The King's Shropshire Light Infantry & Affiliated Regiments


The 85th King's Light Infantry in Afghanistan 1878-81

The 85th King's Light Infantry saw its first "active service" since 1815 in the latter stages of the Second Afghan War in 1879-80.

Background to the Campaign

During the period 1876-78, when the “Eastern Crisis” rocked European politics, Britain actively sought some form of alliance with Afghanistan. The aim was to keep Afghanistan out of the clutches of Russia and to provide an ally or at least a neutral “buffer state” on the borders of British India. But attempts to reach agreement with Afghanistan came to nothing, since the Amir resented the intrusion of a foreign power and negotiations with Britain were broken off.

However, in the autumn of 1878, news was received that the Amir had actually received a Russian military delegation. Since Britain’s greatest fear was a Russian military presence in Afghanistan - and therefore on the frontiers of India - it was decided to send a mission to Kabul to secure British interests. When, in November 1878, this delegation was halted by the Afghans at Ali Musjid in the Khyber Pass and forced to turn back, the Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton, declared war on Afghanistan.

Three separate British columns were to invade the country - via Quetta and the Bolan Pass (for Kandahar), via the Khyber Pass (for Jelalabad and Kabul) and through the Kurram Valley.




The 85th in 1878

The 85th was stationed at Lucknow, the capital of the province of Oudh (Awadh) in the winter of 1878. On October 8th a telegram was received from Army HQ directing the regiment to hold itself in readiness to proceed on active service in Afghanistan. Accordingly, on October 29th, regimental HQ under Colonel Appleyard (20 officers, 720 NCO’s and men) left by rail from Lucknow and proceeded via Bareilly and Meerut to Amballa, arriving on Nov. 1st. A Depot of 1 officer and 101 men, including the families, invalids and heavy baggage, remained at Lucknow under Captain W.Welman.

The following Farewell Order was published on the departure of the regiment from Lucknow :

"On the departure of the 85th King’s Light Infantry, the Lieut. General has much pleasure in conveying to Colonel Appleyard, to his officers, NCO’s and men the sense he entertains of the high spirit and feeling which pervades the regiment.

He also expresses his regret at so fine a regiment leaving his command, for during its two and a half years’ stay in garrison, its conduct has been exemplary in all respects and no-one knows better than the Lieut. General how thoroughly duty is done, how all ranks work together with a will and how excellent is the system, which under Col. Appleyard’s vigilant care and watchfulness, makes the regiment efficient in every respect.

It leaves the Oudh Division in a high state of discipline, which is the sure guarantee for efficient service in the field and in saying Farewell, the Lieut. General hopes that fresh honours may be added to the glorious names now inscribed on the colours."

Colonel Appleyard, C.B., appointed to the command of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Peshawar Field Force, left Amballa for Peshawar. On Nov. 6th, the 85th (under Major E.M. Beadon) left by rail for Ludhiana and thence by route march to Ferozepore and Multan, arriving on Dec. 5th, and camped near the barracks. One company occupied Multan fort in relief of a detachment of the 1st Bn 18th Regt.

The Regiment settled down to a peaceful life and, as luck would have it, was not called upon to play any part in the first phase of the Afghan War (Dec. 1878 - May 1879).

On Dec 7th, Major W. Galbraith was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General to the Kurram Valley Field Force under Major General Sir F.S. Roberts, V.C., and Captain (local Major) G.W. Smith was appointed D.A.A.G. to the 1st Division, Peshawar Field Force under Lieut. General Sir Sam Browne, V.C. On March 23rd, 1879, Major Beadon having returned to England on Sick Leave, Captain D. A. Grant assumed command. The Depot and families rejoined from Lucknow on April 6th 1879.

The British invasion of Afghanistan, meanwhile, had been successfully completed and British forces quickly occupied Kandahar and Kabul, with the 85th having played no part in the operations. By the Treaty of Gandamak on May 24th 1879, the Amir, Yakub Khan, ceded the Khyber Pass and the Kurram and Pishin Valleys to Britain and agreed to the establishment of a British Resident in Kabul. Accordingly, Sir Louis Cavagnari and an escort of the Queen’s Own Corps of Guides under Lieut. “Wally” Hamilton, V.C., established themselves in the new Residency in the Bala Hissar fortress in Kabul.

However, on September 3rd 1879, there was an uprising in Kabul, the Residency was attacked and Sir Louis and his escort were massacred. The war was immediately renewed.

The 85th LI at Lucknow just before the Afghan War

The 85th LI on parade at Lucknow just before the Afghan War.

The second phase of the Afghan War, 1879-80

The 85th again received notice to hold itself in readiness for immediate service and all officers were recalled from leave. “D” Company rejoined from Multan fort and on September 23rd and 24th 1879, the regiment under Captain Grant left Multan in two wings by train for Jhelum, halting at Mian Meer, and arriving on the 25th and 26th. Here, it received field camp equipage and transport.

Its strength was then 25 officers and 805 NCO’s and men. A Depot (Lieut. Vivian and 57 men, with families and heavy baggage) was left at Multan until Nov. 14th when it moved to Jullundur on being relieved by the 88th Regt.

The Regiment left Jhelum on Sept. 28th and marched via Rawal Pindi to Kohat, arriving on October 13th and joining the 3rd Infantry Brigade, Kurram Division, Kabul Field Force, under Brigadier General Fraser-Tytler, V.C.

Leaving Kohat on the 15th, it reached Thal on the 20th and went on to Kurram, where it remained encamped for a month whilst preparations were being made for a punitive expedition against the Zaimusht (or Zaimukht) tribe who inhabit the valleys north of the Thal-Kurram road. This tribe had recently and repeatedly committed attacks on convoys etc. along the lines of communication of the Kurram Valley Field Force and had been responsible for the murders of Lieut. F. B. Kinloch, Bengal Cavalry, Dr. W. B. Smyth, some postal carriers and others.

Three companies of the 85th (with Captains the Hon. E. à Court, F.W. Robinson, E.H. Ives, Lieuts. P. Bulman, M. Thomson and Surgeon Major W.C. Boyd), left Kurram on October 29th for Balesh Khel to strengthen the force there.

On the 31st, a large number of tribesmen assembled on the hills and came down to the plateau near Balesh Khel and as a result a force of all arms (including the 85th) under Lt. Col. R.G.Rogers at once moved out to meet it and the guns with the column opened fire. The tribesmen retired to the hills. HQ and five companies of the 85th, with four guns of 1-8 Mountain Battery (Kipling’s famous “screw-guns” under Major Haughton) arrived at Balesh Khel from Kurram on Nov. 20th, followed next day by Brigadier General Fraser-Tytler and his staff.

On Nov. 28th, part of the 13th Bengal Lancers with 150 of the 85th under General Fraser-Tytler reconnoitred the plateau for about six miles and while the infantry escorted Mr. G. B. Scott of the Indian Survey to the top of Kulgarda (5,700’) for survey work, the cavalry pushed on and found several deserted villages. Other villages across the Gowakhi river were seen to be occupied but the only sign of hostility was the firing of a few shots at long range.

Two more reconnaissances were sent out on Dec. 1st. The first, to the north, was led by Colonel J. J. H.Gordon of the 29th Bengal Infantry, and consisted of 2 mountain guns, 150 men of the 85th, 300 of the 29th Bengal Infantry and 50 of the 1st-8th Regiment. It started at 4.00 a.m. for the Drabzai mountain, seven miles from Balesh Khel, and ascended the crest at 7,300’. The guns and mules with part of the infantry stopped halfway up, but an escort of the 85th went to the top with Mr. Scott for survey work and returned to camp at 7.30 with no opposition encountered.

The second reconnaissance on that day, under Lt. Colonel R. C. Low of the 13th Bengal Cavalry, with 2 mountain guns, 200 men of the 85th and 200 of the 20th Punjab Infantry, passed round the foot of the Drabzai mountain and went as far as the Krumb defile, north of the Gowakhi river and returned by 5.30 p.m., having seen no sign of the enemy.

On December 3rd, a force consisting of 2 mountain guns, 50 cavalry, 200 of the 85th and 200 of the 20th Punjabis under Lt. Colonel R. G. Rogers (20th Punjabis) with Majors T. J. C. Plowden and A. Connolly (Political Officers) and Mr. Scott, left camp at 4.00 a.m. to reconnoitre the Abasikor Pass; it reached the village of Tatang (at 5,700’) nine and a half miles from camp at 8.30 a.m.

Leaving the guns, the cavalry and part of the infantry here, and occupying the heights with piquets, the force ascended the pass for a distance of two and a half miles. The Political Officers and Mr. Scott went on with an escort of 40 of the 85th regiment and after a steep, rocky ascent for a further one and a half miles, reached the summit of the pass (at 7,700’), from where extensive views of the Massozai country and the Lankai Pass were obtained.

Just as Scott finished his survey work, the Massozai began to assemble and fire at long range. The party withdrew and on reaching Tatang, the whole force returned unmolested to camp, arriving at 9.00 p.m. It had covered over 30 miles and successfully carried out the survey work required.


Soldiers of the 85th in the Kurram Valley, 1879.

The Zaimusht Expedition, Dec. 1879 and the attack on Zawa

Having assembled further supplies and transport, General Fraser-Tytler began preparations for the Zaimusht expedition, to start on Dec. 7th.

The force comprised 4 guns of 1-8 Mountain Battery R.A., 2 guns of 1st Kohat Mountain Battery, 21 officers and 702 men of the 85th Regt., 41 men of the 2nd-8th Foot, 57 of the 1st Bengal Cavalry, 155 men of the 13th Bengal Lancers, 55 of the 18th Bengal Cavalry, 20th Brownlow’s Punjabis, 4th Punjab Infantry, 29th Bengal Infantry and 13th Bengal Infantry, with one company of Sappers and Miners.

Starting early on the 8th, the force reached Gowakhi and marched next day to the village of Manatu without opposition. Early on the 10th, three separate columns were formed to operate against the Zaimushts.

The Left Column was commanded by Lt. Colonel R. C. Low, 13th Bengal Cavalry, and comprised detachments of the 1st and 13th Bengal Cavalry, 2 guns of 1-8 Mountain Battery, part of the 85th Regt. and some Indian infantry. It reconnoitred as far as the village of Kundela (or Kandolai), which was deserted. The cavalry then went on and found that the enemy were occupying rocky outcrops to their left and the infantry and guns were brought up.

Leaving a guard at Kundela, the 85th and guns of 1-8 advanced on Tura and opened fire on the Zaimushts. Meanwhile, another party destroyed stocks of grain, rice etc. and set fire to the houses. The nearby hostile village of Katakomela was also destroyed and the troops, after camping at Kundela that night, destroyed that village and its grain stores next day. They then returned to Zaitunak, to which place General Fraser-Tytler had moved.

Col. J. J. H.Gordon, commanding the Right Column, marched out at 6.30 a.m. with a force of 2 guns of the 1st Kohat Mountain Battery, 2 companies of the 85th and part of the 4th Punjabis and started along a defile. This became so steep that the transport mules had to be sent back, the blankets and other stores being sent on later by porters under escort. The Mountain Battery mules reached the crest only with difficulty. A covering party under Lieut. J. O’D. Renny, 4th Punjabis, scaled Dresola Peak (7,700’) whilst the rest advanced on Zawaki village, which was found to be deserted.

The troops camped there for the night and next morning destroyed the village and its grain stores and proceeded to Mela village, which had been occupied the night before by a force under Lt. Col. Rogers. This village was also destroyed and the troops marched back to Zaitanak with several headmen as prisoners.

The HQ camp was reached in the evening, the last three miles over the boulders of a stream being covered in the dark. On the 12th December, the whole force marched to Chinarak, destroying two villages en route; during the night, the camp was fired into.

Before daybreak on Dec. 13th, General Fraser-Tytler moved against Zawa (or Zawo), a horse-shoe shaped valley housing the principal settlements and stronghold of the Zaimushts, which lay beyond a mountain pass, with rocky, precipitous sides which were intersected by ravines.

His column consisted of 50 of the Bengal Lancers, 4 mountain guns and 1,350 infantry taken from the 85th Regt. (14 officers and 457 men), the 4th Punjabis, the 13th Bengal Infantry, the 20th Punjabis and the 29th Bengal Infantry. Advancing for about three miles along an open valley, the force reached Ragha village, just beyond which the valley narrowed down to a steep defile. Here, the force was divided into two columns.

The Right Column, under Colonel Gordon with 2 guns of the Kohat Mountain Battery, 700 infantry (four companies of the 85th under Capt. D. A. Grant and a detachment of the 29th Bengal Infantry) was ordered to ascend the ridge and clear the heights on the right of the advance.

General Fraser-Tytler then sent three companies of the 4th Punjab Infantry to occupy a hill on the left, which commanded the defile, up which he then advanced with the rest of the force along the rocky bed of a stream. The 85th detachment with this column was commanded by Capt. the Hon. E. à Court.

Two guns of 1-8 R.A. took position on a ridge to the right of Ragha and opened fire on the enemy, who held the crest of the next ridge, whilst the 85th under Capt. Grant advanced in skirmishing order up the steep slopes.

On reaching the crest, the Zaimushts were seen falling back along the ridge to a new position on a high spur which had been strengthened with stone sangars (breastworks). From this, they opened fire on the 85th, who followed them up rapidly and soon drove them out, compelling them to fall back on the next ridge whose only frontal approach was up a steep, rocky cliff 150’ high, down which the enemy hurled rocks and kept up a fire of jezails (long muskets).

The 85th halted here to give the 29th Bengal Infantry time to move round for a flank attack. Going down a steep descent and crossing a gorge, the 29th ascended the spur held by the tribesmen. Rocks were rolled down from them from a sangar but, pushing on, they captured the position and approached the main defences, from where fire was opened at close range.

At the same time, the guns of the Kohat Mountain Battery opened fire from a lower ridge, having gone round the defile and the 85th succeeded in getting to the top of the cliff. The Zaimushts fled in all directions, pursued by the 85th. The strong position was captured with no loss other than one Indian officer of the 29th wounded. The tribesmen lost about 20 men.

As this crest commanded the whole defile, it was occupied by the 85th, who camped there for the night, suffering greatly from thirst. They could get no water as the water-carriers sent from Bagh had emptied their watersacks on the way up the mountain because of the steepness of the climb. The 29th Infantry and the mountain battery held positions on a lower ridge.

Camp of the 85th on the Kurram Valley frontier

HQ camp of the 85th on the Afghan Frontier (Kurram Valley) 1879

The Left Column reached Bagh in the afternoon and on arrival was fired on by the enemy from a hill to their left. This was shelled by guns of 1-8 R.A. and a company of the 20th Punjabis advanced and forced the tribesmen to retreat. The hill was then occupied for the night. General Fraser-Tytler camped at Bagh and piquets were posted.

Early on the 14th Dec., the General continued along the defile, the advance guard being “F” company of the 85th under Capt. F. W. Robinson and Lieut. Thomson and three companies of the 4th Punjab Infantry, Colonel Close in command. On the right, Colonel Gordon’s force held the heights gained on the previous day and sent forward two mountain guns, which had now reached the crest, escorted by the 85th. The ascent was by means of a steep gorge. The guns opened an effective fire on a large body of the enemy moving on Zawa and halted their advance.

The other two companies of the 85th were sent down to join the force in the defile. The heights to the left were crowned by two companies of the 20th Punjabis, while the guns of 1-8 R.A. shelled the enemy, who kept up a sharp fire as they fell back from ridge to ridge.

After advancing about two miles, the 4th Punjab Infantry, except for half a company under Lieut. Renny, was ordered up the hill on the left. They advanced along the slopes and shortly afterwards a company of the 20th Punjabis was sent to the right to dislodge enemy tribesmen there.

The firing was now brisk on both sides and to the front. A little later, the party under Lieut. Renny, leaving the river bed, ascended a narrow path in single file, under a heavy fire and showers of rocks hurled down from the heights above.

Here they occupied a small rocky spur at the bend in the path. “F” Company of the 85th followed them. It was while fighting at this corner that Lieut. Renny and two of his men were seriously wounded. Here too, Lieut. (local Captain) E. Burrell of the 85th (Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General) had a narrow escape, a bullet passing through all his clothes and shirt, beneath his armpit, without cutting the skin.

Captain à Court now came up with an order from the General and in consequence, “F” company rushed forward, followed by Renny’s men, across a short ravine and reaching the next ridge, which sloped down to Zawa, came upon a large party of Zaimushts at close quarters and opened fire as they fled. Killing several, the company followed for some distance across the fields and then formed up, being joined by another company of the 85th, and held some rising ground while the nearby villages comprising the Zawa settlements were destroyed by parties from other units.

The troops were then ordered to retire, passing along the stream through a very narrow gorge, the rocky cliffs on either side almost touching above. Bagh was reached about 5.00 p.m., the force being unmolested, while other villages were destroyed on the way. Here the troops camped for the night, Colonel Gordon’s force and the 20th Punjabis holding the ridges above, as they had on the 13th.

On Dec. 16th, the troops returned to Chinarak, with Gordon’s column rejoining at Ragha. Lieut. Renny died of wounds at Chinarak the same day. Other casualties were one sepoy mortally wounded, one havildar (sergeant) wounded; the tribesmen were estimated to have lost 140 men.

The whole force returned to Thal on the 23rd, after burning other villages en route over the intervening days. Three Zaimushts were shot at Sangroba and Dolragha for the murders of Lieut. Kinloch and an Indian groom.

The government programme had been successfully carried out and the Zaimushts severely punished. Besides having 20 villages burned and the defensive towers destroyed in those that were spared, they were fined 25,000 rupees and had to surrender 1000 stands of arms. Their country, never before explored by Europeans, had been thoroughly surveyed and the effect on the border tribes was most salutary. The operations had been conducted with great skill by Brigadier General Fraser-Tytler.

As a termination to the operations on January 1st 1880, a durbar (assembly) was held in three large tents. The whole of the force was drawn up with all the jirgahs (tribal representatives) and inhabitants of Thal and neighbouring villages seated in a semi-circle in the rear of them. General Fraser-Tytler and his staff sat in the centre of the durbar tents with his officers and friendly tribal leaders on either side. The latter were then presented and their services outlined. The jirgahs then came forward and paid their village fines, laying them on shields in front of the General. That night the area was illuminated with lamps and there was dancing around a large fire by about forty Khattaks, whilst pipes and drums played.

The last stages of the war

The officers of the 85th had all occupied one native tent during the expedition and ate their Christmas dinners in it, seated on the ground. Capt. E .H. G. Ravenhill, the mess president, provided an excellent meal with champagne which had been left at Thal when the regiment first came up from India.

On returning to Thal, many of the men were virtually bootless because of the rough ground they had covered. Many went to hospital and there were several fatal cases of pneumonia. One such fatality, on 14th February 1880, was Brigadier General Fraser-Tytler.

On Dec. 26th 1879, four companies of the 85th under Capt. Grant had proceeded to Balesh Khel and on January 7th returned to Chapri for road-making, being joined on January 14th by HQ and three companies. “F” company followed on March 31st and the next day, the 85th left for Kurram, arriving on April 5th. They were then attached to the Upper Kurram brigade under Brigadier General Gordon.

From Kurram the 85th went on to Shalozan as part of a flying-column and whilst they were there Major Beadon rejoined from sick leave and took command. Shortly afterwards, HQ and five companies proceeded to the Peiwar Kotal - the pass linking the Kurram Valley to Afghanistan and the scene of heavy fighting in 1878 - where they camped in the dense pine forest above the pass.

Detachments were left at Thal, Shalozan and Kurram. Large quantities of commissariat supplies had been collected for the troops returning from Kabul but after the disaster at Maiwand plans were changed and the stores were sent down by degrees to Thal and eventually the Kotal was returned to the hands of Afghan officials. The 85th returned to Thal, arriving on October 21st 1880.

Since the beginning of the war, the area around Thal had been unsafe through constant attacks by the Waziri tribe. To punish them, on the night of October 27th (after receiving orders only two hours before), a force of 1,000 was assembled under Colonel Gordon, composed of cavalry, with the 85th (about 400 strong), the 13th and 20th Infantry and two guns of 1-8 R.A., with Major Plowden as Political Officer.

This column made a night march through Kabul Khel in Waziri territory, a distance of 17 miles, crossing the Kurram river three times. The objective was the Mauk Shahee settlements, which were simultaneously surrounded and surprised at dawn on the 28th. 126 prisoners, 700 loads of fodder and 1500 cattle were taken. One Waziri was killed and three wounded.

This successful, brief incursion of only 23 hours duration brought about the rapid payment of a fine imposed on the Mahsud Waziris for offences committed over the previous two years around Thal.

Shortly afterwards, HQ and four companies of the 85th moved to Doaba, with one company at Hangu, and thence to Kohat. During 1880 there were 33 deaths in the regiment through disease.

On February 3rd 1881 the 85th arrived at Rawal Pindi and proceeded thence to Jullundur. They were shortly afterwards ordered to be ready to leave for South Africa and embarked on March 9th, their actual destination being Durban, Natal.

Officer of the 85th at the end of the Afghan campaign

Officers and men of the 85th at the end of the Afghan campaign.

Officer Services of the 85th in Afghanistan.

  • Appleyard, F.C. : Colonel commanded, with rank of Brigadier General, the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Peshawar Valley Field Force, from the outbreak of the war until 3rd December 1878 (when the Brigade was broken up) ; present in the attack on Ali Musjid. From 3rd Dec. 1878 to 24th March 1879, commanded all troops on the line from Ali Musjid to Landi Kotal (Khyber Pass). Commanded the Ali Musjid column in the second Bazar valley expedition and commanded the rear-guard of the expedition on its return march. Commanded the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Peshawar Valley Field Force, from 24th March 1879 to the conclusion of the war, being in command at Jelalabad after the departure of other units of the Division for Gandamak in April 1879. Returned to India in June 1879 and assumed command of the Multan Division.
  • Beadon, E.M. : Lt. Colonel commanded the 85th from May 9th 1880 till the end of hostilities.
  • Galbraith, W. : Lt. Colonel
  • Served throughout the first campaign (Dec. 1878-May 1879) as D.A.A.G., Kuram Valley Field Force ; present in assault and capture of the Peiwar Kotal and in operations in the hariab and Khost valleys. In the second phase (Sept. 1879-Sept. 1880) served firstly as D.A.A.G., Kuram Division, Kabul Field Force and besides being engaged in numerous minor operations, was present in the battle of Charasia and occupation of Kabul. Took part with the Kuram Force in the Zaimusht expedition and subsequently commanded the 85th from 17th Dec. 1879 to 8th May 1880.
  • Smith, G.W. : Major served on the Staff in the first phase, as Asst. Adjutant General, 1st Division, Peshawar Valley Field Force; present at the capture of Ali Masjid and forcing of the Khyber Pass.
  • Dutton, the Hon. C. : Major served in the second phase as Asst. Quarter-Master General, 2nd Division, Kabul and N.Afghanistan Field Forces. Present at the action of Shekabad.
  • Grant, D.A. : Captain served with the regiment throughout, in command from the time it crossed the frontier until 16th Dec. 1879. Commanded the 85th during the zaimusht expedition ; present in the assault on and destruction of Zawa.
  • à Court, Hon. E.A.H. : Captain
  • Ravenhill, E.H.G. : Captain
  • Robinson, F.W. : Captain
  • Ives, E.H. : Captain
  • Longford, F : Captain
  • Collette, C.H. : Lieutenant
  • Thomson, M.T. : Lieutenant
  • Spens, J. : Lieutenant
  • Doyle, A.H.J. : Lieutenant
  • Fowler, R.H. : Lieutenant
  • Dawkins, C.T. : Lieutenant
  • Browne, H.R.:  Lieutenant
  • Smythe, I.W.T.S. : Lieutenant
  • Bulman, P. : Lieutenant
  • Sitwell, C.G.H. : Lieutenant
  • Wilbraham, H.V. : Lieutenant
All the above Served with the 85th throughout ; present in the Zaimusht expedition and in the assault on and destruction of Zawa.

  • Mardell, C.E. Lieutenant served with the 85th from May 1880 until the conclusion of the campaign.
  • Reade, R.N.R. Lieutenant served with the 85th from May 1880 until the conclusion of the campaign.
  • Capper, W.B. Lieutenant served with the 85th until April 1880 when he was appointed ADC to General Watson, in which capacity he served until the end of the war.

Casualties to the 85th in Afghanistan, 1879-80

The following casualties were incurred by the 85th during its service in the Afghan War.

With the possible exception of Pte. Patrick Smith, who sustained a serious gunshot wound at Shalozan on 13th July 1880 and died later, all these deaths were the result of disease.

  • Hinkley, T.  Sgt. Instr. of Musk’y. Died at Thal, 20.1.80
  • Bacon, E.  Lance Sergt. Died at Balesh Khel, 9.12.79
  • Ball, J.H.  Corporal. Died at Thal, 30.10.80
  • Rock, W. Corporal. Died at Thal, 4.4.80
  • Hurlow, J.  Bugler. Died at Thal, 16.3.80
  • Allsworth, F.  Private. Died at Peiwar Kotal, 3.7.80
  • Beeston, J.  Private. Died at Thal, 19.9.80
  • Best, T.  Private. Died at Thal, 27.1.80
  • Brady, J. Private. Died at Thal, 12.1.80
  • Combs, W. Private. Died at Jullundur, 26.11.80
  • Fountain, J. Private. Died at Thal, 14.2.80
  • Goggins, S.  Private. Died at Thal, 21.8.80
  • Honey, B.  Private. Died at Thal, 4.2.80
  • Kempster, H. Private. Died at Kurram, 18.11.79
  • Kingston, T.  Private. Died at Kurram, 3.12.79
  • May, J.  Private. Died at Kohat, 26.12.80
  • Myatt, W.  Private. Died at Thal, 12.1.80
  • Pullee, C.  Private. Died at Balesh Khel, 5.1.80
  • Richardson, H.A.  Private. Died at Shalozan, 21.5.80
  • Shayler, B.  Private. (entry illegible)
  • Simmons, G.  Private. Died at Thal, 4.2.80
  • Slater, W.  Private. Died at Thal, 17.1.80
  • Smith, P. (1640)  Private. Died at Barah Iman, 14.9.80
  • Smith, W. (42/912)  Private. Died at Shalozan, 20.7.80
  • Smith, W. (42/410)  Private. Died at Thal, 8.1.80
  • Southern, J.  Private. Died at Deolali, 1.2.81
  • Surman, J.  Private. Died at Thal, 6.12.80
  • Sutton, E.  Private. Died at Peiwar Kotal, 10.7.80
  • Thompson, A.  Private. Died at Chapri, 26.1.80

(Taken from Afghan War Medal Roll, National Archives, Kew : WO 100-53.)

In 1883, a memorial was erected in St. Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury (where it may still be seen) to the memory of the men of the 85th who lost their lives during the campaign. The cost was defrayed by voluntary subscriptions from the officers, NCO’s and men of the regiment.

Honours and Awards for Afghanistan 1879-80

The following promotions and awards were made in recognition of services during the Afghan campaign in 1879-80 :

  • Colonel Appleyard, F.E. C.B. - four times mentioned in dispatches (Staff).
  • Lt. Colonel W. Galbraith - four times mentioned in dispatches (Staff) to be Brevet Lieut. Colonel (dated 22nd Nov. 1879).
  • Captain E.A.H à Court - mentioned in dispatches.
  • Capt. the Hon. C. Dutton - to be Brevet Major (dated 2nd March 1881) mentioned in dispatches.
  • Captain D.A. Grant - to be Brevet Major (dated 2nd March 1881) mentioned in dispatches.
  • Capt. G.W. Smith - to be Brevet Major (dated 22nd Nov. 1879).
  • Lieut. C.H. Collette - mentioned in dispatches.
In 1881, the 85th was authorised to bear “Afghanistan 1879-80” on its Colours and appointments.

The Afghan Medal : Regimental Collection


Medal for Afghanistan, 1878-80. Reverse : a mixed British-Indian column of infantry, cavalry and artillery marching through a mountainous landscape.


All ranks who served across the Afghan frontier received the Afghan War medal, 1878-80, without clasp. The only soldiers of the 85th who definitely earned battle clasps to the medal were :

Appleyard, F.E. Colonel : clasp Ali Musjid (Staff).
Galbraith, C.M. Lt. Colonel : clasps Peiwar Kotal and Charasia (Staff).

No other officer or soldier of the 85th received any clasp for the Afghan War - though the Regimental Museum does have several examples with clasps. It is just possible that their recipients earned them whilst serving with another unit, but the medal roll does not support this hypothesis. It is more likely that they were added by the recipients or later owners.

The following Afghan Medals to the 85th are in the Regimental Museum in Shrewsbury Castle :

  • Capt. Hon E.A.H. à Court
  • Capt. D.A.Grant
  • Capt. F.W. Robinson
  • Lieut. R.N.R. Reade (as part of medal group)
  • Lieut. J. Spens (as part of medal group)
  • Qtr. Master J. Hawkins
  • 1681 Corpl. A. Mews
  • 42/447 Pte. F. Axten (with Victorian LSGC medal)
  • 42/771 Pte. W. Barker
  • Best, T.  Private. (Died at Thal, 27.1.80)
  • 42/757 Pte. W. Black
  • 42/483 Pte. J.Bradish (clasp Ali Musjid : not entitled)
  • 42/372 Pte. H. Butler (clasp Peiwar Kotal : not entitled)
  • 42/861 Pte. F.G.Cooper
  • 42/542 Pte. C. Fenton (clasps Charasia, Kabul, Kandahar : not entitled)
  • 42/860 Pte. C. Harper (name erased : identified by number)
  • 42/1070 Pte. W. Kett
  • 1878 Pte. F. Knight
  • 1819 Pte. H.Ledger (clasp Ahmed Khel : not entitled)
  • 42/678 Pte. J. Lynch
  • 814 Pte. W. May
  • 42/409 Pte. J.Millane
  • 42/412 Pte. G. Millington
  • 42/406 Pte. J.McCarthy
  • 42/360 Pte. H. Owen
  • 42/872 Pte. C. Sheppard (with Victorian LSGC medal and Geo. V. MSM)
  • 1547 Pte. W. Thorpe (with Victorian LSGC medal)
  • 902 Pte. W. Wheeler
  • 42/340 Pte. H.J. Young

(Prefix “42” to the number refers to the 42nd Brigade).


S.H. Shadbolt : The Afghan Campaign, 1878-80 : London 1882.
Barrett, C.R.B. : The 85th King’s Light Infantry : London, 1913.
Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India : Calcutta 1908.
Afghan Medal Roll : WO.100.53 ; National Archives, Kew