General Sam Browne was born in 1824 and died in 1901, aged 76. Sir Samuel James Browne was a man from a different era. The Imperial era. A cavalry officer in the British Indian Army, he received the highest decorations awarded for combat. Sam Browne would also lend his name to a now familiar piece of uniform. The Sam Browne Belt.
Sam Browne – Decorations
- Victoria Cross
- Most Honourable Order of the Bath
- Order of the Star of India
Sam Browne – Career
Sam Browne was born in Barrackpore, in the Bengal region of India. He joined the 46th Bengal Native Infantry. As a lieutenant, he raised the 2nd Punjab Irregular Cavalry, which would later become a Regular force. This unit would later become the 22nd Sam Browne’s Cavalry (Frontier Force).
Commanding the 2nd Punjab, Sam Browne would be decorated during the Bozdar Expedition (1857) and promoted to Captain. In 1858 the London Gazette would report on his actions in Seerporah, Uttar Pradesh:
For having at Seerporah, in an engagement with the Rebel Forces under Khan Allie Khan, on the 31st of August, 1858, whilst advancing upon the Enemy’s position, at day break, pushed on with one orderly Sowar upon a nine-pounder gun that was commanding one of the approaches to the enemy’s position, and attacked the gunners, thereby preventing them from re-loading, and firing upon the Infantry, who were advancing to the attack. In doing this, a personal conflict ensued, in which Captain, now Lieutenant -Colonel, Samuel James Browne, Commandant of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry, received a severe sword-cut wound on the left knee, and shortly afterwards another sword-cut wound, which severed the left arm at the shoulder, not, however, before Lieutenant-Colonel Browne had succeeded in cutting down one of his assailants. The gun was prevented from being re-loaded, and was eventually captured by the Infantry, and the gunner slain.
Browne would be awarded the Victoria Cross for his ‘valour in the face of the enemy’. The loss of his arm would later add to uniform history.
During the Second Afghan War (1878), Sam Browne commanded the Peshawar Field Force. With 16,000 troops he captured a fort, the Khyber Pass, and Jalalabad. Browne was promoted General and made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.
Browne retired in 1898 to Ryde, England where he would spend his last days.
Browne’s Uniform Legacy
As an officer, Browne carried a sword. The added weight along with the loss of his arm would lead to the establishment of the ‘Sam Browne Belt’. This ingenious belt would become a standard of many uniforms, and even a fashion statement.