Major George Frederick Blackwood

George Frederick Blackwood was born on 11 Aug 1838 at Moradabad, India. He was the grandson of William Blackwood who founded Blackwood’s Magazine. He was the commander of E Battery, B Brigade, at Maiwand where he was killed on 27 July 1880.

He was educated at the Military Academy in Edinburgh and then Addiscombe. He joined the Bengal Artillery and transferred to the RHA in Dec 1857 in which he saw service in the Mutiny of 1857. In 1871 he served in Kashmir and Looshai. The following year he submitted a report containing valuable suggestions for the authorities concerning the guns and equipment most suitable for campaigning in various conditions. In 1876 he was in command of G Battery, 3rd Brigade with the rank of major, and highly commended by the Duke of Cambridge for bringing the unit to a high state of efficiency. But in the summer of 1878 he became ill and had to be sent to England. When he returned to India he was given command of E Battery, B Brigade at Kirkee. This was made up of 6 other officers, 164 men, 200 horses and six 9-pounder guns. In Jan 1880 he was ordered to Kandahar and there he joined the column commanded by Brigadier-General Burrows which set off to meet the advance of Ayub Khan’s army from Herat.

His first battle was against the mutinous local troops of the Wali of Kandahar. This involved having to make ramps for the guns to traverse irrigation ditches. An artillery duel lasted half an hour in which Major Blackwood proved his leadership and heroism. A Bombardier wrote home that, 'There is not a man in the whole battery but what would go through fire and water for a commander like the Major.'

At the battle of Maiwand on 27 July 1880 he rode forward with a division of the battery and was astonished at the size of the enemy force spread over the plain. The division under Lt Maclaine went too far forward and had to be recalled. A smoothbore battery captured from the Wali’s troops also came into action but ran out of ammunition. Their withdrawal to retrieve previously dumped supplies caused native troops to lose heart. Soon after this Blackwood was wounded in the thigh and tried to carry on. But having decided to get his wound dressed he went back to a regimental aid post. Unable to mount his horse because of the injury he decided to stay with the 66th Regiment. It was during their fighting withdrawal to Khig that the wound caused him problems and he had to be helped to their final defensive position in a walled garden. It was here that he was killed along with the remainder of the 66th Regiment. The bodies remained unburied until a punitive column arrived. His grave is still there where he was given a proper burial by his fellow artillerymen.

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by Stephen Luscombe