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Recollections of my Indian career Cripps, John Matthew


Notes on ‘Recollections of My Indian Career’ by General JM Cripps, published in 1888
My great grandfather, JM Cripps published the memoirs of his more than fifty year illustrious career in the Bengal Lancers of colonial India during the British Raj where he saw action in Afghanistan, the Battle of the Sutlej (the Sikh War) and the Great Mutiny of 1857, of which he writes some interesting firsthand descriptions. Recollections was published in 1888 as a vanity volume, and he distributed its thirteen (only) leather-bound, gilt-edged copies to close family members. He married Agnes, my great-grandmother and their daughter Grace was born in Peshawar. Agnes was an accomplished watercolourist and documented her travels in India, Suez, Greece, Florence and England with her paintings. Her original watercolours populated the thirteen volumes. Alas, my original book is the only known copy left in existence. I’m told that a poor photocopy exists in a history museum in New Delhi and another in London, but I lack proof thereof.
General Cripp’s daughter, Grace married my grandfather, Dr. Harold Stephens, who served as a field surgeon in the Boer War and who rose to Surgeon Commander of the Royal Navy. For his services to Queen Victoria, he was given farmland in Glenora, near Duncan in Vancouver Island which his son, my father Rupert Edward Cripps Stephens inherited. Mountain Valley Farm was stony and off the beaten path, so in 1950, my parents sold it and carved out of a second growth forest the beautiful 40 acre Goldstream Berry Paradise on Vancouver Island where I grew up, reading this book, but mostly fascinated with great-grandmother’s exquisite watercolours within its leather bound gilt-edged pages, sometimes imagining myself as Mowgli, the wolf child of India from the beloved Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
I have made many visits to the Indian subcontinent, and in 1969 in Old Delhi, married Ratana—a lovely, principled, astute and educated Indian woman, Ratana, which means ‘jewel’ returned with me to Vancouver and together we have four children and seven grandchildren; together we built a significant social enterprise that employs more than 700 and whose products are sold in over fifty countries. Our son, Arjan, did his undergrad BA history thesis on this very book at Queen’s University in Ontario.
We were very pleased when we learned that the University of BC expressed interest in properly copying and documenting this valuable and informative tome for posterity.
Arran Stephens

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