“Good Luck to you. It’s all up with the Bally Old Berkshires” (a private of the 66th Berkshire Regiment of Foot to the teams of E Battery / B Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery, galloping away)
|Richard Caton Woodville (1856 - 1927): "Maiwand: Saving the Guns" (1883)|
|Peter Archer's (1946- ) imagination of the last moments of the 11 survivors of the 66th in the garden outside of Khig, including Bobbie the Dog *|
“With a drop of my sweetheart's blood, / Shed in defence of the Motherland, / Will I put a beauty spot on my forehead, / Such as would put to shame the rose in the garden”, young Malalai sang. It was her wedding day and both her father and her fiancée had already fallen and when the Afghan colour-bearer was shot and the flag fell, she used her veil to encourage Ayub Khan’s regulars and the thousands of Ghazis to charge into the British lines. The veil became her winding sheet, she was shot and became a national heroine, revered in Afghanistan and beyond to this day. Brigadier George Burrows and his 2,500 infantry, artillery and cavalry were sent to counter Ayub Khan in the beginning of July and they had already suffered a major drawback before the battle even began. 6,000 Kandahari regulars, mobilised by their pro-British Wali to support the defence of the province, had mutinied and went over to join Ayub Khan who had now up to 25,000 or, at the least, 12,000 men at his disposal, most of them irregulars, Ghazis, but combined with his state-of-the-art artillery park more than a match for the heavily outnumbered British. Burrows wouldn’t believe the numbers to the last moment, though, made a mess out of breaking camp and getting his army underway on the morning of the battle to find himself out in the open of a dusty plain, in scorching heat, with Ayub Khan’s army approaching from all sides from the hills. E Battery / B Brigade of the Royal Horse Artillery opened up on the enemy, far too deep out in the open, Burrow’s infantry hurried to cover the guns, the Afghans returned fire and inflicted considerable casualties on the 1st Bombay N.I. Grenadiers on the British left, while the 66th Berkshires in the centre and 30th Bombay N.I., known as Jacob’s Rifles, on the right, found at least some cover on the field. From the Afghan shells. Not from the sun, though, and after an artillery duel of three hours, the Afghans began to close in. The 30th Bombay’s Sniders and the 66th’s Martini-Henrys held them for a moment, forced them even to retreat, Ayub Khan’s artillery advanced while the RHA ran short of shells and then the 1st Bombays broke under a massed cavalry and infantry charge, the battle was lost and the slaughter began. The Bombay Grenadiers on the right ran next and the lines of the 66th dissolved, leaving the Berkshires to defend themselves in small groups retreating in the chaos. The RHA’s guns fired until the charging Afghans were only a couple of yards away, limbered up and ran, four teams even made it away, one was captured and by then, what was left of Burrow’s army was in an all-out rout. The remnants of the left wing fled towards the village of Mundabad, some 100 survivors of the 66th and the Grenadiers ended up a ravine in an orchard on the outskirts of a village called Khig, Malalai’s birthplace. They made a stand there, fired until they ran out of ammunition, the last 11 survivors charged out in the open with their bayonets and were shot down.
|The Queen awarding Bobbie the Dog and other survivors of the 66th with the Afghan War campaign medal at Osborne House|
Almost half of Burrows' army was killed at Maiwand, the rest made its 45-mile retreat to Kandahar. Ayub Khan’s cavalry was just to busy plundering the British baggage train and refrained from pursuing the broken Anglo-British. The Afghan casualties amounted to 3,000 dead and Ayub Khan contented himself with besieging Kandahar, giving Roberts the time to lead his relief force from Kabul over 320 miles straight through Afghanistan in just four weeks. Ayub Khan was soundly defeated on 1 September and the Second Anglo-Afghan War was over. Maiwand, however, left a sound impression on the Victorian mind. From Bobbie the Dog, the regimental mascot of the 66th, who survived the last stand at Khig and the war and was awarded by the Queen with the Afghan War campaign medal, to the sheer disbelief of another native force trashing the world’s best infantry, just a year after Isandlwana. And there was the 66th’s surgeon, wounded in the shoulder by a Jezail bullet at Maiwand, who left the Army to set up shop at 221B Baker Street, St, Marylebone, London NW1, one Dr John H. Watson. But it was Rudyard Kipling, who summed it up, “That Day”, in his Barrack-Room Ballads:
"There was thirty dead an' wounded on the ground we wouldn't keep -
No, there wasn't more than twenty when the front began to go;
But, Christ! along the line o' flight they cut us up like sheep,
An' that was all we gained by doing so.
I 'eard the knives be'ind me, but I dursn't face my man,
Nor I don't know where I went to, 'cause I didn't 'alt to see,
Till I 'eard a beggar squealin' out for quarter as 'e ran,
An' I thought I knew the voice an' - it was me!
We was 'idin' under bedsteads more than 'arf a march away;
We was lyin' up like rabbits all about the countryside;
An' the major cursed 'is Maker 'cause 'e lived to see that day“
An' the colonel broke 'is sword acrost, an' cried."
And more about the Battle of Maiwand on:
* the image was found on: http://www.britishbattles.com/second-afghan-war/maiwand.htm