The important Kabul Gate Explosion Party Ghuznee Medal 1839, fitted with original silver rod and straight bar hinged suspension, rim with period engraved naming in correct known style, awarded to Sergeant H. D. Vivian, Bengal Sappers and Miners, Honourable East India Company Forces, who was one of the Explosion Party which blew in the Kabul Gate at the capture of the Fortress at Ghuznee on 23rd July 1839. Vivain’s service in this most gallant of actions, is recorded in the history of the Indian Sappers and Miners by Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. Sandes.
Ghuznee Medal 1839, fitted with original silver rod and straight bar hinged suspension, rim with period engraved naming in correct known style; (F.D. VIVIAN. SAPPERS AND MINERS)
Condition: Nearly Extremely Fine.
Provenance: formerly part of the ‘Awards to the Indian Amy from the Collection of A.M. Shaw’ sale, Dix Noonan Webb, 13th September 2012, Lot 605.
Sergeant H. D. Vivian was one of the Explosion Party at the capture of the Fortress at Ghuznee on 23rd July 1839.
The following account is taken from the history of the Indian Sappers and Miners by Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. Sandes: ‘The Explosion Party advanced in silence, Durand leading with Macleod in close attendance, followed by six men of the H.M.’s 13th Light Infantry, a Subedar and fifteen Bengal Sappers carrying powder-bags or bags of earth to tamp the charge, Sergeants Robertson and Vivian with the hose [fuse], Peat with another Sergeant and a Jemadar and five Bombay Sappers to assist as required with bags of earth or to replace casualties, and in rear another small squad of British infantry. When about 150 yards from the works, the party was challenged and then fired upon. Blue lights flared on the battlements and a general fusillade began, but the fire of the covering party disturbed the enemy’s aim to such an extent that there were no casualties. Durand pushed on across the bridge, through the fausse-braye and up to the winding road to the Kabul Gate, while Peat halted in a sally port of the fausse-braye after posting the rear party of infantry in a position to repel any attacks from swordsmen. Under the superintendence of Durand, Subedar Devi Singh of the Bengal Sappers and Miners laid the first bag containing the end of the powder-hose; the other powder-carriers followed, and finally those with the earth for tamping the charge. Each man, having deposited his charge, retired under the direction of Macleod along the foot of the massive walls, where he was screened from fire.
Meanwhile, Durand and Sergeant Robertson were uncoiling the hose towards a sally-port to the right of the gateway, laying it close to the wall. The enemy tried to interfere by hurling down stones and clods of earth, but these did no serious damage because most of them bounced clear of the attackers. Most fortunately, the end of the hose just reached to the shelter of the sally-port, the existence of which was unknown when the hose was prepared, for the length had been designed only to give Durand a slender chance of escape if he was forced to flash the train with a pistol to save it from being seized and extinguished by the enemy. At first the port-light would not light, and Durand was occupied for some time in trying to ignite it by blowing on the quick-match and port-fire held together. Even then, when he had succeeded, the port-fire went out when laid on the ground. The garrison redoubled their efforts with musketry, stones, bricks and earth. Then Durand drew his pistol, and telling Robertson to run, prepared to flash the train and probably die in the explosion. Robertson, however, refused to leave him and begged him to give the port-fire another chance. He did so, and it burned steadily at last. The roar of the guns was deafening, the rattle of musketry incessant, and after calling several times to Peat and receiving no answer, Durand and Robertson retreated some distance and lay down to watch the flame of the ignited train run up to the gateway. A heavy report and a column of fire smoke showed that the charge had exploded and that the way was open to the stormers; but no bugle call rang out and no troops advanced, and after sending Robertson back with an urgent message, Durand made for the nearest covering party of infantry to find a bugler.
The ensuing assault, when it finally came, was met with little resistance and the fortress captured with the loss of only seventeen men killed and 165 wounded. The Afghans, however, had over 600 killed, some 1,600 taken prisoner, and an unknown number of wounded.