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1856 - 1899 India, Abyssinia and Rhodesia

The advance to Magdala Key Dates
1857 - Indian Mutiny
1867 - Abyssinia
1868 - Magdala
1872 - The 33rd and 76th Regiments are linked

Between the conclusion of the Crimea War in 1856 and the end of the century the British Army was constantly engaged in various parts of the world, including India, Afghanistan, China, Abyssinia, West Africa, Egypt, Sudan, Burma and South Africa.  More often than not these small wars started with a surprise attack by natives in overwhelming numbers, which usually led to the defeat or withdrawal of the British forces.  In due course a field or expeditionary force would be assembled, followed soon afterwards by a crushing defeat of the enemy, the critical battle being of short and sharp duration.

The Indian Mutiny: 1857 -1858
In May 1857 mutiny broke out in the Indian Army just when the 33rd had arrived in Mauritius from England.  However, after only the briefest of stays it was sent to India.  There the Regiment was constantly on the move on the east coast, to the north and south of Bombay, operating in small and sometimes isolated detachments.  After the mutiny had been quelled a campaign medal was issued, but the 33rd, despite the arduous nature of its duties, did not qualify since in those days at least half of the regiment had to be engaged together to be eligible.  For the same reason the Regiment did not qualify for a Battle Honour, though the other regiments of Sir Hugh Rose's Central India Field Force, whose flanks the Regiment had protected, were awarded the honour of 'Central India'.

Abyssinia: 1867 - 1868
The 33rd remained in India until 1867.  In that year a punative expeditionary force was formed to rescue two British Government representatives and several European missionaries who had been imprisoned by King Theodore, the half insane ruler of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), in an attempt to procure modern weapons and artillery.  12,000 British and Indian troops had to be moved the 380 miles from the Red Sea coast to Magdala, King Theodore's capital.  The task was achieved with great efficiency and on 13th April 1868 Magdala was stormed and King Theodore shot himself, with a pistol previously presented to him by Queen Victoria.  The 33rd led the attack and in the process received two VC's.  The Regiment was also granted the Battle Honour 'Abyssinia' and awarded a campaign medal.  Magdala was the last occasion the 33rd carried Colours into action.  It has been described as one of the most expensive and remarkable expeditions in the 19th century.

The Cardwell Reforms
From 1868 onwards, following Mr Cardwel’s appointment as Secretary of State for War, a number of far reaching changes were made to the organisation and administration of the army.  For infantry regiments the most important was the decision, made in 1881, to link all regular regiments together in pairs.  This brought about the creation of The Duke of Wellington's Regiment in which the 33rd and 76th became, respectively, the 1st and 2nd Battalions.  In addition the two battalions of the 6th West Yorkshire Militia became the 3rd and 4th Battalions.  At the same time the three West Riding Volunteer battalions became linked with the Regiment.

Rhodesia 1896 (The Mashonaland Field Force)
In June 1896 the natives of Mashonaland rebelled and, operating over a large area, killed more than 120 white settlers.  A small field force was quickly assembled comprising little over 500 men, of which 150 came from the 2nd Battalion, then stationed in Natal.  In one battle the force inflicted over 200 casualties for the loss of three killed and four wounded - a typical example of the retribution inflicted in small wars.  By November 1896 the campaign was all over.  However, the next war in Southern Africa was to be of a very different nature.

Uniforms of the 76th 1856-1867