New Delhi: An antique pistol from the 1850s, which was used by the 17 Poona Horse Armoured Regiment of the then British Indian Army, has made its way back to the unit after being bought by a retired Royal Navy Captain in an auction in the United Kingdom.
Captain Colin Macgregor (retd) of the Royal Navy, known as the “son of the regiment” because his father Lt Col Rob MacGregor MC was Commandant of the 17th QVO Poonah Horse (as it was called at the time), bought the pistol in an auction in December 2019.
Just as his father was born in India, Colin was born in Pune in 1938.
Captain MacGregor (retd) told ThePrint that in December 2019, he discovered the pistol was coming up for sale whilst talking to an employee at Holts, a British Auction House that specialises in the sale of fine modern and antique weapons, about another matter.
“I contacted Poona Horse and they were keen to acquire it. I bought it on their behalf. However, due to the pandemic, we could not ship it until recently,” he said.
The Hammer Price for the pistol at the Holts was 800 pounds. With “buyer’s premium” and VAT on the buyer’s premium, it eventually cost 1,200 pounds.
The pistol was handed over to Lt Gen D.S. Sidhu (retd), who also hails from the same regiment, on 16 November by Brigadier Gavin Thompson, Defence Advisor at the British High Commission here in Delhi.
Colin and Lt Gen Sidhu had met during celebrations over three days at Meerut in January 2017 to mark the 200th anniversary of the regiment.
The regiment is planning to showcase the pistol on the eve of 50th anniversary celebrations of Battle of Basantar, one of the primary battles fought in the western sector during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
The ‘Garden Pistol’
Known as the ‘Garden Pistol’, it was made for the regiment around 1850-52. The Poonah Irregular Horse had bought 50 pairs of the pistols for Rs 56 a pair back then.
It is estimated that the pistol bought at the auction could well have been carried into the Battle of Khushab in 1857 during the Persian War, where the Poonah Irregular Horse played a key role.
The battle was won by two successful charges made by the Poonah Irregular Horse and the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry, the two regiments which were amalgamated, in 1921, to form the 17th Queen Victoria’s Own Poona Horse.
Brigadier Gavin Thompson told ThePrint that the pistol making its way back is reflective of the growing nature of India-UK ties.
“This is yet another instance that showcases the UK and India’s unique historical military ties. Built on shared experience, the future of our defence relationship will prosper,” Brigadier Thompson said.