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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because he believes its word, but here, at the outset, was a distinct breach of
faith." (Major Le Messurier, Kandahar in 1879, p. 23.)


intense cold of an Alpine winter, would return to Sukkur, where vast
quantities of military and commissariat stores were daily accumu-
lating, to re-load, and were to continue plying between the Indus
and the foot of the Bolan, so long as the war should last. Now, how-
ever, the transport which was to have played a similar part between
Multan and Rohri, had to cross the river and go on, in its turn, to
Pishin ; and the Indian Government found itself driven to make a great
effort to replace it with inferior animals, purchased at enhanced prices.
The measure must have been a bitter pill to Lord Lytton, whose
pleasing dream of war waged at no expense worth mentioning, was
fast melting away on every side ; but, having once launched troops
into regions where food of every description was non-existent, no cost
could be allowed to stand in the way of providing for their necessities ;
and it shows what pressure must have been put upon the Punjab
peasant to compel him to part with his remaining stock of camels,
that the Kandahar Field Force escaped starvation, for the leakage
of stores by the way, was simply enormous. It was not merely that
the loads of thousands of the transport-animals whose corpses
strewed the road from Sukkur to Pishin, had to be left lying in the
desert or on the mountain-side — but that the Baluchis, not content
with these windfalls, were very active in plundering the convoys
whose scanty escorts could neither protect them on the march, nor
effectually guard their camping-grounds. After a time, two causes
brought about a marked improvement in a state of things which
was tlireatening to reduce Stewart's and Biddulph's Divisions to a
state of impotence : Sandeman, at last, succeeded in inducing the
Baluchis to keep their promise to supply hill- transport, and the Bombay
troops to whom the duty of guarding the communications of the
Kandahar Field Force had been assigned, began to appear on the
scene. Of course, Baluchi aid had to be dearly bouglit ; the rates
asked — eight rupees for the conveyance of a camel-load (three hundred
and twenty pounds) from Dadar to Quetta — staggered the British


negotiator ; but the wily old Brahui ^ chief, who had been the first
to consent to treat, knew the state of things prevailing along the
whole fine of advance, too well, to abate one tittle of his demands ; and
the prices agreed upon with him, had to be conceded to all. The
arrangements once concluded, thousands of hill-camels poured into
Dadar, and the Sind and Punjab camels were relegated to their proper
sphere of work.

The Bombay Division, details of which are given in the accom-
panying table, estabHshed its headquarters at Jacobabad about the
middle of December, and from that point the troops belonging to
Brigadier- General Phayre's Brigade, spread gradually along the entire
line of communications : —

Bombay Division.

Major-General J. M. Primrose . . . Commanding.

Lieutenant E. O. F. Hamilton . . . Aide- de-Camp.

Colonel E. A. Green Assistant Adjutant-General.

Major Lloyd Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General.

Captain A. B. Stopford Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-

Lieutenant-Colonel A. M. Shewell . . Principal Commissariat Officer.


B-B Royal Horse Artillery .... Major W. H. Caine, Commanding.
H-i Boyal Artillery Major H. F. Pritchard, Commanding.

1 The Brahui is not a true Baluch, but the two races intermarry, and the
differences between them are fast disappearing. Thornton, in his Life of Sir
R. Sandeman, writes (page 110): — "In character, both Brahui and Baluch
are frank and open in their manner, and their hospitality is proverbial ; they
are brave and enduring, predatory, but not pilferers ; vindictive, but not
treacherous. With all the virtues of their neighbours, the Afghans, they are
more rehable and less truculent ; and on two points, which have an important
bearing on their management, they differ widely : the Baluch is amenable to
the control of his chief ; the Afghan is a republican and obeys the Jirga, or
council of the dominant faction of his tribe. The Afghan is fanatical and
priest-ridden ; the Baluch is singularly free from rehgious bigotry."


14th Hussars.
1st Sind Horse.

Infantry Brigade.

Brigadier- General R. Phayre . . . Commanding.
Major C. J. Burnett Brigade Major.

83rd Foot.

Ist Bombay Grenadiers.

19th Bombay Infantry.

Two Companies Bombay Sappers.

Their presence soon insured the safety of the convoys, and their
labour, in due time, facihtated their movements, for the 1st Bombay
Grenadiers and the 19th Bombay Infantry so widened and repaired
the road up the Bolan, modifying gradients, ramping ravines, bridging
the river at many points and clearing away shingle and boulders
along an aligned route extending for nearly seventy miles — a work
which it took them six months of incessant toil to complete — that,
just at the very time when the mortality among the camels had
thinned their ranks beyond all hope of replenishment, it became
possible to replace them by bullock-carts.

At Dadar, confusion still reigned supreme. There had been no
leisure in which to arrange for proper commissariat and conservancy
establishments ; no opportunity of procuring and stacking fuel and
forage for the use of the regiments that emerged from the hot plain
one day, to disappear the next into the cold hills ; and the few
fields of jowari, now ripe along the river-banks, had to be reaped,
without sickles, by the men themselves, and the crop carried on their
pack-animals, without ropes to secure, or saletas (coarse canvas bags)
to contain it. Again and again, it looked as if the troops could never
be got to the front ; yet, the stream of men and beasts never actually
stopped, and, by the latter half of December, after much suffering and
the loss of a large part of its transport, the 1st Division of the Kan-
dahar Field Force had arrived at Quetta.


General Stewart, who, with his Staff, had hurried forward in advance
of the troops, had reached that town on the 8th of December. It
must have been a rehef to his mind, harassed by a load of mihtary
cares, to find a man of Sandeman's experience, tact, and resolution,
waiting there to discuss the political situation, and soon to have proof
in the conclusion of the transport arrangement already chronicled,
of his great influence over the Baluchis. Unfortunately, the General's
relations with his Second-in-Command were less satisfactory. On
his way up the Bolan, Stewart had been much shocked by the foul
and insanitary state of the camping-grounds, and the number of dead
camels lying iinburied in the pass. New to such scenes, and not
suspecting that, if there were any fault in the matter, his own troops
would shortly deserve far greater condemnation, he hastily concluded
that the Quetta Reinforcements had neglected their duty, and wrote
his displeasure in strong terms. Biddulph, a proud and sensitive
man, bitterly resented the undeserved rebuke, and the absence of all
recognition of the great services which his tired and sickly troops had
rendered to Stewart's Division by smoothing the way for their advance.
His vexation was natural ; yet, to some extent, he had himself to blame.
Had he gone to Quetta to meet his Chief, a few words of explanation
would have shown Stewart his mistake ; but he could not bring
himself to take this step, and there was no meeting between the two
Generals till the senior rode into the junior's camp, by which time
their mutual feelings had been so much embittered as to injure, per-
manently, their relations to each other, and to impair the cordiality
wliich, under other circumstances, would have existed between their
respective Staffs, and between the rank and file of their respective

If the state of the Bolan had alarmed General Stewart, the condition
of Quetta was not such as to lessen his disquietude. Outside that town,
lay the corpses of the six or seven hundred camels which Biddulph, hav-
ing neither labour at his command to bury, nor fuel to burn them, had


caused to be dragged to leeward of the station.i The sight was a
sickening one, though, owing to the unusual dryness of the season, the
bodies, instead of decaying, shrivelled up in the sun and wind, and
did little to poison either the air or the water ; but the filth which
abounded on every side, was a real and most serious danger. In vain
the medical officers offered suggestions, and the military authorities
issued stringent orders for its disinfection or removal ; the evil which
grew rapidly as more and more troops passed through the valley, was
beyond all cure; and Quetta had to continue a hot-bed of disease
throughout the entire campaign.^

On the 14th of December, General Stewart and his Staff left Quetta,
Deputy Surgeon-General Alexander Smith remaining behind to subject
the Kandahar Field Force to the same rigorous inspection which
the Quetta Reinforcements had already undergone at his hands. The
result so far as the European regiments were concerned, proved
satisfactory. The keen air of the Bolan had so braced and invigorated
the men, that but few had the mortification of hearing themselves
pronounced unfit to go further ; but among the Native troops, to
whom cold is a poison — not a tonic, there was much sickness ; and many

1 " Experience showed that when fuel was available (which was very seldom)
tlie easiest mode of disposing of dead animals was to disembowel them, fill their
interiors with dry straw, grass, thorns, or any other inflammable materials avail-
able, which, when fired, gradually consumed the whole body." (Deputy Surgeon
General A. Smith.)

2 If stringent orders could have ensured the health and well-being of the
Force, its condition should liave been perfect, for plenty of them were issued.
Major Le Messurier, writing from Dadar, gives a caustic account of one batch of
them. " These orders," he writes, " which, by the way, were handed to us on
several pieces of paper and disconnected, desired, or, rather, laid down that all
followers were to be clothed: — admitted; but where the clothing? That all
camels were to be protected by a jhool (covering) : — good again ; but where the
jhools ? That so many days' provisions were to be carried through the Pass : —
excellent ; but where the rations and forage ? That all camps on being abandoned
were to be thoroughly cleaned : — but where was the conservancy staff ? "
{Kandahar in 1879, p. 23.)


of them, and still larger numbers of the camp-followers, had to be
detained in Quetta for medical treatment.

At Abdulla Khan-Ka-Killa, Stewart found himself confronted with
the same difficulties which he had had to face at Quetta. The hospitals
were full ; deaths had been numerous among troops and followers ;
many of the Cavalry-horses had died or broken down ; much of the
original transport had perished, and httle had been done to renew
it ; 1 and the one fresh element in the situation — the attitude of the
Pathans in the Native regiments — was far from re-assuring. The men
could not be called disaffected, for they were loyal to their officers
and quite ready to fight against the Amir ; but they were restless and
uneasy with the consciousness that scenes like to those in which they
were bearing a part, were being enacted in the Khyber, where many
of them had their homes. The news of Maude's expedition into the
Bazar Valley, so increased their alarm that many Afridis came boldly
forward to ask for leave of absence in order to place their families
in safety, promising to rejoin as soon as this duty had been accom-
pUshed. On the refusal of their request, these men deserted in a body,
leaving however, their rifles, ammunition, and accoutrements behind
them, as a proof that they were acting in good faith, and had no
intention of turning traitors to their salt.

After visiting Chaman to select a site for a redoubt, which was
to cover the western end of the Khojak Pass and to contain a large
commissariat depot. General Stewart addressed himself to the task
of re-organizing the whole of the troops now under liis command,
into two bodies, which were thenceforward to be known as the 1st
and 2nd Divisions of the Kandahar Field Force; the former, to continue

^ General Stewart to the Adjutant-General of the Army in India :

" Camp, Killa Abdulla, 22nd December, 1878.

" We are halted here because we have no money and our transport is in pieces
— due no doubt to scarcity of forage and cold. . . . Many of the poor
brutes were unfit for the hard work of knocking about Pishin, and have died of
exhaustion." {Life of Sir Donald Stewart, page 232.)



Colonel R. H. Sankey
Major A. Le Messurier .
Lieutenant C. F. Call
Lieutenant E. S. E. Childers
Lieutenant G. R. R. Savage

under his own immediate command, the latter, under Biddulph's ;
no change being made in the Divisional Staff of the respective Generals.


1st Division.
Royal Engineers.

Brigade Major.
Assistant Field Engineer.
Assistant Field Engineer.
Superintendent of Field Telegraphs.
Three Companies of Sappers and Miners.
Engineer Field Park.

Brigadier-General C. G. Arbuthnot, C.B. Commanding.

Captain A. D. Anderson Brigade Major.

Major C. Cowie Commissary of Ordnance.

Captain R. A. Lanning Adjutant.

Colonel A. C. Johnson Commanding Royal Horse and Field


Colonel A. H. Dawson Commanding Heavy Artillery.

5-11 Royal Artillery (Heavy) . . . Major C. CoUingwood, Commanding.
6-11 Royal Artillery (Heavy) . . . Major J. A. Tillard, Commanding.
11-11 Royal Artillery (Mountain) . . Major N. H. Harris, Commanding.
Ordnance Field Park.

Cavalry Brigade.
Brigadier-General W. Fane, C.B. . . Commanding.

Captain H. H. F. Giftord Brigade Major.

15th Hussars Lieutenant-Colonel J. E. Swindley,


8th Bengal Cavalry Colonel B. W. Ryall, Commanding.

19th Bengal Lancers Colonel P. S. Yorke.

A.B. Royal Horse Artillery .... Colonel D. MacFarlan.

^ Siege Train en route from India.

Colonel E. J. Bruce .
Major W. H. Noble . .
13-8 Royal Artillery (Siege)
16-8 Royal Artillery (Siege)
8-11 Royal Artillery (Siege)


Staff Officer.

Major E. S. Burnett, Commanding.

Major J. H. Blackley, Commanding.

Major H. H. Murray, Commanding.


1st Infantry Brigade.
Brigadier-General R. Barter . . . Commanding.

Captain C. M. Stockley Brigade Major.

2nd Battalion 60th Rifles .... Lieutenant-Colonel J. J. Collins, Com-

15th Sikhs Major G. R. Hennessy, Commanding.

25th Pimjab Infantry Lieutenant-Colonel J. W. Hoggan,

I-l Royal Artillery Major H. B. Lewes, Commanding.

2nd Infantry Brigade.

Brigadier-General R. J. Hughes . . . Commanding.

Captain A. G. Handcock Brigade-Major.

59th Foot Major J. Lawson, Commanding.

1st Gurkhas Colonel R. S. Hill, Commanding.

3rd Gurkhas Colonel A. Paterson, Commanding.

12th Bengal Infantry Colonel R. H. Price, Commanding.

D-2 Royal Artillery Major E. Staveley, Commanding.

2nd Division.
Royal Engineers.
Lieutenant-Colonel W. Hichens . . . Commanding.

Captain W. S. S. Bisset Field Engineer.

Captain W. G. Nicholson Field Engineer.

5th Company Bengal Sappers and Miners.
Engineer Field Park.

Lieutenant-Colonel C. B. Le Messurier Commanding.
Lieutenant F. H. G. Cruickshank . . Adjutant.

Major F. V. Eyre Commissary of Ordnance.

E-4 Royal Artillery Major T. C. Martelli.

No. 2 Jacobabad Mountain Battery . Captain R. Wace.
No. 3 Peshawar Mountain Battery . . Captain J. Charles.
Ordnance Field Park.

Cavalry Brigade.
Brigade-General C. H. Palliser, C.B. . Commanding.

Captain H. R. Abadie Brigade-Major.

1st Punjab Cavab-y Major G. S. Maclean, Commanding.

2nd Punjab Cavalry Colonel T. G. Kennedy, Commanding.

3rd Sind Horse Lientenant-Colonel J. H. P. Malcohn-

son. Commanding.

Ist Infantry Brigade.
Brigadier-General R. Lacy .... Commanding.


Captain M. H. Nicolson Brigade Major.

70th Foot Colonel H. de R. Pigott, Commanding.

19th Punjab Infantry Colonel E. B. Clay, Commanding.

2nd Infantry Brigade.

Brigadier-General T. Nuttall . . . Commanding.

Captain W. W. Haywood .... Brigade-Major.

26th Punjab Infantry Lieutenant-Colonel M. G. Smith


32nd Pioneers Lieutenant-Colonel H. Fellows, Com-

29th Baluchis Lieutenant-Colonel G. Nicholetts,



Two Guns Jacobabad Mountain Battery -i Major F. T. Humphrey,
30th Bombay Infantry (Jacob's Rifles) j Commanding.

Moveable Column in Pishin.
Two Guns Peshawar Mountain Battery

1st Punjab Infantry ^ Major F. J. Keen, Commanding

Chaman Fort.

Two Guns Jacobabad Mountain Battery ^Lieutenant-Colonel A. TuUoch,
One Troop 3rd Sind Horse .... V Commanding.
Two Companies 26th Punjab Infantry

Hand in hand with this measure, went the working out of a simple
but effective plan of campaign, its twofold object being speed in its
earUer stages, attained by a separation of the invading forces, and
strength, in its final stage, by their re-union at Takht-i-Pul, thirty-two
miles short of Kandahar, and still outside the zone in which organized
resistance might be expected, if the Amir's father-in-law, Sirdar
Afzul Khan, carried out the peremptory instructions which he was
known to have received from Kabul, to oppose with his cavalry the
British advance.

The First Division was to cross the Khwaja Amran mountains
by the Gwaja Pass— its commanding Engineer, Colonel R. Sankey,
had confirmed Colonel Kennedy's report as to the practicability of


that Pass for Heavy Artillery ; — the Second, by the Khojak.^ The
working parties required to complete the work of widening the road
through the Gwaja and reducing its gradients, were to be furnished
by the Second Division, as the First was only just beginning to con-
centrate at Gulistan Karez; and Major A. Le Messurier, with a party
of sappers, was to be sent forward to develop and regulate the water
supply which, contained in deep wells varying in depth from a
hundred and fifty to three hundred feet, and yielding about eight
hundred gallons at a time, would have to be drawn and stored in
puddled tanks, the process being repeated as fast as the wells refilled.

1 Stewart's original intention was to send the Heavy Guns along the
foot of the mountains to Chaman — from the exit of the Gwaja Pass to Chaman
was about twenty-eight miles — thus avoiding the long and waterless march be-
tween Gwaja and Konchai ; but a reconnaissance made by Major C. S. Maclean
with his regiment, the 1st Punjab Cavaky, showed that it was not practicable
for wheeled carriage, and no time could be spared to improve it.

From Quetta

TO Kandahar.











in Feet

in Miles

in Miles

in Feet


Quetta to — .

Quetta to — ,



Gazarband . . .

Kushlak .





Syud Yarn .





Gulistan . .






Gundawanni .

Arambi Karez .





Gwaja Kotal

Killa Abdulla .





Spintaza .

Khojak Post






Khojak Kotal





Konchai .

Chaman .





Shahpasand .

Gatai ....





Takht-i-pul . .




Abdul Rahman

Abdul Rahman









Kandahar City .

Kandahar City .



Table compiled by Major A. Le Messurier from Captains Bevan's and

Roger's Surveys.



On the 26th of December, General Stewart transferred his Head-
quarters to Guhstan Karez, and the same day the survivors of the
regimental and commissariat camels — in a single march thirty-five
had died, eight strayed, and twenty-one been incapacitated ^ — were
sent back to Abdulla Killa to load up and take forward the supplies
with which it had been decided to provision the different camping-
grounds — an excellent arrangement that had been rendered possible
by Sandeman's successful handling of the Achakzais, a nomadic tribe
which in 1839, had given Keane's army endless trouble, but now,
for the moment, was showing itself friendly." On the 30th of Decem-
ber, Sankey reported that the Pass was ready for the advance of the
troops and baggage, and the last day of the year saw the First
Division concentrated at Gulistan Karez, with its advanced guard
on the western slopes of the Khwaja Amran Mountains, and the
Second Division, at Chaman, re-inforced by A.B. Royal Horse
Artillery (three guns), I. 1 Royal Artillery, 11. 11 Royal Artillery,
and the 15th Hussars, transferred on account of the scarcity of water
in the Gwaja Pass.

Water was not the only necessary of life of which there was a
deficiency ; only ten days' supply of food remained to the whole Force,
and the mind of its Commander-in-Chief was heavy with anxious
thought as he looked forward to the long march that still lay before

^ The mortality amongst the transport animals had been now increased by
the prevalence of a poisonous bush in appearance like a bastard indigo, with
a small hard grain, which the camels eat with avidity. The Anglo-Indian Press
about this time, teemed with accounts of their sufferings over the whole area of
operations. The Pioneer, after giving the case of an officer who started from
Mithankote with five hundred and twenty camels and lost them all before he got
to Quetta, and quoting from a correspondent at Jellalabad the statement that the
camels in the Khyber were dying at the rate of two hundred a day — ended a
leading article with the words : " Losses of this kind are not only wasteful but

^ According to Major H. B. Lumsden, the tents of the Achakzais, each one
containing a family, number 14,000.


it, and to the chance that bad weather might cause delay, and leave
him no choice but to put lii.s troops on half rations. 1

To complete the history of the military movement connected with
the advance of the Kandahar Field Force, it remains only to state
that Sibi was occupied by a detachment of Bombay troops, and the
Bhawalpur Contingent which had temporarily garrisoned Multan,
was relieved, early in December, by a Brigade from Madras commanded
by Brigadier-General A. C. MacMaster, consisting of the following
StaflF and Troops : —

Captain S. W. Bell, Brigade Major.

1st Madras Cavalry.

67th Foot. Lieutenant-Colonel C. B. Knowles,

30th Madras Infantry.
36th Madras Infantry.
Two Companies Madras Sappers.


The importance of the work performed by troops employed on
lines of communication is so great and so often overlooked, that
it is well to emphasize it by a brief summary of the duties dis-
charged by the Bombay Division. On it devolved : —

1. Every arrangement connected with the prompt, efficient and
safe transmission of troops, transport and supplies of every kind to
the Advanced Force.

^ " Camp, Gulistan Karez.

"December Slst, 1878.
" I am very down in my luck to day, owing to the breakdown of the Com-
missariat. . . . We are now in possession of only ten days' supphes, and
we may have to go on half rations if we are snowed up, or anything of that sort .
(Life of Sir D. Stewart, pp. 232-233.)


2. The construction and garrisoning of the fortified posts along
the whole line of communications.

3. The provision of troops for the various moveable columns.

4. Road and bridge making.

5. Furnishing escorts for convoys, survey parties, officers, etc.

6. Escorting sick and wounded to the base hospitals.

7. Patrolling and outpost duty.

8. Telegraph arrangements.

9. Signalling.

10. Recoimoitring.

11. Minor expeditions against recalcitrant tribes.

12. Re-inforcing the Main Army at any time, and at a moment's


Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bathurst) HannaThe second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 32)