In May 1879 a Treaty was signed between the British and Amir Yakub Kahn of Afghanistan. Under the terms of the Treaty a British Mission was to be established in Kabul.
Their safety guaranteed by the Treaty and the word of the Amir, the small Mission left for Kabul in July 1879. The British Residency was in the Bala Hissar. On the 3rd September 1879, without warning, Afghan soldiers attacked the Residency and were joined by the civilian population. Urgent messages were sent to the Amir, claiming protection. The messages were ignored.
4 Britons and 69 Indian troops faced countless thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians. The Indian troops were 21 Guides Cavalry and 48 Guides Infantry. (The Guides were an elite Regiment of the Indian Army)
Major Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari, KCB, C.S.I. - Bengal Staff Corps - Eldest son of Major the Count Adolphe Cavagnari and Caroline. He was born in France on 4th July 1841, but brought up and educated in England. He joined the East India Company Service and was an Ensign with the 1st Bengal Fusiliers during the Mutiny in 1858. In 1861, aged 20, he was appointed Assistant-Commissioner in the Punjab. He was appointed to the CSI in 1877. He served in several expeditions and was appointed the British Envoy to Kabul in 1879. He was killed in the British Residency when it was attacked by the Afghans without warning.
William Jenkyns - First Assistant Political Officer to the British Embassy at Kabul - Eldest son of William Jenkyns, of Aberdeen. Born 23 August 1847. After a distinguished University education, he qualified for the Indian Civil Service and went to Bombay in 1870. In 1876 he was Interpreter and Secretary to the Embassy at Peshawar for the conference with the Amir of Afghanistan. In 1878 he was a Political Officer with the army in Afghanistan. He was selected by Sir Louis Cavagnari for the Embassy in Kabul. During the defence of the Residency he was the last officer seen alive, on the evening of the 3 September 1879 he was part of the charge from the Residency. He was 32.
Surgeon Ambrose Hamilton Kelly - Indian Medical Service - Eldest son of William Kelly, of Dublin. He was born 30th September 1845 and studied medicine and surgery in Dublin. In 1869 he was commissioned to the Bengal Medical Service and served in the Lushai expedition. He was posted to the 1st Punjab Infantry in 1872. He was selected to join the Embassy to Kabul and was killed during the defence of the Residency.
Lieutenant Walter Richard Pollock Hamilton, V.C. - Guides Cavalry - Fourth son of Alexander and Emma Hamilton, of Instigoe, Ireland. He was born 18th August 1856. He was gazetted to the 70th Regt. in 1874. He then transferred to the Corps of Guides. At Futtehbad he led the Guides in a charge after his close friend, Major Battye, was killed and was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was selected to command the 75 men of the Corps of Guides who accompanied the British Embassy to Kabul. He was killed during the attack on the embassy in Kabul, 3rd September 1878.
Soon Cavagnari, Jenkyns and Kelly were dead. Hamilton and his Guides fought desperately, even charging out of the Residency to bayonet the crews of artillery brought against them. During one of these attacks Lieutenant Hamilton was killed. The Residency was set on fire and the buidlings started to collapse. As the sun went down that evening, the few remaining Guides were commanded by Jemadar Jewand Singh (Guides Cavalry). All day the Afghans called upon the Guides to surrender, promising them their lives. The Guides rejected this offer and after 12 hours of fighting the few remaining men fixed bayonets and charged out to their deaths. Over 600 Afghan dead bore witness to the heroic resistance of this small force.
"This memorial has been erected to perpetuate the remembrance of the conspicuous gallantry of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Queen's Own Corps of Guides who when escort to Major Sir Loius Cavagnari KCSI fell in the defence of the Residency of Kabul on Sept 3rd 1879.
The annals of no army and no regiment can show a brighter record of devoted bravery than has been achieved by this small band of Guides. by their deeds they have conferred undying honour not only on the regiment to which they belong but on the whole British Army.
Officers, Native Officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Queen's Own Corps of Guides, who fell in the defence of the Residency of Kabul, on the 3rd September 1897