8. LIFE, AND CHOLERA, IN MEEAN MEER
The Barracks not being in thorough repair the men were encamped in rear of
the hospital and adjoining the graveyard while the officers moved into which
bungalows as were available. During the whole time of the march the
Reqt lost not a single man and indeed from the first to the last no march could
have been better conducted or was more in accordance with the wishes of officers
The officers for amusement when in camp strolled out on shooting parties and in general among them brought in more game than could be consumed such as deer, hares, quail, ducks etc while with the men the majority employed themselves in hunting jackals with packs of mongrel dogs of all sorts and species from the Anglo-Indian bred to the parriah.
25 Feb 1862. Today I was gazetted to the 1st Bn 8 Kings Regt on exchange with Qr Mr Keating, that Corps being in England.
3 March 1862. Barracks being ready for a portion of the Regt the following Companies moved into them - No.2 - 3 - 4 - 5 and the Band and the other companies on the 4th or a few days afterwards.
5th March 1862. A sad accident occurred here a few days ago to Lieut Bagnal of the 7th Fusiliers, who was staying till the arrival of part of his Regt at Meean Meer by which he lost his life, the circumstances being on one evening that he dined at the 19th Mess and on going home with Ensign Moir l9th Foot fell off his horse through the stirrup of his saddle breaking thereby precipitating him on the top of his head and being a heavy man caused concussion of the brain from which he never rallied.
His funeral took place today at the burial ground behind the Hospital at which many Officers of various Corps were present.
In describing the situation and description of the barracks at Meean Meer it will be well to state what took place shortly before the arrival of the 19th Foot and which the subjoined is only a memorandum of the truth.
It appears that in these healthy looking buildings the ravages of cholera in 1862 took off some hundreds of soldiers belonging to the 52nd and 94th Regiments and so persistent was this scourge that it became almost beyond control. The origin was supposed to be from the opinion of a Medical Commission that of contamination, the water in the wells being polluted and poisoned by the effluvia from cesspools that had not been cleaned out for years, and which had been accumulating so long as to find its way through the pores of the earth into the wells used for drinking and other necessary purposes, these cesspools being attached to the privies and wash-houses in the form of wells wide and deep yet covered over with masonry. After this discovery had been made it was then found necessary to empty these pollutions and to have them filled in besides adopting some other means for carrying away the refuse as owing to the flatness of the land no fall of sufficient descent could be obtained.
With regard to the Barracks they are what in India is termed pereka built, consisting of 10 for the men and 7 for married families each of these latter containing 20 rooms while those for the men being intended for 100 beds. Attached to each building there is a wash-house and for the whole range 13 buildings for cooking purposes besides two plunging baths, an orderly room, a schoolroom and a Serjeants mess room the latter much too small for its purpose.
The Barracks cover a large area of ground almost too large for concentration of one Corps. Adjoining tho' not connected and facing the north stands the hospital composed of several buildings within a substantial wall and the accommodation it affords is admirable with the exception of the provisions for removing filth etc. government being too niggardly in this respect in providing proper conveyances and a sufficient staff of native conservancy servants, as is the case too with the Barracks also.
Meean Meer boasts of a beautiful church and public gardens which latter tho' small affords recreation to such as find pleasure in attending to hear the military band perform selections of music at certain evenings during the week prior to the setting of the sun.
Here also there is a course for horse racing near to the Artillery cantonments and at about a mile from the old Barracks while too the various roads present to the eye a level and well regulated appearance; the country around Meean Meer is perfectly level and not a hill or scarce a tree to be seen excepting those which adorn the various bungalows whose grounds and construction to say the best of them are behind those of other stations, tho' the rent asked by their owners exceed common honesty. The one that I occupied being no less than £80 per annum.
This station is not at all adapted for the residence of a European Regiment, the ground being too level for sanitary cleanliness, besides of the great heat during the monsoons and the continual storms of sand that fly over its space and which necessitates the precaution to prohibit the men from appearing outside their quarters between the hours of 8 am to 4 pm each day during the hot seasons.
Five miles from this place is the capital of the Punjab by name Lahore, a city situated on the brink of a small river and surrounded by a made wall, within which a detachment of European soldiers is always located in the old Fort, their quarters being the once famous Throne Room of the more famous Runjeet Sing, the Sikh chief of Lahore, of whom the natives speak with reverence to this day.
From Lahore a railway to Mooltan as well of one to Umritsar have been constructed and which seem to be appreciated much by the native population judging from the number of trains and passengers which are constantly going to and from every day.
The scenery about Lahore is much better than at Meean Meer being diversified by trees, and shrubs as well by the river. Its chief attractions I never had the pleasure of seeing owing to my short stay in that part of India expecting as I did every mail to hear of my exchange into the 8th Kings Regt on the home station.
10th March 1862. Today a heavy tho' not uncommon dust storm prevailed the air during a part of the day, seeming as it apparently did to pass over the vicinity of the Sikh city accompanied with thunder and lightning causing in its course much destruction to native produce.
11 March 1862. Today is fine and clear and the air nice and cool.
15 March 1862. Dust storms the order of the day but in the evening cleared off with a shower of rain.
With regard to the natives of the Punjab and those of Bengal, the former are a more robust set of men than the latter both in build and features. Their names too differ to the Bengalese, terminating in such appellation as Khan Sing and so on while the commonplace names of the lower provinces are as follows;-
During the months of April and May 1862 the hot season set in and with it came the usual storms of dust Some days those storms were so heavy as to darken the atmosphere during the entire day and causing the residents to confine themselves within doors; so dark indeed that lamps had to be used to enable one to read or to do writing and so continued till the sun went down when with it the dust abated.