Saturday, 12 November 2016

William Hodson and his uniform - precursor to modern uniform with camouflage




Brevet Major William Stephen Raikes Hodson. (Kevin Shepherd) Bibliography
Brevet Major William Stephen Raikes Hodson (10 March 1821- 11 March 1858) a British leader of irregular light cavalry during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 had a reputation for the wrong reason. Frequently referred to as "Hodson of Hodson's Horse, he caused untold miseries to the last Mogul Emperor Bahadur Shah II whose exit is an important event in the 19th century Indo-British history - the down fall of the Mogul dynasty that ruled India for centuries.
The last Mogul in his advanced age suffered  humiliation, not to speak of his family because of Hodson's utter disregard for the revered ruler. In the wake of his unjust act, Mogul ruler's subjects both Hindus and Muslims were in rage and it added fuel to the inferno of  Sepoy mutiny. 

Capture of the king of Delhi by Captain Hodson" from The Indian Empire Photo by: 1857
Hodson was so vicious, he himself summarily executed Mogul ruler's heirs to the throne without any formal legal inquiry. On the flip side, he was a good horseman endowed with appreciable leadership qualities.  Hodson is credited with being jointly responsible for the introduction of the khaki uniform.
William Hodson, born on 9 March 1821 at Maisemore Court, near Gloucester, third son of the Rev. Dr George Hodson, Archdeacon of Stafford was educated at Rugby School and at Trinity College, Cambridge. After joining the 2nd Bengal Grenadiers of the East India Company when he was 23 years old, he successfully fought in the the First Anglo-Sikh War.


Being an expert swordsman and  a Cambridge graduate, William Hodson was deputed to Sir Henry Lawrence's projects - the newly formed Corps of Guides in December 1846. As part of his duty, he had to choose a new suitable  uniform for the new regiment. With approval from his seniors, he chose lightweight uniform of Khaki colour - or 'drab' as it was then referred to. Comfortable to wear in a  hot tropical country, the important military advantage was, it would nicely blend with the dusty environs and make the soldiers invisible to the enemies on the other side. With help from his brother Rev. George H. Hodson, in England, he received "drab cloth" for 900 men as well as 300 carbines. the precursor to modern uniform with camouflage patterns. Military camouflage uniform is widely used in the military force world over to protect personnel and equipment from observation by enemy forces. William Hodson goes down in the history of military uniform as the first one to use the Khaki uniform for his regiment that had dual advantages - easy to wear and blending with the dusty background.
His new work on the civil side later took him to Amritsar, Kashmir and Tibet. In 1852 he was appointed Commandant of the Corps of Guides.
Later on, he was transferred to the Civil Department as Assistant Commissioner in 1849 and stationed at Amritsar; and from there he traveled in Kashmir and Tibet. In 1852 he was appointed Commandant of the Corps of Guides. During the early rebellion, when the situation in the Indian subcontinent was tense and explosive Hodson carried the dispatches of General Anson from Karnal to Meerut and back again, a distance 152 miles in seventy-two hours. He did this feat with lots of guts, traveling through the hostile land with enemy soldiers, risking his life. Impressed by his courage and firm commitment, soon the higher-ups gave him the responsibility of leading a new regiment of 2000 irregular horsemen. Hence, later he came to be known as as "Hodson's Horse".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stephen_Raikes_Hodson