Rare photos of Raj soldiers playing polo and big game hunting for sale

The privileged life of leisure of a soldier of the Raj: Rare photographs belonging to a British army officer in India, showing them playing polo, big game hunting and duck shooting, go up for sale

  • Two albums contain over 400 black and white photographs from the turn of the 20th century until the 1930s
  • Photos of unnamed officer in Indian Army’s 28th Light Cavalry show life in India and on north-west frontier
  • The 28th Light Cavalry prevented the infiltration of German and Ottoman agents from Persia into Afghanistan
  • Albums show military operations, big game hunting, elephant traps, equestrianism training and polo playing
  • They will go on sale at Rowley’s auction house in Ely, Cambridgeshire, for estimate of £200-300 on 7 March

Two rare photo albums depicting the life and work of an unnamed British army officer in India during the first half of the 20th century have emerged for sale.

The officer belonged to the Indian Army’s 28th Light Cavalry and there are more than 400 black and white photographs showing military operations, big game hunting, giant elephant traps, ‘pig sticking’ expeditions, equestrianism training and polo playing.

Pictures from the turn of the 20th century until the 1930s show life in India and on the north-west frontier for the 28th Light Cavalry, which was involved in what is still a relatively unknown part of the First World War.

It served on military operations with the Seistan Field Force and the East Persian Cordon, preventing the infiltration of German and Ottoman agents from Persia into Afghanistan, who aimed to persuade the Emir of Afghanistan to rise up in a jihad with the tribes in the North-West Frontier Province and invade India. 

After the First World War and up to 1920 the 28th Light Cavalry continued on active operational service in Russian Turkestan.

Roddy Lloyd from Rowley’s auction house in Ely, Cambridgeshire, where the albums will go on sale on Saturday 7 March for an estimated £200 to £300, said: ‘The albums are a wonderful record of life in India during the last few decades of the British Raj.

‘Interestingly, many of the shots show the British and Indians as equals – playing polo, hunting and relaxing together.’

He added: ‘The albums record active service on the north-west frontier and the time spent in Russian Turkestan although the First World War is not covered – perhaps these photos were in a separate album.  

‘Their wives are often prominent and there are a number of informal shots of people as well as wonderful landscapes whilst holidaying in Kashmir and trekking with ponies and porters in the high foothills of the Himalayas and Karakorams.

‘It is a remarkable record of a life that exists no more for the British and there are many collectors who, I am sure, would love to have these albums. The photographs are of a good quality and include a variety of shots and include humorous ones as well.’

Hunting party picnic pictured above, with both British and high ranking Indian officials. The two rare photo albums depict the life and work of a British army officer in India during the last few decades of the Raj. The photographs will go on sale on Saturday 7 March at Rowley’s auction house in Ely, Cambridgeshire, for an estimated £200-300 

The black and white photographs from the turn of the 20th century until 1930s show soldiers of the Raj big game hunting. The 28th Light Cavalry was involved in what is still a relatively unknown part of the First World War. It served on military operations on the north-west frontier with the Seistan Field Force and the East Persian Cordon

Soldiers of the 28th Light Cavalry, which prevented infiltration of German and Ottoman agents from Persia into Afghanistan, who aimed to persuade Emir of Afghanistan to rise up in a jihad with tribes in North-West Frontier Province and invade India. The regiment was stationed at Quetta, Pakistan, as part of the 4th Quetta Division, in 1913

Indian troops pictured standing on horses during equestrianism training. Good horsemanship was vital for cavalry regiments. Roddy Lloyd from Rowley’s auction house said the photos are a ‘wonderful record’ of life in India, adding many of the shots ‘show the British and Indians as equals’ as they play polo, hunt and relax together

After World War One, the Indian Army’s 28th Light Infantry joined in operations in Russian Turkestan against the Bolsheviks. The infantry was formed in 1784 as the 2nd Regiment of Madras Native Infantry. The 2nd Madras Cavalry was later created by volunteers following regiments disbanding in a mutiny over pay

The two rare albums provide a snapshot of military life in India and on the North West frontier during the final days of the Raj. The albums record active service on the frontier alongside the time spent by the infantry in Russian Turkestan 

A man shaves while sat in a bath tub. The album belonged to an unnamed officer from the Indian Army’s 28th Light Cavalry. Mr Lloyd said there are a number of ‘informal shots of people’ in the album as well as ‘wonderful landscapes’

The 28th Light Cavalry out on patrol and carrying out military operations in the vast landscape of the North West frontier. The regiment worked to prevent the infiltration of German and Ottoman agents from Persia into Afghanistan

Five members of the British polo team with their trophy. Alongside military operations, photos depict the life and activities of officers in India. Mr Lloyd said the photos are of ‘good quality’ and show ‘a variety of shots’ 


An officer of the 28th Light Infantry holding a sword (left) and three members of a high ranking Indian family (right) pose in the black and white photographs. The calvary carried out military operations during the British Raj, a period of British rule over the Indian subcontinent

Seven people, five standing and two sitting, pose for a picture during an outing in an early motor car. Later, during the Second World War, the regiment was stationed in Bolarum as part of the 4th Cavalry Parade

A hunting party. The British Raj was known for its love of hunting, especially of tigers, cheetahs and leopards. Although the First World War is not covered in the photographs, Mr Lloyd said it could be in a separate album

Four men from the British Polo team pose for a photograph while sat on top of their horses during training. The period of the British Raj took place between 1858 and 1947, bringing a century of control by the East India Company to a close

A large hunting party, including two children and a pair of dogs. The photographs include a variety of shots. Following both wars the regiment, named the 7th Light Cavalry, gained independence from the British in 1947

Photograph depicts officers forming a ‘picket’ or ‘sangar’, which is a defensive structure set up along high ground, out of what appears to be rocks. It was occupied by soldiers as a column went by, in order to to protect it from attack

A soldier with a boy seated on top of a camel. The animals were recruited for the desert regions of northern India. In 1700, there were only a few hundred Brits in India. 200 years later, the number had soared to more than 150,000


Elephant trapping, with a charging elephant about to be captured (left). The Khedda system was used in India as a trap for the capture of a full herd. A tiger hunt (right) on elephants, with one man sat higher up and holding a gun

History of the British Raj: Britain’s rule in India between 1858 to 1947

The British Raj was a period of British rule over the Indian subcontinent, which took place from 1858, bringing a century of control by the East India Company to a close.

In 1700, there were only a few hundred Brits in India. 200 years later, the number had soared to more than 150,000. They came principally to work for the East India Company, which effectively ruled the country for 300 years.

The Indian mutiny of 1857 was a large-scale rebellion by soldiers in northern and central India against the East India Company’s rule which was suppressed by the British.

In 1857, growing tension was inflamed by rumours that Indian soldiers’ rifle cartridges were being greased with pig and cow fat, offending Muslims and Hindus alike. The unrest erupted in May.

The city of Delhi soon fell and there were further uprisings elsewhere. In Lucknow, Chief Commissioner Sir Henry Lawrence fortified his home – the Residency – and prepared for a siege.

Mutineers attacked the Residency and its 1,700-strong garrison in May and by July Sir Henry was dead. Garrison numbers dwindled until a relief force under Major-General Sir Henry Havelock fought its way into Lucknow in September.

Power was then transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown, which began to govern most of India as a number of provinces. The British Raj invested heavily in canals, railways, telegraphy, roads and ports.

In 1905 there was the first attempted break-up of a province of India by the British colonial government in response to a rising nationalist movement. But an increase in campaigns led to the reunification of Bengal in 1911.

In 1935 the British Government gave some self-government to provinces in India, while keeping control at the centre. 

Throughout its occupation, India retained a strong sense of self, but the country had to wait until 1947 for independence. 

The 28th Light Cavalry, which carried out military operations during the period, was formed in 1784 as the 2nd Regiment of Madras Native Infantry.

The 2nd Madras Cavalry was later created by volunteers following regiments disbanding in a mutiny over pay. The regiment was named the 28th Light Cavalry in 1903, and later became the 7th Light Cavalry in 1922.

Stationed at Quetta, Pakistan, as part of the 4th Quetta Division in 1913, it served on military operations with Seistan Field Force and the East Persian Cordon. 

After the First World War, until 1920, regiment served in active operation service in Russian Turkestan against the Bolsheviks . During the Second World War, the regiment was stationed in Bolarum as part of the 4th Cavalry Parade. 

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