Photograph of the Maharajah of Barwani with his ambulance cars in France


The foreground of this photograph shows two men: on the left is the Rana Ranjit Singh, cited here as ‘the Maharajah of Barwani’, alongside his Lieutenant. The two vehicles in the background are marked as ‘Indian Ambulance[s]’.

The Rana of Barwani

At the time this photograph was taken, the Rana – having been appointed to the honorary rank of Captain in April 1915 – was in command of an ambulance train in France. He held this position for 18 months, and was rewarded for his services with the title of Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE).[1]

Ambulances in WWI

When the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to France in August 1914, they were provided with horse-drawn ambulance wagons rather than motorised ambulances.[2] A series of reports highlighted that this method caused unnecessary suffering to the wounded.[3]

Once news reached Britain, the public generated a sensational fundraising effort for motorised ambulances. Not only did wealthy families donate both their car and chauffeur, but there were also notable examples of ‘crowd-sourced’ funds.[4] For instance, The Times ‘Fund for our sick and wounded’ was established in October 1914, to raise money for the Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance Brigade. In less than one month, enough money was raised to buy 1,375 ambulances.[5]

The ambulances seen in this photograph were donated by a group of Princes from the central Indian states.


[1] Memoranda on the Indian states, 1926. Vol I. Corrected up to 1st January 1926 (Calcutta: Government of India, 1926), pp. 59-60

[2] Mark Harrison, The Medical War: British Military Medicine in the First World War, (2010)

[3] G Cree, 'A Single Divisional Field Ambulance', Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps, (1914:23) p. 225.

[4] Mark Harrison, The Medical War: British Military Medicine in the First World War, (2010), p.24

[5] ‘Nearing £550,000’, The Times, (London, 31 October 1914), p.11

Full title:
H.H. the Maharajah of Barwani with his ambulance cars in France. Photographer: Girdwood, Charles Hilton DeWitt
1915, France
Photograph / Image
Charles Hilton DeWitt Girdwood
© Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland
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Crown Copyright
Held by
British Library
Photo 21(120) 

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