Four different reverses of this medal are known (Candahar 1842, Cabul 1842, Ghuznee Cabul 1842 and Candahar Ghuznee Cabul 1842).
Approx 1,400 Medals issued to Europeans with reverse Candahar Ghuznee Cabul of which 669 attributable to HM 40th Regt.
Battle of Cabul 1842
In India, Lord Ellenborough had softened his earlier attitude. His primary objective was to avoid the expense of a long war. He ordered Nott and Pollock to retreat, arguing that once the British had evacuated Afghanistan, negotiations with Akbar Khan for the release of the hostages could proceed calmly. Ellenborough was opposed by his generals and by the government in Britain, all of whom insisted that stern retribution was required. He accordingly modified his orders. Pollock and Nott were again ordered to retreat, but Nott was allowed to retreat by way of Kabul if he chose, making a detour of over 300 miles (480 km), and Pollock was also permitted to move to Kabul to cover Nott’s retreat. The late nineteenth-century historian John William Kaye wrote that, “No change had come over the views of Lord Ellenborough, but a change had come over the meaning of certain words in the English language.”
Nott began his “retreat” on 9 August. He sent the bulk of his troops and camp-followers back to Quetta but began advancing north to Kabul with two British regiments (the 40th Foot and the 41st Foot), some sepoy regiments which had earlier distinguished themselves and four batteries of artillery, 6,000 men in total. On 30 August, he defeated a force of 10,000 Afghans at Khelat-i-Ghilzai near Ghazni. He captured Ghazni itself without opposition, and looted the city in retaliation for the attack on Palmer. Lord Ellenborough had specifically ordered him to recover a set of ornate gates, known as the Somnath Gates, which had been looted from India by the Afghans and hung at the tomb of Sultan Mahmud II. A whole sepoy regiment, the 43rd Bengal Native Infantry (which later became the 6th Jat Light Infantry after the Indian Rebellion of 1857), was detailed to carry the gates back to India. Nott’s force arrived at Kabul on 17 September.
Pollock’s army, which was widely termed the “Army of Retribution”, meanwhile advanced from Jalalabad. The army consisted of four brigades, one of which was made wholly of British troops. It numbered about 8,000 men in total. After a sharp engagement on 13 September, they defeated some 15,000 tribesmen deployed by Akbar Khan at the Tezin Pass, and the way to Kabul was clear. Pollock’s troops came across many skeletons and unburied bodies from Elphinstone’s army and, in spite of orders from Ellenborough and Pollock to show restraint, they committed many savage reprisals against villages and their inhabitants. Pollock reached Kabul on 15 September, two days before Nott.
As the British advanced, the hostages in Akbar Khan’s hands were treated less severely than previously, although they were moved to Bamian to keep them out of reach of the British armies. Nott was urged to send cavalry to rescue the hostages, but he declined to do so (possibly as a result of a minor disaster on 29 August, when his cavalry had suffered heavy losses in a mishandled attack). Instead, Pollock sent Qizilbashi irregular cavalry under Richmond Shakespeare (his Military Secretary) and infantry under Brigadier Sale to rescue them. They found that when news of the Afghan defeats reached their guards, the hostages, including Sale’s own wife, had negotiated their own release in return for payments. In all, thirty-five British officers, fifty-one private soldiers, twelve officers’ wives and twenty-two children who had been taken hostage by Akbar Khan were released.
A detachment from Pollock’s army laid waste to Charikar, in revenge for the destruction and massacre of an irregular Gurkha unit there the previous November. Finally, Pollock ordered the historic covered bazaar of Kabul to be destroyed. Although he issued orders that the rest of the city was to be spared, discipline in the army broke down and there was widespread looting and destruction. Even the Persian-speaking Shia Qizilbashis, who were opposed to Akbar Khan, and many Indian merchants were ruined.
Not all the Indian sepoys of Elphinstone’s army had been killed. Perhaps 2000, many of whom had lost limbs to frostbite, had returned to Kabul to be sold into slavery or to exist by begging. Pollock was able to release many of them, but many others were left behind in the surrounding hills when Pollock precipitately retreated in November 1842.