E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

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E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby susancammas » 27 Feb 2015 08:01

Good morning

My great grandfather was in India around 1877 - 1882 and served as a gunnner in E/A RHA.
Do any of the experts on Second Afghan War happen to have any détails about the role and action of this battery in this war?
When did they arrive in India and when did they return to GB?

Many thanks
Susan
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby Maureene » 28 Feb 2015 00:25

You can get information from the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Stations of the Royal Artillery in India
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Station ... y_in_India

From 1883-1885 E Battery was based in Meerut, so if your grandfather returned to England before then, he did not return with E Battery. Either his period of service had ended, or he returned on medical grounds.

If his Battery served in the Second Afghan War, he would have been awarded a medal. You can check the medal rolls on Ancestry.
If the Battery did serve in the Second Afghan War, the Firepower Museum may be a source of information about the Battery's role.

Cheers
Maureen
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby susancammas » 01 Mar 2015 20:39

Many thanks indeed for all your help Maureen.
Unfortunately I do not have much to go on concerning great grandfather Tom because I have only been able to gather one or two official documents concerning his time in the RHA.
I know for sure that he was in India in 1879 (birth certificate of his daughter) and that he was in A Brigade at the time.
I also know for sure that he was in Pzeqh
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby susancammas » 01 Mar 2015 20:51

Many thanks indeed for all your help Maureen.
Unfortunately I do not have much to go on concerning great grandfather Tom because I have only been able to gather one or two official documents concerning his time in the RHA. I'm afraid I don't have a complete story.
I know for sure that he was in India in 1879 (birth certificate of his daughter) and that he was in A Brigade at the time.
I also know for sure that he was in Peshawur in 1880 because I have a doc (WO Form 619) where he signed on for further service to complete 21 years and a second daughter was born in Meerut in 1882. I know for sure that he was back in England in 1888 where he signed on for further service beyond 21 years.


SO, he could have been there BEFORE 1879 and he could have left AFTER 1882.

As for medals, I fear that documents in his file concerning this must have been lost or damaged because I have searched EVERYWHERE to no avail!
Is there a separate list of people who received medals?

Again many thanks for all your help.
KInd regards
Susan
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby Maureene » 02 Mar 2015 05:53

My post above said you could check the medal rolls on Ancestry. I'm not sure whether you have done this, but if you have and there is no record, this means that the Battery did not serve in the 2nd Afghan War, but was only involved with garrison duties.

This does not surprise me. Without having any knowledge about the Horse Artillery's role, It seems to me likely that the terrain of Afghanistan was not suitable for Horse Artillery Batteries.

Cheers
Maureen
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby susancammas » 02 Mar 2015 19:47

Hi Maureen

I did indeed consult the « Military » section of Ancestry about my great grandfather Tom and came up with absolutely nothing – no service records and no medals

This is quite surprising because I did find several pages of (rather illegible) info about him on

http://interactive.ancestry.com /1219 ………..

but no mention of medals. I can’t remember how I stumbled across this site.

What is so surprising is that on the first page of the documents it says : Public Record Office – World War One Soldiers’ Documents WO 363 and at the bottom of each page it says :
Source Information : www.ancestry.com Database : British Army WW1 Service Records,1914-1920

and the pages concerned my greatgrandfather Tom’s military career in the 19th century !!

There’s something very bizarre going on !!

I must say, I have reservations about the quality of information found (or rather NOT found) on the Ancestry site).

As far as action in Afghanistan is concerned, I have come across numerous references to the RHA in the Second Afghan war, but I think I’m going to give that a rest for the moment !

Thanks for all your help.
Susan
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby Frogsmile » 02 Mar 2015 23:04

The only RHA unit that saw action in the 2nd Afghan War was E Battery of B Brigade at the battle of Maiwand.

When the flanking native infantry broke and left HM 66th Regts flanks in the air, E Battery / B Brigade Royal Horse Artillery (Captain Slade commanding) and a half-company of Bombay Sappers and Miners under Lieutenant Henn (Royal Engineers) stood fast, covering the retreat of the entire British Brigade. E/B RHA kept firing until the last moment, two sections (four guns) limbering up when the Afghans were 15 yards away, but the third section (Lt Maclaine) was overrun.

Maclaine was captured and held as a prisoner in Kandahar, where his body was found at Ayub Khan's tent during the British attack on 1 September, apparently murdered to prevent his liberation. The British guns captured during the action were also recovered at Kandahar.

E/B RHA came into action again some 400 yards back. The Sappers and Miners retreated as the guns withdrew. Henn and 14 of his men afterwards joined some remnants of the 66th Foot and Bombay Grenadiers in a small enclosure at a garden in a place called Khig where a determined last stand was made. Though the Afghans shot them down one by one, they fired steadily until only eleven of their number were left, and the survivors then charged out into the masses of the enemy and perished. Lt Henn RE was the only officer in that band and he led the final charge.

In addition to E Battery of B Brigade, the only other artillery units awarded battle honours in the 2nd Afghan War were Mountain Batteries, namely 1st 2nd 3rd 4th and 6th.
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby susancammas » 04 Mar 2015 14:41

Goood afternoon Frogsmile

Thank you for your detailed information about the Second Afghan War.
What brave men E/B battery were!

From WO Form 619, I know that my great grandfather Tom was in E/A battery - Major Murdoch's battery. So, I googled Major Murdoch and found the following:

From «Afghan Campaigns of 1878, 1880 : Historical Division» by Sidney H. Shadbolt

page 160

E Battery, A Brigade RHA

« In January 1880, Battery E/A RHA, under the command of Major W. W. Murdoch was moved up from Mian Mir, whither it had proceeded twelve months before from Umballa, to Peshawar, and for a period of ten months served as a unit of the Peshawar District Force, which was commanded successively by Major-General Ross and Brigadier General Hankin. On the District Force being reduced to a peace footing in the autumn of the year, the battery quit Peshawar and proceeding to Mirat, went into quarters ».

page 176

« A Major W. W. Murdoch commanded E/A RHA throughout the period it was employed in the war. »

I believe that the battle of Maiwand took place on 27th July 1880 so I'm not quite sure what to understand by the fact that E/A battery was part of the Peshawar District Force at that time. What was the role of E/A battery?

I'd love to hear your opinion and thoughts on this.

Many thanks
Susan
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby Frogsmile » 16 Mar 2015 16:17

susancammas wrote:Goood afternoon Frogsmile

Thank you for your detailed information about the Second Afghan War.
What brave men E/B battery were!

From WO Form 619, I know that my great grandfather Tom was in E/A battery - Major Murdoch's battery. So, I googled Major Murdoch and found the following:

From «Afghan Campaigns of 1878, 1880 : Historical Division» by Sidney H. Shadbolt

page 160

E Battery, A Brigade RHA

« In January 1880, Battery E/A RHA, under the command of Major W. W. Murdoch was moved up from Mian Mir, whither it had proceeded twelve months before from Umballa, to Peshawar, and for a period of ten months served as a unit of the Peshawar District Force, which was commanded successively by Major-General Ross and Brigadier General Hankin. On the District Force being reduced to a peace footing in the autumn of the year, the battery quit Peshawar and proceeding to Mirat, went into quarters ».

page 176

« A Major W. W. Murdoch commanded E/A RHA throughout the period it was employed in the war. »

I believe that the battle of Maiwand took place on 27th July 1880 so I'm not quite sure what to understand by the fact that E/A battery was part of the Peshawar District Force at that time. What was the role of E/A battery?

I'd love to hear your opinion and thoughts on this.

Many thanks
Susan


As a start point Susan we need to understand the seeming myriad of confusing reorganisations that the RHA units went through as then it should be easier to see how they fitted into the big picture. Here then is the chronology that I have been able to discover online:

Royal Horse Artillery brigades did not exist as an organizational or operational grouping of batteries until 1 July 1859 when the Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery was formed. It commanded all the existing horse artillery batteries of the Royal Artillery.

◾A Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery at Aldershot
◾B Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery at Woolwich
◾C Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery at Cahir
◾D Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery at Bombay (Mumbai)
◾E Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery in Bengal
◾F Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery in Bengal
◾G Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery at Portobello Barracks
◾H Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery at Madras (Chennai)
◾I Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery at Woolwich
◾K Battery, Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery at Aldershot

As a result of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British Crown took direct control of India from the East India Company on 1 November 1858 under the provisions of the Government of India Act 1858. The Presidency armies transferred to the direct authority of the British Crown and its European units were transferred to the British Army. Henceforth artillery, the mutineers most effective arm, was to be the sole preserve of the British Army (with the exception of certain Mountain Artillery batteries). On 19 February 1862, the Bengal, Bombay and Madras Horse Artilleries transferred to the Royal Artillery as its 2nd to 5th Horse Brigades.[lower-alpha 3]

The 1st Brigade with 10 batteries was much larger than the other four (with four to seven batteries each). A reorganization of the Horse Artillery on 13 April 1864 saw 1st Brigade split as A Horse Brigade, Royal Artillery and B Brigade, 2nd Brigade become C Brigade, 3rd become D Brigade, 4th become E Brigade, and 5th become F Brigade. As battery designations were tied to the brigade the battery was assigned to, the batteries were also redesignated. A Horse Brigade, RA comprised:

◾A Battery, A Horse Brigade (A/A) - formerly A Battery at Curragh
◾B Battery, A Horse Brigade (B/A) - formerly B Battery at Dorchester
◾C Battery, A Horse Brigade (C/A) - formerly C Battery at Woolwich
◾D Battery, A Horse Brigade (D/A) - formerly G Battery at Woolwich
◾E Battery, A Horse Brigade (E/A) - formerly K Battery at Dublin

From 1866, the term "Royal Horse Artillery" appeared in Army List hence the brigade was designated A Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery from about this time. Another reorganization on 14 April 1877 saw the number of brigades reduced to three (of 10 batteries each). A Brigade absorbed the batteries of the old B Brigade (which was reformed with the batteries of the old C and D Brigades).

The number of brigades was further reduced to two (of 13 batteries each) in 1882. C Brigade was broken up on 1 April 1882 and its batteries transferred to A and B Brigades. The brigade system was finally abolished in 1889. Henceforth, batteries were designated in a single alphabetical sequence in order of seniority from date of formation.
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby susancammas » 17 Mar 2015 18:35

Good evening Frogsmile and again many thanks for all this interesting information.
I'm going to digest it thoroughly before I rush into print again!
Susan
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby Garen » 17 May 2015 16:05

Hello Susan

I'm not sure when E/A left India, but I think they arrived somewhere around April/May of 1877.

Your g-grandfather may not have been with them though - men in the RA and RHA seem to have transferred Batteries more often than those who were in the infantry.

E/A RHA were stationed at Peshawar and served as part of the Peshawar District Force from Jan 1880. There wasn't much action up there at that time - probably mainly on garrison duties. I don't think they received the Afghan medal so probably didn't cross the border (?).

The papers you found, filed under WWI, would indicate that as well as his Victorian service he served in WWI (not necessarily on the front line!) - quite often old service papers were added to the WWI papers in those cases.

Best - Garen
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby susancammas » 17 May 2015 22:39

Good evening Garen

Many thanks for the info. Together with input from Maureene and Frogsmile I’m beginning to fill in many of the blanks in my great grandfather Thomas’s military career.

Re the document filed under WWI on Ancestry,

Great grandfather Thomas was born in 1849, so that would have made him about 65 at the outbreak of WWI!
However, the poor man died on 23rd January 1892 (aged 42!) in England. A number of years in India (I’m not sure when he went there or when he returned to UK) must have ruined his health. He died when still a gunner in Royal Artillery in 4 Redoubt, Maker. He died of “bronchitis ten days, failure of heart’s action” according to his death certificate. That being said, he was probably one of the lucky ones in so far as he actually made it back to GB, but for how long?

(Health and climate issues in India are part of another ongoing thread that Mureeene has been helping with).

Thanks to all
Susan
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby mike snook » 18 May 2015 01:11

Frogsmile old man I have to beg to differ in just a couple of respects about events at Maiwand, the subjects being artillery command and last eleven.

In fact E/B battery was commanded by Major George Blackwood RHA. Captain John Slade RHA had been the battery second-in-command, but had then been co-opted onto General Burrows' staff as his orderly officer.

The British had provided the (friendly) Wali of Kandahar with half a dozen smoothbore guns, but when push came to shove on the Helmand his troops defected to the other side taking the British gifted guns with them (plus ca change). The British cavalry and E/B battery gave chase to the mutineers and recovered all the guns. At that point Captain Slade was stood down from the staff and tasked with commanding the 'Smoothbore Battery' as they called it. This consisted of 4 x 6-pdrs and two 12-pdr howitzers which means it was ordnance of 1850s vintage. To man his guns Slade was given 17 seconded NCOs and gunners from E/B and 1 & 42 from the 66th Regiment (the officer being Lt Granville Faunce). Two artillery subalterns (Fowle and Jones) were found from elsewhere to command the battery's other two divisions.

As you would expect Blackwood's E/B Bty had half a dozen 9-prdr RMLs. His subalterns were Lts Newton Fowell (yes another Fowell/Fowle, but at least spelt differently!), Hector Maclaine and Edward Osborne. The battery was 4 & 141 strong at the battle (after the detachment of the 17 to the ad hoc battery).

Slade's Battery ran out of ammunition during the artillery duel and was sent to the rear to replenish. This was on balance an ill considered move as it badly rattled the nearby sepoy companies by suggesting that the gunners thought the game was up. With no guns to command, Slade rode across to speak to Blackwood. Lt. Fowell was wounded not long after his arrival, so he took command of his division. Not long afterwards the battery commander himself was severely wounded, at which point Slade took command of E/B Battery. Blackwood was unable to complete his journey to the aid post and, exhausted by the effort, sat down behind one of the 66th companies to help the company commander judge the ranges of his volleys.

Ten of 12 guns were saved and extricated from the immediate area of the battlefield (though that was not the end of the story); 2 of the 9-pdrs, Hector Maclaine's, were overrun, in large part because he seems not to have immediately responded to Slade's trumpeter, but thought he could get in another round of case-shot. Wrong call. Lieutenant Edmund Osborne's guns got away only because he pretty much sacrificed himself for them, at one point fighting mounted with his sword, while at another he was seen personally 'hooking in' one of his guns.

During the overnight retreat the unwatered and exhausted artillery horses were dying at such a rate that Slade was forced to abandon 5 of the 6 smoothbores, in order to have enough draught animals left to pull the four 9-pdrs back to Kandahar.

Lieutenant Thomas Henn was not one of the last eleven. He had earlier been wounded in the arm, but was killed by a headshot during the defence of a walled garden in Khig. His two European NCOs, Sgt Heaphy and Cpl Ashman, and 14 of his Indian soldiers fell around his body. George Broadwood, earlier wounded in the leg, lost his life in the same general area. The last eleven broke out of the garden and made it a short distance before being hemmed in. They are customarily thought of as Lt Richard Shute, a line officer of the 66th but acting as the quartermaster, Lieutenant Charles Hinde, the adjutant of the Bombay Grenadiers, and nine NCOs or privates of the 66th whose names, sadly, are not known. Of course legend has it that Bobby the dog was the twelfth member of the regiment to break out of the garden and the only one of them to survive.

Poor Hector Maclaine wandered from the line of retreat in search of water and had the misfortune to be captured. He was held for a month and then murdered.

E Battery's losses were 2 & 19 killed and 2 & 14 wounded. 63 of its horses were killed in the battle and another 46 died of exhaustion/dehydration on the way back to Kandahar. Fowell was the only battery officer to survive, (unless we also count Slade, who of course did not start the battle with E/B). Fowell was evidently a lucky man as an enemy 6-pdr roundshot knocked the iron tyre off one of his 9-pdrs which then flew off and broke his arm. Notwithstanding this he attempted to continue fighting his guns, until Slade, perceiving that he was far too badly hurt to do so, ordered him to the rear.

Gunners were a lot tougher then. :D

As ever

Mike
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby leanhnam220 » 22 Aug 2015 03:28

This topic is interesting
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Re: E battery A Brigade Royal Horse Artillery

Postby Frogsmile » 26 Aug 2015 17:03

mike snook wrote:Frogsmile old man I have to beg to differ in just a couple of respects about events at Maiwand, the subjects being artillery command and last eleven.

In fact E/B battery was commanded by Major George Blackwood RHA. Captain John Slade RHA had been the battery second-in-command, but had then been co-opted onto General Burrows' staff as his orderly officer.

The British had provided the (friendly) Wali of Kandahar with half a dozen smoothbore guns, but when push came to shove on the Helmand his troops defected to the other side taking the British gifted guns with them (plus ca change). The British cavalry and E/B battery gave chase to the mutineers and recovered all the guns. At that point Captain Slade was stood down from the staff and tasked with commanding the 'Smoothbore Battery' as they called it. This consisted of 4 x 6-pdrs and two 12-pdr howitzers which means it was ordnance of 1850s vintage. To man his guns Slade was given 17 seconded NCOs and gunners from E/B and 1 & 42 from the 66th Regiment (the officer being Lt Granville Faunce). Two artillery subalterns (Fowle and Jones) were found from elsewhere to command the battery's other two divisions.

As you would expect Blackwood's E/B Bty had half a dozen 9-prdr RMLs. His subalterns were Lts Newton Fowell (yes another Fowell/Fowle, but at least spelt differently!), Hector Maclaine and Edward Osborne. The battery was 4 & 141 strong at the battle (after the detachment of the 17 to the ad hoc battery).

Slade's Battery ran out of ammunition during the artillery duel and was sent to the rear to replenish. This was on balance an ill considered move as it badly rattled the nearby sepoy companies by suggesting that the gunners thought the game was up. With no guns to command, Slade rode across to speak to Blackwood. Lt. Fowell was wounded not long after his arrival, so he took command of his division. Not long afterwards the battery commander himself was severely wounded, at which point Slade took command of E/B Battery. Blackwood was unable to complete his journey to the aid post and, exhausted by the effort, sat down behind one of the 66th companies to help the company commander judge the ranges of his volleys.

Ten of 12 guns were saved and extricated from the immediate area of the battlefield (though that was not the end of the story); 2 of the 9-pdrs, Hector Maclaine's, were overrun, in large part because he seems not to have immediately responded to Slade's trumpeter, but thought he could get in another round of case-shot. Wrong call. Lieutenant Edmund Osborne's guns got away only because he pretty much sacrificed himself for them, at one point fighting mounted with his sword, while at another he was seen personally 'hooking in' one of his guns.

During the overnight retreat the unwatered and exhausted artillery horses were dying at such a rate that Slade was forced to abandon 5 of the 6 smoothbores, in order to have enough draught animals left to pull the four 9-pdrs back to Kandahar.

Lieutenant Thomas Henn was not one of the last eleven. He had earlier been wounded in the arm, but was killed by a headshot during the defence of a walled garden in Khig. His two European NCOs, Sgt Heaphy and Cpl Ashman, and 14 of his Indian soldiers fell around his body. George Broadwood, earlier wounded in the leg, lost his life in the same general area. The last eleven broke out of the garden and made it a short distance before being hemmed in. They are customarily thought of as Lt Richard Shute, a line officer of the 66th but acting as the quartermaster, Lieutenant Charles Hinde, the adjutant of the Bombay Grenadiers, and nine NCOs or privates of the 66th whose names, sadly, are not known. Of course legend has it that Bobby the dog was the twelfth member of the regiment to break out of the garden and the only one of them to survive.

Poor Hector Maclaine wandered from the line of retreat in search of water and had the misfortune to be captured. He was held for a month and then murdered.

E Battery's losses were 2 & 19 killed and 2 & 14 wounded. 63 of its horses were killed in the battle and another 46 died of exhaustion/dehydration on the way back to Kandahar. Fowell was the only battery officer to survive, (unless we also count Slade, who of course did not start the battle with E/B). Fowell was evidently a lucky man as an enemy 6-pdr roundshot knocked the iron tyre off one of his 9-pdrs which then flew off and broke his arm. Notwithstanding this he attempted to continue fighting his guns, until Slade, perceiving that he was far too badly hurt to do so, ordered him to the rear.

Gunners were a lot tougher then. :D

As ever

Mike


Mike, profuse apologies, I have only just seen your fascinating rundown of the gunners activities at Maiwand. Thank you for taking the time to type out the details of such a gripping sequence of events along with the activities of the characters involved, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It was starkly illuminating to read the unvarnished facts and corrections to some of my earlier received wisdom too. As you say, the gunners were certainly tough back then, when muzzles could still be and often were, just yards from the enemy.
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