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

Date of Auction: 8th May 2019

Sold for £400

Estimate: £400 - £500

Afghanistan 1878-80, 1 clasp, Ali Musjid (Capt. W. Atkins, 6th Ben: N:I:) scratching and pitting to obverse, otherwise nearly very fine £400-£500


William Atkins was born on 4 November 1842, in Cheltenham, the son of George Atkins, a Wine Merchant who operated from 18, Suffolk Square, Cheltenham and his wife, Maria Ophelia, (née Douglas). Atkins was educated at Cheltenham College, and was nominated for a Cadetship in the Bengal Infantry by Sir Frederick Currie Bt., a Director and later Chairman of the East India Company, on 17 May 1860 at the age of 18 years.

On 4 August 1860, he was commissioned as an Ensign and embarked for service overseas and joined the 6th Bengal Native Infantry on 10 September. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 January 1862, and in this capacity served in the Bhootan Campaign during 1865-6, likely being involved in the 2nd and 3rd expeditions across the border under Brig. Gen. Sir H. Tombs, V.C.

On 27 November 1869, he was promoted to Captain, and in this rank performed duties with the 6th Bengal Infantry in the Afghanistan Campaign of 1878-80. In October 1878 the Regiment was garrisoned in Lucknow under Colonel G. H. Thompson and were ordered to proceed to Afghanistan as part of the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, Peshawar Valley, Field Force, under Gen. Sir Sam Browne. He was present at the attack and capture of the Fort at Ali Musjid on 21 November 1878, and in the 2nd Bazar Velley expedition during February 1879. During this expedition, the soldiers were repeatedly engaged in daily skirmishes. The Despatch from Lieutenant-General Maude, which appeared in the London Gazette of 7 November 1879, records:

“On the same day, 28th (February), Captain W. Atkins, 6th Native Infantry, took empty camels back to Ali Musjid for a further supply of provisions. This party was attacked below the Prang Durrah heights, but owing to Captain Atkins’ judicious arrangements, not a man or camel was touched, while four of the enemy were seen to fall.”

On 4 August 1880, Atkins was promoted to Major and Second-in-Command of the Regiment. On 12 January 1884, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel upon his retirement. For his campaign services he was awarded the India General Service Medal 1854-95, clasp Bhootan (Lieut.) and the Afghanistan 1878-80 medal, clasp Ali Musjid, (Capt.) and Mentioned in Despatches.

In later life, he returned to his native Cheltenham and lived at 7, Montpellier Grove, where he died on 19 May 1916, from pneumonia, aged 73 years, leaving an estate valued at £8097-11-5. His housekeeper received the sum of £500, and certain silver items, including his military medals, were left to his sister, Harriet.

Sold with comprehensive research.