Some years ago June Bush inherited a set of diaries, journals and letters written between 1853 and 1863
by her great-great-grandfather Captain Richard Warner. Also with the collection were sixty-five letters
from his son Ashton Cromwell Warner, who as a young serving officer in the Bengal Army, fond
himself caught up in the Siege of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
When June subsequently discovered in the British Library a further series of sixty-nine letters written
to his parents during the Indian Rebellion by Ashton’s younger brother Wynyard, plus a number of other
letters from concerned relatives and friends, she decided to compile the whole unpublished collection
into a book.
Through the journals and diaries of an elderly father and the letters of two of his three sons,
the narrative traces the build-up to the Rebellion, Ashton’s life under siege in the Residency at Lucknow
and Wynyard’s experiences during the battle to regain control of Delhi. It continues through 1858 and
1859 as both brothers find themselves fighting their way back into Lucknow and then north towards
About the Author
June Bush was born in 1938. a fairly disrupted early childhood was followed by a more
peaceful period after the Second World War as the family was reunited and settled in Warwickshire. At
the age of thirteen she was sent away to boarding school and later, having trained as a secretary, worked
for a time in the Dorchester Hotel in London. She was married in 1962 and has two sons and a daughter.
In 1978 the family moved to Oundle in Northamptonshire where she worked for twenty years in the
theatre attached to Oundle School. In 1988, she began to study with the Open University from which she
earned a BA Honours degree in History. She married again in 1995. Both she and her husband retired in
2000, giving them the freedom to spend much of the summer months cruising around the English canals
in their narrow boat and some more precious moments with their ever expanding family.
It was following the untimely death of my brother a few years ago that I came into the possession of a
box of documents once owned by my father. Inside were three sturdy little leather bound journals with
brass locks and a brown envelope full of letters written on very flimsy paper and tied together with blue
embroidery silk. All had been written over a ten year period between 1853 and 1863 by my great-great
grandfather Captain Richard Warner. Also in the box was a further series of letters carefully preserved
between the tinted pages of a hard-backed drawing-book, which I dimly remember having been shown by
my father when I was a young girl in the nineteen fifties. I guessed immediately these were the letters
written to his parents during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 by Richard’s son Ashton Warner, who as a young
cavalry officer in the Bengal Army aged twenty-two was trapped for four months under siege in the
Residency at Lucknow. His letters home continued throughout 1858 and 59 during which time, as
A.D.C. to Major General Robert Walpole, Ashton found himself again having to fight his way back into
A few months later whilst browsing in a bookshop I came across a copy of The Indian Mutiny
by Saul David and leafing through the Bibliography at the back was surprised to discover the name of
Ashton’s younger brother Wynyard. I was instantly intrigued and hurried up to London to the British
Library, where to my delight I found a further series of sixty-five letters written by Wynyard to his
parents over exactly the same period 1857-1859. They begin early in 1857 when aged just eighteen he
arrived in India to join his brother Ashton in the Bengal Army and suddenly found himself catapulted
into the action to besiege Delhi. He too, like Ashton, was later involved in the campaign to recapture
Lucknow and for months thereafter marched north with the army chasing the rebels into Nepal. There
were also a number of letters from concerned relatives and friends and I decided then and there that I
must, with the aid of these and the detailed journals and diaries of their father Richard, attempt to edited
the whole collection into a book.
The process has been a privilege, and more exciting than I could ever have imagined. But I
have had a lot to learn and until I had gained a greater understanding of the culture of the period I was
often more than a little shocked and horrified by some of the thoughts and actions of the two brothers.
Attitudes have greatly altered over one hundred and fifty years and Ashton and Wynyard, who seem to
have been typically decent, fair-minded young men of their time, apparently learned very quickly from
their peers and from those to whom they looked for guidance, to be contemptuous of all native Indians,
often referring to them as ‘brutes’ or ‘niggers.’ With such a mind-set at the heart of the tiny British
community trying to rule half a continent containing a kaleidoscope of creeds and cultures, it is not
difficult to understand how or why the Indian Mutiny occurred.
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