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The 92nd Gordon Highlanders
1874 - 1886

DURING the time the 92nd was at Mooltan, a detachment of one company, relieved at fixed intervals, was furnished for a post at Dira Ismail Khan; and the monotony of station life was further broken by the visit of headquarters and one of the wings of the regiment, under the command of Major G. H. Parker, to Lahore, to be present on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales to that place. The strength of the wing, which set out on the 13th of January 1876, was 362; and on its arrival at Lahore a Guard of Honour was told off, which encamped in the grounds at Government House, while the remainder went under canvas at the race-course. This special duty lasted till the 26th of the month; and previous to his departure, His Royal Highness expressed his pleasure at the smart appearance and steadiness of the men, and desired Major Parker to make this known to the regiment. In September of the same year, Lieutenant-Colonel A. W. Cameron retired from the command, and issued the following farewell address on the occasion:-

"I cannot leave the Gordon Highlanders without expressing how high an honour I shall always esteem it, to have been privileged for very nearly thirty-two years to serve in its ranks, and, above all, that I was entrusted with the command of it. Circumstances compel me now to resign the charge which it was the ambition of my life to obtain; but wherever the regiment goes, there will my best hopes and wishes accompany it. It will always afford me the greatest pleasure to learn that mutual good-will, ready and willing obedience to authority, a zealous and fearless discharge by all of the duties of their several stations, continue as heretofore to mark their character.

"Comrades ! there are now a great many young soldiers in your ranks, and not so many ‘Old Hands,’ with whom in former times it rested in a measure to hand down the traditions of the Regiment. I would therefore recommend you, as a last and parting word of advice, to make yourselves intimately acquainted with the history of your Regiment, to take well to heart the good name (Second to None) in the British Army which our forefathers earned for it, and always to remember that you have that name in your safe keeping. I need hardly say that to add to that name should be the ambition of every individual in the Corps, no matter what his standing is.

"To all—officers, non-commissioned officers, and men—I return my best thanks for the ready and willing support which was always accorded me in carrying on the duties of the Regiment. With such support and good-will command becomes easy. I hope to be among the first to welcome you to your native land, when I trust I may have the pleasure of shaking many an old comrade by the hand. Till then farewell, and may God speed you."

The departure from Mooltan took place on the 2nd of November 1876, and the regiment proceeded by route marches to Delhi, which it reached on the 19th of December, and where, on the 1st of January 1877, it took part in the "Imperial Assemblage" on the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Victoria being proclaimed Empress of India, Colour-Sergeant Drummond being selected as the regimental representative to receive and wear the medal commemorative of the event. On the 2nd of February the 92nd, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel G. H. Parker, arrived at Sitapur; and on the 5th, the left half-battalion, under the command of Major J. C. Hay, was detached to Benares, where it was to be stationed. The only other event of importance which occurred during the year was the issue of Martini-Henry rifles, which superseded the Snider as the service weapon in May. The early part of 1878 was likewise uneventful till the beginning of December, when orders were received to proceed to Afghanistan on active service; and headquarters and the right half-battalion accordingly marched from Sitapur on the 18th, and was joined by the left half-battalion from Benares at Jislam on the 29th. A halt of a week was made at Lawrencepore, and a stay of two months at Kohat, so that Ali Kheyl, at the mouth of the gorge leading to the Shutargardan Pass,—where Major-General Roberts’ division was then being concentrated, and where the regiment was detailed to form part of the 2d Brigade under Brigadier. General H. Forbes—was not reached till the 18th of April 1879.

The treaty of Gandamack, signed on the 26th of May, having, however, put an end to active operations for the time being, the 92nd was, like the other regiments at Au Kheyl, mainly employed in providing small parties for reconnaissance and survey-escort duty till September, when, after the fresh outbreak of hostilities consequent on the massacre at Kabul of Sir Louis Cavagnari, the British Envoy to the Ameer, and his staff and escort, it advanced on the 2 4th, along with the rest of the Kurram Field Force, under the command of Major-General Sir Frederick Roberts, by the Shutargardan Pass, towards the Afghan capital. On the 27th, Lieutenant Grant, with Colour-Sergeant H. Macdonald and twenty-five men, was sent from Karatiga to assist General Roberts, whose passage through the Hazar Darakht defile was barred by a large body of Mongals, and speedily cleared the gorge and dispersed the enemy. For his conduct on this and other occasions, Colour - Sergeant Macdonald was specially mentioned in Sir Frederick Roberts’ despatch of the 16th of October, and was afterwards promoted to a lieutenancy.

Immediately after the arrival of the column at Charasiah, about 6 miles from Kabul, detachments of cavalry were sent forward to reconnoitre. These reported that a rough road would have to be formed over part of the pass of Sang-i-Nawishta, in order to render it practicable for guns, and orders were accordingly issued that the right wing of the 92nd, under the command of Major G. S. White, should set out early next morning, along with two guns of No. 2 Mountain Battery and some cavalry, to seize the crest of the pass and provide working parties for road-making. The troops set out as soon as it was daylight, on the morning of the 6th of October, but hardly had they started when large bodies of the enemy were observed drawn up along the crest of the ridge in front, their left occupying both sides of the pass, and their line extending away to the right to the hills overlooking the Chardeh Valley. It was absolutely necessary that the enemy should be dislodged before nightfall, as absence of molestation would have brought increased boldness, and from all the many villages behind the position, as well as from Kabul and its suburbs, the night’s delay would certainly have brought large reinforcements. The road in the rear, too, was in a dangerous condition, and the slightest check would have seriously increased the opposition to the march of General Macpherson’s Brigade, which, encumbered as it was with baggage, might in consequence have met with disaster. On the hills on both sides of the camp the tribesmen were also seen assembling, with the evident intention of making a general attack on the encampment.’

An immediate assault on the Afghan position was therefore necessary, and General Roberts decided to make a feint on the left, and then deliver his real attack by an out-flanking movement on the right. For the latter, Brigadier-General Baker set his little force in battle array in the wooded enclosures of the detached villages which make up Charasiah, and thence advanced "over some bare undulating hills, forming a position easily defensible, and flanked by steep rocky crags" rising from 1000 to 1800 feet higher. The enemy’s main position was about 400 feet above the sloping plain our men had to cross, and while it commanded the entire front was accessible in only a few places. Full details of the battle and victory need not be repeated here, suffice it to say that, notwithstanding all difficulties, and in the face of an obstinate resistance, the right wing of the 92nd, reinforced about mid-day by 100 men of the other wing under command of Major J. C. Hay, captured three hills in succession in dashing style, turning the left flank of the enemy, capturing his main position, and taking 16 guns. Major White, Lieutenant Grant, and Colour-Sergeant Macdonald were afterwards mentioned in despatches, and Major White was recommended for, and subsequently received, the Victoria Cross for his services during the day. The casualties were fortunately small, 3 privates being killed and 6 wounded. Two days later 6 companies, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Parker, formed a portion of the force under Brigadier-General Baker, despatched towards the Chardeh Valley in pursuit of the scattered Afghans. These seemed at first to have determined to make a final stand on the Asmai Heights, and the 92nd received orders to occupy the gorge above Baber’s Tomb, and, after spending the night there, to be ready for attack early the following morning. When, however, about 4.30 A.M. on the 9th, Captain Oxley, with a strong patrol of 50 men, proceeded to the heights, he found that they had been quietly abandoned during the night, and no further fighting was necessary. For his services, Lieutenant-Colonel Parker was thanked by Sir Frederick Roberts in his despatch; and Lieutenant Hamilton, who had acted as orderly officer to Brigadier-General Massey, had his name put forward on this occasion by that commander as having rendered him valuable aid.

On the 13th of October the regiment took part, along with the rest of the force, in the triumphal march through Kabul—band playing, colours flying, and bayonets fixed—and had, two days later, the pleasure of sharing in the keen gratification afforded to the whole division by the Queen-Empress’ prompt recognition of their services, which was conveyed in the following telegram:-

‘‘The Viceroy and Governor-General has the honour to request His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief to convey to General Roberts and the troops under his command the expression of Her Majesty’s warm satisfaction with their noble conduct in the very successful and important action of Charasiah, which the Viceroy lost no time in reporting to Her Majesty. The Queen-Empress desires to express to her gallant troops her sorrow for those who fell in this action and in the recent brilliant exploit at Shutargardan, and the Viceroy is also commanded to make known to His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief Her Majesty’s anxiety for further information as to the condition of the wounded."

Between this time and the 15th of December, when the siege of the Sherpore cantonments began, the 92nd saw a good deal of active service about Maidan, 25 miles from Kabul, where the country was in a particularly unsettled condition. It left the camp on the 21st of November to join the expeditionary force under Brigadier-General Baker, and on the 24th took part in the operations against Bahadar Khan, when ten villages were destroyed, returning again to Sherpore on the 1st of December. It also formed part of a column under General Baker which was despatched on the 9th of December to Charasiah, for the purpose of watching the Logar Valley and breaking up a combination of rebel tribes which was threatening an attack on Sherpore, and next day moved to Bini Bedan to endeavour to cut off the Afghan force under Mohammed Jan, which was being collected for the same purpose. During these days the troops were constantly in contact with the enemy, as they were again on the 11th, when an advance was made in the direction of the Argandab River. On this occasion the Gordon Highlanders furnished both the rear and advance guards, the former under the command of Captain M’Callum, who was mentioned in despatches for the able manner in which he carried out his duties; and the latter, which consisted also of half a troop of the 5th Punjaub Cavalry, under Major White, who was mentioned in despatches for his brilliant services. Lieutenant the Hon. J. S. Napier was also mentioned for his gallantry in leading an assault on the Afghans who held both sides of the gorge through which the road to the Argandab runs. On the 13th of December the whole regiment proceeded, with the rest of the brigade, to attack the enemy along the Bini Hissar road, four companies under Major White leading the advance, and the rest, under Lieutenant-Colonel Parker, escorting the guns. When the 92nd was formed up for the attack, General Baker laughingly told them that there would be no dinner until the heights were captured. This announcement was greeted with lusty cheers, and the position indicated was occupied within the appointed time, with the assistance of the 72nd Regiment, which operated from the other side. The attack on the first Afghan line was gallantly led by Lieutenant St John Forbes, who, together with Colour-Sergeant Drummond, was killed in a hand-to-hand conflict. The resistance offered by the enemy, who had a very considerable advantage both in numbers and in the strength of position, to the leading men of the 92nd was very resolute; but the slight check caused by the fall of Lieutenant Forbes was immediately overcome by the action of Lieutenant Dick Cunyngham, who at once rushed forward, and gallantly exposing himself, rallied the men by both word and example—a feat deemed worthy of the Victoria Cross. By 11.30 A.M. the Highlanders reached the summit, and the contested height was won. The number of casualties—1 officer and 2 noncommissioned officers and men killed, and 19 wounded—marks the sharpness of the struggle. The exertions of Lieutenant and Adjutant Douglas were recognised by the mention of his name in despatches. The following regimental order was published on the afternoon of the engagement:-

"The commanding officer has to announce with the deepest regret the loss of Lieutenant St John Forbes, who fell in action to-day whilst leading his company, foremost in an advance which the Brigadier-General commanding has described as the most brilliant lie has ever witnessed. With the name of this most promising young officer the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding has to couple that of No. 488, Colour-Sergeant James Drummond, who fell beside his officer. This non-commissioned officer of over twenty-one years’ service has always been held in the highest esteem in the Regiment, and on 1st January 1877 was selected as the representative of the 92nd Highlanders to wear the Imperial Assemblage Medal. Lieutenant-Colonel Parker feels sure that these and other losses are the only dark spots over the brilliant achievement of to-day, which has added fresh laurels to the high name of the 92nd Highlanders.

"He begs to thank Major White and the officers and non-commissioned officers and men engaged in the attack as having been most immediately concerned in bringing about the happy result. In conclusion, the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding wishes placed on record his high appreciation of the conduct displayed by the non-commissioned officers and men during the hardships of the past week."

On the 14th of December two companies, under Captain Gordon and Lieutenant Gil-pin-Brown, formed part of a small force sent out to dislodge the Afghans from their positions on the Asmai Heights—an operation carried out with perfect success, notwithstanding the difficult nature of the ground, the great numerical superiority and obstinate resistance of the enemy, and the determined stand made by a body of Ghazis, who died to a man rather than abandon their position on the highest peak. The loss to the 92nd was Captain Gordon and three men wounded. Sergeant J. M’Laren and Corporal E. M’Kay received distinguished-conduct medals as a reward for the great personal gallantry displayed by them during the contest. From the 14th to the 23d of December the regiment was shut up, along with the rest of the British force, in the Sherpore cantonments,’ and had its share in the repulse of the Afghan attack on the 23d, when four companies, under command of Major White and Captain M’Callum, lined the intrenchments along part of the Bemaru Heights and the gorge between, and two companies, under Lieutenant-Colonel Parker, remained in reserve in the centre of the cantonments. The loss was one man killed and five wounded.

This engagement and the arrival of General Gough’s brigade put an end to the siege of Sherpore, and nothing of importance took place thereafter till the 20th of April 1880, when the left wing of the Gordon Highlanders, under Major White, moved out of the cantonments as part of a small force, under the command of Colonel Jenkins, C.B., intended to operate towards Gogo; and encamped at the village of Childuckteran, where, on the 25th, the column was attacked by a much more numerous body of the enemy, of at least 5000 men. As soon as the action commenced at daybreak, the tents were struck and the baggage animals sent under cover of a small hill in rear of the camp, with half a company of the 92nd as a guard. Other two companies of the regiment, under Captain Robertson, were extended to cover the front, and the remaining company and a half was drawn up in support. The enemy had excellent cover, and succeeded in advancing his standards to within 200 yards of the British fighting line, and maintaining his attack there (though he could never get any nearer) till 1.30 P.M., when, on the arrival of Brigadier-General Macpherson’s brigade — which included the other wing of the 92nd under Lieutenant-Colonel Parker — the combined forces drove the Afghans back and dispersed them. The loss of the 92nd was 2 non-commissioned officers and men killed and 6 wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Parker, Major White, Captain Singleton, and Captain Macgregor were again mentioned in despatches, and received the thanks of their respective Brigacliers and Lieutenants Douglas and Ramsay were brought forward by Lieutenant-Colonel Parker as deserving favourable mention for their services during the engagement. The conduct of the 92nd all through the campaign had attracted the special attention of Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Roberts, who thus expressed himself in a letter to the commanding officer:-

‘‘The 92nd have done such excellent service since they came under my command that I should like to do something for the Regiment. . . . You must be proud of commanding a Regiment, which I am sure is Second to None, and which I sincerely hope I may have with me if ever I am fortunate enough to hold another command on service."

After taking part in several other small expeditions into the country round Kabul, the regiment formed part of the force which marched under General Roberts from Kabul to Kandahar, details in connection with which have been already given in the account of the 72nd Highlanders. Immediately after the arrival of Sir Frederick Roberts’ troops at Kandahar on the 31st of August, the 92nd took part in the reconnaissance of the Afghan position; and in the battle of the following day formed part of the 1st Brigade, which led the advance, and succeeded, after severe fighting, in sweeping the enemy out of the closely wooded enclosures along the western slopes of the hill on which the village of Gundi Mullah Sahibdad stood, and finally in attacking and carrying the village itself at the point of the bayonet. The latter feat was accomplished in dashing style by two companies of the Gordon Highlanders under Major White, and two companies of the 2nd Goorkas. This movement brought the brigade in rear of the Bala Wali Kotal, and in front of an intrenched post which was on the south, and which, from the way in which reinforcements were being pushed forward, the enemy was evidently prepared to hold with great determination. Major White, who was leading the advanced companies of the 92nd, recognising, with true soldierly instinct, that this position must at once be taken by storm, called on his men for just one charge more to finish the business. His call was brilliantly responded to, and the work was at once captured, the gallant Major being himself the first to reach the guns. The casualties, which were somewhat numerous, show the severe nature of the fighting, 11 noncommissioned officers and men being killed and 2 officers and 69 non-commissioned officers and men wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Parker, Major White, Captain Macgregor (Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General), Lieutenant Douglas, and Surgeon-Major Roe were all mentioned in despatches, while Major White was again recommended for the Victoria Cross; and Corporal M’Gillivray, Privates Peter, J. M’Intosh, Dennis, and D. Gray, and Drummer Roddick received distinguished-conduct medals. For their services throughout the Afghan campaigns, Lieutenant-Colonel Parker and Major White, subsequently, on the 1st of March 1881, received the Companionship of the Bath; Major White was also promoted to a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonelcy, and Captains Singleton, Macgregor, Gordon, Napier, and Douglas to Brevet-Majorities. Major White received besides the Victoria Cross "For conspicuous bravery during the action of Charasiah on 6th October 1879, when, finding that the artillery and rifle fire failed to dislodge the enemy from a fortified hill which it was necessary to capture, Major White led an attack on it in person. Advancing with two companies of his Regiment, and climbing from one steep ledge to another, he came upon a body of the enemy strongly posted, and outnumbering his force about eight to one. His men being much exhausted, and immediate action being necessary, Major White took a rifle, and going on by himself, shot the leader of the enemy. This act so intimidated the rest that they fled round the side of the hill, and the position was won.

"Again, on 1st September 1880, at the battle of Kandahar, Major White, in leading the final charge under a heavy fire from the enemy who held a strong position and were supported by two guns, rode straight up to within a few yards of them, and, seeing the guns, dashed forward and secured one of them, immediately after which the enemy retired."

The Victoria Cross was afterwards, on the 18th of October 1881, conferred also on Lieutenant Cunyngham "For conspicuous gallantry and coolness displayed by him on 13th December 1879 at the attack upon the Sherpore Pass in Afghanistan, in having exposed himself to the full force of the enemy, and by his example and encouragement rallied the men, who, having been beaten back, were at the moment wavering at the top of the hill."

Her Majesty was also, on the 7th of June 1881, graciously pleased to grant permission to the regiment, in commemoration of its gallant behaviour during the campaign, to add the words "Charasiah," "Kabul, 1879," "Kandahar, 1880," "Afghanistan, 1879-80" to the distinctions already borne on the standards, colours, or appointments. All those who crossed the frontier, on duty, between the 23d of November 1878 and the 26th of May 1879, and between the 3d of September 1879 and the 20th of September 1880, received the Afghan war medal; and those who took part in the march to Kandahar received also the bronze star made from the guns captured from the Afghans.

The Gordon Highlanders, with a total strength of 643 of all ranks, left Kandahar on the 28th of September 1880, en route for India and under orders for home; and at Lahore, on the 18th of October, the following highly complimentary Order was published by Brigadier-General Macpherson:-

"The Brigadier-General offers his best thanks to all ranks of the 92nd for having contributed to make his command of the 1st Brigade a real pleasure.

‘‘The conduct of the Regiment in quarters has been admirable and its bearing in action with the enemy has invariably elicited the admiration of our country-men.

‘‘A useful lesson should be gained from the battle of Mezra, for the Brigadier considers that by the determined and rapid advances of the 92nd on that day an immense loss of life was saved, and Sirdar Ayub Khan was unable to get away any of his guns. Brigadier-General Macpherson congratulates Colonel Parker most warmly on the efficient state in which the Regiment has been maintained during the two years it has been in Afghanistan, and on having brought it to the end of the campaign in a condition for which the only word is—perfection.

‘‘With his heartiest wishes for a prosperous voyage and a happy meeting with their friends, Brigadier-General Macpherson bids the 92nd Farewell !"

Mean Meer was reached on the 21st of October, and Cawnpore on the 5th of December; and while passing through Allahabad on the 6th of January 1881, a change in destination was announced by the following telegram:-

"The 92nd Highlanders are to embark for Natal immediately instead of going to England, to be completed in arms and equipment, and to take 200 rounds of ammunition per rifle and the Kabul scale of intrenching tools." This alteration was due to the rising of the Boors in the Transvaal, on the 19th of December 1880, against the British authority in that country, and the consequent necessity for increasing the forces in the district so as to enable them to cope with the rebellion.

The port of embarkation was Bombay, whence the regiment sailed in H.M.S. "Crocodile," on the 14th of January, with a total strength of 700 of all ranks, about 90 invalids and time-expired men being left behind to await conveyance to England. The following General Order was published by H.E. the Commander-in-Chief in India, on the 8th of January, previous to the departure:-

"The 15th King’s Hussars, 2/60 Royal Rifles, and the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, being about to leave India for service in Natal, His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief cannot allow them to quit the country without referring to the eminent service they have rendered during the recent operations in Afghanistan. To recount the services of the 92nd Highlanders would be to write the history of the second phase of the Afghan war. From Charasiah to Kandahar, in nearly every engagement during the operations, the 92nd has always been conspicuous for its gallantry and discipline, and has proved itself Second to None of Her Majesty’s Regiments.

"In bidding farewell to these distinguished Regiments, Sir Frederick Haines had hoped to be able to wish them a speedy and a happy return to England, but England claims their services in another part of the globe—a call most heartily and cheerfully responded to. This may delay their return home for a while, but His Excellency knows that the opportunity thus afforded them of adding to the lustre of the British arms, and to their own renown, will be utilised."

After a very fine passage the regiment reached Durban on the 30th of January, and immediately after landing received an address of welcome from the Scotch residents in the neighbourhood. As Major-General Sir George Colby, who had already pushed forward with all his available troops, had sustained a slight check at Laing’s Neck on the Transvaal border on the 28th of the month, and had intrenched himself to await reinforcements, there was no delay in starting for the front; and after proceeding to Pietermaritzburg by train on the 31st, the 92nd set out on the following day on its march of 174 miles to Newcastle, which is about 25 miles to the south-west of the pass of Laing’s Neck, where an entry had to be forced through the Boor defences into the Transvaal. There had been heavy rains just before the column—which consisted, besides the Gordon Highlanders, of the other regiments that had come with them from India, and of a naval brigade from H.M.S. "Dido "—set out, and the roads were consequently in a fearful condition. During a considerable part of the journey, too, there was rain and mist, so that, though the advance was by forced marches, progress was slow, and the toil was excessive and very trying, even for such well seasoned soldiers. Ingogo was, however, passed on the 8th of February, Sandy’s River crossed without opposition on the 14th, and Newcastle itself reached on the 16th. On the 19th, Major-General Sir Evelyn Wood (who had met and taken command of the reinforcements on the way) determined to effect a reconnaissance in the direction of Utrecht, and set out from the camp very early, along with two companies of the 92nd under Major J. C. Hay and 100 men of the Hussars. Having advanced to the Buffalo River, he left the infantry to guard the crossing, while he himself with the cavalry, swam across, and by sunrise succeeded in pushing some 30 miles into the Transvaal and up to within 10 miles of Wakkerstroom. The whole operation was accomplished without opposition, and the force returned to camp the same night. General Wood started shortly afterwards on his return to Pietermaritzburg to superintend the sending up of further reinforcements.

On the 23d, the regiment arrived at Headquarters at Mount Prospect Camp, near the entrance to Laing’s Neck, where the British force was being concentrated for the attack on the strong intrenchments held by the Boers within the pass. Three days afterwards it was doomed to share in the ill-fated expedition to Majuba Hill, and in the disastrous engagement that followed on the 27th. It had already been ascertained that the Boer position was very strong, and a direct attack would therefore have probably involved such severe fighting as would have entailed great loss of life; and General Colley had, in consequence, determined to try to take the intrenchments in reverse by securing a commanding position on some of the heights of the Spitzkep on one side of the pass. Inquiries, made as carefully as possible, seemed to point to an eminence called Majuba Hill, about four miles from Mount Prospect Camp, and 2500 feet above it, as a suitable post for this purpose, and thither accordingly, at 10 P.M. on the night of the 2 6th, the General himself, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart and Major Fraser, R.E., of the stag started with a small force made up of 2 companies of the 3d battalion of the 60th Regiment (140 rifles), under the command of Captain Smith; 2 companies of the 58th Regiment (170 rifles), under the command of Captain Morris; 3 companies of the 92nd Highlanders (180 rifles), under the command of Major Hay; and a naval brigade (64 rifles and a Gatling gun), under Commander Romilly—a total of 554 men, exclusive of officers. Each man carried provisions for three days, 70 rounds of ammunition, a greatcoat, and a waterproof sheet, while a number of intrenching tools were taken besides. For men thus heavily encumbered the march during a dark night and over difficult and unknown ground proved not only toilsome but painful in the extreme. The route led up ascents that were in many cases "absolutely precipitous, and wherever there was footing for them huge boulders and loose stones, which rolled down when touched, covered the ground;" and as a detour had to be made in order to reach the position from its rear and so avoid alarming any of the Boer outposts, six hours were occupied in reaching the wished-for summit, which was gained by the leading files of the 58th about 4 A.M., just after daybreak. The 92nd were all on the top by 5.30, and the Naval Brigade, which had been delayed by the difficulty of drawing the Gatling, shortly afterwards, the total force being, however, now reduced to 350 men, as the two companies of the 60th and one of the 92nd had been left behind at a commanding point to keep up communication with the camp.

So far, General Colley’s success had been complete, as the whole line of the Boer intrenchments, stretching from a point immediately below away to the Buffalo River, was plainly visible, and taken in reverse, as it was from this position, had now become untenable. The enemy’s principal laager was about 2000 yards away, and at "sunrise the Boers were to be seen moving in their lines, but it was not until nearly an hour later that a party of mounted videttes were seen trotting out towards the hill, upon which they evidently intended to take their stand. As they approached, our outlying pickets fired upon them, and our presence was for the first time discovered. The sound of our guns was heard at the Dutch laager, and the whole scene changed as if by magic. In place of a few scattered figures there appeared on the scene swarms of men rushing hither and thither. Some rushed to their horses, others to the waggons, and the work of inspanning the oxen and preparing for an instant retreat began at once. When the first panic abated it could be seen that some person in authority had taken the command. The greater portion of the Boers began to move forward with the evident intention of attacking us, but the work of preparing for a retreat in case of necessity still went on, and continued until all the waggons were inspanned and ready to move away. Some, indeed, at once began to withdraw."

The attack began at 7 A.M.; the British position being a plateau bounded on all sides by a steep brow, and nearly a mile in circumference, with an oblong shallow basin about 400 yards in circumference near the highest point. This afforded some slight shelter, but elsewhere the ground sloped downward from the centre and crest, so that the main plateau was exposed to fire from lower ground all round, and was especially searched from n ridge wit bin easy range of its north-west angle. Though the position had now to be treated as a defensive one, every requirement belonging to a post that can be truly termed defensive was here not only awanting, but indeed on the side of the attack. All the advantages of observing, and so being able to counteract, the adversary’s movements, as well as the opportunities of unseen concentration, were with the Boers, who had the best of cover, and who, taking advantage of the natural terraces which break the slope of the hill and run nearly round it, were able to collect in force, under fire of covering parties placed for the purpose, at any point, and move round the hill without coming under the fire or observation of the defenders.

On the other hand the approaches to the brow from the lower slopes were nearly all concealed from the view of our men on the top, and whenever any one ventured forward to try to see what was going on below, he was at once exposed to the fire of the enemy’s covering parties—a fire constant, and so wonderfully accurate that the stones and sods thrown up by the soldiers of the British front line for their individual protection, and behind which they were lying, were struck at almost every shot, and the stones when examined afterwards were found to be white with bullet marks. Under such circumstances, too, a circuit of a mile had to be watched and guarded by a small force of 350 men (inclusive of the reserve), in a situation where it was impracticable to observe the enemy’s approach, or to say where his main attack would be delivered, and where even, when the General contemplated intrenching, the ground was too fire-swept to admit of working parties.

To the 92nd (one company extended and one in reserve) was assigned the defence of the most exposed part, along the western and northern brow; to the 58th, disposed in the same manner, the north and east; while the sailors held the south-east and south-west extremities of the position. During the first phase of the attack, between the commencement and 11 A.M., the full danger of the situation was not at once apparent, and probably no one then dreamt that the position would so speedily be carried by storm. Every one was cool and collected, and, notwithstanding the close and accurate fire of the Beers, but few casualties had occurred, the most serious being the loss of Commander Romilly, who was mortally wounded while close beside General Colley, whom he was accompanying in a search for a suitable place for an intrenchment. Of the men of the detachment of the Gordon Highlanders, who, under Lieutenant Hamilton, were defending the most exposed portion of the position, only four had as yet been slightly wounded, while their return fire, though delivered but seldom, and with great care as to keeping well under cover, had killed some eight or ten of the enemy who had shown themselves from behind rocks or bushes. The communication with the camp at Prospect Hill had been cut off, it was true, but with three days’ provisions that was a matter of small moment, and it seemed possible to hold out till reinforcements should arrive. About midday the enemy’s fire slackened, and it appeared for a moment as if the Boers were retiring, but it was merely the lull before the storm, for they had been strongly augmenting their fighting line—bringing it up, as General Schmid, their leader, afterwards informed some of the officers of the 92nd, to about 2000 men—with a view to assault, and were now in reality preparing for a rush. The time had come for the attacking forces to concentrate the fire of their covering parties, and deliver their onset on some particular point of the thin line that occupied the brow of the plateau. Once in possession of this position all their men had to do was to lie down under the protection which it afforded and search the interior with their fire.

About half-past twelve, therefore, the enemy, having quietly completed all his arrangements, fired heavy volleys from the right lower slopes of the hill (the side on which the firing had all along been heaviest) on the few men who occupied the brow to the north-west, half of whom were immediately either killed or wounded, and the rest driven back. The reserves, now consisting mainly of sailors and men of the 58th Regiment, were at once brought up, but—diminished as they had been by the call for reinforcements from different points to keep down the fire of the attack—were too few in number to be of any use, and were accordingly, after being halted before reaching the position from which our men had been driven, withdrawn behind the rocky ridge which ran along the centre of the plateau. The Beers, with shouts of triumph, rushed up the side of the hill, and pushing a strong force into the gap thus left in the defence of the western face, took the north front in flank and reverse, and rendered it quite untenable; while another large body almost simultaneously appeared on the north-east angle, which was the highest point of the summit. Resistance was still stoutly offered by detached knots of men, but these were driven back in detail by the rushes of the enemy. Under such shelter as could be obtained behind the central rocky ridge, the gallant remnant of the defenders fixed bayonets, Major Fraser, of the staff, calling out, "Men of the 92nd, don’t forget your bayonets;" and standing shoulder to shoulder, tried to return volley for volley. As this unequal fire contest—unequal to start with, and fast becoming more so from the fact that the British supply of ammunition was getting very low, many of the men being compelled to replenish their store from what was left in the pouches of their dead comrades—could not possibly be long maintained, Lieutenant Hamilton, of the 92nd, suggested to Major-General Colley that the men should be ordered to charge. Sir George replied, "Not yet; wait till they cross the open, and then we will give them a volley and a charge;" but the Boers, with their training, were much too wary to give up the advantages of their better positions and the superiority of their many rifles, and, leaving shelter, attempt to cross the open and risk direct hand-to-hand encounter—tactics better suited for an enemy trained to close-order fighting — and our men, taken in front from the west, in flank and rear from the north and north-east, as well as from the hollow below, fell rapidly. During the fifteen minutes while the final stand lasted, the number of those forming the front rank had been rapidly reduced to some 40, and when the survivors at length charged they never got within striking distance, all, except a very few with the General, being shot down. The line was completely broken, and Lieutenant Hamilton, who was close to Sir George Colley, heard him give the order to retire as best they could. Some of the men of the 92nd fought to the very last, using stones as missiles after their ammunition was exhausted; but the ground was too precipitous for any attempt at an orderly retreat, and all cohesion was lost: "there was no resistance, no halt; it was a flight for life." A line of killed and wounded, chiefly men of the Gordon Highlanders, marked the ground where the last struggle took place. Lieutenant Macdonald, of this regiment, who, with a detachment of 20 men, held an important hillock on the south of the position, had 8 killed and nearly all the rest wounded; while on the slopes on or near the place there were in all 33 of the 92nd killed and 63 wounded, and 22 were taken prisoners without a round of ammunition in their pouches.

That everything was done that lay in the power of regimental officers to do towards changing the results of the action, the names of the officers of the 92nd Highlanders who took part in the day’s proceedings, and their condition at the close, is sufficient guarantee. Major J. C. Hay, Captains Macgregor and Singleton, and Lieutenants Hamilton, Wright, Macdonald, and Staunton were all severely wounded—Captain Singleton so severely that he afterwards died of his injuries. Ample testimony as to the noble conduct of both officers and men was also borne in the official despatch forwarded by Major Fraser, R.E., the senior effective officer left after the action (Major-General Sir George Colby having been killed), who said in his report— 

"Throughout the movement, and during the action, Colonel Stewart seconded the General with great coolness and activity. Commander Romiliy, R.N., Major Hay, 92nd, and Captain Morris, 58th Regiment, all gave him unremitting support. The following were conspicuous for gallant conduct, viz. —Lieutenant Hamilton, 92nd, and Lieutenant Lacy, 58th, who were both exposed to severe fire during seven hours. Lieutenants Wright and Macdonald, 92nd, behaved with the greatest coolness and courage, and to the last made every effort to turn events. Captain A. D. Macgregor, 92nd, exposed himself constantly with the men of his regiment, in addition to performing his duties as aide-de-camp to the General. The conduct of the 92nd men was excellent throughout; many whose names I cannot recal or did not know behaved with coolness, and their shooting was uniformly steady."

The portion of the force that had been left to guard the communication with the camp succeeded in retiring, fighting all the way; but of the total of 35 officers and 554 noncommissioned officers and men who had left Mount Prospect Camp the night before only 6 officers and 288 non-commissioned officers and men returned in safety. Three officers and 82 non-commissioned officers and men were killed, 9 and 122 respectively were wounded, while 7 and 50 were taken prisoners, and 10 and 12 were at first reported missing. Whoever, or whatever, may have been to blame for the disaster, the somewhat humiliating peace concluded with the Transvaal Boers by the responsible authorities at home almost immediately after was very trying to the whole force engaged, every man of which was burning to retrieve the renown of the British arms and the glory of the British name. Though defeated, however, no tarnish of disgrace rested on those engaged, for other result could hardly be expected under all the circumstances. "Some 300 of our men," says General Sir Evelyn Wood, "exhausted by a long and very difficult night march, were attacked in an extended and unfavourable position, from which they were driven by overwhelming numbers. Despite all the fighting, the line did not retire until it had lost heavily and had nearly exhausted its ammunition. The General died with his face to the foe, then twenty yards distant only. Many of his comrades of all ranks evinced conspicuous gallantry."

On the 23d of March 1881 a meeting was held at Aberdeen, the depot centre of the Gordon Highlanders, for the purpose of giving expression to the admiration of the inhabitants for the brilliant services of the regiment in Afghanistan, and their sympathy with it in the great loss it had sustained in South Africa; and on the 28th the 92nd quitted the ill-fated camp and returned to Newcastle, where, on the 1st of May, Major Singleton died from the effects of the wounds he had received at Majuba Hill. The following regimental order was published on the occasion:— 

"The commanding officer has to announce with the deepest regret the death, this morning, of Captain and Brevet-Major Loftus Corbet Singleton, after over two months of suffering from wounds received in the action of Majuba Hill, on 27th February last. The commanding officer feels sure that all ranks will join with him in his expression of sympathy with those relations who remain to mourn his loss, and in regret at the loss of an officer who had been so long connected with the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, and who, during the twenty years he served with the Regiment, was ever popular with all."

On the 6th of May the battalion moved from Newcastle to a camp at Bennett’s Drift, where, on the 30th of June, the General Order of the 1st of May, bearing on the changes introduced into the army by the territorial reorganisation scheme, was published. Under the new system, the 92nd was disjoined from the 93rd Highlanders, with which it had been associated in 1873 as a portion of the brigade assigned to the 56th infantry sub-district at Aberdeen, and was linked with the 75th (Stirlingshire) as the 2d Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. The regiment just mentioned formed the 1st battalion, with the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Kincardine as the regimental district, while the depot was fixed at Aberdeen, and the Royal Aberdeen-shire Militia added as the 3d battalion.

On the 31st of October Colonel Parker retired from the command, and published the following farewell Order on the occasion:-

"Colonel Parker can never forget the very happy time of nearly 29 years he served in the 92nd Highlanders, and will always look back with the greatest pride on having served in such a distinguished regiment; and he trusts that the esprit-de-corps and good feeling which has always prevailed in all ranks may never change. He congratulates himself upon being succeeded by so distinguished an officer as Lieutenant-Colonel White, V.C., C.B., as he knows well that officer has ever the interests of the men at heart."

The regiment remained at Bennett’s Drift —the routine of camp life being broken by a short visit to the Drackensberg Mountains to cut wood as fuel for the troops stationed in that part of the country—till November, when it marched down country, arriving at Richmond Road Camp, 5 miles south of Pietermaritzburg, on the 25th of the month. Here it remained till the 22d of December, when it proceeded by rail to Durban, and, embarking for England on the s.s. "Calabria," reached Portsmouth on the 30th of January 1882, after 14 years and 4 days spent on foreign service, the strength being at the time 538 of all ranks. Quarters were taken up at the Anglesea Barracks, and there the regiment remained till the 5th of October, when, with a strength of 30 officers and 450 non-commissioned officers and men, it embarked on H.M.S. "Assistance" for conveyance to Edinburgh. The disembarkation and occupation of quarters at the Castle — where the 92nd had not been stationed before for eighteen years — took place on the forenoon of the 9th; and though there was not on this occasion the opportunity of speeding the parting, as well as welcoming the coming, guest (the former garrison, the Black Watch, having left for Egypt three months before), the reception accorded by the citizens of Edinburgh to the 2nd Gordon Highlanders was highly gratifying. The cordiality displayed was no doubt partly due to enthusiasm over the exploits of the Highland regiments at Tel-el-Kebir, but it was also in a large measure to be ascribed to admiration for the gallant deeds of the 92nd Regiment itself in Afghanistan, and the behaviour of the little band of heroes who fought at Majuba Hill.

During its stay in Edinburgh the 92nd took a prominent part in connection with the placing of the old colours of many of the Scottish regiments in St Giles’ Cathedral. This was the outcome of a proposal made in the Edinbugh Courant, which, in discussing the army reorganisation scheme, and the intended abolition of the practice of carrying colours in actual warfare, pointed out, that, while many of the old banners of the English regiments had found fitting resting places in cathedrals or other public buildings, those of the Scottish regiments were mostly in private possession, and suggested that as many of them as possible should be collected and placed under national care in the recently restored Cathedral of St Giles in Edinburgh. The proposal was graciously approved of and warmly commended by the Queen and H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge; and the influential committee appointed to carry out the scheme found its efforts so well supported that it was speedily in possession of ten stands belonging to Scottish regiments, three to regiments formerly connected with Scotland, and two to old Fencible Regiments, while promises had been received of the reversion of the sets presently carried by the 1st and 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers (21st Regiment), the 1st King’s Own Borderers (25th), the 1st Highland Light Infantry (71st), and the 2nd Black Watch (73rd), all of which will probably soon be retired. The stands thus obtained include colours carried in the Peninsula and at Waterloo, in the Chinese and Kaffir wars, in the Crimea, and in India during the Mutiny; and while some are in wonderfully good preservation, others exist only as tattered fragments that tell their own significant tale of exposure to breeze and battle—suitable and fitly-placed mementoes of duty faithfully done under every circumstance of difficulty and danger in all the more important struggles of our later history.

The ceremony of formally handing them over to the keeping of the Cathedral authorities was fixed for the 14th of November 1883, and H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge consented to make the public presentation. The 2nd Gordon Highlanders furnished on the occasion a guard of honour of 100 men, under command of Captain Cunyngham, V.C.; and the colour escort parties who assembled at the Castle armoury were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel White, V.C., C.B., while Lieutenant-Colonel Hay had the honour of giving an account of the various stands to the Commander-in-Chief. The band of the regiment accompanied the guard of honour, and the pipers headed the procession of the colour parties from the Castle to the Cathedral, playing the "Slogan," "Scotland the Brave," and finally, "Happy we’ve been a’ Thegither." The church was filled by a brilliant and representative assemblage; and as the cherished symbols, on which all eyes were riveted, were borne up the nave, every heart was profoundly touched by the many stirring and glorious memories they suggested.

After service in accordance with the form "to be used in the laying up of colours and standards in churches," the Duke of Cambridge requested Dr Lees to accept the colours to be carefully preserved and placed in a suitable position in the church. "No place," he added, " could be more suited for such noble emblems of the past. Though I am one of those who trust that war may be unfrequent, still I fear the time has not yet come when it will not again occur; and should it so occur, I hope that the British army - whether of the northern part of the kingdom as represented by those gallant and distinguished regiments represented here to-day, or other portions of Her Majesty’s army - will know how to perform their duty as they have done in former days; and will remember that those emblems which have been handed to the regiments by Her Majesty personally, or in Her Majesty’s name, were emblems to be carried by her troops, and the troops of this country, to honour and glory, and to remind them of the great duties which they are called upon to perform. . . . I sincerely hope that what has been commenced to-day will be continued in the future, and that the same honour which has been paid to the men who have borne these colours so nobly in former years—some of whom I had the distinguished honour to witness myself at the head of the regiments represented here to-day—will be accorded in future generations in an equally honourable manner to their successors." After an address by Dr Lees on the words of the Psalmist: "In the name of our God we will set up our banners," the ceremony concluded with prayer and praise, and the flags were affixed to the transept pillars.

The regiments represented were the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the Royal Scots; the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers; the 2nd King’s Own Borderers; the 2nd Scottish Rifles — formerly the 90th Regiment (Perthshire Volunteers), the stand carried from 1816 to 1833; the 2nd Highland Light Infantry; the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders; the Cameron Highlanders; the 2nd Prince of Wales’s Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment) — formerly the 82nd Regiment, raised in Lanarkshire in 1778; the 2nd Connaught Rangers — formerly the 94th Regiment, the representative of the old Scots Brigade originally raised for service in Holland in 1703, and placed on the British establishment in 1793, probably the stand carried from 1795 to 1801 and then retired in consequence of the Union with Ireland; the 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; the 2nd Gordon Highlanders; the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment)—formerly the 99th Regiment, raised at Glasgow in 1824, the first stand carried; and the Reay, and Glenorchy or Breadalbane Fencibles. The stands belonging to the 2nd Gordon Highlanders—that retired in 1830, and that carried from 1830 to 1864 — were gifted for the purpose by Major-General Macdonald, then commanding in Scotland, whose father, Sir John Macdonald (Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment 1828-46, and Colonel 1855-66), had received both sets on their retirement. The royal colour of a third stand, of unknown date, was also presented. The escort consisted of Majors Hope and Papihlon, Captain Darvall and Lieutenants Wright and Macdonald, with Colour-Sergeants Morrison, Holyoak, Law, Gillanders, and M’Gill, and three privates. The standards of the Fencible Regiments were each carried and escorted by two colour-sergeants and two sergeants of the Gordon Highlanders.

The regiment remained at Edinburgh Castle till the 30th of June 1884, when, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel White, and with a total strength of 585 of all ranks, it proceeded by rail to Greenock, and was thence conveyed by H.M.S. "Assistance" to Devonport, where quarters were taken up at the Raglan Barracks. On the 14th of December 1885 it moved to Guernsey, where it is still stationed, with head-quarters at Fort George and a strong detachment at Alderney.

Here in the beginning of June 1887 Colonel Hay, who had been 32 years in the regiment, retired from the command, and his leave-taking was the occasion of a very picturesque and somewhat touching scene. "When the day came for severing the tie between the Colonel and those under him," says an eyewitness, "they determined to see him off with such an expression of love and respect as those who were present are not likely to forget. The officers carried him shoulder high to the gate of the fort, where a carriage was awaiting; but the non-commissioned officers and men would have no horses, and themselves dragged it all the way to the pier, with twelve pipers to clear the way. At the pier, officers and men, women and children, all pressed for a last shake of the Colonel’s hand. Then, with the band playing, officers and men joining hands, they sang "Auld Lang Syne;" and many a strong hand dashed away the evidence of a tender heart as the ship steamed slowly from the island amidst the cheers of the crowd of Highlanders and islanders." Colonel Hay was succeeded in the command by Lieutenant Colonel Essex.



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