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Battle of Maiwand
Part of Second Anglo-Afghan War
Royal Horse Artillery fleeing from Afghan attack at the Battle of Maiwand.jpg
Royal Horse Artillery fleeing from Afghan attack at the Battle of Maiwand, painted by Richard Caton Woodville
Date July 27, 1880
Location Maiwand, Afghanistan
Result Afghan victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom British Empire Afghanistan
Commanders
United Kingdom George Burrows Ayub Khan
Strength
2,476 British/Indian troops 25,000 Afghan warriors
Casualties and losses
969 killed
177 wounded
2,050-2,750 killed
1,500+ wounded

The Battle of Maiwand was one of the principal battles of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The battle ended in defeat for the British Army and victory for the Afghan followers of Ayub Khan. The Afghan victory at Maiwand was at a cost of anywhere between 2,050 to 2,750 Afghan warriors killed and probably about 1,500 wounded.[1] On the other side, about 969 British/Indian soldiers were killed and 177 more wounded. It is however one of the few instances in the 19th century of an Asian power defeating a Western one.

Contents

The battle

Before the battle the campaign had gone well for the British. They had previously defeated Afghan tribesmen at Ali Masjid, Peiwar Kotal, Kabul and Ahmed Khel. Furthermore, they had managed to occupy countless number of towns and villages including Kandahar, Dakka and Jalalabad.

Ayub Khan, Shere Ali's younger son, who had been holding Herat during the British operations at Kabul and Kandahar, set out towards Kandahar with a small army in June 1880, and a brigade under General Burrows was detached from Kandahar to oppose him. Burrows advanced to Helmand, opposite Girishk, to oppose Ayub Khan, but was there deserted by the troops of Shere Ali, the wali of Kandahar, and forced to retreat to Kushk-i-Nakhud, half way to Kandahar.

Map of the battlefield

In order to prevent Ayub passing to Ghazni, Burrows advanced to Maiwand on 27 July, and attacked Ayub, who had already seized that place. The Afghans, who numbered 25,000, outflanked the British, the artillery expended their ammunition, and the native portion of the Brigade got out of hand and pressed back on the few British infantry. The British were completely routed, and had to thank the apathy of the Afghans for escaping total annihilation. Of the 2,476 British troops engaged, the British and Indian force lost 21 officers and 948 soldiers killed. Eight officers and 169 men were wounded. The Grenadiers lost 64% of their strength and the 66th lost 62%, including 12 officers. The cavalry losses were much smaller.

Regimental casualties (listed by precedence) were:

One estimate of Afghan casualties is 3,000, reflecting the desperate nature of much of the fighting,[1] although other sources give 1,500 Afghans and up to 4,000 Ghazis killed.[2]

Aftermath

Afghan commanders after their victory at the Battle of Maiwand.

The battle dampened morale for the British side, but was also partly a disappointment for Ayub Khan, Governor of Herat and commander of the Afghans in this battle, because he had lost so many men to gain a small advantage. Ayub Khan did manage to shut the British up in Kandahar, resulting in General Frederick Roberts' famous 314-mile relieving march from Kabul to Kandahar in August 1880. The resulting Battle of Kandahar on 1 September was a decisive victory for the British.

Maiwand in poetry, art and fiction

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Poetry

Rudyard Kipling, who had researched this battle in 1892, included this small yet dramatic poem about the action at Maiwand in his Barrack-Room Ballads collection. That Day extract:-

"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."

Poems of the victory at Maiwand have passed into Pashtun and Afghan folklore. As Afghan legend would have it, the battle created an unlikely hero in the shape of an Afghan woman called Malalai, who on seeing the Afghan forces falter, used her veil as a standard and encouraged the men by shouting out

Young love if you do not fall in the battle of Maiwind;
By God someone is saving you as a token of shame;

She also said the following Landay (Pashto Poetry):

With a drop of my sweetheart's blood,
Shed in defense of the Motherland,
Will I put a beauty spot on my forehead,
Such as would put to shame the rose in the garden

Art

The battle was the subject of several paintings[3] and was covered extensively in the illustrated press. Frank Feller, a Swiss artist domiciled in England painted The Last Eleven at Maiwand in 1882 depicting a small group of men from the 66th Regiment making a last stand. The events surrounding E/B Battery Royal Horse Artillery were portrayed by Godfrey Douglas Giles, Richard Caton Woodville and Stanley Wood.

A cast iron statue of a lion (the Maiwand Lion) was built by George Blackall Simonds in Reading and unveiled in 1886 to commemorate those who died in battle. A monument was built in the 1950s on the Maiwand Square in Kabul in commemoration of the battle by an Afghan architect Is-matulla Saraj.

A memorial was erected in central London to a remarkable canine survivor of the engagement: Bobbie, the regimental mascot. Bobbie was wounded during the fighting, but was spotted the following day by survivors, making his way back to the fort.

Fiction

Dr. John H. Watson, fictional companion of Sherlock Holmes, was based upon the 66th regiment's Medical Officer, Surgeon Major A F Preston, who was wounded in the Battle of Maiwand Gulham (as described in the opening chapter of A Study in Scarlet) and invalided out of the British Army.[4]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b British Battles - Second Afghan War (Maiwand)
  2. ^ British Empire - Camp Afghan (Maiwand)
  3. ^ Peter Harrington (1993). British Artists and War: The Face of Battle in Paintings and Prints, 1700-1914. London: Greenhill, pp. 202-204
  4. ^ The Rifles (Berkshire and Wiltshire) Museum

External links


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