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History

Assaye Day

1. Assaye Day was the Regimental Day for Queen Victoria’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners, and as such commemorated by The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers.

2. On 23 September 1803 during the first Maharatta War, an advance force of 4,500 men under General The Hon Arthur Wellesley came upon an army of 40,000 near the village of Assaye. Wellesley attacked at once with all his Artillery, Infantry and Pioneers (later to become the Madras Sappers and Miners). The Pioneers played a prominent part in this attack, 15 being killed, 51 wounded and 5 missing. Captain Heithland of the Pioneers had his horse shot from under him whilst the General lost two horses. The enemy was routed by a small but disciplined force, which had driven across the River Jewah. Before they could recognise, the British and Madras Cavalry charged, and the enemy were utterly defeated. 

 

Ghazni Day

1. The traditions of The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers spring from many sources. Gurkhas celebrate Ghazni Day in memory of the valour shown in action by the Corps of Bombay Sappers and Miners in 1839.

2. The First Afghan War started in 1838. The following year the combined armies of the Bombay and Bengal Presidencies were advancing in Kabul, on the road to which was the fortress of Ghazni. The Supreme Commander had been informed that he could expect no residence and had left his artillery at Kandahar.

3. When he arrived, however, he found the fort occupied by 3000 to 4000 well armed men. The fortress was surrounded by a moat so mining was impossible. There was no alternative to a desperate attempt to assault the fortress after then engineers had blown the gate. 

4. At first light on 23rd February 1839, a party of Bombay Sappers and Miners under Captain A C Peat, supported by a detachment of infantry, advanced to the gateway. They carried 300 pounds of gunpowder and a fuse 72 feet long.  When they got within 150 yards of the gate, they came under heavy fire.  However, they still managed to uncoil the fuse towards a sallyport to the right of the gateway.  The fuse was then lit and while it burned steadily the party retired to tolerate cover. 

5. A heavy report and a column of fire and smoke showed that the charge had exploded and that way was opened. The assaulting column broke through the shattered gateway to gain possession of the fortress with little loss. The result of this action was that Kabul was taken a few days later. 

6. Captain Peat was given a brevet majority and the CB for his part in action, and 20 of his men were awarded the ION. On 24th February 1877 the honour “Ghuznee” was officially sanctioned for the Bombay Sappers and Miners.     

 

Delhi Day

1. Delhi Day, 14 September, was the Regimental Day of KGVO Bengal Sappers and Miners and commemorated one of the most gallant feats in the history of the royal Engineers and of the Sappers and Miners.

2. During the Indian Mutiny, the rebels held Delhi against the Government forces. After fierce and continuous fighting from 9 June 1857, Major General Sir Henry Barnard ordered an assault on the fort through the Kashmir Gate on 14 September.

3. Under covering fire from HM’s 60th Rifles, Lieutenant Home RE, Sergeants Smith and Carmichael and a party of Sappers and Miners, in daylight, and in full view of the enemy, advanced to the gate carrying the explosives. The bridge over the moat had been destroyed, but a few planks remained, across which the party went.

4. During this outstanding example of bravery, Sergeant Carmichael was killed and Havildar Madhu was wounded by heavy fire from the rebels. The explosive charges were, however, finally placed and the firing party, commanded by Lieutenant Salkeld RE, advanced. Lieutenant Salkeld was wounded twice but, before dying, he handed over the fuse to Corporal Burges who, although mortally wounded himself, fired the charge and blew in the gate. Sepoy Ramnath and Havildar Tiloksing were also wounded.

5. For their bravery in this action, the following were decorated:

Lieutenant Duncan Home RE  - VC

Lieutenant Philip Salkeld RE - VCHi

Sergeant John Smith RE - VC

6.  In addition, 12 Indian Order of Merit (IOM) and 3 Order of British Indian (OBI) were awarded to the Sappers and Miners. The Governor General wrote about the action:

“Where so much has been done to command admiration it is difficult to select acts for particular notice. The Governor General in Council feels honour that no injustice will be done to any men if he offers tribute of admiration and thanks to the brave soldiers who, under Lieutenants Home and Salkeld, accomplished the desperate task of blowing open the Kashmir Gate.”


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