Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Hussar & the Second Afghan War

Maternal great-grandfather - Edwin GALE

Edwin Gale was born on 25th September 1853 at 2 Anglers Gardens, Islington. He was the eldest child of William (an illiterate seaman) and Sarah (nee Baldock) Gale. Just three months after his 17th birthday Edwin enlisted as a groom in the 10th Hussars, having previously served in the 1st Middlesex Militia.

On 31st October 1878 Private Edwin Gale embarked for India and arrived in Afghanistan on 20th January 1879.

Edwin arrived during what was the “Second Afghan Campaign” which took place between 1878 and 1880. This conflict was sparked by the growing need for Britain to hold and defend its Empire, particularly in the face of Russian expansion to nearby Tashkent, Samarkand and Khiva. By the time Edwin’s regiment arrived in Afghanistan the major battles for the Khyber and Bolan Passes had been fought and Kandahar was once again tentatively in the hands of the British forces.

However, the fierce warrior tribes who inhabited this region ensured that Edwin’s time in Afghanistan would not be easy. Rioting Afghan soldiers sacked the British residency in Kabul in September and the approach of winter lent an urgency to the situation as both sides attempted to win and hold the best position. By early October tensions had flared into full-scale battle at Charasiah, just outside Kabul with the British again claiming victory.

As Edwin’s time in Afghanistan drew to a close, Amir Yakub Khan abdicated and threw Afghanistan into further chaos. The fierce Battle of Sherpur was fought on 23rd December 1879 and it is likely that this was the last conflict Edwin encountered in Afghanistan. He arrived back in England on 22nd March 1880.

After his tour of duty Edwin settled back to military life in England. On 15th January 1885 Edwin married Louisa Kennett, an agricultural labourers daughter from Lyminge, in the Parish Church in Cheriton, Kent. They had at least 6 children whose birthplaces attest to the mobile life of a soldier; Percy Edwin born in Aldershot, Lionel Sidney in Hounslow, Albert Victor in York, Charles E in Cahir Ireland, and Mabel Olive Lily and Arthur Vernon born in Edmonton.

On the 22nd June 1901 Edwin was discharged from the army with the rank of Squadron Sergent Major Rough Rider. He had earned 6 Good Conduct Badges as well as the Afghan Medal. Edwin died at the age of 77 on 17th September 1930.

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