1st Bengal Lancers
(Skinner's Horse) Major William Fraser, 1784-1835
He is the bearded figure
riding the grey horse. He arrived in India in 1799 and was
appointed as secretary to Sir David Ochterloony in 1805.
Later he was secretary to Mountstuart Elphinstone on his
mission to Kabul. In 1815 he was the political agent to
Major-General Martindale, accompanying a small detachment
led by James Skinner to the Himalayas to settle areas affected
by the Gurkha invasion. He settled in Garhwal in 1819 and
joined the Board of Revenue in 1826. He was a complex character
who gave the impression of being a man of peace but he loved
danger and took every opportunity of going to war and rushing
into the fight. Although he was a civilian, his passion
was soldiering and he managed to persuade the Governer-General
to invest him with military rank to help him deal with native
leaders. He was given the option of Lieutenant-Colonel unattached
to any corps, or Major in Skinner's Horse. He chose the
latter. He and Skinner were great friends; they used to
go lion hunting together near Hansi. It is said that Fraser
killed 84 lions thus contributing to the extinction of the
species in India. He was assassinated in Delhi on 22nd March
1835 by Kareem Khan on the orders of Shams-ud-din, Nawab
of Ferozepore. This was scandalous and shocking news amongst
the Delhi community because Fraser was a friend of the Nawab's
father. But Fraser had taken sides with the Nawab's brothers
in an argument over their father's inheritence. Things reached
such a pitch that Fraser openly stated that he was disgusted
with the young Nawab. Shams-ud-din felt outraged and sent
his servant and boon companion, Kareem Khan to kill him.
At the trial of Kareem Khan and his accomplice, it transpired
that the assassins waited six months for an opportunity
to shoot him. Shams-ud-din was implicated largely because
of coded letters that he received from Kareem referring
to the act of killing Fraser as 'the purchase of dogs'.
Skinner was determined to find the killers which he did
and they were hanged. When the Nawab was tried and sentenced
to hang as well, there was an outcry amongst the Indian
population. But it went ahead anyway, the Nawab appearing
calm as he ascended the scaffold. He approached the hangman
and then stepped back in shock as he realised that the man
was untouchable. "Are you a mehter (sweeper) ?"
he asked. Instead of replying the hangman pulled the bag
over his head, then the noose and opened the trap-door.
We see Fraser and Skinner here riding together in an engraving
made c1860 based on the Indian painting of the 1st Regiment
of Skinner's Horse returning from a review in 1828.