Ghuznee 1839, James Harrison, 17th Regiment of Foot, the Leicestershire Regiment.
Engraved on the rim: “JAMs HARRISON 17th REGT.”
James Harrison was born during 1813 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.
He attested for the 17th Foot on 19th January 1831.
Promoted to Corporal on 21st January 1844.
He transferred over to the 78th Highlanders as a Private on 1st February 1847, promoted back to Corporal on 13th February, serving until he was found no longer fit for service on 7th December 1851 to be discharged on 11th May 1852.
He had served 15 year abroad in the East Indies as well as 3 years and 11 months in New South Wales.
As he joined the 17th Foot, they were sent to New South Wales and he served there until 1836 when the regiment was posted to Afghanistan, later taking part in the First Afghan War.
His services were: “His conduct and character have been excellent, is in possession of four good conduct badges.
Served the campaign in Afghanistan and was present at the storming and capture of Ghuznee and Kelat.”
During the campaign the 17th joined the Bombay Column of Sir John Keane’s force for the Scinde Campaign of 1838, which captured Hyderabad and Kuarrachee.
They then proceeded to Afghanistan to take part in the famous storming of the Fort of Ghuznee on 23rd July 1839, shortly after capturing Ghuznee the Army inflicted severe punishment on the Baluchi Khans of Khelat, in retaliation for their repeated attacks on British supply lines, after some fierce fighting in the surrounding hills, the walls of Kelat were stormed and the city was taken on 13th November 1839.
At the storming of Kelat the 2nd and 17th Foot were the only British regiments in a small force of 1261 men, the force took around 140 casualties, about one in seven men, the 17th losing 6 rank and file killed with 1 Captain, 3 Sergeants, 29 rank and file wounded, artillery were very effective in taking down the gates of the fortress as the 17th storming in, General Wilshire rode up to the 2nd Regiment waving his hat at full pace shouting, “Forward, Queen’s!” “Or the 17th will be in before you.”
The following is a despatch of the storming from the book Campaign of the Indus;
FROM MAJOR-GENERAL SIR THOMAS WILLSHIRE, K.C.B., TO THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL
Camp, near Kelat, Nov. 14th. 1839.
MY LORD,–In obedience to the joint instructions furnished to me by his
Excellency the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the Indus, and the
Envoy and Minister to his Majesty Shah Shooja, under date Cabool, the
17th of September, 1839, deputing to me the duty of deposing Mehrab Khan
of Kelat, in consequence of the avowed hostility of that chief to the
British nation during the present campaign, I have the honour to report,
that on my arrival at Quettah, on the 31st ultimo, I communicated with
Captain Bean, the political agent in Shawl, and arranged with him the
best means of giving effect to the orders I had received.
In consequence of the want of public carriage, and the limited quantity
of commissariat supplies at Quettah, as well as the reported want of
forage on the route to Kelat, I was obliged to despatch to Cutch Gundava
the whole of the cavalry and the greater portion of the artillery,
taking with me only the troops noted in the margin,[B] and leaving
Quettah on the 3rd instant.
[Footnote B: Two guns Bombay Horse Artillery; four guns Shah's ditto;
two Ressalaghs Local Horse; Queen's Royals; Her Majesty's 17th regiment;
31st regiment Bengal Native Infantry; Bombay Engineers.]
During the march, the communications received from Mehrab Khan were, so
far from acceding to the terms offered, that he threatened resistance if
the troops approached his capital. I therefore proceeded, and arrived at
the village of Giranee, within eight miles of Kelat, on the 12th
Marching thence the following morning, a body of horse were perceived on
the right of the road, which commenced firing on the advanced guard,
commanded by Major Pennycuick, her Majesty's 17th regiment, as the
column advanced, and the skirmishing between them continued until we
came in sight of Kelat, rather less than a mile distant.
I now discovered that three heights on the north-west face of the fort,
and parallel to the north, were covered with infantry, with five guns in
position, protected by small parapet walls.
Captain Peat, chief engineer, immediately reconnoitered; and having
reported that nothing could be done until those heights were in our
possession, I decided upon at once storming them simultaneously, and, if
practicable, entering the fort with the fugitives, as the gate in the
northern face was occasionally opened to keep up the communication
between the fort and the heights.
To effect this object I detached a company from each of the European
regiments from the advanced guard with Major Pennycuick, her Majesty's
17th regiment, for the purpose of occupying the gardens and enclosures
to the north-east of the town, and two more companies in the plain,
midway between them and the column; at the same time I ordered three
columns of attack to be formed, composed of four companies from each
corps, under their respective commanding officers, Major Carruthers, of
the Queen's, Lieutenant-Colonel Croker, her Majesty's 17th regiment, and
Major Western, 31st Bengal Native Infantry, the whole under the command
of Brigadier Baumgardt, the remainder of the regiments forming three
columns of reserve, under my own direction, to move in support.
A hill being allotted to each column, Brigadier Stevenson, commanding
the artillery, moved quickly forward in front towards the base of the
heights, and when within the required range opened fire upon the
infantry and guns, under cover of which the columns moved steadily on,
and commenced the ascent for the purpose of carrying the heights,
exposed to the fire of the enemy's guns, which had commenced while the
columns of attack were forming.
Before the columns reached their respective summits of the hills, the
enemy, overpowered by the superior and well-directed fire of our
artillery, had abandoned them, attempting to carry off their guns, but
which they were unable to do. At this moment, it appearing to me the
opportunity offered for the troops to get in with the fugitives, and if
possible gain possession of the gate of the fortress, I despatched
orders to the Queen's Royal and 17th Regiments to make a rush from the
heights for that purpose, following myself to the summit of the nearest,
to observe the result. At this moment, the four companies on my left,
which had been detached to the gardens and plain, seeing the chance that
offered of entering the fort, moved rapidly forward from their
respective points towards the gateway, under a heavy and well-directed
fire from the walls of the fort and citadel, which were thronged by the
The gate having been closed before the troops moving towards it could
effect the desired object, and the garrison strengthened by the enemy
driven from the heights, they were compelled to cover themselves, as far
as practicable, behind some walls and ruined buildings to the right and
left of it, while Brigadier Stevenson, having ascended the heights with
the artillery, opened two guns, under the command of Lieutenant Foster,
Bombay Horse Artillery, upon the defences above the gate and its
vicinity, while the fire of two others, commanded by, Lieutenant Cowper,
Shah's Artillery, was directed against the gate itself; the remaining
two, with Lieutenant Creed, being sent round to the road on the left
hand, leading directly up to the gate, and when within two hundred
yards, commenced fire, for the purpose of completing in blowing it open,
and after a few rounds, they succeeded in knocking in one half of it. On
observing this, I rode down the hill towards the gate, pointing to it,
thereby announcing to the troops it was open. They instantly rose from
their cover and rushed in. Those under the command of Major Pennycuick,
being the nearest, were the first to gain the gate, headed by that
officer, the whole of the storming columns from the three regiments
rapidly following and gaining an entrance, as quick as it was possible
to do so, under a heavy fire from the works and from the interior, the
enemy making a most gallant and determined resistance, disputing every
inch of ground up to the walls of the inner citadel.
At this time I directed the reserve column to be brought near the gate,
and detached one company of the 17th Regiment, under Captain Darley, to
the western side of the fort, followed by a portion of the 31st Bengal
Native Infantry, commanded by Major Western, conducted by Captain
Outram, acting as my extra Aide-de-Camp, for the purpose of securing the
heights, under which the southern angle is situated, and intercepting
any of the garrison escaping from that side; having driven off the enemy
from the heights above, the united detachments then descended to the
gate of the fort below, and forced it open before the garrison (who
closed it as they saw the troops approach) had time to secure it.
When the party was detached by the western face, I also sent two
companies from the reserve of the 17th, under Major Deshon, and two guns
of the Shah's artillery, under the command of Lieutenant Creed, Bombay
Artillery, by the eastern to the southern face, for the purpose of
blowing open the gate above alluded to, had it been necessary, as well
as the gate of the inner citadel; the infantry joining the other
detachments, making their way through the town in the direction of the
After some delay, the troops that held possession of the town at length
succeeded in forcing an entrance into the citadel, where a desperate
resistance was made by Mehrab Khan, at the head of his people; he
himself, with many of his principal chiefs, being killed sword in hand.
Several others, however, kept up a fire upon our troops from detached
buildings difficult of access, and it was not until late in the
afternoon, that those that survived were induced to give themselves up
on a promise of their lives being spared.
From every account, I have reason to believe the garrison consisted of
upwards of 2000 fighting men, and that the son of Mehrab Khan had been
expected to join him from Nerosky, with a further reinforcement; the
enclosed return will shew the strength of the force under my command
present at the capture.
The defences of the fort, as in the case of Ghuzni, far exceeded in
strength what I had been led to suppose from previous report, and the
towering height of the inner citadel was most formidable, both in
appearance and reality.
I lament to say that the loss of killed and wounded on our side has been
severe, as will be seen by the accompanying return; that on the part of
the enemy must have been great, but the exact number I have not been
able to ascertain. Several hundreds of prisoners were taken, from whom
the political agent has selected those he considers it necessary for the
present to retain in confinement; the remainder have been liberated.
It is quite impossible for me sufficiently to express my admiration of
the gallant and steady conduct of the officers and men upon this
occasion; but the fact of less than an hour having elapsed from the
formation of the columns for the attack to the period of the troops
being within the fort, and this performed in the open day, and in the
face of an enemy so very superior in numbers, and so perfectly prepared
for resistance, will, I trust, convince your Lordship how deserving the
officers and troops are of my warmest thanks, and of the highest praise
that can be bestowed.
To Brigadier Baumgardt, commanding the storming column, my best thanks
are due, and he reports that Captain Willie, acting Assistant
Adjutant-General, and Captain Gilland, his aide-de-camp, ably assisted
him, and zealously performed their duties; also to Brigadier Stevenson,
commanding the artillery, and Lieutenants Forster and Cowper,
respectively in charge of the Bombay and Shah's, artillery. I feel
greatly indebted for the steady and scientific manner in which the
service of dislodging the enemy from the heights, and afterwards
effecting an entrance into the fort, was performed. The Brigadier has
brought to my notice the assistance he received from Captain Coghlan,
his brigade major, Lieutenant Woosnam, his aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant
Creed, when in battery yesterday.
To Lieutenant-Colonel Croker, commanding her Majesty's 17th Regiment;
Major Carruthers, commanding the Queen's Royals; Major Western,
commanding the Bengal 31st Native Infantry, I feel highly indebted for
the manner in which they conducted their respective columns to the
attack of the heights, and afterwards to the assault of the town, as
well as to Major Pennycuick, of the 17th, who led the advance-guard
companies to the same point.
To Captain Peat, chief engineer, and to the officers and men of the
Engineer Corps, my acknowledgments are due; to Major Neil Campbell,
Acting Quartermaster-General of the Bombay army; to Captain Hagart,
Acting Deputy Adjutant-General; and to Lieutenant Ramsay, acting
Assistant Quartermaster-General, my best thanks are due for the able
assistance afforded me by their services.
From my Aides-de-camp, Captain Robinson and Lieutenant Halket, as well
as from Captain Outram, who volunteered his services on my personal
staff, I received the utmost assistance; and to the latter officer I
fell greatly indebted for the zeal and ability with which he has
performed various duties that I have required of him, upon other
occasions, as well as the present.
It is with much pleasure that I state the great assistance I have
received from Captain Bean in obtaining supplies.
Major-Gen., Commanding Bombay Column,
Army of the Indus.