The Picture That Resurfaced
This picture of mine was taken with Shri RB Singh, Principal of St. Andrews Higher Secondary School (St. Andrews Inter College) Gorakhpur.
I had misplaced this picture and only recently found it, which brought back memories of my first visit abroad in 1972. During that trip, I visited a museum in Warwick with my dear friend and colleague, Shri RK Nagar.
The reader might be wondering how this triggered the recollection of a visit to the museum in Warwick, England, after more than half a century!
Allow me to share the story behind the picture.
Rediscovering My Alma Mater: A Journey Inside St. Andrews Inter College
I passed my tenth standard from this school in 1960. And picture was taken more than sixty years after I left the school.
Over the years, I had passed by the school (currently a college) on the road in front of it numerous times, but I had never entered the premises.
Interestingly, my cousin Ravikar runs Cinnamon, one of the finest restaurants in Gorakhpur, conveniently located just across the street from the school. Whenever I find myself in Gorakhpur, I always make it a point to visit the restaurant and secure the window-side table they kindly reserve for me. As I savor the delightful flavors of a hot soup and indulge in an array of mouthwatering dishes at Cinnamon, I can’t help but gaze through the expansive glass windows, catching a glimpse of my alma mater.
Strangely enough, it never occurred to me to step foot inside the school premises until that fateful afternoon.
As we age, we often find ourselves doing strange things. And that is what happened.
One day, some thing compelled me to venture beyond the familiar and capture the essence of the place in photographs. Since it was after the school hours only the office was open. After a walk around I met the Principal Sir and the above picture was clicked.
The Changing Landscape: From Steel Gate to Ornamental Entrance
The grounds of St. Andrews Inter College have changed over time. The buildings, which were already old in the 1960s, now appear even older and neglected. However, the college now has an ornamental gate, whereas in my time, it only had a rickety steel gate that was often left half open.
The road in front of the college, which used to have a few cycle rickshaws, pedestrians, and occasional motor vehicles and even a Bullock cart during the time I used to attend the school, has now become so busy that one has to wait for the red light to cross.
A Historic Institution: Celebrating 200 Years of St. Andrews Inter College
This school has been functioning since 1828 and will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2028. I have many fond memories of my school days. I passed the 1960 UP Board examination with a first class and a distinction in Mathematics.
Employment at NDDB, FAO Fellowship and the UK Adventure
After completing my studies in Gorakhpur, where I obtained a Master’s Degree in Mathematics in 1967, I started looking for a job. Eventually, in 1968, I secured regular employment at NDDB in Anand.
In 1972, my colleague Rashmi Kant Nagar and I received a FAO fellowship to study computer systems analysis and design in the United Kingdom. Nagar has written a blog about our first air travel and visit to England, which one can read at this link.
During our three-month training program, Nagar and I also stayed in Warwick for a few days. Warwick is a market and county town in Warwickshire.
Exploring Warwick: A Weekend Stay and Unexpected Discovery
As recipients of a FAO Scholarship, we were given a daily allowance of five pounds to cover our food and other expenses. The sponsors of our training program organized and paid for our hotel stay directly.
On one such weekend, we stayed in Warwick. Our accommodation was in a building that had a pub on the ground floor and rooms for lodging on the first floor.
The Battle of Rapte: Uncovering the Victoria Cross Connection
We didn’t have much to do except watch TV and go out for walks and window shopping. During one of our walks, we came across an old people’s home that also had a museum. We decided to take a look.
And guess what I found there?
A Victoria Cross displayed as a souvenir. I can never forget the inscription that read, “Awarded to Captain …(I cannot recall the name)… of … Hussars for exemplary bravery on … at the Battle of Rapte.”
This incident has remained etched in my memory for over 50 years. Why? Because when I joined the school, I was told that it was housed in the barracks where British forces used to stay even before 1857. I don’t have any historical documents or other proof to support this claim.
Sometimes, I wonder if it’s true that I studied from class 8 to 10 in one of the rooms in a building that was constructed as barracks for the British forces in the seventeenth century! Who knows?
Babu Bandhu Singh: Legends and Memories of Tarkulha in Gorakhpur
Gorakhpur city is situated on the banks of the river Rapti. The battle place mentioned in the citation for the Victoria Cross is Rapte. Could Rapte be Rapti? Was there a battle of Rapte, or was it the battle of Rapti?
Babu Bandhu Singh, a Rajput Zamindar of the Srinet clan to which our family belongs, was a devotee of Goddess Durga. Legend has it that when he was hanged in Gorakhpur, the Tarkul (Palm) tree in his village, Tarkulha, broke from the middle, and blood oozed out from it. Now, there is a large Devi temple at the site. The second Mundan ceremony, where the hair on the head is shaved or tonsured, for all children in our Srinel families is performed at this place. My second Mundan was also done at Tarkulha.
After the visit to the Old People’s home in Warwick that day in 1972, I spoke to Nagar about Bandhu Singh and my Mundan, and how both the English and Indian communities preserve memories.
Charles Craufurd Fraser: Story of a Hero of the British
Thanks to Google, decades later I found the name of the British officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross for exemplary bravery at the Battle of River Rapte. The recipient of the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Rapte was Sir Charles Craufurd Fraser.
Fraser, who was 29 years old at the time, was a major in the 7th Hussars (The Queen’s Own) during the Indian war of independence which the Brotish called Mutiny. The deed for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross took place on December 31, 1858, at the River Rapte.
According to the British “He displayed conspicuous and cool gallantry by volunteering, at great personal risk and under a sharp musket fire, to swim to the rescue of Captain Stisted and some men of the 7th Hussars, who were in imminent danger of drowning while pursuing the rebels. Despite being partially disabled at the time due to a severe wound received while leading a squadron in a charge against some “fanatics” in the action of Nawabgunge on June 13, 1858, Major Fraser successfully completed this gallant service. He was also awarded the Royal Humane Society’s Medal 1st Class.”
The citation for the Victoria Cross given to Major Charles Craufurd Fraser reads as given below. One can find more information about Charles Craufurd Fraser at this link.👈
Fraser was 29 years old, and a major in the 7th Hussars (The Queen's Own) during the Indian Mutiny when the following deed took place on 31 December 1858 at the River Raptee, India for which he was awarded the VC:
For conspicuous and cool gallantry, on the 31st December, 1858, in having volunteered, at great personal risk, and under a sharp fire of musketry, to swim to the rescue of Captain Stisted, and some men of the 7th Hussars, who were in imminent danger of being drowned in the River Raptee, while in pursuit of the rebels. Major Fraser succeeded in this gallant service, although at the time partially disabled, not having recovered from a severe wound received while leading a Squadron in a charge against some fanatics, in the action of Nawabgunge, on the 13th June, 1858.
The battle of Rapte actually took place near Nawabgunj in Barabanki and not in Gorakhpur. Captain Stisted and others whom Major Fraser rescued were British military personnel who were pursuing “rebels”. And who were those rebels? Most important among the rebels were Nana Saheb the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II and Queen of Oudh.
In December 1858 Sir Hope Grant campaigned in north-eastern Oudh around Tulsipur while Lord Clyde (Sir Colin Campbell) pursued Nana Sahib and the Begum of Oudh through northern Oudh. After a series of engagements, on 31 December 1858 he attacked the rebel force close to Bankee, near where the Raptee river, flowing west through Nepal, turns east towards the Gogra. The rebels fled towards the river and the 7th Hussars and 1st Punjab Cavalry charged in after them. Some were swept away by the fierce current but Major C C Fraser, though wounded, rescued Captain T H Stisted and others. With the Begum, Nana Sahib fled into Nepal, where he probably died of fever in 1859
Another version has that from Nepal Nanaji went to Bhutan where he died. Please click this link to read further.
If you wish read more about on Major Fraser please click on this link.
How one picture brings out memories, raises curiosity, makes one search and learn and weave a story that makes sense. Such a story might bring out the whole or the partial truth or even help create a myth. Such a narrative may raise questions too. Answers, to which others will find at some other time and space.
Humans do not live beyond their lifetime but in the case of some, their stories continue to exist beyond their lifetime.