Memories of the British Raj Shared By Robert Congreve Sandys

Robert Congreve Sandys

"My father was born in 1890. After Cambridge, he was invited with his two younger sisters to visit India. The visit took place shortly before the 1914-18 War. The invitation was extended to them by the Beagley family who had close links with the Indian Army. Connie, my father's elder sister, had become engaged to Charlie Beagley and the Beagley family were keen to meet other members of her family. The visit was a huge success. My father was a shy man, but the two girls were not shy! They were young and pretty and revelled in the attention they received. They moved from parties to balls, to dinners, loving every moment of it. They had, however, one defect which became notorious. The never arrived on time, and on one notable occasion turned up an hour late for a dinner party at which the other guests were fuming at being made to await their arrival. My father, wisely, distanced himself from their activities and made a series of expeditions. The one which he recalled with the greatest satisfaction was the trip to Darjeeling.

"Alec Sandys had been encouraged to lead the party to India by his father, Francis Sandys, who had served in the Indian Army for many years. In a strange coincidence, Francis had, as a boy, been brought up in Ireland with a Beresford and a Roberts. Later, Beresford was to become an admiral  with a distinguished naval war record.  Roberts became Lord Roberts, leading the British in the Indian Mutiny and other campaigns. Affectionately known to the British public as 'Bobs', he was to end his career as C.I.G.S. of the British army. Francis Sandys served with him throughout his military career and they remained great friends all their lives. They were cousins and there was a close family bond.

"Another coincidence – 'Bobs' won a VC for his work in the Indian Mutiny. His son was to receive a posthumous VC in the 1914–18 War. The Congreve family, who were also related to the Roberts and the Sandys, also won Victoria Crosses. General Congreve won his for valorous work in the Boer War, and his son Billy Congreve was awarded the decoration after he was killed in action in 1916. Thus, both the Roberts and Congreve fathers and sons had secured Victoria Crosses, and they are the only two pairs to have done so.

"My cousin, Peter Sandys-Clark, was killed in action in North Africa in 1943 and also won a Victoria Cross. The press, who badly needed good news at that time, made a great thing about the fact that all five of these military men were members of the same family. Photographs were published in the leading newspapers of all five.

"So there are many reasons why India has been a country of great fascination to me and also to Linda. On this trip we were determined to come to Darjeeling, which has greatly exceeded our expectations.

"The Windamere is a great hotel. We have also had the great good fortune to meet Tenki and Sherab and a number of their friends. Their company has been the high point of our visit. They will be remembered with great affection and with the hope that at some time soon we will meet again."

Robert Congreve Sandys
Norfolk, United Kingdom