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Kandahar 1880
5th August -1st September 1880
Unit Awarded Battle Honour Subsequent designation
66th (Berkshire) Regiment 2nd Bn Berkshire Regiment
  2nd Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment
  Merged 1st Bn 1948
  1st Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment
  1st Bn D.E.R.R.
  1st Bn R.G.B.W.

 

The 66th (Berkshire) Regiment had been all but wiped out at the Battle of Maiwand which had taken place on the 27th July 1880. Two companies of that Regiment were located at Khelati-i-Ghilziar (Having taken no part in the Battle of Maiwand) and as such took part in what should more accurately be termed as 'The Siege/Relief of Kandahar' The Baggage party and stragglers of the 66th (Berkshires) made their torturous way from Maiwand to Kandahar where the main action took place on the 1st September 1880. Also making their way back to Kandahar from Maiwand were the survivors of the Indian Regiments,  where they all joined the troops already under siege. There were few troops available to relieve them, and General ROBERTS decided on a most dangerous plan, to march his force from Kabul, he was not strong enough to leave communications garrisons on route, so would be totally cut off and defenseless until he reached Kandahar and could only survive then if he could defeat the besiegers. His 10.000 troops reached the invested city on the 31st August and attacked the Afghan force under Ayub Khan the next day. They inflicted a decisive defeat on them capturing their camp and all their guns.

 

KANDAHAR AT LAST

The Stragglers of the 66th of foot

The stragglers of the 66th (Berkshires) coming into Kandahar  

(By Harry Payne)                       

 

The involvement of the two companies and those of the stragglers who survived the retreat from Maiwand were mainly restricted to manning the defences on the walls of Kandahar, and the occasional foray into enemy territory outside the city. Lt (Later Major) EDWARDS of the 66th (Berkshires) maintained a diary during this time and it is through that diary that we get a flavour of the situation that led to this battle honour. 

 

Lt C.W. EDWARDS

Lt C.M. EDWARDS the author of the following diary. Photograph taken 1881

 

Lt C. M. EDWARDS (66th (Berkshire) Regiment ) Diary of the Siege of Kandahar 1880.
27th July News arrived 1.30 am “Total defeat of General Burrows Brigade, The poor 66th (Berkshire) Regiment cut to pieces” Ordered at once to quit cantonments and retire into the fort. The whole day remnants of the Brigade kept coming in. Was very seedy and knocked up. Could not get ant transport to take away kits, so lost the lot. There need not have been such a hurry, I think but all was confusion.
 

The cantonments, Kandahar 1880

The Cantonments, Kandahar 1880 as described in Maj EDWARDS diary above
July 28th Our hopes of more arrivals were doomed to disappointment. On guard at 6 pm
29th July On guard all day. Very bad with fever
July 30th Hard at work, strengthening the place. Mounted gun on South Citadel redoubt. All Pathans ordered to leave the city.
July 31st Mounted guard Badurain Gate. Pathans were being turned out. Reports say 276 killed, 2 Officers and 25 men wounded, including doctor. Colours gone, Sorrowful day.
Aug 1st Smart skirmish with the enemy, Poona horse and 28th  they killed 25 men. 
Aug 2nd A lot of Ayabs force knocking about and several shots fired.
Aug 3rd n a working party outside the Heart Gate. The enemy and strong party had worked round fighting. One man, 28th N.I. killed, and one man, 7th R.F. wounded. Severe work. Bullets all over the place.
Aug 4th Day off doing company work. Heart gate guard.
Aug 5th Transport work and scouting party in afternoon. Not a shot fired at us. Very done, and glad to get to bed.
Aug 6th Nothing all day. Badurain gate guard. In evening Ayab-Khan mounted guns on Picquet Hill.
Aug 7th Orderly Officer, everyday work. Ayab still mounting guns.
Aug 8th First shell in Kandahar. One gun silenced. On guard Edghat gate evening.
Aug 9th  Working party under hot fire. Two men of the 7th wounded, and five natives. Ayab-Khan said to have 80 scaling ladders ready. Sixty rounds were fired into a deserted village, no one but the powers that be knew the reason why, Guns supposed to be there, but only a have.

 

Aug 10th

 

A few more shells, but no harm done. Beneral BROOK had nightmare, and having a mumbling in the stomach, said it was guns moving into position in front of the gates. Turned us all out, not a soul visible as was excepted. Topkhana gate guards.

The Citadel, Kandahar 1880, facing Topkhana Square. This sight would have been familiar to Maj EDWARDS and the troops of the 66th (Berkshires) when carrying out their duties at the Topkhana gate guard as described above in Maj EDWARDS diary
Aug 12th This morning we had 24 shells into us, not one doing the least harm. I buried Pte HOLMES in the morning, having the evening before put poor Cpl EVENS into his last resting place. My batman CUNNINGHAM, wounded in the arms, poor old fellow, I hope he will get safely over it.
Aug 13th KEYSE, from the tower, sighted Ayabs camp, and two shells from the 40 pounder's were put in. This somewhat led him, as they were remarkably well pitched, and he returned, but without doing any damage. Had the luxury of a night in bed.
 Aug 14th Not much going on, a little shelling as usual. I was ordered to assist with 50 men to mount a 40 pound gun on the S.W. Bastion. This was very tough work, and the men did it well too.
Aug 15th Same as usual. Was on Topkhana gate guard, and kept till 11 am 16th.
Aug 16th

A party of 300 Sowers and 800 Infantry (Europeans and natives) went out to attack a village opposite the Kabul and Badurain gates. This was thought to be lightly held, but sad to say this was not the case. It was strongly fortified and every house loop holed. We suffered fearfully. 14 Officers killed and wounded, and about 250 rank and file.. I was on the top Khana gate, and I think we bagged about 16 of the enemy from the Bastion. A gun on Piquet hill of the enemy said to be dismantled. A 40 pounder amongst the enemy’s staff must have created great damage and scare. Badurain gate in the evening all quiet.

Kandahar 1880

A photograph taken in 1880. In the background, Deh Kojah, scene of the sortie on the 16th August 1880 as described in Maj EDWARDS diary.
Aug 17th All wounded getting on well. At present no news.
Aug 18th Sale of CULLEAN and ROBERTS effects. I bought a gun and a few other things.
Aug 19th My day off, so took long rest. No more news, though lots of rumours floating about. Went out searching.
Aug 20th Letter from swell old woman, who says that in the fight the other day there were men of great note killed, about 90 regular troops, and a lot of villagers. During the action one of out Cavalry Regiments was seen by the enemy to disappear, and they thought it had gone to Chawan. They were in a tremendous funk, and were all night entrenching themselves, excepting us to attack. But what could we do ?
Aug 21st Padies GORDON'S sale, I bought Post horn. Poor CUNNINGHAM died.
Aug 22nd No news given out. Two letters came in, contents not known. A man shot outside Heart Gate, nothing on him.
Aug 23rd Sale of TRENCHES, and STAYNOR'S, also Col NEWPORT. No news.
 Aug 24th Dehkwaza quite deserted. We went and buried the dead, who were in a frightful condition. Most of them recognized. Plenty of “Bhosa” (Hay) and grain brought in, and plenty more there. Ayab Khan gone.
Aug 25th No news where Ayab Khan has gone to. He is fortifying the Baba Wali Kotal and evidentially intends to make it impassable. Said to be putting a gun on the Brigade Major. A cook of ‘G’ Company came in. Major VANDELEUR died after the operation of amputating his arm at the shoulder.
Aug 26th As usual a reconnoitering party went out. I went to the village of Deh Kwaza, no wonder we missed taking it.
Aug 27th Signaling with the Bengal Army commenced. ROBERTS wanted to know where Ayab Khan was, as if we knew, shut in Khandahar with useless cavalry
Aug 28th ROBERTS gave us his force----Three brigades, one mountain battery, One European cavalry, 3 Native cavalry. Kandahar was virtually relieved from this day
Aug 29th ROBERTS told us he would be in on the 31st, and would send his sick on. Although we sent the cavalry out we gained no news of him, but they saw some of the enemy’s cavalry behind piquet hill, so they came back.
Aug 30th All day on21the lookout for the General, and saw his camp pitched at Mohmud in the day He signaled with lamp all night.
Aug 31st ROBERTS marched in, and what a splendid force he has, the 92nd especially looking fine. He gave the men their breakfasts and immediately set off to attack the enemy, and gained a good position for a realm attack next day.

Sept 1st

Victory of Baba Wali (Or what ever they chose to call it) After some splendid and hard fighting we sent them to the right – about. Captured some 31 guns and their camp, and the Cavalry were ordered to pursue them for 15 miles. Poor McLEAN had his head cut almost off by the brutes, and his body was found and is to be buried tomorrow. Such an awful sight I never wish to see again.
Sept 2nd All day hard At working getting the contents of Ayab Khans camp and guns 36 are now reported to be in. The cavalry got amongst them in the retreat and did good work.
Sept 3rd rode and inspected Ayab Khans camp and in a good position it was too, but they never attempted to hold it, but bolted like blazes
Sept 4th Still working at the camp. I was on guard all day at the Shiker Pore gate to search and see no arms came into the city. Very slow work, but had the pleasure when I came back of getting letters from all friends, “By Jove” What it is to get letters after one has been shut up for five weeks.
Sept 5th Went up to see Sunrley and found he had gone out. No particular   news
Sept 6th Brigade marched out to Gorlestan – kurey, and an order for a force to go to Maihwand.
Sept 7th Force marched to Maihwand, PIERCE going and B……as a signaler. Very hot day. Very seedy
Sept 9th C.M. on prisoners taken by Ayab. Part of Payne's force going to Musia in the evening. We had rain, which I hope will produce a change of weather.
END OF DIARY

 

 

OTHER UNITS AWARDED THIS BATTLE HONOUR
9th Lancers Royal Fusileers
Seaforth Highlanders Kings Royal Rifles
3rd Sappers and Miners Gordon Highlanders
23rd Cavalary 3rd Skinners Horse
34th Poona horse 33rd Q.O. Light Cavalary
39th Central India Horse 38th Central India Horse
23rd pioneers 15th Sikhs
25th Punjabis 24th Punjabis
53rd Sikhs 52nd Sikhs
104th Wellesley's rifles 101st Grenadiers
128th Pioneers 119th Multan
2nd Gurkhas 129th Baluchis
4th Gurkhas 5th Gurkhas
 

 

SUGGESTED FURTHER READING
The History of the Royal Berkshire Regiment by PETRE, Vol 1

The 66th Berkshire Regiment, by J Percy GROVES

 
 
                             
 
                        
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                            Revised: 19 July 2006.