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Punniar Star – Major in the 8th Light Cavalry with significant and interesting career


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Punniar Star – Major in the 8th Light Cavalry

Punniar Star, Major R.D.H. MacDonald 8th Regiment Light Cavalry (Ring suspension with old white metal (probably silver) suspension buckle

Ranald Dugald Harcourt MacDonald was born in 1798, the son of Lt-Col James MacDonald, who was commissioned in 1783, was J.P., Deputy Lieutenant and Lt Col of the 83rd Regiment. He married Mary Crawford in 1836.

There is a detailed biography of this officer in “Soldiers of the Raj” by de Rhe Philipe:


Entered Bengal Army 1817, arriving in India in 1819 and ordered to Mattra for the 4th Bengal Cavalry.

Lieut. in 8th Light Cavalry in Feb. 1820 at Partalgarh in Oudh; Nagpur in 1820.

January 1825- Adjutant of the regiment.

Served as Adjutant of the 8th LC in the siege of Bhurtpore 1825-26 [did not live to receive Army of India medal]

In 1826, after the fall of Bhurtpore, he was appointed to command the EIC escort to the British Envoy to the Shah of Persia [a post for which he had been proposed some years earlier but which had fallen through] and he served in this capacity in Persia for the next ten years, 1826-36.

[This would have been at Bushehr/Bushire which was headquarters for the new position of “British Resident for the Persian Gulf” after 1822. MacDonald would have served under Captain Sir John Nicholl Robert Campbell as Resident 1831-1835 then under Sir Henry Ellis. There is a huge archive of Campbell’s letters and docs. in the British Library (India Office) and it includes correspondence between Campbell and one “RDA MacDonald” which we assume, given the circumstances, is probably “RDH MacDonald”.]

MacDonald rejoined his regiment, 8th LC, at Sultanpur in Jan. 1837.

In 1839, at Cawnpore and and in 1842 with his regiment to Bundelkhand where he took part in active operations (sometimes in command of his regt.) during disturbances there; he commanded HQ and two squadrons in the action at Bagaura on 7th Dec. 1842.

In 1843, he acompanied his regiment as part  of the Army of Gwalior and was present at the battle of Punniar in December 1843 [medal].

From HQ at Nowgong, he marched to Ferozepore but having been appointed Supt. of the Remount Depot at Muttra pro tem he missed action with his regt. in the 1st Sikh War and could only  get back to join his regt. once the fighting had ceased.

Based variously with the 8th LC at Ferozepore, Kartarpur, Ludhiana and Lahore, 1846-48.

His regt.  was again called out for service against the Sikhs (=2nd Sikh War) but before operations commenced he fell ill and was sent to Calcutta pending overseas’ leave to restore his heath.

However, having only just begun his journey, he fell ill at Anarkali, Lahore, and died there on 21st Nov. 1848.

The Caledonian Mercury on the 8th January 1849 reported his death.

Graves in Cemetery at Lahore:

“Sacred to the Memory of Major R.D.H. MacDonald of the 8th Light Cavalry  who died 21st Nov 1848.  This Monument was built by his brother officers”

A rare and interesting award – despite all his interesting and active service, this Star is his only medal – his important career in Persia would be worthy of detailed research.

Condition – VF