Chin-Lushai Expedition of 1889-90
DateNovember 15, 1889 - April 30, 1890
Result British victory
 British Raj Tribes of the Chin Hills and Lushai Hills
Commanders and leaders
British Raj Maj.Gen. William Symons
British Raj Col. Charles McD. Skene DSO
British Raj Col. Vincent William Tregear
Chin Tribes
Lushai Tribes
3,608 British and Indian troops 10,000+
Casualties and losses
3 officers
78 soldiers
916 invalided

The Chin-Lushai Expedition of 1889-90 was a British punitive expedition in Burma and India against the tribes of the Chin Hills and Lushai Hills.[1]


Following the Lushai Expedition of 1871-72, the border regions of Burma and India remained relatively peaceful with few raids occurring. In 1888 however raids become more frequent, and in February 1889, Lieutenant Stewart of the British Army and his surveying party were murdered by Chin tribesmen, and the government was determined to stop the raids.[2]

Throughout the summer of 1889 the Political Officer kept up negotiations with the Soktes and Siyins, but though they surrendered a large number of Burman captives, they continued to give trouble by cutting the telegraph wires, ambushing convoys, and firing into the British posts. These facts, coupled with the advisability of thoroughly exploring and opening out the narrow strip of country which alone now divided British Burma from India, led to the undertaking, in the cold weather of 1889–90, of military operations from Burma and Chittagong into the country of the Chins and Lushais.[1]

Order of Battle

Burma Field Force [1]
Column Regiment Number of Men
Northern Column Col. Charles McD. Skene DSO
1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment 300
42nd Gurkha Light Infantry 477
5th Company, Queen's Own Madras Sappers and Miners 95
10th Bengal Infantry 460
38th Bengal Infantry 290
Southern Column Gen. William P. Symons
1st Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers 500
1st Bengal Mountain Artillery 84
6th Company, Queen's Own Madras Sappers and Miners 151
2nd Battalion, 4th Gurkhas 410
2nd Madras Native Infantry 630
Chittagong Field Force [1]
Column Regiment Number of Men
Chittagong Column Col. V.W. Tregear
2nd Battalion, 2nd Gurkhas 300
3rd Bengal Infantry 250
Detachment, 9th Bengal Infantry
28th Bombay Pioneers 102
2nd Company, Bengal Sappers and Miners 80
Detachment, Chittagong Frontier Police 50


The expedition advanced on November 15, 1889, in two columns, Brigadier-General Symons proceeding against the Chin tribes, and Colonel Tregear against the Lushai Tribes. The little forces had to make their way through the roadless and pestilent jungle, which caused many troops to die from disease. [2]

From the book - Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India:[1]

To the Northern column were assigned the duties of continuing and completing the subjugation and pacification of the Siyin, Sagyilaing, and Kanhow tribes of Chins, and of operating against the Tashons in conjunction with the Southern Column. The task of Brigadier-General Symons as Commander of the Southern Column was:[1]

General Symons assumed command of the Burma Columns, Chin-Lushai Field Force on November 15, 1889, and about this time the preparations for the expedition were in the following state: The Southern Column had concentrated at Pakokku for its march of 165 miles to Kan. On account of the unusually late rains the start of the expedition had been put off until November 23rd. The Northern Column was ready at Fort White, and only awaited the arrival of its hill coolies. It had been decided to establish ten posts along the western portion of the Burma frontier for its protection against Chin raids. All the garrisons for these posts were sent up the Chindwin river to Kalewa. The late rains had flooded the Kale valley, and up to the end of November the country was impassable to anything but elephants. The energies of the officers, however, overcame all difficulties, and by the end of December these ten posts were constructed, occupied, and rationed.[1]

The rationing of Kan, however, the head-quarters of the Southern Column, was one of the greatest difficulties with which the General had to contend. Kan was 165 miles by road from Pakkoku, the main base, and on the 23rd of November, owing to the floods, carts could only travel sixty miles of this distance. A small river, the Myittha, connected Kan to Kalewa on the Chindwin, but it was very shallow and swift, full of rocks, and generally difficult of navigation. Owing to the difficulties of land transport, however, Lieutenant Holland, of the Indian Marine, explored the 136 miles of this river between Kan and Kalewa, and pronounced that it would be possible to send stores up by this route. This form of transport was accordingly adopted, and, under the supervision of Lieutenant Holland, was worked with conspicuous success until the end of January, when the river became too shallow for navigation. During February the transport officers had to meet a fresh difficulty in cattle-disease, which broke out with great virulence in the Kale and Myittha valleys, and through which the number of pack bullocks available was reduced by two-thirds. The first troops of the Southern Column reached Kan on the 7th December, and the Sappers of the party began work on the road to Yokwa and Haka the next day.[1]

Before the expedition started it was believed that the Southern Column would be able to reach Haka in at the most twelve days from Kan, and all calculations were made on this surmise. Such, however, were the unexpected difficulties of the country that, with the whole strength of the force devoted to making the road, sixty-four miles in length, it took the head of the column sixty-six days to get into Haka, while the mule road was not completed until the seventy-seventh day from commencing the work. This disappointing delay was not without its compensating advantages in dealing with the Chins. They expected us to make a quick advance, do some damage, and then retire. The steady persistent advance, together with the pains taken to get into touch with them, and to explain our objects and intentions, paralysed their efforts for resistance, and thus tribe after tribe submitted and yielded to our terms.[1]

The Chins first met with by the Southern Column were the Yokwas of the Baungshe tribe. From the outset it was resolved to try a lenient policy with the Southern Chins, who before these operations had not come into contact with us. After one poor attempt by the Yokwas at opposition to our advance on the 28th of December, near Taungtek, when they acknowledged to having had 500 men and 300 guns against us, and to having sustained a great defeat, they gave up all hope of keeping us out of their hills. On the 8th of January two Yokwa Chins came into camp, and from this date onwards we were never again out of touch with the tribes. The objects of our coming, and our terms, were carefully explained to these two men, and they were dismissed to repeat them to their chiefs, who formally surrendered shortly after. The next day Lieutenant Foster and two other officers were strolling outside the camp when they were suddenly fired at by a few Thetta men in ambush, and Lieutenant Foster was shot dead. In consequence of this the nearest village, Lamtok, was burnt. Having dealt with the Yokwas, the column moved on Haka as soon as the mule path was sufficiently forward, arriving there on the 13th February. The same procedure as that adopted with the Yokwas obtained the full submission of the important Haka community; and the surrender of these two tribes was virtually equivalent to the submission of the whole Baungshe country.[1]

Having destroyed the enemy's villages and crops for many months, and captured a few stockades, the chiefs of the tribes believe surrender was necessary, and on April 30, 1890, the expedition was ended and disbanded.[1]


India General Service Medal with clasp for Chin-Lushai 1889-90
India General Service Medal with clasp for Chin-Lushai 1889-90

The British and Indian soldiers involved in the campaign were awarded the India General Service Medal with the clasp Chin Lushai 1889-90.[2]

Col Symons, Col Tregear and Brigade Surgeon Edward Corrigan Markey were appointed Companions of the Order of the Bath (CB) for their service during the campaign, and the following were appointed Companions of the Distinguished Service Order:-

J.W.P. Peters served in the expedition as a Lieutenant on special service from the 7th Dragoon Guards.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Paget, William Henry (1907). Frontier and overseas expeditions from India: Record of the expeditions against the North-west frontier tribes, since the annexation of the Punjab. Simla : Govt. Monotype Press. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c "War Medals and Their History". S. Paul & Co., London. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  3. ^ "No. 26106". The London Gazette. 14 November 1890. p. 6023.