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Major-General John Laurie

For todays soldier profile we will be looking earlier than we have before to the early 19th Century with Major-General John Laurie.

As with all of these profiles this chap came to my attention when I purchased his sword, the sword is a very interesting and complex piece which luckily had his name engraved on the hilt though it has been engraved in cursive that had the original owner, other collectors and me stumped for a fair bit.

John Laurie Esquire was born in London on July 25th 1794 to John and Francis being baptised a few months later in Westminster.

A Portrait Miniature of Laurie Wearing his Army Of India Medal between 1851 and 1860

At the age of twelve, the young John was nominated by James Marjoribanks to become a Cadet for Madras with the East India Company Seminary at Addiscombe where he joined in 1809 and studied for two years, graduating as a Cadet for the East India Company in 1811 shortly before taking a ship to India where on the 10th of July 1812 he became Lieutenant-Fireworker. Lieutenant-Fireworker is a rank similar to an Enseign, below that of a Second Lieutenant that went obsolete in the Army in the 18th century but persisted in Company forces.

By 1817 Laurie had become Lieutenant of the 6th Company Bombay Artillery, a four-gun battery stationed at Poona under Colonel Burr at the outbreak of the 3rd Anglo-Mahratta War where he distinguished himself at The Battle of Kirkee (Khadki) and was mentioned in Burr's dispatch to the London Gazette: ‘The “Bombay” and Dapuri artillery under the command of Captain Thew and Lieutenant Laurie rendered the most important services; and the spirited manner in which the guns were served greatly contributed to the rapid success of the day.’.

After the battle the Lieutenant was detached to various forces and was put to work in besieging and reducing numerous Mahratta fortresses, his experience earned him a Captaincy in 1818.

Fascinatinhly there is a painting by John Massey Wright showing the battle depicting Leutinenant Laurie and his guns to the fore of the image. A rare example where we not only have an image of the soldier but also of him in combat.

The Battle of Kirki, Bombay, 5 November 1817 by John Massey Wright (1777–1866)

After 1818 there is some confusion over Laurie's posting. Various sources have him as joining the Ordnance Department, overseeing the manufacture of arms and munitions for The Company, straight away which he did but the start date of this position is unclear. There is also some record of him in the 9th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry.

Later in his career he served with the 45th Regiment of Madras Native Infantry and shortly before his death in 1860 he was promoted to Major-General of the Corps of Native Invalids, an administrative posting organising the disposition of those Sepoys who were too injured for frontline service but still worked for the East India Company forces as rear echelon soldiers.

The sword that led to this article is incredibly interesting. It is a Mameluke style sword as was very common among officers of the HEIC an British Army Officers who served in India, most famously Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

Most curious about this sword is the native blade, incredibly well made and light making the sword feel almost weightless in the hand. The blade is marked with a gold cartouche in Arabic spelling out the given name "Mobin" or potentially a written form of Mobeen. The reason for this remains unclear, the sword will continue to be researched and any further information will be added.


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