H. B. (Henry Bathurst) Hanna.

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

. (page 5 of 32)
Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bathurst) HannaThe second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

partly on Captain Tucker's memory, that officer having visited the
valley in disguise some years before. From these two sources the
General had obtained the impression that, by leaving Ali Masjid on
the evening of one day, he should reach the first village in Bazar by
dawn of the next, and as the Assistant PoHtical Officer was very
anxious to take the Zakka Khel at unawares, he determined on a
night march. The manoeuvre was not one which, as a general rule,
approved itself to his judgment, but, in this particular instance, there
were reasons which led him to feel that it might legitimately be
adopted. The road to be foUowed during the hours of darkness ran,
not through the enemy's country, but through the territory of the
friendly Malikdin Khel, and the guides of the expeditionary force
were to be furnished by the same tribe, so there was little risk of its
being led astray, or exchanging the part of the surpriser for that of the

Bazar, into which British troops were now about to penetrate from
two sides, is situated sixteen miles west of Jamrud and a somewhat
less distance south of Dakka, and is one of those comparatively fruitful
upland valleys which occasionally vary the savage desolation of the
Afghan hills. It is about ten miles long, by three wide. Mountains
six and seven thousand feet high shut it in on every side, their lateral
spurs terminating sometimes in a singlg detached hill. The ground,
generally level, but, in parts, much cut up by deep nullahs or ravines,
is drained by the Chura, an affluent of the Khyber River. The villages,
of which there are many, are of two kinds : in the open plain, ordinary
collections of mud huts, roofed with wood and shingle, surrounded by


walls and defended by one or more loop-holed towers ; along the
edges of the valley, nests of cave dwellings, hewed into, or scooped
out of, the hill sides, with wooden porticoes over their entrances : in
the former, live the settled, in the latter, the nomadic portion of the
tribe. Lying to the south of Bazar are the valleys of Bara and Tirah,
in both of which no European had ever set foot.

At five o'clock on the evening of the 19th of December, the troops
noted below,^ under the personal leadership of Lieutenant-General
Maude — Brigadier-General Doran, C.B., being his second in command
— assembled near Ali Masjid, and began their march to Bazar by the
road that led past the village of Chura. The night being dark — the
moon did not rise till 3 a.m. — and the path a mere mountain-track,
so narrow and choked with thorny bushes that much of the way the
men had to move in single file, and seldom could see more than ten
yards ahead — progress was necessarily very slow, but in other
respects the march was perfectly performed. Communication
between aU parts of the long line was well maintained, and the advance
was delayed by none of those untoward accidents which had marred
the night march of Generals Macpherson and Tytler ; yet, at four
o'clock next morning, the column was still half a mile short of Chura,
and Captain Tucker had to report that his memory and his guides
had alike misled him as to the distance, that Bazar was still eight
miles off, and that, as the road to it lay in the bed of the Chura stream
which would have to be frequently forded by the infantry, there was
no longer any hope of taking the inhabitants of the valley by surprise.
Under these circumstances. General Maude ordered a halt, that the
troops, especially that portion of them which had started from Jamrud
and been, more or less, under arms since 9 a.m. the previous day,
might have a breathing space for rest and food.

1 Two guns, R.H.A., on elephants; 4 mountain guns 11.9 R.A. ; 1 Troop
13th Bengal Lancers ; 300 men 5th Fusiliers ; 200, Slst Light Infantry ; 560,
2nd Gurkhas ; and 400, Mhairvvarras.


When the march was resumed by dayUght and the village of Chura
had been passed, orders were given to crown the heights on both sides
of the river, and Lieutenant-Colonel Heathcote, Assistant-Quarter-
Master-General, was sent forward with a troop of the 13th Bengal
Lancers to reconnoitre. That officer reporting that he could discover
no sign of an enemy, the column moved on unopposed except by the
firing of an occasional shot from the hills, till it reached Wallai, the
first village in the Bazar Valley. This proved to have been abandoned by
its inhabitants, and here, about 2 p.m., the troops bivouacked, waiting for
news of Tytler, with whom, before evening, communication was opened
up. That officer had moved from Dakka, on the 18th of December,
with 300 men of the 17th Foot. On the 19th, he was joined at the
western end of the Khyber Pass, by two guns 11.9 Royal Artillery
(Mountain Battery) and 250 rifles of the 27th Punjab Infantry, and the
united Force — 22 officers, 768 men, and 2 guns — continuing its march
past Chenar, the village which General Tytler had destroyed only ten
days before, arrived early on the morning of the 20th, at the foot
of the Sisobi Pass. Traversing this by a zig-zag path, leading upwards
between oak-clad slopes, and downwards through a narrow gorge, the
troops descended without hindrance into the Bazar Valley, and
halted for the night near Kwar, a cave village, three miles north-west
of Wallai, where not a living creature was to be found. En route,
Tytler had received the submission of the five villages of the Sisobi
region, whose headmen made offers of help, and furnished him with

In Major Cavagnari's arrangements with the Khyber clans, wherever
he could not prevail upon the whole of the headmen of a tribe to come
in and accept their share of the subsidy, he came to terms with such
of them as presented themselves — generally the leaders of the weaker
of the two factions into which every clan was split. Among the Zakka
Khel, a tribe even more divided by internal feuds than their neigh-
bours, such a minority had given in their adhesion to the British


Government. The chief of this party was Malik Khwas, whom Tucker
describes as a " tall, handsome, delicate-featured man," who " dresses
well, and wiU promise to do anything . . . who is considered by his
own countrymen rapacious, stingy, and absolutely treacherous. His
word is never believed ; and to these qualities he adds the shameless-
ness of a beggar." This Khwas had accompanied the expedition into
Bazar for a purpose which became apparent when, in the afternoon of the
20th of December, theMaliks of the hostile sections of the Zakka Khel
came into Maude's camp, to learn from the Political Officer's lips, on
what conditions their submission would be accepted, and their past
offences condoned. Tucker was prostrate with fever at the time,
but Mr. Cunningham, who had volunteered to accompany him, acted
as his spokesman. The terms to be imposed were as follows—
First, the payment of a fine of one thousand rupees.
Second, the providing of six hostages to be named by the Political

Third, the acceptance of Malik Khwas as their chief.
The fine might be paid in cash, in arms, or in cattle. Matchlocks
to be taken at fifteen rupees, rifles, at forty rupees, and cattle, at
the Commissariat Officer's valuation ; or if the chief, who was to
be placed over them, considered that their being indebted to him
would rivet their allegiance, then his security would be accepted for
the whole sum. These terms were so easy, except as regards the
clause appointing Khwas chief of the whole Zakka Khel clan,
which ran counter to all Afridi custom— that General Maude might
weU feel indignant at having been called upon to make such a display
of force for so small an object, yet, to Tucker's great surprise, the
Jirga left camp without accepting them. The explanation of the
mystery lies in the fact that the deputation, alarmed at sight of the
troops, had retreated into a cave and left it to Khwas Khan and his
friend Afridi Khan to negotiate for them. The conference— a lengthy
one— took place round a camp fire, and, at its conclusion, the two


chiefs went back to the cave, ostensibly to communicate Cavagnari's
terms to the expectant headmen. What passed there may be guessed
from the Jirgah's hasty departure, taken in conjunction with an
incident that occurred later on in the night. Mr. G. B. Scott, of the
Survey Department, perhaps the only man in the expedition versed
in the Afridi tongue, lying awake in the darkness, overheard Khwas
Khan tell his ally that he had not brought the British into Bazar to
impose thousand-rupee fines, but to blow up the towers of China,
which had long been his bane. Khwas had his wish. At nine o'clock
on the morning of the 21st December, the troops paraded, ready to
enter on the work of destruction marked out for them by the Political
Authorities. At the same moment Tytler appeared on the ground
and had a short interview with Maude, in which it was settled that
the former should return to Kwar, complete the destruction of that
place, which his troops had already begun, treat Nikai, a village two
miles from his position, in a similar manner, and then return to
Dakka ; whilst the latter was to deal with the remainder of the valley.^
Tytler accompUshed his share of the programme by 2 p.m., but even
that early hour was far too late to admit of his re-crossing the Sisobi
Pass before dark ; and, as on its southern side no water was to be met
with, he determined to return by the hitherto unexplored Tabai Pass.
A suitable camping ground, half-way up a wooded valley, was reached
by 4.30 p.m., where the column bivouacked for the night ^ in tolerable

1 General Maude was opposed to the indiscriminate destruction of the tribes-
men's villages. " As a general rule," he wrote, " the towers only were destroyed
by the troops vmder my immediate command ; an odd dwelling-house or so
may also have been burned, but that was an exceptional case. My own feehngs
have always been opposed to destruction of this sort, its natural tendency bemg
to exasperation against us."

2 " It is highlv interesting to note the result of this expedition for a few days
without tents on the Khyber Hills. The 17th were a .singularly fit regiment,
and for several days after their return did exceedingly well ; but when the excite-
ment passed off. the wear and tear and the exposure to the biting cold began
to tell, and thirty-one cases of pneumonia resulted with eleven deatlis. Thi-


tranquiUity, owing to the skilful way in which the pickets had been
placed ; but, by the following morning, the news of the invasion of
Bazar had spread far and wide, and the tribesmen had gathered in
such large numbers that Ty tier had to fight his way for miles, first up a
steep winding road to the top of the Pass, and then down the other side
along a torrent's rugged bed till, on nearing a small cultivated plain
owned by friendly Shinwaris, the enemy at last desisted from opposi-
tion and \vithdrew.

General Maude's force had a longer day's work before it. Whilst
the Infantry, with the exception of a strong guard left in charge
of the camp, advanced upon China, a large cave-viUage in the
side of the mountain of the same name, a troop of the 18th Bengal
Lancers, under Major W. H. Macnaughten, which had been despatched
in advance by a different road to cut off stragglers, penetrated to
the extreme west of the valley and destroyed the towers of Halwai
a \illage at the foot of the Pass leading into Bara. At China,
both the towers and the porticoes of the cave-dweUings were
blown up, and stacks of fodder burned to the ground. Later in the
day, Maude sent the 2nd Gurkhas, under Lieutenant-Colonel D. Mac-
intyre, V.C, to the south of the vaUey, and a detachment of the
Mhairwarra BattaUon, under Captain O'M. Creagh, to scour the country
lying to the east of China. When every part of Bazar had been
visited, the whole force returned to WaUai for the night, and the next
day re-crossed the mountains to Ali Masjid. The enemy showed
themselves as the troops retired, and foUowed them up at a distance
till they entered the Hmits of the Mahkdin Khel, who turned out to
cover Maude's retirement.

Except in as far as it failed to surprise the vaUey, the
First Bazar Expedition was quite successful, and attended by

was amongst the European soldiers only. But the mortality in the ranks of
the Native Army and among the wretched followers was much greater."

Evatt's Personal Recollections.


hardly any loss, only one man, a private of the 17th Foot, being
killed, and two British and seven Native soldiers wounded, two
of the latter subsequently dying. The loss of the Zakka Khel
must also have been small, as, everywhere, they had disappeared
before the troops could reach their villages, carrying off their families,
cattle, and household goods to inaccessible refuges amongst the
hills. One untoward incident, however, marred the satisfaction with
which the Political Officer regarded this punitive raid into the territory
of the most troublesome of the Khyber tribes. The Kadah (families
and cattle) of the nomadic portion of the Malakdin Khel, which clan
had excited the anger of the Zakka Khel by entering into alhance
with the invading force, had been waiting for a favourable opportunity
to pass through Bazar, on their way from their summer quarters in
Tirah to their winter homes near Kajurai, and, counting on the presence
of the British troops for protection, they tried, on the 21st of December,
to rush through the valley. Mistaken for a party of the enemy, they
were pursued and captured by a detachment out in search of cattle,
one man being unfortunately shot. As soon as Captain Tucker dis-
covered the mistake that had been made, he released the captives,
ordered their arms and possessions to be returned to them, and gave
three hundred rupees to the family of the dead man. Not content
with tliis reparation, though it seems to have contented the Malikdin
Khel, he suggested to Cavagnari that a further sum of two hundred
rupees should be divided among the party as compensation for the
loss of any httle articles that the troops might have taken from
them, and failed to give back ; and as an acknowledgment of the
friendly spirit displayed by the whole tribe, he also advised that
three hundred rupees should be given to its chief, and another three
hundred to the inhabitants of Chura. These recommendations were
sanctioned by Major Cavagnari who, in reporting the occurrence to
Government, called attention to the " strange coincidence that
during the advance through the Khyber in 1837 a similar mistake


occurred, and a relative of Khan Bahadur Khan, the friendly chief
of this very same tribe, was shot by some of our troops."


On his return march, Tytler adopted the unusual course of giving
to eacli regiment the charge of its own baggage, thus interposing
camp followers and baggage animals between the different units of
the column, a disposition which must have interfered with the mobility
of his troops and with his power of control over them as a united body.
In his report, Tytler mentioned that the 17th Regiment and the
27th Native Infantry emerged from a portion of the Pass only five
or six feet wide, " in some confusion," and were met, at the outlet,
by a heavy fire from Afridis hidden in a gorge. Such confusion was
inseparable from the formation he had given to his Force ; and had a
large body of the enemy, instead of only a hundred men, been posted
at this point, disaster might have ensued.

Wlien an enemy has been dislodged from the entrance to a defile
by the leading troops, the heights crowned by strong flanking parties,
and tactical points in the Pass itself occupied (and all these things
Tytler had done), there need be little fear for the baggage if each
regiment has furnished a detachment for the supervision of its own
and the column is covered by a strong rearguard, for it will then
be in the centre of a hollow square, two sides of which are the flanking
parties, and the other two the advanced and rearguards— the safest
position it could possibly occupy.

The Occupation of the Kuram Forts

The Kuram Valley, the scene of General Roberts's advance, is separated,
on the north, from the Khyber and the Valley of Jellalabad where
General Maude and Sir Sam Browne were operating, by the impassable
barrier of the Safed Koh. To the south lies the smaller Valley of
Khost, embedded in savage hills which no Englishman had yet ex-
plored, and to the west, thrown off from Sika Ram, the highest peak
of the Safed Koh, rises the Peiwar Mountain, a formidable spur with
flanking buttresses and intersecting ravines, clothed from base to
summit with cedars, pine and oak, interlaced by an almost impene-
trable undergrowth.

The valley is about sixty miles long, and from three to
twelve miles wide. The river from which it takes its name,
rushes out of a deep rocky chasm a few miles above the
Kuram Forts, and broadens out almost immediately to a width
of four hundred and fifty feet. Twenty miles below the Forts,
its bed measures seven hundred and fifty feet, and at Badish
Khel, eighteen miles further on, twelve hundred. From this
point, it continues to widen slowly till it reaches the hilly country
near Thai where it contracts, opening out again four miles above that
village, opposite which its bed attains to a width of fifteen hundred
feet, though its water-channel in the cold weather, is barely a hundred
feet wide and three feet deep.


There are villages on its banks, and in the open country between
Badish Khel and Keraiah. These are surrounded by orchards, and
the land in their neighbourhood has been elaborately terraced and
irrigated by channels brought from higher up the stream ; but, except
for these oases, the creation of man's toil, the Kuram Valley is a stony
waste, offering a striking contrast to the pretty, green glens lying
between the well wooded offshoots of the Safed Koh. Its upper part
is inhabited by the Turis, and the lower, by the Bungash, a clan that
once owned the whole district, but has gradually been dispossessed and
driven lower down the river by the former people, who, in their turn,
live in constant terror of the tribes dwelhng among the hill-ranges to
the West and South.

There were paths up the valley on either side the river, but that
on the right bank, although it entailed a two-fold crossing of its bed,
was the one selected by General Roberts for the advance of his Force,
on account of its greater openness and comparative immunity from
the raids of the marauding Zymukhts, whose territory marches with
the Kuram Valley on the east. This route starts from Kapiyang, the
fortified Afghan Customs' Post, whose mud walls and round corner
towers had, for many days past, been an object of curious attention to
the British and Native troops collecting at Thai. Afghan soldiers had
been seen going in and out of its gates : were they few or many, and
what were the chances of their allowing themselves to be surprised
and made prisoners ? The little fort was no Ali Masjid, and there
would be small glory in taking it ; but every man in Roberts's com-
mand felt that it would be pleasant to fire a few shots on the first day
of the campaign, and trusted that the Afghans would stick to their

This very natural hope was, however, doomed to disappointment.
The Afghans knew perfectly well that the 21st of November would
see the war begin, and, although the vanguard of the Kuram Field Force
was afoot long before day, and the passage of the river was rapidly


effected, the only prisoners taken were three little children left
behind by their people in the confusion of a hasty retirement.

That retirement, however, had evidently been so recent that there
seemed reason to beheve that the fugitives might still be overtaken on
the road, or at Ahmed-i-Shama, a second Afghan post, the exact
counterpart of the first, eight miles higher up the valley. So the 10th
Hussars and the 12th Bengal Cavalry— the former regiments had
forded the river a mile below the trestle bridge, and two companies of
the 29th Punjab Infantry a mile above it i— rushed off in pursuit,
and rode at break-neck pace, up hill and down hiU, over the roughest
of rough ground, past position after position, where resolute foes with
rifles in their hands could literally have annihilated them ; but not
a gUmpse did they catch of any living soul, and the fort at Ahmed-i-
Shama they found deserted. Here, therefore, the cavalry rested for the
day, and here, in the evening, they were joined by the remainder of
the vanguard, under Colonel J. J. H. Gordon, which had waited at
Kapiyang till Cobbe's Brigade had crossed the Kuram.

The foUowing day, Thelwall's Brigade being still detained at Thai,
Cobbe's Brigade had to be split up into two detachments, one of which
under the Brigadier himself, continued to occupy Kapiyang, and the
other under Colonel Stiriing, its progress impeded by the Horse
Artillery Battery, and the Commissariat camels, carrying twelve
days' provisions for the whole Force, moved slowly and painfuUy up
to Ahmed-i-Shama to replace the advanced guard, which had pushed
on to Hazir Pir Ziarat, sixteen miles beyond its first halting-place.

For the first four miles of this second day's march, the narrow,
tortuous track, thickly strewn with boulders, ran, once again, through a
silent wilderness ; but, on emerging from a forest of dwarf-palm, the
troops entered on a belt of cultivation half a mile broad and twelve

1 The fords were only three feet deep ; but, according to the Regimental
Records of the 10th Hussars, the current was so rapid that several horses were
swept down stream, their riders narrowly escaping drowning.


miles long, where villages were numerous, and welcome supplies and
some information as to the whereabouts of the enemy, who were re-
ported to be still at the Kuram Forts, could be obtained.

Gordon's party spent the 23rd of November at Hazir Pir in
waiting for Stirling's detachment to come up ; but those first four miles
out of Ahmed-i-Shama presented such difficulties to the advance of the
Artillery — the Engineers were kept busy blowing up boulders to clear
the way for the guns — that the latter had to halt for the night at
Esoar, four miles short of its destination. The same day, Thelwall's
Brigade, bringing with it the Divisional Reserve ammunition, at last
crossed the river, thus setting Cobbe free to move up to Ahmed-i-
Shama, and Headquarters to push on to Hazir Pir, where General
Roberts held a Durbar, to which all the headmen of the valley were
invited to receive, from his own lips, the assurance of the British
Government's benevolent intentions towards the inhabitants, so long
as they offered no resistance and abstained from plundering.

On the 24th, there was movement all along the line : Thelwall's
Brigade marching to Ahmed-i-Shama, Cobbe's two detachments
coming together at Hazir Pir, and the vanguard re-inforced by a
wing of the 5th Punjab Infantry, escorting Headquarters to a camp-
ing ground at the southern end of the Darwaza Pass. Here, for the
first time, real cold was experienced, the thermometer falling at night
several degrees below freezing-point ; luckily, however, the air was
dry and still, and even the camp followers suffered little from the low

On the 25th, news having been brought in that the last of the
Amir's troops had evacuated the Kuram Forts, Headquarters, escorted
as before, marched through the Darwaza Pass, crossed the river, and
pitched their camp in an open plain well supplied with water, half a
mile below the Forts. That night was spent by the 1st Brigade at the
entrance to the Darwaza Pass, and by the 2nd, at Hazir Pir. The
former was to have joined General Roberts the next day, but the Horse


Artillery Battery once again acted as a drag, and it got no further
than Koh Mangi. As a consequence of this delay, both Brigades
crossed on the 27th of November, when all the separate units of
General Roberts's command were united for the first time on Afghan
soil, and the first object of the campaign had been accomplished—
in six days, and without the striking of a blow.

The advance from Thai to the Kuram Forts was conducted
throughout on the assumption that the Afghans would make no use

Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bathurst) HannaThe second Afghan war, 1878-79-80 : its causes, its conduct and its consequences (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 32)