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Christmas in a Burmese Jungle, by Lance Corporal Samuel John Huggins, 13th (Somersetshire) Light Infantry

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: About 20 Dec 1885 to about 25 Dec 1885
Location: Burmamap
Surname/tag: Huggins
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Source: Huggins, S.J. "Christmas in a Burmese Jungle." Vox Lycei. Ottawa Collegiate Institute (Ottawa, Ontario). Fall 1913 (pp 13–14). Transcript provided by Rocca-43, 28 March 2019.

Note: The writer was Samuel John Huggins (1864–1922). Mr. Huggins was born at Winchester, emigrated to Canada in 1874, and returned to England in 1881 to attest to the 13th (Somersetshire) Light Infantry. He wrote this article while employed as Physical Director and Drill Instructor at Ottawa Collegiate Institute (Ottawa, Canada) just before the outbreak of the Great War.

Transcript:

"During the last Burmese campaign, I was stationed at a place called Mehyagone (Myingyan) on the line of communication from the Frontier to our headquarters at Ningyan (Pyinmana). The post was situated in a small clearing in a large Teak wood jungle about one mile from the village, and consisted of four European Mounted Infantry and twenty native Sepoys under command of a native officer. The duty of the Mounted Infantry was to carry the mail to and from the frontier post; other mounted men brought it from, and carried it to, the next post up country.
"A few days before Christmas we received a luxury in the shape of some flour, raisins, currants and sugar to make a Christmas pudding.
"Our rations for a couple months had consisted of tinned cornbeef, hard biscuits, and preserved vegetables, so that the ingredients for a "Plum Duff" were very acceptable, and we determined to celebrate the holiday in royal style. We invited Tommy Hunter, telegraph operator at Gobyn (the frontier station) to join us at dinner, and he accepted. I was selected to make the pudding, which I did on Christmas Eve, having to use in place of suet the fat from several tins of cornbeef. The only pudding cloth available was a bath towel belonging to one of us, which the owner lent very reluctantly after he had been assured that no harm could possibly come to it.
"We were all awake good and early on Christmas morning. The first duty was to procure some fowls. So three of us went to the village to buy them; there were lots of fowl, but so wild we could not catch them and had to shoot them with our rifles, as the natives did not seem inclined to help us catch them.
"The only cooking utensils we had were some large round earthenware chatties (pots) with a neck about five inches wide. We got the precious pudding in all right after having put a Rupee in to keep it from sticking to the bottom. The remainder of our dinner consisted of a stew made from three fowls, tinned cornbeef. hard tack biscuits, and preserved vegetables boiled in another very large chattie.
"After breakfast Mr. McMillan and I saddled up and went to Gobyn to escort our guest to dinner, after leaving full instructions with Matfield and Buck to keep the pudding boiling, with plenty of water. We returned with our guest about 12.30 and, not long afterwards, we partaking of dinner with food appetites. After doing justice to the stew, we proceeded to release the pudding (which had been gaily boiling away). When I tried to take it out of the chattie, I found to my amazement I could not as the pudding had swelledl so the only thing to do was break the chattie, which I did holding the towel by the ends. To my dismay the towel came away with the top of the chattie, leaving the pudding on the bottom The pudding had swelled so much there was no room for water underneath so the towel and six inches of pudding were burnt as black as charcoal. However, in spite of its being burnt, we left but little of it. The Rupee was nearly melted and so black that no one would take it in exchange for goods.
"In the evening after Hunter had been taken back to Gabyn, we amused the Sepoys by our athletic feats til it was time to rest. We always slept with our clothes on ready for an emergency. My comrades were soon fast asleep, but I lay awake thinking of home and what my people were doing, and wondering if they cast a thought to me. I was awakened from my reverie by an awful din; Tom-Toms beating, rifles discharging, bullets whistling through the tree tops breaking off branches and leaves together with a chorus of blood curdling yells. We were all alive in a moment and took up our positions expecting a rush from the Burmese, but nothing happened. The racket lasted about half an hour and then everything was quiet; I posted double entries and went to sleep. At daybreak, taking an escort of six Sepoys, I went to down to the village to find out what was the cause of the row. The headman of the village told us a yarn about a band of decoits (robbers) coming to the village and wanting their young men to join them in rushing our camp, but the villagers fought them off. I did not credit their story and searched the houses and found about 60 guns of all kinds from the old Brown Bess to latest Express Elephant Rifle. Then we got the truth out of them, that they intended rushing our camp at midnight, but at the last minute could not screw up enough courage to carry out their intentions, so they fired off their guns and beat Tom-Toms and made a racket in the hope of frightening us away from Mehyagone. I had all the weapons placed in a bullock cart and sent them and six of the most influential men of the village under escort to headquarters where they were dealt with, and we were not troubled again by the villagers of Mehyagone during our tour of duty in the locality.
"S. J. Huggins."

(end of transcript)

Source: Huggins, S.J. "Christmas in a Burmese Jungle." Vox Lycei. Ottawa Collegiate Institute (Ottawa, Ontario). Fall 1913 (pp 13–14). Transcript provided by Rocca-43, 28 March 2019.

Note: The writer was Samuel John Huggins (1864–1922). Mr. Huggins was born at Winchester, emigrated to Canada in 1874, and returned to England in 1881 to attest to the 13th (Somersetshire) Light Infantry. He wrote this article while employed as Physical Director and Drill Instructor at Ottawa Collegiate Institute (Ottawa, Canada) just before the outbreak of the Great War.





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