End of Era

Return to England

An uneasy peace ensued but there was no occupation of the Punjab as the Governor-General, Lord Harding, hoped to return to the British former policy of maintaining a friendly buffer state. The 31st Regiment then received orders to return to England. The regiment returned to Ambala where volunteers who wished to remain in India took the bounty for doing so and exchanged to other regiments. From Ambala the regiment marched to Meerut and then travelled by boat to Calcutta and embarked for England on 2nd August 1846. Subsequently further unrest resulted in the Second Sikh War and the annexation of the Punjab in 1848.

When the Queen’s left Afghanistan after the epic battle of Ghuznee in 1839 they were stationed at Deesa in Gujrat, south of the Indus. In 1842 the regiment provided a large detachment as part of General Sir Charles Napier’s force during his conquest of Sind which it was considered was being badly misgoverned by a federation of amirs, but otherwise there were no operational demands on the regiment and early in 1844 its right wing returned to Poona and the left wing to Bombay. Later that year both wings were engaged in the Southern Maharatta campaign against insurgents operating from hill forts in Southern Conkan which involved much laborious dragging of artillery into position. In February 1845 both wings returned to Bombay by sea from the port of Vingorla, and in September the regiment sailed for England leaving 319 soldiers on exchange to other regiments.

The service of the future Surrey regiments during their first long tour in India was rewarded by distinctions which later became known as battle honours. For the 1st Afghan War the Queen’s received ‘Ghuznee 1839’, ‘Khelat’ and ‘Affghanistan 1839’. The 31st Regiment received ‘Cabool 1842’. For the hard-fought Sutlej campaign the 31st Regiment was awarded ‘Moodkee’, ‘Ferozeshah’, ‘Aliwal’ and ‘Sobraon’. Campaign medals were also awarded. There were four for the Afghanistan campaigns - the Ghuznee, the Candahar, Ghuznee and Kabul, the Jelalabad and the defence of Khelat-i-Ghilzai, the reverse in each case being different. One medal was issued for the Sutlej campaign with separate bars for each of the four battles.

The Queen’s arrived back in England in January 1846. They had a fast passage of 107 days from Bombay but there were 25 deaths on board during it. The 31st arrived home later having taken 123 days from Calcutta and lost one officer and 12 men. By that time the first propeller-driven commercial service across the Atlantic had been established, and the Royal Navy’s steam frigates were operating off the coast of India, but trade between England and India had continued to be conducted on sailing ships. The enterprising John Greenwood, now promoted to captain, again contrived to travel privately, on this occasion accompanied by his wife and a servant. Their ship put into Cape Town for fresh provisions and water and then made good speed northwards passing in sight of St Helena and Ascension Island. But when its progress slowed in light winds approaching the Irish coast Greenwood transferred his party to a fishing boat which took them to Cork from where they caught the steamer to Bristol. They arrived in time to catch the midnight train to London. They had never seen a train before.

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