This week we remember HH Maharaja Sir Sumer Singh, a Wellingtonian who died 103 years ago on 3rd October 1918.
Born in 1898, Sumer succeeded his father as Maharaja of Jodhpur in March 1911, aged only 13, but reigned under the recency of his great-uncle, General Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh. That same year, in September, he came to Wellington College as a member of the Anglesey. The dormitory record book notes that he left early in that first term, to return to India and attend King George V at the Delhi Durbar. He returned in the New Year and stayed at College until summer 1913.
While at Wellington, Sumer was a promising rackets player. He was a member of the College Rackets VIII and was described as “a fine forehand player of great promise.” On returning to India, he had a rackets court built in Jodhpur.
When the First World War broke out, Sumer immediately volunteered for military service and was commissioned as an honorary Lieutenant in the British Army. Upon reaching the age of 16, according to his tribute in the College’s Roll of Honour, he strongly requested to be allowed fight in Europe with his own subjects and troops, the Jodhpur Lancers, arguing “It is true I am only 16, but an Indian of 16 is a man.”
His request was granted, and with his great-uncle Sir Pratap Singh he landed at Marseilles on October 11th 1914. Within a fortnight they were on active service in the battle line. Sumer stayed in France for two and a half years, exhibiting “a martial ardour and judgment which satisfied even the exacting standards of his great-uncle,” and doing all in his power to raise further troops and resources for the war effort.
At the end of 1915 he somewhat reluctantly left the war and returned to India, where on reaching the age of 18 he was invested with ruling powers as Maharaja. He also married and his daughter was born in 1916.
He is believed to have taken up war service again, but in early 1918 returned to Jodhpur to set up measures to combat the influenza epidemic which was beginning to rage across the world. Sadly, he himself succumbed and died of pneumonia in October 1918, aged 20.
His relative Gaj Singh, the current Maharaja, has very kindly provided the photographs of Sumer to illustrate this article.