This skull was found in the year 1963 by owner of The Lord Clyde, a pub in the eastern English coastal town of Walmer in Kent. It was extremely disfigured and it also had a note stuck in one of the eye sockets, which read:
‘Skull of Havildar “Alum Bheg,” 46th Regt. Bengal N. Infantry who was blown away from a gun, amongst several others of his Regt. He was a principal leader in the mutiny of 1857 & of a most ruffianly disposition. He took possession (at the head of a small party) of the road leading to the fort, to which place all the Europeans were hurrying for safety. His party surprised and killed Dr. Graham shooting him in his buggy by the side of his daughter. His next victim was the Rev. Mr. Hunter, a missionary, who was flying with his wife and daughters in the same direction. He murdered Mr Hunter, and his wife and daughters after being brutally treated were butchered by the road side.
According to a Telegraph report, the skull was then Dr Kim Wagner, an expert in imperial history at Queen Mary University, London, who began to study it’s history. The note added that the skull had been brought back to Britain by “Captain (AR) Costello (late Capt. 7th Drag. Guards), who was on duty when Alum Bheg was executed”, states the report.
According to the doctor, Bheg was not to be blamed for any of the deeds and the actual person behind it was a local executioner who was against the Britishers.
Wagner says that Bheg was only part of the regiment that executed such henious crimes, and that he was never really invovled in any violence. Despite not being part of any of the murders, Alujm Bheg was murdered by the Britishers is the most brutal ways possible. So much so, his body was completely disintegrated. That’s why Dr Wagner is hell bent on getting the skull back to Indian and giving his the rightful burial.
What was clear from the note was that the skull was of a rebel Indian soldier called Alum Bheg, who belonged to the Bengal Regiment and who was executed in 1858 by being blown from the mouth of a cannon in Sialkot (a town in Punjab province located in present-day Pakistan); and that a man who witnessed the execution brought the skull to England. The note is silent on why Bheg committed the alleged murders.
Native Hindu and Muslim soldiers, also known as sepoys, rebelled against the British East India Company in 1857 over fears that gun cartridges were greased with animal fat forbidden by their religions. The British ruled India for 200 years until the country’s independence in 1947.
The couple in Essex had trawled the internet and failed to find anything about Bheg. They contacted Dr Wagner after they found his name as a historian who had authored a book on the Indian uprising, often referred to as the first war of independence.
There was no sign of violence, said the expert, which is not unusual in the case of execution by cannon, where the torso takes the full impact of the blast. The skull also bore cut marks from a tool, suggesting that the head was defleshed by being boiled or being left exposed to insects.
Dr Wagner says he did not believe immediately that it would be possible to find out very much more about Bheg.
Individual soldiers rarely left any traces in the colonial archives, with the possible exception of someone like Mangal Pandey, who fired the first shot at a British officer on 29 March 1857 on the outskirts of Kolkata and stirred up a wave of rebellion in India against the colonial power.
Bheg’s name was not mentioned in any of the documents, reports, letters, memoirs and trial records from the period in the archives and libraries in India and UK. There were also no descendants demanding the return of the skull.