Now you might think that a museum like ‘Firepower’ would consist in the main of British Guns made for the British Army at British factories like the Royal Arsenal. In fact the collection includes guns from China, France, The Netherlands, South Africa, America, and India. I am bound to have missed somewhere out, but I can return to that at a later date!
The first set of images is of Tipu Sultan, otherwise known as ‘The Tiger of Mysore’. Tipu was a thorn in the side of the British in India in the late 18th century until a determined campaign culminated in the seige of Seringapatam- where the cannon in the next picture was captured. You can see his trademark tigers both on the muzzle and the trunnions of the gun. The commander at Seringapatam was Lord Cornwallis, and there is a lively account of a later campaign led by Lord Arthur Wellesley, later to become Duke of Wellington in “Sharpe’s Tiger” by Bernard Cornwell. The third picture is of an unfinished mortar thought to have some connexion with Tipu because of the tiger body and tail. I find it one of the most engaging little pieces in the collection.
Over on the next stand is the Sutlej gun. All the Indian guns are beautifully decorated, and these are no exception, with elegant cast brass ornamentation on just about every area of the gun and carriage. This is a so-called light 6 pounder, made for the Sikh horse Artillery in the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1838 in Lahore. At this time the Sikhs had access to patterns and manufacturing facilities used by the East India Company. Not far from this is the Cossipore gun, a fine bronze barrel cast with lavish decoration, and apparently one of these guns had a portrait of the Indian ruler they were made for on it. Cossipore is a region of Calcutta, and has the oldest surviving Gun and Shell factory in the subcontinent. Last but by no means least is the piece known simply as ‘Indian Gun’. This is a slender, elegant piece with exquisite silver decoration thought to be typical of Sind province.
These then are the Indian guns. A remarkable display of martial vigour, skilled engineering, and physical beauty, and a reflection of the wealth and power of the ruling classes at the time of the East India company.