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Major-General William George Keith Elphinstone


1782 - 1842

Unsuccessful military commander. Born the son of William Fullerton Elphinstone (1740 - 1834), a Director of the East India Company, and nephew of Admiral George Keith Elphinstone (1746 - 1823), the young Elphinstone joined the army as an ensign in 1804. He saw service throughout the Napoleonic Wars and fought at Waterloo in 1815, having risen to the rank of Colonel. He was promoted to Major-General in 1837 and, in 1841, appointed to command the British garrison in Kabul during the First Anglo-Afghan War. However, by that stage he was both elderly and unwell and his command proved indecisive and weak, resulting in the humiliating retreat of January 1842, which saw most of his force killed. Elphinstone was captured. Wounded and suffering from dysentery, he died in Afghanistan shortly afterwards and lies buried in Jalalabad. He was much criticised for this disaster at the time, although the fault lay with those who appointed him.


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