Forty-One Years in India
From Subaltern to Commander-In-Chief
FIELD MARSHAL LORD ROBERTS
In the autumn of 1863, while we were preparing for the usual winter tour, Sir Hugh Rose, who had accompanied Lord Elgin on a trip through the hills, telegraphed to the Head-Quarters staff to join him at Mian Mir without delay.
The Umbeyla Expedition The news which greeted us on our arrival was indeed disturbing. Lord Elgin was at Dharmsala in a dying condition, and the Chief had been obliged to leave him and push on to Lahore, in consequence of unsatisfactory reports from Brigadier-General Chamberlain, who was just then commanding an expedition which had been sent into the mountains near Peshawar, and had met with unexpected opposition. The civil authorities on the spot reported that there existed a great deal of excitement all along the border, that the tribes were collecting in large numbers, that emissaries from Kabul had appeared amongst them, and that, unless reinforcements could be sent up at once, the Government would be involved in a war which must inevitably lead to the most serious complications, not only on the frontier, but with Afghanistan. In so grave a light did the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir[Page 281] Robert Montgomery, view the position, that he contemplated the force being withdrawn and the undertaking abandoned.
Sir Hugh had had nothing to do with the despatch of this expedition; it had been decided on by the Government of India in consultation with the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab. When the Commander-in-Chief was communicated with, he expressed himself adverse to the proposal, and placed his views at length before the Government, pointing out the inexpediency of entering a difficult and unknown country, unless the troops were properly equipped with transport, supplies, and reserve ammunition; that time did not permit of their being so equipped before the winter set in; and that, to provide a force of 5,000 men (the strength considered necessary by the Government), the frontier would have to be dangerously weakened. Moreover, he gave it as his opinion that it would be better to postpone operations until the spring, when everything could be perfectly arranged. Subsequent events proved how sound was this advice. But before proceeding with my narrative it will be as well to explain the circumstances with led the authorities to undertake this expedition.
In 1857, when all our resources were required to quell internal tumult, the Hindustani fanatics1 took the opportunity to stir up disturbances all along the Yusafzai frontier of the Peshawar district, and, aided by the rebel sepoys who had fled to them for protection, they made raids upon our border, and committed all kinds of atrocities. We were obliged, therefore, to send an expedition against them in 1858, which resulted in their being driven from their stronghold, Sitana, and in the neighbouring tribes being bound down to prevent them reoccupying that place. Three years later the fanatics returned to their former haunts and built up a new settlement at Malka; the old troubles recommenced, and for two years they had been allowed to go on raiding, murdering, and attacking our outposts with impunity. It was, therefore, quite time that measures should be taken to effectually rid the frontier of these disturbers of the peace, provided such measures could have been decided upon early enough in the year to ensure success.
The Akhund of Swat The Punjab Government advocated the despatch of a very strong[Page 282] force. Accordingly, two columns were employed, the base of one being in the Peshawar valley, and that of the other in Hazara. The Peshawar column was to move by the Umbeyla Pass, the Buner frontier, and the Chamla valley, thus operating on the enemy's line of retreat. This route would not have been chosen, had not Chamberlain been assured by the civil authorities that no hostility need be feared from the Bunerwals, even if their country had to be entered, as they had given no trouble for fifteen years, and their spiritual head, the Akhund of Swat,2 had no sympathy with the fanatics. It was not, therefore, considered necessary to warn the Buner people of our approach until preparations were completed; indeed, it was thought unadvisable to do so, as it was important to keep the proposed line of advance secret. The strength of the force was 6,000 men, with 19 guns, but to make up these numbers the stations in Upper India had to be considerably weakened, and there was no reserve nearer than Lahore.
The Peshawar column3 being all ready for a start, a Proclamation was forwarded to the Buner and other neighbouring tribes, informing them of the object of the expedition, and stating that there was no intention of interfering with them or their possessions.
On the following morning, the 20th October, the Umbeyla Pass was entered, and by noon the kotal4 was reached without any resistance to speak of; but, from information brought in, it was evident that any further advance would be stoutly opposed. The road turned out to be much more difficult than had been anticipated, and the hurriedly collected transport proved unequal to the strain. Not a single baggage animal, except the ammunition mules, got up that night; indeed, it was not until the morning of the 22nd—more than forty-eight hours after they started—that the rear guard reached the kotal, a distance of only six miles. As soon as it arrived Colonel Alex. Taylor, R.E., was sent off with a body of Cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Probyn, to reconnoitre the road in front. The delay in reaching the top of the pass had given the tribes time to collect, and when the reconnoitring[Page 283] party entered the Chamla valley the Bunerwals could be seen about two miles and a half off, occupying in force the range which separates Buner and Chamla. Whatever may have been their first intention, they apparently could not resist the temptation to try and cut off this small body of Cavalry, for our horsemen on their return journey found a large number of the trusted Buner tribe attempting to block the mouth of the pass. A charge was made, but mounted men could not do much in such a hilly country; the proceedings of the Bunerwals, however, had been observed from the kotal, and Major Brownlow,5 with some of his own regiment (the 20th Punjab Infantry), was sent to the assistance of the party. A hand-to-hand fight ensued, and the enemy pressed our troops closely on their way back, coming right in amongst them with the utmost daring.
There was now brought in to the Commissioner by a spy the copy of a letter from the Hindustani fanatics, addressed to the Bunerwals, telling them not to be taken in by our assurances that our only object was to punish the fanatics, for our real intentions were to annex Chamla, Buner, and Swat. This letter no doubt aroused the suspicions of the tribes, and, encouraged by the slowness of our movements, they all joined against us from Buner, Mahaban, and the Black Mountain.
On the 23rd large bodies of men with numerous standards were to be seen approaching the mouth of the pass, and a day or two later a report was received that our foes were to have the support of the Akhund of Swat, which meant a most formidable accession of moral as well as material strength, and put a stop, for the time being, to any possibility of a successful advance being made with the force at Chamberlain's disposal.
The Eagle's Nest and 'Crag piquet' The position occupied by our troops was enclosed on the left (west) by the Guru Mountain, which separates Umbeyla from Buner, and on the right (east) by a range of hills, not quite so high. The main piquet on the Guru occupied a position upon some precipitous cliffs known as the Eagle's Nest, while that on the right was designated the 'Crag piquet.' The Eagle's Nest was only large enough to accommodate 110 men, so 120 more were placed under the shelter of some rocks at its base, and the remainder of the troops told off for the defence of the left piquet were drawn up on and about a rocky knoll, 400 feet west of the Eagle's Nest.
Some 2,000 of the enemy occupied a breastwork on the crest of a spur of the Guru Mountain; and about noon on the 26th they moved down, and with loud shouts attacked the Eagle's Nest. Their matchlock men posted themselves to the greatest advantage in a wood, and opened a galling fire upon our defences, while their swordsmen made a determined advance. The nature of the ground prevented our guns[Page 284] from being brought to bear upon the assailants, and they were thus able to get across the open space in front of the piquet, and plant their standards close under its parapet. For some considerable time they remained in this position, all our efforts to dislodge them proving of no avail. Eventually, however, they were forced to give way, and were driven up the hill, leaving the ground covered with their dead, and a great many wounded, who were taken into our hospitals and carefully treated, while a still greater number were carried off by their friends. Our losses were, 2 British officers, 1 Native officer, and 26 men killed; and 2 British officers, 7 Native officers, and 86 men wounded.
The day following the fight the Bunerwals were told they might carry away their dead, and we took advantage of their acceptance of this permission to reason with them as to the uselessness of an unnecessary sacrifice of their tribesmen, which would be the certain result of further opposition to us. Their demeanour was courteous, and they conversed freely with General Chamberlain and Colonel Reynell Taylor, the Commissioner, but they made it evident that they were determined not to give in.
Our position had now become rather awkward; there was a combination against us of all the tribes between the Indus and the Kabul rivers, and their numbers could not be less than 15,000 armed men. Mutual animosities were for the time allowed to remain in abeyance, and the tribes all flocked to fight under the Akhund's standard in the interests of their common faith. Moreover, there was trouble in the rear from the people along the Yusafzai border, who assisted the enemy by worrying our lines of communication. Under these changed conditions, and with such an inadequate force, Chamberlain came to the conclusion that, for the moment, he could only remain on the defensive, and trust to time, to the discouragement which repeated unsuccessful attacks were sure to produce on the enemy, and to the gradual decrease of their numbers, to break up the combination against us; for, as these tribesmen only bring with them the quantity of food they are able to carry, as soon as it is finished they are bound to suspend operations till more can be procured.
For three weeks almost daily attacks were made on our position; the enemy fought magnificently, some of them being killed inside our batteries, and twice they gained possession of the 'Crag piquet,' the key of the position, which it was essential should be retaken at all hazards. On the second occasion General Chamberlain himself led the attacking party, and was so severely wounded that he was obliged to relinquish the command of the force.
The Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, being convinced that reinforcements were necessary, in consultation with Colonels Durand6 and Norman (the Foreign and Military Secretaries, who had come to[Page 285] Lahore to meet the Viceroy), and without waiting for the sanction of the Commander-in-Chief, ordered to the frontier the three regiments which had been detailed for the Viceroy's camp,7 as well as the 93rd Highlanders, then at Sialkot; and when Sir Hugh Rose on his arrival at Lahore heard of the heavy losses the expeditionary force had sustained, and of General Chamberlain being hors de combat from his wound, further reinforcements from every direction were hurried to the front. Subsequently, however, it became a question whether the troops should not be withdrawn altogether, and the punishment of the fanatics given up, the Government of India and the Punjab Government being completely in accord in favouring this view, while the Commissioner of Peshawar, Major James (who had succeeded Reynell Taylor),8 and Sir Hugh Rose were as strongly opposed to a retrograde movement. The Commander-in-Chief pointed out to the Government that the loss of prestige and power we must sustain by retiring from the Umbeyla Pass would be more disastrous, both from a military and political point of view, than anything that could happen save the destruction of the force itself, and that General Chamberlain, on whose sound judgment he could rely, was quite sure that a retirement was unnecessary.
The death of Lord Elgin Unfortunately at this time the Viceroy died at Dharmsala, and the question remained in abeyance pending the arrival of Sir William Denison, Governor of Madras, who was coming round to take over the reins of Government until a successor to Lord Elgin should be sent from England.
In the meantime Sir Hugh Rose was most anxious to obtain exact information respecting our position at Umbeyla, the means of operating from it, the nature of the ground—in fact, all details which could only be satisfactorily obtained by sending someone to report on the situation, with whom he had had personal communication regarding the points about which he required to be enlightened. He therefore determined to despatch two officers on special service, whose duty it would be to put the Commander-in-Chief in possession of all the facts of the case; accordingly, Colonel Adye9 (Deputy-Adjutant-General of Royal Artillery) and I were ordered to proceed to Umbeyla without delay.
Adye proved a most charming travelling companion, clever and entertaining, and I think we both enjoyed our journey. We reached the pass on the 25th November.
Loyalty of our Pathan soldiers There had been no fighting for some days, and most of the wounded had been removed. Sir Neville Chamberlain was still in camp, and I was sorry to find him suffering greatly from his wound. We were much interested in going over the piquets and listening to the story of [Page 286] the different attacks made upon them, which had evidently been conducted by the enemy with as much skill as courage.10 The loyalty of our Native soldiers struck me as having been most remarkable. Not a single desertion had occurred, although all the Native regiments engaged, with the exception of the Gurkhas and Punjab Pioneers, had amongst them members of the several tribes we were fighting, and many of our soldiers were even closely related to some of the hostile tribesmen; on one occasion a young Buner sepoy actually recognized his own father amongst the enemy's dead when the fight was over.11
We listened to many tales of the gallantry of the British officers. The names of Brownlow, Keyes,12 and Hughes13 were on everyone's lips, and Brownlow's defence of the Eagle's Nest on the 26th October, and of the 'Crag piquet' on the 12th November, spoke volumes for his coolness and pluck, and for the implicit faith reposed in him by the men of the 20th Punjab Infantry, the regiment he had raised in 1857 when but a subaltern. In his official report the General remarked that 'to Major Brownlow's determination and personal example he attributed the preservation of the "Crag piquet."' And Keyes's recapture of the same piquet was described by Sir Neville as 'a most brilliant exploit, stamping Major Keyes as an officer possessing some of the highest military qualifications.' Brownlow and Keyes were both recommended for the Victoria Cross.
The Enemy Disheartened We (Adye and I) had no difficulty in making up our minds as to[Page 287] the course which ought to be taken. The column was daily being strengthened by the arrival of reinforcements, and although the combination of the tribesmen was still formidable, the enemy were showing signs of being disheartened by their many losses, and of a wish to come to terms.
Having consulted the civil and military authorities on the spot, we informed the Commander-in-Chief that they were of opinion a withdrawal would be most unwise, and that it was hoped that on the arrival of General Garvock14 (Chamberlain's successor) an advance would be made into the Chamla valley, for there would then be a sufficient number of troops to undertake an onward move, as well as to hold the present position, which, as we told the Chief, was one of the strongest we had ever seen.
Sir William Denison reached Calcutta on the 2nd December. A careful study of the correspondence in connexion with the Umbeyla expedition satisfied him that the Commander-in-Chief's views were correct, and that a retirement would be unwise.
Sir Hugh Rose had previously requested to be allowed to personally conduct the operations, and in anticipation of the Government acceding to his request, he had sent a light camp to Hasan Abdal, from which place he intended to push on to Umbeyla; and with the object of collecting troops near the frontier, where they would be available as a reserve should the expedition not be soon and satisfactorily settled, he desired me to select an encamping-ground between Rawal Pindi and Attock suitable for 10,000 men.
Leaving Adye in the pass, I started for Attock, where I spent three days riding about in search of a promising site for the camp. I settled upon a place near Hasan Abdal, which, however, was not in the end made use of. The people of the country were very helpful to me; indeed, when they heard I had been a friend of John Nicholson, they seemed to think they could not do enough for me, and delighted in talking of their old leader, whom they declared to be the greatest man they had ever known.
Bunerwals show signs of submission On my return I marched up the pass with the Rev. W. G. Cowie15 and Probyn, who, with 400 Cavalry, had been ordered to the front to be in readiness for a move into the Chamla valley. James, the Commissioner, had been working to detach the Bunerwals from the combination against us, and on the afternoon of our arrival a deputation of their headmen arrived in camp, and before their departure the next morning they promised to accompany a force proceeding to destroy Malka, and to expel the Hindustani fanatics from the Buner country.
Later, however, a messenger came in to say they could not fulfil their[Page 288] promise, being unable to resist the pressure brought to bear upon them by their co-religionists. The man further reported that large numbers of fresh tribesmen had appeared on the scene, and that it was intended to attack us on the 16th. He advised the Commissioner to take the initiative, and gave him to understand that if we advanced the Bunerwals would stand aloof.
Sir Hugh Rose had been accorded permission to take command of the troops in the field, and had sent word to General Garvock not 'to attempt any operations until further orders.' James, however, thinking that the situation demanded immediate action, as disturbances had broken out in other parts of the Peshawar valley, deprecated delay, and pressed Garvock to advance, telling him that a successful fight would put matters straight. Garvock consented to follow the Commissioner's advice, and arranged to move on the following day.
The force was divided into three columns. The first and second—consisting of about 4,800 men, and commanded respectively by Colonel W. Turner, C.B.,16 and Lieutenant-Colonel Wilde, C.B.—were to form the attacking party, while the third, about 3,000 strong, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Vaughan,17 was to be left for the protection of the camp.
The Conical Hill At daybreak, on the 15th, the troops for the advance, unencumbered by tents or baggage, and each man carrying two days' rations, assembled at the base of the 'Crag piquet.' Turner, an excellent officer, who during the short time he had been at Umbeyla had inspired great confidence by his soldierly qualities, had on the previous afternoon reconnoitred to the right of the camp, and had discovered that about 4,000 men were holding the village of Lalu, from which it was necessary to dislodge them before Umbeyla could be attacked. On being told to advance, therefore, Turner moved off in the direction of Lalu, and, driving the enemy's piquets before him, occupied the heights overlooking the valley, out of which rose, immediately in front about 200 yards off, a conical hill which hid Lalu from view. This hill, which was crowded with Hindustani fanatics and their Pathan allies, was a most formidable position; the sides were precipitous, and the summit was strengthened by sangars.18 No further move could be made until the enemy were dislodged, so Turner lined the heights all round with his Infantry, and opened fire with his Mountain guns. Meanwhile, Wilde's column had cleared off the enemy from the front of the camp, and formed up on Turner's left. On the advance being sounded, Turner's Infantry rushed down the slopes, and in ten minutes could be seen driving the enemy from the heights on his right; at the same time the 101st Fusiliers, the leading regiment of Wilde's column,[Page 289] made straight for the top of the conical hill, and, under cover of the fire from the Mountain guns of both columns, and supported by the Guides, 4th Gurkhas, and 23rd Pioneers, they climbed the almost perpendicular sides. When near the top a short halt was made to give the men time to get their breath; the signal being then given, amidst a shower of bullets and huge stones, the position was stormed, and carried at the point of the bayonet. It was a grand sight as Adye and I watched it from Hughes's battery; but we were considerably relieved when we perceived the enemy flying down the sides of the hill, and heard the cheers of the gallant Fusiliers as they stood victorious on the highest peak.
Now that the enemy were on the run it was the time to press them, and this Turner did so effectually that the leading men of his column entered Lalu simultaneously with the last of the fugitives. The rapidity of this movement was so unexpected that it threw the enemy inside the walls into confusion; they made no stand, and were soon in full retreat towards Umbeyla and the passes leading into Buner.
While affairs were thus prospering on our right, the enemy, apparently imagining we were too busy to think of our left, came in large numbers from the village of Umbeyla, threatening the camp and the communications of the second column. Wilde, however, was prepared for them, and held his ground until reinforced by Turner, when he made a forward movement. The Guides, and detachments of the 5th Gurkhas and 3rd Sikhs, charged down one spur, and the 101st down another; the enemy were driven off with great slaughter, leaving a standard in the hands of the Gurkhas, and exposing themselves in their flight to Turner's guns. During the day they returned, and, gathering on the heights, made several unsuccessful attacks upon our camp. At last, about 2 p.m., Brownlow, who was in command of the right defences, assumed the offensive, and, aided by Keyes, moved out of the breastworks and, by a succession of well-executed charges, completely cleared the whole front of the position, and drove the tribesmen with great loss into the plain below.
All opposition having now ceased, and the foe being in full retreat, the force bivouacked for the night. We had 16 killed and 67 wounded; while our opponents admitted to 400 killed and wounded.
The next morning we were joined by Probyn with 200 sabres of the 11th Bengal Lancers and the same number of the Guides; and after a hasty breakfast the order was given to march into the Chamla valley. My duty was to accompany the Mountain batteries and show them the way. As we debouched into comparatively open country, the enemy appeared on a ridge which completely covered our approach to Umbeyla, and we could descry many standards flying on the most prominent points. The road was so extremely difficult that it was half-past two o'clock before the whole force was clear of the hills.
General Garvock, having made a careful reconnaissance of the[Page 290] enemy's position, which was of great strength and peculiarly capable of defence, had decided to turn their right, a movement which was to be entrusted to the second column, and I was told to inform Turner that he must try and cut them off from the Buner Pass as they retreated. I found Turner close to Umbeyla and delivered my message. He moved forward at once with the 23rd Pioneers and a wing of the 32nd Pioneers in line, supported by the second wing, having in reserve a wing of the 7th Royal Fusiliers.
Umbeyla in Flames When we had passed the village of Umbeyla, which was in flames, having been set fire to by our Cavalry, the wing of the 32nd was brought up in prolongation of our line to the right. The advance was continued to within about 800 yards of the Buner Pass, when Turner, observing a large body of the enemy threatening his left flank, immediately sent two companies of the Royal Fusiliers in that direction. Just at that moment a band of Ghazis furiously attacked the left flank, which was at a disadvantage, having got into broken ground covered with low jungle. In a few seconds five of the Pioneer British officers were on the ground, one killed and four wounded; numbers of the men were knocked over, and the rest, staggered by the suddenness of the onslaught, fell back on their reserve, where they found the needed support, for the Fusiliers stood as firm as a rock. At the critical moment when the Ghazis made their charge, Wright, the Assistant-Adjutant-General, and I, being close by, rushed in amongst the Pioneers and called on them to follow us; as we were personally known to the men of both regiments, they quickly pulled themselves together and responded to our efforts to rally them. It was lucky they did so, for had there been any delay or hesitation, the enemy, who thronged the slopes above us, would certainly have come down in great numbers, and we should have had a most difficult task. As it was, we were entirely successful in repulsing the Ghazis, not a man of whom escaped. We counted 200 of the enemy killed; our losses were comparatively slight—8 killed and 80 wounded.
We bivouacked for the night near the village of Umbeyla, and the next morning the Bunerwals, who, true to their word, had taken no part in the fighting on the 15th or 16th, came in and made their submission.
Bunerwals agree to our terms The question which now had to be decided was, whether a force fully equipped and strong enough to overcome all opposition should be sent to destroy the fanatic settlement of Malka, or whether the work of annihilation should be entrusted to the Bunerwals, witnessed by British officers. The latter course was eventually adopted, chiefly on account of the delay which provisioning a brigade would entail—a delay which the Commissioner was anxious to avoid—for although for the present the combination had broken up, and most of the tribesmen were dispersing to their homes, the Akhund of Swat and[Page 291] his followers were still hovering about in the neighbourhood, and inaction on our part would in all probability have led to a fresh gathering and renewed hostilities.
The terms which were drawn up, and to which the Bunerwals agreed, were:
The breaking-up of the tribal gathering in the Buner Pass.
The destruction of Malka; those carrying out the work to be accompanied by British officers and such escort as might be considered necessary by us.
The expulsion of the Hindustanis from the Buner, Chamla, and Amazai countries.
And, finally, it was stipulated that the headmen of their tribe should be left as hostages until such time as the requirements should have been fulfilled.
On the afternoon of Saturday, the 19th December, the little party of British officers who were to witness the destruction of Malka assembled at Umbeyla. Its members were Reynell Taylor (who was in charge), Alex. Taylor (Commanding Engineer), two Survey officers, Wright, Adye, and myself. Twenty-five Cavalry and 4 companies of the Guides Infantry, under four officers, formed our escort, and it had been arranged that we were to be accompanied by four leading Buner Khans, with 2,000 followers, who would be responsible for our safety, and destroy the fanatics' stronghold in our presence. Rain was falling heavily, but as all our arrangements had been made, and delay was considered undesirable, it was settled that we should make a start. It was rough travelling, and it was almost dark when we reached Kuria, only eight miles on our way, where we halted for the night, and where we had to remain the next day, as the Bunerwals declared they could not continue the journey until they had come to an understanding with the Amazais, in whose territory Malka was situated.
We had noticed on leaving Umbeyla that, instead of 2,000 Bunerwals, there were only about sixty or seventy at the most, and in reply to our repeated questions as to what had become of the remainder, we were told they would join us later on. It soon became evident, however, that no more were coming, and that the Khans thought it wiser to trust to their own influence with the Amazais rather than to intimidation.
We made a fresh start on the morning of the 21st. Malka was only twelve miles off, but the way was so difficult, and our guides stopped so often to consult with the numerous bands of armed men we came across, that it was sunset before we arrived at our destination.
Malka was perched on a spur of the Mahabun mountain, some distance below its highest peak. It was a strong, well-built place, with accommodation for about 1,500 people. The Amazais did not attempt to disguise their disgust at our presence in their country, and [Page 292] they gathered in knots, scowling and pointing at us, evidently discussing whether we should or should not be allowed to return.
Malka Destroyed The next morning Malka was set on fire, and the huge column of smoke which ascended from the burning village, and was visible for miles round, did not tend to allay the ill-feeling so plainly displayed. The Native officers of the Guides warned us that delay was dangerous, as the people were becoming momentarily more excited, and were vowing we should never return. It was no use, however, to attempt to make a move without the consent of the tribesmen, for we were a mere handful compared to the thousands who had assembled around Malka, and we were separated from our camp by twenty miles of most difficult country. Our position was no doubt extremely critical, and it was well for us that we had at our head such a cool, determined leader as Reynell Taylor. I greatly admired the calm, quiet manner in which he went up and spoke to the headmen, telling them that, the object of our visit having been accomplished, we were ready to retrace our steps. At this the Amazais became still further excited. They talked in loud tones, and gesticulated in true Pathan fashion, thronging round Taylor, who stood quite alone and perfectly self-possessed in the midst of the angry and dangerous-looking multitude. At this crisis the Bunerwals came to our rescue. The most influential of the tribe, a grey-bearded warrior, who had lost an eye and an arm in some tribal contest, forced his way through the rapidly increasing crowd to Taylor's side, and, raising his one arm to enjoin silence, delivered himself as follows: 'You are hesitating whether you will allow these English to return unmolested. You can, of course, murder them and their escort; but if you do, you must kill us Bunerwals first, for we have sworn to protect them, and we will do so with our lives.' This plucky speech produced a quieting effect, and taking advantage of the lull in the storm, we set out on our return journey; but evidently the tribesmen did not consider the question finally or satisfactorily settled, for they followed us the whole way to Kuria. The slopes of the hills on both sides were covered with men. Several times we were stopped while stormy discussions took place, and once, as we were passing through a narrow defile, an armed Amazai, waving a standard above his head, rushed down towards us. Fortunately for us, he was stopped by some of those less inimically disposed; for if he had succeeded in inciting anyone to fire a single shot, the desire for blood would quickly have spread, and in all probability not one of our party would have escaped.
On the 23rd December we reached our camp in the Umbeyla Pass, when the force, which had only been kept there till our return, retired to the plains and was broken up.
During my absence at Umbeyla my wife remained with friends at Mian Mir for some time, and then made her way to Peshawar, where [Page 293] I joined her on Christmas Day. She spent one night en route in Sir Hugh Rose's camp at Hasan Abdal, and found the Chief in great excitement and very angry at such a small party having been sent to Malka, and placed at the mercy of the tribes. He did not know that my wife had arrived, and in passing her tent she heard him say: 'It was madness, and not one of them will ever come back alive.' She was of course dreadfully frightened. As soon as Sir Hugh heard she was in camp, he went to see her, and tried to soften down what he knew she must have heard; but he could not conceal his apprehension; and my poor wife's anxiety was terrible, for she did not hear another word till the morning of the day I returned to her.
FOOTNOTES, CHAPTER XXXV
[Footnote 1: In 1825 a religious adventurer from Bareilly made his appearance on the Yusafzai frontier with about forty Hindustani followers, and gave out that he was a man of superior sanctity, and had a divine command to wage a war of extermination, with the aid of all true believers, against the infidel. After studying Arabic at Delhi, he proceeded to Mecca by way of Calcutta, and during this journey his doctrines had obtained so great an ascendency over the minds of the Mahomedans of Bengal that they have ever since supplied the colony which Syad Ahmed Shah founded in Yusafzai with money and recruits. The Syad was eventually slain fighting against the Sikhs, but his followers established themselves at Sitana, and in the neighbourhood of that place they continue to flourish, notwithstanding that we have destroyed their settlements more than once during the last forty years.]
[Footnote 2: The Akhund of Swat was a man of seventy years of age at the time of the Umbeyla expedition; he had led a holy life, and had gained such an influence over the minds of Mahomedans in general, that they believed he was supplied by supernatural means with the necessaries of life, and that every morning, on rising from his prayers, a sum of money sufficient for the day's expenditure was found under his praying carpet.]
[Footnote 3: The Peshawar column consisted of half of 19th Company Royal Artillery, No. 3 Punjab Light Field Battery, the Peshawar and Hazara Mountain Batteries, the 71st and 101st Foot, the Guides, one troop 11th Bengal Lancers, one company Bengal Sappers and Miners, 14th Sikhs, 20th Punjab Infantry, 32nd Pioneers, 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th Punjab Infantry, and 4th and 5th Gurkhas. The Hazara column consisted of a wing of the 51st Foot, 300 Native Cavalry, a regiment of Native Infantry and eight guns, holding Darband, Torbela, and Topi on the Indus.]
[Footnote 4: The highest point of a pass crossing a mountain range.]
[Footnote 5: Now General Sir Charles Brownlow, G.C.B.]
[Footnote 6: The late Sir Henry Marion Durand, K.C.S.I., C.B., afterwards Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab.]
[Footnote 7: 7th Royal Fusiliers, 23rd Pioneers, and 24th Punjab Native Infantry.]
[Footnote 8: Reynell Taylor remained with the force as political officer.]
[Footnote 9: General Sir John Adye, G.C.B.]
[Footnote 10: The expedition was an admirable school for training men in outpost duty. The Pathans and Gurkhas were quite at home at such work, and not only able to take care of themselves, but when stalked by the enemy were equal to a counter-stalk, often most successful. The enemy used to joke with Brownlow's and Keyes's men on these occasions, and say, 'We don't want you. Where are the lal pagriwalas? [as the 14th Sikhs were called from their lal pagris (red turbans)] or the goralog [the Europeans]? They are better shikar [sport]!' The tribesmen soon discovered that the Sikhs and Europeans, though full of fight, were very helpless on the hill-side, and could not keep their heads under cover.
[Footnote 11: Colonel Reynell Taylor, whilst bearing like testimony to the good conduct of the Pathan soldiery, said the personal influence of officers will always be found to be the only stand-by for the Government interests when the religious cry is raised, and the fidelity of our troops is being tampered with. Pay, pensions, and orders of merit may, and would, be cast to the winds when the honour of the faith was in the scale; but to snap the associations of years, and to turn in his hour of need against the man whom he has proved to be just and worthy, whom he has noted in the hour of danger, and praised as a hero to his family, is just what a Pathan will not do—to his honour be it said. The fact was that the officers in camp had been so long and kindly associated with their soldiers that the latter were willing to set them before their great religious teacher, the Akhund of Swat ('Records of Expeditions against the North-West Frontier Tribes').]
[Footnote 12: The late General Sir Charles Keyes, G.C.B.]
[Footnote 13: The late Major-General T. E. Hughes, C.B., Royal Artillery.]
[Footnote 14: The late General Sir John Garvock, G.C.B.]
[Footnote 15: Now Bishop of Auckland and Primate of New Zealand.]
[Footnote 16: The late Brigadier-General Sir W. W. Turner, K.C.B.]
[Footnote 17: General Sir T. L. Vaughan, K.C.B.]
[Footnote 18: Stone breastworks.]