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

Date of Auction: 8th May 2019

Sold for £1,700

Estimate: £800 - £1,200

The Second Afghan War medal to Captain E. D. Shafto, Royal Artillery, who was killed in the magazine explosion at the Bala Hissar, Kabul, in October 1879

Afghanistan 1878-80, 1 clasp, Charasia (Capt: E. D. Shafto. R.A.) lightly polished, therefore very fine £800-£1,200


Edward Duncombe Shafto was born on 14 June 1842, at Houghton le Spring, County Durham, the son of the Rev. Arthur Duncombe Shafto and Dorothea (née Wilkinson). Shafto became a Gentleman Cadet on 1 April 1859, and was eventually gazetted as Lieutenant in the 9th Brigade, Royal Artillery, on 1 April 1861. A month later, he was posted to Dover with the 4th Battery, 2nd Brigade.

In June 1864, Shafto was appointed Orderly Officer to Colonel Ormsby, in the South Eastern District, until some time in 1866, when he was selected as Aide-de-Camp to General Sir A. Borton, commanding a Brigade in the Curragh, Ireland. In July 1870, he accompanied the General to take up a command in Bangalore of the Mysore Army, in the Madras Presidency. He was promoted Captain on 12 August 1874.

In 1875, he returned to England following the General’s termination of his command, where he took an intense course at Shoeburyness and was then offered a post as Instructor. This he turned down to become Adjutant of the 16th Brigade, R.A., at the Mount, Madras.

On the outbreak of war in Afghanistan, volunteers were sought from the Artillery and Shafto was one of the first to step forward, doing duty in the Kuram Valley during the first campaign. Upon the renewal of hostilities, his abilities being further recognised, he was appointed Ordnance Officer to the Force under General Roberts on his advance to Kabul. Shafto was present at the battle of Charasia on 6 October 1879, which paved the way to the occupation of Kabul.

Reaching Kabul in October 1879, the Force settled into their new new surroundings. The Bala Hissar, a fortified castle on a hill above Kabul formed part of the camp and some of its rooms and mud huts were used as an arsenal. Captain Shafto made full provision for the storage of munitions, etc. It was four days later on 16th October, that a terrible and violent series of explosions occurred at this location and Captain Shafto was amongst those killed.

Shafto’s heavily disfigured body was found the next day, with extensive face and chest injuries, so his body was only recognised by some marks on his stockings. He was buried with full military honours on the west side of Siah Sang, with a large number of Generals and Officers attending.

General Roberts wrote, ‘His bright intelligent face won my heart the first time I saw him and I never expect to replace him.’
At the Church of St Brandon, Brancepeth, Co. Durham, a window in the East end memorialises Shafto:

‘To the memory of Edward Duncombe Shafto, Captain of the Royal Artillery, who lost his life in the explosion at Bala Hissar, Cabul, Oct. 16, 1879, aged 36.’

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