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Untold lives blog

03 July 2014

Batman in India

What story could Untold Lives possibly find in the India Office Records to link in with the Comics Unmasked exhibition?  It seemed that we might have to admit defeat until we remembered that there was an officer called Batman in the East India Company army.  And while our Batman might not have been a superhero, he certainly led an interesting life.

Batman (or Battman) John Lorimer was baptised on 22 July 1781 at Eye in Suffolk.  He joined the Bombay Army as a cadet in 1802 and served with the Bombay European Regiment.

  Batman baptism IMG-20140626-00042
IOR/L/MIL/9/112 f.108 NocBaptismal entry for Batman John Lorimer

In 1806 Lorimer became embroiled in a quarrel with Lieutenant George Cauty of the Bombay Native Infantry.  Cauty claimed that Lorimer had circulated a report highly prejudicial to his character, namely that Lorimer had kicked and beaten him.  Matters came to a head on 23 February when there was a confrontation between Cauty, Lorimer and Major Thomas Gibson in Church Street Bombay.  Cauty claimed that Lorimer and Gibson drew their swords and stopped his palanquin by force.

Palanquin A80057-96
Add.Or.4200 European gentleman reclining in a box palanquinNoc

On 28 April 1806 Cauty faced a Court Martial on charges brought by Gibson in relation to the events of 23 February:

- refusing to obey orders and behaving disrespectfully

- â€˜maliciously aspersing’ Gibson’s character by accusing him of lying

- behaving in a scandalous and infamous manner unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

Cauty was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to be cashiered, that is dismissed and debarred from future employment with the Company . 

The following trial that day dealt with charges brought by Lorimer  against Lieutenant Bryan McGuire for behaving in an ‘irregular and unofficer-like manner’ between 20 and 23 February by acting as the bearer of two written challenges to Lorimer.  McGuire was also found guilty and cashiered.   The Court noted the inconsistency of evidence given by Lieutenant Charles Savage and recorded its belief that he was instrumental in promoting the quarrel between Cauty and Lorimer.

In 1808 Cauty was back in England petitioning the Company in vain for reinstatement.   He then joined the King's army, securing a commission in the Royal York Rangers.

Lorimer was also in London at this time having been granted furlough on a sick certificate.  He had married Ann Catherine Houghton in Bombay on 17 September 1806 but she does not appear to have been with him when he arrived in England on board the East Indiaman Huddart in September 1807.  Lorimer had sustained a severe wound to the abdomen when fighting for the Company and suffered from an abcess in his liver.  He ran up large medical bills being treated in London by 'eminent physicians'.  Although Lorimer petitioned the Court of Directors to be pensioned, claiming that 'a return to India would be attended with immediate Death’, he went back in 1809.  He was eventually pensioned on 13 May 1815 in England.

Batman Lorimer died in November 1820 in Bedford but he had previously lived in Brussels.  His will names his wife Mary, two daughters Caroline Elizabeth and Harriet, and a natural son John Lorimer Eastaugh.   Please get in touch if you can tell us more about our Batman in India!

Margaret Makepeace
India Office Records Cc-by

Further reading –
Cadet papers of Batman John Lorimer IOR/L/MIL/9/112 f.108
Marriage to Ann Catherine Houghton IOR/N/3/4 f.277 – see image on find my past
For full details of the quarrel between Lorimer and Cauty: IOR/D/165 ff.89-101
Courts Martial of Lieutenants George Cauty and Bryan McGuire: IOR/L/MIL/ 17/4/376 Bombay General Orders 28 April 1806
Lorimer’s petitions to the East India Court of Directors: IOR/D/167 ff.330-334
Will of Battman John Lorimer: The National Archives PROB 11/1637

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