Shadows in the East
Why Frontier Trouble was AnticipatedGrowing UnrestHow the Tribes were ArmedRumours of British DefeatsThe Amir of Afghanistan's AttitudeThe Position of AdenThe Attack on Shaikh Sa'idImportance of LahajThe Abdali SultanBattle of LahajThe British RetireDifficulties of ClimateLoss of PrestigeGeneral Younghusband Appointed to Aden Brigade Desert SkirmishesFalse Turkish ClaimsFighting Around the Gulf of OmanArab Revolt against TurkeyGrand Sherif of Mecca's PositionImportance of the Revolt Trouble in Upper BurmaThe Kachin UprisingNo Trifling with Treason Position on the North-West FrontierThe Jehad of the KhostwalsHow Captain Jotham Earned his V.C.The North Waziristan MilitiaTrouble with the MohmandsThe Raid on ShabkadarInfluence of the FakirsSome Examples of Fanaticism The Malakand ColumnFighting around ShabkadarThe Battle of September 24thA Terrible March.The Charge of the 21st LancersColonel Scriven's Splendid ExampleAn Outbreak in SwatMinor TroublesHow the British Soldiers Fought Facing Hardships Gladly.
Any people acquainted with the conditions of life on the mountain borders of India assumed, as a matter of course, that the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany would be quickly followed by serious disturbances in Central Asia and in Arabia. It was well known that Germany had for some time previous to the war been carefully preparing for a propaganda among the Mohammedan peoples with a view to starting a Jehad, or Holy War, against the British. But the real reasons why trouble on the frontiers was anticipated almost as a matter of course went much deeper than any external propaganda. For generations unrest had swept periodically over the Mohammedan tribes of the mountainous North-West Frontier. They are naturally robber tribes, living in mountain fastnesses and preying as opportunity offers on their weaker neighbours. Independent, hating control, warriors by birth, by training, and by instinct, fighting is their normal life, and it was only the fear and authority of the British Raj that kept many of them temporarily at peace.
The history of the Indian Frontier for half a century before the war broke out was one long record of wars, raids, and punitive expeditions. For every raid that took place a score or more were prevented by the prudence,
the diplomacy, and the able management of the British Political Agents on the border. What was true of the Indian North-West was true at least in equal degree of South-West Arabia. The British held on to the rocks and barren sands of Aden and its neighbourhood. Beyond that, they tried by friendly arrangements with some of the many sultans in the desert lands to maintain cordial relations. But Southern Arabia claimed the distinction of being, with Central Formosa, the most perilous and the least explored territory in the world. The traveller who moved among the tribes did so at hourly risk to his life. Racial antipathy, fierce religious hatreds, and centuries of carefully fostered fury against white civilisation had made Southern Arabia one of the danger-spots of the world.
Before the outbreak of war there were various indications of growing unrest on the Indian Frontier, unrest quite independent of any disputes between European nations. "Conditions on the British side of the frontier are arousing much uneasiness," wrote the Bombay correspondent of the "Times," in February, 1914. Lawlessness and insecurity prevailed to a greater extent than for many years. Robber bands from the mountains achieved such success in their raids that in case after case villagers harboured them, bribed them, and shielded them to secure their protection. It was evident that the native tribes were acquiring far better weapons than they had previously possessed. The trade in arms along the Persian Gulf continued, despite the utmost vigilance of our naval patrols. Weapons landed on the coast by European agentsweapons, some of them it is feared made in England by manufacturers whose greed killed their patriotismwere taken through Persia and Baluchistan to the Himalayas, and found a ready market among the tribes. Other weapons were made in Afridi factories. Mullahsfierce preachers of Mohammedan intolerance were at work provoking discontent and stirring up revolt.
It can readily be imagined how news of the outbreak of war and of the result of the first battles spread among the tribes of the North-West. Tales of the German occupation of Belgium, of the retreat of the British Army from Mons, of the German advance almost to the gates of Paris, of the heavy losses of the French, and of the Russian disaster in North-East Prussia were carried up by fakirs and pilgrims from the bazaars of the Indian cities to the village headquarters of the tribes. It was known that Britain had called on India to help her, and that regiments of the Indian Army were leaving in great numbers for Europe.
Now, surely, was the opportunity of the North-West. Now, if ever, was the time to strike a united blow.
It was at this moment that the British were to reap the fruits of the many years of just, conciliatory, and sympathetic dealing with those troublesome clans. The Amir of Afghanistan, whose position gives him the religious standing of a King of Islam among the North-West tribes, declared himself to be a friend of Britain, and kept true to his declaration. He and his advisers were not going to allow themselves to be the tools of a German campaign for world conquest, however well disguised under the plea of a Holy War of Mohammedan nations. Several of the most powerful tribes, which in former years had been active against us, also refused to attack the British. The result was that what might well have been a serious and concerted campaign by the Central Asian Mohammedan tribes degenerated into a few sporadic and apparently unconnected risings, which could be dealt with in detail, not without trouble and some hard fighting, but without any really considerable effect outside their own territories.
Shortly after the outbreak of war with Turkey, on October 31st, 1914, it became clear that the Turks, in co-operation with a number of the Arab tribes were preparing an advance against the Aden Protectorate. The Turks had gathered in some strength on the Shaikh Sa'id Peninsula, which runs out to the south of the Red Sea towards the Isle of Perim. The 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, under Brigadier-General J. H. V. Cox, C.B., then on its way from India to Suez, was ordered to interrupt its voyage to capture Shaikh Sa'id and destroy the Turkish works, armaments, and wells there. On November 10th transports conveying three battalions of the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade and the 23rd Sikh Pioneers arrived off the coast of the peninsula. They were accompanied by H.M.S. Duke of Edinburgh, which opened fire on the Turkish defences while the transports were seeking a satisfactory landing-place. The point that had been at first selected proved impossible on account of the weather. The troops landed a little way off, under cover of the fire of the warship. They stormed the Turkish positions and compelled the enemy to retreat, leaving his field-guns behind. The sailors took active part in the fighting with the troops, and a naval demolition party assisted, on November nth, in destroying the Turkish works. Having accomplished its task, the British force re-embarked and continued its journey. It was not considered advisable at this time to push an expedition into the country to attack the Turks there. The Turks, consequently, remained in some force on the northern boundary of the Aden Protectorate.
Seven months later they reoccupied Shaikh Sa'id and endeavoured from there to effect a landing on the north coast of the Isle of Perim. This attack was successfully repulsed by the garrison of the island, the 23rd Sikh Pioneers.
In the spring of 1915 a Turkish force from the Yeamana district crossed the frontier of the Aden Hinterland and advanced towards Lahaj. Lahaj was at this time one of the most important towns in Southern Arabia. Placed in an oasis, surrounded by a fertile plain with the deserts beyond, it was the centre of trade between Aden and the Hinterland, inhabited by a prosperous agricultural people, the Abdali. Its Sultans formerly claimed rule over the Aden Peninsula, which Britain took from them in 1839 as punishment for an outrage on a shipwrecked British crew. For some years after our occupation of Aden there had been frequent fighting between the British and the Abdali, the latter seeking to reconquer their lost port. In recent years our relations had been friendly, the British paying the Abdali Sultan a subsidy for the occupation of certain land in the interior and protecting him and his agricultural people against the fierce desert tribes who hemmed them in.
Under our protection the Sultan of Lahaj had waxed very prosperous. His city, with its palace, its gallows built for ornament rather than useits purely Oriental life, its fine horses, its little show army, and its constant traffic in camels and caravans, seemed like a vision out of the " Arabian Nights." When war broke out the Abdali Sultan proved that his loyalty to Britain was real. Though other tribes turned against us he came to our side and prepared to help us. He soon made himself an object of special detestation to the Turks and to many of the surrounding tribes by his open and unwavering friendship for Britain.
The Sultan sent word to General D. S. L. Shaw, commanding the Aden Brigade, that the Turks were advancing from Mawyiah to attack him, and asked for help. General Shaw ordered the Aden Movable Column, under Lieutenant-Colonel H. E. A. Pearson, towards Lahaj. The Aden Camel Troop was despatched to reconnoitre. It discovered a strong Turkish force beyond Lahaj, supported by a large number of Arab tribesmen. The Camel Troop fell back on Lahaj, where it was reinforced by the advance ^uard of the Aden Movable Column, numbering two hundred and fifty rifles, with two ten-pounder guns. This advance guard had moved up under most trying conditions. The heat was intense, there was great shortage of water, and it was difficult to make any progress over the heavy, sandy plains. The main body of the Aden Column was so delayed by difficulties of transport and by shortage of water that it did not reach Lahaj at all.
Our force in the Sultan's capital found itself faced by several thousand Turkish troops, with twenty guns. In addition, Arab tribesmen had rallied by the thousand to help the Turks. We on our part were backed by a few hundred men, the Sultan of Lahaj's little native army. Our troops were suffering terribly from the climate and from the shortage of water. It seemed as though they must be wholly swallowed up. To add to the difficulties, the Arab camp followers of the Aden Troop deserted them in a body at the most critical hour and took with them all their camels.
Fighting opened on the evening of Sunday, July 4th. Time after time the enemy attacked our front, and time after time they were driven off. The Turkish artillery was much stronger than ours, but the men of the Royal Artillery strove, by courage and skill, to make up for the inequality in numbers. They showed a devotion to duty which afterwards drew a warm tribute from the general commanding the Aden Brigade.
Before long the Turkish artillery had kindled fires in different parts of Lahaj, and our men were in danger of being outflanked and cut off by the flocks of Arab horsemen. The Sultan was killed with many of his men. Our troops struggled to defend the capital as long as they could, hoping every hour for the arrival of the main body of the Aden Column Hour after hour they waited in vain. Relief did not come. Next day there was nothing to be done but to fall back from Lahaj towards Aden.
Our losses included three British officers wounded. But our main loss was not so much in men as in prestige. A friendly Sultan had been killed, his town captured by the enemy, and his Sultanate swept away. The news of what had happened spread abroad throughout Arabia and inflicted a very serious blow on British authority. Our men at Lahaj had fought splendidly, but their task had proved beyond their strength. We had not been able to send forward an adequate number of troops to meet the Turks, and we do not seem to have made such arrangements for transport and for water supply as would have
prepared us for the difficulties which every experienced traveller knew we would have to face. In the official report on the operations issued by the Government of India much stress was laid on "the intense heat, sand, and shortage of water." "The desertion of the camel-drivers and the severe climatic conditions so delayed and distressed the main body as to necessitate a withdrawal from Lahaj," the report stated. But the severe heat of the climate, the potential treachery of hired Arabs, and the shortage of water were all of them factors which had been familiar from the beginning to the Indian authorities, and, one might suppose, ought to have been allowed for.
The British force fell back on the Kaur, immediately outside the Aden Peninsula. The Turks followed them up and occupied Shaikh-Othman, a town about two miles inland from Aden Harbour. This place was formerly part of the Sultanate of Lahaj, and was now within the British Protectorate. The Turks at this stage held practically the whole of the Aden Hinterland, except immediately around the peninsula. They had reoccupied Shaikh Sa'id and had destroyed Lahaj. Some appreciation of the real perils of the situation apparently reached the Indian authorities, and it was decided to increase the Aden garrison. Major-General Sir G. J. Younghusband, a soldier with a distinguished career, succeeded for a time to the command of the Aden Brigade. General Young-husband was a man who had won fame both as a soldier and as an author. Since 1878, when he served in the Afghan War, he had shared in many campaigns. He was in the Sudan in 1885 and in the North-West Frontier War of 1886. From there he had gone to the Burma War, and in due course he made one of the Chitral Relief Force, writing a notable book on that campaign. He was in the fighting in the Philippines, in the Spanish-American War; he was severely wounded in South Africa, and later on he shared in the big punitive expedition against the Mohmands on the Indian Frontier.
It would have been difficult indeed to find a soldier more adept in the warfare and diplomacy now necessary in this region.
On July 20th, 1915, troops from Aden, the 28th (Frontier Force) Brigade, a battery of Royal Horse Artillery, and a detachment of Sappers and Miners, under the command oi Lieut.-Colonel A. M. S. Elsmie, a soldier well trained in frontier fighting, surprised the Turks at Shaikh-Othman, completely defeated them and drove them out of the place. Between fifty and sixty Turks were killed and wounded, and several hundred men, mostly Arabs, were made prisoners. This success was followed up in the following month by an attack by a small column on a Turkish post between Lahaj and Shaikh-Othman. The Turks were driven from the town. Another attack in a different direction was equally successful. Reports reached Aden that the Turks were preparing to retire from Lahaj itself, and in September a column under Colonel Elsmie set out in the direction of Waht. Here it surprised a force of seven hundred Turks, with eight guns, who were supported by about a thousand Arabs. The Turks were driven back, and Waht fell into our hands. The troops were greatly aided both on sea and land by the co-operation of H.M.S. Philomel, under Captain Hill- Thompson.
A series of minor engagements and skirmishes between the Turks and Arabs and our own troops followed. It was found impossible for us to hold the country far inland. Early in 1916 the Turks claimed that the British had been driven back on to Aden itself, and had retreated as far as where they were covered by the fires of the warships, where they had been inactive for some months. Many of the Turkish claims were greatly exaggerated, and some wholly false. In February, 1916, Major Newman asked in the British Parliament for any information about the fighting near Aden. Mr. Chamberlain said that the Turkish claim of success which had recently been put forward would seem to have been founded on an engagement which took place on January 12th between a reconnoitring column of the Aden garrison and a Turkish force in the neighbourhood of Shaikh-Othman. The loss on our side was one British officer and thirty-five Indian rank and file killed, and four British and thirty-five Indian rank and file wounded. The enemy losses were severe, amounting to about two hundred killed and wounded. The British column was neither annihilated nor defeated, but withdrew when the purpose of the movement was completed.
Later on, the Turks officially claimed to have scored a substantial victory in further heavy fighting around Shaikh-Othman and Bir-Ahmad. This was a sheer invention. In January, 1916, the Aden Movable Column moved out to protect some friendly troops to the east of the Aden Protectorate against Turkish troops who had been sent to coerce them. Our column located the Turkish force near Subar, and defeated it. The general position was so unsatisfactory, however, that in April, 1916, it was decided, on the suggestion of the Government of India, that ladies should not be allowed to land at Aden without receiving permission from the Commander-in-Chief in India.
In the region around the Gulf of Oman there was considerable Arab unrest, and early in January, 1915, some three thousand Arabs attacked our outpost lines. The entire available British force promptly moved out against them, attacked and defeated them, and compelled the Arabs to flee into the interior with a loss of over three hundred killed and wounded. In April and in May, 1915, there were two other attacks, one against the British post at Jask, and one against the post at Chahbar; both were driven off with loss.
In the summer of 1916 the situation in Arabia was suddenly and startlingly altered by a revolt by the Arabs of the Hejaz against Turkey. The independence of Arabia was proclaimed. Jedda, the port of Mecca, was seized, and the Turkish garrison compelled to surrender, and the Turks were turned out of the Holy City of Mecca itself. The Grand Sherif of Mecca openly renounced his allegiance to the Sultan. He was supported by the Arabs of Western and Central Arabia. The causes of the revolt were various. The Arabs believed that Mehmed V., Sultan of Turkey, was really in the hands of the Germans as he wasand that the Germans were using him and his religious position for their own purposes. It was said that Enver Pasha, who had recently visited the Mecca district, had aroused intense anger by inaugurating a number of drastic anti-Arab measureshanging, shooting, and imprisoning a number of Moslem Arabs. It was also believed that the Turks, who had issued false statements throughout the world that the British had shelled certain sacred Mohammedan shrines, had actually done this themselves. This revolt of the rulers and people of the sacred cities of Mohammedanism had far more than a local effect. Its influence was at once felt in Egypt, in India, in Morocco, and in every Mohammedan land. The Turks, recognising its great importance, hurried up reinforcements by the Hejaz Railway to overthrow the revolting tribesmen. The Sherif of Mecca, however, armed his men, arranged his positions, and prepared to meet them.
One of the earliest disturbances on the Indian Frontier after the outbreak of the war was among the Kachins in the north-east, in the Myitkyna district of Upper Burma. Here there had been a systematic propaganda to discredit the British. Rumours were spread abroad that, owing to the war, the Indian Government was short of troops, and the headman Thama, with a Shan pretender and three followers from the Katha district, tried to bring about a general rising of the tribes. Some of these, beyond the British administrative border, joined in, and for the moment the prospect looked somewhat black. A detachment of a hundred men of the 64th Pioneers, accompanied by Mr. F. C. Lowis, executive engineer in charge of the Myitkyna-Putao road, was attacked by the people of Wawang on January 29th, 1915. The troops at once cleared the district. The Kachins fought obstinately, holding each point of vantage as long as they could, and then retiring to another along a very steep and thickly-wooded road. But they were driven in turn from place after place. They made a final stand at a hastily built stockade. The Pioneers drove them from that at the point of the bayonet. Two headmen were killed.
A British movable column was subsequently formed and travelled through the disaffected country, stamping out any signs of rebellion wherever seen. Our troops, moving in detachments quickly from point to point, broke the back of the uprising and gained a complete success. The Shan pretender, accompanied by some of his followers, fled across the border, but villagers beyond our frontier captured him and brought him in. Three Kachin leaders were arrested and sentenced to transportation for life.
The Indian authorities showed clearly in dealing with the Kachins that they did not intend to treat lightly any disloyalty in those hours of crisis for the Empire. The strongest influences were used to pre vent the headmen from turning against us. Where these influences failed, punishment was prompt and severe.
In the north-west trouble first came to a head in the Tochi Valley, in the strip of mountain land between British India and Afghanistan. It became evident towards the end of 1914 that great attempts were being made to stir up the frontier tribes, and to enlist them in a Jehad against the British.
Some of the most influential Mullahs in this strip of independent territory called the tribesmen together and led 2,000 of the Khostwals into British territory. On November 29th, 1914, a portion of the North Waziristan Militia, under Major G. B. Scott, attacked and defeated the tribesmen and drove them back in a demoralised condition. The action reflected great credit on the militia and on the officer in charge of the small force. Fresh troops were sent up, and Major-General H. O'Donnell proceeded with the Bannu Movable Column and part of the North Waziristan Militia to keep the tribesmen in check. On January 7th, 1915, the militia, after a long march, came in touch with the enemy, and despite the fact that odds were greatly against them, immediately attacked with the greatest enthusiasm. Some fifty or sixty of the enemy were killed, and the Khostwals were driven in confusion over the frontier. Among the many brave individual deeds of the British troops during this fight one specially stood out. Captain E. Jotham was in a desperate situation. He was practically surrounded at close range, and was under orders to run for it with his party. As he was falling back with his men, he noticed that a wounded sowar had lost his horse. He stopped to help him, and tried to carry him into safety. Both were killed. Captain Jotham subsequently posthumously received the Victoria Cross. Dafadar Darim took up a position by himself half way to safety and fought single-handed to cover the flight of his comrades.
The tribesmen, driven back on their own territory, had not yet had enough. They continued to gather on the hills and to threaten our frontier. Late in March, between 7,000 and 8,000 Khostwals assembled together and: threatened Miranshah. The Bannu Movable Column and a portion of the North Waziristan Militia again moved out under the command of Brigadier-General V. B. Fane.. The British force was directed with great skill. One part of it, under Major Scott, made a long night march and gained a position in the rear of the enemy. Another portion, under Lieut.-Colonel H. E. Lowis, of the 10th Jats, made a direct frontal attack. The British were completely successful. Our troops struck at the enemy in the front and in the rear. On our right there was a force of cavalry to guard our j flank. Our attack was supported by the fire of a mountain battery of artillery. Two hundred Khostwals were killed and three hundred wounded, and those left hastily retreated. It was officially stated afterwards that our success was largely due to the skilful manner in which the column under Major Scott had gained its position during the night in rear of the enemy, in time to combine with the frontal attack.
For some months after this there was peace along this part of the frontieran armed peace however, where the tribesmen were restrained by the sound common-sense of our civil authorities, and where a force of troops waited behind, ready to deal with trouble immediately it came to a head.
At the end of 1914 reports were received from different quarters of serious trouble brewing in the Mohmand country. The Mohmands are a powerful Pathan tribe, living partly in Afghanistan and partly in the districts around Peshawar. They are turbulent, fanatical, and quarrelsome; ready subjects for fiery Mullahs to stir up to revolt. Long before the outbreak of the war they had been in repeated conflicts with the British. Between 1872 and 1908 there had been several expeditions against them. In January, 1915, there came a raid in the neighbourhood of Shabkadar, a fortified post eighteen miles north of Peshawar, but it was easily driven off. In April it was reported that the Mohmands were collecting with a view to raiding Shabkadar. It was evident that a serious blow was now being planned, and the British forces in the district were greatly strengthened. The K h y b e r Movable Column was brought up and other troops held in readiness. On April 18th the tribesmen attempted to advance, but were met by our troops and driven back to the hills, where the British did not attempt to follow them.
After this repulse the trouble died down for a time, and some of the troops were temporarily withdrawn. But it was soon abundantly evident that the Mullahs did not mean to allow things to rest. All possible religious pressure was being brought on these Mohammedan tribes to make them fight again. There were large tribal gatherings in which fanatical preachers played on the feelings of the assembled hill- men and roused them to fury, painting in glowing colours the possibility of success, and promising Paradise to those who fell in the battle between the Crescent and the Cross. The Ramadan fast, in July, brought a temporary respite, but throughout the whole summer the British Movable Columns were kept constantly on the alert, and the troops had always to be ready to resist an advance. In August, Haji Sahib of Turangzai, a notorious anti-British Mullah, gathered several thousand men around him in the Ambela Pass, and prepared to invade British territory. The men he had assembled around him were not to be despised. The majority of them were Pathan hillmen, trained in fighting from boyhood. Scattered among them were a group of Hindu fanatics. Then there were fakirs of many kinds, reputed miracle workers, men of extraordinary austerityfierce, lean, keen religionists, who showed the marks on their own bodies of the tortures they had delighted to inflict on themselves to prove the sincerity of their faith. Every factor that in previous generations had made the Mohammedans so tremendous a force in warfare in semi-civilised lands was embodied here. Each man was taught that Heaven itself would help him in the fight, that angels would come to strengthen his arm, and that Paradise was his.
The British authorities knew better than to underestimate the menace of a tribal Jehad. Nineteen years before in this very region a fakir, known as the Mad Bareheaded Mullah, had stirred up the country-side to revolt. Coming from Kabul he had gone among the tribes, assuring them that he was sent from Heaven to tear the infidel out of the hills and hurl him and his armies back into the plains of the Punjaub. He declared that he was backed by untold hosts of horsemen and footmen concealed in the hills, men fed with food from Heaven. He did not want other men to assist him, he declared. That was not necessary. He himself could go single-handed, if need be, against the Infidel, for even though he went alone there would be armies of angels of Heaven on either side of him, making him invulnerable and invincible.
In scores of hillside villages he preached his message, and soon crowds of tribesmen rallied around him. He promised them plunder such as they had never dreamed of, loot in abundance from the stores of The Mad Mullah, treasures on earth, and from Kabul undying bliss after. He worked the people up to such a state that he brought about a great rising, in which the Mohmands fought against British forces with almost incredible fanaticism. Peasant boys with stones rushed against our fine Indian infantry; men with sticks tried to fight troops with modern rifles, confident that Heaven was with them. The whole country-side was ablaze, and after our troops had fought back the Mohmand advance it was necessary to organise a punitive expedition to sweep through their country to teach them our strength.
That was in 1896. There had been other trouble since then, and now Haji Sahib was doing the same work of stirring up the people against us as the bare-headed fakir had done a generation before.
On August 17th a hostile gathering of 3,000 or 4,000 tribesmen came down from the Ambela Pass towards Rustam. It was reported that another force was coming to support them. British troops at once pushed up to attack the Ambela Pass party before it was reinforced,' and drove it back with great loss. The 91st Battery Royal Field Artillery came up during the course of the action after a forced march, its shells doing great execution. A brigade was now concentrated at this point, and wherever the tribesmen appeared it attacked them. In the latter part of August there were three fights between our troops and the tribesmen, and on each occasion the enemy was driven back into the hills, and the villages which had sheltered him were destroyed.
A still more formidable gathering of hillmen under a fakir, known as the Sandaki Mullah, advanced down the left bank of the Swat River to invade the Lower Swat. This force was reported to be between 17,000 and 20,000 strong. The Malakand Movable Column took up a position on the left bank of the river on a ridge known as the Landakai Ridge, which gave them a great advantage of position in meeting the hostile advance. The tribesmen attacked our outposts in strong force on the evening of August 28th and 29th, but were driven off. Next day the Malakand Column moved out, destroyed a fort, and shelled several villages held by the enemy. The tribesmen scattered, and for the time their offensive was broken The fanatics were at work on the Mohmand border, and the reports from here were so threatening that two brigades and a mobile column were ordered up to Shabkadar with a mounted column and divisional artillery, while a mobile column was formed at Mardan and subsequently moved to Abazai. Other troops were held in readiness to proceed to the Mohmand front if necessary.
There had been various large tribal gatherings in the Mohmand country, and early in September considerable numbers of the men moved down to the foot-hills and prepared sangars in the vicinity of Hafiz Kor. The movements of these tribesmen were carefully watched, but for the moment they were left alone, our aim being to permit them to come down from the mountains on to the plains where our troops could deal with them. The enemy grew in numbers until by the evening of September 4th they totalled fully 10,000. Then Major-General F. Campbell, commanding the British troops, determined to attack. The battle that followed was the biggest that had taken place on the North-West Frontier since 1897. Some of the British and Indian troops that took part in the engagement had reached their positions after record journeys. A British and Indian force covered a thirty-four mile march to Abazai, where the revolting tribes were reported in strong force, in ten marching hours, travelling at night and going over roads described by one officer who took part in the fight as "the most appalling I have ever seen." The dust was two feet deep. "You can imagine what this was like with cavalry on ahead of us and all our transport. I shall never forget the march as long as I live, nor will the others, and added to the dust was the frightful stifling heat. Not a man fell out, which is an extraordinary performance, especially as the last nine miles from Zearn to Abazai were done in the hottest part of the day 12 to 3 p.m.arriving at Abazai, the hottest and most mosquito and sandfly-ridden place on the frontier. The weary soldiers were bitten all night."
Those troops were then ordered on to Matta, a levy post on the Shabkadar-Abazai road, where our outposts had already been heavily engaged and had been driven in, Mohmands estimated at 3,000 strong having practically surrounded them.
The troops who were engaged in this fighting with the Mohmands and their neighbours included many notable corps the famous 21st (Empress of India's) Lancers, Skinner's Horse, Lumsden's Guides, Watson's Horse, the 14th Lancers, the Liverpool Regiment, the Royal Sussex Regiment, the North Staffordshires, and the Durham Light Infantry, besides Punjabis, Rajputs, Gurkhas, the Guides, the Sikhs, and the Dogras. Nor must we forget the Royal Artillery, who did very notable work.
On the morning of September 5th the tribesmen, who had come down from the hills by the Kuhn Pass, advanced right in the open nearly down to the Shabkadar village. As they approached, the British howitzers and field-guns opened on them, but the tribesmen kept on, threatening our left. Thereupon two squadrons of the 21st Lancers, one squadron of the 14th Lancers, and one squadron of a mounted battery of the Royal Horse Artillery moved out to meet them. Our troops moved out around Shabkadar village and occupied some foot-hills to the north. The Mohmands, ignoring the Indian Cavalry, concentrated their fire upon the British Lancers. The gallant 21st were eager to distinguish themselves, for it was then within two days of the anniversary of their great charge at Omdurman in 1898. The Mohmands were entrenched in their sangars and in the nullahs (deep, dry ditches) along the foot of the hills. The 21st Lancers charged full against a large force, went through them, and turned straight again into a dense mass of Mohmands.
At one point they were charging over what they thought to be level ground when a blind nullah intervened. To quote the description of one soldier of the Royal Sussex Regiment: "The 21st Lancers charged what they thought to be a small belt, but came suddenly on a big ditch, and a lot of horses and men fell in. Then two I out of the grass on the other side about 3,000 Mohmands came. The only thing they could do was to charge. They went right through them, turned round, and charged back again. One chap, about nineteen years old, just out from England, killed five with his lance, leaving it sticking in the fifth one, and two more with his sword." The British cavalry came out splendidly. Emerging from the bed of the Minchi-Abazai Canal they came under very heavy fire at close range. They charged the enemy a third time, and in this charge, which really decided the battle, they suffered heavily. Many stories of the fighting were afterwards told by the survivors. Lieut.-Colonel Scriven led his squadron in the charge, and did great execution with his sword until his horse was shot and fell upon him. Two of his lance-corporals assisted him to his feet. Shortly afterwards he was shot through the heart and fell, shouting, "Go on, lads. I'm done." Two men guarded his body until they were rescued. Captain Anderson who had been severely wounded, fought desperately with his revolver until he was shot dead. Lieut. Thompson was so severely wounded that he died in the evening. Of five officers who rode in the charge three were killed and one wounded, the adjutant alone coming out unhurt. He, however, had his horse shot from under him, and was only fifty yards from the enemy when he was rescued by a shoeing-smith. One sergeant was unhorsed, and after killing two natives, grappled with a third huge native on the ground. Each man had his hand at the other's throat, when another sergeant came up and shot the native. At the same moment he himself was shot and severely wounded.
All the troops engaged did well. The Sussex and the Staffordshires were engaged in fierce hand-to-hand fighting with the enemy. But it was undoubtedly the charges of the Lancers that saved the day. Their tremendous courage and irresistible elan cowed for the moment even the fanaticism of the Mohammedan tribesmen. After some hours of fighting the Mohmands broke and the cavalry pursued them to the hills.
Although the Mohmands and their neighbours were thus repulsed, they were still not wholly broken. The Mullahs made fresh efforts to stir them up, and early in October some 9,000 men again gathered in the neighbourhood of Hafiz Kor.
The British forces under Major-General Campbell, which had been strengthened by the addition of another br'gade, took the offensive against them. The enemy fought well and offered strong opposition, but in the end was defeated. This occasion was especially notable because armoured cars were used for the first time in actual fighting in India, and proved of great value. They were exceedingly successful both in reconnaissance work and in covering some of the movements of our cavalry. This fight practically brought the unrest among the Mohmands to an end.
In October there was an outbreak in Swat, when 3,000 Bajauris advanced towards Chakdara to stir up the troops of Dir and Swat to attack the fort there. Lieut.-Colonel C. C. Luard, of the Durham Light Infantry, who was then temporarily in command of the Malakand Movable Column, decided to attack the enemy. He did so with the utmost vigour. He drove them back, pursued them, captured a standard, and gave them a lesson which evidently went right to their hearts, for months afterwards it was officially reported that there had been no further gathering of the tribes on that border.
There were some more minor troubles along the frontier, but little, if any, more than would have happened at ordinary times. In Baluchistan one chief looted the treasury of the Khan of Kalat, and it was feared that the trouble might spread, but a column visited the district, and things rapidly settled down. There was an attempt to raise a Jehad among the Black Mountain tribes in the summer of 1915, but it came to nothing. Peace was maintained on the British side of the border of the Shan States, but the French experienced some trouble on their side. Their post at Samenna was attacked and looted by a strong band of Chinese. Troops were hurried to the scene. The marauders were intercepted, and two hundred killed in action. Another band of considerable strength had also to be broken up. But these disturbances were really due not so much to the European War as to the fact that a large number of disbanded Chinese soldiers, with no money and no means of returning to their homes, had become brigands and were ready for any trouble.
It is difficult to convey to readers unacquainted with life in Northern India any idea of the great hardships gladly endured by the British troops in the frontier campaigns during the war. Young British soldiers found themselves exposed to great variations of climate, to tremendous heat, to nights of bitter cold, to shortage of supplies, and to physical efforts of the most exhausting type. Thrown into mountain country, pitted against tribesmen of magnificent physique, who were fighting on their own territory and accustomed to mountain war, with little public appreciation and with the knowledge that their own countrymen knew little of what they did, they fought their lonely fight with a magnificent endurance that was the admiration of all who knew of them. Some idea of the physical trials of our troops was obtained by the British public by the report of one ghastly journey of troops moving from Karachi to Peshawar in June, 1916. They had to travel through one of the hottest regions in India, where the shade temperature is constantly above 120 degrees. A large number of the men collapsed, and nineteen deaths were officially reported. In this case the great strain on the men was accentuated by amazing official neglect, a neglect for which three high officers Were subsequently dismissed from their posts. Such neglect was exceptional, but severities of heat and biting cold almost undreamed of in England were, time and again, the inevitable lot of the soldiers who so bravely kept the peace for Britain on the Indian Frontier.
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