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Lieutenant Frank Whittuck

In 1880 the British army were in Afghanistan and another rebellion was brewing. Lieutenant Frank Whittuck was with the 1st Bombay Grenadiers at Maiwand when it boiled over.
Frank was born in Keysham Somerset 16th July 1856. He was the fifth son of William and Matilda. Keynsham is a village between Bath and Bristol where a friend of mine lives today. This appears to be where he grew up.

Frank's father was a Captain so it seems he was born into the military. He attended Lansdown and Sydney college (later called Bath College and after that bankrupt in 1909). Later he attended Sandhurst the officer training college. While at college in Bath he played Rugby. Here he is featured in an account of a game played against Clifton.

That was 21st November 1874 and in the next six years Frank would graduate attend Sandhurst and be shipped off to defend empire in 'the great game' in Afghanistan as part of the 1st Bombay Grenadiers. Here Britain was defending empire against Russia.

Maiwand was the second great defeat of the British after the Zulu defeat at Isandlwana the previous year. The army went to break up an advance guard when they encountered the bulk of the Afghan army July 27th 1880. The collapse of the left flank resulted in a complete rout and a brutal retreat to Kandahar (Candahar at the time). This is what Wikipedia says...
Word of the disaster reached Kandahar the following day and a relief force was dispatched. This met the retreating force at Kokeran.
The British were routed, but managed a withdrawal due to their own efforts and the apathy of the Afghans. Of the 2,476 British troops engaged, the British and Indian force lost 21 officers and 948 soldiers killed, and eight officers and 169 men were wounded: the Grenadiers lost 64% of their strength and the 66th lost 62%, including twelve officers, of those present (two companies being detached); the cavalry losses were much smaller. British and Indian regimental casualties (listed by brigade) were:
-1st Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General George Burrows, commanding)
-66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot: 286 dead, 32 wounded.

-1st Bombay Native Infantry (Grenadiers): 366 dead 61 wounded.

30th Bombay Native Infantry (Jacob’s Rifles): 241 dead, 32 wounded.
-Bombay Sappers and Miners (No.2 Company): 16 dead, 6 wounded.
-1st Cavalry Brigade (Brigadier-General Thomas Nuttall, commanding)
-E Battery / B Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery[6]: 19 dead, 16 wounded.
-3rd (Queen’s Own) Bombay Light Cavalry: 27 dead, 18 wounded.
-3rd Sind Horse: 15 dead, 1 wounded.

A description of the end of the battle and retreat from the Wikipedia article...
The Sappers and Miners retreated as the guns withdrew. Henn and 14 of his men afterwards joined some remnants of the 66th Foot and Bombay Grenadiers in a small enclosure at a garden in a place called Khig where a determined last stand was made. Though the Afghans shot them down one by one, they fired steadily until only eleven of their number were left, and the survivors then charged out into the masses of the enemy and perished. Henn was the only officer in that band and he led the final charge.

And here we come back to Frank in the reference to the defence of the garden enclosure. For Frank was given an award for this action. In a history of the account Frank's participation goes unnoticed however a letter written from a Kandahar hospital recollects what happened.
‘At about half-past three o'clock in the afternoon our defeat was complete, and the survivors of our brigade — that is to say, the remnants of our three infantry and two cavalry regiments — were hurled into a confused mass of fugitives, endeavouring to gain the shelter of the walled enclosure, where in the morning our sick, wounded, and stores were placed. This place I have described to you as an oblong walled enclosure, about 80 yards long by 60 broad, and with stoutly built mud walls some 20 feet in height. Here Major Oliver made an attempt to rally his men... Captain Dick, who had charge of the commissariat stores, had made a sort of banquette of wooden cases and casks, from which our men were enabled to fire over the walls. To this piece of forethought I believe we owe the short and partly effective stand we made at this building, for it enabled us to check the advance of our pursuers, while the scattered (Ubris of our battalions were making some formation inside. Here at least were the colours of the 66th, and those of the Bombay Grenadiers, still intact, and here were Colonel Mainwaring, Colonel Griffiths, Major Oliver, Lieuts Whittuck and Lynch, Captain Mayne, and Lieut Reid, all, or nearly all, wounded, but gallantly getting their men to rally and re-form and cover the retreat Out- side this species of 'laager'... Meanwhile our ammunition was fast failing, and by the General's orders we slackened our fire, only delivering a shot or two when the enemy became massed and near enough to afford a certain mark for our rifles. Flaunting their standards, and with frantic yells and demoniac gestures, the standard-bearers ran in front of the serried masses of our foes, whom, however, we still managed to hold in check with our feeble fire.
Burrows managed to get this small party away from Khig and during the terrible retreat of the main body of troops, Whittuck was apparently one of those in the rearguard:
‘In the front, most of their horses bleeding and wounded, rode Colonel Mainwaring, commanding the advanced guard, Major River, and Colonel Griffith ; while in the centre was General Burrows, doing all he could to cheer and keep up the courage of the men. With him were Lieut. Lynch, wounded ; Captain Grant, wounded ; Major Vench, and Drs. Burrows and Eaton, while Colonel St. John overtook us further on. With the rear guard, if such it could be called, were Brigadier Nuttall and the remnants of his cavalry, Lieutenant Whittuck, Lieut Geoghegan, and Major River. Finding it impossible to turn back the confused mass of fugitives from the road they had chosen, General Burrows decided that it was better to stay with them than to divide the force, although he knew that the want of water would add terribly to their pitiable position on the march. As we moved silently and sadly along the road soon became strewn with dying wretches worn out by fatigue and devoured by a burning thirst that added frenzy to their sufferings. Strong men and weak lads alike abandoned themselves to despair, and lay themselves down rather than attempt a further struggle with the ruthless foe.

For this he received an Afghan War Medal

Frank made it back to Kandahar in the dreadful retreat where a relief march of 314 miles from Kabul to Kandahar was begun by General Robert with a division of 10,000 men. They arrived in time to relieve Kandahar and fought the Battle of Kandahar on Sept 1st 1880. A long and difficult battle saw a decisive British victory on that day. We know that Frank too survived this. And after all this he died 4 days later on the 5th of September 1880 of dysentery.

Now why do I write of this man? It all began yesterday spending my Monday evening as I often do in Bath I took a long walk and went to the Abbey Cemetery on a hillside above Bath. Built in 1844 it is filled with graves from the 19th and 20th centuries. I took a number of photos. Like the one below...



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