In a crucial discovery of interest to historians, a tightly folded scrap of paper containing a key encrypted message during India's first war of independence in 1857 has been discovered at the Harewood House in Leeds.
Considered one of the smallest but most remarkable records of the era, the scrap of blue paper measures six by five centimeters and contains Greek and English characters. It contains an encrypted message that was smuggled out of Lucknow.
Written on the September 1 1857, Brigadier John Inglis described conditions in the town that had been under siege since 30 June that year. The note was folded and tightly rolled to ensure its concealment.
In his message, Inglis sends information vital to the British relieving force. The information was considered sensitive and would have had devastating effect on the course of events if it had fallen into the wrong hands.
Inglis wrote in the encrypted message, "I have reduced the rations and with this arrangement I trust to be able to hold on from the twentieth to twenty fifth". The British relief force arrived in Lucknow on 25 September.
The discovery was made last week during work on the year-long National Cataloguing project at the West Yorkshire Archive Service to list the family and estate archive of the Earls of Harewood.