Tomb of the first British Sikh historian Joseph Davy Cunningham found – Times of India

AMBALA: The coffin of Captain Joseph Davy Cunningham, the first British Sikh historian to visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to visit the European cemetery at Ambala Cantonment on National Highway 444 (Ambala-Jagadhri Road) was recently found.

The CWGC team from New Delhi, along with its Indian subcontinent director Mamit Amit Bansal, visited the European cemetery in Ambala to verify the condition of the war graves present at this historic Christian cemetery. The CWGC is working on the reconstruction of the war grave in Ambala with the help of the Cemetery Committee.



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Father Anthony, chief priest of Holy Readymade Church in Ambala Cantonment, said: “It was actually the late historian Mr. KC Yadav who spoke of the tomb of Captain Joseph Davy Cunningham at Ambala Cemetery. Then we were looking for his grave. It was only a coincidence when we learned that the CWGC team was visiting the war grave in Ambala on July 7. They (CWGC) had never actually heard of Cunningham before. We have about 5 war graves in the European cemetery in Ambala cantonment. Captain Cunningham was born in Lambeth on June 17, 1812, and died at the age of 36, along with the Bengal Engineers, as an engineer in the British Army, and died on 26 February 1971 in Ambala, with his tomb engraved.


.According to the historical record, Cunningham’s father was the famous Scottish poet and writer Alan Cunningham and his brother was the archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham.

Cunningham is considered to be the first British Sikh historian to write the first account of the Anglo-Sikh War in 1845.

According to the Sikh Encyclopedia of Professor Harbans Singh of the Punjabi University, Patiala, “He (Cunningham) was called to the front of the war (Anglo-Sikh war) and was first associated with Sir Charles Napier’s staff and later with Sir Hugh. He was Padduwal and Aliad. He served as a political officer in Sir Harry Smith’s department during the war. He served as an additional support camp for Governor-General Sir Henry Hardinge in Sabahraun. His services earned him a job as a political agent in the state of Bhopal. ”


After the war, Cunningham wrote the book The Sikh in History in 1899, which he wrote in Bhopal and published in London by his brother, Professor Harbans Singh.

“His harsh criticism of Lord Hardinge’s book on Punjab policy angered his superiors. He was removed from his political post and reassigned to regimental duty. He took this disgrace to heart and died suddenly in Ambala in 1851, shortly after his appointment to the Meerut Division of Public Works. “, Writes Harbans Singh, Encyclopedia of Sikhism.

Professor Raghubendra Tanwar, Director, Haryana Academy of History and Culture, said, “The British built a cantonment at Ambala in 1833-34 and later the cantonment was shifted to Ludhiana (in 183737). They (British) were not crossing the Beas River as long as Maharaja Ranjit Singh was alive as long as they were concerned about it. The Sikh wars with the British were the last expansionist war of the British. By these wars, the whole policy of the British, including the army or defense, was influenced by the way the summit fought in these wars. ”


“The Cunningham edition states that if the Sikhs have a neutral war, the British will not have to win. Cunningham established that the Sikhs had a very high moral base against the British and that his version was crucial to Sikh history, “said Professor Raghuvendra Tanwar.

From The Origins of Cunningham’s History of the Sikhs to Cunningham’s The Nets of Battles of the Sutlej ‘, by Cunningham, is the first serious and sympathetic account of the Sikh community written by a foreigner.

Cunningham’s main attempt was to “give Sikhism its place in the general history of humanity, showing its connection to the various religions of India …” Second, he wished to “give some details of the connection of the English with the Sikhs, and in part with the Afghans …”


According to Cunningham’s analysis, the British won the war, they started the war but could have lost the war. What contributed to the success of the British was the betrayal of the leaders in Lahore. Senapati Pradhan Raja Lal Singh, Raja Tej Singh and Raja Gulab Singh played a treacherous role and betrayed their own forces at different levels.


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