A Collection of Medals for the Second Afghan War 1878-80

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Date of Auction: 8th May 2019

Sold for £2,200

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,400

Six: Lieutenant-Colonel R. H. Brooke-Hunt, Seaforth Highlanders and H.M. Bodyguard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms

Jubilee 1897, silver; Coronation 1902, silver; Coronation 1911; Afghanistan 1878-80, 2 clasps, Charasia, Kabul (Capt: R. H. Brooke-Hunt. 72nd Highrs.); Egypt and Sudan 1882-89, dated reverse, 1 clasp, Tel-El-Kebir (Captn. R. H. Brooke-Hunt. 1/Sea: Highrs.); Khedive’s Star 1882, mounted for display in order as listed, the reverse of the lower arm on the last with small fitment from ex-cavalry style mounting, light contact marks, otherwise good very fine (6) £2,000-£2,400

Footnote

Robert Henry Brooke-Hunt, who was born in January 1846, the son of Charles Brooke Hunt of Bowden Hall, Gloucestershire, was appointed an Ensign in the 72nd Regiment in June 1865.

As related by him in a letter to The Times many years later, one of his early duties was to act as escort to five “Fenians” who were on trial for the murder of a Police Sergeant in Manchester in September 1867, marching them between Salford Prison and the Assize Court. All were found guilty and executed.

Advanced to Lieutenant in July 1869, he served as Regimental Instructor of Musketry from March 1876 to March 1879, and was promoted to Captain in the latter month. Shortly afterwards, he saw action in the Second Afghan War with the Koorum and Kabul Field Forces, when he was present at the night attack on the rear guard at Zahidabad, and mentioned in despatches for his gallant leadership of a Company of the 72nd ordered to scale and capture one of the enemy’s positions at Charasia on 6 October 1879. Brigadier-General T. D. Baker’s despatch, dated at Kabul on 10 October 1879, and which was published in The London Gazette on 16 January 1880, takes up the story:
‘The 72nd Highlanders, under the very able command of Lieutenant-Colonel Clarke, advanced with a flanking company in extended order, which was directed to crown the heights on the left. This company, under the command of Captain Hunt, soon became engaged with the enemy, who showed themselves in considerable force on the extreme summit of the ridge, which overlooked and commanded our line of advance. It was therefore imperative on the troops to gain possession of this point before the general advance could be pursued.’


Accordingly, as stated by Baker in his despatch, he reinforced Brooke-Hunt’s men with two companies of the 5th Gurkhas, under Major FitzHugh, with Captain Cook, V.C., and 200 men of the 5th Punjab Infantry under Captain Hall. He continues:
‘After two hours fighting the ridge on the left was carried, and in the retreat of the enemy from the high peak, which had represented so great an obstacle to our advance, they were exposed to a very heavy cross fire, by which they experienced a considerable loss; the general advance was then immediately sounded, and the enemy’s first position was carried in the most dashing and gallant manner by the 72nd Highlanders and the men of the 5th Goorkhas and the 5th Punjab Infantry. The 72nd Highlanders, being the leading regiment, bore the brunt of the early part of the engagement on this flank, as will appear by the number of their casualties, and right well were they commanded by their several company leaders, under the able direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Clarke, who was ably assisted by Lieutenant & Adjutant Murray ... Captain Hunt [Brooke-Hunt], 72nd Highlanders, and Lieutenant Chevenix-Trench, 5th Goorkhas, also did good service on the occasion of this operation, which was ably carried out under the immediate orders of Captain Cook, V.C.’


Private McMahon, who may well have been under the command of Brooke-Hunt, was recommended for the award of the Victoria Cross, ‘who by his courage and coolness and forward position he held in the advance, followed as he was by a few Goorkhas, was to a great extent instrumental in expediting the taking of the extremely strong position referred to on the left flank, and which offered so great a resistance to our advance’, continued Brigadier-General Baker. 

Brooke-Hunt was subsequently present in operations around Kabul and Sherpur, and at the final repulse of the enemy (Medal & 2 clasps). He saw further active service with the 1st Battalion out in Egypt, where he was present at the seizure of the Suez Canal east of Ismailia and at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, in addition to the occupation of Zagazig and Cairo (Medal & clasp; Khedive’s Star).
On 15th May, 1885, the old Queen’s and Regimental Colours of the 1st Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders were returned to the Queen at Windsor Castle, Captain Brooke-Hunt having the honour of carrying the Queen’s Colour, and Brevet Major Ferguson the Regimental Colour, both of which were presented to the Queen by Colonel Stockwell and afterwards laid up at Windsor Castle.

Brooke-Hunt gained advancement to Major in September 1885 and was placed on half-pay as a Lieutenant-Colonel in January 1894. Appointed to the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms in February 1896, the Colonel remained similarly employed until taking his retirement in December 1920, a period in which he was present on parade at the Jubilee of 1897, in addition to the Coronations in 1902 and 1911. He died at Hundleby House, Spilsby, Lincolnshire, on 1 July 1939.

Sold with comprehensive research including a photographic image of the recipient.