H. B. (Henry Bathurst) Hanna.

The second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) online

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' You say my roads are bad, and country is impassable. It is
well ; I am pleased to hear you speak as you do. Now you under-
stand how the powerful Tsar, who will not submit to three kings,
can still do nothing with me, though he never ceases to send his armies
against me. I do not venture to compare myself to those powerful
sovereigns. I am Shamyl, a common Tartar ; but my bad roads,
my woods, and my defiles make me much stronger than a good many
monarchs. I ought to anoint all my trees with oil, and mix my mud
with fragrant honey, so much do they tend to the salvation of my
country." — Words spoken by Shamyl, the great Circassian leader, who
held Russia in check for thirty-ftve years.

" Triumph you may ; confident you may be, as I am, in the
gallantry of your troops : but when through these gallantries the
victory has been gained, and you have succeeded, then will come your
difficulties." — The Duke of Wellington on the Invasion, of Afghanistan,
in 1838.

" If we pass into Afghanistan and occupy Kabul and Kandahar, and,
as some say, we are going to do, occupy Herat — and I can see no limits
to these operations — everything of that kind means a necessity for more
money, and means a necessity for more men. From whence are the
money and men to come ? What do you mean by this sort of strengthen-
ing of the Empire ? It is sunply loading the Empire." — Mr. Glad-
stone's second Midlothian Speech, 1879.

" Articles of provisions are not to be trifled with, or left to chance ;
and there is nothing more clear than that the subsistence of the troops
must be certain upon the proposed service, or the service must be
relinquished." — The Duke of Wellington.







Formerly belonging to the Punjab Frontier

Force and late Commanding at Delhi

Author of "Indian Problems," etc.


I. Strategical Map of Theatre of War
II. Reconnaissance Sketch of Al,i Masjid
III. Sketch to Illustrate Action on the Peiwar Mountain



2 Whitehall Gardens

Vol. a.



THE SELwooD Printing works,


JCV3-.>L^Y ^


C^fe-^A^ ,

Oxford. Qeogr-apHLcaJ. Irvsti



I The Taking of Alt Masjid .... 1

Tlie Turning Movement

II The Taking of Ali Masjid .... 7
The Front Attack

III The Occupation of Dakka .... 29

IV The Occupation of Jellalabad ... 38
V The First Bazar Expedition .... 47

VI The Occupation of the Kuram Forts . . 56
VII Preliminary Operations on the Peiwar Moun-
tain . ....... 61

VIII Reconnoitring the Peiwar Mountain . . 68

IX Action on the Peiwar Mountain ... 75
The Turning Movement
X Action on the Peiwar Kotal . ... 86

The Front Attack




XI The Reconnaissance of the Shutaegardan Pass 96

The Passage of the Manjiar Defile
XII Occupation of the Khojak Pass .... 109

XIII Concentration of the Kandahar Field Force in

PiSHIN 117

XIV Public Opinion in England . . . .133

Debates in Parliament
XV The Last Days of Shere Ali . . . .144
Regency of Yakub Khan

XVI January, 1879 159

XVII Punitive Expeditions 171

Mohmand, Shinwari, and Bazar Expeditions

XVIII Alarms and Excursions 191

XIX The Invasion of Khost 200

Attack on British Camp at Matun

XX The Retirement from Khost . . . .218

Rescue of the Matun Garrison
XXI The Occupation of Kandahar . . . .231

Action at the Ghlo Kotal Pass
XXII Expedition to Khelat-i-Ghilzai . . . 243

XXIII Expedition to tub Helmand .... 261

XXIV Visit of the Commander-in-Chief to Jellalabad 276
XXV The Occupation of Gandamak .... 282

10th Hussars' Disaster ; Action at Futtehabad ;
Kam Dakka Affair



XXVI Visit of the Commander-in-Chief to the Kuram 304
Advance to Alikhel

XXVII The Retirement of Biddulph's Division . . 316

Action at Baghao

XXVIII Negotiations and Conclusion of Peace . . 336


The Taking of Ali Masjid


Just before sunset, on the 20th November, 1878, the 2nd Brigade of
the Peshawar Valley Field Force,^ consisting of the Guides' Infantry, the
1st Sikhs, and the 17th Foot^ under Brigadier- General J. A. Tytler,
left its camp at Jamrud to begin the flank march, which was to ensure
the completeness of Sir S. Browne's victory over the garrison of Ali
Masjid. Speed being essential to success, and the difficulties pre-
sented by the country to be traversed very great — tents, bedding
and baggage were left behind, to be sent up later through the Pass ;
and the troops took with them only a small hospital establishment, a
reserve of ammmiition, two days'cooked rations, and a supply of water
stored in big leathern bags, known as pukkals,^ in addition to their
great-coats, seventy rounds of ammunition, and one day's cooked ra-
tions carried by each man. Unfortunately, the greater part of the
transport allotted to the Brigade consisted of bullocks instead of mules

1 Approximate strength — -40 British oflEicers, 1,700 men, of whom 600 were

2 This regiment had spent the summer in the Mi.irree Hills, where it had
been carefully trained for the work that lay before it. Evatt, inhis Recollections,
says " that it was about the last of the long-service battalions of that army
which was just then disappearing before the short-service system, and better
specimens of that old r6gime could not be seen than the men of the 17th, who,
for weight and space occupied per man, were probably 30 per cent, heavier, and
much broader than the younger soldiers of to-day."

3 These bags vary in size according to the nature of the anunal on which
they are placed, but every camel, mule, or bullock carries one on each side, and
the bheesHs have to exercise much discretion in drawing water, so that the
two pukkals may continue to balance each other to the end.

1 B


-a mistake which was to leave the men without food for over twenty-
four hours. Darkness soon closed in upon the column, and when the
comparatively easy road across the Jam plain gave place to an ill-
defined track running up a deep ravine, sometimes on one side of a moun-
tain stream, sometimes on the other, sometimes in its very bed, even
the Native guides, men of the district, familiar with its every rock and
stone, were often at fault; the transport animals blundered into the
midst of the troops; one corps lost touch with another; a large part
of the 17th Regiment wandered away from the path, and was with
difficulty brought back to it by the shouting and whistUng of its com-
mander- and there was so much confusion and so many delays that
it was ten o'clock before the force, tired and cold, the men's boots and
putties^ soaked through and through, from frequent crossing and re-
crossing of the Lashora River, arrived at the httle hamlet of the same
name. Here it settled down to such rest as could be obtained under
these uncomfortable conditions, for fires were out of the question,
where there was no certainty that hidden foes might not be lurking

close at hand. 2

The 1st Brigade, consisting of the 4th BattaUon Rifle Brigade, the
4th Gurklias, the 20th Punjab Infantry, and the Hazara Mountain
Battery ,=» fared even worse than the 2nd, for it had to begin the
day with marching from Hari Singh-ka-Burj to Jamrud, where it
arrived to find, to the disgust of its commander, Brigadier-General

1 » All the troops on this occasion wore woollen putties, or bandages, round
the legs in place of gaiters. Now, these are excellent in the snows where they
were first worn ; but after being wetted, they dry on the legs, tighten, and cause
stiffness and cramp. . . . I have no doubt many men, both of the Ist and
2nd Brigades, were hampered and hurt by these bandages durmg the long
marches of November 21st and 22nd, without knowing the cause. -G. H.

. In the recent Tirah Campaign, the men suffered terribly from the enforce-
ment of this essential precaution.

3 Approximate strength-45 British officers, 1,900 men, of whom 600 were

Europeans, and four guns.


Macpherson, that the supphes and transport which ought to have
been awaiting it, were not ready, and to be kept hanging about till
eleven p.m. before it could make a fresh start. Wliat with the
darkness/ what with the practical absence of a road, and what
with the difficulty of getting the laden bullocks along, the subsequent
march proved very trying, and the position of the troops throughout
the night was, potentially, one of great peril, for, if the Mohmands
had come down the eastern slopes of the Rotas Heights, and fallen upon
them as they stumbled and groped their way along the Lashora ravine,
Macpherson would have had to choose between a retreat or an advance
up the steep mountain side, three thousand feet high, in pursuit of
an invisible enemy, and exposed to a shower of rocks and stones —
missiles which every hill-man knows well how to handle. Fortunately,
no such alternative was presented to him, and the head of the column
— the rear-guard being still far behind — reached Lashora between
six and seven o'clock on the morning of the 21st, just as the 2nd Brigade
was preparing to leave it, and halted to lock up and give Tytler a fair

The latter did his best to get and keep well ahead, but though
his Brigade, led by that active and energetic officer. Colonel F. H.
Jenkins, pushed on as fast as it could, its progress was painfully slow.
The column, advancing in single file, extended over a distance of
nearly three miles, and, as the sun rose high in the heavens, the reflected
heat from the bare, slaty rocks became almost insupportable, and
there were no trees to give the men shade, or springs to slake their
thirst. For the first four miles, the road continued to ascend the
Lashora ravine, between low hills on the right hand, and rocky,
overhanging spurs a thousand feet high, on the left ; on issuing thence,
it dwindled to a mere goat-track, which ran uphill and downhill,

^ The escort in charge of the mules carrying the reserve ammunition of two
of the regiments lost their way in the dark, and after vainly trying to regain
the track, returned to Jamrud.


scaling cliffs and dropping into gorges, the shaly soil at every step
slipping away from under the feet of men, mules and bullocks,
retarding the advance of the two former, and almost bringing the
latter to a standstill, so that it was two o'clock in the afternoon when
the column, having crossed the Sajaparai, or Grassy Flats, leading up to
the watershed, arrived at Pani Pal, at the foot of the Pass connecting
the Rotas Heights with the Tartara Mountain, the highest peak in
this group of hills. Here a wide and varied view became suddenly
visible. Far away to the north, the snowcapped Himalayas gleamed
in the sunshine ; to the south, the broad Indus washed the base of
Fort Attock, and wound through the salt hills and plains of the Derajat ;
whilst to the west, almost immediately below the wilderness of rocks
in which the invaders had halted, lay, in deep shadow, the yawning
chasm of the Khyber. A magnificent prospect ; but a spring of
cool, fresh water which was soon discovered, had more attractions for
the hot and thirsty troops ; and Tytler's whole attention was absorbed
in scanning the country for a possible enemy, and trying to trace
the course of the three paths which branch off from this commanding
point. One of these runs, northward by a circuitous and compara-
tively easy route, through Mohmand territory to the Khyber ; the
second descends abruptly to the same Pass through the gorge which
separates the Tartara Mountain from the Rotas Heights ; and the
third follows the crest of those heights to their highest point, just
over Ali Masjid. It was by the second of these roads that the column
was to find its way down to Kata Kushtia, and Tytler, though hard
pressed for time, felt so strongly that he must not entangle his troops
in such difficult ground without fii'st ascertaining whether danger
would threaten their left flank and rear, that he decided to halt his
Force, whilst Jenkins and a Company of the Guides reconnoitred
towards the heights. Scarcely had this party left Pani Pal when a
strange reverberation filled the air, which Jenkins, on laying his ear
to the ground, at once pronounced to be the booming of heavy guns ;


and as the reconnoitrers drew near to the edge of the ridge overlooking
Ali Mas j id, the sound of Ai'tillery fire became more and more clear
and distinct. So far, though cave-dwelhngs and patches of cultiva-
tion had occasionally been passed, with, here and there, the tower of
some robber cliieftain, the country, but for one small band of mar-
auders, which exchanged shots with the head of the column, had
appeared to be entirely deserted by its inhabitants ; now a large
number of armed Mohmands came, suddenly, into sight, rushing down
the liillside, and Jenkins fell back upon Pani Pal to report what he
had heard and seen.

The news that the main body of the Division was engaged with
the enemy, quickly spread through the ranks, and the men, forgetting
fatigue and hunger — the last of the food carried by them had been
eaten before lea\ang Lashora, and the bullocks carrying the rest of
the rations had long since parted company with the troops — were
eager to push on. But Tytler saw clearly that the circumstances in
which he now found himseK, demanded a change in the original plan,
by which the whole of his force was to take up its position across the
Khyber defile. As the Mohmands v/ere evidently present in great
strength and hostilely inclined, as his hospital establishment and
commissariat were six miles in rear, and the Brigade which ought
to have covered his left flank, was also behind — by abandoning Pani
Pal, he would not only lose his communications with the latter and
expose the former to the risk of being cut off and captured, but would
leave open the road by which the Mohmand contingent in Ali Masjid
might retire from that fortress after its fall, or by which it could be
reinforced in case that fall should be delayed. Very reluctantly,
therefore, though with soldier-like promptness, he made up his mind
to send Jenkins with the Guides and the major portion of the 1st
Sikhs, to Kata Kushtia, whilst he himself, with a detachment of
the latter corps and Her Majesty's 17th Regiment, remained at Pani
Pal to guard Jenkins's rear and keep in touch with Macpherson.


That General, having detached the 20th Punjab Infantry, under
Major H. W. Gordon, to cover his left, had resumed his march at
8 a.m., and, following in Tytler's wake, had soon overtaken that
officer's commissariat bullocks, which so blocked the narrow path
that the troops had considerable difficulty in forcing their way through
them. Between two and three o'clock, the column arrived at the lower
edge of the Flats (Sapparai), previously mentioned, where it was
fortunate enough to find a little water. By this time the men, who
had been over thirty hours under arms, were so worn out that Colonels
Newdigate and Turton reported their respective regiments, the Rifle
Brigade and the 4th Gurkhas, unfit to go further,^ and Macpherson,
like Tytler, had to accept the responsibility of modifying the part
assigned to him in the common programme and, to some extent, for
the same reason, viz., the danger to which his hospital and com-
: issariat transport would be exj)osed if, by pushing on to the summit
of the Rotas Heights, he were to put it out of his power to protect
them during the dark hours which were close at hand. On the Flats,
then, the main body of the turning party bivouacked on the evening
of the 21st of November ; whilst the flanking regiment, after many
hours of stiff climbing, during the course of which it had been threat-
ened by a large number of Mohmands, established itself at dusk on
the top of Turhai, a ridge parallel to, and immediately under the
Rotas Heights.

1 " I asked Colonel Newdigate and Colonel Turton if their men could go on,
and they said they were quite exhausted. There was no water further on, and
the whole of the baggage might have been carried off and the escort cut up if
wo had deserted it, and Tytler's baggage was all behind my Brigade."

Extract from General Macpherson's Journal.

The Taking of Ali Masjid


The arrangements for the advance of the main body of the Peshawar
Valley Field Force ^ had been completed on the evening of November
20th, by the issuing of an order that no baggage should accompany the
column to add to its responsibiHties and hamper its movements, nor
any transport animals other than the mules set apart to carry the three
days' cooked rations, which were to suffice for the needs of the troops
till, Ali Masjid having fallen, the Pass would be open to the free
passage of impedimenta of all kinds, which, meantime, were to
remain at Jamrud in charge of the 45th Sikhs.

Before daybreak on the 21st, Sir Samuel Browne and his Staff had
taken up a position on some high ground a little beyond the British
camp, and, as the sun rose, it showed them all the hill-tops crowned
by groups of Afridis, intently watching the movements of the long
column, which was already wdnding its way through the Jam plain
towards the entrance of the Shadi Bagiar defile. ^ Two companies of
Sappers and Mners led the van, accompanied by their regimental
mules carrying intrenching and road-making tools, also by a wing of
the 81st Foot, and one of the 14th Sikhs, furnished by the 3rd Brigade
to protect and assist them in the work of smoothing and widening the
stony track so as to render it practicable for the heavy guns drawn by

1 Approximate strength — 110 British officers, 4,500 men, of whom 1,700 were
Europeans, and 22 gmis.

2 Shadi Bagiar — Wolf's mouth.



elephants, and of ramping the sides of the numerous drainage lines
which intersect this stretch of comparatively open country. The
advanced guard was followed by the Artillery ; that, by the 3rd Brigade,
the 4th Brigade bringing up the rear ; whilst a signalling party, under
Major H. B. Pearson, which had been detached to occupy the Sarkai
Hill, succeeded, later in the day, in establishing heliographic com-
munication with Jamrud.

In the Shadi Bagiar ravine, the troops struck the road built during
the first Afghan War by Colonel Mackeson, Commissioner of Peshawar.
It was found to be in a fair state of preservation, except in a few places
where it had been damaged by floods. These were easily repaired, and,
after a flanking party consisting of detachments of the 81st Foot,
14th Sikhs, and a Mountain Battery, had been sent up a gully to occupy
some heights from which they could cover its advance, the column
pushed steadily on. About 10 a.m., the advanced guard reached
the summit of the long, low, stony Shahgai Ridge, where it quickly
deployed, and threw out skirmishers, who exchanged shots with the
Afghan pickets and forced them to retire on Ali Masjid, which had
now come into sight, about two thousand five hundred yards distant,
in a northerly direction. The Khyber River, which here takes a sudden
turn to westward, flows sixty feet below the ridge, and on its right
bank, between Browne's Force and the Afghan fortress, lay a tangled
maze of hills and ravines, clothed with low shrubs and tall coarse grass,
in which any number of tribesmen might be lurking ; whilst, on its
left bank, advance was rendered excessively difficult, and the dis-
positions of the enemy were effectually concealed from view by a series
of rocky spurs, thrown off from the precii^itous south-western face of
the Rotas Heights. Those dispositions did credit to their author —
possibly some British pensioner or deserter from the Indian Army,
who had acquired his knowledge of the art of fortification when
serving in the Sappers and Miners. The Afghan position stretched
right across the valley of the Khyber River, and embraced not only


the isolated hill on which Ali Masjid is perched/ but two other
eminences. The first of these— a semicircular ridge eight hundred
yards long, broken by three peaks— stretches from the Khyber River
in the direction of the Bazar Valley, its southern face five hundred
yards in advance, and a little to westward of the Ali Masjid Hill,
from which its northern side is separated by a rocky gorge. This
ridge, two hundred feet higher than the Fort which it completely
dominates, is extremely difficult of access, its upper slopes being ex-
cessively precipitous ; and the Afghans had shown that they recog-
nized its tactical imioortance by erecting stone breastworks along its
crest, and small redoubts on each of the three peaks, the whole line
being defended by eight light guns.

The gorge, previously mentioned, divides after running back some
little distance ; one branch of it sweeping round to the north-west,
the other, to the north-east. Between them, facing east and completely
hidden from the Shahgai Plateau by the ridge just descri!)ed, rises
the second hill, covering the western front of Ali Masjid, and com-
manding from its summit the whole length of the gorge ; here two
breastworks had been thrown up to shelter the Afghan riflemen.

AH Masjid itself, hardly distinguishable from the grey rock on
which it rests, was, at that time, an oblong building a hundred and
sixty feet long by sixty broad, with circular towers connected by
curtain walls, standing on the flat summit of a detached hill, which
rises to a height of three hundred and fifty feet above the river that
washes its eastern base. On the southern face of the Fort which looks
to the Shahgai Ridge, eight heavy cannon had been mounted ; two
more had been placed in position behind breastworks constructed in
the face of the cliff, a hundred and fifty feet below the walls ; and,
lower still, a single gun swept vnth. its fire the right bank of the Khyber
River. Nor had the left bank of that stream been omitted from the

1 Ali Masjid is about six miles from the eastern mouth of the Khyber Pass, and
nine miles from Jamrud.


Afghan engineer's plan of defence ; for, on precipitous cliflfs, near the
foot of the Rotas Heights, joined together by entrenchments and a
rough covered way, more stone works had been built up, and armed
with five guns, to command the approaches on that side of the river,
and enfilade the low ground in the vicinity of the three fortified hills.^
The garrison of this great fortress, consisting of three thousand regular
infantry, six hundred militia, twenty-four guns, and two hundred
cavalry, was, in point of numbers, adequate to its defence, and it had
in Faiz Mahomed a brave and determined commander ; but its strength
had been weakened by sickness, and the morale of the troops impaired
by the knowledge that they stood alone, with no supports or reserves
within reach, surrounded by tribes who, though of the same blood
as themselves, regarded them with jealous eyes, and were as certain
to fall upon them, in the event of defeat, as to snatch from them a large
share of the spoils of victory, should they succeed in repelling the
British attack.

Sir Samuel Browne having secured the safety of his flanks by
placing strong observation parties on suitable ground, proceeded to
examine the Afghan position so far as it could be seen from the Shahgai
Ridge. As the result of this examination, he ordered Applej^ard, with
the 3rd Brigade, to drop down into the valley of the Khyber, which
here flows in a broad and shingly bed, and to occupy the abandoned
village of Lala Chena, ready, the moment Macpherson's Brigade came
into sight on Rotas, to advance and carrj^ by assault the semicircular
hill which has been showTi to be the key of the Afghan position. In

1 Mr. Archibald Forbes, the well-known war-correspondent, who was present
with the Force during the action and who carefully examined the position after-
wards, wTites : — " The excessive labour which must have been expended in
arming the position moved one's sui'prise and admiration. Guns had been hauled
up precipices, and great stores of ammunition accumulated about them. One

Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bathurst) HannaThe second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 32)