Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment

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The siege of the Sherpur Cantonment
Part of Second Anglo-Afghan War
Assault on the Sherpur cantonment.
Date15–23 December 1879

First phase, Afghan victory

Second phase, British victory

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  British Empire

Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Frederick Roberts

Mir bacha khan

Mohammed Jan
7,000 Anglo-Indian troops 50,000 tribal warriors [1]
Casualties and losses
33 dead and wounded 3,000 killed [1]

The siege of the Sherpur Cantonment was a battle fought in December 1879, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War.



On 3 September 1879 Sir Pierre Cavagnari, the British Resident in Kabul, and his escort were massacred by mutinous Afghan troops, initiating the second phase of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. A force was assembled and named the Kabul Field Force, under the command of Major-General Frederick Roberts. After defeating Afghan forces at Chariasab on 6 October, Roberts marched into Kabul on 13 October. With Kabul itself vulnerable to attack, Roberts based his force in the unfinished Sherpur cantonment, a mile north of the city. A military commission was then set up to try those responsible for Cavagnari's death. While a strong response to the murders was considered necessary, the resultant public executions helped unite Afghan opposition against the British presence. [2]

At the end of November, an army of tribesmen under the command of Mohammed Jan Khan Wardak, who had denounced Amir Mohammad Yaqub Khan as a British puppet and instead declared Musa Jan the new amir, gathered in the area north of Kabul. On 11 December a small detachment (c.170 men) of the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers and the 14th Bengal Lancers encountered a 10,000+ Afghan army advancing on Kabul. [3] In an attempt to delay the advance, the outnumbered Lancers charged the Afghans. [3] Heavy casualties were suffered and the Afghans continued their advance. [3] Anglican chaplain James Adams was awarded the Victoria Cross for rescuing the wounded. [4]

The siege

On 15 December, the Afghan army began to besiege the British forces entrenched in the Sherpur Cantonment. As news of a relief column under the command of Brigadier General Charles Gough reached Mohammed Jan, he ordered his troops to storm the cantonment on 23 December. By midday, the assault had been repulsed, and the Afghan army dispersed. No quarter was given to Afghans found in the area with weapons. [5]

The Sherpur Cantonment is maintained up to the present as a British military cemetery. [6]

Order of battle

British regiments

British Indian Army regiments

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  1. 1 2 British Battles: The Second Anglo-Afghan War. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  2. Robson, Brian (2008). "Roberts, Frederick Sleigh, first Earl Roberts (1832–1914)" . Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35768 . Retrieved 25 February 2009.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. 1 2 3 A Short History of the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers 1715–1949
  4. "No. 25008". The London Gazette . 26 August 1881. p. 4393.
  5. Forbes, Archibald (1912). The Afghan Wars 1839–42 and 1878–80: Chapter IV: The December storm. Gutenberg Project E-book.
  6. Afghanistan's 'graveyard of foreigners'