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                           Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee procession.

Malay States Guides passing the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. London.  Date: 22nd June 1897.

On June 22nd, 1897, the streets of London were bursting with excitement and anticipation. The air was alive with the sound of marching bands, the clatter of horses' hooves, and the roar of the crowd. Over three million people had gathered to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event - the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria!

The occasion was celebrated not only in Britain, but also across the globe. The festivities included a grand parade featuring more than 40,000 soldiers and 6,000 horses that dazzled the crowd with their performances. 

The celebration was a moment of unity and resilience as people from different parts of the world came together to honor the Queen's milestone. It was a unique and unforgettable pageant in the history of the British sovereign.

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Subedar Major Bhola Singh and the Malay States Guides contingent at the Chelsea Barracks, London. Circa June 1897.

As part of the celebration, a contingent of troops from every part of the British Empire was represented. The Federated Malay States, the Straits Settlements, and the British North Borneo sent their top contingents to participate in the pageant. The Malay States Guides (M.S.G.) contingent was there to represent the Federated Malay States, adding to the vibrant and diverse display of cultures.

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                 P. & O. Steamer S.S. Japan. Photo courtesy of P&O Heritage

On May 6th, 1897, the Extra P. & O. steamer S.S. Japan departed from Singapore, en route to London carrying members of the Straits Settlements Police contingent. At Penang Harbour, they picked up additional members of the Straits Settlements Police force and an elite group of 25 men from the M.S.G. This group included the Lieutenant Colonel R.S. Frowd Walker and the legendary Subedar Major Bhola Singh. They were all headed to the Albert Docks, where they would be staying at Chelsea Barracks. Finally, they arrived at the Albert docks on June 10th.

The M.S.G. were the pride of the Federated Malay States, and their native guides were nothing short of spectacular. And leading this impressive squad was none other than the distinguished veteran officer, Subedar Major Bhola Singh. With his striking grey beard and commanding presence, he was a sight to behold.

Standing at an impressive "six feet" tall, these men were as straight as an arrow and impossible to miss with their striking red tunics and huge blue and gold turbans. Their precision and skill during their marches were truly remarkable, earning them thunderous applause and admiration from the audience. It was a sight to behold and one that left everyone feeling exhilarated!

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   "The Chelsea Barracks Yard was the cynosure of all eyes." 

The Malay States Guides who, having discarded their military uniforms, wore garments of fine white linen and body coats of thin yellow silk. Their rolled headdress was also of white linen. Their costume was exceedingly picturesque. Circa June 1897. 

Dressed in their striking traditional garb, these strong and handsome men stood out against the backdrop of the Chelsea's barracks yard. It's no wonder that they quickly became the center of attention, drawing admiring glances from all around. The M.S.G. truly were a force to be reckoned with!                                                                           

The M.S.G.  were a true inspiration to many, including the legendary writer and poet, Rudyard Kipling, who mentioned them in his poem for Her Majesty the Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.  :-

"One has seen them everywhere. Malay Guides have walked out of Chelsea to the Strand; little knots of Colonials are seen at every garden party, at every dinner, and at a friend's house in every suburb; They have attended cricket matches; the theaters have entertained them. They have come also, like the people who go to the Opera, not merely to see but to be seen. They are part of the great Imperial pageant, and they have properly been given a foremost place in it."



The grey- bearded, Subedar Major Bhola Singh of the Malay States Guides standing on the far right in the third row with a turban.

It is worth sharing an incredible story that has power to inspire happened on the 28th of June. Inspector Jennings of the Straits Settlements Police and Subedar Major Bhola Singh were dining with the Artist's Corps when Field Marshal Earl Lord Roberts arrived. On leaving, the Subedar Major caught Lord Roberts' attention and, came up and spoke to Subedar Singh. As it was customary with native officers, Subedar Major Bhola Singh passed the hilt of his sword for Lord Roberts to touch. This fine old officer was one of the most striking figures in the Diamond Jubilee procession in London.


                                                EAST AND WEST - " COMRADES"  

Subedar Major Bhola Singh presenting the hilt of his sword to the Field Marshal as a token of fealty. 

The front-page picture in the British Newspapers tells the tale of Subedar Major Bhola Singh presenting the hilt of his sword to the Field Marshal as a token of fealty. A scene which formed the subject of a sketch in the Graphic, the Hon. Earl Lord Roberts replying "I do not want your sword, give me your right hand. We are comrades." He gave Bhola Singh a hearty grip of comradeship, which he will not readily forget.



Her Majesty Queen Victoria, engaged into a conversation with the grey-bearded veteran, Subedar Major Bhola Singh of the Malay States Guides in Hindustani. 

On the 2nd of July, at Windsor, where the troops reformed in line, on the arrival of Her Majesty, the troops presented arms and gave the Royal Salute and Her Majesty the Queen addressed the men through Lord Roberts. The officers were presented to Her Majesty, who entered into a short conversation with Subedar Major Bhola Singh in Hindustani to the extreme delight of that officer, who was presented in company with Lieutenant Colonel Walker. This incident was also depicted in many of the illustrated papers.

On the morning of July 10th, they departed from Chelsea Barracks and boarded the S.S. Japan. These intrepid colonial visitors returned to their respective homes, carrying with them remarkable memories and a wealth of knowledge gained during their stay in London. 


Subedar Major Bhola Singh of Malay States Guides at Chelsea Barracks, Circa June 1897.

Subedar Major Bhola Singh, from Village Dhalle-Ke, Dist Ferozepore, served for over twenty years with dedication and integrity. Despite declining health, he continued to serve until his retirement in 1900, showing his unwavering commitment. 

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