66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot

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66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army, formed in 1758 and amalgamated into The Princess Charlotte of Wales's (Berkshire Regiment) in 1881.[1]

The regiment was raised by the redesignation of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Regiment of Foot in April 1758, ranked as the 66th Regiment of Foot. In 1782 they took a county title as the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot.

Battle of Maiwand[edit]

It took part in the Battle of Maiwand in 1880. The bravery of the English soldiers astounded the Afghans. The British had effectively lost the battle and the Indian regiments fighting alongside the 66th were routing in disorder from the battlefield. Some men of the 66th were caught up in the rout but most of the remaining members of the regiment gathered around Lt Colonel Galbraith and tried to fight a rearguard action to protect the retreating Indian soldiers. 140 of them made a stand at the Mundabad Ravine, which ran along the south side of the battlefield, but were forced back with heavy losses. The Queen's Colour and the Regimental Colour became a focus of attention and several officers and NCOs were killed trying to keep the Colours aloft. Eventually 56 survivors made it to the shelter of a walled garden and made a further stand, while a few more ran to follow the retreating Indian soldiers. Eventually the 56 were whittled down to only 11 men (2 officers and 9 other ranks). These last eleven men charged out of the garden and fought, first with rifle fire and then with bayonets when they ran out of bullets, until they were overcome.[citation needed]

An Afghan artillery officer described their end. "These men charged from the shelter of a garden and died with their faces to the enemy, fighting to the death. So fierce was their charge, and so brave their actions, no Afghan dared to approach to cut them down. So, standing in the open, back to back, firing steadily, every shot counting, surrounded by thousands, these British soldiers died. It was not until the last man was shot down that the Afghans dared to advance on them. The behaviour of those last eleven was the wonder of all who saw it"[citation needed]

Officiers who died in the last stand in the garden included: Captain Walter Roberts, Lieutenant Maurice Edward Rayner, Second Lieutenant Walter Rice Olivey and Second Lieutenant Arthur Honywood.[2] Lieutenant Richard Trevor Chute, who had been ferrying ammunition to the soldiers, was not seen in the garden by any of the survivors and although he may have been killed there, it is also possible that he was one of the last eleven. The only officer who can definitely be identified as one of the eleven is Lieutenant Hinde of the Bombay Grenadiers.[citation needed]

William McGonagall wrote of the battle in his poem The Last Berkshire Eleven: The Heroes of Maiwand, which includes mention of Bobbie, the Regimental pet dog, who survived the battle:

And they broke from the enclosure, and followed by the little dog,
And with excitement it was barking savagely, and leaping like a frog;
And from the field the last eleven refused to retire,
And with fixed bayonets they charged on the enemy in that sea of fire.

Dr. John Watson, narrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories, was wounded while attached to the regiment at the Battle of Maiwand. He was on attachment from his own regiment, the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers.[3]

In 1886 a large memorial sculpture, The Maiwand Lion, was erected in Forbury Gardens, Reading.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Swinson, Arthur (1972). A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army. London: The Archive Press. p. 166. ISBN 0-85591-000-3. 
  2. ^ The London Gazette Dec 1880
  3. ^ Doyle, Arthur Conan (1887). "Chapter 1: Mr. Sherlock Holmes." In A Study in Scarlet.
  4. ^ "Maiwand Lion – Forbury Gardens, Reading". Reading Museum. 

External links[edit]

  • Casualties list [1] Link to the Roll of Honour website, compiled by Andy Chaloner

References[edit]


  • Book: Maiwand: The Last Stand of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment in Afghanistan, 1880 [2]