The Battle for Ghuznee
The advance on Kabul began on 27th June, the day that news was received of the death of Maharajah Ranjit Singh who had been ill for some time. On arrival at the town of Khelat-i-Ghilzai it was reported that the Dost was concentrating his forces at the fortress of Ghuznee 60 miles south of Kabul and the whole force moved on as rapidly as possible in that direction. Large numbers of Afghan horsemen from the local tribes were seen moving on each flank in the same direction clearly intent on joining up with the Dost. The Queen’s arrived some twenty miles from the fortress on 20th July very tired after several forced marches, and during the same day marched a further nine miles to join up with the leading column which they reached soon after midnight.
2nd or Queen's.
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On the twenty-first the whole massive force closed up to the south west side of the fortress. A right flanking move then took place which secured the high ground to the north-east from where the road to Kabul and the Kabul gate into the fortress could be covered by artillery fire. The 22nd May was spent in reconnaissance, rest and preparation for the attack, the plan for which required a night approach and breaching of the Kabul Gate before daybreak on the 23rd combined with a diversionary attack from the south. The storming party consisted of detachments of the Bengal and Bombay Sappers and Miners and the light companies of the Queen’s and the 17th Regiments, backed up by the 13th Light Infantry and the Bengal Native Infantry. The gate was breached just before dawn and the fortress was captured after a sharp fight during which the Queen’s had 4 men killed and 6 officers and 27 men wounded.
A Queen’s officer, Lieutenant Holdsworth, later described the battle. His account ended “The plunder now began, though to little purpose as prize agents were at the gates and made most of us refund. I managed, however, to get through a rather handsome spear, which I took from before the tent of one of the chiefs. The 13th and 17th, however, had the best of it at the citadel, which was also the palace, and where all the Dost’s women were. I hear that the soldiers have possession of some very handsome articles, which they boned there, I believe. After this young Dost, or to give him his right name, Hyder Khan, was found in a large hole near the citadel, with about twenty followers: they had some work, however, in securing him. About this time I saw the Shah, with the Diplomatic people, and Sir W.Cotton, enter the Fort and proceed to the citadel. The old Shah was mightily delighted, as he well might be, and expressed himself in raptures with the European soldiers. I was back again to breakfast in the mess by eight o’clock.”
|Fortress of Ghuznee
The storming column entering the Fortress of Guhznee before day-break on the morning of 23rd July 1839.
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Moving up at the double-march to get under cover of an old wall near the Gate, there to await its being blown up.
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On this occasion the brunt of the fighting was borne by the 13th and the 36th Bengal Native Infantry and afterwards the 13th insisted on shaking hands all round with the 36th, a measure of the mutual appreciation that existed between British soldiers and Indian sepoys which was sadly dissipated years later at the time of the Indian Mutiny.The capture of Ghuznee and the severe losses imposed on Dost Mohammed’s forces during the follow-up operations proved to be decisive. The Dost fled from Kabul which was occupied by the Indus Army on 7th August, and Shah Shujah was installed with much ceremonial although his reception by the people was cold. There was a grand review of troops before the Shah on 7th September in which the Queen’s took part, and on the 18th the regiment left Kabul to return to Quetta with the rest of the Bombay Division.
The Queen’s eventually reached Quetta on 31st October after a long and tiring march during which they had to be continually on their guard against marauding tribesmen. There was also a scarcity of provisions which necessitated frequent restrictions to half and sometimes quarter rations.