11 - The Tuckers in Gujarat





by Margaret du Plessis



This extract from an International Headquarters War Cry will be of particular interest to those who live in Gujarat, or have lived and worked in that part of the country. This historical information may also be of interest to corps cadets and cadets in training. Here is the printed record of the beginning of the Salvation Army in one area of Gujarat.

It was only two years after the arrival of the Salvation Army in India that Major and Mrs Tucker were leading a campaign in Gujarat. Captain Smith, the Hallelujah Padre, wrote this vivid description about the establishment of the work. It is gratifying to note that mention is made of Mrs Major Tucker who took an active part in the attack. The London War Cry published the news on its front page with an arresting caption –

‘INDIA. Bombardment of Borsad’

Capture of Prisoners – Important Council of War. [1]

“The officers leading the attack spent the night previous to the bombardment in the house of Subadar Valji. About day dawn on Sunday we were aroused by the beat of the drum, which announced the arrival of the first detachment of the attacking force, and which consisted of three regiments of Anand Native Infantry, under the command of Captain Chakerbatti and Mackertich, and an Officer who is over from Ceylon to study our mode of warfare. Later on in the day we were reinforced by two other regiments of Anand troops and four regiments of Borsad “Hallelujah Boys.” As some of these regiments had marched all night we delayed the attack until they were refreshed.

“About eleven o’clock we marched out of our trenches. Passing round the ruins of an old Marathi Fort, we reached the town by another road. Major and Mrs Tucker led the attack. The troops were in splendid spirits. About a quarter to twelve we had taken up a good position in the town and commenced operations.


The enemy drew up in form, probably not less than a thousand, and while they looked on with mingled interest and wonder we suddenly drew up into line and opened up a furious cannonade. The interest of the battle culminated in a scene that would be more fitly depicted by a painter’s brush than by a scribe’s pen. The hundreds of Soldiers in their motley uniform, the group of Blood-and-Fire Lasses, the numerous colours of the various regiments, the crowds that filled the road, the crowds that thronged the verandas, the eager faces filling every doorway and window in the upper stories, and the frail form of Mrs Tucker, in snowy white robes, pouring in the red hot truth with such strength and tenderness that it swayed the vast crowd and hushed it into breathless silence. This splendid attack must have shaken the fortifications, though it did not effect a breach.


Shortly after twelve we retired to our lines, and instantly opened fire from there. The spirit and enthusiasm of the Soldiers seemed to increase. Prayer after prayer went up to the Throne; volleys of Hallelujahs rent the air,

“Testimonies bright and crisp came whizzing past our ears in rapid succession; indeed we have not often seen more rapid firing. It was difficult to refrain the eagerness of our men. Then the Major opened fire from the Bible, and Lieutenant Jitra and Captain Smith worked the heavy guns. About half past one we ceased firing. A brief council of war was held, and some important movements were decided upon and a few changes in command.


“Subadar Valji was promoted to the rank of Captain and Private Jitra to that of Lieutenant. Captain Mackertich was ordered to take command of Fort Ranipur. Captain Smith was placed in command of Anand, and instructions were given to fortify Balaj immediately, and Captain Chakerbatti was directed to proceed there and superintend the operations. The Chief Command of the Gujarat expedition was given to Captain Paynter. Subsequently, the troops were addressed by the Major. Glowing glimpses of future glory and loving counsels from our Major’s lips drew us all nearer together, and fired us with new courage for this glorious war.


Six prisoners were brought in during the day. At nine o’clock pm we opened fire from the prayer batteries, the Jamadars and a few of the sepoys [2] working the native guns, and the European Officers worked the English guns; a terrible fire was kept up for three hours. We cannot tell at present what execution has been done. Our expectations are great.


“The Lord give us strength and vigour to keep up the fight with unabated vigour, until every inch of Gujarat has surrendered to the King.”


The military terminology to describe the evangelistic campaign could make an uninitiated reader think this was just another battle. This was a Salvation Army on the attack with the frail Mrs Tucker sharing in an evangelistic campaign. Was she remembering another campaign in 1875 when Tucker first met her and her sisters who were engaged in an active temperance campaign among the soldiers stationed on the Isle of Wight.


She was a committed evangelist, keen to introduce people to Jesus.


[1]   IHQ War Cry, Wednesday, October 8, 1884

[2]   Sepoy – In Anglo-Indian use a native (Indian) soldier, disciplined and dressed in European style (The Anglo-Indian Dictionary by Hobson-Jobson – first published 1886, Wordsworth Ed. Ltd, Great Britain)