Ali Baba, unlike some others that might readily be cited, would doubtless have been foremost in according most generous acknowledgments to the services in the cause of Indian Army reform, rendered in past days by many great Commanders-in-Chief in India.
Chief among such men might be cited Sir Charles James Napier (1782-1853), the conqueror of Scinde, who in 1849 returned to India, nominated by the Duke of Wellington to deal with the crisis caused by the Sikh campaign. Arriving in Calcutta on the 6th May, he at once assumed the command, the term of service of Lord Gough, who had brought the campaign to a successful end, being concluded. Napier’s too short administration of little over eighteen months was rather judicial than military, but he effected many reforms on the parade ground and in cantonments.
The newspapers of the day eagerly chronicled the records of the proceedings in which he vigorously combated the vices of intoxication, gambling, insubordination, and other crimes and misdemeanours, both in officers and men of the Queen’s and Company’s forces alike.
It was during his command that separate barrack-room accommodation was provided for married soldiers. The state of affairs hitherto prevailing may well be imagined by an inspection of the barrack life pictures and caricatures of artists such as Ramberg, Gillray, Rowlandson, and others.
He also founded Soldiers’ Institutes, and encouraged soldiers in the Queen’s army to rear such pets as monkeys and parrots by regulations for their transport on route and transfer marches, which afforded material for many humorous sketches and paragraphs in the pages of The Delhi Punch. Wise and considerate regulations which are continued in the existing concessions as to the carriage of “soldiers’ pets” by troop trains and homeward-bound Indian transports.
Colonel R.H. Vetch (Dictionary of National Biography) admirably sums up Napier’s character by recording of him that “his disregard of luxury, simplicity of manner, careful attention to the wants of the soldiers under his command, and enthusiasm for duty and right won him the admiration of his men. His journals testify to his religious convictions, while his life was one long protest against oppression, injustice and wrongdoing. Generous to a fault, a radical in politics, yet an autocrat in government, hot-tempered and impetuous, he was a man to inspire strong affection or the reverse, and his enemies were as numerous as his friends.”
Altogether a very different character from that which all and sundry are warned to avoid by the—to a great extent—satirical word-picture recorded by Ali Baba.
WITH THE ARCHDEACON
In this article Ali Baba has pourtrayed with infinite skill and geniality the many-sided character of the late Joseph Baly, M.A., who was Archdeacon of Calcutta from 1872 until he retired from India in 1883. Appointed to the Bengal Ecclesiastical establishment in 1861, Mr. Baly served as Chaplain at Sealkote, Simla, and Allahabad until 1870, when, while on furlough in England, he acted as Rector of Falmouth until 1872. In 1885 he was appointed chaplain at the church in Windsor Park, built by Queen Victoria, in which appointment he died in 1909, aged eighty-five.