“Everything was very much as it had been left after the fight. Any amount of dead horses were lying about, mummified by the sun and dry air. There had been no rain and apparently very little wind since the battle was fought, and the footmarks and wheel tracks were perfectly clear in every direction.
“Lines of empty cartridge cases showed where the heaviest fighting had taken place: wheel-tracks and hoof-marks showed where the guns had moved, dead camels and mules showed the line of the baggage train. Dead men lay in all directions; most of them had been hurriedly buried, but in many cases the graves had been dug open again by jackals. Clothes, accoutrements, preserved food, etc., were strewn all over the place. In one spot the whole of an Afghan gun team, six white horses with pink-dyed tails, had been killed in a heap by one of our shells.
“The British brigade in marching early in the morning had sent out a reconnoitring party to visit the only watering place on the desert to the westward, and this patrol had returned saying there were no enemy there. It was therefore at once assumed that no enemy were in the neighbourhood, but, as subsequently transpired, the patrol had not been to the right place and the enemy were there all the time. That morning a heavy mist hung over the plain and the Afghan army had crossed just in front of the advance of the brigade, neither party being aware of the other.
“Unknown to the British a deep ravine ran in a horse-shoe form almost entirely round the spot on which the brigade was standing. The brigade formed a square to receive the attack, expecting to see the enemy coming across the open, instead of which the Afghans poured down the nullah by thousands unseen, and then suddenly made their attack from three sides at once.
“Some Bombay cavalry, ordered out to charge them, swerved under their attack and charged into the rear of our own men, and the native infantry broke and ran with them through the ranks of the Berkshire Regiment, the 66th. These stuck to their post as well as they could but were driven back, and then held one position after another to cover the retreat of the remainder, but in the end were practically wiped out in doing so. They made their last stand at a long, low mud wall and ditch.
“It was at this spot that one of the men waved his hand cheerily to the Horse Artillery getting their guns away, and cried that historic farewell: "Good luck to you. It's all up with the bally old Berkshires!"
“They were all killed here, and the shortest way of burying them was to throw down the wall on the top of them.”I just rediscovered this quote online. I first came across it some months ago and was particularly struck by the mention of the Afghan artillery limber team being made up of 6 white horses with "...pink-dyed tails." I wondered if this was in fact henna dye, such as some Pashtun tribesmen still use on their own hair. It seems to create a more orange or reddish color than "pink" but maybe the Afghan artillerymen had used a different type of dye. I wanted to paint up such limber teams -- maybe one with pink tails, another all dyed orange and another all dyed red. But when I went back to search for the quote, I misremembered who had written it and searched for Afghanistan and Arthur Conan Doyle instead! Of course Conan-Doyle created Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson -- who had served as a medical officer attached to the 66th Regt. at Maiwand -- but he hadn't visited the battlefield. Then recently, during some other Maiwand-related Google search, I found the quote again.
Though I won't have an Afghan regular artillery limber team of 6 white horses with their tails (and manes?) all dyed PINK for the 130th anniversary game... I may have them for the 131st!
The bravest man I ever saw.
Sketch by Lieutenant Robert Baden-Powell