INDIA GENERAL SERVICE 1895, CLASPS, PUNJAB FRONTIER 1897-98, MALAKAND 1897 ‘LIEUT. E. B. PEACOCK. 31ST BL. INFY.’, BRITISH WAR MEDAL 1914-20 ‘LT. COL. E. B. PEACOCK.’, DELHI DURBAR 1903, SILVER ‘CAPTN. E. B. PEACOCK. 31ST P.I.’, DELHI DURBAR 1911, SILVER, UNNAMED
Lieutenant, later Lt Colonel Edward Barnes Peacock, served with the 31st Bengal (Punjab) Infantry on the North West Frontier of India 1897-98 and was present at the defence and relief of Malakand, the action of Landakai, and operations in the Mamund country. Whilst serving as a double company commander, he was severely wounded by a gunshot in the thigh whilst leading his companies in action at the villages of Agrah and Gat on 30 September 1897. During this action, 2nd Brigade, Malakand Field Force, consisting 31st Punjab Infantry, 38th Dogras and the Royal West Kents encountered far stiffer resistance than expected when attempting to clear the villages of Agrah and Gat. Located in mountainous and highly defensible positions, just five miles from the Afghan border, the Mamund’s in considerable force, took to defensive positions behind sangers and boulders. During the assault that followed, the Royal West Kents were tasked with taking Arrah, the 31st Punjab with clearing a lower spur between the two villages and were then to take Gat.
“The ridge [at Agrah] up which the 31st were stubbornly fighting their way was by no means so easily taken. The ground consisted, for the most part, of high-terraced fields, commanded by strongly-built sungars amongst the huge boulders at the top, and it was here that Colonel O'Brien fell mortally wounded while gallantly leading his men to the assault. In spite of their Commanding Officer being killed, the 31st pushed on under the covering fire of Major Fegan's Mountain Battery; these guns, with the greatest precision, dropping shell after shell amongst the Mohmands, who, although having lost heavily, still stuck manfully to their position, and as many of the huge rocks and boulders proved impervious to artillery fire, it was only the bayonets of our Sepoys that finally turned them out'.
Lieutenant Peacock was one of 8 Officer and 53 other rank casualties during the hard fighting. Of these, the 31st suffered 1 officer and 7 men killed, 1 officer and 15 men wounded.
After the action, Winston Churchill, who at the time was serving as a war correspondent with Malakand Field Force and had witnessed the above actions, replaced this Lieutenant Peacock in the 31st as a temporary measure, the 31st having previous to this action lost another officer wounded. In later years, the then Colonel Peacock, write a letter to The Times, telling how kind Churchill had been to him whilst he was recovering from his wounds. The Following taken from a Churchill letter in a 2016 Bonhams auctions adds more to the above:
“Typed letter signed ("Winston S. Churchill"), with autograph salutation and subscription, to Colonel E.B. Peacock, telling him how kind he was to send a copy of his charming letter to The Times ("...I do not know whether they will publish it or not, but at any rate it gives me great pleasure to be reminded of those good days in the Mamund Valley...") and promising him a copy "of a book I wrote on those days", 1 page, engraved heading, some very light spotting, 4to, Chartwell, 23 December 1938.
'THOSE GOOD DAYS IN THE MAMUND VALLEY' – Churchill looks back to the exploits of his youth. In his letter to The Times, Colonel Peacock relates how, when serving with the Malakand Field Force, he had been wounded and was replaced as Double Company Officer by Lieutenant Churchill – an unprecedented step as Churchill was there as a journalist rather than serving officer. Peacock continues: "I have not had the good fortune ever to meet Mr Churchill again, but I have often since recalled his kindly thoughtfulness and genial personality in coming daily, and sometimes twice a day, into my tent in the Field Hospital at Inayat Kila, when he would sit on my bed and discourse in his chatty way for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, whilst my own brother officers would sometimes be content with merely looking through the tent-flap to ask how I was getting on"…”
The following web page gives a good deal more information on the campaign itself:
“In 1897, Winston Churchill was a 23-year-old journalist attached for about six weeks to the Malakand Field Force in the Swat Valley as Britain fought rebellious Pashtun, or Pathan, tribesmen in the region -- at the time, the northwest frontier of British India. This was first time Churchill had been to ‘war’ and he sent dispatches to The Daily Telegraph about this particularly brutal campaign, writing vividly and engagingly about the land and the warlike nature of its tribes "where every man is a soldier." The letters were incorporated into Churchill's first book; ‘The Story of the Malakand Field Force: An Episode of Frontier War’ (1898). In his book Churchill invites the reader to examine the legitimacy of village-burning:
‘A camp of a British Brigade, moving at the order of the Indian Government and under the acquiescence of the people of the United Kingdom, is attacked at night. Several valuable and expensive officers, soldiers and transport animals are killed and wounded. The assailants retire to the hills. Thither it is impossible to follow them. They cannot be caught. They cannot be punished. Only one remedy remains – their property must be destroyed. Their villages are made hostages for their good behaviour.’
Condition GVF, bar Delhi Durbar 1903 which has some contact marks. Sold with research on CD. An extremely fine and scarce Malakand Field Force officer casualty group. Ex Spink 2001