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Follower’s India Medal with ‘Punjab Frontier 1897-98’ clasp

Follower’s India Medal with ‘Punjab Frontier 1897-98’ clasp. ‘Doolybearer Bhawani’

Over the course of the late 18th to mid-20th centuries a series of service medals were created, designed to be awarded to those military personnel involved in campaigns in and around India. The ‘India Medal’ replaced the India General Service Medal in 1896 and covered those involved in seven campaigns, mostly on the North-West Frontier, from 1895-1902. The ‘Punjab Frontier 1897-98’ clasp was awarded to soldiers and other personnel who were involved in keeping peace in the region amid a series of other large campaigns against local insurgent forces, such as the Tirah campaign of 1897-98.

As well as being awarded to soldiers and officers, army and camp followers who were involved in the campaigns were eligible to receive the India medal and the relevant clasps. Followers would receive a medal and clasp in bronze, whilst soldiers would receive one in silver.

Camp followers, though often forgotten today with the rise of armies which manage their own logistics and support, were an integral part of many armies before the later 20th century. A follower would usually perform a specific role, which could (in the Indian Army) vary from ‘Bhistie’ (a washerman or laundryman) to a ‘Dhobie’ (a water-bearer), to a ‘Doolybearer’ (a stretcher-bearer or chair-carrier) or even a ‘Sweeper’ (one who cleaned out the latrines of the regiment and its units). Whilst not expected to fight, and not being soldiers, many followers performed acts of bravery and were often exposed to the dangers of military life that their colleagues were. This was recognised in their eligibility for service and campaign medals.

Examples of follower’s medals are relatively uncommon, as many were often sold rather than preserved.

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