The Battle of Maiwand

The Battle of Maiwand was one of the principal battles of the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

The battle ended in defeat for the British Army and victory for the Afghan followers of Ayub Khan. The Afghan victory at Maiwand was at a cost of anywhere between 2,050 to 2,750 Afghan warriors killed and probably about 1,500 wounded. On the other side, about 969 British/Indian soldiers were killed and 177 more wounded. It is however one of the few instances in the 19th century of an Asian power defeating a Western one.

Before the battle the campaign had gone well for the British. They had previously defeated Afghan tribesmen at Ali Masjid, Peiwar Kotal, Kabul and Ahmed Khel. Furthermore, they had managed to occupy countless number of towns and villages including Kandahar, Dakka and Jalalabad.

Ayub Khan, Shere Ali's younger son, who had been holding Herat during the British operations at Kabul and Kandahar, set out towards Kandahar with a small army in June 1880, and a brigade under General Burrows was detached from Kandahar to oppose him. Burrows advanced to Helmand, opposite Girishk, to oppose Ayub Khan, but was there deserted by the troops of Shere Ali, the wali of Kandahar, and forced to retreat to Kushk-i-Nakhud, half way to Kandahar.

In order to prevent Ayub passing to Ghazni, Burrows advanced to Maiwand on 27 July, and attacked Ayub, who had already seized that place. The Afghans, who numbered 25,000, outflanked the British, the artillery expended their ammunition, and the native portion of the Brigade got out of hand and pressed back on the few British infantry. The British were completely routed, and had to thank the apathy of the Afghans for escaping total annihilation. Of the 2,476 British troops engaged, the British and Indian force lost 21 officers and 948 soldiers killed. Eight officers and 169 men were wounded. The Grenadiers lost 64% of their strength and the 66th lost 62%, including 12 officers. The cavalry losses were much smaller.

The battle dampened morale for the British side, but was also partly a disappointment for Ayub Khan, Governor of Herat and commander of the Afghans in this battle, because he had lost so many men to gain a small advantage. Ayub Khan did manage to shut the British up in Kandahar, resulting in General Frederick Roberts' famous 314-mile relieving march from Kabul to Kandahar in August 1880. The resulting Battle of Kandahar on 1 September was a decisive victory for the British.