susancammas wrote:Goood afternoon Frogsmile
Thank you for your detailed information about the Second Afghan War.
What brave men E/B battery were!
From WO Form 619, I know that my great grandfather Tom was in E/A battery - Major Murdoch's battery. So, I googled Major Murdoch and found the following:
From «Afghan Campaigns of 1878, 1880 : Historical Division» by Sidney H. Shadbolt
E Battery, A Brigade RHA
« In January 1880, Battery E/A RHA, under the command of Major W. W. Murdoch was moved up from Mian Mir, whither it had proceeded twelve months before from Umballa, to Peshawar, and for a period of ten months served as a unit of the Peshawar District Force, which was commanded successively by Major-General Ross and Brigadier General Hankin. On the District Force being reduced to a peace footing in the autumn of the year, the battery quit Peshawar and proceeding to Mirat, went into quarters ».
« A Major W. W. Murdoch commanded E/A RHA throughout the period it was employed in the war. »
I believe that the battle of Maiwand took place on 27th July 1880 so I'm not quite sure what to understand by the fact that E/A battery was part of the Peshawar District Force at that time. What was the role of E/A battery?
I'd love to hear your opinion and thoughts on this.
mike snook wrote:Frogsmile old man I have to beg to differ in just a couple of respects about events at Maiwand, the subjects being artillery command and last eleven.
In fact E/B battery was commanded by Major George Blackwood RHA. Captain John Slade RHA had been the battery second-in-command, but had then been co-opted onto General Burrows' staff as his orderly officer.
The British had provided the (friendly) Wali of Kandahar with half a dozen smoothbore guns, but when push came to shove on the Helmand his troops defected to the other side taking the British gifted guns with them (plus ca change). The British cavalry and E/B battery gave chase to the mutineers and recovered all the guns. At that point Captain Slade was stood down from the staff and tasked with commanding the 'Smoothbore Battery' as they called it. This consisted of 4 x 6-pdrs and two 12-pdr howitzers which means it was ordnance of 1850s vintage. To man his guns Slade was given 17 seconded NCOs and gunners from E/B and 1 & 42 from the 66th Regiment (the officer being Lt Granville Faunce). Two artillery subalterns (Fowle and Jones) were found from elsewhere to command the battery's other two divisions.
As you would expect Blackwood's E/B Bty had half a dozen 9-prdr RMLs. His subalterns were Lts Newton Fowell (yes another Fowell/Fowle, but at least spelt differently!), Hector Maclaine and Edward Osborne. The battery was 4 & 141 strong at the battle (after the detachment of the 17 to the ad hoc battery).
Slade's Battery ran out of ammunition during the artillery duel and was sent to the rear to replenish. This was on balance an ill considered move as it badly rattled the nearby sepoy companies by suggesting that the gunners thought the game was up. With no guns to command, Slade rode across to speak to Blackwood. Lt. Fowell was wounded not long after his arrival, so he took command of his division. Not long afterwards the battery commander himself was severely wounded, at which point Slade took command of E/B Battery. Blackwood was unable to complete his journey to the aid post and, exhausted by the effort, sat down behind one of the 66th companies to help the company commander judge the ranges of his volleys.
Ten of 12 guns were saved and extricated from the immediate area of the battlefield (though that was not the end of the story); 2 of the 9-pdrs, Hector Maclaine's, were overrun, in large part because he seems not to have immediately responded to Slade's trumpeter, but thought he could get in another round of case-shot. Wrong call. Lieutenant Edmund Osborne's guns got away only because he pretty much sacrificed himself for them, at one point fighting mounted with his sword, while at another he was seen personally 'hooking in' one of his guns.
During the overnight retreat the unwatered and exhausted artillery horses were dying at such a rate that Slade was forced to abandon 5 of the 6 smoothbores, in order to have enough draught animals left to pull the four 9-pdrs back to Kandahar.
Lieutenant Thomas Henn was not one of the last eleven. He had earlier been wounded in the arm, but was killed by a headshot during the defence of a walled garden in Khig. His two European NCOs, Sgt Heaphy and Cpl Ashman, and 14 of his Indian soldiers fell around his body. George Broadwood, earlier wounded in the leg, lost his life in the same general area. The last eleven broke out of the garden and made it a short distance before being hemmed in. They are customarily thought of as Lt Richard Shute, a line officer of the 66th but acting as the quartermaster, Lieutenant Charles Hinde, the adjutant of the Bombay Grenadiers, and nine NCOs or privates of the 66th whose names, sadly, are not known. Of course legend has it that Bobby the dog was the twelfth member of the regiment to break out of the garden and the only one of them to survive.
Poor Hector Maclaine wandered from the line of retreat in search of water and had the misfortune to be captured. He was held for a month and then murdered.
E Battery's losses were 2 & 19 killed and 2 & 14 wounded. 63 of its horses were killed in the battle and another 46 died of exhaustion/dehydration on the way back to Kandahar. Fowell was the only battery officer to survive, (unless we also count Slade, who of course did not start the battle with E/B). Fowell was evidently a lucky man as an enemy 6-pdr roundshot knocked the iron tyre off one of his 9-pdrs which then flew off and broke his arm. Notwithstanding this he attempted to continue fighting his guns, until Slade, perceiving that he was far too badly hurt to do so, ordered him to the rear.
Gunners were a lot tougher then.
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