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our control, and a British Resident was to be installed at
Cabul. Sir Louis Cavagnari accordingly proceeded there
with a small escort on the I7th June 1879.

The calm that followed on the conclusion of the first
period of the war was rudely broken. Sir Louis Cavagnari's
sanguine belief in a friendly Afghanistan was ill founded.
But unlike the close of the first period of the previous war
in 1843 to 1844, the massacre of the Resident and his
people, which caused the second " army of vengeance," took
place while they were in apparently peaceful occupation
of the Residency, and in Cabul, and not when in full retreat
on India. There was even less warning of disaster in 1878
than in 1844.

When the news came there were troops in the Khyber,
and Kurram Vallies, and at Candahar. In the Kurram
Valley rapidly assembled the brigades of Macpherson and
Baker, in which served the 72nd, the 67th, and the 92nd
European Regiments, with many gallant Sikh and Ghoorka
battalions, well provided with artillery and, a cavalry
brigade, in which were the 9th Lancers. Pushing on at
once beyond the Peiwar Kotal, the Shaturgardan Pass was
occupied before the enemy could get there, and garrisoned ;
and then the army, pushing on by Ali Kehl, in the Logar
Valley, first met and defeated the insurgent Afghans at
Charasia, where twenty guns were taken with but little loss.

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THE STORY OF THE BRITISH ARMY

Yet another skirmish, and the army reached Cabul. The
6/th was the first to enter, playing the quickstep that had
been played long years before by the unhappy 44th, and the
army then took up cantonments in the fortified district of
Sherpur without the city walls.

Here for many a week they were practically shut in.
The Shaturgardan garrison was isolated until relieved by
Gough, and then that line of communication was abandoned
and a fresh one opened by Gandamak and the Khyber.
Throughout the whole of December there was almost
continual fighting. General Roberts, slender as his force
was, fully recognised the overwhelming advantage of the
offensive in such a war and with such a people. Wherever
armed bands gathered, there a force was sent. Often enough
it barely carried out its purpose, and only then with heavy
loss, because of the overwhelming numbers and determined
bravery of the enemy. On one occasion the pth Lancers
suffered heavily, and three guns were temporarily abandoned ;
and at length the tribal gathering was too large to face, and,
seizing Cabul, the Afghans shut up the small British army
within its defences at Sherpur. But it was not for long.
An attack on the 23rd December was beaten sternly back,
and again the hostile host melted away and left Cabul alone.
A few days after, Gough, with reinforcements, including the
9th Regiment, arrived by way of the Khyber.

Meanwhile, Sir Donald Stewart had moved up from
Candahar, as Nott did in 1844. Meeting the enemy
at Ahmed Kehl with his small force, which included the
5pth and some of the 6oth, he was victorious, though
heavily outnumbered, and at one time, because of the
desperate gallantry of the Ghazi charge, in a position of
some peril ; while, after entering Ghazni, he had a second
"affair" at Urzoo, and then joined hands with General
Ross's force of Sikhs, Ghoorkas, and the pth Foot, which had
had another fight at Charasia before communication with
the relieving column was effected.

Sir Donald Stewart now assumed supreme command
at Cabul. Abdul Rahman was recognised as Amir by

328



THE ARMY IN INDIA 1858-96

the Indian Government ; and preparations were made, on
the establishment of his authority, to abandon the Afghan
capital and withdraw the army to India.

Meanwhile, General Primrose, with the 66th and 7th
Fusiliers and some native troops, had been left in Canda-
har. The total garrison numbered less than 3000 men.
But, hearing of the advance of another of the Afghan pre-
tenders, Ayub Khan, from Herat, a considerable portion of
the garrison, including the 66th, was pushed out to the north,
as far as the Helmund, to check his advance. In this
General Burrowes, who commanded, was unsuccessful. The
battle of Maiwand was a terrible disaster, brought on chiefly,
if not entirely, by taking up a fatally bad position to resist
a powerful force furnished with a well-served artillery.

Here the 66th lost their colours, notwithstanding the
desperate bravery of the remnant that rallied round them.
Olivey and Honeywood carried the colours on that dread-
ful day, and the latter was heard to cry, as he held the
standard on high, " Men, what shall we do to save this ? "
when he fell dead, as did Sergeant-major Cuphage, who
next tried to take it. Colours the signa militaria still,
though not of such importance as a rallying centre in these
days of extended order and fire fight, as in the days of
line formation and the Brown Bess lost as these were
lost reflect honour, and not discredit, on the history of a
regiment.

Remarking on the use of colours in the past during
battle, Sir Charles Napier writes : " Great is the value of
the standard ; it is a telegraph in the centre of the battle
to speak the changes of the day to the wings. Its import-
ance has therefore been immense in all ages, among all
nations, and in all kinds of war. ' Defend the colours !
form upon the colours ! ' is the first cry and the first
thought of a soldier, when any mischance of battle has
produced disorder ; then do cries, shouts, firing, blows,
and all the combat thicken round the standard ; it
contains the symbol of the honour of the band, and the
brave press round its bearer." So it has ever been since

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THE STORY OF THE BRITISH ARMY

the standard-bearer of the Tenth Legion threw the honoured
insignia of his regiment among the British-Celtic, or Belgic,
militia on the Dover coast, when Christianity had not
yet dawned. The breech-loader has caused the colours to
be omitted in the battle-order paraphernalia of modern
war, and, as gunpowder had, in the past, destroyed some
of the glory and panoply of the mediaeval host, so it has
lessened some of the picturesqueness of the line of battle
of to-day.

Worn-out colours have one of three endings. First,
and naturally, in the church of the district whose name the
regiment bears, because the consecrated banners find fitting
resting-place in consecrated buildings. Next, with the
colonels of the regiments, who may be well expected to
revere the standards of the battalions which have honoured
them by such a gift. And lastly, as the old soth did when it
was made a royal regiment, and when, in place of the
black standard, it received one of royal blue ; then the silk
of the old colours was burned with careful reverence, and
the ashes placed in the lid of the regimental snuff-box,
made out of the wood of the staff, on which is also engraven
the names of those who had borne the colours in the storm
of battle.

The sentiment that dwells around the regimental colours
has been very well expressed by the late Sir Edward
Hamley. Speaking of the colours of the 43rd, now resting
and rusting peacefully in Monmouth church, he says

" A moth-eaten rag on a worm-eaten pole,
It does not look likely to stir a man's soul.
'Tis the deeds that were done 'neath the moth-eaten rag,
When the pole was a staff, and the rag was a flag.

For on many a morn in our grandfathers' days,

When the bright sun of Portugal broke through the haze,

Disclosing the armies arrayed in their might,

It showed the old flag in the front of the fight.

By rivers, o'er bridges, past vineyards and downs,
Up the valleys where stood, all deserted, the towns,
It followed the French, and when they turned to bay,
It just paused for the fight, then again led the way.
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THE ARMY IN INDIA 1858-96

And whenever it chanced that a battle was nigh,

They saw it then hung like a sign in the sky :

And they soon learned to know it its crimson and white-

O'er the lines of red coats and of bayonets bright.



In the church, where it hangs when the moon gilds the graves
And the aisles and the arches, it swells and it waves ;
While, below, a faint sound as of combat is heard
From the ghostly array of the old Forty-Third."

The feeling here expressed must have been strong
with those who tried to save the colours at Maiwand.
More than 1300 men had fallen there when the relics
of the little army returned to Candahar, which was then
invested, and all communication with India cut off by the
destruction of the telegraph.

The nearest force for its relief was that of General
Phayre in the Quettah Pass, where the difficulties of
transport and supply were extreme. The other available
army was that under Stewart and Roberts at Cabul. It
was from them assistance was to come : but, while awaiting

* * o

relief, a most useless and injudicious sortie was made,
which had no result save the loss of valuable lives and a
slight break in the monotony of the siege of Candahar.

The country in this part of Afghanistan was fully roused,
though the northern portion, now held by the Amir, was quiet.
The hatred to the British seemed to increase day by day. The
deportation of prominent Afghan chiefs to India added fuel
to the flame. The horror of such exile, in the Afghan
mind, is extreme ; the suffering infinitely greater than any
death.

The fact that the tide of unvarying success which usually
characterises the action of our arms in the East had been
so far checked, had acted curiously on even the Indian mind.
Hitherto there had been no reluctance to serve beyond the
borders of the Indian Empire, and no difficulty in obtaining
recruits. Now there was ; and to such an extent that bounties
of 5 had to be offered, a sum equivalent with a native to
what $6 would be with an English soldier, in order to fill up
Y 331



THE STORY OF THE BRITISH ARMY

the depleted ranks. Even the often despised Madrasee was
willingly taken.

Ayub's army therefore gathered strength as it advanced,
especially after the Maiwand disaster, and with the
prospect of the rich plunder of Candahar. He certainly
numbered at one time some io,coo men, but the numbers
varied, and these irregulars, like the Highlanders in the
Jacobite wars, often returned home to deposit plunder, see
to their crops, or visit their families.

The Amir who then ruled Afghanistan was by no means
averse to the crushing of this somewhat formidable personage.
His seat on the golden throne was not yet so firmly secure
that he could view with equanimity the rise of a powerful and
possibly victorious chieftain, who might be his rival in the
allegiance of the people. He assisted the British expedi-
tion in every way, arranging, as far as he had power, for
supplies to be procured.

To General Roberts was entrusted the command of the
relieving column. It numbered about 10,000 men, with
8000 camp followers, and with it marched the 92nd, 72nd,
and 6oth line Regiments, and the gth Lancers ; but the only
artillery were three batteries of 7-pounder screw mountain
guns.

The remainder ot the army, including the 9th, 59th, and
6yth Regiments, under Stewart himself, marched back to
India by the Khyber Pass, unmolested by even a single
Ghazi bullet, and Lundi Kotal became an advanced post
on this road, as Quettah was on that to Candahar.

Though Stewart's march from Candahar to Cabul was
an anxious one, and seriously resisted throughout, the return
journey was uneventful and unopposed. Joining hands
with Primrose, the combined troops, leaving a weak garrison
in the city, marched out to attack Ayub, who had taken up
a position north of the fortress near the Pir Paimal ridge.
Here, while the 7th and 66th, with some native detachments,
freed the central attack, the right wing movement was
effected. Macpherson's Brigade, in which served the 92nd,
and Baker's Brigade, forming the left wing, and having the

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THE ARMY IN INDIA 1858-96

72nd Regiment and the 2nd Sikhs in first line, the 5th
Ghoorkas and 3rd Sikhs in second line, and the 2nd
Beloochees in third line, was thrust forward on this side
against the enemy's right. The cavalry had to make a
wide detour on the left to cross the Argandab river.
The victory was complete, 31 guns and 2 Royal Horse
Artillery 9 - pounders were taken, one of which was
claimed by a plucky little Ghoorka, who, rushing on the
gun, thrust his cap in the muzzle, shouting in Hindustani,
"This gun belongs to my regiment, 2nd Ghoorkas, Prince
of Wales's ! " The loss was only 46 killed and 202
wounded.

With the battle of "Baba Wali," or "Candahar," all
opposition ceased, and the British troops returned to India.
Quettah and Lundi Kotal in the two main passes were
garrisoned, and the former has, since the war, been strongly
fortified, while a railway has been constructed to unite this
advanced post with the Indian railway system.

Medals, with clasps, were given for Ali-Musjid, Peiwar
Kotal, Cabul 1879, Charasiah, Candahar 1 880, Afghanistan
1878 to 1880, and Ahmed Kehl ; while all those who took
part in the 3 1 8-mile march from Cabul received a bronze
star supported by a rainbow -hued ribbon, as did those
who participated in the first Afghan war thirty years
before.

Since the annexation of the Punjab, and between 1849
and 1 88 1, no less than forty-four expeditions have been
undertaken against the hill people, and since then there
have been other minor disturbances in Sikkim, Waziristan,
on the Black Mountain, Manipur, and elsewhere. Finally,
the British army, native and European, has brought to a
successful conclusion the expedition for the relief of Chitral,
which has shown, by the rapidity and secrecy of its mobilisa-
tion, and the skilful conduct of this last "little war," the
preparedness of the army in India for the work it may have
eventually to perform, on a larger scale even than that of
the last Afghan campaign.

Notwithstanding the difficulty of mobilising an Indian

333



THE STORY OF THE BRITISH ARMY

army widely dispersed, and with often indifferent means of
intercommunication, the first division received the order on
the 1 9th March, and was fully mobilised by the ist April.
The men carried but ten pounds weight of kit, and the
officers forty, and there were no tents ; yet, notwithstanding,
28,000 pack animals were required for this limited transport.
The relief of Chitral, in the fort of which a small British
force, with the British agent, Surgeon-Major Robertson, was
besieged by a native rising composed of Pathans from Jandul,
a state bordering on Chitral, under Umra Khan, and Chitralis
under Sher Afzul. It was proposed to effect the invasion
of this mountain district from two sides. From the south
was to advance the first division, in which were the King's
Own Scottish Borderers, the Gordon Highlanders, the
Bedfordshire Regiment, and a battalion of the King's Royal
Rifles, and their route lay by Sivat and Dir, with four hill
ranges and three considerable streams to be crossed. From
the north-east by Gilgit and Mastuj a second and smaller
column under Colonel Kelly was to march, having to cross
in deep snow a pass 12,000 feet high. Both expeditions
succeeded. Colonel Kelly's force overcame every difficulty
with the greatest determination, and the rapid and decisive
defeat of the enemy in the Panjkora and Jandul valleys by
the main army soon brought about the complete submission
of the revolted tribes. The defence of the fort of Chitral
may be classed among the gallant deeds English soldiers
are proud to recognise, though there were no European
troops other than officers to conduct the operations. There
are some curious stories as to the indifference with which
wounds are regarded by Asiatics. After one of the skirmishes,
one of the enemy with six bullets through him walked nine
miles to the British camp to be treated, and fully recovered ;
while in another case a lad looking on at the fight was
wounded by a bullet in the arm, which " passed through
it in several places, splintering it badly." The doctors
gave him the choice between death and amputation, but he
declined the latter, and "in a few days, instead of being
dead, he was better, and in a few days was out and about

334



THE ARMY IN INDIA 1858-96

again." 1 Against foes with such nerve strength or indifference
to pain, small-bore rifles will be of little value to check a
fanatic rush. The leaders of the little garrison of Chitral
richly earned the rewards bestowed on them ; and Surgeon-
Captain Whitchurch won the Victoria Cross.

1 Relief of Chitral. Younghusband.



335



CHAPTER XVII

THE ARMY IN THE FAR EAST 1819-75

THE minor wars outside the main peninsula of
Hindostanhave been caused either by the expansion
of the Empire of India in the only possible direction
eastward or for the purposes of colonisation or trade.

A series of points on the road to the Pacific were gradually
obtained, usually by purchase, between 1786 and 1824, such
as Penang, and the land opposite in the Straits of Malacca,
with Singapore and Malacca farther south. These guarded
the sea-road to China, with whom we were eventually to be
engaged in war.

But before that happened, Alompra, King of Ava, had
played into the hands of those who were willing to add still
more realms to those already under the British flag. He had
conquered much of the southern peninsula, and, fancying
himself irresistible, had raided our Cachar territories which
bordered on his. He had seized the island of Shapuree and
driven out the British guard there. Reluctant as was the
East India Company to engage in further war after the
costly campaigns with the Mahrattas, they had little choice.
Prestige is all-important with semi-barbaric nations, and
force alone wins respect. So this first expansion of empire
into the Burma - Siamese peninsula began as a punitive
expedition.

It commenced with an outbreak of mutiny, which future
events in India rendered ominous. The 47th Bengal Regi-
ment refused to embark for Burmah,lest they should lose caste.
It is possible that their scruples were sincerely conscientious,
and their contract of enlistment does not seem to have

336



THE ARMY IN THE FAR EAST 1819-75

contemplated their employment beyond the seas. It was
bad management to select those whose religious antagonism
might be roused ; but the order had been given, and on the
continued refusal of the men to embark, they were fired on
by European infantry and artillery and massacred.

Then the expedition started, on a three years' campaign,
in which the ist Royals, I3th, 38th, 4ist, 44th, 47th, 54th,
87th, and 8pth shared, as did also the forerunner of the
present iO2nd or ist Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers,
besides numerous regiments of Madras Sepoys.

There had been some skirmishing with the invaders of
Cachar, in the north-west, where General Shuldham was
on guard, but the physical difficulties of forest and mountain
rendered military operations extremely difficult ; so that the
second step was the occupation of Arracan by General
Richards, with the 44th, 54th, and seven Sepoy battalions.
Little else was done in that province, and the troops suffered
terribly from sickness. Soon after Rangoon was taken by
Sir A. Campbell, who had the I3th, 38th, and 4ist Regiments,
with a large force of Sepoys, as well as the remains of the
44th and 54th line Battalions, and this formed the base of
all the future operations. The war throughout was peculiar.
The chief villages and towns were on or near the banks of
the Irrawaddy and its tributaries, and the whole district was
covered by dense forests and marshes through which ran
poor tracks which could scarcely be deemed roads. The
enemy fought with bravery, but rarely ventured to meet the
invader in the open, basing their defence on skilfully con-
structed stockades, which they rapidly erected. The physical
difficulties were great, and led to delay, which in its turn led
to a steady decimation of the white troops. Between June
1824 and March 1825, out of an average force of about 2800
men nearly 1400 had died. It was jungle fighting under the
most severe conditions, and the whole strategic plan of attack
was the successive assault and possession of the chief towns
until the capital itself was reached.

But little headway was made at first. The first attempts
on Kemmendine and Donabu failed ; raids on Tavoy,

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THE STORY OF THE BRITISH ARMY

Mergui, Tenasserim, Martaban, and Ye succeeded. There
were constant skirmishes round Rangoon, in which the 38th
and 1 3th especially distinguished themselves ; and as Have-
lock says, in his Memoirs of the Three Campaigns, the enemy
" acquitted themselves like men. They fell in heaps under
the bayonet."

But until 1825 began, the only result of the operations
had been the possession, more or less, of the coast line.
Early in that year a famous Burmese general, one Maha
Bandoola, who had marched through Arracan bearing with
him heavy gold fetters wherewith to bind and make captive
Lord Amherst, appeared before Rangoon. The " Lord
of the golden foot" who ruled in Ava was exasperated at
the capture of the place. His first order had been :
" British ships have brought foreign soldiers to the mouth
of the river. They are my prisoners. Cut me some
thousand spans of rope to bind them." The Burmese army
therefore took up and entrenched a strong position at Kokaing,
whence Rangoon was harassed ; but, attacked in rear by
Cotton with the I3th Regiment (which lost 53 men and 7
officers killed and wounded, out of a total of 220) and some
Sepoys, and in front by Campbell with a force in which were
the 38th, 4ist, and 8pth (recently arrived), the enemy, 25,000
strong, was badly beaten by about 1 500 men, and fell back
on Donabu. The 47th and Royals having arrived as rein-
forcements, Campbell pushed on toward Sarawak, but
Cotton, attacking Donabu, was not in sufficient force to carry
out his object ; so the two wings united and attacked the
place a second time, and after desperate fighting carried the
defences of the town, and Bandoola was slain. He was a
man of an inquiring disposition, and was anxious to see the
properties of the common shell, one " with a very long fuse
having been projected by the British. The live ' creature '
was brought fizzing at a dreadful rate to him ; and he, at
some distance, surveyed with great curiosity the unfortunate
men bringing the fiery fiend along. Another second or two
and it burst, killing the carriers and every one beside it !
Bandoola was thunderstruck, and for the whole of that day

338



THE ARMY IN THE FAR EAST 1819-75

his courage left him." The stockades were " made of solid
teak beams about 17 feet high driven firmly into the earth.
Behind this wooden wall the old brick ramparts of the place
rose to a considerable height, affording a firm and elevated
footing for the defenders. On the works were 1 50 cannon
and several guns. A ditch surrounded them, and the
passage of it was rendered difficult by spikes and great nails
planted in the earth, by treacherous holes and other
contrivances. Beyond the ditch were several rows of
strong railings ; but in front of all was the most formidable
defence, an abattis of felled trees, thirty yards in breadth,
extending quite round the works."

This will give a good idea of the Burmese defences at that
time.

The next post of importance occupied was Prome, still
farther up the river, and here, though the lower part of the
country was now in the undisturbed possession of the British,
the Burmese army was not yet cowed, and 60,000 men
assembled to blockade Prome. But, assisted by the fleet
which accompanied the advance, the British pushed on,
though opposed step by step, in a series of skirmishes in
which the 87th and 4ist showed distinguished gallantry ;
and after a more determined battle at Melloon, and another
at Pagahan-Mew, within forty-five miles of Ava, a treaty of
peace was concluded in February 1826, whereby Arracan,
Ye, Tavoy, Mergui, and Tenasserim were added to the
Indian Empire. The war had cost the lives of 3222
Europeans and 1766 Sepoys, and placed "Ava" on the
colours of the I3th, 38th, 4ist, 44th, 45th, 47th, 87th, and
Spth Regiments of the line, as well as the Madras European
Regiment, afterwards the iO2nd Foot.

But the treaty of Yandaboo, granting safety to merchants
and opening the country up to trade, was never really kept.
So much did the native insolence increase, that in 1852
the foreign inhabitants of Rangoon embarked in the
Proserpine, and the occupation of Burmah was temporarily
suspended. But the Marquis of Dalhousie, then Governor-
General, saw the danger of having a hostile State on our



Online LibraryCharles Cooper KingThe story of the British army → online text (page 29 of 37)