9 (Plassey) Battery RA
23 JUNE 1757
"An nah man basham kih roz-I-jang bini-I-iman"
"An manam kandar miyan-I-khak bini siri"
"I am not one whose back you shall see on the day of battle"
"I am one whose head you shall see in the midst of dust and blood"
In the summer on 1757, Clive of India, realising that there could be no real security in Bengal until the domination of Suran-ud-Dowlah had been broken, moved forward from Chananagore to meet him. The Nawab commanded an army of 70,000 men supported by 53 guns, chiefly of large calibre. The method of bringing these pieces (24 & 32 pounders) into action was on platforms large enough to hold the gun carriage with its ammunition and detail of men, each driven by forty or fifty pairs of oxen and an elephant which marched behind to push when required.
Clive faced his host with a total of no more than 3,200 men. There were approximately 100 Gunners of 1st Coy Bengal Artillery (now 9 Plassey Battery RA) reinforced by 50 naval ratings from HMS Tiger, together with 150 Lascars. The Infantry of this tiny force consisted of HM 39th of Foot (now 1st Bn Devon & Dorset Regiment) and just over 2,000 Sepoys. The gunners manned eight pounders and two small howitzers.
The odds were so great that Clive called a council of war at Katwah on the 21st June to decide if the risk of such an action, 150 miles from his base was advisable. Clive was not, at first, in favour of proceeding but with the arguments of Major Eyre Coote, 39th Regiment and the assurance that Mir Jafar Khan to change allegiance to Clive's side were sufficient, in the end, to persuade him. Accordingly, on the next day, the 22nd, Clive's forces crossed the river, leaving all sick and superfluous stores in the fort at Katwah.
During that night, Clive took up a position in a grove of mango trees on the left bank of the Bhagiratti river, about a mile from the enemy's entrenchments. This grove was only 800 yards in depth by 300 yards in breadth and some 50 to 200yds from the river.
Early in the morning of the 23rd, the enemy moved out of their entrenchments and formed a line, outflanking and encircling the British right. Clive moved out of the grove and rested his left at Plassey House, a hunting place of the Nawab, enclosed with a masonry wall. His line was in six divisions: the Europeans at the centre formed four-under Major Kilpatrick, Bengal Infantry; Major Grant and Major Eyre Coote, 39th of Foot and Captain G F Gaupp, Madras Infantry with the Sepoys formed as two divisions, one upon each wing.
Captain William jennings commanded the Artillery with 3 6 pounder guns on either flank. Clive, with a small party including the two remaining 6 pounders and the two howitzers, sited themselves around two brick kilns some two hundred yards in front of the left division. The line barely extended one thousand yards in total.
The enemy's troops were formed into dense columns of Cavalry and Infantry, interrupted with Batteries of Guns, of different strength. Undaunted, Clive's force attacked , necessarily on a narrow frontage supported by fire from the guns from both flanks. Casualties, however, were heavier that Clive's small force could afford and he withdrew the line into the shelter of the Grove and and it's supporting embankment, which gave some protection from the fire whilst the guns continued to pound the enemy. The very size of Nawabs army and the frontage it occupied diluted the weight of canon fire that could be applied to the British line, but the casualty figures show that the heavy shot of the Nawabs big guns took a continuous toll on the guns lines.Clive was determined, however, to keep up the cannonade during the day and then renew his attack at night.
Then, as often happens at that time of year in India, a violent thunderstorm burst and both armies were subjected to a torrential downpour. In the days of highly vulnerable gun powder, these were the conditions which tested the training and discipline of all arms. At that date the Indian guns were still being loaded and primed with loose powder by ladies and a sudden downpour would have rendered it , and therefore the guns, temporarily useless.
Imagining that a similar catastrophe must have affected both sides and that the much respected Bengal Artillery could no longer hold them off, the Nawab's cavalry swept forward en masse to overwhelm Clive's little army by shock action. The Bengal Artillery however, with nine years of hard won experience had instinctively safeguarded their powder from the rain. And so, as the ranks of horsemen galloped forward they met, unexpectedly, the classic riposte of three rounds of case shot from every gun that could bear.
This crushing defeat of what seemed a coup de grace swung the day, Mir Jafar Khan no longer dithered and defected from the enemy's left wing. Their great line of battle melted away, leaving Clive and the East India Company the masters of Bengal.
General Stubbs, the historian of the Bengal Artillery wrote, "The Battle of Plassey, from the commencement till the final advance to storm the entrenchment, was almost entirely an artillery engagement. The casualties, though comparatively small, were among the Europeans, principally in that arm. The victory laid the foundation of our empire in India. It concluded the war".
The Battery was founded in 1749 as a Company of Bengal Artillery
The Battery earned its honour title in 1757 at the Battery of Plassey. As part of Clive of India's Army raised to avenge the Black hole of Calcutta, they faced a numerically superior force under Surajah Dowlah. A shatteringly accurate cannonade from the guns broke up the enemy and led to Clive's victory.
To this Day the Battery celebrates Plassey Day on June 23rd each year.