The Guides Cavalry Frontier Force

The Corps of Guides was raised at Peshawar on 14 December 1846 by Lieutenant Harry Burnett Lumsden on the orders of Sir Henry Lawrence, the British Resident at Lahore, capital of the enfeebled Sikh Empire. Initially composed of a troop of cavalry and two companies of infantry mounted on camels, the Guides were organized as a highly mobile force. The corps was ordered to recruit,

Trustworthy men, who could, at a moment's notice, act as guides to troops in the field; men capable, too, of collecting trustworthy intelligence beyond, as well as within, our borders; and, in addition to all this, men, ready to give and take hard blows, whether on the frontier or in a wider field.[1]

These were qualities that would become the hallmark of the Guides. Although the corps recruited men from all over the country and even beyond the Frontier of India, Pathans, Punjabi Muslims, Sikhs and Dogras later formed the bulk of their manpower.[2]

Harry Lumsden was the perfect choice to train and lead this corps d'elite:

He was a man of strong character, athletic, brave, resolute, cool and resourceful in emergency; a man of rare ability and natural aptitude for war, and possessed, moreover, of that magnetic influence which communicates the highest confidence and devotion to those who follow. Lumsden upheld the principle that the greatest and best school for war is war itself. He believed in the elasticity which begets individual self-confidence, and preferred a body of men taught to act and fight with personal intelligence.[1]

Lumsden left a lasting imprint on the Guides, who soon showed their mettle in numerous frontier operations. Believing that fighting troops were for service and not for show, Lumsden introduced loose and comfortable dust-coloured uniforms for the first time, which would soon become famous as "khaki"[3] and within decades would be adopted by most of the armies of the world. In 1851, the Guides established themselves at Mardan, which would remain their cherished home until 1938.[1]

In 1851, The Corps of Guides became part of the Punjab Irregular Force, which later became famous as the Punjab Frontier Force or Piffers. The Piffers consisted of five regiments of cavalry, eleven regiments of infantry and five batteries of artillery besides the Corps of Guides. Their mission was to maintain order on the Punjab Frontier;[4] a task they performed with great aplomb during the next fifty years.[5]

Lumsden was married to Mary Marriott in 1862.[16] His father was Colonel Thomas Lumsden CB,[2] with one of his three older brothers being Harry Burnett Lumsden. Thomas Lumsden was a distinguished officer of the Bengal Horse Artillery who had served in the Nepal Campaign of 1814 and at the siege of Hatrass and the capture of Kalunga in 1817.[18][19] Thomas was himself the son of Harry Lumsden, an advocate in Aberdeen who had bought an estate at Belhelvie. He returned home on leave from the Bengal Army in 1819 to marry Hay Burnett of Elrick, and went on to serve another 23 years in India before retiring to Belhelvie in 1842. They had a total of six sons, of whom three emigrated to Canada and two (Harry and Peter) followed in their father's footsteps by pursuing military careers in India.[20]


    • Younghusband, Col GJ. (1908). The Story of the Guides. London: MacMillan.

    • Hayauddin, Maj Gen M. (1950). One Hundred Glorious Years: A History of the Punjab Frontier Force, 1849-1949. Lahore: Civil and Military Gazette Press.

    • From the Urdu word "khak" meaning "dust". The clothing was dyed using mulberry juice to produce the drab colour - a pinkish shade of khaki.

    • Until 1903, North West Frontier Province was part of the Punjab.

    • North, REFG. (1934). The Punjab Frontier Force: A Brief Record of Their Services 1846-1924. DI Khan: Commercial Steam Press.

    • Gaylor, John (1991). Sons of John Company: The Indian and Pakistan Armies 1903–91. Stroud: Spellmount.

    • Khan, Maj Muhammad Nawaz. (1996). The Glorious Piffers 1843-1995. Abbottabad: The Frontier Force Regimental Centre.

    • Khan, Maj Gen Fazal Muqeem. (1996). History of the 2nd Battalion (Guides) Frontier Force Regiment 1947-1994. Rawalpindi: The Army Press.

    • Forbes, Cynthia. 1910 ... and then?.

    • MM Kaye's husband, Major General Goff Hamilton was an officer of the Guides Cavalry.

    • Sandhu, Maj Gen GS. (1991). The Indian Armour: History of the Indian Armoured Corps (1941-71). New Delhi: Vision Books.

    • Husain, Maj Gen Abrar. (2005). Men of Steel: 6 Armoured Division in the 1965 War. War Despatches of Major General Abrar Husain. Rawalpindi: Army Education Publishing House.

    • Ahmed, Lt Gen Mahmud. (2006). History of Indo-Pak War – 1965. Rawalpindi: Services Book Club.

    • The Sabre & Lance: Journal of the Pakistan Armoured Corps. (1997). Nowshera: The School of Armour & Mechanised Warfare.

    • Rodger, Alexander. (2003). Battle Honours of the British Empire and Commonwealth Land Forces 1662-1991. Ramsbury: The Crowood Press.