Alexander McKenzie, a native of Dingwall in Ross-shire, joined the army in July of 1871. Originally with the 90th Foot (Perthshire
Volunteers) (Light Infantry) He transferred to the 51st L.I. in 1872 and went to India with them. After a few years of peace he was
involved in actions on the North West Frontier which gained him the Indian General Service Medal with bar for Jowaki 1877-78 and
soon after that in the 2nd Afghan War of 1878-81 in which he gained the medal with bar for ‘Ali Musjid’. He returned to England after
12 years service and was discharged in early 1884.
His story is told by means of a muster search and extracts from ‘History of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry’ by Col. H.C.
Wylly, C.B., Volume 1.
Sadly no discharge papers exist for McKenzie in the National Archives as he was discharged just prior to the period that all papers of
surviving soldiers were kept.
The 90th Foot are at Glasgow, Ayr and Stirling. No mention of McKenzie in Musters.
No.1921 Pte. Alexander McKenzie appears in the musters of the 90th Foot in April of 1872. He is on ‘Musketry’ at the time of the
June 1872 muster. The Regiment moves from its camps at Glasgow, Ayr and Stirling and is at Greenock by the 22nd of July 1872.
From there the 90th embark on ships and arrive at Portsmouth by the 27th. From Portsmouth the unit entrains to its new location at
Aldershot (31 Officers and 619 men). McKenzie transfers to the 51st L.I. at Aldershot on the 30th of September 1872, the ‘Effects &
Credits’ page state that he was born in Dingwall and was a labourer, enlisting on the 31st of July 1871.
The 51st L.I. are at Fermoy in September of 1872. They march to Cork on the 14th of October (116 men) and 15th of October (752
men) where they board ships for India. The 51st had been heavily reinforced by volunteers from the 90th Foot (50 men) and from
the 95th, 61st, 64th, 46th, 27th, 30th, 100th, 103rd, 94th, 91st, 82nd & 1/4th Regiments, several hundred men in all. The unit is in
barracks at Fyzabad by the end of November 1872. McKenzie (now No.2627 of the 51st) is on ‘barrack duty’ on the January 1873
Pte. McKenzie is shown at the May 1873 & March 1874 musters as being ‘Orderly Man’ and at the June 1873 muster as ‘Regimental
Guard’. He is on Rifle Drill on the November 1873 muster.
McKenzie is granted his first penny of Good conduct pay on the 8th of July 1874. He is shown as being on Rifle Drill fatigue over the
October 1874 muster and is in Hospital over the November 1874 to January 1875 musters.
The 51st are on the move at the November 1875 muster at ‘Camp Etah’ and are at ‘Camp of Exercise, Delhi’ by the end of December
1875. They are further at ‘Camp Umballa’ at the end of January 1876 and ‘Galla Moosa’ by the end of February 1876. The 51st have
reached Peshawar by the end of March 1876.
McKenzie is ‘orderly man to Company’ on the April 1876 muster and is on detachment over the August, September and October
1876 musters at Nowshera, before returning to Peshawar. He is further on ‘Rifle Drill’ at the January 1877 muster and ‘Fort Guard’ at
the February 1877 muster.
The HQ of the 51st have moved to Cherat by the end of July 1877 (the April to June 1877 musters are missing), McKenzie is with the
Wing at Nowshera at this time. On the 3rd of August 1879, after 6 years trouble free service McKenzie gains a second good conduct
badge and the associated penny/day increase in pay. The whole of the 51st take part in the Jowaki Expedition which sees them at
Fort Mackeson at the November 1877 muster, being back at Nowshera by the following month. The 51st are on the march to
Subathu in the early months of 1878, being at Camp Jhelum on the 28th of February 1878, Camp Umballa on the 31st of March
1878 and Subathu by the end of April 1878. McKenzie is shown as being ‘on Guard’ at the July and October 1878 musters and
‘Picquet’ at the December 1878 muster. In October 1878 the Regiment move to Rawal Pindi from where they move into Afghanistan,
being at Ali Musjid from November 1878. The unit is at Jellalabad at the end of March 1879.
The 51st are at Safed Sung by the end of April 1879, Lala bagh Khan by the end of May 1879 and Cherat by June of 1879, at this
muster McKenzie is shown in Hospital.Whilst the HQ remains at Cherat, McKenzie is at ‘Camp Shah Kote’ in a detachment under 1329
Col. Sgt. William Bensley at the September 1879 muster. Pte. McKenzie is on Regimental Guard at the October 1879 muster and is
on detachment at Jugdullock Kotal in December 1879, the HQ elements had moved to Jellalabad in October 1879 and were at Safed
Sung by the last day of 1879. McKenzie, now shown as being a member of ‘D’ Company is on Guard at the January 1880 muster, at
Jugdullock Kotal in February 1880 and on ‘Signallers Escort’ in March 1880 – the HQ elements move to Pezwan by the end of January
1880 and then to Jagdallack by the April 1880 muster, moving to Safed Sung by the end of June 1880. The 51st are constantly on
the move during the remainder of 1880, being at Murda Dun in July, Camp Attock in August, Lawrencepore in September, Umballa in
October and finally going into Garrison at Bareilly by the end of November 1880. McKenzie (and we assume the rest of D Company)
are at Pezwan in the May 1880 musters and Jugulluck Kotal at the June 1880 muster, he is further detached at Umballa in November
1880 after the HQ elements have moved on to Bareilly. At Bareilly in January 1881 he is listed as being at the ‘Armourers Shop’ and
at the March 1881 muster he is the ‘Assistant Armourer’.
The 51st are in Garrison at Bareilly throughout the period, however McKenzie is on detachment under Captain Edward L. Burnett
from the November 1881 muster to the April 1882 muster and is also on detachment at Naini Tal under Lt. Charles H. Chapman from
the April 1882 muster to the October 1882 muster. By the end of October 1882 he is back at Bareilly. McKenzie is also shown as
being on Guard at the April and August 1881 musters and ‘Waiting Guard’ at the July 1881 muster.
McKenzie receives his 3rd Good conduct badge and pay increase on the 3rd of August 1883 after 12 years service, he is still with D
Company. He embarks for Europe and discharge (having completed his 12 years with the colours) on the 29th of November 1883.
No.2627 Pte. Alexander McKenzie is on the musters of the Gosport Discharge Depot from the 1st of December 1883. He is finally
discharged on the 9th of January 1884 after 12½ years service. At discharge he is paid £22 17s 8d, that being 40 days pay (at a
shilling a day) plus a 6d furlough allowance and clothing compensation of 11½d, he is docked however for Barrack damage (2d),
Messing allowance (10½d ) and a train ticket to Dingwall (£1 6d 6d). He gave his place of residence as being 4, Blackwall Street,
Extracts from ‘History of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry’ by Col. H.C. Wylly, C.B., Volume 1.
In July, 1872, the 51st Light Infantry learnt that it would again proceed on foreign service during the approaching trooping season,
and all outlying detachments were now called in, the Regiment moved from Athlone and was concentrated at Fermoy. Here it received
156 transfers from the 27th, 30th, 46th, 82nd, 86th, 91st, 94th, 95th, l00th and 103rd Regiments, and forty-four volunteers from
the 1st Battalion 4th Foot, making up its Strength to twenty-three officers, forty-eight sergeants, ten buglers and 826 other ranks.
On the 15th October, 1872, the 51st Light Infantry, commanded by Lieut.-Colonel Madden, left Ireland for India for the fourth time,
sailing in the Indian Troopship Euphrates. In an account by Colour-Sergeant J. C. Sharpe, 51st, of the voyage of the Regiment from
Queenstown to Bombay, published in 1873 by the regimental press, we read : "On Thursday, 7th November, we passed Aden at 5 p.
m. The 3/60th Rifles lay here and I daresay were very much pleased to see us pass, especially this vessel, as she is to return with the
105th Regiment from Bombay to relieve and take them (3/60th) to England."
Bombay was reached on the 15th November, the Regiment disembarking early on the following morning, and, proceeding by rail in
two trains to Fyzabad, reached that station on the 27th and 29th.
The Regiment remained some three years at Fyzabad, being inspected while there by such well-known soldiers as Generals Olpherts,
Lord Napier of Magdala and others, and being almost invariably well reported upon for good behaviour and high discipline. While
quartered here-in April, 1874 the monthly Regimental Paper, "The Bugler" was started and proved a great success, assisting much in
maintaining old traditions and in making the younger soldiers acquainted with the past distinguished history of their Regiment; the
first editor of "The Bugle " was Lieutenant and Adjutant Denshire.
At the end of 1875 orders were received for the 51st Light Infantry to march to Peshawar, and it left Fyzabad on the 4th November,
the marching-out strength being twenty-three officers and 631 other ranks, Lieut.-Colonel C. Acton being in command. The
Regiment did not proceed direct to Peshawar, but on arrival at Delhi on the 13th December it joined the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, at
the camp of exercise held in the neighbourhood during the cold weather. These manoeuvres were attended by H.R.H. the Prince of
Wales, the late King Edward, who was then visiting India, and on the 12th January, 1876, he made an inspection of the force which
included the 51st Light Infantry.
A week later the Regiment resumed its march to Peshawar where it arrived on the 21st March, after a march of 977 miles from
Fyzabad -to find that a draft from England of forty-six rank and file had joined the depot at Peshawar during January. The marching-
in strength of the Regiment was twenty officers and 649 effective rank and file, while there were eighteen sick.
During the hot weather of this year the Regiment was thus distributed :-
At Peshawar (headquarters), six officers and eighty-one other ranks. At Cherat - a small hill-Station near Pubbi - three officers and
299 other ranks. At Nowshera, two officers and 200 other ranks. At Campbellpore, nineteen other ranks. In cholera camp, four
officers and 161 other ranks. The Regiment was attacked by cholera in September, there were nine cases, of which seven terminated
When on the 5th February, 1877, the 51st Light Infantry was inspected at Peshawar by Brig.-General C. C. G. Ross. The time had
now come when the 51st Light Infantry was to take part in another of those punitive expeditions which are so constantly called for
by the predatory habits of the tribesmen living on or beyond the north-west frontier of India, and which provide the British portion
of the Indian garrison with an invaluable experience of mountain warfare. Of the many warlike and independent tribes which inhabit
the hilly country in the immediate neighbourhood of Peshawar, the Afridis are the most turbulent and probably the best armed. The
tribe is divided into eight large clans, six of which occupy the country contiguous to the Khyber Pass, a seventh is located to the
south of the Bara river, while another, known as the Adam Khel, inhabit the hills between the districts of Kohat and Peshawar. This is
one of the most powerful and numerous of the Afridi clans, has a great reputation for bravery, and can bring into the field over 6000
fighting men, who, moreover, are unusually well-armed with rifles stolen from our border cantonments, and with those they
themselves manufacture at their factories in the Kohat Pass. During the days when the Sikhs ruled at Peshawar the Adam Khel were
in receipt of an allowance for keeping open the Peshawar-Kohat road - an allowance which the Indian Government continued when,
on the decline of the Sikh power, the border country became our natural and troublous inheritance. This short cut through the hills
possesses a certain strategic value ; by this road the two frontier garrisons of Kohat and Peshawar are no more than thirty-seven
miles apart, and only ten of these are in independent territory, while round by way of Khushalgarh on the Indus the distance is 200
The Adam Khel Afridis are divided into four branches, but we are here concerned only with the Jawakis, who live to the east of the
Kohat Pass, and for the most part inhabit the valleys forming the southern portion of the Adam Khel country. They also inhabit the
northern valley of Bori, and the country connecting Bori with the southern Jawaki territory.
There have been several occasions on which the action of the Kohat Pass Afridis has made punitive expeditions necessary. There was
an expedition under Sir Colin Campbell (Lord Clyde), in 1850, another three years later; and another in August 1877, especially
directed against the Jawaki Afridis, but which did not have the quieting effect which had been anticipated, as the enemy's losses,
both in men and property, were comparatively trifling. The object of this expedition had been to punish this particular branch of the
clan for persistent aggression-cutting the telegraph line, highway robbery, destroying bridges, and burning villages within our
border- and another expedition became imperative, to be conducted more thoroughly and upon a larger scale. Early in November,
1877, three small columns, composed entirely of Indian troops under Brig.-General Keyes, advanced into the Jawaki country from the
Kohat direction, and engaged the enemy on several occasions, but experienced some hindrance from unusually heavy rain. It was
considered advisable to advance against and destroy Jamu, one of the enemy's principal fortified villages or group of villages ; but as
it seemed certain that heavy loss must be occasioned by the inevitable subsequent retirement from Jamu, Brig.-General Keyes
suggested that his operations should be assisted by the advance of a column from Peshawar upon Bori. This was agreed to, and a
force of two brigades, composed as under, was detailed to operate from Peshawar under Brig.-General Ross :
1st Brigade under Colonel Doran.
Three guns I/C R. H. A.
51st Light Infantry.
Two companies Sappers and Miners.
22nd Punjab Native Infantry.
27th Punjab Native Infantry.
2nd Brigade under Colonel Buchanan, 9th Foot. T
hree guns I/C R. H. A.
13/9th R.A. 40-pounders.
4th Battalion Rifle Brigade.
14th Native Infantry-now Sikhs.
20th Punjab Native Infantry.
On the 28th November, the headquarters of the 51st, with B, E, G, and K companies left Cherat, where it was at this time stationed,
and marched to Jalozai, being there joined by C and F companies from Nowshera, and on the following morning moved to Fort
Mackeson, arriving on the 30th strength, seventeen officers and 500 other ranks.
Fort Mackeson is about four-and-a-half miles distant from the northern entrance to the Kohat Pass.
The Kohat columns commenced their march towards Jamu on the day appointed, the 1st December, surprised the enemy, burnt his
villages, and on the 4th December bivouacked about Bagh. The operations from the Peshawar side were, however, delayed and
hampered by the weather and the hoped-for co-operation was largely ineffective. Heavy rain caused a flood on the Indus, the bridge
of boats at Attock was destroyed and communications with Rawal Pindi were interrupted, so that it was not until the morning of the
4th December that General Ross' force was able to move into the Jawaki country.
The Bori Valley is separated from the plain to the south of the Mackeson-Sham Shatu road by a rocky range of hills, which is crossed
by a comparatively low pass at Kandao, and by a second over a higher part of the ridge known as the Sarghasha. The Bori Valley is
about twelve miles long and has an entrance at each extremity, both forming very narrow and very defensible defiles. General Ross'
plan of operations was to occupy the crest of the ridge with artillery and infantry, and from this position-completely commanding the
Bori Valley-to take steps for attacking the villages and destroying their defences.
The road via Kandao was selected for the advance of Ross' 1st Brigade under Colonel Doran, which was to proceed to the crest of
the ridge and turn the Sarghasha Pass, while the 2nd Brigade made a direct attack upon it. In this way the summit of the pass
became untenable and the enemy abandoned the position and retired firing, some towards the Bori Valley and others along the ridge
towards Khui. The two brigades bivouacked that night on the ridge.
On the morning of the 5th December, the 51st and 22nd Native Infantry were ordered to return to Kandao, and march thence by the
road along the foot of the hills to the ground near the foot of the Sarghasha Pass, during the day this route was improved by the
Sappers and infantry working parties, and was used henceforth as the line of communication with the plains. The 2nd Brigade had
some fighting on this day, and during the 6th, 7th and 8th December the troops of the two brigades were occupied in destroying all
the fortified villages under a tolerably constant but generally ineffective fire. On the other side of the valley the force under General
Keyes had advanced upon and destroyed a village called Ghariba, a place which had long been regarded as the Alsatia of this part of
Though one column had now traversed much of the Jawaki country, had destroyed many towers and maintained a strict blockade,
the enemy still gave no sign of surrender. A further advance was therefore made by both forces in combination into the Pustawani
Valley, one of considerable strategic importance and which had not so far been properly surveyed. Heavy rain delayed any forward
movement until the 31st December, when both forces advanced, that under General Ross moved almost unopposed through the
Bori China Pass to Pustawani, which was reached and destroyed on the 2nd January, Ross returned to the Sarghasha Camp, his
rearguard being slightly engaged during the withdrawal. General Keyes' movements were equally thorough and he, too, experienced
but little opposition.
For another fortnight or more the two forces remained in the Jawaki country, which was explored and surveyed, and by the 23rd
January, 1878, the bulk of the troops employed had been withdrawn to Kohat and Peshawar, a small body of the three arms only
remaining temporarily on the Sarghasha ridge as a force of observation.
During the whole operations the total casualties in the two forces under Generals Ross and Keyes amounted to eleven killed and fifty-
one wounded; the 51st Light Infantry suffered no loss.
Almost immediately upon the withdrawal of our troops the Jawakis had begun to show signs of submission, and after negotiations,
protracted until March, a settlement was effected, the tribesmen agreeing to make complete submission in full durbar at Peshawar, to
pay a fine of Rs. 5000, to expel certain ringleaders in recent raids, to surrender a number of English rifles and native matchlocks, and
to give hostages for future good behaviour.
In a report made by General Ross and dated 21st December, 1877, he wrote : " The British infantry, as is usual in such cases, were
necessarily held to some extent in reserve, but on one occasion I employed two companies of the 51st-G and H-and the detachment
of 200 men of the Rifle Brigade in the front line, and to these detachments I trusted chiefly for the occupation of the ridge on the left
(east) of the Sarghasha Pass, the security of which was of vital importance and which I had reason to consider liable to attack. I had
every reason to be satisfied with the steady discipline and efficiency of these Regiments, and I have much pleasure in recording my
thanks to Colonel Madden, 51st, and to Captain Fitzherbert, commanding detachment Rifle Brigade. . . . Captain Wynne, 51st
Regiment, was in charge of the Army Signalling Department. The successful way in which he organized and carried out the duties of
this branch have already been noticed in the detailed account of the operations supplied by the D.A.Q.M.G. This officer has shown an
intimate knowledge of Army Signalling in all its details, and of the application of the science to the requirements of an army in the
In General Ross' report of the 10th January, 1878, he wrote:- " I have already mentioned the excellence of the Signalling
arrangements under the direction of Captain Wynne, 51st Regiment, during the attack on Bori. During the expedition against
Pastaoni communications were kept up constantly by heliograph between my headquarters and the telegraph station in the Mackeson
plain, and the precision with which the retirement of the various detachments was effected during my return from Pastaoni was
greatly due to the satisfactory distribution and organization of the flag-signalling parties. I attach Captain Wynne's report which fully
explains the details of his work."
The Indian Medal, with a clasp for "'Jawaki," was granted in 1879, under G. G. O. No. 143 of 1879 and No. 285 of 1880, to all who
took part in the active operations against the Jawaki Afridis between the 9th November, 1877, and the 19th January, 1878, inclusive.
The 51st Light Infantry being required to proceed early to Umballa in relief, left the Jawaki country on the 10th December, 1877,
halted one night at Fort Mackeson, and reached Peshawar on the 11th.
The 51st marched to Umballa on the 22nd December, followed by a very eulogistic farewell order by Brigadier-General Ross : " On the
departure of the 51st King's Own Light Infantry from the Peshawar District," he wrote, " Brigadier-General Ross has much pleasure in
placing on record his appreciation of that fine regiment, the good tone and feeling of the officers, and the good conduct and discipline
of the men."
From Umballa, where a big draft was waiting to join, the Regiment marched to Subathu, which was reached on the 6th April, 1878 ;
and in this hill-Station it remained until the autumn of the year, recruiting its strength after the heat of the Peshawar valley in
preparation for a new campaign in which it was to take part.
The first Afghan War, if it had in some measure tended to lower British prestige beyond the North-West Frontier, had not had any
specially evil. influence upon the relations between the later rulers of Afghanistan and the Indian Government. During the years that
the Amir Dost Muhammad Khan held sway in Kabul:, he proved himself to be a good friend to the British in India ; the period of the
Indian Mutiny, which might well have provided opportunity for at least the fomenting of trouble between Afghanistan and India,
passed quietly on and beyond our Border, and our relations with the Dost were then so happy that Lord Lawrence was able almost
to denude our frontier province of its best troops in order that reinforcements might reach Delhi and other centres of disaffection.
In 1863 the eventful career of Dost Muhammad Khan was closed by death, and for a time the kingdom his influence and personality
had held together was rent by internal dissensions. His son, Shere Ali, eventually gained the throne, and for a time appeared
anxious to re-establish the old friendly relations with the government of India. He seemed, however, to consider that his advances
had not been well received, for it had been thought advisable to refuse certain requests which he had put forward; and he at last
assumed an attitude towards the Indian Government of extreme reserve. Thus matters stood when, in 1875, the Home Government
arrived at the conclusion that the time had come when relations with Shere Ali should be placed upon a more definite and satisfactory
footing, mainly, if not entirely, in consequence of the danger which appeared to threaten India resulting from the rapid and
unchecked advances of Russia in the East.
Lord Lytton, who at this time was Viceroy of India, now proposed to the Amir that he should receive a British Mission at Kabul to
concert measures for mutual defence against Russian aggression, but these overtures were not well received by Shere Alil, who made
many excuses against the reception of a Mission, stating that he could not guarantee the safety of our Envoy, and that were he to
receive a British Mission he could hardly refuse to receive one from Russia should any proposal of this nature be made. Shere Ali did
indeed send one of his ministers to Peshawar where conversations took place between him and Sir Lewis Pelly, the British
representative; but these came to nothing, and in 1878 the Amir, at a time when 1878 it seemed more than likely that an
interruption of friendly relations between England and Russia was imminent, received and welcomed at Kabul an embassy from the
Czar. Under these circumstances it was decided by the British Government to insist upon the reception by Shere Ali of a mission
A mission, at the head of which was Sir Neville Chamberlain, accordingly left Peshawar towards the end of September, 1878, but it
was refused passage through the Khyber Pass by the Afghan local commander, and was actually turned back almost under the walls
of Fort Ali Musjid. An ultimatum was now sent from Simla to Shere Ali demanding apology, reparation and immediate compliance with
our demands for the reception of a mission, but no satisfactory reply having been received by the 20th November, the date-limit
named, the various columns which had been prepared for the invasion of Afghanistan were then at once set in motion.
The British forces were to cross the frontier at three points-at Peshawar, at Thal and at Quetta, and the Army of invasion was
distributed into three columns-the Peshawar Valley Field Force under Lieut.-General Sir Samuel Browne, the Kurram Valley Field Force
under Major-General F. S. Roberts ; and the Kandahar Field Force under Lieut.-General D. Stewart.
The Peshawar Valley Field Force, based upon Peshawar, was composed of some 10,000 men with thirty guns ; it was assembled at
Jamrud, a small fort four miles distant from the mouth of the Khyber Pass, and its initial operation was the capture of the fort at Ali
The 51st Light Infantry had been warned for active service so soon as war began to threaten, and on the 18th October, 1878,
leaving a depot company (D) behind at Subathu, it marched for the plains at a strength of thirteen officers and 559 other ranks.
Arrived at Rawal Pindi, it was at once pushed on into the Peshawar Valley and finally arrived on the 20th November at Jamrud, under
command of Colonel Madden, the marching-in strength being sixteen officers and 543 non-commissioned officers and men. At
Jamrud the Regiment found itself forming part of the Fourth Brigade of the Peshawar Valley Field Force ; the brigade was under the
command of Brigadier-General W. B. Browne, 81st Foot, and the other regiments composing it were the 6th and 45th Bengal Native
Lieut.-General Sir Sam Browne's plan of operations for the capture of Ali Musjid Fort was as follows : the 1st and 2nd Brigades were
to move forward and work their way to the rear of the fort, one brigade proceeding by way of the heights to the north, whence the
fort itself might be commanded, while the other was to make a wide detour behind the Rhotas hills to the north of the fort,
eventually emerging near the village of Katta Kushtia, commanding the exit from the defile through which it was expected that the
garrison would attempt to retreat in the event of its being driven from the fort. With the rest of the division Sir Sam Browne
intended to make a frontal attack upon the Afghan position. The 1st and 2nd Brigades moved off on the night of the 20th
November, and it was hoped they would reach the positions assigned to them by 1 p.m. on the 21st. The rest of the Division,
therefore, left Jamrud at 7 a.m. on the 21st, the 4th Brigade bringing up the rear.
With the 51st were the following officers : Colonel Madden, Lieut. Colonel Ball-Acton, Major Burnaby, Captains Nugent, Graeme and
Seppings, Lieutenants Smyth, Burnett, Sparke, Spragge (orderly officer to the brigadier), Johnson and Lloyd, Captain and Adjutant
Drury, Quartermaster Murray, Paymaster Roberts and Surgeon Major Jones. Of other ranks there were twenty-eight sergeants,
twenty-three corporals, fourteen buglers and 473 privates.
About 11 a.m. the advance guard reached the Shagai Ridge, whence Ali Musjid and its defences could be distinctly seen some 2,500
yards distant. The enemy opened fire about noon and very soon all the British guns with General Browne were in action, when the
General ordered the 3rd Brigade to advance and, working round to the north, to endeavour to get possession of some high ground
commanding the fort from this side. The 4th Brigade was then brought up to the Shagai Ridge from whence the enemy's left was to
be attacked. The share taken by the 51st Light Infantry in this day's action is described in different reports which have been
preserved and from which the following account is drawn.
Soon after arrival on the Shagai Ridge Colonel Madden was ordered to detach Bt. Major Burnaby's company to occupy a low range of
rocks on the immediate right to act as a baggage guard on the advance taking place , two companies under Captain Nugent were
sent to the extreme right, two more under Bt. Lieut.-Colonel Acton, with one under Captain Seppings in support, proceeded to
occupy a ridge to the right front; and B Company remained behind as a reserve.
Colonel Acton moved out with A and G companies under Lieutenants Burnett and Sparke, and on reaching the position which had
been pointed out to him he found the 14th Sikhs occupying it; he therefore moved A Company to the left and seems to have thus
lost touch with it, when he advanced with Lieutenant Sparke's company and took up a position among some rocks further to the
front. Here the party came under musketry and gun fire, and one man. Private Nelson, was mortally wounded, being shot through
the head. Colonel Acton now noticed a pathway which seemed to lead to a position from which he could get above the enemy
engaged with G, so leaving this company to keep the Afghans in play, he caught up the two companies, E and F under Captain
Nugent, and reached a commanding position from which he was able to fire down upon the enemy at a range of 800 yards, doing
considerable execution. Captain Nugent was here struck by a spent bullet and one man was wounded in the arm.
G. Company was now reinforced by B, which prolonged the line to the left and here Lance-Corporal Holland, of B Company, was
Day was now closing in and there appearing to be no sign of the effect on the enemy of any turning movement-the ground traversed
by the 1st and 2nd Brigades having been found to be extraordinarily difficult-General Sir Sam Browne ordered firing to cease, drew in
his brigades and put out outposts for the night. C and H Companies under Captain Seppings and Major Burnaby, with the 6th, 14th
and 27th Native Infantry, provided the outposts. At daybreak on the 22nd November it was noticed that the menace of the flank
attack had been effective, the fort at Ali Musjid had been abandoned under cover of darkness, and the enemy-who had mustered
some 3,800 strong, with twenty-four guns, had fled by the Pesh Bolak pass on the right of their position. On this morning B
Company brought in the brass gun which the previous day had been firing on the advanced companies of the 51st. The total
casualties sustained by the Peshawar Valley Force in the operations of the 21st, amounted to two officers and thirteen men killed,
one officer and thirty-three men wounded.
After the capture of Fort Ali Musjid the bulk of Sir Sam Browne's force proceeded leisurely through the Khyber Pass to Dakka, which
was reached on the 24th November, and here it remained halted for some weeks. The 3rd Brigade remained in garrison at Landi
Khana while the 4th held possession of Ali Musjid, and upon this force devolved the arduous duty of safeguarding the pass between
Shagai and Katta Kushtia, a tract infected with robber tribesmen and where raids on convoys, thefts of telegraph wire and similar
depredations were of daily and nightly occurrence. From Dakka on the 27th November General Sir Sam Browne issued the following
divisional order: " The Lieutenant-General Commanding has much pleasure in publishing the following telegram received last evening
from H.E. the Viceroy and Governor-General: " The Secretary of State sends you congratulations on successful operations against Ali
Musjid; I desire to add my most cordial ones on brilliant success which attended your operations against Ameer's troops in the
Khyber.' Lieutenant-General Sir Sam Browne in announcing the expression of satisfaction of the Government at the success of the
capture of Ali Musjid, begs to tender his thanks to the officers and men of the force he has the honour to command for the good
work they have done. He assures them he most fully appreciates the cheerfulness and soldierlike spirit with which they have borne
the roughing on the hillside, and the Lieutenant-General will not fail to bring to the notice of His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief
his approval and satisfaction of their good service." From the 24th to the 29th November there was constant firing into the camp at
night by the Zakka Khel Afridis and other tribesmen to the south-west of the pass, and for several days considerable numbers
assembled on the adjacent ridges. On the night of the 25th November a daring attempt was made to rush a small picquet composed
of one officer, one sergeant and fifteen men of the 51st Light Infantry, occupying a conical hill to the left of the Khyber stream, which
commanded the river bed and a track leading to the south-west. The picquet was commanded by Lieutenant Johnson and succeeded
in driving off the assailants. Sergeant Binge being severely, and four men slightly, wounded. Then on the 27th about 8 p.m. there
was an organized attack on the camp and the outlying picquets ; after an hour's heavy fighting this attack was repelled, but the
tribesmen seemed in such force in the neighbourhood of Ali Musjid that communications in the pass were interrupted for two days,
and were not re-opened until reinforcements of two battalions and some guns were, as a temporary measure, sent to Ali Musjid from
During the early part of December some changes were made in the distribution and composition of the Peshawar Valley Force; the
headquarters, under General Sir Sam Browne, advanced from Dakka to Jalalabad, and a Reserve Division which had been collected at
Hassan Abdal moved forward to Peshawar, when General Maude took over the command of all troops in that station and in the
Khyber Pass; the 4th Brigade of Sir Sam Browne's division was broken up and the battalions composing it were absorbed into the
3rd Brigade under Brig.-General Appleyard. It was now decided to punish the tribesmen mainly responsible for the recent attacks on
the camp at Alt Musjid, to move into the Bazar Valley where the greater number of the villages whence they had issued were
situated, to surround their strongholds and to attempt the capture of their leading men. With this object in view arrangements were
made for the simultaneous advance of two columns -the one from Ali Musjid, the other from Dakka, The Ali Musjid column, which was
accompanied by General Maude in person and commanded by Brig.-General Doran, consisted of three Horse Artillery guns, some
troops of the 11th and 13th Bengal Lancers, 300 of the 5th Fusiliers, 200 of the 51st Light Infantry, the 2nd Gurkhas and the
Mhairwara Battalion. The contingent of 200 of the 51st was provided by B, C and F Companies under Bt. Lieut.-Colonel Acton, and
comprised eight officers, nine sergeants and 204 rank and file. The force left Ali Musjid at 5 p.m. on the 19th December, Lieut.-
Colonel Acton's party moving in rear, and the idea being to surprise the village of Chora. This was reached an hour and a half before
daybreak, and after a brief halt the force marched on to China, where it arrived about 1 p.m. and here the troops remained for the
night, finding picquets on the surrounding hills ; it was intensely cold, the water freezing in the men's water bottles.
On the morning of the 21st December the Bazar Valley proper was reached, and smoke ascending from another part of the valley
showed that the Dakka column had also reached its destination; several of the enemy towers were blown up, but little or no
opposition was experienced, until the retirement of the troops commenced on the 22nd. The 51st was now leading the column, B
company under Captain Graeme forming the advance guard. The tribesmen being seen endeavouring to occupy some high ground on
the right of the route. Captain Graeme was sent to picquet it, supported by half of Captain Nugent's company, and these drove off
the enemy and held the heights until the greater part of the column had safely passed. One man of B Company, Private Ashmore,
received a contusion. Camp at Ali Musjid was regained the same night.
On the night of the 19th January, 1879, shots were fired into a picquet of the 51st consisting of six men under Lance-Sergeant
Beswick, posted on the south side of the Camp, and two men-Privates Downey and Gall-were wounded. Early the following morning
the camp was again disturbed, a robber breaking into the tent occupied by Paymaster Sergeant Webber and Orderly-Room Clerk
Kersley, when the former was severely wounded by a stab in the arm. With the withdrawal of our troops from the Bazar Valley the
Khyber Pass Afridis continued to give trouble, and the political officers made every effort to break up the tribal combination, and with
a certain measure of success. Certain branches of the tribe tendered their submission, but the attitude of the Zakka Khel continued
to be unsatisfactory, and Major Cavagnari, the political officer, suggested that the Bazar Valley should again be entered and
temporarily occupied, and that troublesome villages in the Bazar and Bara districts should in turn be visited. Major-General Maude
accordingly arranged for a second expedition by his troops in co-operation with a force from the 1st Division.
Three columns were to be employed : two to move from Jamrudand Ali Musjid, the one by Chora, the other by Alachi, and when
these two should have effected a junction they were to move on and join the column of the 1st Division from Basawal at the head of
the Bazar Valley. The three columns in combination were to scour the valley during three days, and then to move on to Bara, but by
some misunderstanding the Indian Goverment, when approving of the proposed operations, limited their duration to ten days, so
that General Maude was unable to carry out all that he had intended. The Ali Musjid-Alachi column was commanded by Brig.-General
Appleyard and was composed of two guns Royal Artillery, 213 officers and men of the 51st, thirty-one sappers, 312 of the 2nd
Gurkhas, and 320 of the Mhairwara Battalion. 311 of the 6th Bengal Infantry from Landi Kotal were also placed at General
The party of the 51st Light Infantry was made up from A, C, G and H Companies and was under the command of Major Burnaby.
The Ali Musjid force moved off on the 25th January, the 51st providing the advance guard and, moving by Alachi, reached the large
village of Karamna; here the towers were blown up and the troops passed the night. Next day the column moved on through a
narrow defile to the village of Burg, where the Jamrud party arrived at the same time. China was reached the same evening and here
the camp was " sniped " into throughout the night, but the casualties were few and nobody in the 51st was hit. From China two
columns moved out in different directions on the 27th January, meeting no opposition. That evening the column from the 1st
Division joined, and next morning a large force was sent out against the Afridis, who were in great strength, but only some fifty men
of the 51st, under Captain Kennett, took part in this day's operations.
For some days longer the combined force remained in the Bazar Valley, but at the end of that time the return of the column from the
1st Division was urgently demanded in view of a possible tribal attack on Jalalabad and Dakka, while it seemed probable that to press
the operations now in progress against the Khyber Pass Afridis might bring on a tribal war on a large scale-a result which was to be
avoided in view of our already sufficiently wide commitments. General Maude therefore decided to withdraw the whole force, the more
readily that certain terms of agreement had been made with the local tribesmen. On the 3rd February then the three columns retired,
and on the same night the party of the 51st, under Major Burnaby, rejoined headquarters at Ali Musjid. On the 8th March the 51st
Light Infantry was transferred from the command of Brig.-General Appleyard at Ali Musjid to the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division of
the Peshawar Valley Field Force, and was directed to march to Jalalabad, escorting thither the elephant battery of 40-pounders daily
expected from Peshawar. Wet weather, however, delayed the arrival of the battery at Ali Musjid and its onward journey thence until
the 17th March. Landi Kotal was reached this day by the 51st and the battery, and Dakka next day. Here orders were received that
300 men of the Regiment were to be employed on the following day on some special expedition, the nature and object of which were
not then disclosed, and B, E, F and H companies under Colonel Acton were detailed to hold themselves in readiness. On the night of
the 18th this party marched from Dakka to Basawal and took part in some operations against the Shinwaris in conjunction with
another force operating from Barakab. The operations were concluded without bloodshed, the Shinwaris at once complying with our
terms. The remainder of the Regiment overtook the four companies with Colonel Acton at Barakab on the 23rd March, and on the
24th the Regiment marched in to Jalalabad and encamped near Piper's Hill.
On the 29th the 51st Light Infantry was inspected by Lieut.-General Sir Sam Browne, who remarked that " he was glad to have the
Regiment in his Division again, and that it was a Regiment any General might be proud to have under his command."
On the 1st April, A Company, made up to 100 strong by men from C, commanded by Captain Kennett, with whom was Lieutenant
Milton, formed part of a force detailed to operate in the Lughman Valley with the view of effecting the capture or punishment of a
refractory chief, one Azamattalah Khan, who was believed to be inciting the people of the district to rise against the British. It was on
this occasion that nearly a whole squadron of the 10th Hussars was drowned in the Kabul River. The 51st marched from Jalalabad
towards Gundamuck on the 25th April, still escorting the elephant battery, and, halting one night at Neemlah and another at Baoli,
arrived on the 27th at Sated Sung, a village overlooking Gundamuck which lay some miles distant in the valley below.
The successes already achieved by the Peshawar Valley and Kurram Valley forces had caused the Amir hurriedly to leave Kabul and fly
to Turkestan, leaving the conduct of affairs to his son Yakub Khan. His assumption of authority afforded the Indian Government an
opportunity of opening negotiations, to which the Sirdar made a friendly response, and finally it was arranged that he should come in
to Gundamuck and discuss preliminaries of peace with the British representatives.
Accordingly Sirdar Yakub Khan reached Gundamuck on the 8th May, and the 51st Light Infantry, formed for this day only into one
brigade with the 17th Foot and 4th Btn. Rifle Brigade, assisted to line the road into camp. On the 26th May a treaty was signed by
the Amir on one side, and by Major Cavagnari, as representing the Indian Government, on the other, and by it the objects for
securing which the Government had entered upon war were believed to be amply secured. After ratification the Amir returned to his
capital, and orders were at once issued for the withdrawal of the two northern divisions, that of the Kandahar field force being
postponed until the autumn for reasons rather of health than of policy.
The order for the retirement by the Khyber line was issued by the Commander-in-Chief on the 31st May, and while all Indian
regiments were directed to march separately, the European troops of the 1st Division were grouped in five sections, each from 600-
700 strong and each in charge of an experienced medical officer. The 51st Light Infantry formed, with E/C R.A., the 3rd Section
under command of Colonel Madden with Surgeon Major G. J. H. Evatt in medical charge, and this Section started from Safed Sung or
Gundamuck for India on June 5th. " The temperature by day ranged from 110° to 118° Fahr. in the shade ; the nights were so hot
that sleep was impossible ; there were constant dust storms and swarms of flies ; water was scarce and generally bad. Surgeon
General Ker Innes's report gives a graphic picture of the state to which the miseries of this terrible march had reduced both officers
and men; ' their clothes were stiff from profuse perspiration and dust. Their countenances betokened great nervous exhaustion,
combined with a wild expression difficult to describe. The eyes injected and even sunken ; a burning skin, black with the effects of
sun and dirt, a dry tongue, a weak voice, a thirst which no amount of fluids seemed to relieve. Many of the men staggered, rather
than marched into their tents, and threw themselves down utterly incapable of further exertion until refreshed by sleep and food.'
Men thus weakened and dispirited fell an easy prey to disease of every kind. Those struck down on the line of march suffered
tortures in the rough bullock carts which carried them slowly forward to the nearest temporary hospital. At each camping ground
every regiment and corps left its toll of dead. . . . This march of death extended over a period of five weeks, from the end of May to
the beginning of July, and during that time there were 354 deaths from cholera among the European troops. Their Native comrades
suffered less severely, yet, even in their ranks, the mortality was heavy, and numbers of camp followers fell victims to the disease."
The death-rate on the Khyber line, in 1878-79, was 138.15 per 1000; in Peshawar cantonments it was 141.84 per 1,000, as against
5.33 in Fort William, Calcutta, and 5.34 in Bareilly!
Marching down from Safed Sung to India, the 51st was at Fort Battye on the 5th June, Rozeabad on the 6th, Jalalabad on the 7th
and reached Ali Bayan on the 8th; here cholera, which had already made its appearance in Jalalabad city, was detected among the
troops. On the 9th the Regiment was at Chardeh, on the l0th there was a fifteen-mile march to Girdi, and on the 11th the 51st
reached Dakka, where we read that " cholera was at work amongst us, and to-day again there were several seizures both of English
soldiers and native followers." On the 12th June the halting place was Landi Khana, where " the Khyber Pass enclosed us trailing
along between its familiar walls of brown. Especially oppressive was this latter portion of the march, made more so by the stenches
arising from rotting carcases which we came upon everywhere by the roadside. As we came near Landi Khana these became more
offensive than ever. Great bloated, overfed vultures were hovering about our destined night's camping place. A fetid unhealthy smell
tainted the whole place, while volumes of smoke denoted where the thrown-out straw and refuse from the cholera camp were being
burnt, and we wished ourselves anywhere rather than in this spot."
On the 13th June the Regiment camped at Katta Kushtia in the very narrows of the Khyber, where at midday the thermometer in the
tents stood at 130 deg., while " as the afternoon dragged itself slowly away cholera patients were being continually admitted to
hospital." Marching on, the 51st reached on the 16th June Hari Singh ka Burj at the outskirts of Peshawar, the city being then, as
described by Colonel Hanna, " a charnel house. All the hospitals were full of patients. On the parade ground was a large cholera
camp," and a picquet was ported on the main road from the Khyber to the Peshawar cantonments to divert the convoys of sick that
were continually pouring along it. At Hari Singh ka Burj the Regiment halted four days, and then moved on to Cherat on the 20th
June by a circuitous route avoiding entry into Peshawar. Headquarters with A, B and C Companies marched on this day, the
remainder on the 22nd, Cherat being finally reached on the 25th and 27th. Thirty-five men of the Regiment died during the month of
June, and of them we read in the Monthly Report dated 18th July : "Nearly every one of these deaths are due to the Regiment having
marched through the plains from Safed Sung to Cherat during the month of June, along a route where cholera was known to be
prevalent from Jalalabad to Peshawar. The men were utterly exhausted by the march, which, being most of it in an enemy's country,
entailed more hardship on the men."
During the month of July nine men died, as to whom the following appears in the Monthly Return of the 1st August: " Many of the
deaths are due to the excessive fatigue and hardships gone through on the march from Safed Sung to Cherat."
Greatly as the 51st suffered during what has appropriately been called "the March of Death," some of the British units of their force
had even more casualties during the return India-wards from the borders of Afghanistan , thus it is on record that " the Rifle Brigade
lost two officers and forty-six men, besides six men of sun stroke. Deputy Surgeon General Hanbury had to report, on the arrival of
the 17th Foot at Landi Kotal, that every officer and soldier in the Regiment was more or less sick."
The following is an extract from Division Orders by Lieut.-General Sir Sam Browne, commanding 1st Division, dated Peshawar, 19th
July, 1879 :
" The First Division Peshawar Valley Field Force having this day been broken up, Lieut.-General Sir Sam Browne takes advantage of
the occasion to place on record and acknowledge his appreciation of the discipline and good conduct of the troops lately under his
command. During the period of nearly eight months the troops have been in the field there have been only six applications for Court
Martial complaints on the part of the inhabitants of ill-treatment or marauding there have been none, in fact the Lieut.-General has
no hesitation in asserting that nothing could have exceeded the good conduct of the troops. Officers and men have on occasions
been ordered on expeditions trying to their endurance and undergoing great exposure and fatigue ; these they have always borne
with truly soldierlike cheerfulness and sense of duty.
" To all officers, non-commissioned officers and men the Lieut.-General begs to tender his sincere thanks, . . . To officers
commanding Batteries and Regiments Sir Sam Browne tenders his acknowledgments for the able and efficient manner in which they
performed their respective duties and the support and assistance they have invariably rendered him."
Of the 51st Light Infantry in particular the Lieut.-General made the following special report:-" The 51st K.O.L.I. is a Regiment
excellent in its discipline, and excellent in the soldierlike spirit it has shown always throughout the time it has been under my orders.
The state of efficiency reflects great credit on Colonel Madden and Captain Drury the adjutant, and I think therefore their services
should be brought to notice."
The weeks which now followed were for the 51st Light Infantry no more than a breathing space, the Afghan war was by no means
over, since the Treaty made at Gundamuck did not put an end to hostilities but provided only a brief suspension of arms. Shortly
after the ratification of the Treaty Major Cavagnari proceeded to Kabul as British Envoy, accompanied by an insignificant escort, and,
arriving at the Afghan capital on the 24th July, was cordially received, and for some ten days or more all seemed to be going well. As
early as the 6th August, however, indications of hostility were to be observed, the attitude of the people became inimical, relations
between the Embassy and the Amir became strained, and finally, on the 3rd September, an attack was made upon the British
Residency by regular Afghan soldiers and rioters from the city. The splendid soldiers of the Guides who formed the escort resisted
attack throughout the day, the defence was conduced with devoted gallantry, but at last numbers prevailed, the Residency, was
fired, and about 8 o'clock in the evening the last of the garrison was overcome and slain.
The first news of the outbreak reached India early on the morning of the 5th September, but it was not until night that a full account
of the extent of the disaster was received, when the Indian Government acted with commendable promptitude. It was decided that
Kabul must be occupied as early as possible, and to this end orders were issued that a strong column should move on Kabul via the
Shutargardan Pass, and that preparation should be made for the maintenance of its communications by the Khyber and Kurram
Major-General R.O. Bright, who it will be remembered had held temporary command of the 51st Light Infantry in 1861-2, was
appointed to the command of a division which was mobilized for the purpose of opening up and maintaining communications between
Jumrud and Kabul. The 51st was detailed, with the 22nd and 27th Punjab Infantry, to form the 2nd Brigade of this force under Brig.-
General C. B. Arbuthnot, C.B., and in compliance with orders received commenced its march westward from Cherat on the 29th
September. On this day, A and F Companies moved off towards Peshawar escorting 13/9 Heavy Battery Royal Artillery. These heavy
guns had been specially asked for by Sir Frederick Roberts, but had to be sent back on arrival in the Khyber owing to the difficulties
of the road. The remainder of the 51st left Cherat on the 12th October and, crossing the frontier at a strength of twenty officers and
402 other ranks, eventually reached Jalalabad on the 23rd October.
The Regiment did not proceed on service at full strength : B Company under Captain Carter with Lieutenant Cave-Brown-Cave
remained at Cherat with 207 non-commissioned officers and men, mostly time-expired men and invalids proposed for discharge,
while D Company was left at Subathu.
Jalalabad was to be Brig.-General Arbuthnot's headquarters, and the 2nd Brigade of Major-General Bright's division was to be
responsible for the safety of the line of communication between Basawal and Gundamuck.
On the 12th October the Amir Yakub Khan announced his intention of abdicating the throne, and later he was sent down to India, A,
C, E and F Companies of the 51st Light Infantry providing the escort for the ex-Amir from Jalalabad to Basawal, marching on the 4th
and returning on the 8th December.
Nothing of importance occurred on the Khyber line till the middle of December, when it became known that the force under General
Roberts at Kabul was being attacked by immense numbers of the enemy, and orders were received for the 1st Brigade of General
Bright's division to hold itself in readiness for an advance at any moment to Kabul, and how this affected the movements of the 51st
may be learnt from the account published in the Bugle for March, 1880.
" December 12th. A Company under Lieutenant Milton, E Company under Captain Smyth with Lieutenant Butler, and F Company
under Lieutenant Thurlow, marched at short notice under command of Colonel Acton from Jalalabad for Sated Sung ; a dreadful
march, the first three miles in the teeth of a blinding dust-storm. . . . 13th. Breakfasted at Fort Battye, march into Sated Sung with
much less fatigue than on the previous day's shorter march. . . . 16th. Colonel Norman was still at Gundamuck with some of the
24th Punjab Infantry, three companies 51st and a few details 9th Foot and Gurkhas being the garrison of Safed Sung. A telegram
was received from Jalalabad that headquarters 51st, and two companies of 45th and 24th would arrive next day. Late in the
afternoon a heliogram from General Charles Gough (commanding 1st Brigade) from Jagdalak-' Precedence, all posts attacked send
reinforcements, send news'-whereupon it was determined that the three companies 51st should march on the morrow for Pezwan, in
addition to the 24th Punjab Infantry already under orders. Captain Nugent rejoined his company from Jalalabad.
17th. At 8 a.m. A and E Companies with their own and F Company's baggage marched for Pezwan, F Company was to remain behind
till it was certainly known that the headquarters were coming in that day, so that Safed Sung should not remain quite empty. Half the
Company also were required for completing the clearance of Gundamuck. On arrival at Pezwan we found that Colonel Norman with all
available troops, some of which had marched that morning from Gundamuck, had started to open communications with General
Gough in response to a heliogram-' send a force to meet a party retiring from Jagdalak.' Norman took with him three companies
24th, forty-six men of 72nd, 150 Gurkhas, No. 6 Company Sappers and Miners and two guns-about 700 men. He asked for twenty-
five men of the 51st to hold Pezwan Kotal and signalling station whence they could see his advance towards Jagdalak for miles. As
the men were already tired with their march of 12 miles, volunteers were called for, and the required number came forward at once
and marched to the Kotal where they remained till dark. . . .
" 18th. At 8 a.m., leaving A Company as camp guard, E and F Companies, under command of Captain Nugent, with Captain Smyth,
Lieutenants Sparke, Thurlow and Butler, half a company of the 24th under Lieutenant Lambe, with supplies of food for Colonel
Norman's force, marched to reinforce him. . . . About a mile short of Colonel Norman's position a road branches off to the left or
south, up a nullah on to the enemy's right. Believing that Colonel Norman would attack him, and that we could come with effect on
his right at the same time. Colonel Acton, leaving F Company to go on with the food, turned off the road with E Company and the
half company 24th. The latter had formed the advance guard, crowning all the heights quickly and skilfully ; it now became our right
and advanced along the ridges, while E Company followed the nullah. ... It was not long before we came under fire. . . . As we
advanced the enemy soon cleared off our side of the hill. About this time we heard the ' retire ' being sounded with the 51st call.
Drawing in E Company to the right, Colonel Acton went over and conferred with Colonel Norman. As the latter did not think any good
was to be got in driving off the enemy, and that our object was really to communicate with General Gough, E Company and the half
company 24th were called in. Then seeing the Jagdalak party descending from the Kotal, E and F and the half company 24th moved
off to meet them."
The next few days and nights there was a good deal of long-range firing into the camp, convoys were passed through to Jagdalak,
and reinforcements came up from Safed Sung, about 150 strong of four different regiments. On the 24th Major Thackeray's force at
Jagdalak Kotal was very heavily attacked, necessitating support being given from Pezwan ; and on the 28th December E Company
marched to Jagdalak, being replaced at Pezwan by H Company under Captain Denshire with Lieutenant Corbett.
About this time the force at Pezwan under Colonel Acton, 51st comprised :
2 guns Royal Horse Artillery.
1 officer and 50 men, l0th Bengal Lancers.
6 officers and 150 men, 51st Light Infantry.
1 officer and 50 men, 24th Punjab Infantry.
4 officers and 80 men. Sappers and Miners.
" 29th. At 7.15 a.m. a telegram arrives from General Arbuthnot : ' send 2 companies 51st, 6 companies 45th and 4 guns to Jagdalak
if you can spare them.' In compliance therewith, A and F Companies 51st under Lieutenant Milton and Captain Nugent, 45th Sikhs
and 4 guns, left Pezwan, Lieutenant Thurlow acting as brigade major and Colonel Acton commanding the whole. No enemy appeared
to interrupt the march till past Jagdalak Kotal and in sight of Jagdalak camp. On passing the former an order was received for one
company 51st to stop there. This was afterwards cancelled and both companies went on to Jagdalak, but the delay prevented them
arriving till long after dark, when the enemy had retired some time.
" About 4 p.m. the advance guard-45th Sikhs and the guns- arrived within 1.5 miles of Jagdalak. . . . For some time since passing
the Kotal, we had heard guns firing, and we now learnt that the enemy was only on the right, and that he was endeavouring to get
at our expelled baggage and convoy which Colonel Norman was keeping him off: we were therefore to crown the heights on our
right. From the Kotal to Jagdalak, about 3 miles, the road follows a nullah, the half of which is steep and narrow. The heights on our
right, not more than 100 feet above us, shut out all further view, but on ascending one of these we were on a plateau and could see
three large standards on one hill, and many of the enemy there and on other hills on our front. Jagdalak camp was then in sight, and
the road being covered by Colonel Norman's troops our baggage and convoy could go on without escort, and the advance guard and
guns were free to ascend the high ground. They were accordingly brought up and the guns came into action at once. A few bullets
whistling over us showed that we were within range of the enemy."
It was decided wiser not to attack the enemy who was strongly placed and very numerous, and during the night he withdrew and the
road was once more open, on this day Private Salmon, 51st, was slightly wounded. On the 31st December F Company, with Captain
Nugent and Lieutenant Butler, and 2 guns, moved to the Kotal fort, A and E Companies remaining at Jagdalak. With reference to
these operations General Bright wrote in his despatch of the 15th January, 1880, that, " By the opportune arrival of of Lieut.-Colonel
Acton's force with guns of 11/9 R.A.,
the enemy's intention was frustrated and he was driven off to the distant hills, from which no further advance was made."
By a re-distribution of troops the 51st Light Infantry was placed in the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Kabul Field Force, the Brigade being
commanded by Brig."General W. Roberts and the Division by Major-General J. Ross.
On the 13th January, the headquarters of the 51st marched to Pezwan from Safed Sung; three days later A Company was also
brought in from Jagdalak; and on the ist February a very welcome reinforcement joined headquarters represented by a draft from
home of 2 sergeants and 213 rank and file, which had landed in Bombay on the 20th of the preceding October.
In the month of March there was a further change in the distribution of the troops, the recently created 2nd Division of the Kabul
Field Force being broken up, and the majority of the troops composing it now coming under command of Lieut.-General Bright, who
had been appointed Inspector-General of Communications; the line over which his authority extended was divided into three sections
extending from Jumrud to Basawal, Basawal to Safed Sung and Safed Sung to Butkhak; but the 51st Light Infantry was placed in
the Gundamuck moveable column, which, equally with the Jalalabad moveable column, was commanded by Brig.-General Arbuthnot.
Early in March the attitude of the tribes on the lines of communication became very threatening, the garrisons of Jagdalak and
Pezwan had to be reinforced, and an infantry regiment called up from the rear. " On the 22nd two officers of the 51st Light Infantry,
Lieutenants B.S. Thurlow and H.A.S. Reid, were attacked while riding between Jagdalak Fort and Jagdalak Kotal. Thurlow was mortally
wounded, and Reid, in trying to carry him off, had a desperate hand-to-hand struggle with an Afghan, and though he finally blew out
his assailant's brains, the approach of a large number of Ghilzais obliged him to abandon his friend's body, which was not recovered
till the following day." Lieutenant Reid received a bullet through his sleeve.
On the 11th April, General Arbuthnot's moveable column, strengthened specially for the occasion, and accompanied by Lieut.-General
Bright, started out to punish the Ghilzais implicated in Thurlow's murder. On the first night out the troops were much harassed by
the enemy, some of whom actually penetrated into the camp under cover of the darkness, and wounded four artillerymen beside
their guns. The chief of this section of the tribe came in on. the 13th offering submission, but his followers held aloof; and when next
day Colonel Acton with two mountain guns, a troop of the Carabiniers, and 600 infantry, pushed on to reconnoitre the Awazangani
Gorge, it was found to be very strongly held. Major Burnaby with A and C Companies, 51st, advanced towards the position with two
companies in support, and two others were ordered to attack the hill on the right. F and G Companies accordingly moved on,
accompanied by Colonel Acton. The enemy's fire was at first ineffective, but on nearing the position Private Dowling was slightly
wounded, the hill was ascended covered by the fire of the guns, and the Afghans withdrew, and G Company picquetted the hill while
the remainder of the column moved on to attack Mazulla Khan's fort and village. These were found deserted, and the column
bivouacked in and about them that night. As dusk came on the enemy began firing into the bivouac, continuing to do so throughout
the night, and shouting as though meaning to assault the position, and Sergeant McCarthy, 51st, was shot through the head and
On the next day 200 men of the 51st formed part of a reconnoitring party under Colonel Acton, which moved out to destroy some
villages, among them being those from which the men were supposed to have come who had murdered Lieut. Thurlow. There was
some opposition on retirement to camp and Captain Nugent was struck by a spent bullet.
On the 16th the column commenced to fall back on Pezwan, the 51st Light Infantry and 1st Gurkhas providing the rearguard and
remaining on the ground until the baggage and the rest of the troops had been withdrawn, and the fortified towers had been blown
up. The rearguard did not move off quite as soon as was intended, for a man of the 51st was reported missing, and search had to
be made for him, thus affording time for the enemy to draw near and take up positions from which to harass the retreat. On firing
being opened from the adjacent villages and orchards, Sergeant Rawkins, of the regiment, was early wounded in the leg. The
retirement was well conducted, the companies covering each other and taking up fresh positions, but three or four men of the 51st
were wounded, and the rearguard continued to be molested up to within a comparatively short distance of Pezwan.
On the 31st May the moveable column under Brig.-General Arbuthnot, consisting of 1 squadron 6th Dragoon Guards, 1 squadron
4th Bengal Cavalry, 2 guns Royal Field Artillery, the 51st Light Infantry, 1st Gurkhas and 31st Punjab Infantry-in all 1,605 bayonets
and 226 sabres-marched for the Lughman Valley in consequence of the threatening attitude of the local tribes. After halting one day
at Safed Sung, the march was resumed, and on the 4th June the force reached the bank of the Kabul River opposite the fortified
village of Salt Kali. Rafts were here prepared and the river was crossed on the 8th and 9th. These were two days of real hard work,
for the rafts had to be loaded and unloaded and dragged up stream after crossing. The next two days were spent in destroying the
forts of the principal offenders among the tribesmen, in seizing cattle and in cutting green crops for forage, these being the only
means of realizing a fine as the inhabitants had all disappeared. There was no opposition during these operations, and on the 11th
June the troops commenced to recross the Kabul River, picquets being ported to cover the crossing on a semi-circle of low mounds
forming a natural tete-de-pont to the ferry selected.
A and H Companies of the 51st formed the rearguard, and as they evacuated the positions they had held, these were at once
occupied by the Lughmanis, who opened fire. Major Burnaby was struck in the face by a spent bullet, and the rifle-stock of one man
of the 51st was smashed. The column having safely crossed, marched for Safed Sung, which was reached on the 15th June ; from
here, on the 20th, A, C and F Companies went on to Jagdalak. On the 4th July Headquarters with A, C, F and G Companies 51st,
assembled at Pezwan, H Company arriving next day, having had a slight skirmish on the road. On the night of the 4th a force moved
out from Pezwan under Colonel Acton, with the object of punishing the villages responsible for recent raiding between Pezwan and
Jagdalak, and especially a Ghilzai chief who had established himself at a village near Hissarak, and who had hitherto escaped
punishment for his many misdemeanours. The force was composed of 40 sabres 4th Bengal Cavalry, 2 guns Field Artillery, 200 rifles
25th Foot, 196 rifles 51st Light Infantry, and 94 men 31st Punjab Infantry.
As the column neared the offending village, the enemy's look-outs disappeared in the darkness and the neighbouring village of
Nargusai was reached at daybreak on the 5th without a shot being fired. Here the Pezwan force was joined by two squadrons of the
Carabiniers that had marched from Safed Sung, and shortly after the enemy was found ported in Strength on a ridge a little to the
east of the village. The western part of the position was rushed by the 25th Foot and very soon the whole ground occupied was
cleared. Nargusai and two small villages were burnt, arms and cattle were captured and grain destroyed, and the troops returned
having suffered but very trifling loss. The second phase of the Second Afghan War was now over, and the troops on the Khyber Line
were much occupied during July in forwarding back to India the huge accumulations of superfluous stores which had been collected.
On the 8th July the 51st Light Infantry was concentrated at Mardandan, and on the 9th August it started thence on its return march
to India, arriving at Peshawar on the 23rd August and Lawrencepore on the 2nd September.
On the 6th October the 51st Light Infantry marched from Lawrencepore to Jhelum, which was reached on the 15th, and here it
entrained for Umballa, where it arrived on the 18th, remaining until the 15th November. On this date Headquarters and B, D and G
Companies under Major Burnaby left by special troop train for Bareilly, arriving on the 17th;, and being joined here on the 3rd
December by C, E and F Companies under Captain Smyth. A and H Companies proceeded direct from Umballa to Moradabad, where
they arrived on the 18th November.
The India Medal of 1854 with clasp " Jowaki, 1877-78" was presented on parade at Bareilly on 6th May, 1881, to the 51st K.O.L.I. by
Brigadier-General J. I. Murray, C.B., who was in command of the Rohilcund District.
The issue of the clasp was authorized by G.O. 39, dated Horse Guards, 1st March, 1879.
The following extract from the London Gazette of the 7th June, 1881, gives the Battle Honours awarded to the Regiment for its
services in the Afghan War : " The Queen has been graciously 1881 pleased to permit the following Regiments to bear the words
specified below upon their Standards, Colours, or Appointments respectively in commemoration of their gallant behaviour during the
recent campaigns in Afghanistan. . . . 51st (2nd Yorkshire West Riding) King's Own Light Infantry- "Ali Musjid "-" Afghanistan, 1878-
80." The year 1881 brought great changes to the 51st Light Infantry, as to every other regiment of the British Army ; the old
numbers, which all had borne for many years, and under which they had won the Honours which officers and men so dearly prized,
were done away with, and for the future the infantry regiments of the Army were to be known only by territorial titles, shared with
other battalions with which henceforth they were to be linked. It is true that, as we have seen, the 51st had had some slight
connection with the 105th Light Infantry, the depot of which had at one time been attached to the regiment; while when in the latter
part of 1873 the Brigade Depot system was established, the 51st and 105th were both attached to the 8th Sub-District at
Doncaster. But the two battalions had always been entirely distinct and the officers were not interchangeable.
|Alexander McKenzie, 90th Foot & 51st L.I., 1871-84