The Punjab sun lay across Lieutenant Maclean’s back like a heavy wool blanket. He ignored it as he climbed the steep stairs of the citadel. Beside him, Sergeant Ross puffed like a dray horse. They passed through the high arches and strode through the shade of the now-deserted fort.
“Bloody hell, sir,” said Ross. “It’s a good thing we beat Maharaja Singh on the plains. We’d have had a job taking this place.”
Maclean agreed, but offered no comment. Ross was a fine sergeant who had proven himself many times to be resourceful and courageous, but his friendly tone grated on Maclean. That Maclean was the only Scots officer in the regiment was neither here nor there. Perhaps Ross thought that because he had saved the lieutenant’s life that morning it gave him special license to be so familiar.
He’d put a stop to that, then. Just as soon as he caught his breath.
After the February, 1849 Battle of Gujrat, the British Army took control of the enormous Lahore Fort that was the ancient seat of Punjabi Power. The Sikh regime’s treasury was then inside the Moti Masjid, a Gudwara created by the Sikhs as a place of worship within the fort itself.
The British governor of Lahore, John Spencer Login, was amazed to find “precious diamonds kept in rolled up bits of rags which were placed in velvet purses.” These purses were found strewn all around the floor, in corners and tucked between stone. When Login placed one of the diamonds on his palm, he wondered about its price. It is believed that the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond was part of this treasury.
This inventory was presented to the The Earl of Dalhousie, Governor-General of India, who, in consultation with the British government in London, was to dispose of all the Fort belongings “in a befitting manner.”