had nothing. When you became a district officer you were certainly provided with a house; you had to pay ten percent of your pay for that. No furniture of any kind, so you either had to hire your furniture down at the bazaar or you had your wretched sticks of furniture that you carted around the country every time you were transferred. We really lived quite hard, I must say.

Kate Garrod:

When my husband first went out, before I married him, he was stationed in Bombay. And he stayed with the T.'s -- he was an executive officer; Bill was only an assistant. And the first night in Bombay he put his trunk at the bottom of a bed in a hostel, and that was his first night. He thought, "Good gracious, what have I come to?" And Mr. T. said he must go in a hotel, and Bill said, "I can't afford a hotel." Before that period they weren't dependent on a salary, they had their own incomes. Well, after the war [World War I] all we people were poor. And so Bill went to live with Mr. and Mrs. T., and Mr. T. said, "Oh, you must join the Yacht Club and the Bombay Gymkhana, and so on." And Bill said, "I'm not joining any club, sir. When I've paid you and my laundry, I've nothing left!"

My husband was transferred to Poona after being in Bombay a short time, he and his friend. There was a government bungalow supplied them. They had to pay a tenth of their salary for it, it wasn't free. And they had these boxes for tables and chairs, a very primitive life. Of course to hire furniture is expensive. And you wouldn't want to buy furniture because you're on the move. Now for business people it's a different proposition.

Major Christopher York:

The colonel of my regiment was reputed to have left India after the previous tour owing the bank more than his total income. What you did, you see, you wanted to buy a polo pony and you hadn't enough money, so you borrowed it. Very cheap, incidentally -- it was a hundred pounds for quite a good pony. The trouble was, at twenty-four percent per annum, if you didn't repay it, it became more and more expensive.

Major-General William Odling:

There were an awful lot of things to buy when you got to India, and some people got in debt and never got out of it, because the rate of paying off your debt -- they were prepared to charge you two per cent a month. I'm a rather prudent sort of person, so I never got into debt, but some people got into debt and never got out of it.

There were great stories about this. Aden used to come under India. You weren't allowed to be dunned for debt if you were on parade, if you were in uniform. They weren't allowed to serve a writ on you or whatever. And there are stories of people going home to England at the end of their time, and knowing they weren't safe till they'd passed Aden, and not going ashore at Aden but walking up and down on the troop ship dressed with a sword and everything, because they then could not have a writ served on them. I should think it was a rare occasion, but it allegedly has happened.

Ivan Ellis Jones:

I remember pressing a torch on a guest. He was going to his bungalow just around the corner, said he didn't need it. I lent him a torch and he actually came on a snake right in the middle of the room. There were certainly areas badly infested with the krait, which is very poisonous. I know one valley people didn't go into at night. They said a krait could jump up as high as a horse's head. Very fatal. And up in my little bungalow in the Salt Range -- it was infested by snakes. One found them on the furniture and things like that. We had devices like rough stone laid around the house to discourage snakes from climbing in. One was always careful sleeping in summer -- out of doors, you know. One picked up one's slippers and clapped them together to make sure there was nothing there. There might be a scorpion. But a guest of mine did, while he was having his bath, see a tiny baby cobra come out of the wall and go into his slipper. I've seen a chap practicing polo suddenly see a cobra rear its head up and he decapitated it with his stick.

Major-General Sir Charles and Lady Dalton:

Sir Charles Dalton: We used to go out into the countryside, nominally to shoot snipe, and the odd duck. And one place in Rajputana, from Nasirabad, we shot these florican, which were sort of bustards. They weren't very good shooting. They jumped up and down in the undergrowth. They literally jumped up and then they ran. They didn't fly much. And one day, just after the rains, the bag was three cobra, and one florican. So I hastily sent back to England for my leather gaitors, which I had worn as a young officer. I had never thought to take these things out, but walking after these florican, if you weren't wide awake, you were suddenly confronted by a cobra, who sort of sat up like that and looked at you, great big brute. And I thought it would be wise to have something covering my legs. I don't think many people were actually bitten, because there wasn't enough undergrowth at that time. But they came out of the ground with the rain.

We had one nasty incident later on. It was in Delhi, right in the city, in our bathroom. In those bungalows in those days you didn't have a fixed bath like we have here with water that you turned on. You had a little hovel in the back of the house with an open tin tub in it. And the bhisti, the water carrier, his job was to bring the water from the well in the compound and empty it into the bath, and bring some more water, hot water, from where he'd been heating it on a little coal or paraffin stove, and make your bath. He came into the bathroom from the outside door and then shut the door and shouted, and you came in from your house from the other door into the bathroom and had your bath. And my wife got into the bath one day, having done this process, and suddenly saw a krait, a very small and very deadly snake. It was behind the door, wasn't it?

Lady Dalton: Yes, between me and my bedroom, so I had a problem. Because I was completely stripped, I had nothing on. And it was rather difficult to get the bhisti to come back and kill the snake, with me sitting in the bath all wet -- and naked! However, eventually, I shouted and screamed for help, and the thing slithered away -- enough for me to get out of the bath and go into my bedroom. And I then got the man to come, and he managed to kill it.

Sir Charles Dalton: They used to come up through the little drainhole from the mud floor of the bathroom and get in that way. And one was always told to look out for the danger of them being curled round the electric light switches on the verandah. You came in, you'd been out somewhere, the club or something, and you came in to turn the switch on, and it had been known that the krait would be curled round the switch. They're really deadly.

Kate Garrod:

Your bath was a zinc tub. And they had kerosene oil tins, one tin of hot water and one tin of cold. And one day we had two friends at this same place staying with us. Bill had gone to have his bath, and he had some work to do. We three were discussing what was a tomato, a vegetable or a fruit. And we didn't agree, so I said, well, I'd go look in the dictionary. Of course your homes were all on stilts, up steps. They don't go straight off the ground because of cobras and other wild animals, leopards and what have you, jackals, wolves, tigers, lions. Anyway, when I went into Bill's office, I was going to get the dictionary. And just coming out there was a cobra. But it must have come through Bill's bathroom, because it's all very primitive. Each one has their own bathroom, with a thunderbox. And a pipe to let the water out. And over that outlet there's a wire netting cover, and the sweeper must have left it off. And thus the snake got up there. These were all the little excitements.

Major-General Sir Charles Dalton:

At one stage we had a mongoose, because they're absolutely dead knots on snakes. And if you had a mongoose in your garden or in the house, they're so quick and they go for snakes immediately. And a lot of people kept mongeese for this purpose. Actually, I believe the plural of mongoose is mongooses. Anyway, they're delightful animals.

Diana Debrett:

We actually got a mongoose -- it was owned by a snake charmer around the Gateway of India -- and it was fascinating. We brought it home. It lived in a bag. And they're curious -- they're not wild, and yet they're not tame.

And it used to live in the ceiling. Your ceilings there are not ceilings like this, they're ceiling cloths. So you can see the little foot marks every time anything walked across. You'd stretch it tight, and it's whitewashed. And it's not until something walks across it -- or the monsoon. Of course during the hot weather all your wood shrinks, and the first monsoon, everything falls through, and you have to go round your bungalow, it's going, "Plink, Plink! Plunk, plunk! Ploonk, ploonk!" All around, all these things, all dripping. Our mongoose used to sleep somewhere up in there and it used to come down in the evening. She had a passion for chocolate. She used to sit on my father's shoulder, and if he was eating chocolate, she would go absolutely berserk.

And another thing she used to do, which was very naughty, was to hide under the sideboard. And when we had a dinner party, and the servants were serving, she used to come and she'd nip their heels. And you'd hear them going on and suddenly going, "grumble, grumble," saying something. And you knew Ricky'd been out having a nip at them. She was very naughty.

She wasn't in the least interested [in killing snakes, though]. I remember on one wonderful occasion the chowkidar came round and said there was a krait. So we thought this was a splendid occasion. So we gathered up Ricky, who'd come on the scene, and we went round and we said, "There you are, Ricky. There's a nice snake, you see." And she looked at it -- and then somebody came out of the godown, and so she sort of sat behind him and she looked at this and him! She didn't want to know.

Major-General R.C.A. Edge:

Cobras were sociable snakes -- still are, no doubt. They liked human company. But did I tell you about Nanny? She got into her bed, tucked her mosquito net in, and then discovered that she was sharing it with a cobra. She had great presence of mind. I mean she would have had to have had something to have brought up us children. So she just lay there and waited for the cobra till the cobra thought it preferred to have its bed to itself. And she just waited for it to find its way out. She was a remarkable woman, my nanny, but she was given to sleepwalking. My father used to do a lot of camping, and we used to camp partly in tents and partly in inspection bungalows. Well, we were encamping -- we always went in camp some time in the middle of the winter -- a deer hunt or a Christmas camp or something. And the camp is usually centered on one of these little bungalows, inspection bungalows. But the children -- and Nanny -- we were all in a tent. And we woke up one morning, and Nanny looked for her slippers, and she couldn't find ones. And then she noticed that her nightie had got mud marks on it. We thought perhaps a jackal might have come in and removed the slipper, but how did the mud marks get there?

And every day, when my father was out inspecting coal mines, we used to go and have a picnic. And on the evening before this event, we'd walked down this path, right through the jungle for about a mile, and we'd noticed tigers' pug marks on the path. And this had evidently preyed on Nanny's mind, because she'd gone off down this path during the night, and when we were going off down to the river the next day, about -- oh, a good half mile from our camp -- we found her slipper wedged under a stone! She'd been going to kill the tiger to protect her young, you see. She was a very faithful servant. She was a tough old thing, Nanny was.

Roy Metcalf:

Used to be one or two maneaters around. A lot of quite interesting stories about tigers. One -- I knew him quite well -- he was a policeman in the next door district. He was out in his district about May, I suppose; it was quite warm, a beautiful moonlit night, so he was sleeping on the ground outside his tent. He wakes up and there's a tiger standing over the top of him. Just like that. Luckily he was scared so stiff he didn't move and after some time the tiger just moved on. But it turned his hair white. That's a true story.

I was sitting on the ground with a tree behind me and we had some beaters out. We were after tiger. Four of us. And there wasn't much, just a sort of clearing in front of me, and suddenly I see a tiger looking at me. I thought, "Well, that's no good," because he'd got his head like that and you can't shoot him here. Luckily he turned his head up and I shot him in the neck. I didn't want to wound him because there were all sorts of beaters around. A wounded tiger is an absolutely terrifying thing. I was young then. We used to do some awfully silly things. Martin -- he was the young policeman -- and myself. There used to be a well known maneating tiger around that neighborhood the whole time I was there and nobody ever got it -- called the langra, which means "the lame one." Somebody had shot him in the leg. And we got information in from these local shikaris -- they made a living out of that sort of thing -- that he was about eighteen miles away down the railway line. So we nipped out one afternoon, got the local train, and we were led to a sort of great big thicket. Martin got one side and I got the other and we started to heave stones in. When I think about it, I think I must have been mad because it was in there all right and it broke out roaring its head off and went sideways. But if it had come straight at one or another of us we might have been lucky and stopped it but probably not. We thought nothing of it then. I can remember sitting out in the middle of the night on a charpoy -- an Indian rope bed -- waiting for a panther to come along. I must have been absolutely crazy. I don't believe in shooting now, but it didn't occur to me not to shoot anything in those days.

Colonel C.A.K. Innes-Wilson:

We decided to go up into Bihar and were staying in forest bungalows in a very jungly area. We very nearly ended our career because we arrived at a forest bungalow in the late evening and we walked in. The bungalows always have a night watchman and a cook. We couldn't see any sign of the cook, so we decided he must have gone. We made our own food and everything, went for a walk in the gloaming through the forest, went back and spent the night with the windows all open. The next day we started off for the next bungalow and I suddenly saw a man in a ditch by the side of the road with a rifle. I spoke to him and he was American. I said, "What are you up to?" And he said, "I was after the maneating tiger." I said, "Which maneating tiger?" He said, "Oh, the one who took the cook from the forest bungalow."

I stayed in another bungalow once in Bihar that had no door. There were arches in a plinth about four foot high. No doors, just arches. We were just about settled down for the night when a large chap with nothing very much on except a thing around his waist appeared and informed me that he was from the local Superintendent of Police. He spoke English. He said, "I am the police darogha. I have a message for you." I said, "Yes?" "Royal Bengal tiger is operating." I said, "What do you mean, it's operating?" He said, "It's a maneating tiger and it's killing people around here." Royal Bengal tiger is operating. A lovely way of putting it. So we became quite alarmed then because we had no doors to this thing. So we spent a rather troubled night but we weren't operated on.

John Stubbs:

I got back to have a bath and I put my arm out into my towel and I must have had a scorpion on the towel. I started to rub myself and I got stung. I knew there was nothing much I could do about it. You can't do much about a scorpion. My orderly said, "Oh, Sahib, I'll pray it out of you." I said, "Go ahead, do what you like," but it didn't work. I knew it wasn't serious but that I would feel it, they said, for twenty-four hours. Literally I would feel the poison going all around my veins. You could feel it running round. I went to the office and I was working. I sweated through three suits of clothes during the day and I went for a swim the next morning twenty-four hours after I'd been stung and it went like that.

The other time was rather funny. I was going to church, I think it was in Gorakhpur and Kay was in bed, ill or something, and my bearer had put out a suit of clothes which I hadn't worn for a long time, a light summer suit. I was just putting the trouser on and by Jove I was stung on the bottom I leapt in the air and shouted and Kay was roaring with laughter.

Colonel C.A.K. Innes-Wilson:

We as a family were all lucky during our years out there because we didn't really get any of the normal things you can get. We did get malaria. I had malaria quite a bit. In fact my health was wrecked by malaria. But friends of mine died from malaria and enteric. In Bengal I took the place of a chap who had just died of cholera. What other diseases were there around then?

I of course had fourteen rabies shots. I was out there for three months and had to have the anti-rabies injections because the family that I was staying with had two dogs and one [bit a] child under suspicious circumstances.

G.N. Jackson:

You had to be very vigorous and tough to live. If you go and look at the European cemeteries in India, they're full of people who died before they were twenty. If you survived twenty, you stayed alive. They're full of people who died very early in life. It was a very hard climate for Europeans. The place was full of malaria. You could never sleep without a mosquito net. The place was full of bilharziasis. There were Baghdad sores, terrible thing, great holes in your skin that wouldn't heal, dysentery all through the hot weather. Cholera. You had to be tough, you had to take care of yourself.

Stephen Hatch-Barnwell:

That was the time of the terrorist movements and I only got in because one chap was assassinated and made another vacancy. They rather observed the rules of sport. It wasn't done to shoot young officers; they were very selective in their shooting, nothing like terrorists here who throw bombs about. They would go after somebody with a definite reason. Anybody who was prominent and popular with the local chaps was liable to be shot at, and of course anybody who went to Midnapore. It was a matter of tradition. They got three in succession. The fourth man was a very tough chap indeed. I mean we used to, when the District Magistrate gave away the prizes -- it wasn't done to have a body guard at a prize giving, so we young probationers used to be required to sit there with a gun in our pockets. Never had occasion to use it.

Patricia Edge:

One of my tasks in India before we left was collecting lists of cemeteries. You could wear yourself out and spend about twenty years over that. They were rather sad. First of all, "Here lies So and So, lady of Captain So and So," and then the baby. You'd find these little cemeteries dotted all over the country.

On some of the tombstones one looked at, when one was listing them, were fascinating inscriptions. One was "Nelly, Nanny to the children of Captain So and So," and then underneath, a rather cryptic remark, "She preferred death to dishonor." You never knew whether it was Captain So and So, or just who it was! And then there was another rather humble grave, with the name of the man who was lying there. "He was killed" -- he was in the railways -- "He was killed by the two-up [train]." And above that was carved a little engine.

Edith Dixon:

Another story which I used to hear about but which was not a personal experience was of a young Englishman who was posted to one of the very, very remote stations going up into the Khyber Pass, where there were the Pathans of course. Their idea of getting to heaven was to kill an infidel. And he was the only white man there and he had a small native staff. He used to play the violin. He used to love evenings to play the violin, and gradually the Pathans used to come down to listen to him. And they became quite friendly until this priest told them that if they wanted to go to Paradise they must kill this infidel, so they did. They murdered him. They murdered all the staff except one who had gone up the hillside to get water and he lived to tell the tale and he told.

Margery Hall:

The deaths I remember. Little Tommy Rushton. He got up. He was playing in the garden in the morning, at eleven. He was buried at six that night. It was as quick as that. And one doctor said cerebral malaria, the other doctor said polio, and they went arguing and arguing, and the poor parents never knew. And he was buried in a downpour, where the grave was full of water. They just dropped the coffin into a lake. And mother insisted on going -- a nice delicate little woman. I knew why she went, because she wanted to see the end of it. And the chap who sprinkled the water on the coffin -- [the container] was labeled tomato sauce. Now, that sort of thing, it takes some forgetting. And when you saw and heard that, you thought, "Is mine going to be next?"

Fergus Innes:

There was a very remote district called Muzaffargarh, far from anywhere, the back of beyond. I've never seen the place and never want to. And the Deputy Commissioner there was taken very ill with a fever in the hot weather. And his wife was despairing. There was no European doctor there. There were no Europeans of any kind there in fact. Well, in the hot weather you have to bury a man pretty quick. No ice out there. So his Extra Assistant Commissioners put their heads together, these Indian magistrates, and they said, "Well, the first thing to do is have a coffin made." So they got hold of a carpenter and they said, "Make a coffin." Well, next morning the man, as very often happens, he got up and he felt better, and he had his bed carried out onto the verandah to get some little bit of fresh air that you could get in the early mornings. As he lay there, what did he see but the man working. And he said, "Who are you and what's that?" And the man turned round and said to him, "The box has come for Your Honor."

Which reminds me of long ago, the story of John Lawrence when he was despaired of. This was in about 1840. He was very ill with a fever, and the Civil Surgeon rode all the way out from the nearest cantonment, a long ride. He came out, and he said, "I'm sorry to tell you, Mr. Lawrence, that you won't live till morning. I'm afraid I've got to go now. I'll be back in the morning. I can do nothing more for you." And off he rode. And John Lawrence, as he lay there, said, "Well, that bottle of burgundy I was saving up for a great occasion. There it is. I'm damned well going to drink that." He sent for his bottle of burgundy, and he drank the whole bottle of burgundy. Next morning when the doctor came back, John Lawrence was sitting there at his desk in his shirt sleeves working. And, funny enough, I've heard the same sort of story from Calcutta, where bottled claret or burgundy drunk right off like that has cured a man who was despaired of with a fever. Anything can happen.

Margery Hall:

You know those nights in Jacobabad in the Sind Desert were very long. It would get pitch dark at six o'clock. And if you're alone, or if you're on your own -- and my husband used to go on tour -- and there were two murders a month. It was non-British India where you could murder, you see, with impunity, it didn't matter. I mean, it was just a murder. Night comes down, and it comes down like that. One minute it's broad daylight, and the next second it's pitch dark. There was a long, long evening. And you hadn't books because you couldn't get books. It was the same in Borneo and Sarawak, that great loneliness, that desolation of the spirit.

Lady Daphne Dalton:

This bungalow that my stepfather had as his CO's quarter was the bungalow which the Ellis family had lived in -- Ellis had been a commanding officer in Kohat as well, previously -- and the tribesmen from the hills had come down into Kohat. Nobody quite knew how they got in, because there was a wire fence all the way round the cantonment, and the gates to go in and out of. But anyway they did get in. And they kidnaped the daughter, Miss Ellis, having murdered Mrs. Ellis. And they took the girl off into the hills and kept her for a certain time. But in fact this was recorded in a program on the wireless recently. I heard it. And eventually a brave woman, who I think was a missionary or something similar, went with a small expedition to track down this girl and they got her back eventually, unharmed.

But this bungalow that we were living in was the one that she'd been kidnaped from. And in fact, it wasn't surprising that you could do that and not get heard at all. It was rather a creepy sort of bungalow, because a servant would come into the room, and you'd find him standing behind your chair, and you hadn't heard him come in at all -- partly because of the matting on the floor. And they wore no shoes of course, only their bare feet. And the walls were so thick that it completely deadened any sound at all. Well, it was a little bit of a creepy house in a way. Not so much that you knew what had happened in it. But it was this business that you couldn't hear anything in it. And it had very, very wide verandahs so that the rooms were a bit dark. No windows really, just doors. But it was a creepy sort of house.

But we had a lot of interesting things. We used to go over to Peshawar, which was the nearest big place. And in order to go there, I think partly due to this kidnaping business, and a certain amount of unrest on the Frontier, you never could go over without somebody in the car with a rifle. You couldn't go unattended. In my case, it could have been a young officer accompanying us if we went over to do some shopping or something. Or my stepfather with a gun. But you couldn't go alone.

Colonel W.A. Salmon:

Some of the old mess buildings really were rather uncomfortable. I'll never forget in Cawnpore. That was a very nasty, dreary place. I hated it. And I had a bungalow which I swear was haunted, which I shared with three other officers. There always was a very nasty atmosphere about it. And it was known that all the bungalows in that particular part, in that particular little road, they'd been burnt down. And they were all thick thatch roof. And they were mutti walls, very thick, to keep out the heat. But you only had to throw a match about the place and the whole thing would tear off. And I think some very nasty things must have been committed there during the Mutiny.

And another thing you had to do. It was rather a sprawling place, Cawnpore, and there's a saddle and harness factory which also made small arms ammunition. And the battalion and I had to provide the guard for it. Well, in order to get to it, when you had to turn the guard out once by night and once by day, you had to go down a nasty ravine which was called the Massacre Ghat, which is where they ambushed the survivors from the cantonments and set upon them and killed them. And then those who got away from there got into boats, and when they were out midstream they shot them up from the banks. And uhh! My golly, but that's a nasty place. And the orderly officer is supposed to go down that way to turn out the arms factory guard and come back again. However, I always used to insist that the orderly sergeant and the orderly corporal came with me, going down that way.

All that anyone could tell me about the bungalow's history was that oh yes, it was very nasty. It was very interesting -- normally every bungalow has its compound, and in the edge of it you have the servants' quarters, where all your servants lived. There were no servants' quarters in that one. They lived down the road a bit, away from the place. I felt very uncomfortable there.

Roy Metcalf:

Saugor was a big Mutiny station and we had our little club there and we had one of the few Englishmen left on the railways. The railway administration was nearly all Anglo-Indian [Eurasian]. He was off somewhere down the railway line because there'd been an accident or something. And his wife was in the club in the evening. She was looking very ill and white and finally said, "I can't go back to that bungalow. I must sleep the night with somebody." And it transpired that in the Mutiny in that very same bungalow the wife of the Englishman was on her own and her Indian ayah had come in. "Memsahib, memsahib, get out, get out." But she didn't get out in time and she was killed. And this had also happened to her the night before. An Indian ayah had come to her the night before. An Indian ayah had come to her and said, "Memsahib, memsahib. Go, go." It so scared her, she wouldn't go back to that bungalow.

Now my colonel, he was a pretty hard headed sort of chap. He came into the mess when he was living on his own in his bungalow -- it was just across the road -- and his wife was away. He came into the mess one morning looking white as a ghost. Breakfast and he wouldn't talk to anybody and he wouldn't talk to anybody at lunch and he wouldn't talk to anybody that night. And it appears that in the middle of the Saugor cantonment there was a sharp hill. That was in the days when it was quite a big station.

There was a brigade of British Horse Artillery and they used to occupy our mess. I don't know what was going on but about eleven o'clock or midnight one of them said he'd gallop his battery over that hill and down again and there'd be no trouble. Took a bet on it. And he did. He turned out his battery in the middle of the night and they galloped off and up the hill and down the other side. He killed about three horses and about four men and he went back to what was then my colonel's bungalow and slit his throat. And my colonel swore that there he was haunting the place, slitting his throat. And he was white as a sheet for about two days. He swore it was haunted.

And the same when I was in the Eastern States. The Resident for the Eastern States had his headquarters in Calcutta in Hastings House, which was the original house of Warren Hastings. Warren Hastings committed suicide and he was supposed to haunt this Hastings House. And my boss's predecessor, his wife was so upset about it that in the end she got in a Roman Catholic priest to exorcize the ghost with bell, book and candle. Whether it's true or not I don't know.

Colonel W.A. Salmon:

In India church parades in the Army were very definitely parades. Ever since the Mutiny, British units would go to church carrying their arms with them and their rifles were always loaded, because when the Mutiny broke out, two regiments were pretty well wiped out because they were ambushed while they were in church. As the chaps came out the sepoys just shot them. Ever afterwards a British unit would go to church with its rifles and its magazines charged. They had all the troops in the pews with their rifles right beside them. The officers had swords.

Margery Hall:

Henry E., now he was surgeon to the Viceroy, and he was not a funny man at all. He didn't tell any funny stories. He was quite pompous in a way. Very nice, but he wasn't a man who told frivolous stories about ghosts. And he knew I liked reading and listening to stories, and I said, "You must have had some funny experiences, Henry." And he said, "Oh yes." He said, "I have. I've seen a ghost, you know." And I don't see Henry E. talking about a ghost, because he'd got about twenty-four letters after his name. He's a very famous doctor. And he wasn't a jokey man. I said, "What did you say?" "I said, 'Buzz Off!'" And this was like him. You could just see this small, reedy, spare little man, saying "buzz off," as if that was the way you dealt with a ghost. And he asked the Resident's wife, and she said, "Oh, yes, we all see her, but nobody takes any notice."

An Introduction

1. The Passage to India | interviews

2. Running Your Empire | interviews

3. Life in the Bungalows | interviews

4. Imperial Diversions | interviews

5. Never the Twain? | interviews

6. No More India to Go to | interviews