15th February, 1 Comment
By John Watson
In “A Study in Scarlet”, I told about my being attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers which was an infantry regiment of the British Army. It was the Fifth Regiment of Foot when it was formed in 1674 but was renamed in the reorganisation of 1881 so that when I wrote up the story I used its new name.
Before I could join the regiment, the second Afghan war broke out and I began my duties in Kandahar. I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Royal Berkshire Regiment and I served with them at the battle of Maiwand on July 27th, 1880. Our brigade of 2,500 men were massacred by ten times that number of savage Afghan tribesmen. I was badly wounded right at the start of the battle whilst tending the first man who was hit. I was eventually sent back to England, ending up in London, and eventually meeting Holmes and residing in 221B Baker Street for many years.
It is rare for anyone to attempt to fill in the apparent gaps in my life as attention is more frequently directed at Holmes but in Watson’s Afghan Adventure I attempt to explain to Holmes how I became an army doctor, served with the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers and how a treasure map and the death of a close friend brought me to the battle of Maiwand and on to 221B Baker Street.
Kieran McMullen’s account starts one April when Holmes had concluded two cases that I have yet to chronicle and I had returned to Baker Street just missing Murray, my orderly, who had called with a box containing some items recalling our time together in Afghanistan. This led to me to explain to Holmes what really happened.
McMullen’s account continues with a summary of my early life, my qualification as a doctor, and my decision to join the Army. Then the mystery of my wounds and what is contained in the box that Murray left for me in Baker Street begins to unfold.
The fateful battle of Maiwand rounds off the story and McMullen has clearly carried out some detailed research here. Many of my fellow officers, including Surgeon Major Preston, are mentioned here. It was Preston who decided that I should return to England. My own recent research into the battle of Maiwand on a recent visit to Berkshire corroborates most of McMullen’s detail though I suspect few would understand the geography of the area and the frequent use of arabic terms for weapons, soldiers and tribes. The actual battle was far more bloody than even Mc Mullen’s account relates and perhaps I should write my own account of what happened that terrible day.
I will leave you to find out how the mystery of Murray’s box resolves itself.