I would like to credit this period text... but have no idea who wrote it.
"On January 9th Gough started advancing. The new Sikh position was on
the left bank of the Jhelum and faced about cast, covering a front of
six miles. Most of the Sikh regulars were on the right of this line, in
front of which stretched rough ground covered with jungle: to the left,
where the Sikh irregulars were posted, the ground was steeper and
ravines rendered it almost inaccessible. The position was partially
entrenched and the Sikhs, who numbered nearly 30,000 to Gough's 13,000
had over sixty guns, so that an attack was not to be hastily undertaken.
firing had hardly opened before the British bugles sounded the 'Alarm,'
followed by the 'Assembly,' and in a minute the men were standing to t
heir arms, ready to unpile and fall in. Caught by surprise though they
were there was no disorder or confusion, and if Gough had been taken at
a disadvantage, mainly through the difficulties of reconnoitring, he
did all he could to rectify the position.
To a man of his
temperament retreat was out of the question, and anyway it would have
exposed the troops to considerable losses from the enemy's guns. Attack
was the only possible course, ........
The jungle was so thick that Campbell, thinking it to be hopeless to
try to control both brigades, went off to the outer flank to direct
Hoggan's movements and connect them with those of the cavalry, merely
telling Pennycuick and the Twenty-Fourth that there was to be no firing
but the work was to be done with the bayonet.
About 3 p.m.
therefore the advance started, the Twenty-Fourth in the centre of the
brigade, with the grenadier company out in front as skirmishers. The
enemy's exact position and the distance to be covered were unknown, and
after covering about 200 yards the troops plunged into a thick jungle,
in which direction and formation were alike hard to keep. More than
once the line had to break into echelon of companies, and to recover
formation in the jungle was almost impossible. As Captain Blachford put
it, 'whole sections of companies were constantly obliged to be doubling
and filing in rear, so that it was very difficult to keep the line in
anything like order.'
At first, the advance was steady enough,
but when the battalion came within range of the enemy's guns a
tremendous fire was opened and almost instinctively the pace quickened.
Whether Pennycuick ever ordered the charge will never be known. Sir
Charles Napier, who investigated the matter carefully, is emphatic that
he did not, that the change from 'an advance in quick time' into 'a
rush forward' was quite spontaneous, the inevitable result of 'the
excitement of danger,' the 'zeal of the soldiers to close with the
enemy' and the impossibility of controlling the advance in such
country. He is emphatic that 'there was nothing for a brave and able
commander to do but what Colonel Pennycuick did-dash forward, cheering
on his men, and by his example supporting the impulse he could not
check and ought not to check.' Even if the Twenty-Fourth charged at too
great a distance from the enemy it was 'the noble course,' and had the
regiment's rapid advance only been properly supported all might have
Unfortunately no support was forthcoming, for the
Twenty-Fourth, already ahead of the Sepoys on their flanks, increased
their lead at every stride. Moreover, they seem unfortunately to have
to some extent masked the fire of the supporting guns, while the men
tended more and more to bunch where the jungle was the thinnest and
easiest to penetrate, and it was just on these points that the Sikh
guns were trained. At one point in particular a large pond surrounded
by scraggy trees blocked the way and forced two companies to file to
the flank, which increased the bunching. Still there was no holding or
checking the Twenty-Fourth. 'The regiment' writes one survivor, 'never
wavered for an instant, but pressed on without firing a shot.'
Macpherson has described how the line pushed forward into the dense
jungle, the men 'answering the crash of the enemy's fire with loud
cheers' and pressing on undauntedly, though grape, canister and round
shot swept them down in scores. 'My company,' he writes 'was near the
centre where the Colours were as a target to aim at. One discharge of
grape seems to have swept away my right section-for a moment I am
alone, still unhurt. On, on we go . . . . the goal is almost won . . .
. the ground becomes clearer, the flashes from the guns more vivid, we
can now dimly see through the smoke the Sikhs labouring at their guns .
. . . bayonets come down to the charge and with wild, choking hurrahs,
scarcely a shot having been fired, though our men were loaded, the
battery is won.' Campbell was emphatic in his praises. 'It is
impossible,' he wrote, 'for any troops to have surpassed... the
gallantry displayed in this attack. This single regiment actually broke
the enemy's line and took the large number of guns in their front.'
Napier was no less warm: 'their conduct,' he declared, 'has never been
surpassed by British soldiers on a field of battle.'
It was the
grenadier company, now on the right flank, who first reached the guns,
the jungle in its front having been less thick than elsewhere. A
counter-attack drove it back, but Captain Travers promptly rallied it
and a second advance carried the position, the rest of the regiment
arriving almost simultaneously.
Round the guns a desperate
struggle raged: the Sikhs fought furiously for their cherished pieces
and only after a desperate resistance were the gunners overcome. Sikh
infantry from rising ground in the rear blazed away vigorously, not
minding if they shot down their own gunners if they could cheek the
victorious Twenty-Fourth. Some of the men had been provided with jagged
nails to jam into the touch-holes to render the guns unserviceable and
several were treated in this way. Lieutenant Lutnam, one of
Macpherson's tree-climbing companions, has described how he contrived
with the aid of Private Stanfield of the grenadier company to put one
gun out of action, and another was spiked by Sergeant Lear of the same
company, but before the majority could be disabled the Sikh infantry
were counter attacking in force and the remnant of the Twenty-Fourth
was hard pressed to hold its ground. It was indeed a remnant, the
centre companies in particular having been virtually annihilated, and
if, as Napier grandiloquently wrote, it was 'master of the position'
and its 'glory was complete,' it was alone in its glory, 'isolated and
unsupported.' The whole Colour-party had been shot down, both
Lieutenant Phillips and Ensign Collis being killed when within a few
yards of the guns, where Colonel Pennycuick also fell, his son, the
junior Ensign, just joined from Sandhurst, who dashed to his father's
side, being shot down as he reached him. Colonel Brooks was attacked by
three Sikhs, who dashed out from under the guns, but they were
bayoneted by men of the grenadier company. The Colonel, however, was
killed almost immediately afterwards; two Majors, Harris and Paynter,
were desperately wounded, Captain Travers of the grenadier company was
cut down by a swordsman, and before long two-thirds of the officers had
been disabled and very few were left to direct the resistance to the
vigorous counter-attacks of the Sikh infantry. The particularly heavy
losses, which the centre companies had suffered, proved a special
disadvantage. The line was weakest in the centre and the
counter-attack, breaking in here, separated the battalion into two
wings. No support was forthcoming from the Sepoy regiments whom the
regiment's rapid advance had left far behind and, fighting desperately
against overwhelming numbers, its remnants were thrust back through the
jungle, losing heavily as they fell back. Not until the open ground on
the far side of the jungle was reached was it possible to rally and
Altogether the Regiment, which had gone into action with
31 officers and 1,065 NCOs and men, had 13 officers and 225 men killed,
9 officers and 278 men wounded, in all nearly half its strength. The
Queen's Colour was lost, It may have fallen into a pool when its
bearer, Lieutenant Phillips, was hit; another account says that the
staff was broken, and that Private Connolly wrapped the Colour round
his body to secure it, but he too was killed and presumably buried
without the Colour being discovered. It certainly never fell into the
Sikh's hands, as did the Colours of the 25th and 45th NI. Had the Sikhs
secured it, they would have certainly displayed it to a British
officer, a prisoner in their camp, to whom they proudly exhibited their
other trophies. The Regimental Colour, rescued by Private Perry when
Ensign Collis fell, was safely brought in."
The medal was issued with the Goojerat bar, this is confirmed on the roll. Normally it should have been issued with Chilianwala as well. This oversight was made up for later and on W. Burbige's records he has "Goojerat" and "Chilianwala".
In fairness it should be said that for some collectors this makes the medal suspect. Your opinion would be welcome... there is a discussion here...