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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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"Whatever happens, we have got

The Maxim gun, and they have not."

Hilaire Belloc


A detachment of the Devonshire Regiment was part of the huge expeditionary force assembled under General Low for the relief of the Siege of Chitral in the Spring of 1895. Some sources say this force numbered 15,000 troops - others put the number even higher.

General Low's force travelled 160 miles to the north from Nowshera towards Chitral. A further 500 men, led by Lieutenant Colonel Kelly, came from the east using the 200 mile route from Gilgit. In spite of being hampered by deep snow and frost bite, this smaller group were the first to reach and relieve the Fort. It was General Low's group which met the severest resistance and the hardest fighting.

Regiments making up this truly formidable force were:



No. 3 Mountain Battery Royal Artillery

Royal Engineers

The Devonshire Regiment

The Bedfordshire Regiment

2nd Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers

1st Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps

Seaforth Highlanders

1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders

Royal Irish Fusiliers

11th Bengal Lancers

Bengal Sappers & Miners

14th (Ferozepore Sikh) Bengal Infantry

15th (Ludhiana Sikh) Infantry

32nd (Punjab) Bengal Infantry

37th (Dogra) Bengal Infantry

2/4th Gurkha Rifle Regiment

Punjab Frontier Force - Corps of Guides Cavalry

                                     Corps of Guides Infantry

                                     4th Sikh Infantry

Kashmir Imperial Service troops - No. 1 Kashmir Mountain Battery

                                                     Kashmir Sappers & Miners

                                                     4th ( Raghunath) Kashmir Light Infantry



In the early 1890s, after 3 years of trials, the British Army decided to equip every battalion with a new type of gun known as the Maxim after its American inventor Hiram Maxim. It was the world's first portable automatic machine gun. Over the 70 years it was used by the British Army, it was refined and improved but even in its earliest form, it was capable of firing 500 rounds per minute. An ammunition belt was passed through the machine and the energy from the recoil force of each bullet ejected the spent cartridge. The first models produced considerable amounts of heat and had to be water-cooled throughout operation - a heavy task for a firing team rather than one or two gunners; nonetheless, it was a very formidable weapon.

Its introduction had not been well-received initially and at first, relatively few senior officers bothered to acquire any real expertise in its use or in the development of strategies for its deployment. One man, however, had foreseen its potential and had come to thoroughly understand its usage and its benefits - Captain Allan Laing Peebles of the Devonshire Regiment. In 1894, he had taken one gun and a team from the Devonshire Regiment, consisting of a corporal and eight men, to Waziristan with devastating effect, having redesigned the assembly of the gun and its mounting so that it could be carried in kit form on the backs of mules, making it highly portable over rough terrain. 

On the relief expedition to Chitral, he brought with him two Maxim guns with an enlarged team of well - drilled operators from the Devonshire Regiment. Maxim crews from other regiments were brought together under his command to form a co-ordinated unit which more than proved its worth in action and firmly established the Maxim as the British Army's No. 1 machine gun.


Maxim Gun
Maxim gun detachment of the 1st Btn. King's Royal Rifle Corps in the Chitral Campaign 1895.*

Courtesy of the King's Royal Rifles©

* A photograph of the Devonshire Regiment's Maxim crews does exist. Unfortunately the men are completely obscured by two mules demonstrating how the gun kits were carried! It can be seen on page 270 of Volume 2 of  "The Bloody Eleventh"  by W. J. P. Aggett.


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