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Invasion




Salvation Army Centenary at the Gateway to India, Mumbai 1982.
(Painting by Colonel Ken Tutton.)

Down the ages India has been the target for invasions: the Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Bactrians, Scythians, Huns, Turks and Arabs, but never was there a more bizarre invasion than the one which took place on 19 September 1882. An army of four making its way to Bombay on the P & O SS Ancona, Major Frederick de Lautour Tucker, Captain Henry Bullard, Lieutenants Arthur Norman and Mary Ann Thompson. Other armies had come to conquer, this Army came to serve, but the English and vernacular newspapers had it that ‘The Salvation Army was attacking India!’

When they started out from London there were six of them, but it was found necessary for Mrs Louisa Tucker to accompany one young woman-officer back to England for personal reasons and they disembarked at Port Said, Mrs Tucker sailing again for India on the next available ship.

The authorities in India, being unfamiliar with The Salvation Army’s military jargon, visualized the landing of a formidable force which might cause communal riots resulting in violence and bloodshed, consequently the Bombay police were lined up on the quayside at Apollo Bunder for the Army’s arrival.

After the four had stepped ashore the superintendent of police approached them asking, ‘When will the rest of your army land?’ Major Tucker replied, ‘We are the whole Army,’ at which the police officer in evident amazement and, one may assume, with a grin, said, ‘We were expecting you to arrive 1,000 strong!’

Major Tucker knew that strength lay not in numbers, and in high spirits he and his little band started marching down the crowded streets of Bombay. Carrying the Army banner he was followed by Captain Bullard playing the cornet, Lieutenant Norman beating the drum and Mary Thompson jingling a tambourine. No wonder they caused a stir! Never before had the proud Britons been seen on the streets of India in such a guise. Not only was the music a novelty, but the party was dressed in a blend of Indian-European dress. The men wore turbans with a red band on which Muktifauj (The Salvation Army) was inscribed, long yellow coats similar in cut to the Indian achkhan and white trousers. Mary Ann Thompson, brave woman, wore a yellow dress set off by a hat with the Salvation Army band of red ribbon. All four wore boots.

A procession with drum and trumpet was no unusual sight to the people of Bombay. Processions of all kinds, wedding, funeral and religious were part of the daily street scene. It was the contrast between the dress and the white skin which caused curiosity. If it had been Tucker’s intention to arouse interest he certainly succeeded, but the ‘uniform’ had a more important aim. It was an attempt to identify the Salvation Army missionary officers with the people of India, the yellow colour being used by India’s ‘holy men’.

The Founder of The Salvation Army, when sending out his very first missionary force to India had instructed them:

With the apostle, to become all things to all men, in order that you may win them to your Master. This must mean, if anything at all, that to the Indians you must be Indians.

‘The Army did not spread abroad by the determination of its leaders,’ wrote St John Ervine, ‘it spread by the force of its own energy and strength.’ General Frederick Coutts adds in No Discharge in this War: ‘The notion of William Booth as a religious Alexander sighing for fresh worlds to conquer is as wide of the mark as can be. New shoots began to grow in unexpected places seemingly of their own accord. The wind blew where it listed.’ And the wind of the Spirit blew also over India.

Source: By Love Compelled by Solveig Smith

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