This film is held by the BFI (ID: 199944).


INTEREST. Travelogue principally around Delhi.

Main titles. (3) MS double gateway, in a perimeter wall, horse and ox traffic passing through. (8) CU of the head of one of the archways. (12) MCU train arriving at a station, a large crowd waiting on the platform to greet it. (15) MCU group of dignitaries, having arrived on the train, walking along the platform and past the camera, and followed by the crowd. (39) MCU military band and escort marching along the platform once the crowds have passed. (62) An archway over a major road, supported by scaffolding. (74) Tailors at work, sitting cross-legged in the open air. (82) "Arrival of Nizam of Hyderabad the Dhrangadhra Camp." (90) MS several men standing looking towards the camera as it pans over formal gardens. Marquees are visible in the background. (117) MS gardens with military guards standing to attention in the background. (130) MS horsedrawn carriage makes its way through the gardens towards and past the camera. (146) MS decorative archway with a canopy extending over a walkway beyond it. Various men can be seen walking up and down. (154) MCU crowds walking up and down a stone staircase in a town. (175) "Scenes about the Delhi fort. Statue where Gen. Nicholson fell." (182) MCU man plays a tambour with other musicians, people look on and dance to the music. The fort is visible in the background. (192) MCU fort walls. (198) MS people coming out of the entrance. The camera pans along the wall. (219) MS statue marked, "John Nicholson". (226) "St. Jame's (sic) Church cross and ball riddled during siege of 1857". (233) MS facade of church, camera pans to the top of the church spire. (239) CU original ball and cross, pitted with holes, and set in a courtyard of the church buildings. (248) MS gateway with a plaque over it, pedestrians passing. (258) "Magazine Gateway. Where six soldiers destroyed powder and themselves to save capture. " (267) MS monument with a cross mounted on it. (272) "The Mutiny Monument. An old veteran." (278) CU inscription at the base of the monument , an Indian man posing for the camera beside it. (284)



Made in 1914, this film is primarily concerned with sites in Delhi that relate to the Indian Rebellion of 1857. At the time of the Rebellion, British control of India lay in the hands of the British East India Company. The rebellion began on 10 May 1857, when Indian sepoys, ordinary soldiers serving in the Bengal division of the British East India Company’s Army, mutinied at a small military station in Meerut. It was only contained with the fall of Gwalior on 20 June 1858. In the same year power in India was transferred to the British Crown.

The sepoys had various grievances: new demands that they serve in far-flung territories; the introduction of gun cartridges that were greased with beef and pork fat and were therefore contaminating to both Hindus and Muslims; and problems relating to a loss of privileges and increased taxation in the recently annexed area of Oudh, home to over one third of the soldiers (Brown, 1994, 87-89). Vastly outnumbering British personnel, they quickly assumed control in parts of the upper Gangetic plain and central India (Hibbert, 1980, 19). They seized Delhi following the destruction of the station at Meerut. In the process many European residents were massacred, and the sepoys installed Bhadur Shar, the last Moghul, as their leader.

Unfortunately, there is no documentation about the makers of this travelogue (Dixon). Their concern, however, is with sites in Delhi that relate to British heroism. They film the Kashmiri Gate, where several British military personnel died as they blew up their magazine rather than letting it fall into sepoys’ hands. They show the area where General John Nicholson fell and the statue erected in his memory. Nicholson, the most dynamic officer in the recapture of Delhi, was also among the most ruthless in his treatment of mutineers, his dictum being ‘the punishment of mutiny is death’ (Hibbert, 1989, 293). Also featured are St James Church and the ball and cross in its grounds, which the sepoys used for target practice (‘1857 Mutiny Tour’). This church also houses John Nicholson’s grave. Finally, the film shows the Mutiny Monument, erected in 1863 to honour British victims of the uprising (‘Mutiny Monument, Delhi’).

Bryony Dixon argues that the tradition of depicting the mutiny sites ‘began with the event itself’, citing the documentary photographs of Felix Beato, which captured the aftermath of the rebellion (Dixon). According to Patrick Brantlinger, ‘No episode in British imperial history raised public excitement to a higher pitch than the Indian Mutiny of 1857’ (Brantlinger, 1988, 199). He agues that ‘Most British writing about the Mutiny before 1914 is part of an imperialist heritage of division and mutual hate’ (Bratlinger, 1988, 222). John Nicholson, in particular, emerged as a martyred hero for the British, being referenced in numerous literary works, including Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1901).

The mutiny took on increasing symbolic importance for Indians. In 1909 Vinayak Damodar Savarkar published his significantly titled The Indian War of Independence 1857, which argued that the rebellion was in fact a nationalist revolution. His work reflected advances in Indian politics: the Indian National Congress was formed in 1885, and the Muslim League in 1906. The Great War (1914-18) ushered in the first stages of constitutional reform, with the Montagu Declaration of 1917 promising Dominion status for India.

Following the achievement of Indian independence in 1947, several of the sites featured in this film were reconfigured. John Nicholson’s statue was removed and resituated at his old school in Dungannon, Ireland. Meanwhile, the Mutiny Monument was re-dedicated to the martyrs of India’s freedom struggles (‘Mutiny Monument, Delhi’).



Made in the year in which the First World War broke out, the film Historic Mutiny Sitesmakes mobile and visible the locations of British heroism of an earlier military campaign. It would be wrong, however, to make direct claims about the message that the filmmakers intended to convey: their range of locations expands beyond the mutiny sites, and their footage of the sites is not only concerned with memorialising British resilience.

The film does fulfil the task of document several of the ‘Historic Mutiny Sites’, as outlined in its opening title card. The sites around Delhi are, by and large, effectively labelled, with intertitles that detail the location that is shown as well as the events that took place there, i.e. ‘where Gen Nicholson Fell’, ‘cross and ball riddled during siege’, ‘where six soldiers destroyed powder and themselves to save capture by enemy’. However, the intertitle detailing the Magazine Gateway erroneously appears before footage of the Mutiny Monument, and early scenes showing a war-damaged city wall and an archway are not identified. In addition there are some anomalous scenes, including untitled footage of Indian troops disembarking a train and, more peculiarly, a section titled the ‘Arrival of Nizam of Hyderabad: The Dhrangadhra Camp’. Dhrangadhra is in West India and was not troubled by the Indian Rebellion. Moreover, the Nizam of Hyderabad was loyal to the British during the mutiny (Hibbert, 1980, 375). These scenes instead capture something of the opulent lifestyle of the Indian Princes: the Nizam’s richly ornamented carriage can be seen among the grand marquees that make up the camp.

The camera operator employs a number of devices in filming the mutiny sites. The establishing shots of the Delhi Fort are used to capture the size of the building: there is a cut from a shot in which this building occupies as much of the frame as possible, to one that indicates the scale of the people within this massive edifice. St James Church, meanwhile, is attractively framed. It is first shot through the trees in the churchyard. Here, the white building provides a strong contrast with the darkness of the trees. Similarly, in scenes that are possibly shot within the Delhi Fort, good use is made of light and shade: shadow is used to contrast the left and right sides of the image. Most of the scenes are filmed from a number of angles. As well as using long shots to situate each site, medium shots and medium close-ups are employed to depict details, such as an inscription on a plaque or the damage from cannon and gunfire.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this film is that, as well as filming the sites, the camera operator looks at the human activity that takes place around them. There is footage of the Indian military personnel who stand on guard at General John Nicholson’s statue, the Mutiny Monument, and St James church. It is apparent that it is only the sites with monuments to British victims that are guarded. Meanwhile, Delhi’s fortifications have been reabsorbed into the daily life of the city. Some of the activity here is military. A static camera position is used within the fortifications, allowing a number of different people to enter the frame, among them a large number of Indian troops. A static camera is also employed at St James Church, and here Indian civilians casually enter the frame. Elsewhere, the film deliberately focuses on Indian civilians, and the mutiny sites then serve as backdrops. In the early, untitled scenes the camera operator is keen to show the traffic that passes by the mutiny sites, capturing the pedestrians and the horse-drawn carts. There is also footage of a group of Indians working on some cloth in the street. Outside the Delhi Fort there are shots of Indian musicians. These people appear to have been arranged for the camera, and many of them look directly at it. What is perhaps most notable about this footage is that it precedes the establishing shots of the fort. Despite its title, this film appears to be as interested in the present life of India as it is in the historic sites of British heroism.

Richard Osborne (February 2010)


Works Cited

‘1857 Mutiny Tour’, http://www.wildworldindia.com/culture/1857.asp.

Brantlinger, Patrick, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1988).

Brown, Judith M., Modern India: The Origins of an Asian Democracy, 2nd edn (Oxford: OUP, 1994).

Dixon, Bryony, Historic Mutiny Sites (1914), Mediatheque, BFI, London.

Hibbert, Christopher, The Great Mutiny: India 1857 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980).

‘Mutiny Monument, Delhi’, http://www.imagesofasia.com/html/india/mutiny-monument.html.

Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar, The Indian War of Independence 1857 (New Delhi: Rajdhani Granthagar, 1970).




Technical Data

Running Time:
5 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film
341 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Great Britain