Page images
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

from all I had learnt, the advent of a British force would be welcomed by the people, provided they understood that it was the forerunner of annexation; that in this case we should be regarded as deliverers, and all the resources of the country would be placed at our disposal; but if the people were led to believe that the force would be withdrawn when our work was finished, and that they would be again handed over to the tender mercies of the Kabul Government, we must expect no aid from them, as they would naturally dread the resentment of their Afghan rulers.

In reply, I was informed that I could assure the people of Kuram that our occupation would be permanent; and my being enabled to make this promise was undoubtedly the explanation of the friendly reception we met with on entering the valley, and the cause of my receiving at the same time a letter from the Chief of the Turis (the inhabitants of the Kuram valley), inquiring when we might be expected, as they were suffering greatly from the tyranny of the Afghan Government, and were anxiously waiting the arrival of the British.


By the 15th November my column* (consisting of 1,345 British and 3,990 Native soldiers, with 13 guns) was concentrated at Thal, and on the 20th-the limit of time given to the Amir-no reply having been vouchsafed to the Viceroy's ultimatum, orders were issued to the three columns to advance the next day.t

The details of the column are given in the Appendix.

On the 30th November a subordinate officer of the Kabul Government reached Sir Samuel Browne's camp at Daka, and delivered the following letter from the Amir to the address of the Viceroy :


'Be it known to your Excellency that I have received, and read from beginning to end, the friendly letter which your Excellency has sent, in reply to the letter I despatched by Nawab Ghulam Hussein Khan. With regard to the expressions used by your Excellency in the beginning of your letter, referring to the friendly character of the Mission and the goodwill of the British Government, I leave it to your Excellency, whose wisdom and justice are universally admitted, to decide whether any reliance can be placed upon goodwill, if it be evidenced by words only. But if, on the other hand, goodwill really consists of deeds and actions, then it has not been manifested by the various wishes that have been expressed, and the proposals that have been made by British officials during the last few years to officials of this Godgranted Government-proposals which, from their nature, it was impossible for them to comply with.

'One of these proposals referred to my dutiful son, the ill-starred wretch,


ed its designation, is . On every side rise on the north and east

north-west projects highest peak of the

tter addressed by the -gent then residing in said Yakub Khan be fghan Government will

similar nature, which trary, were effective in tained by the subjects

ission, your Excellency hat I was actuated by ment.

he officials of this Godnot influenced by any ernment, nor did they But they were afraid affected by the arrival w existed between the ed.

es the statement which

of apprehension which by the mere announcend a Mission to Kabul, ved at Peshawar, have our Excellency's letter, might befall the tribes be called upon pay ffered; and that if, at t my hands, the British

had the object of the of violence used, the ved a free passage, as between allied States. say that this Governrmer friendship which ao feelings of hostility

ish Government that, eminence of their own njury upon their wellVous troubles upon the ary, they should exert have hitherto existed the relations between

; as before; and if, in

h Government should

Sufed Koh range, upwards of 14,000 feet high. This spur forms the boundary between Kuram and Afghanistan, and is crossed by the Peiwar Kotal. A river, which varies from 100 to 500 yards in width, flows through the valley, and the road, or, rather, track, which existed in 1878, ran for the most part along its rocky bed. In the winter months the depth of the water nowhere exceeded three feet, except after heavy rain, and although the stream was rather swift, it could usually be forded with very little risk. The valley itself had a bleak and deserted appearance, save in the immediate vicinity of the few and widely-scattered villages, around which were clustered fruit trees and patches of cultivation.

For six weeks the thoughts of every one in the force had been turned towards Kuram, consequently there was considerable excitement when at 3 a.m. on the 21st November the leading troops crossed the river into Afghan territory and encamped eight miles from Thal. The next morning we marched fifteen miles farther up the valley to Hazir Pir, where we halted for one day to improve the road (in some places impracticable for guns and transport) and to allow of the rear part of the column closing up. As we proceeded on our way, the headmen from the different villages came out to welcome us, and on arriving at Hazir Pir we found a plentiful repast awaiting us spread under the shade of some trees. Knives and forks were evidently considered unnecessary adjuncts by our entertainers, so I unhesitatingly took my first lesson in eating roast kid and pillaued chicken without their aid.


On the 24th we marched to the Darwazai defile, and the next day proceeded through it to Kuram, forty-eight miles from Thal. found the fort evacuated by the Afghans, who had left behind one 6-pounder gun.

Notwithstanding the proffers of assistance I had received, I could get ) no reliable information as to the whereabouts of the enemy; from one account I was led to believe that they were in full retreat, from another that they were being strongly reinforced. So, to find out the truth, I reconnoitred as far as the cantonment of Habib Kila, fifteen miles

desire to send a purely friendly and temporary Mission to this country, with a small escort, not exceeding twenty or thirty men, similar to that which attended the Russian Mission, this servant of God will not oppose its progress.'

It was ascertained that this messenger had come to Basawal on the 22nd November, when, hearing of the capture of Ali Masjid by British troops, he immediately returned to Kabul. The Amir's letter, though dated the 19th November, was believed to have been re-written at Kabul after the news of the fall of Ali Masjid. The text of this letter was telegraphed to the Secretary of State on the 7th December; in reply Lord Cranbrook pointed out that the letter evaded all the requirements specified in the Viceroy's ultimatum, and could not have been accepted even if it had reached him before the 20th November.


« PreviousContinue »