Posted by: travelrat | September 8, 2010

The Hero of Maiwand

There’s another museum in Salisbury’s Cathedral Close, which also allowed free entry on the Open Day. This is the Regimental Museum of the 4th Rifles. The museum has undergone several name changes over the years, in line with the amalgamation and name changes of the regiment it served. The 4th Rifles was formed only recently, from the amalgamation of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment with others. The RGBW had been previously formed by the amalgamation of the Gloucestershire Regiment with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment, which was, in turn, formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Berkshire Regiment with the Wiltshire Regiment.

Complicated, or what?

Anyway, the first thing to catch your eye as you enter this storehouse of military memorabilia is … a stuffed dog!

In 1880, the 66th Berkshire Regiment was serving in Afghanistan, and six companies were ordered to accompany an Indian brigade to intercept what was thought to be ‘an advance guard of irregulars’.

Contact was made at the village of Maiwand, about 45 miles north of Kandahar … but the ‘small advance guard’ they were expecting turned out to be an army of about 30,000 well-trained regular troops.

The Indians, totally demoralised, were being slaughtered wholesale, and, of the 450 men of the Berkshires, only 161 survived, 33 of whom were wounded. But, among those who managed to trickle back to Kandahar was a little mongrel dog, Bobbie, the pet of Sergeant Peter Kelly. Several people reported Bobbie in the thick of the battle, barking defiance at the enemy.

When Queen Victoria heard the story, she was delighted, and invited representatives of the Regiment to bring the dog for her to see. The little dog was dressed for the occasion in a fine coat, with the insignia of a Staff Sergeant picked out in imitation pearls. The Queen asked to see the scar of the wound he’d received, then presented him with the Afghan Medal, tying the ribbon around his neck with her own hands.

She never lost interest in him, and frequently sent messages enquiring after him. He was, unfortunately, killed by a runaway cab in Gosport … but, in a way, he’s still with the memorabilia of his friends, the soldiers.

Another survivor of the Battle of Maiwand was Surgeon-Major A F Preston, MB, on whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his character ‘Dr. Watson’ … also a ‘survivor of the battle’; see the opening lines of ‘A Study in Scarlet’


  1. Hi Keith,
    That is complicated, is just seems a bit ridiculous to keep renaming a museum. It must also be confusing for a lot of people as well.
    There are so many story’s of heroic dogs, it is good to see that this dog was at the front of the Museum, they deserve a lot more publicity, they have all saved so many lives.

    Here in Australia we also have a beautiful war hero her name is Sarbi and she was in Afghanistan. If you would like a read about her here is a link:-

    • Agree about the name; it doesn’t HAVE to be ‘The Museum of the 90th Foot and Mouth’ or whatever. There’s a prime example in Gloucester .. the ‘Soldiers of Gloucester’ museum. When the ‘Glorious Glosters’ merged with the RGBW, their artefacts stayed in Gloucester, and didn’t move to Salisbury to the RGBW museum.

  2. Stuffed animals scare me. They always remind me of the Bates Motel in Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho.’ I just can’t look at them. AAARRGGHHH!!!!

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