Even now 120 years on there is still controversy over where blame for this costly defeat should lie. Some of the Regiments and the descendants of the men that took part smart from criticisms levelled long ago. But the arguments are now surely cold and sterile. The defeat of the British at Maiwand was as much the product of the overwhelming size of the Afghan army and its greatly superior and well handled fire power, as of any perceived shortcomings attributed to individuals, units or the British command. The battle was fought in extreme conditions of heat and thirst which the Victorians described as "trying". That so many of the British and Indian soldiers survived the long and dangerous retreat was due to the unselfishness of many individuals and the discipline and devotion to duty of units that had suffered greatly in the battle; yet they succeeded in protecting and shepherding so many wounded and other survivors back over the 45 miles to Kandahar. There just a month later they lived to see the defeat of Ayub Khan, whose army had lost five times as many killed at Maiwand as the troops he had so convincingly defeated.

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by Stephen Luscombe