A Collection of Medals for the Second Afghan War 1878-80
Date of Auction: 8th May 2019
Sold for £700
Estimate: £700 - £900
Afghanistan 1878-80, 1 clasp, Ahmed Khel (Capt. J. H. Broome, 2nd Punjab Cavy.) good very fine £700-£900
FootnoteJohn Howard Broome was born on 30 October 1842, in Calcutta, West Bengal, India, the 2nd child of Major-General Arthur Broome, C.S.I., Royal (Bengal) Artillery, and his wife, Julia Leonora Kent. In 1860, at the age of 18, he entered the Indian (Bengal) Army and by December of that year was performing duties with the 6th Foot. A series of postings occurred to various infantry regiments, until in October 1863, he joined the 2nd Punjab Cavalry, with whom he remained throughout his service and succeeded in gaining swift promotion. Whilst in India, he clearly enjoyed and took a very active role in the development of Polo. The first formal Polo match that was played in Calcutta occurred at the Calcutta Maidan, between the Barrackpore Club and the Calcutta Club and Broome was one of the players recorded as being present.
His first active service was experienced as a Squadron Commander and officiating second-in-command, 2nd Punjab Cavalry during the Jowaki campaign of 1877-78, for which he received the medal and clasp.
In December, 1877 he became officiating Commandant until June 1878. His next active service occurred during the Afghan War, 1878-80 and in October, 1878, he proceeded with his regiment to Quetta for duty with the Southern Afghanistan Field Force. During the Afghan campaigns, Broome greatly distinguished himself on a number of occasions, during significant skirmishes and battles.
On 4 January, 1879, the Advance Guard of the Quetta Field Force was under the command of Brigadier-General Palliser, C.B., who was advancing with two Divisions by two separate passes, (Khojak and Gwaja), to converge at the start of another pass at Taht-i-pul, en route to Kandahar. The Advance Guard was under the command of Colonel T. G. Kennedy, 2nd Punjab Cavalry, who instructed Captain Broome with 100 sabres to reconnoitre the route of march through the Taht-i-pul. It had been observed that a large body of enemy horseman and infantry were distributed on ridges along the pass and Colonel Kennedy instructed Broome to press ahead in his observation role. Broome covered the front throughout the operation to force the pass, feeding back information on the locations of the scouting enemy, which Kennedy’s guns were able to engage and drive back. Thus the pass was forced and on exiting the valley, Kennedy’s troops met up with the other column, which had advanced by a parallel route.
Captain Broome’s services were recognised and he was mentioned in Kennedy’s despatch of 9th January:
'Captain J. H. Broome, Squadron Commander, 2nd Punjab Cavalry – I must briefly record my hearty congratulations of the intelligent and bold scouting of the enemy’s positions by Captain Broome and his men.’
Broome had a “narrow escape” which was reported in The Times on 24th February:
“Captain J. Broome, 2nd Punjab Cavalry, had a somewhat narrow escape. Riding past a hamlet, an Afghan hastily advanced and had almost reached Captain Broome, when a native officer accompanying him exclaimed, “The Afghan has a knife”. Instantly the Afghan drew from concealment a long knife. Captain Broome checked his horse. The Afghan missing him, slashed at the native officer, but failed, and was captured. He awaits his trial”.
Broome’s next encounter with the enemy was during the affair at Khushk-i-Nakhud, during its advance to Kandahar, on 26 February 1879, although during this engagement, the 2nd Punjab Cavalry were to play no significant part, but Captain Broome did command a squadron of 2nd Punjab Cavalry, who were detached to the area as reinforcements following the action. Broome was mentioned in the despatch of Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. P. Malcolmson, 3rd Sind Horse, (London Gazette 7 November 1879).
The 2nd Punjab Cavalry, now part of the Ghazni Field Force under Lieutenant-General Sir D. M. Stewart, K.C.B., were heavily engaged at the action at Ahmed Khel on 19 April 1880. During the action, the 59th Foot, coming under considerable pressure, were ordered to pull back and were pressed hard by the enemy on foot. At this point, the 2nd Punjab Cavalry charged this body of enemy, driving them back. In this action, Broome was slightly wounded and was again mentioned ‘favourably’ in despatches.
It was on the 24 October 1879, that Captain Broome distinguished himself in the most gallant manner of his career – the celebrated charge of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry at Shahjui, a V.C. action in which Captain Euston Henry Sartorius, 59th Foot, was awarded the Victoria Cross.
A large gathering of Ghilzais was developing in the region of Shahjui, which intelligence suggested, was to launch an attack on British troops at Tazi. Brigadier-General Hughes, commanding, ordered a column consisting of 150 sabres 2nd Punjab Cavalry, 2 guns 11/11 Mountain Battery R.A., 80 rifles of the 59th Foot and 100 rifles of the 29th Bombay N.I. under the command of Colonel Kennedy, 2nd Punjab Cavalry, to move forward to an advanced position.
Shortly before daybreak, some fires could be seen in the distance and it was thought that these were the fires of the enemy’s picquet. From a previous reconnaissance, it was known that the village was a further 2 miles beyond the fires. Colonel Kennedy ordered Captain Broome to advance with 65 sabres and some rifles from the 29th Bombay N.I. and under cover from volley fire of the infantry, to drive back the picquet. Broome was then to advance to Shahjui and observe the movements of the enemy.
Captain Broome advanced and surprised the picquet, killing 5 and capturing 3 ponies. A few men escaped and made their way to Shahjui to raise the alarm. Captain Broome now advanced rapidly along the road leading to the village and seized an isolated mound in the plain just before the village. The enemy, totalling some 200 horse and 700 men advanced towards the mound to meet Broome, but at the same time, Colonel Kennedy had moved up to Broome’s position and the guns and volleys from the 59th Foot prompted the Ghilzais to decline battle and began to retire but were pursued by Kennedy’s troops and a running battle commenced over a distance of about 5 miles. The enemy then reached a high hill surrounded by broken ground and some of their number climbed to the summit which consisted of an old disused fort, upon which they planted 2 of their standards.
Colonel Kennedy ordered the 59th Foot under Captain Sartorius to move towards the hill, seize the surrounding ground with a view to assailing the summit, under cover of fire from Kennedy’s guns. This was achieved, which also dislodged some of the enemy’s horsemen from their position around the hill. Captain Broome’s troops, some dismounted, gave a volley and then began to retire. This prompted the enemy cavalry to unexpectedly dash after Broome’s men. Major Lance, 2nd Punjab Cavalry, with his squadron made a charge to the enemy’s flank and at the same time, Broome wheeled his squadron about and engaged. Now a spirited hand to hand fight ensued, where the enemy were eventually driven from the field, losing their standard and leaving their leader and 15 men dead.
Meanwhile, a small number of enemy still maintained the summit of the hill, seven of them remaining to put up a determined resistance – they were all eventually killed but not before a private of the 59th Foot was cut down and Captain Sartorius was wounded in both hands; he was awarded the V.C. for his gallantry.
In total, 56 of the enemy lay dead. In addition to the above two 59th Foot casualties, the 2nd Punjab Cavalry suffered one man killed and 27 wounded, all in combat with the enemy’s horsemen. Captain Broome, who had killed 2 of the enemy, was severely wounded with a sword cut to the head and had his horse killed from under him. The 2 Squadrons had 4 horses killed and 12 wounded, all from sword and lance.
Recovered from his wounds, Broome was next in action at the engagement at the village of Arzu on 23 April 1880, where with his regiment, guns of G/4, R.A. and a company of 59th Foot took up position on the left of the line of attack.
Captain Broome’s final engagement during the Afghan War was at Patkao Shana on 1 July 1880, at which Broome, with 52 sabres, was detached from the main force to watch over the village of Pathao Shana and the Logar Valley, whilst the main force followed the retreating enemy, some 1500 strong. During the action, Broome was able to alert Brigadier-General Palliser that an enemy horseman and 150 mounted followers were retiring in a different direction and were observing the British movements. Broome was again mentioned in despatches for his services, (London Gazette 22 October 1880).
For his services in the campaign, Broome received the medal and clasp and received promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel by Brevet.
His regiment returned to Dera Ghazi Khan in October 1880, and, in January 1881, he was again appointed second-in-command of the regiment.
In March, 1884, he went on furlough, returning at the end of 1885. Seemingly suffering from some ill health, a further period of leave followed between February 1886 and January 1887, whereupon he returned and joined his regiment at Edwardsabad. However, the gallant Colonel Broome died of Cholera on 11 August 1887, at the age of 44.
Sold with comprehensive research including a photographic image of the Officers of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry, 1871, featuring the recipient.
For a large double page hand tinted original The Illustrated London News engraving, depicting the Charge of the 2nd Punjab Cavalry in the Action at Shahjui on 24 October 1879, see Lot 202.