Journey to the Raj – A Soldier’s Life in India
Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life in Carlisle Castle will this week be opening their summer temporary Exhibition, Journey to the Raj – A Soldier’s Life in India 1820-1947.
The exhibition tells the story of the County’s infantry Regiment from the 34th Foot (Cumberland) and 55th Foot (Westmorland) as well as the Border Regiment and their experiences on the Indian sub-continent. From a role protecting British trade interests to one of policing the Empire, the Regiment was part of a strong military presence until 1947.
The bureaucratic colonial rule over the population of India became crucial to the wealth of the British Empire and the Regiment spent long periods 5000 miles away from home in India.
The exhibition focusses on the experience of the soldiers and their families using the Museum’s extensive documents, photographs and archives. Due to the different locations that the Regiments served in, no two soldiers’ experiences were the same.
The soldiers and their families experienced long journeys from their homes to India by sea, some journeys taking up to six months travelling around the Cape of Good Hope until the Suez Canal opened in 1869. In the 1870’s purpose built troopships came into regular use. Private Davidson on 30thMarch 1916 wrote: “…a troopship with about 2000 on board, we have one yard of space for everything, kit bag, equipment, rifle etc., we dine, sleep and sit at the same spot..”
Jules Wooding, Learning and Access Officer at Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life said:
“The exhibition highlights the experiences of the soldiers and their families using letters home, photographic collections, oral history and memoirs. Many soldier’s lives were filled with monotonous routines whilst their families tried to recreate home in extreme temperatures by cultivating gardens and furnishing their homes in a tropical climate. Despite this, soldiers would have been witness to the real India of noise, colour and heat and this exhibition offers an insight into their experiences.
We would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting this exhibition and enabling the Museum to digitise our extensive India photographic collection.
The Museum will also be organising accompanying activities throughout the duration of the Exhibition including curry lunches by John Crouch onSunday 9 July and Sunday 10 September. During the summer holidays there will be family friendly summer workshops based around the exhibition. In Mid-August we will also be hosting a five day Festival of India with dance, puppetry and crafts – something not to be missed.”