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Medals of fearless brothers fetch double.

This pair of medals awarded to two fearless Aston-born brothers who fought and died in Afghanistan nearly 170 years ago fetched pounds 8,725 at auction last night - more than double their estimated price of pounds 3,250.

The First Afghan War medals were presented to Major John Hay and his younger brother, Captain Edward Hay, after the Battle of Ghuznee on July 23, 1839.

John Hay was twice mentioned in despatches for his role in the battle after leading "a gallant diversionary attack on the fortress". Auctioneers Spink describe the medals as "rare, historically interesting and highly emotive." They were made available at auction with a portrait miniature on ivory of John Hay.

Although the Hay brothers survived the Battle of Ghuznee - in which 700 men were killed or wounded, including 200 British - they both died soon afterwards in Afghanistan, in their late thirties.

Major John Hay died in Kabul just three months after Ghuznee, on October 13,1839, while Captain Edward Hay was killed in battle on January 13, 1842.

The Storming Of Ghuznee - in which the Hay brothers figured prominently - took place on July 23,1839, shortly after Queen Victoria was crowned.

The Spink spokesman said: "On July 23, 1839, the main attack on the fortress was to be led by Colonel Dennie against the Cabul Gate.

"In order to make this task possible, a party of engineers advanced in the early hours under the cover of darkness to lay charges against the gate.

"This operation did not go completely according to plan, however, as a sentry spotted one of the party and opened fire, thus alerting the garrison.

"The officer commanding, Lieutenant-General Sir John Keene, had allowed for this occurrence in his grand plan and Hay, with three companies of the 35th Bengal Native Infantry, were to create a diversionary attack."

Thanks to this attack, the garrison were completely taken by surprise .


Major John Hay
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 20, 2007
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