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Sepoys

Royal
William Strutt, Drawing of a Sepoy
Victorian Parliamentary Library

When George Landells returned from India with the camels he had purchased for the expedition, he also brought a number of Indians, experienced in the handling of camels. They are usually referred to in the expedition records as 'sepoys', a word which originally meant Indians serving in British armed forces. Four of these men - Dost Mahomet, Belooch, Esau Khan and Samla - set out from Melbourne with the expedition.

Samla was the first to leave when he realised, two days out from Melbourne, he would not be able to butcher his own meat in accordance with his religious requirements. By the time they arrived at Swan Hill, Esau Khan was ill, and Burke discharged him. When Burke split his party at Menindie, he left Belooch and took Dost Mahomet with him. Belooch remained with the depot party at Cooper's Creek. He was particularly welcome for his skill with the rifle in bagging birds, but he eventually succumbed to the lethargy which beset the depot party, left with nothing to do but draw their rations for over four months.

Belooch was with the party under William Wright which attempted to bring supplies from Menindie to the camp at Cooper's Creek. This party suffered extreme difficulties and failed to reach the camp: three of the men died of malnutrition. Belooch attempted to quit the expedition here but found that making his own way back to Menindie was impossible.

In the aftermath of the expedition, when accounts were being settled back in Melbourne, Dost Mahomet presented a claim to be paid at the full rate of his European colleagues - 10 pounds a month - but was unsuccessful.