The Government in India decided in 1855 to raise a Corps of Mitlitary Police to control the Lower Provinces of Bengal, east of Behar where a rebellion had broken out.
The person chosen to raise this body of men was Captain Thomas Rattray of the 64th Regiment of Bengal Infantry, who was currently commanding the Viceroy’s Body-Guard.
It is said that, ‘There is no doubt that Thomas Rattray (left) was a marked man - “a live wire” He was 36 years old and a Captain of some 5 years standing, when he was chosen to fill the then vacant position of Commandant of the Viceroy’s Body-Guard.
It was decided that the Bengal Military Police Battalion should be raised in the Punjab, where a large number of ex-soldiers of the old Sikh Army, who had fought the British, were available. The recruiting of the soldiers led to a number of lovely stories, one of which we include as follows:
‘On three successive mornings on the right of the line of hopefuls, stood a tall muscular bearded Sikh about 35 years of age. Three times was he passed over; this apparent contempt at last riled the gallant Sikh and he exclaimed aloud to the inspecting officer "Am I not worth taking?" " You are too old, look at your beard." "Are you any the worse for your beard?" was the indignant and unanswerable retort. "Take me into your room." continued he, " and I think you will write down my name." The Sikh was accordingly taken inside the bungalow and not forgetful of the fancied insult that he was not deemed fit for a soldier on account of his age, he with considerable warmth and pride, pointed to three scars on his martial body. "These", said he, " are wounds received at Ferozeshah and Muridki, fighting against you. I was faithful to my salt then, do you think I would be false to you now; take me, and you will never regret it." He was enlisted and whether the scars he showed were the result of honourable wounds received in the battlefield, or of boils, which his friends in the regiment always declared them to be, it was never proven. But one thing is for sure, that the commandant never regretted giving service to Hookum Singh, now a much respected Subadar (Sergeant) in No 1 Battalion of whose acts and doings more honourable mention shall be made hereafter. Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/history-of-sikhism/4801-history-of-rattrays-sikhs.html
The Battalion played an important part in putting down the Indian Mutiny of 1857- 1859. It is recorded that on the 19th August 1862,
the then Commanding Officer received a petition from the Native Officers and men of the Battalion to the Viceroy of India stating:
Sir, - When the order of His Excellency the Govenor-General in Council was received, stating that the services of this corps, which has been known as “Rattray’s Sikhs,” would never be forgotten and that publicity should be given them in General Orders ………………………this embolded us to present the following petition, which we hope the Government will of their great Kindness be pleased to grant, namely that when the Regiment becomes a Line Corps, we may still continue to bear the name of “Rattray’s Sikhs.” Our reason for making such a request is that from the time Major Rattray raised the Corps, he has always treated us well and considered our comforts; we bear him great love on this account and gladly followed him to Bengal, when the Mutiny broke out, volunteered to fight the rebels and were faithful to our salt. Our humble petition now is that the Regiment may be allowed to bear his name, the hearing will always be a source of pleasure to us, and we shall consider that, in granting our request, the Government has showered fresh favour on us.’
The petition was forwarded to the Government in India and in due course it was approved and sanctioned.
Captain Thomas Rattray’s son, Haldane Burney Rattray commanded the Battalion (then the 45th Rattrays Sikh) in 1916- 1917, and his Grandson Peter Hugh Rattray was the last British Commanding Officer in 1947. Peter Hugh Rattray had the honour of handing over Command of the Battalion to the first Indian Commanding Officer when India gained its Independence.
Today the Battalion is the 3rd Battalion Sikh Regiment (Rattrays Sikhs). It is still very much an active Battalion, performing all the duties called upon it by the Indian Government of today.
In February 1997 James and Hugh Rattray, and Davina Howden
(Thomas Rattrays Great Grand children) travelled to India to be with the Battalion during the Hai Day Celebrations. The photographs of the battalion are from this time. Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=4801
In August 2000, a party of Rattrays Sikhs and their wives travelled to Scotland to be with the Rattrays at the World Gathering. The links between the Rattrays and the Rattrays Sikhs are still very much integral with one another, both sharing a common heritage and pride of association. Our Clan Rattray Journal each year features stories and accounts on the Rattrays Sikhs. Currently Thomas Rattrays six chapters describing how the battalion was raised and the part it played in subduing the Indian Mutiny I being highlighted.