The British Empire

Sir Charles Napier

His father bought him a commission

Sir Charles Napier (1782-1853) was a British soldier who was bought an army commission by his father at the age of twelve, entering active service at the age of sixteen, and going on to have a distinguished imperial career including conquering Sind in 1843.

Napier was born at Westminster and following entrance to the army served in Ireland during the 1803 rebellion, Portugal in 1810 and then fought in the war against the USA before returning to Europe and being present at the Siege of Cambrai.

Napier commanded troops in the north of England during the Chartist disturbances of 1839-40 and was then sent to India where he served for much of the remainder of his career. He was promoted to Major-General and given command of the army of the Bombay Presidency.

Service in India

The Governor of India, Ellenborough, gave Napier the task of dealing with those rebels in Sind that had not accepted British control of the area. Subjugating Sind at the Battle of Meeanee Napier broke the power of the local chieftains. Napier then went on to exceed his powers and annexed Sind. Napier was made governor of the Bombay presidency but clashed with the directors of the East India Company and returned home to England in 1847.

In 1849 Napier returned to India to subjugate the Sikhs but by the time he arrived this had been achieved by General Gough. Napier remained in India becoming Commander-in-Chief of the army of the HEIC but quarrelled with Governor General Dalhousie over his harsh treatment of those peasants of the north west region who were not paying their taxes.

Back in England by 1851 Napier turned to writing books, criticising India’s government and the administration of the colonies. He  is now remembered for the Latin pun which according to Punch in 1843 he reported his conquest of Sind, ‘Peccavi’ (I have sinned).

Peter Crowhurst, April 2019