The Gordons

William Henry Dick Cunyngham VC

Dick-Cunyngham was born on 16th June 1851 in Prestonfield, Edinburgh. He joined the 92nd in 1872 as a sub-lieutenant and went on campaign with them in the Afghan War of 1878-80. He was on transport duty in the advance to Kandahar and Khelat-Ghilzie, and in the Thull Chotiali Force and the Kuram Valley Field Force. He took part in the engagement at Ali Kheyl and the operations around Kabul which included the action in the Sherpur pass where he won the VC.

On 13th Dec 1879 during the attack on the Sherpur Pass, there was a momentary wavering of the troops who had been beaten back at the top of the hill. Lieutenant Dick-Cunyngham rushed forward and bravely exposed himself to the full fire being directed at his men. He rallied them and by his example and cheering words encouraged them to follow him into the middle of the enemy.

In 1880 he was in the Maidan Expedition as adjutant of a wing of the 92nd. He took part in the battle at Charasiah on 25th April and was on the terrible march from Kabul to Kandahar. He took part in the reconnaissance of 31st Aug, and the battle of Kandahar.

After this campaign the 92nd sailed to South Africa and took part in the 1st Boer War of 1881. Disaster befell the regiment at Majuba Hill. Dick-Cunyngham was adjutant at this time. Two years later he married Helen Wauchope.

In March 1891 he transferred to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders with the rank of Major. He returned to India where he was Station Staff Officer in Bengal from 1893-4, and DAAG from 1894-96.

He returned to the Gordon Highlanders in Feb 1897 as CO of the 2nd Battalion and took them to South Africa for the war of 1899-1902. He led them in the charge at Elandslaagte and was shot in the leg early on. He was unable to carry on but urged his men to continue while he sat and smoked his pipe. He had to wait a few hours before he was taken to a doctor.

The 2nd Battalion were part of the besieged garrison in Ladysmith. In January 1900 there was a major battle around Wagon Hill and Caesar's Camp involving the Gordon Highlanders. Dick-Cunyngham was mortally wounded and died on 6th Jan 1900.

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