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

Date of Auction: 8th May 2019

Sold for £5,500

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

The Second Afghan War medal awarded to Lieutenant M. B. Salmon, West India Regiment, attached 30th Bombay Native Infantry (Jacob’s Rifles), who distinguished himself at the battle of Maiwand and was recommended for the Victoria Cross for gallantry at Kandahar

Afghanistan 1878-80, no clasp (Lt. M. B. Salmon. 30th Bo. N.I.) fitted with a contemporary silver riband buckle, a few minor nicks, otherwise good very fine £4,000-£5,000


Mordaunt Broome Salmon was born in Bombay on 17 October 1853, the son of Lieutenant-General William Broome Salmon, Bombay Staff Corps and Sarah, (née Welsh). He was commissioned on 19 August 1874, as Sub Lieutenant in the 2nd West India Regiment, joining them in Jamaica, where he remained until 1876.

On 19 August 1876, he was promoted to Lieutenant and transferred to the Bombay Staff Corps, on attachment to the 30th Bombay Native Infantry (Jacob’s Rifles). From Quetta, in April 1880, he marched with the left wing of Jacob’s Rifles to Kandahar, where initially he commanded detachments on the Kandahar-Charman road, following the tribal attacks on the posts at Gatai and Dubbrai. But, on 5 July, he left that place with Jacob’s Rifles as part of the Girishk Field Force - a Brigade comprising E/B Battery R.H.A., 3rd Scinde Horse, 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry, H.Ms. 66th Foot, 1st Bombay Grenadiers and 30th Jacob’s Rifles - which was to support the Wali of Kandahar’s troops in halting the advance from Herat of Ayub Khan, pretender to the Afghan throne.

Salmon commanded a company of Jacob’s Rifles during the skirmish on 14 July, which resulted in the capture of Wali Sher Ali’s guns from the enemy, and also in defending the baggage train along the Mundebad ravine at the battle of Maiwand on 27 July, 1880. When at one stage the baggage train was hard pressed by Afghan tribesmen advancing up the ravine, Salmon’s company counter-attacked with a detachment of Grenadiers, forcing the enemy back to the nearby village of Khig. Under orders to remain close to the baggage train, however, Salmon was unable to deploy his men to best advantage. He later recalled ‘…indeed, it was almost a certainty of being hit if any one got up from the ground and moved from place to place. Seeing this, the enemy became even bolder, and we were compelled to repel two very determined attacks which were made on the baggage later on.’

In the face of an overwhelming opposition and the whole force in disarray, Salmon’s company was forced to join the fighting retreat to Kandahar. The next morning, ten miles from the city, the column arrived at the Arghandab River, where five of the smooth-bore guns, ‘which had never been properly horsed or manned’, had to be abandoned. Salmon’s small group was crossing the river where one of the smooth-bores was abandoned and determined to save it. He succeeded in bringing the gun into Kandahar - the only smooth-bore to return.

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 Salmon was amongst a number of officers who wrote his personal account of the action:
‘At Khushk-i-Nakhud, on the night of the 26th July 1880, at about 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., the brigade received orders to march at 6:00 a.m. the following morning on the village of Maiwand, situated some ten miles distant in a northerly direction. Accordingly, on the morning of the 27th, the “rouse” sounded at 4:00 a.m., and the brigade marched off the camping ground at about 6:00 a.m.
The formation of the brigade was in line of columns at deploying interval, with the 66th on the right, Jacob’s Rifles in the centre, and the 1st Bombay Grenadiers on the left, with an advance guard consisting of two guns of E-B, Royal Horse Artillery, and some cavalry; also a rear guard of a few smooth-bore guns, captured from Shere Ali Khan’s rebellious army, and some cavalry under Colonel Malcolmson, 3rd Sind Horse. The whole of the baggage was massed on the right of the brigade, and marched in that position.
The march commenced, as I have said, at about 6:00 a.m., in the direction of Maiwand; and after it had continued for about three hours or thereabouts, some objects were sighted in the distance on our left flank. At first we were completely in doubt as to what they were, but after careful observation it became apparent that these were very large bodies of the enemy moving in a direction at right angles to our own line of march, and I may say in a direction from west to east, heading for the same village of Maiwand to which we were bound. To the best of my belief, a party consisting of two guns of E-B, Royal Horse Artillery, and a troop of the 3rd Sind Horse were sent to reconnoitre the enemy and send information to the Brigadier-General in command as to their strength and general disposition, and that after a lapse of a short time a note was received from the officer commanding the cavalry party that the enemy were in great force and strong both in cavalry and artillery, a fact which was very substantially corroborated by subsequent events.
The officer commanding was pleased to give an order for the line of battalions to change their front “half-left”, and advance in very much their former position over a small nallah which separated us from the enemy, and to move on for a considerable distance over a bare and stony plateau, on the extremity of which the enemy's hordes could now be seen drawn up in line to receive our attack.
I may mention here that the engagement was opened by Lieutenant MacLaine of E-B, Royal Horse Artillery, with two guns, which he had taken a considerable distance in advance of the fighting line, and opened fire on the advancing enemy with admirable effect; but as to whether the movement was undertaken on that officer's own responsibility, or according to orders he received, I am not in a position to state. The time when the first shot was fired was, to the best of my belief, 9:45 a.m. (and not 11:00 a.m. as I have seen frequently stated in various accounts which I have read in the different papers), as I, to the best of my recollection, looked at my watch when the first gun was fired; and from that have fixed the hour. Lieutenant MacLaine was allowed to continue his firing for nearly half an hour before the enemy deigned to give any reply; but my idea is, that they were not by any means prepared for such an attack, and it took them some time to get their numerous pieces of artillery into the position they desired.
However, the fighting line was advanced some 700 yards along this plateau and was disposed, to the best of my belief, as follows - viz., the 66th on the right and Jacob's Rifles in the centre; at first only one wing was in the line, but subsequently the other wing was also brought up, and two companies detached from the regiment to prolong the line to the left of the Grenadiers, who were on the extreme left of the line. The greater part of the artillery was doing the first part of the action, on the right, and also some of the cavalry, the remainder being disposed of on the left rear of the line, and some with the baggage-guard.
What occurred at the fighting line subsequent to the position they ultimately took up I am unable to state, as I was on baggage-guard that day, and it was my fate to remain behind at a distance of some six or seven hundred yards with the baggage, which was massed about the nallah crossed by the line in their advance. Some of the baggage remained on the far side; some was in the nallah itself, and a portion of it had come across the nallah and advanced a hundred yards or so on to the plateau already mentioned. An order had been communicated to us to take the baggage and dispose of it in a portion of the villages which were situated on our right front, when we took up the position I have already described. I may add that it was utterly impossible to carry out; this order, as the whole of those villages were fully occupied by a large number of the enemy, consisting of irregulars, ghazis and some horsemen.
About half an hour after the fighting line had formed up, the baggage was threatened by a considerable number of the enemy, who were collected, as I have said, in the villages and enclosures on our right front, and by a large body of men who had collected further up in the nallah, about half a mile from our position and to the immediate right of the fighting line. These men showed an inclination to come down the nallah and take possession of the baggage. The baggage guard consisted of about one company, say about 40 men, of each regiment. These men originally were dispersed along the whole line of baggage animals, but on seeing the baggage threatened in the manner I have mentioned, the officer who was in charge of the whole of the baggage party, viz., Major Ready, 66th Regiment, ordered the men of each regiment to fall in a thin and extended line of skirmishers, which fully covered the whole of the baggage in front, and also protected it to a certain extent on both flanks. This disposition being complete, the various officers on baggage-guard took charge each of his own men, and directed and controlled their movements and firing. The party of the 66th was on the right, under two European officers whose names I cannot now remember. The party of Jacob’s Rifles, under my command, were in the centre and the 1st Grenadiers’ party, under Lieutenant Whitby, were on the left. In this order we lay down under such cover as we could obtain, and were subjected to a most galling fire from the enclosures and gardens on our right, to which we could only occasionally reply, as the enemy were well under cover, and only presented a fair mark occasionally on entering or leaving the enclosures in question.
After this state of affairs had lasted for about an hour, Major Ready very wisely resolved to take possession of the nearest enclosures, so as to prevent the advantage of position being altogether on the side of the enemy. Agreeably with the above, we received an order from that officer to advance steadily up the nallah and attack and take the enclosures in question. This movement was accordingly carried out; the 66th party advanced determinedly on the right and entered some of the enclosures, driving out the enemy. The Jacob's Rifles party went up to the same enclosures on the left and fired upon the retreating enemy, killing a few and considerably hastening the movements of the remainder; thus, in a very few minutes, several of the enclosures, from which we had sustained a very heavy and galling fire, had fallen into our hands; and in my humble opinion it was clearly our correct role to keep possession of these enclosures (where our men could obtain safe cover and consequently act both on the offensive and defensive, when necessary, with all the greater confidence), and to have brought the baggage animals up behind and placed them under cover of the walls; but we had hardly been in possession a quarter of an hour, when we received an order from an officer who had joined the baggage-guard while we were engaged in taking the villages, to retire immediately, which was without doubt a most fatal step, as the enemy grew all the bolder as we retired, and the men were again subjected to a very heavy fire when retiring, and had to take up a position where there was little or no cover. It is needless to observe that the enemy not only speedily reoccupied the gardens and enclosures, but, emboldened by our retirement, came in greater numbers, and the fire we were obliged to sustain was proportionately greater; indeed, it was almost a certainty being hit if any one got up from the ground, and moved from place to place. Seeing this the enemy became even bolder, and we were obliged to repel two very determined attacks, which were made on the baggage a little later on. The officer who gave this order was Colonel Malcolmson of the 3rd Sind Horse.
During this time the battle had been raging in front of us with great fury. Owing to the dust and smoke we were not able to form any very accurate idea of what was taking place, but we could see the smoke of the infantry fire and the continual falling of the enemy’s shot and shell, which, however, seemed to us mostly to fall over the fighting line and consequently to be in a great measure harmless. The battle must have continued, to the best of my judgement, over four hours when we saw what seemed in the distance to us that the fighting line had risen, formed line, and charged. We could not see beyond the line, but we could see a very large number of ghazis and others on the right, who had not taken any part in the battle, going like a wave in front of our line, and thinking that our men had made a most successful charge, the men under my command gave a cheer and seemed very much excited. We watched the line move continually to the right, instead of to their immediate front, which first gave us cause to suspect something had gone wrong, but it was not till the whole of our line had disappeared into the villages that we could form any idea of the nature or the misfortune that had befallen our arms.
The line which up to then had formed a barrier between us and the fighting line of Ayub Khan’s forces being now removed, we plainly realised the fact that we were about to be exposed to the full shock of meeting a very large force face to face, which fact was quickly realised; for, as soon as the enemy found no substantial obstruction between them and the much-coveted baggage, they came straight for it. I am most happy to be able to state that, notwithstanding the nature of the sudden and powerful attack, the men of Jacob’s Rifles under my command behaved both coolly and regularly. They remained in the same extended order, and fired volley after volley into the advancing crowds with great deliberation and good effect. As a very large body of cavalry was beginning to turn our left flank (as we faced the enemy), I was obliged to retire, which was done in an orderly manner, the men turning about when directed and firing on the enemy.
This state of things continued until we reached the nallah crossed in the morning, where I found that Captain Quarry of the 66th Regiment had, with a few men, made a stand behind some mud walls. He called me to him and said, “I am going to stand here, I shall not go a step further; come and make a stand.” So I collected some of my men, who by this time, I regret to say; were somewhat demoralised, owing to the presence of so large a number of the enemy, who had brought up some of their guns and commenced shelling us with very great effect, and the enemy’s cavalry had also closed on us considerably. Owing to this circumstance I was only able to bring a very few men to the assistance of Captain Quarry, and I found that his own men had likewise begun to share the panic, which appears to have spread among the ranks in a wonderfully rapid and wholly incomprehensible manner; so that, between us, we could only muster about twenty or thirty men to make a stand. Matters being in this state; it appeared clear to me that we could do no possible good and were simply about to throw away our lives, and so requested Captain Quarry to come on, as it was useless to stand with only about twenty men. After a good deal of persuasion he began to retire slowly from the spot, but seemed both disappointed and disgusted.
After leaving these enclosures we came on to the whole of the field hospital, consisting of a large number of doolies containing sick and wounded; those who were not well enough to crawl out and get on to some animal and join the retreat were lying there, the dooly-bearers having all deserted long since. It will be a very long time before the sights I saw there are obliterated from my memory. As we passed, white men and black would put their heads outside the doolies and pray you in God’s name to save them, and not leave them in a helpless condition to be cut to pieces by the enemy, which was doubtless their ultimate fate, as there were no means whatever of carrying them. I must state here that I found both Surgeons Roe and Kirtikar with their sick whom they were very unwilling to abandon. They were very earnest in their solicitations for assistance, which I regretted excessively not being able to render them. After this the retreat became general. The whole of the three infantry regiments got completely mixed up, and the men straggled over many miles in their retreat to Kandahar.
I succeeded after some trouble in collecting a few of my men, and this I could not have done but for the timely assistance of Subadar-Major Haidar Khan, Jacob’s Rifles, whose conduct on that occasion was such as to call forth my warmest admiration, and I am most pleased at having an opportunity of bringing his name forward to notice as a brave and highly deserving Native Officer.
I say I was, through his assistance, able to collect some of my men, and made them march with the guns under Captain Slade’s command. I subsequently left them to go in search of my commanding officer; but as I have not been called upon to give any information concerning that dreadful retreat into Kandahar, I will close my report with the remark that unless a person is actually present and an eyewitness of a panic, it is quite impossible to conceive what extraordinary actions both white men actions both white men and black are capable of, and how utterly impossible it is to control their movements. This remark is made to account for the state of disorder in which the men of the various corps reached Kandahar, in spite of the many efforts made by the officers of all corps to rally and collect their men.’

Other officers submitted accounts which mentioned Salmon. Major J. T. Ready, 66th Foot, states:
‘On 27th July last I was in charge of the baggage guard of Brigadier-General Burrows’ force, marching from camp near Khushk-i-Nakhud on Maiwand. The guard consisted of 1 company, 66th Regiment, under Captain Quarry; 1 company, 1st Bombay Native Infantry, under Lieutenant Whitby; ands 1 company, 30th Bombay Native Infantry, under Lieutenant Salmon, with a treasure guard of the 1st Bombay Native Infantry and a commissariat guard of the 30th Bombay Native Infantry.
At about 11 a.m. our artillery opened fire on the enemy, who soon replied with thirty guns, and kept up the fire with vigour throughout the action. Finding that the enemy’s cavalry threatened our left flank, approaching in great numbers to within about 1,200 yards, I extended Captain Quarry’s company so as to cover the left front of the baggage and kept them off by their fire, which they did most effectually. I continued the line of skirmishers with half the company of Bombay Grenadiers, and made a similar disposition on our right front with the rest of the Grenadiers and the company of the 30th Bombay Native Infantry under Lieutenants Whitby and Salmon, who both did good work looking after their men.’

Colonel W. G. Mainwaring, Commandant of the 30th Bombay Native Infantry (Jacob’s Rifles) states:
‘After walking some distance across the maidan in the hope of striking the general line of retreat, which I saw was a long distance to my right, I was picked up by Lieutenant Geoghegan of the 3rd Light Cavalry, who kindly took me up behind him and carried me until we joined the retiring troops, which consisted entirely of artillery and cavalry.
Lieutenant Salmon, of the 30th Native Infantry, who had been on baggage-guard all day [and I understand had some sever fighting for its protection; but I am unable to bear witness to the fact, as it did not come under my personal observation], finding me without a horse and riding behind Lieutenant Geoghegan, most kindly insisted in my taking his pony, which I rode the whole way to Kandahar, Lieutenant Salmon having found the horse of Lieutenant Cole, who had been killed, which he rode for the remainder of the march.’

Major J. S. Iredell, 30th Bombay Native Infantry (Jacob’s Rifles) states:
‘I began to retire on foot, my horse having broken away from the syce, when the shell that killed Captain Smith exploded; ands almost immediately afterwards I was struck by a rifle bullet a few inches above the left ankle, causing a compound fracture of both bones. I endeavoured to get along with my arms around two soldiers’ necks, but soon found that impossible, and major Oliver, 66th Regiment, seeing my helplessness, asked Brigadier-General Burrows, who was the only mounted officer in sight, to lend me his horse, as I had just had my leg broken. The General very kindly at once dismounted and assisted Major Oliver in putting me on the saddle.
Captain Roberts, 66th Regiment, was also put on the horse in front of me. I was some time afterwards met by Surgeon Kirtikar of my regiment who, assisted by Lieutenant Salmon, took me off the horse and put me in a dooly. I very soon saw that the bearers, almost dying of hunger and thirst, were quite unable to carry me; so I was glad to be met again by Surgeon Kirtikar, who had come back with Colonel Mainwaring’s charger, and said I had better ride, as the bearers would otherwise leave me behind. So I was taken out of the dooly and put on the charger, and rode the whole of the evening and through the night.’

Surgeon K. R. Kirtikar, 30th Bombay Native Infantry (Jacob’s Rifles) states:
‘At daybreak [on 28 July, the day after the battle] I arrived at the Argandab river, where I had water. Here I met Lieutenant Salmon, a gun of E-B, Royal Horse Artillery, and Lieutenant Lawford of the Transport Department. Here the enemy was in view again. Bullets kept flying over our heads, and isolated and a handful as we were, with a gun serving as fit attraction for the enemy, our position was one of extreme danger. Lieutenant Salmon and Lieutenant Lawford I left behind, determined to bring in the gun, and I rode on.’

Salmon was one of only two European officers from Jacob’s Rifles to reach Kandahar safely. The regiment had suffered over 200 casualties at Maiwand but the remainder served throughout the subsequent defence of the city, having charge of the Bahar Durani Gate front, against Ayub Khan’s besieging force. Following the disastrous sortie to Deh Kwaja on 16 August, Salmon, together with Lieutenant Adye (attached from the 83rd Foot) distinguished themselves in rescuing a wounded officer, for which feat they were recommended for the Victoria Cross. The rewards being unforthcoming amongst the subsequent liberal ‘Afghan Honours’, the following account was published in The Homeward Mail on 31 May 1881:
‘The story of the gallant deed performed by these two young officers is thus told by an eyewitness of the affair. “On the morning of August 16, 1880, a party of the Fusiliers arrived at the Bahar Durani Gate, and reported that an officer was lying in a dooly badly wounded just outside the north of the village, and that he had been deserted by the dooly bearers. Lieutenants Salmon and Adye, who were near the gate at the time, immediately volunteered to go and bring the wounded officer in. Permission having been given, they both went over the wall by a rope ladder and proceeded in the direction of the village under a very hot fire, and having found the dooly brought the officer (Lieutenant Wood of the Fusiliers) in. Unfortunately their gallantry was not of much use, for poor Wood died very shortly afterwards.” The Victoria Cross has frequently been given for deeds of a similar nature, and we trust that the military authorities will not allow Lieutenants Salmon and Adye to go unrewarded, especially when orders and promotion have been conferred upon officers for services of a less dangerous nature.’

The Leamington Spa Courier, the newspaper of Lieutenant Adye’s home town, added further details of the rescue:
‘Two officers attached to Jacob’s Rifles, viz. Lieutenant M. B. Salmon, 2nd West India Regiment, and Lieutenant Walter Adye, 83rd Regiment, volunteered to run out 700 yards to the ‘ziarat’ and bring in Lieutenant Wood. Permission being obtained, they both went over the wall of the fort near the Bur Durani Gate, by means of a rope ladder, and succeeded in bringing poor young Wood to the ditch; he was subsequently removed to the inside of the fort, and died in about half an hour. To convey some idea of how severe the fire was under which these officers went to and returned from the ‘ziarat’ carrying Lieutenant Wood, it would be well to tell you that other officers looking on from the wall observed that owing to the dust thrown up by the bullets all round these two officers that they were at times almost invisible. During the return journey, one soldier of the Fusiliers, who was assisting to carry Lieutenant Wood, was shot through the middle (and died shortly after) about fifty yards after the shelter of the ‘ziarat’ had been left; another, and the only remaining one, was shot through the arm, the same bullet passing into poor young Wood’s side; also the unfortunate young fellow whose life these two officers were attempting to save received two or three more bullets in him before the ditch near the fort was reached, and while in the arms of his helpers... Lieutenant Adye [and presumable, by extension, Lieutenant Salmon] really deserves, if ever a man did, to wear on his breast the bronze Cross of Valour, for a nobler act than that performed by him has scarcely been recorded.’

Following service at the battle of Kandahar on 1 September, in which 30th Jacob’s Rifles formed part of the City Reserve, Salmon transferred to the Bombay Governor’s Body Guard, the 3rd (Queen’s Own) Bombay Light Cavalry, in February 1887, and became Captain and Squadron Commander in August 1887. He died at Neemuch on 30 December 1887, after an accident whilst playing polo in which he suffered a fracture of the base of the skull.

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

For the recipient’s sword see the following lot, Lot 197.