5 July 2006

The Brookwood Cemetery Society's restoration project for 2006 was to refurbished the grave and headstone to Mr. Ross Mangles VC after it was discovered to be in danger of toppling over.

In May, Pankhurst Graphic Masonry of Woking, carried out the first phase of restoration where the cross and base was set upright, and the inscription panels cleaned. The Society's small restoration group then cleaned the grave space, laid down a geotextile sheet and the area partly filled with gravel. The final stage of restoration was to clean and repaint the cast iron surround which was originally painted green. More gravel was then placed on the grave to finish off the project.

Mangles' grave:
before and after

The siege of Arrah, though on a small scale, is one of the great actions of the Indian Mutiny and this tiny garrison managed to hold out and inflict severe casualties on the vastly superior number of rebels, until finally relieved on the 2nd August 1857. Strangely, however, there were no awards for this heroic defence but two well deserved Crosses were given for actions during a poorly managed and finally disastrous relief attempt on the 29th and 30th July 1857.

The Relief Force, after crossing a river, landed about 14:00 hours and after two miles it was necessary to cross another river and the collection of suitable boats delayed further advance on the other side until 19:00 hours. Unwisely, Captain Dunbar, the commander of the force, decided to carry on without any rest or food for the troops and also failed to send out any advance patrols. As a result, on arriving at the outskirts of Arrah in the early morning and pitch dark, the force was ambushed by an estimated 3,000 rebels. Dunbar was killed, there were heavy casualties, and the entire force broke up in a state of panic.

At daybreak it was decided to withdraw as any further attempt to advance would be suicidal and at least 100 men were already casualties or missing ( some 50 rejoined later ). The main river was 15 miles away and the retreating troops were ambused and sniped the entire way. When the remnants managed to reach the main river and make their way back to Dinapore they had suffered over 150 casualties.

It was the recommendation by Sir James Outram for the award Victoria Crosses for two civilians, Mr. William McDonell and Mr. Ros Mangles, both of the Bengal Civil Service, which was rejected until the Governor-General, Lord Canning, had made emphatic representations to London that led to the Royal Warrant of 10th August 1858 allowing awards to civilians.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 8 July 1859 ], Arrah, Indian Mutiny, 30 July 1857, Mr. Ross Lowis Mangles, Bengal Civil Service ( Assistant Magistrate, Patna )

Mr Mangles volunteered and served with the Force, consisting of detachments of Her Majesty's 10th and 37th Regiments, and some Native Troops, despatched to the relief of Arrah, in July 1857, under the Command of Captain Dunbar of the 10th Regiment.

The Force fell into an Ambuscade on the night of the 29th July 1857, and during the retreat on the next morning Mr Mangles, with signal gallantry and generous self-devotion, and notwithstanding that he himself had been previously wounded, carried for several miles out of action a wounded soldier of Her Majesty's 37th Regiment, after binding up his wounds under a murderous fire, which killed or wounded almost the whole detachment, and he bore him in safety to the boats.

Ross Mangles was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on the 4th January 1860.

Born in Calcutta, Ross Mangles joined the Bengal Civil Service in 1853 and served as Assistant Magistrate at Patna until 1857, and after the Arrah action as Magistrate, Chunparun District, North Behar. He was on sick leave in England from September 1858 to January 1860 and during this period was able to attend Windsor Castle to be invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria. Ross Mangles died on the 28th February 1905 in Pirbright, Surrey, and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery.

Medal entitlement of Mr. Ross Lowis Mangles - Bengal Civil Service ( Assistant Magistrate, Patna )

  • Victoria Cross
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-58 )


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Iain Stewart, 19 September 2006