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Letter to Noreen Milton-Thompson and Edwina Pugsley

Two books on the Indian Mutiny have recently been published, both of which mention our great great grandparents Frederick and Helena Angelo. I thought you might be interested in some comments.

(1)"Angels of Albion - women of the Indian Mutiny" by Jane Robinson, published by Viking.

I had considerable correspondence with the author of this one while she was researching it and I drew her attention to Helena's diary of her escape from Cawnpore. I also provided her with two illustrations (both on plate 16). These are one taken at the christening of my father in 1905 and show him with three generations of women - Helena Angelo, our great grandmother Helena Whiteway and my grandmother Logie Muir - and one a miniature of Frederick.

The book contains two careless errors. In a number of places, including under plate 16, she says Helena escaped with three children although she has the correct number, two, elsewhere (Helena was, of course, pregnant but this fact is mentioned). Also in the caption to plate 16 she has muddled up my grandmother with Helena Whiteway.

A more serious disagreement I have with her is over the method of the escape from Cawnpore. I have always understood that they left by boat. This was certainly the story I was told by my grandmother and it was repeated by Anne Harden (a remote cousin of ours) when she edited Helena's diary for publication in the magazine Notes and Queries in 1955. Jane Robinson says the escape was "in a gharry". She obtained this version from a published diary/letter of Charlotte Lady Canning's. (I enclose a transcript of this). I have always believed Lady Canning was mistaken, she probably mixed Helena's story up with somebody else's. This view is reinforced by the fact that Lady Canning says they were guarded by "two sepoys of his regiment". As Frederick was detached from his regiment in civilian employment (quite usual for army officer at that time) it is unlikely, but not impossible, that any sepoys from his regiment would have been with him. Also he probably would not have entrusted his family to sepoys in view of his worries about an imminent mutiny. All in all I am sure the family version that they left by river boat in the care of loyal servants is more likely to be correct.

All this said, I enjoyed book. She has managed to find a large number of contemporary sources many of which have not been published before.

(2)"Our bones are scattered - The Cawnpore massacres and the Indian Mutiny of 1857" by Andrew Ward , published by John Murray.

This is an in depth study of the mutiny at Cawnpore. It also quotes Helena's diary and has a story, new to me, about the way Frederick was killed. I have had no contact with this author, who lives in the States. He obtained the diary from the late Zoe Yalland who wrote two, very good, books about Cawnpore. In one of these she quoted extensively from the diary. I knew Zoe very well (she died in 1995) and I gave her the diary to use in the book.

I enclose a transcript of one of the pieces about Frederick in Ward's book.

His sources for this story are "native" accounts. Shortly after the Mutiny a Colonel Williams was given the task of taking depositions from natives both military and civilian. A selection of these were published by G W Forrest in Calcutta in 1902. This latter book seems to have been Ward's source. I looked at this at the Indian Office Library some years ago and could not find any references to Frederick Angelo. I will look again when I am next at the Library.

It seems that Ward may have connected Frederick with the story told by two natives because one mentions that it was an "officer of the grenadier company" being described. The 16th BNI, Frederick's regiment, certainly were grenadiers but at the time he was detached from the regiment and I doubt if it was obvious that he was a grenadier. I think this identification may be a little tenuous but I would like to do a some more research, including contacting Ward.

Another mistake in this book is that the author describes Frederick as "Captain Angelo". He certainly never rose above the rank of Lieutenant. I have seen his military records. He is described as Lieutenant on his memorials in All Saints Church at Cawnpore and in the official Indian Mutiny Casualty List.

I have not yet read the whole of this book - it is a formidable tome !

I hope you find the above interesting.

December 1996

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