From soldier’s souvenir to soldier’s arm
This very early Lee-Enfield India Pattern Mk 1 .303-caliber bolt action cavalry carbine was issued to Indian Volunteer Force mounted units of the era.
This particular specimen was produced at the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield and issued to the Assam Valley Light Horse Regiment. With its headquarters at Dibrugarh in the state of Assam, the AVLH was formed in 1891, largely from local Europeans amalgamated from four previously raised troop-sized dragoon units (the Sibsager Mounted Rifles, Darrang Mounted Rifles, Lakhimpur Mounted Rifles, and Newgong Mounted Rifles.) Some members of the unit served in the Boer Wars as part of Lumsden’s Horse.
The rifle was presented to Lt.Col. James Stenhouse Elliot, VD, in 1905 on the occasion of his retirement from the Indian forces (he is listed on the Indian Army’s reserve list with an 1879 rank date).
The good Lt.Col. Stenhouse Elliot likely took the rifle back to England with him, where it was pressed into service during WWII with the Britsh Home Guard and, in the initial stages of the formation of “Dad’s Army” it was likely one of the most modern weapons in the armory.
It is now in the collection of the National Army Museum.
As for the AVLH, they were part of the British Indian Army’s cavalry reserve and never deployed as a unit, although members did volunteer for service in both World Wars and against the Abors in 1911-12. They were disbanded after India’s independence in 1947.