A Collection of Medals for the Second Afghan War 1878-80
Date of Auction: 8th May 2019
Sold for £4,600
Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000
Abyssinia 1867 (Captn. C. M. Griffith. Bombay Staff Corps); Afghanistan 1878-80, 1 clasp, Kandahar (Lieut. Col. C. M. Griffith. Bo. N.I.) both fitted with contemporary silver riband buckles, nearly extremely fine (2) £3,000-£4,000
FootnoteCharles Matthew Griffith was born at Poona on 19 October 1834, the son of Colonel Julius George Griffith, Bombay Artillery later General and Colonel Commandant, Royal (Bombay) Artillery) and his wife, Fanny Eleanor. He received a classical and military education at Cheltenham College and was nominated as a Cadet at Addiscombe, and passed the Military Committee at East India House, London on 4 February 1852. After being rejected twice for weaknesses in English, Latin and Mathematics, he was eventually admitted to Addiscombe on 6 August 1852, and passed his examinations on 8 June 1854, being commissioned Ensign, at the age of 19 years, in the Bombay Infantry on the same date.
He arrived in Bombay on 23rd September, 1854. He received the usual successive of postings and promotions. By 1868 he was a Captain in the Bombay Staff Corps and saw his first period of active duty during the Abyssinia Campaign, where he was tasked with organising and commanding ‘A’ Division Highland Transport Train, 1st Brigade of the 1st Division, Abyssinian Field Force. He also commanded the party furnished with stretchers for the removal of the wounded from the field of battle on 10th and 13th April at Arogee and Magdala.
For his services in this campaign, he was created Brevet Major on 15 August 1868 and was four times Mentioned in Despatches:
London Gazette 16 June 1868: ‘The bandsmen and a party of Punjab muleteers were also organised under command of Captain Griffith, aided by Lieutenant Gazelee, Transport Corps, and furnished with stretchers for the removal of wounded men from the field.’
London Gazette 30 June 1868: ‘Captain Griffith [and other officers] have distinguished themselves by their zeal and activity and deserve special notice.’
London Gazette 10 July 1868: ‘Captain Griffith [and other officers], Land Transport Corps, commanded the first Divisions that were raised, are strongly recommended by the Director of Transport Corps for the extent and value of their assistance.’
London Gazette 7 August 1868: ‘The organisation of the Transport Train, with the changes that occurred in the same having been shown, the working of the Train next comes into consideration, which commenced with the arrival of Captain Griffith and Lieutenants Mortimer and Hennell, with the advance Brigade... The Train was divided into four divisions... and Captain Griffith commenced the formation of “A” Mules... Difficulties and disasters met these officers at every step. Mules landed without equipment in hundreds, and with muleteers of the class already spoken of. At that time these officers having no subordinates had to look to everything themselves and this, with the scarcity of water and forage combined, led to a loss to the Army at this critical period of an immense number of mules... The pleasing task now remains of bringing to the special notice of His Excellency the names of such officers more especially deserving of his kind consideration, and whose efforts came under the personal observation of the Director, who from first to last, never failed... Captain C. M. Griffith, Bombay Staff Corps.’
Following this arduous campaign, Griffith was given furlough to the U.K. on private affairs from 10 October 1868 to 22 November 1870. His return to India saw further progression with his appointment as Brigade Major, Aden in November 1871, promotion to Major in June 1874, and to Lieutenant-Colonel in July 1877. In August 1879 he was appointed officiating 2nd in Command of the 1st Bombay N.I.
In his capacity as 2nd in Command, 1st Bombay (Grenadiers) Native Infantry, he accompanied his regiment to Afghanistan and joined them in the Bolan Pass in October 1879, being present at the battle of Maiwand, where he took command of the Regiment after Colonel Anderson was severely wounded, the defence of Kandahar, following the sortie to Deh Khoja, in which he was responsible for the men under arms at one of the city gates (Top-Khana), and the battle of Kandahar.
Many accounts were written and official reports required to be furnished by officers present at the military disaster of Maiwand, for there followed the usual inquest and enquiry following this defeat. Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith was amongst a number of officers who wrote his personal account of the action:
‘On the 26th July 1880, the force under Brigadier-General Burrows, which consisted of the following troops, though I am unable to give the correct numbers, were encamped, at Khushk-i-Nakhud, which is on the road from Kandahar to Girishk on the Helmand and distant from the former place about fifty miles:
E-B, Royal Horse Artillery; Detachment, 3rd Sind Horse; Detachment 3rd Light Cavalry; Detachment Bombay Sappers and Miners; 66th Foot; 1st Bombay Grenadiers; and Jacob's Rifles. It was generally believed, by slight information brought in by our cavalry patrols, which were sent out twice every twenty-four hours, that an Afghan force, consisting of about 20,000 men and 36 guns, under Ayub Khan, was not far distant; but such was the enmity against us in that country, that neither the political officers nor our own cavalry patrols were able to obtain reliable information either as to the correct numbers or the exact position of the Afghan force.
On the evening of the 26th July 1880, however, information was received that a few ghazis and some cavalry of Ayub Khan’s advanced guard had occupied the village of Maiwand, distant about eleven miles east of Khushk-i-Nakhud at the entrance of the Maiwand Pass; and during the night orders were issued for our brigade to march on Maiwand the next morning (27th July) at 6:30 a.m. The position occupied by Ayub Khan’s army at this time was unknown though it must have been within fifteen miles of us.
Owing to the large quantity of ordnance and commissariat stores which had been stowed away within walled enclosures at Khushk-i-Nakhud, and the loading of which took a considerable time, the force did not start punctually, and the sun was well up. and the heat considerable before we were all off the ground.
The force advanced with cavalry and two guns of E-B, Royal Horse Artillery, in advance; the infantry in line of columns at deploying distance; baggage on the right flank; and the whole brought up by a rear-guard of two guns and some cavalry, each regiment of infantry giving one company as baggage guards, in addition to which there were guards over ordnance and commissariat stores and treasure.
The march proceeded in this way until a village was reached about 9:00 a.m., when the halt was sounded. On the advance being sounded, the infantry, instead of being pushed through the village, was formed into mass of quarter columns and skirted it, re-forming line of column after passing it.
Shortly after this another halt was ordered and it soon became evident that touch of an enemy had been obtained. At this moment, to the best of my belief, not a soul in the whole force was aware that an Afghan army of upwards of 20,000 men and 36 guns were within a mile of us; but now this became apparent, for, with good field glasses, huge black moving masses, mistaken by many for trees, could be distinguished on our left front, and all haste was then made to prepare our force for battle.
A broad and deep ravine crossed the ground between our brigade and the enemy, and we were pushed across this; and on our artillery opening fire, it was speedily replied to by that of the enemy, who at once got our range. It was about 10:00 a.m., and the troops had had neither food nor water since the previous day.
The sketch of the action of Maiwand, drawn by Lieutenant the Hon. M. G. Talbot, R.E. when the field was re-visited in September 1880, gives a good idea of the relative positions of our brigade and the enemy, and from it it will be seen that while the 66th Foot and four companies of Jacob's Rifles were fairly placed under shelter in a small ravine, the 1st Bombay Grenadiers and two other companies of Jacob's Rifles were in the open, and subjected to a terrific fire from both guns and small arms throughout the battle. Notwithstanding this, and the heavy loss my regiment sustained (fully 150 in the fighting line alone), they stood their ground with perfect coolness for four and a half hours, without firing a shot for the first two.
For about the first two hours the artillery had it all to themselves; but it was evident our guns were not in any way telling on the enemy’s artillery, for their fire neither slackened nor did their aim become more inaccurate.
As above mentioned, very many casualties from round shot, shrapnel and shell occurred in the ranks of the 1st Grenadiers, and the fire was so heavy that dooly-wallas could not be got up to the fighting line to carry away wounded men. Up to this time the Grenadiers had not fired a shot, but had nevertheless withstood the terrible artillery fire with the utmost coolness. About 12 o'clock noon the enemy's regular, infantry were seen advancing on our front and left front, while ghazis and cavalry threatened our left flank. We were now ordered to open fire at 800 yards. At first volleys were fired by companies; but after a few rounds such was the din that words of command could not be heard, and independent firing was carried on along the whole line. This fire at once checked the advance of the enemy and did much execution in their ranks, but their numbers were so great that they were able to press on and in time quite outflanked the Grenadiers. Our cavalry were now moved to the left, and their appearance at this critical moment certainly arrested a most determined attack on our left rear.
About 1:30 p.m., being on the right of the Grenadiers, near two Royal Horse Artillery guns commanded by Lieutenant Maclaine, I saw the enemy bring up a battery of artillery and place them in a ravine about five hundred yards to my right front. With these guns were a regiment of regular infantry and numberless ghazis. I threw back the right company of my wing so as to bring a direct fire on the guns and infantry; but the cover they were under was so good that they did not sustain much loss, until some time after they made an advance and appeared on the open. Our fire was very heavy and accurate, and more than once the enemy retired into the nallah again and would not face us.
At about 2:30 p.m., when we had been under fire for more than four and a half hours, I first saw a retrograde movement on the part of the two companies of Jacob’s Rifles on our left. The guns had long since been withdrawn for want of ammunition, and this left a large gap between the Grenadiers’ left and the cavalry right, which the enemy seeing quickly made a rush for, and it became necessary to throw back the whole of the left wing of the Grenadiers to meet this attack. About the same time a most determined attack was made on the two guns on the Grenadiers’ right, and the regiment was ordered to form square, but only succeeded in forming a V-shaped figure, in which manner the whole regiment retired very slowly, keeping up a brisk fire, but being subjected to a terrible cross-fire from the right and left.
The line taken by the regiment retiring was a little to the then left of that taken by the infantry coming into action in the morning, but between the villages of Khig and Mahmudabad.
I have seen it repeatedly mentioned that the Native infantry rolled up on to the 66th Foot. As far as my own regiment is concerned, I most emphatically deny this statement. The Grenadiers never went near the 66th Foot, but retired in the direction above mentioned. I have been told by a brother officer that a few men did join the 66th Foot in the garden where the first stand was made; but the number was so small as not to be worth mentioning. The main body of the regiment on crossing the ravine joined the baggage guards which were there formed up, and made a gallant stand, killing hundreds of the enemy who followed us up to the ravine, but who could not, in the face of our fire, cross it.
About this time the 66th and other troops on our proper right were seen retiring from the garden, and so a further retrograde movement was made; more particularly was this necessary as a hot fire was being poured upon us from the village of Mahmudabad; but after this the men became perfectly out of hand. It was now about 4:00 p.m. and every one was utterly exhausted, having been without food or water for nearly twenty-four hours. The baggage was seen steaming along the straight road to Kandahar, and the men followed. Advantage was taken of baggage ponies and camels to mount the wounded on, and many were in this manner saved.
The enemy followed us up for some three or four miles, but not with vigour, being doubtless as much exhausted as we were. It is difficult to describe the terrible march of 45 miles in Kandahar performed during the night. Those of us who took the upper and more direct road obtained no water until we reached the Argandab river, nine miles from Kandahar; and no sooner had we slaked our-thirst and continued our march than we became aware that that the whole of the villages of Kokeran, Abasabad and the neighbourhood had turned out to arrest our progress and to kill and plunder. The men seeing this, collected in groups, and, with the assistance of the small force sent out from Kandahar under the late Brigadier-General Brooke to clear the road, fought their way through and eventually reached cantonments. Many, however were killed or wounded and cut up by the enemy.
On arrival at the cantonments of Kandahar, we heard that orders had been issued fur their abandonment and every one was seen hurrying into the citadel, whither also we went.
It is quite impossible to give an idea of the terrible sufferings of those who performed this march after exertions of the previous day and without food or water; suffice it to say that those who eventually did reach Kandahar were utterly prostrated for many days.
That nearly half of our losses, both European and Native, were sustained during the retreat, I think no one will deny.’
Other officers submitted accounts of the Battle of Maiwand which mentioned Griffith. Brigadier-General G. R. S. Burrows states:
‘The officers of the 1st Grenadiers exerted themselves in the utmost to steady their men. Lieutenant-Colonel C. M. Griffith was conspicuous in his efforts.’
Lieutenant-Colonel H. S. Anderson, Commandant of the 1st Bombay Native Infantry (Grenadiers), states:
‘As I was retiring, a part of the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry, under Captain Mayne, charged in rear of us and cut up many of the enemy. The cavalry came too close to us; the infantry continued retiring without formation. I was then hit by pieces of a shell in six places, one wound being severe- Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith, Second-in-Command, being near me. Immediately I was hit a Havildar and four Sepoys carried my to the rear, and put me in a dooly, which they carried themselves across the nallah, defending me against the enemy.’
Lieutenant W. C. Aslett, 1st Bombay Native Infantry (Grenadiers) states:
‘During the Maiwand fight I assisted Colonel Griffith in looking after the right wing. The Regiment lay down after the enemy opened fire with his guns. We did not fire a shot for a long time. The enemy’s shot and shell appeared to come from every direction, some almost enfilading us. While the men were lying down doing nothing, I tried to make out the enemy with my glasses, but, from the thick haze, what afterwards turned out to be masses of the enemy I took for plantations of trees.
After some time General Burrows came up and ordered “A” Company to fire a volley at the battery which was opposite to us, but such a distance off that only the smoke of their firing was visible. As we were flanked by our artillery we got a lot of the shot and shell aimed at our guns. After an hour of this we were ordered to advance, but, after going about 200 yards, again halted and ordered to lie down. Our artillery that was on our right did not advance with us, but fired from behind. I now could make out with my glasses that what I had taken for trees were large bodies of men.
The mass opposite us advanced towards us. From their dark dress and regular formation, I fancy that they were regulars of Ayub’s army. When at about 800 yards we gave it to them as hot as we could, and after a short pause they withdrew, and changing their tactics inclined towards our left flank, behind which, but some distance off, a great mass of the enemy had already got. At the same time an advanced of ghazis took place from the right front towards our right, on which was E-B, Royal Horse Artillery. Colonel Griffith wheeled back one company to face this attack, and the men were firing very steadily at them when the break up came.
The seventy rounds the men had in their pouches were quickly used up, and the first reserve was nearly finished. Owing to the rapid firing, the rifles became so intensely hot that the men could hardly handle them, and the breech action would not act. I was now engaged in supplying the fighting line with ammunition, as the bandsmen told off for this work did not keep them sufficiently supplied. I ow noticed that our left had wheeled back almost at right angles to our former line, and that the enemy were working still round it.
As I was returning with ammunition from the ponies, I was surprised to see a company on the right of the wheeled back companies of the left wing rise and at once lose their formation, and press back towards their present rear. I could not see over them to see the cause of this. I ran and tried to make them front and lie down like the rest of the regiment; they would not, and pressed back on the right wing. Colonel Griffith, the only officer I could see, called out, “Form groups.” The right wing then got up and looked round, but the left pressing on them threw them into such confusion that no formation could be made, and in half a second, how I cannot say, there was a struggling mass of the 66th, 1st Grenadiers, and Jacob’s Rifles, all pushing and shoving towards the right rear. They refused to halt and make a stand and even fire at the enemy who were coming close after us, but a few ghazis who came to our present front were at once bayoneted. Some one called out, “Let’s go to that village over there”, and the mass turned half left, and we must have gone over some the of the ground previously occupied by the enemy, as we stumbled over a great number of their dead.’
Surgeon A. H. C. Dane, 1st Bombay Native Infantry (Grenadiers) states:
‘A little after 2 o’clock the enemy’s fore became much heavier, and some guns that they had brought down on the right were enfilading the line. The Revd. Mr. Cane came up to me at this time and told me that there were a number of wounded men lying on the field, and he assisted me to collect some doolies and get the men to come to the front. I went, accompanied by two of my subordinates, and found in a slight depression in the ground, about 200 yards behind and to the right of the regiment, some fifteen or twenty men of the Grenadiers and a few Europeans, all of them more or less severely wounded. I was engaged putting these men into the doolies when some of the artillery and cavalry passed me going to the rear; and looking up, saw the infantry broken and retreating slowly, with thousands of ghazis amongst the ranks, cutting at the men. They were then some sixty to seventy yards distant.
I galloped to the nallah, and seeing that there was a general rout, I occupied myself in getting the loads thrown off the camels and tattus, and putting wounded men on them. About 200 yards across the nallah I was joined by Colonel Griffith, and shortly afterwards by Lieutenants Whittuck and Whitby and several other officers. We kept together till dark, when somehow we got separated.’
As a result of the Afghan campaign, Griffith was awarded the medal with clasp Kandahar and was Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette 3 December 1880).
Griffith was appointed Deputy Assistant Commissary of Ordnance, Transport Branch, at Poona on 5 December, 1882, and was promoted to Colonel on 8 June 1884. He retired with the honorary rank of Major-General on 10th June 1885. Major-General Griffith died on 31 December 1913, aged 79, in Winchester. He is buried in a family plot at Westhill Cemetery, Winchester.
Sold with comprehensive research, including Griffith’s personal account of the action at Maiwand.