As the night wore on, the attack of the enemy became so vigorous, that the brigadier decided to call for a reinforcement of a hundred men from the garrison of the fort. This work stood high on a hill, and was impregnable to an enemy unprovided with field guns. Lieutenant Rawlins volunteered to try and reach it with the order. Accompanied by three orderlies, he started. He had to make his way through much broken ground infested by the enemy. One man sprang at him and struck him on the wrist with a sword, but the subaltern, firing his revolver, shot him dead, reached the fort in safety, and brought back the sorely-needed reinforcement.
It was thought that the enemy would make a final effort to capture the enclosure before dawn, that being the hour which Afghan tribesmen usually select. But they had lost heavily, and at about 3.30 A.M. began to carry away their dead and wounded. The firing did not, however, lessen until 4.15 A.M., when the sharpshooters withdrew to the heights, and the fusillade dwindled to "sniping" at long range.
The first night of the defence of the Malakand camp was over. The enemy, with all the advantages of surprise, position and great numbers, had failed to overcome the slender garrison. Everywhere they had been repulsed with slaughter. But the British losses had been severe.
BRITISH OFFICERS. Killed—Hon. Lieutenant L. Manley, Commissariat Department. Wounded dangerously—Major W.W. Taylor, 45th Sikhs. Wounded severely—Lieut.-Colonel J. Lamb, 24th P.I. " " Major L. Herbert, D.A.A.G. " " Captain H.F. Holland, 24th P.I. " " Lieutenant F.W. Watling, Q.O. Sappers and Miners.
Of these Lieut.-Colonel Lamb and Major Taylor died of their wounds.
NATIVE RANKS. Killed...... 21 Wounded..... 31
As soon as the first light of morning began to grow in the valley, two companies of the 24th advanced and cleared the bazaar of such of the enemy as had remained behind to plunder. The whole place had been thoroughly ransacked, and everything of value destroyed or carried off. The native manager had had a strange experience, and one which few men would envy. He had remained hidden in the back of a tent during the whole night in equal danger and terror of the bullets of the soldiers and the swords of the enemy. Hearing the friendly voices, he emerged uninjured from his retreat.
Desultory firing was maintained by the tribesmen all day.
While the close and desperate fighting, which has been described, was raging in the south camp, the north camp had not been seriously involved, and had spent a quiet, though anxious night. On the sound of the firing on the Kotal being heard, four guns of No.8 Mountain Battery were moved over to the south-east side of the camp, and several star shells were fired. No large body of the enemy was however discovered. Twice during the night the camp was approached by the tribesmen, but a few rounds of shrapnel were sufficient to drive these away.
When General Meiklejohn found that the garrison of the north camp had not been severely engaged, he ordered a force consisting of two guns and the 31st Punjaub Infantry, under Major Gibbs, covered by forty sowars of the 11th Bengal Lancers, and supported by a wing of the 24th, to move out, reconnoitre the valley and clear it, as much as possible, of the enemy. The column advanced in pursuit as far as Bedford Hill. Here they came upon a large gathering of tribesmen, and as it was now evident that a great tribal rising had broken out, Major Gibbs was ordered to return and to bring his stores and troops into the Kotal camp without delay. The infantry and guns thereupon retired and fell back on the camp, covered by the 24th Punjaub Infantry.
As this regiment was being withdrawn, a sudden attack was made from the high ground above the Buddhist road, and directed against the left flank of the troops. A front was immediately shown, and the 24th advanced to meet their assailants. Lieutenant Climo, who commanded, detached a company to the right, and by this turning movement drove them off, inflicting some loss and capturing a standard. This officer's skill and conduct in this retirement was again the subject of commendation in despatches. The troops reached their respective camps at about 11 o'clock. Meanwhile the cavalry had been ordered to push on, if possible, to Chakdara and reinforce the garrison at that post. The task was one of considerable danger, but by crossing and recrossing the Swat River, the squadron managed to cut their way through the tribesmen and reached the fort with slight loss. This brilliant ride will receive a fuller description in a later chapter.
The evacuation of the north camp proceeded very slowly. The troops packed up their kits with great deliberation, and applications were made for transport. None was, however, available. All the camels were at Dargai, on the Indian side of the mountains. Repeated orders to hurry were sent from the Kotal. All hated leaving their belongings behind, having no confidence in the liberality of a paternal Government. As the afternoon passed, the aspect of the enemy became very threatening and formidable. Great numbers drew near to the camp, and the guns were compelled to fire a good many rounds. At length, at 4 o'clock, imperative orders were sent that the north camp was to be at once abandoned, that the force there was to march to the Kotal, and that all baggage and stores, not yet removed, were to be left where they were.
All the tents were struck, but nothing else could be done, and to the deep disgust of all—officers and men—their property was left to the mercies of the enemy. During the night it was all looted and burnt. Many of the officers thus lost every stitch of clothing they possessed. The flames rising from the scene of destruction were visible far and wide, and the tribesmen in the most distant valleys were encouraged to hurry to complete the slaughter of the accursed infidels.
It cannot be doubted, however, that the concentration of the troops was a wise and judicious step. The garrison of the Kotal and south camp was insufficient, and, whatever happened, it was better for the troops to stand or fall together. The situation was also aggravated by the appearance of large numbers of tribesmen from the Utman Khel country, who crowded the hills to the west of the camp, and thus compelled the defenders to hold a greatly extended line. The abandonment of the north camp was carried out none too soon, for the enemy pressed the withdrawal of the troops, and they reached the south camp under cover of the fire of the 24th Punjaub Infantry, and the Guides Cavalry. These latter had arrived in camp at 8.30 that morning after marching all night. They found plenty of employment.
The telegraph had carried the news of the events of the night to all parts of the world. In England those returning from Goodwood Races read the first details of the fighting on the posters of the evening papers. At Simla, the Government of India awoke to find themselves confronted with another heavy task. Other messages recalled all officers to their regiments, and summoned reinforcements to the scene by road and rail. In the small hours of the 27th, the officers of the 11th Bengal Lancers at Nowshera were aroused by a frantic telegraph operator, who was astounded by the news his machine was clicking out. This man in his shirt sleeves, with a wild eye, and holding an unloaded revolver by the muzzle, ran round waking everyone. The whole country was up. The Malakand garrison was being overwhelmed by thousands of tribesmen. All the troops were to march at once. He brandished copies of the wires he had received. In a few moments official instructions arrived. The 11th Bengal Lancers, the 38th Dogras and the 35th Sikhs started at dawn. No.1 and No.7 British Mountain Batteries were also ordered up. The Guides Cavalry had already arrived. Their infantry under Lieutenant Lockhart reached the Kotal at 7.30 P.M. on the 27th, having, in spite of the intense heat and choking dust, covered thirty-two miles in seventeen and a half hours. This wonderful feat was accomplished without impairing the efficiency of the soldiers, who were sent into the picket line, and became engaged as soon as they arrived. An officer who commanded the Dargai post told me, that, as they passed the guard there, they shouldered arms with parade precision, as if to show that twenty-six miles under the hottest sun in the world would not take the polish off the Corps of Guides. Then they breasted the long ascent to the top of the pass, encouraged by the sound of the firing, which grew louder at every step.
Help in plenty was thus approaching as fast as eager men could march, but meanwhile the garrison had to face the danger as best they could alone. As the 31st Punjaub Infantry, who had been the last to leave the north camp, were arriving at the Kotal, about 1000 tribesmen descended in broad daylight and with the greatest boldness, and threatened their left flank. They drove in two pickets of the 24th, and pressed forward vigorously. Lieutenant Climo with two companies advanced up the hill to meet them, supported by the fire of two guns of the Mountain Battery. A bayonet charge was completely successful. The officers were close enough to make effective use of their revolvers. Nine bodies of the enemy were left on the ground, and a standard was captured. The tribesmen then drew off, and the garrison prepared for the attack, which they knew would come with the dark.
As the evening drew on the enemy were observed assembling in ever-increasing numbers. Great crowds of them could be seen streaming along the Chakdara road, and thickly dotting the hills with spots of white. They all wore white as yet. The news had not reached Buner, and the sombre-clad warriors of Ambeyla were still absent. The glare of the flames from the north camp was soon to summon them to the attack of their ancient enemies. The spectacle as night fell was strange, ominous, but not unpicturesque. Gay banners of every colour, shape and device, waved from the surrounding hills. The sunset caught the flashing of swordblades behind the spurs and ridges. The numerous figures of the enemy moved busily about preparing for the attack. A dropping fire from the sharpshooters added an appropriate accompaniment. In the middle, at the bottom of the cup, was the "crater" camp and the main enclosure with the smoke of the evening meal rising in the air. The troops moved to their stations, and, as the shadows grew, the firing swelled into a loud, incessant roar.
The disposition of the troops on the night of the 27th was as follows:—
1. On the right Colonel McRae, with 45th Sikhs and two guns supported by 100 men of the Guides Infantry, held almost the same position astride the Buddhist road as before.
2. In the centre the enclosure and Graded road were defended by—
31st Punjaub Infantry. No.5 Company Q.O. Sappers and Miners. The Guides. Two Guns.
3. On the left the 24th Punjaub Infantry, with the two remaining guns under Lieutenant Climo, held the approaches from the abandoned north camp and the fort.
Most of this extended line, which occupied a great part of the rim, was formed by a chain of pickets, detached from one another, and fortified by stone breastworks, with supports in rear. But in the centre the old line of the "Sappers' and Miners' enclosure" was adhered to. The bazaar was left to the enemy, but the serai, about a hundred yards in front of the main entrenchment, was held by a picket of twenty-four men of the 31st Punjaub Infantry, under Subadar Syed Ahmed Shah. Here it was that the tragedy of the night occurred.
At eight o'clock, the tribesmen attacked in tremendous force all along the line. The firing at once became intense and continuous. The expenditure of ammunition by the troops was very great, and many thousands of rounds were discharged. On the right Colonel McRae and his Sikhs were repeatedly charged by the swordsmen, many of whom succeeded in forcing their way into the pickets and perished by the bayonet. Others reached the two guns and were cut down while attacking the gunners. All assaults were however beaten off. The tribesmen suffered terrible losses. The casualties among the Sikhs were also severe. In the morning Colonel McRae advanced from his defences, and, covered by the fire of his two guns, cleared the ground in his front of the enemy.
The centre was again the scene of severe fighting. The tribesmen poured into the bazaar and attacked the serai on all sides. This post was a mud-walled enclosure about fifty yards square. It was loopholed for musketry, but had no flank defences. The enemy made determined efforts to capture the place for several hours. Meanwhile, so tremendous was the fire of the troops in the main enclosure, that the attack upon the serai was hardly noticed. For six hours the picket there held out against all assaults, but the absence of flank defences enabled the enemy to come close up to the walls. They then began to make holes through them, and to burrow underneath. The little garrison rushed from place to place repelling these attacks. But it was like caulking a sieve. At length the tribesmen burst in from several quarters, and the sheds inside caught fire. When all the defenders except four were killed or wounded, the Subadar, himself struck by a bullet, ordered the place to be evacuated, and the survivors escaped by a ladder over the back wall, carrying their wounded with them. The bodies of the killed were found next morning, extraordinarily mutilated.
The defence of this post to the bitter end must be regarded as a fine feat of arms. Subadar Syed Ahmed Shah was originally promoted to a commission for an act of conspicuous bravery, and his gallant conduct on this occasion is the subject of a special paragraph in despatches. [The Subadar and the surviving Sepoys have since received the "Order of Merit."]
On the left, the 24th Punjaub Infantry were also hotly engaged, and Lieutenant Costello received his first severe wound from a bullet, which passed through his back and arm. Towards morning the enemy began to press severely. Whereupon Lieutenant Climo, always inclined to bold and vigorous action, advanced from the breastworks to meet them with two companies. The tribesmen held their ground and maintained a continual fire from Martini-Henry rifles. They also rolled down great stones upon the companies. The 24th continued to advance, and drove the enemy from point to point, and position to position, pursuing them for a distance of two miles. "Gallows Tree" hill, against which the first charge of the counter attack was delivered, was held by nearly 1000 tribesmen. On such crowded masses, the fire of the troops was deadly. The enemy left forty dead in the path of Lieutenant Climo's counter attack, and were observed carrying off many wounded. As they retreated, many took refuge in the village of Jalalkot. The guns were hurried up, and ten shells were thrown into their midst, causing great slaughter. The result of this bold stroke was, that the enemy during the rest of the fighting invariably evacuated the hills before daylight enabled the troops to assume the offensive.
Thus the onslaught of the tribesmen had again been successfully repelled by the Malakand garrison. Many had been killed and wounded, but all the tribes for a hundred miles around were hurrying to the attack, and their number momentarily increased. The following casualties occurred on the night of the 27th:—
BRITISH OFFICER. Wounded—Lieutenant E.W. Costello.
NATIVE RANKS. Killed...... 12 Wounded..... 29
During the day the enemy retired to the plain of Khar to refresh themselves. Great numbers of Bunerwals now joined the gathering. The garrison were able to distinguish these new-comers from the Swatis, Utman Khels, Mamunds, Salarzais and others, by the black or dark-blue clothes they wore. The troops were employed in strengthening the defences, and improving the shelters. The tribesmen kept up a harassing and annoying long-range fire, killing several horses of the Guides Cavalry. Towards evening they advanced to renew the attack, carrying hundreds of standards.
As darkness fell, heavy firing recommenced along the whole front. The enemy had apparently plenty of ammunition, and replied with effect to the heavy fire of the troops. The arrangement of the regiments was the same as on the previous night. On the right, Colonel McRae once more held his own against all attacks. In the centre, severe fighting ensued. The enemy charged again and again up to the breastwork of the enclosure. They did not succeed in penetrating. Three officers and several men were however wounded by the fire. Lieutenant Maclean, of the Guides Cavalry, who was attached temporarily to the 31st Punjaub Infantry, had a wonderful escape. A bullet entered his mouth and passed through his cheek without injuring the bone in any way. He continued on duty, and these pages will record his tragic but glorious death a few weeks later at Landakai.
Lieutenant Ford was dangerously wounded in the shoulder. The bullet cut the artery, and he was bleeding to death when Surgeon-Lieutenant J.H. Hugo came to his aid. The fire was too hot to allow of lights being used. There was no cover of any sort. It was at the bottom of the cup. Nevertheless the surgeon struck a match at the peril of his life and examined the wound. The match went out amid a splutter of bullets, which kicked up the dust all around, but by its uncertain light he saw the nature of the injury. The officer had already fainted from the loss of blood. The doctor seized the artery, and, as no other ligature was forthcoming, he remained under fire for three hours holding a man's life, between his finger and thumb. When at length it seemed that the enemy had broken into the camp he picked up the still unconscious officer in his arms, and, without relaxing his hold, bore him to a place of safety. His arm was for many hours paralysed with cramp from the effects of the exertion of compressing the artery.
I think there are few, whatever may be their views or interests, who will not applaud this splendid act of devotion. The profession of medicine, and surgery, must always rank as the most noble that men can adopt. The spectacle of a doctor in action among soldiers, in equal danger and with equal courage, saving life where all others are taking it, allaying pain where all others are causing it, is one which must always seem glorious, whether to God or man. It is impossible to imagine any situation from which a human being might better leave this world, and embark on the hazards of the Unknown.
All through the night, the enemy continued their attacks. They often succeeded in reaching the breastworks—only to die on the bayonets of the defenders. The guns fired case shot, with terrible effect, and when morning dawned the position was still held by the Imperial Forces. The casualties of the night were as follows:—
BRITISH OFFICERS. Wounded severely—Lieutenant H.B. Ford, 31st Punjaub Infantry. " H.L.S. Maclean, the Guides. Wounded slightly—Lieutenant G. Swinley, 31st Punjaub Infantry.
NATIVE RANKS. Killed....... 2 Wounded...... 13
On the morning of the 29th signalling communication with Chakdara was for a few moments re-established. The garrison of that post announced their safety, and that all attacks had been repulsed with heavy loss, but they reported that ammunition and food were both running short. During the day the enemy again retired to the plain to rest, and prepare for the great attack, which they intended making that night. The hour would be propitious. It was Jumarat, on which day the prophet watches with especial care over the interests of those who die for the faith. Besides, the moon was full, and had not the Great Fakir declared that this should be the moment of victory? The Mullah exhorted them all to the greatest efforts, and declared that he would himself lead the assault. To-night the infidels would be utterly destroyed.
Meanwhile the troops were busily employed, in spite of their terrible fatigues, in strengthening the defences. The bazaar and the serai were levelled. Trees were blown up, and a clear field of fire was obtained in front of the central enclosure. Great bonfires were also prepared on the approaches, to enable the soldiers to take good aim at their assailants, while they were silhouetted against the light. In such occupations the day passed.
The tribesmen continued to fire at long range and shot several horses and mules. These sharpshooters enjoyed themselves immensely. After the relief of Chakdara, it was found that many of them had made most comfortable and effective shelters among the rocks. One man, in particular, had ensconced himself behind an enormous boulder, and had built a little wall of stone, conveniently loopholed, to protect himself when firing. The overhanging rock sheltered him from the heat of the sun. By his side were his food and a large box of cartridges. Here for the whole week he had lived, steadily dropping bullets unto the camp and firing at what an officer described as all "objects of interest." What could be more attractive?
At four o'clock in the afternoon Major Stuart Beatsen, commanding the 11th Bengal Lancers, arrived with his leading squadron. He brought a small supply of ammunition, which the garrison was in sore need of, the expenditure each night being tremendous, some regiments firing as much as 30,000 rounds. The 35th Sikhs and 38th Dogras under Colonel Reid arrived at Dargai, at the foot of the pass, in the evening. They had marched all day in the most intense heat. How terrible that march must have been, may be judged from the fact, that in the 35th Sikhs twenty-one men actually died on the road of heat apoplexy. The fact that these men marched till they dropped dead, is another proof of the soldierly eagerness displayed by all ranks to get to the front. Brigadier-General Meiklejohn, feeling confidence in his ability to hold his own with the troops he had, ordered them to remain halted at Dargai, and rest the next day.
The attack came with the night, but the defences in the centre had been much improved, and the tribesmen were utterly unable to cross the cleared glacis, which now stretched in front of the enclosure. They, however, assailed both flanks with determination, and the firing everywhere became heavy. At 2 A.M. the great attack was delivered. Along the whole front and from every side enormous numbers swarmed to the assault. On the right and left, hand-to-hand fighting took place. Colonel McRae again held his position, but many of the tribesmen died under the very muzzles of the rifles. The 24th Punjaub Infantry on the left were the most severely engaged. The enemy succeeded in breaking into the breastworks, and close fighting ensued, in which Lieutenant Costello was again severely wounded. But the fire of the troops was too hot for anything to live in their front. At 2.30 the Mad Mullah being wounded, another Mullah killed and several hundreds of tribesmen slain, the whole attack collapsed. Nor was it renewed again with vigor. The enemy recognised that their chance of taking the Malakand had passed.
The casualties were as follows on the night of the 29th:—
BRITISH OFFICERS. Wounded severely—Lieutenant E.W. Costello, 24th P.I., who had already been severely wounded, but continued to do duty. " " Lieutenant F.A. Wynter, R.A.
NATIVE RANKS. Killed...... 1 Wounded..... 17
All the next day the enemy could be seen dragging the dead away, and carrying the wounded over the hills to their villages. Reinforcements, however, joined them, and they renewed their attack, but without much spirit, at 9.30 P.M. They were again repulsed with loss. Once, during a thunderstorm that broke over the camp, they charged the 45th Sikhs' position, and were driven off with the bayonet. Only two men were wounded during the night.
In the morning the 38th Dogras and 35th Sikhs marched into the camp. The enemy continued firing into the entrenchments at long range, but without effect. They had evidently realised that the Malakand was too strong to be taken. The troops had a quiet night, and the weary, worn-out men got a little needed sleep. Thus the long and persistent attack on the British frontier station of Malakand languished and ceased. The tribesmen, sick of the slaughter at this point, concentrated their energies on Chakdara, which they believed must fall into their hands. To relieve this hard-pressed post now became the duty of the garrison of Malakand.
The chapter, which may now appropriately end, has described in detail, and, necessarily, at length, the defence of an outpost of our Empire. A surprise, followed by a sustained attack, has been resisted. The enemy, repulsed at every point, have abandoned the attempt, but surround and closely watch the defences. The troops will now assume the offensive, and the hour of reprisals will commence.
The casualties sustained by the Malakand garrison between 26th July and 1st August were as follows:—
BRITISH OFFICERS KILLED AND DIED OF WOUNDS—3. Lieutenant-Colonel J. Lamb, 24th Punjaub Infantry. Major W.W. Taylor, 45th Sikhs. Lieutenant L. Manley, Commissariat.
WOUNDED—10. Major L. Herbert, D.A.A.G. Captain G. Baldwin, D.S.O., Guides Cavalry. Captain H.F. Holland, 24th Punjaub Infantry. Lieutenant F.A. Wynter, R.A. " F.W. Watling, R.E. " E.W. Costello, 24th Punjaub Infantry. " H.B. Ford, 31st Punjaub Infantry. " H.L.S. Maclean, Guides Cavalry. 2nd Lieutenant G. Swinley, 31st Punjaub Infantry. " C.V. Keyes, Guides Cavalry.
NATIVE OFFICERS WOUNDED—7.
TOTAL OFFICERS KILLED AND WOUNDED—20.
BRITISH NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICER KILLED. Sergeant F. Byrne, R.E.
NATIVE NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND PRIVATES. Killed. Wounded. No.8 Bengal Mountain Battery . . 0 5 11th Bengal Lancers . . . 0 3 No.5 Company Q.O. Sappers and Miners. 3 18 24th Punjaub Infantry . . . 3 14 31st " " . . . . 12 32 38th Dogras . . . . . 0 1 45th Sikhs . . . . . 4 28 Q.O. Corps of Guides. . . . 3 27
TOTAL NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND MEN KILLED AND WOUNDED—153.
CHAPTER V: THE RELIEF OF CHAKDARA
While the events described in the last chapter had been watched with interest and attention in all parts of the world, they were the subject of anxious consultation in the Council of the Governor-General. It was only natural that the Viceroy, himself, should view with abhorrence the prospect of military operations on a large scale, which must inevitably lead to closer and more involved relations with the tribes of the Afghan border. He belonged to that party in the State which has clung passionately, vainly, and often unwisely to a policy of peace and retrenchment. He was supported in his reluctance to embark on warlike enterprises by the whole force of the economic situation. No moment could have been less fitting: no man more disinclined. That Lord Elgin's Viceroyalty and the Famine year should have been marked by the greatest Frontier War in the history of the British Empire in India, vividly displays how little an individual, however earnest his motives, however great his authority, can really control the course of public affairs.
The Council were called upon to decide on matters, which at once raised the widest and most intricate questions of frontier policy; which might involve great expense; which might well influence the development and progress of the great populations committed to their charge. It would be desirable to consider such matters from the most lofty and commanding standpoints; to reduce detail to its just proportions; to examine the past, and to peer into the future. And yet, those who sought to look thus on the whole situation, were immediately confronted with the picture of the rock of Chakdara, fringed and dotted with the white smoke of musketry, encircled by thousands of fierce assailants, its garrison fighting for their lives, but confident they would not be deserted. It was impossible to see further than this. All Governments, all Rulers, meet the same difficulties. Wide considerations of principle, of policy, of consequences or of economics are brushed aside by an impetuous emergency. They have to decide off-hand. The statesman has to deal with events. The historian, who has merely to record them, may amuse his leisure by constructing policies, to explain instances of successful opportunism.
On the 30th of July the following order was officially published: "The Governor-General in Council sanctions the despatch of a force, to be styled the Malakand Field Force, for the purpose of holding the Malakand, and the adjacent posts, and of operating against the neighbouring tribes as may be required."
The force was composed as follows:—
1st Brigade. Commanding—Colonel W.H. Meiklejohn, C.B., C.M.G., with the local rank of Brigadier-General. 1st Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment. 24th Punjaub Infantry. 31st Punjaub Infantry. 45th (Rattray's) Sikhs. Sections A and B of No.1 British Field Hospital. No.38 Native Field Hospital. Sections A and B of No.50 Native Field Hospital.
2nd Brigade. Commanding—Brigadier-General P.D. Jeffreys, C.B. 1st Battalion East Kent Regiment (the Buffs). 35th Sikhs. 38th Dogras. Guides Infantry. Sections C and D of No.1 British Field Hospital. No.37 Native Field Hospital. Sections C and D of No.50 Native Field Hospital.
Divisional Troops. 4 Squadrons 11th Bengal Lancers. 1 " 10th " " 2 " Guides Cavalry. 22nd Punjaub Infantry. 2 Companies 21st Punjaub Infantry. 10th Field Battery. 6 Guns No.1 British Mountain Battery. 6 " No.7 " " " 6 " No.8 Bengal " " No.5 Company Madras Sappers and Miners. No.3 " Bombay " " " Section B of No.13 British Field Hospital. Sections A and B of No.35 Native Field Hospital.
Line of Communications. No.34 Native Field Hospital. Section B of No.1 Native Field Hospital.
[This complete division amounted to a total available field strength of 6800 bayonets, 700 lances or sabres, with 24 guns.]
The command of this powerful force was entrusted to Brigadier-General Sir Bindon Blood, K.C.B., who was granted the local rank of Major-General.
As this officer is the principal character in the tale I have to tell, a digression is necessary to introduce him to the reader. Born of an old Irish family, a clan that has been settled in the west of Ireland for 300 years, and of which he is now the head, Sir Bindon Blood was educated privately, and at the Indian Military College at Addiscombe, and obtained a commission in the Royal Engineers in December, 1860. For the first eleven years he was stationed in England, and it was not until 1871 that he proceeded to India, where he first saw active service in the Jawaki Afridi Expedition (medal with clasp). In 1878 he returned home, but the next year was ordered to the Zulu War. On the conclusion of hostilities, for which he received a second medal and clasp, he again sailed for India and served throughout the Afghan war of 1880, being for some time with the troops at Cabul. In 1882 he accompanied the Army to Egypt, and was with the Highland Brigade, which was the most severely engaged at Tel-el-Kebir. He received the medal and clasp, Khedive's star and the 3rd class of the Medjidie. After the campaign he went home for two years, and in 1885 made another voyage to the East, over which the Russian war-cloud was then hanging. Since then the general has served in India, at first with the Sappers and Miners, with whose reorganisation he was closely associated, and latterly in command of the Agra District. In 1895 he was appointed Chief of the Staff to Sir Robert Low in the Chitral Expedition, and was present at all the actions, including the storming of the Malakand Pass. For his services he received a degree of knighthood of the Military Order of the Bath and the Chitral medal and clasp. He was now marked as a man for high command on the frontier at the first opportunity. That opportunity the great rising of 1897 has presented.
Thirty-seven years of soldering, of war in many lands, of sport of every kind, have steeled alike muscle and nerve. Sir Bindon Blood, himself, till warned by the march of time, a keen polo player, is one of those few officers of high rank in the army, who recognise the advantages to soldiers of that splendid game. He has pursued all kinds of wild animals in varied jungles, has killed many pig with the spear and shot every species of Indian game, including thirty tigers to his own rifle.
It would not be fitting for me, a subaltern of horse, to offer any criticism, though eulogistic, on the commander under whom I have had the honour to serve in the field. I shall content myself with saying, that the general is one of that type of soldiers and administrators, which the responsibilities and dangers of an Empire produce, a type, which has not been, perhaps, possessed by any nation except the British, since the days when the Senate and the Roman people sent their proconsuls to all parts of the world.
Sir Bindon Blood was at Agra, when, on the evening of the 28th of July, he received the telegram from the Adjutant-General in India, appointing him to the command of the Malakand Field Force, and instructing him to proceed at once to assume it. He started immediately, and on the 31st formally took command at Nowshera. At Mardan he halted to make arrangements for the onward march of the troops. Here, at 3 A.M. on the 1st of August, he received a telegram from Army Headquarters informing him, that Chakdara Fort was hard pressed, and directing him to hurry on to Malakand, and attempt its relief at all costs. The great numbers of the enemy, and the shortness of ammunition and supplies from which the garrison were suffering, made the task difficult and the urgency great. Indeed I have been told, that at Simla on the 1st of August it was feared, that Chakdara was doomed, and that sufficient troops to fight their way to its relief could not be concentrated in time. The greatest anxiety prevailed. Sir Bindon Blood replied telegraphically that "knowing the ground" as he did, he "felt serenely confident." He hurried on at once, and, in spite of the disturbed state of the country, reached the Malakand about noon on the 1st of August.
The desperate position of the garrison of Chaldara was fully appreciated by their comrades at the Malakand. As the night of the 31st had been comparatively quiet, Brigadier-General Meiklejohn determined to attempt to force his way to their relief the next day. He accordingly formed a column as follows:—
45th Sikhs. 24th Punjaub Infantry. No.5 Company Sappers and Miners. 4 Guns of No.8 Mountain Battery.
At 11 A.M. he sent the cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Adams of the Guides, to make a dash for the Amandara Pass, and if it were unoccupied to seize it. The three squadrons started by the short road to the north camp. As soon as the enemy saw what was going on, they assembled in great numbers to oppose the advance. The ground was most unsuitable for cavalry. Great boulders strewed the surface. Frequent nullahs intersected the plain, and cramped the action of the horsemen. The squadrons soon became hotly engaged. The Guides made several charges. The broken nature of the ground favoured the enemy. Many of them were, however, speared or cut down. In one of these charges Lieutenant Keyes was wounded. While he was attacking one tribesman, another came up from behind, and struck him a heavy blow on the shoulder with a sword. Though these Swatis keep their swords at razor edge, and though the blow was sufficiently severe to render the officer's arm useless for some days, it raised only a thin weal, as if from a cut of a whip. It was a strange and almost an inexplicable escape.
The enemy in increasing numbers pressed upon the cavalry, who began to get seriously involved. The tribesmen displayed the greatest boldness and determination. At length Lieut.-Colonel Adams had to order a retirement. It was none too soon. The tribesmen were already working round the left flank and thus threatening the only line of retreat. The squadrons fell back, covering each other by dismounted fire. The 24th Punjaub Infantry protected their flank as they reached the camp. The cavalry losses were as follows:—
BRITISH OFFICERS. Wounded severely—Captain G.M. Baldwin, the Guides. " slightly—Lieutenant C.V. Keyes, the Guides.
NATIVE RANKS. Killed Wounded 11th Bengal Lancers.... 0 3 Horses........ 1 4 Guides Cavalry...... 1 10 Horses........ 3 18
Total casualties—16 men and 26 horses.
The vigorous resistance which the cavalry had encountered, and the great numbers and confidence that the enemy had displayed, effectually put an end to any idea of relieving Chakdara that day. The tribesmen were much elated by their temporary success, and the garrison, worn and wearied by the incessant strain, both mental and physical, were proportionately cast down. Every one anticipated tremendous fighting on the next day. Make the attempt, they must at all hazards. But there were not wanting those who spoke of "forlorn hopes" and "last chances." Want of sleep and rest had told on all ranks. For a week they had grappled with a savage foe. They were the victors, but they were out of breath.
It was at this moment, that Sir Bindon Blood arrived and assumed the command. He found General Meiklejohn busily engaged in organising a force of all arms, which was to move to the relief of Chakdara on the following day. As it was dangerous to denude the Malakand position of troops, this force could not exceed 1000 rifles, the available cavalry and four guns. Of these arrangements Sir Bindon Blood approved. He relieved Brigadier-General Meiklejohn of the charge of the Malakand position, and gave him the command of the relieving column. Colonel Reid was then placed in command of Malakand, and instructed to strengthen the pickets at Castle Rock, as far as possible, and to be ready with a force taken from them, to clear the high ground on the right of the Graded road. The relieving column was composed as follows:—
400 Rifles 24th Punjaub Infantry. 400 " 45th Sikhs. 200 " Guides Infantry. 2 Squadrons 11th Bengal Lancers (under Lieut.-Col. R.B. Adams.) 2 " Guides Cavalry " " " 4 Guns No.8 Mountain Battery. 50 Sappers of No.5 Company. Hospital details.
Sir Bindon Blood ordered General Meiklejohn to assemble this force before dark near the centre of the camp at a grove of trees called "Gretna Green," to bivouac there for the night, and to be ready to start with the first light of morning. During the afternoon the enemy, encouraged by their success with the cavalry in the morning, advanced boldly to the pickets and the firing was continuous. So heavy indeed did it become between eleven and twelve o'clock at night, that the force at "Gretna Green" got under arms. But towards morning the tribesmen retired.
The reader may, perhaps, have in his mind the description of the Malakand as a great cup with jagged clefts in the rim. Much of this rim was still held by the enemy. It was necessary for any force trying to get out of the cup, to fight their way along the narrow roads through the clefts, which were commanded by the heights on either side. For a considerable distance it was impossible to deploy. Therein lay the difficulty of the operation, which the General had now to perform. The relieving column was exposed to the danger of being stopped, just as Colonel McRae had stopped the first attack of the tribesmen along the Buddhist road. On the 1st of August the cavalry had avoided these difficulties by going down the road to the North camp, and making a considerable detour. But they thus became involved in bad ground and had to retire. The "Graded" road, if any, was the road by which Chakdara was to be relieved. Looking at the tangled, rugged nature of the country, it seems extraordinary to an untrained eye, that among so many peaks and points, one should be of more importance than another. Yet it is so. On the high ground, in front of the position that Colonel McRae and the 45th Sikhs had held so well, was a prominent spur. This was the key which would unlock the gate and set free the troops, who were cramped up within. Every one realised afterwards how obvious this was and wondered they had not thought of it before. Sir Bindon Blood selected the point as the object of his first attack, and it was against this that he directed Colonel Goldney with a force of about 300 men to move, as soon as he should give the signal to advance.
At half-past four in the morning of the 2nd of August he proceeded to "Gretna Green" and found the relieving column fallen in, and ready to march at daybreak. All expected a severe action. Oppressed with fatigue and sleeplessness, there were many who doubted that it would be successful. But though tired, they were determined, and braced themselves for a desperate struggle. The General-in-chief was, as he had said, confident and serene. He summoned the different commanding officers, explained his plans, and shook hands all round. It was a moment of stern and high resolve. Slowly the first faint light of dawn grew in the eastern sky. The brightness of the stars began to pale. Behind the mountains was the promise of the sun. Then the word was given to advance. Immediately the relieving column set off, four deep, down the "Graded" road. Colonel Goldney simultaneously advanced to the attack of the spur, which now bears his name, with 250 men of the 35th Sikhs and 50 of the 38th Dogras. He moved silently towards the stone shelters, that the tribesmen had erected on the crest. He got to within a hundred yards unperceived. The enemy, surprised, opened an irregular and ineffective fire. The Sikhs shouted and dashed forward. The ridge was captured without loss of any kind. The enemy fled in disorder, leaving seven dead and one prisoner on the ground.
Then the full significance of the movement was apparent alike to friend and foe. The point now gained, commanded the whole of the "Graded" road, right down to its junction with the road to the North camp. The relieving column, moving down the road, were enabled to deploy without loss or delay. The door was open. The enemy, utterly surprised and dumfoundered by this manoeuvre, were seen running to and fro in the greatest confusion: in the graphic words of Sir Bindon Blood's despatch, "like ants in a disturbed ant-hill." At length they seemed to realise the situation, and, descending from the high ground, took up a position near Bedford Hill in General Meiklejohn's front, and opened a heavy fire at close range. But the troops were now deployed and able to bring their numbers to bear. Without wasting time in firing, they advanced with the bayonet. The leading company of the Guides stormed the hill in their front with a loss of two killed and six wounded. The rest of the troops charged with even less loss. The enemy, thoroughly panic-stricken, began to fly, literally by thousands, along the heights to the right. They left seventy dead behind them. The troops, maddened by the remembrance of their fatigues and sufferings, and inspired by the impulse of victory, pursued them with a merciless vigour.
Sir Bindon Blood had with his staff ascended the Castle Rock, to superintend the operations generally. From this position the whole field was visible. On every side, and from every rock, the white figures of the enemy could be seen in full flight. The way was open. The passage was forced. Chakdara was saved. A great and brilliant success had been obtained. A thrill of exultation convulsed every one. In that moment the general, who watched the triumphant issue of his plans, must have experienced as fine an emotion as is given to man on earth. In that moment, we may imagine that the weary years of routine, the long ascent of the lower grades of the service, the frequent subordination to incompetence, the fatigues and dangers of five campaigns, received their compensation. Perhaps, such is the contrariness of circumstances, there was no time for the enjoyment of these reflections. The victory had been gained. It remained to profit by it. The enemy would be compelled to retire across the plain. There at last was the chance of the cavalry. The four squadrons were hurried to the scene.
The 11th Bengal Lancers, forming line across the plain, began a merciless pursuit up the valley. The Guides pushed on to seize the Amandara Pass and relieve Chakdara. All among the rice fields and the rocks, the strong horsemen hunted the flying enemy. No quarter was asked or given, and every tribesman caught, was speared or cut down at once. Their bodies lay thickly strewn about the fields, spotting with black and green patches, the bright green of the rice crop. It was a terrible lesson, and one which the inhabitants of Swat and Bajaur will never forget. Since then their terror of Lancers has been extraordinary. A few sowars have frequently been sufficient to drive a hundred of these valiant savages in disorder to the hills, or prevent them descending into the plain for hours.
Meanwhile the infantry had been advancing swiftly. The 45th Sikhs stormed the fortified village of Batkhela near the Amandara Pass, which the enemy held desperately. Lieut.-Colonel McRae, who had been relieved from the command of the regiment by the arrival of Colonel Sawyer, was the first man to enter the village. Eighty of the enemy were bayoneted in Batkheka alone. It was a terrible reckoning.
I am anxious to finish with this scene of carnage. The spectator, who may gaze unmoved on the bloodshed of the battle, must avert his eyes from the horrors of the pursuit, unless, indeed, joining in it himself, he flings all scruples to the winds, and, carried away by the impetus of the moment, indulges to the full those deep-seated instincts of savagery, over which civilisation has but cast a veil of doubtful thickness.
The casualties in the relief of Chakdara were as follows:—
11th Bengal Lancers—killed and died from wounds, 3; wounded,3. Killed. Wounded. Guides Infantry....... 2 7 35th Sikhs......... 2 3 45th Sikhs......... 0 7 24th Punjaub Infantry..... 0 5 No.8 Bengal Mountain Battery... 0 1 Total Casualties—33
The news of the relief of Chakdara was received with feelings of profound thankfulness throughout India. And in England, in the House of Commons, when the Secretary of State read out the telegram, there were few among the members who did not join in the cheers. Nor need we pay much attention to those few.
CHAPTER VI: THE DEFENCE OF CHAKDARA
... That tower of strength Which stood four-square to all the winds that blew.
The episode with which this chapter is concerned is one that has often occurred on the out-post line of civilisation, and which is peculiarly frequent in the history of a people whose widespread Empire is fringed with savage tribes. A small band of soldiers or settlers, armed with the resources of science, and strengthened by the cohesion of mutual trust, are assailed in some isolated post, by thousands of warlike and merciless enemies. Usually the courage and equipment of the garrison enable them to hold out until a relieving force arrives, as at Rorke's Drift, Fort Chitral, Chakdara or Gulistan. But sometimes the defenders are overwhelmed, and, as at Saraghari or Khartoum, none are left to tell the tale. There is something strangely terrible in the spectacle of men, who fight—not for political or patriotic reasons, not for the sake of duty or glory—but for dear life itself; not because they want to, but because they have to. They hold the dykes of social progress against a rising deluge of barbarism, which threatens every moment to overflow the banks and drown them all. The situation is one which will make a coward valorous, and affords to brave men opportunities for the most sublime forms of heroism and devotion.
Chakdara holds the passage of the Swat River—a rapid, broad, and at most seasons of the year an unfordable torrent. It is built on a rocky knoll that rises abruptly from the plain about a hundred yards from the mountains. Sketches and photographs usually show only the knoll and buildings on it, and any one looking at them will be struck by the picturesque and impregnable aspect of the little fort, without observing that its proportions are dwarfed, and its defences commanded, by the frowning cliffs, under which it stands. In its construction the principles of defilade have been completely ignored. Standing on the mountain ridge, occupied by the signal tower, it is possible to look or fire right into the fort. Every open space is commanded. Every parapet is exposed. Against an enemy unprovided with artillery, however, it could be held indefinitely; but the fact that all interior communications are open to fire, makes its defence painful to the garrison, and might, by gradually weakening their numbers, lead to its capture.
The narrow, swinging, wire bridge across the Swat is nearly 500 yards long. At the southern end it is closed by a massive iron door, loopholed for musketry, and flanked by two stone towers, in one of which a Maxim gun is mounted. On the further side is the fort itself, which consists of the fortified knoll, a strong stone horn-work, an enclosure for horses, protected by a loopholed wall and much tangled barbed wire, and the signal tower, a detached post 200 yards up the cliff.
The garrison of the place consisted at the time of the outbreak of twenty sowars of the 11th Bengal Lancers and two strong companies of the 45th Sikhs, in all about 200 men, under the command of Lieutenant H.B. Rattray. [The actual strength was as follows: 11th Bengal Lancers, 20 sabres; 45th Sikhs, 180 rifles; 2 British telegraphists; 1 Hospital Havildar; 1 Provost Naick (24th Punjaub Infantry); 1 Jemadar (Dir Levies). British officers—45th Sikhs, Lieutenants Rattray and Wheatley; Surgeon-Captain V. Hugo; Political Agent, Lieutenant Minchin.] As the rumours of an impending rising grew stronger and stronger, and the end of July approached, this officer practised his men in taking stations in the event of an alarm, and made such preparations as he thought necessary for eventualities. On the 23rd he received an official warning from the D.A.A.G. [Deputy-Assistant-Adjutant-General. Surely this astounding title, with that of the Deputy-Assistant-Quarter-Master-General, might be replaced with advantage by the more sensible and appropriate terms "Brigade Adjutant" and "Brigade Quartermaster"!], Major Herbert, that a tribal rising was "possible but not probable." Every precaution was henceforth taken in the fort. On the 26th, a Sepoy, who was out sketching, hurried in with the news that a large body of tribesmen were advancing down the valley, and that he himself had been robbed of his compass, his field-glasses and some money.
But, in spite of the disturbed and threatening situation, the British officers of the Malakand garrison, though they took all military precautions for the defence of their posts, did not abandon their practice of riding freely about the valley, armed only with revolvers. Nor did they cease from their amusements. On the evening of the 26th, Lieutenant Rattray went over to Khar as usual to play polo. Just as the game was ended, he received a letter, brought in haste by two sowars, from Lieutenant Wheatley, the other subaltern at Chakdara, warning him that a great number of Pathans with flags were advancing on the fort. He at once galloped back at full speed, passing close to one large gathering of tribesmen, who for some reason of their own took no notice of him, and so reached the fort in safety, and just in time. Formidable masses of men were then closing in on it. He telegraphed to the staff officer at the Malakand reporting the impending attack. Immediately afterwards the wire was cut by the enemy and the little garrison got under arms.
A havildar of the Khan of Dir's Levies had promised the political agent to give warning of any actual assault, by lighting a fire on the opposite hills. At 10.15 a solitary flame shot up. It was the signal. The alarm was sounded. The garrison went to their posts. For a space there was silence, and then out of the darkness began a fusillade, which did not stop until the 2nd of August. Immediately the figures of the tribesmen, as they advanced to the attack on the western face of the fort, became visible. The defenders opened fire with effect. The enemy pressed on vigorously. Their losses were severe. At length they retreated repulsed.
A second attack was immediately delivered against the north-east corner and again beaten off by the garrison. At 4 A.M. a third assault was made upon the cavalry enclosure. The tribesmen, carrying scaling ladders, advanced with great determination. They were received with a deadly fire. They then drew off, and the first night of the siege was terminated by desultory firing. The garrison remained at their posts all night, and when it became day the enemy were seen to have retired, to the hills to the north-west, whence they maintained a ceaseless fire. Although the defenders were protected by their stone walls, many had strange escapes from the bullets, which fell incessantly into the interior.
Meanwhile, in spite of the vigorous attack that was being made on the Malakand, it had been decided to send some assistance to the little band at Chakdara. Captain Wright and forty sowars of the 11th Bengal Lancers with Captain Baker of the 2nd Bombay Grenadiers and transport officer at the Malakand, started at dawn on the 27th, by the road from the north camp. Before they had gone very far they came under the fire of the enemy on the hills. These did not dare to venture into the plain, but availed themselves of the broken nature of the country. As the squadron reached the road leading to the polo ground, Captain Wright received information that the enemy were collected on the plain and immediately the pace was quickened in the hopes of a charge being possible. But the tribesmen ran to the hills at the sight of the Lancers, and maintained a constant, though luckily, an ill-aimed fire. At length the village of Batkhela was reached, and beyond it the Amandara Pass came in sight. This is a gap in a long spur, which runs from the southern side of the valley to the rapid river in the middle. As the river was then in full flood and unfordable, the only road to Chakdara lay over or through the spur. But the pass was held by the enemy.
Captain Wright had by this time realised, what probably no one at the Malakand then knew, that the enemy's numbers were enormous. The whole way from Malakand to Amandara—every ridge and hill was crowned with their banners. Wherever the ground protected them from the horsemen they gathered thickly. Cemeteries [Cemeteries are frequent and prominent features of Frontier landscapes. Some of them are of great extent: all of remarkable sanctity.], nullahs and villages swarmed with men. Their figures could be seen in all directions. Far beyond the Amandara Pass bands of tribesmen, of varying strengths, could be observed hurrying with their standards to the attack. But these formidable signs, far from deterring the cavalry soldier, only added, by displaying how great was the need of Chakdara, to his determination to force his way through at all costs.
Under a dropping fire from the cemetery on the right of the road, a brief consultation was held. The Amandara defile was occupied on both sides by the enemy. With the loss of perhaps a dozen men the squadron might gallop through. But this meant leaving all who fell, to perish miserably, by torture and mutilation. To attempt to pick up the wounded, would lead to the annihilation of the squadron. Any alternative was preferable, though if there were no other way, the dash would have to be made, and the wounded left. A Sowar now said there was a path round the rock by the bank of the river. Captain Wright determined to take it.
The path was bad. After about half the spur had been passed, it ended abruptly in a steep white rock. It was, in fact, a path leading to a point where the natives were in the habit of floating across the river upon "mussucks" (inflated skins). To go back now was to fail. Without hesitation, the horsemen turned to the right up the hill and among the rocks, trusting to get through somehow. After passing over ground which would be difficult to move across on foot, they saw a gorge to their left which appeared as if it would lead to the open plain, on the other side of the ridge. Down this gorge forty horses huddled together, with no room to pick their way, were scrambling and jumping from rock to rock, apparently as conscious as their riders that their lives depended on their cleverness—when, suddenly, the enemy appeared.
As soon as the tribesmen, who were holding the pass, saw the squadron trot off to their right towards the river, they realised that they intended to make a desperate effort to get through to Chakdara. They knew what the ground was like, and confident they would kill them all, if they could get there soon enough, ran swiftly along the spur. It was a race. The leading tribesmen arrived in time to fire on the cavalry, while they were in the gorge. So close were they, that the officers used their revolvers. But the Pathans were out of breath and shot badly. Several horses were hit, including Captain Wright's, but though the large thigh bone was penetrated, the gallant beast held on, and carried his rider to Chakdara safely.
By the extraordinary activity of the horses the rocks were cleared before the enemy could collect in any strength. But, to the dismay of all, the gorge was found to lead, not to the plain, but to a branch of the river. A broad, swift channel of water of unknown depth confronted the cavalry. To go back was now, however, out of the question. They plunged in. The 11th Bengal Lancers are perhaps better mounted than any native cavalry regiment in India. Their strong horses just held their own against the current. Several were nearly swept away. Captain Wright was the last to cross. All this time the enemy were firing and approaching. At length the passage was made and the squadron collected on an island of flooded rice fields, in which the horses sank up to their hocks. Beyond this ran another arm of the river about fifty yards wide, and apparently almost as deep as the first. The bullets of the enemy made "watery flashes" on all sides. After passing this second torrent the squadron found themselves again on the same bank of the river as the enemy. They were in swampy ground. Captain Wright dismounted his men and returned the fire. Then he turned back himself, and riding into the stream again, rescued the hospital assistant, whose pony, smaller than the other horses, was being carried off its legs by the force of the water. After this the march was resumed. The squadron kept in the heavy ground, struggling along painfully. The enemy, running along the edge of the rice fields, maintained a continual fire, kneeling down to take good aim. A sowar threw up his hands and fell, shot through the back. Several more horses were hit. Then another man reeled in his saddle and collapsed on the ground. A halt was made. Dismounted fire was opened upon the enemy. The wounded were picked up, and by slow degrees Chakdara was approached, when the Bridgehead Maxim gun compelled the tribesmen to draw off. [For the particulars of this affair I am indebted to Captain Baker, 2nd Bombay Grenadiers, who shared its perils.]
Thus the garrison of the fort received a needed reinforcement. I have given a somewhat long description of this gallant ride, because it shows that there are few obstacles that can stop brave men and good horses. Captain Wright now assumed command of Chakdara, but the direction of the defense he still confided to Lieutenant Rattray, as fighting behind walls is a phase of warfare with which the cavalry soldier is little acquainted.
At 11.30, in the heat of the day the tribesmen attacked again. They surrounded the north and east sides of the fort, and made strenuous efforts to get in. They suffered heavy losses from the musketry of the defence, and their dead lay scattered thickly on the approaches. Nor were they removed till nightfall. Many Ghazis, mad with fanaticism, pressed on carrying standards, heedless of the fire, until they fell riddled with bullets under the very walls.
To communicate with the Malakand was now almost impossible. To heliograph, it was necessary that the operator should be exposed to a terrible fire. In the evening the signal tower was surrounded by men in stone sungars, who kept up an incessant fusillade, and made all exposure, even for an instant, perilous.
At midday, after the repulse of the main attack, the guard of the signal tower was reinforced by six men, and food and water were also sent up. This difficult operation was protected by the fire of both the Maxims, and of all the garrison who could be spared from other points. Until the 1st of August, water was sent up daily to the signal tower in this way. The distance was long and the road steep. The enemy's fire was persistent. Looking at the ground it seems wonderful that supplies could have been got through at all.
As night approached, the defenders prepared to meet a fresh attack. Lieutenant Wheatley, observing the points behind which the enemy usually assembled, trained the fort Maxim and the 9-pounder gun on them, while daylight lasted. At 11 P.M. the tribesmen advanced with shouts, yells and the beating of drums. The gun and the Maxims were fired, and it is said that no fewer than seventy men perished by the single discharge. At any rate the assault was delayed for an hour and a half. All day long the garrison had remained at their posts. It was hoped they would now get a little rest. But at 1 o'clock the attack was renewed on the north-east corner. Again the enemy brought up scaling ladders and charged with desperate ferocity. They were shot down.
Meanwhile every spare moment was devoted to improving the cover of the garrison. Captain Baker applied himself to this task, and used every expedient. Logs, sand bags, stones, boxes filled with earth were piled upon the walls. It is due to these precautions that the loss of life was no larger.
Continuous firing occupied the 28th, and at 5.30 P.M. the enemy again assaulted. As in previous attacks, they at first advanced by twos and threes, making little dashes over the open ground, for bits of natural cover, and for the stone sungars they had built all round the fort under cover of darkness. Some of these were within 200 yards of the wall. As they advanced the fire became intense. Then the main rush was delivered. In a great semi-circle round the face of the fort held by the cavalry, and displaying nearly 200 standards whose gay colours were representative of every tribe on the border, they charged right up to the walls. Some of them actually got across the tangled barbed wire and were destroyed in the enclosure. But all efforts were defeated by the garrison, and towards morning the attack melted away, and only the usual sharpshooters remained. Some of these displayed a singular recklessness. One man climbed up into the barbed wire and fired three shots at the defenders at close quarters before he was killed.
Thursday morning dawned on similar scenes. The garrison employed such intervals as occurred in strengthening their defences and improving their cover, particularly in the approaches to the Maxim and field gun platforms. At 3 P.M. the enemy came out of Chakdara village, and, carrying ladders to scale the walls, and bundles of grass to throw on the barbed wire, made a formidable effort. They directed the attack mainly against the signal station. This building is a strong, square, stone tower. Its entrance is above six feet from the ground. All around the top runs a machiconlis gallery, a kind of narrow balcony, with holes in the floor to fire through. It is well provided with loopholes. At 4 o'clock it was closely assailed. The garrison of the fort aided the tower guard by their fire. So bold were the enemy in their efforts, that they rushed in under the musketry of the defence, and lighted a great heap of grass about three yards from the doorway. The flames sprang up. A howl of ferocious delight arose. But the tribesmen relapsed into silence, when they saw that no real harm was done. At sunset the fore sight of the fort Maxim was shot away, and the defenders were temporarily deprived of the service of that powerful weapon. They soon managed, however, to rig up a makeshift, which answered all practical purposes. At 8 P.M. the enemy wearied of the struggle, and the firing died away to desultory skirmishing. They toiled all night carrying away their dead, but next morning over fifty bodies were still lying around the signal tower. Their losses had been enormous.
The morning of the 30th brought no cessation of the fighting, but the enemy, disheartened by their losses of the previous night, did not attack until 7 P.M. At that hour they advanced and made a fresh effort. They were again repulsed. Perhaps the reader is tired of the long recital of the monotonous succession of assaults and repulses. What must the garrison have been by the reality? Until this day—when they snatched a few hours' sleep—they had been continually fighting and watching for ninety-six hours. Like men in a leaking ship, who toil at the pumps ceaselessly and find their fatigues increasing and the ship sinking hour by hour, they cast anxious, weary eyes in the direction whence help might be expected. But none came. And there are worse deaths than by drowning.
Men fell asleep at the loopholes and at the service of the field gun. Even during the progress of the attacks, insulted nature asserted itself, and the soldiers drifted away from the roar of the musketry, and the savage figures of the enemy, to the peaceful unconsciousness of utter exhaustion. The officers, haggard but tireless, aroused them frequently.
At other times the brave Sepoys would despair. The fort was ringed with the enemy. The Malakand, too, was assailed. Perhaps it was the same elsewhere. The whole British Raj seemed passing away in a single cataclysm. The officers encouraged them. The Government of the Queen-Empress would never desert them. If they could hold out, they would be relieved. If not, they would be avenged. Trust in the young white men who led them, and perhaps some dim half-idolatrous faith in a mysterious Sovereign across the seas, whose soldiers they were, and who would surely protect them, restored their fainting strength. The fighting continued.
During the whole time of the siege the difficulty of maintaining signalling communication with the Malakand was extreme. But for the heroism of the signallers, it would have been insuperable. One man in particular, Sepoy Prem Singh, used every day at the risk of his life to come out through a porthole of the tower, establish his heliograph, and, under a terrible fire from short range, flash urgent messages to the main force. The extreme danger, the delicacy of the operation of obtaining connection with a helio, the time consumed, the composure required, these things combined to make the action as brave as any which these or other pages record. [A proposal has recently been made, to give the Victoria Cross to native soldiers who shall deserve it. It would seem that the value of such a decoration must be enhanced by making it open to all British subjects. The keener the competition, the greater the honor of success. In sport, in courage, and in the sight of heaven, all men meet on equal terms.] Early on Saturday morning a supply of water was sent to the guard of the signal tower. It was the last they got until 4.30 on Monday afternoon.
When the attack on the fort began, the enemy numbered perhaps 1500 men. Since then they had been increasing every day, until on the 1st and 2nd, they are estimated to have been between 12,000 and 14,000 strong. Matters now began to assume a still graver aspect. At 5 o'clock on the evening of the 31st a renewed attack was made in tremendous force on the east side of the fort. But it was beaten back with great loss by the Maxims and the field gun. All night long the firing continued, and Sunday morning displayed the enemy in far larger numbers than hitherto. They now captured the Civil Hospital, a detached building, the walls of which they loopholed, and from which they maintained a galling fire. They also occupied the ridge, leading to the signal tower, thus cutting off all communication with its guard. No water reached those unfortunate men that day. The weather was intensely hot. The fire from the ridge made all interior communication difficult and dangerous. The enemy appeared armed to a great extent with Martini-Henry rifles and Sniders, and their musketry was most harassing. The party in the tower kept sending by signal pressing requests for water, which could not be supplied. The situation became critical. I quote the simple words of Lieutenant Rattray's official report:—
"Matters now looked so serious that we decided to send an urgent appeal for help, but owing to the difficulty and danger of signalling we could not send a long message, and made it as short as possible, merely sending the two words, 'Help us.'"
Still the garrison displayed a determined aspect, and though the tribesmen occupied the ridge, the Civil Hospital and an adjoining nullah, none set foot within the defences.
At length the last day of the struggle came. At daybreak the enemy in tremendous numbers came on to the assault, as if resolute to take the place at any cost. They carried scaling ladders and bundles of grass. The firing became intense. In spite of the cover of the garrison several men were killed and wounded by the hail of bullets which was directed against the fort, and which splashed and scarred the walls in every direction.
Then suddenly, as matters were approaching a crisis, the cavalry of the relieving column appeared over the Amandara ridge. The strong horsemen mercilessly pursued and cut down all who opposed them. When they reached the Bridgehead on the side of the river remote from the fort, the enemy began to turn and run. The garrison had held out stubbornly and desperately throughout the siege. Now that relief was at hand, Lieutenant Rattray flung open the gate, and followed by half a dozen men charged the Civil Hospital. Captain Baker and Lieutenant Wheatley followed with a few more. The hospital was recaptured. The enemy occupying it, some thirty in number, were bayoneted. It was a finish in style. Returning, the sallying party found the cavalry—the 11th Bengal Lancers—checked by a sungar full of tribesmen. This they charged in flank, killing most of its occupants, and driving the rest after their comrades in rout and ruin. The last man to leave the sungar shot Lieutenant Rattray in the neck, but that officer, as distinguished for physical prowess as for military conduct, cut him down. This ended the fighting. It is not possible to think of a more fitting conclusion.
The casualties in the siege were as follows:—
Killed Wounded 11th B.L...... 1 1 45th Sikhs..... 4 10 Dir Levies..... 1 0 Followers..... 1 2 Total, all ranks—20
This was the loss; but every man in the fort had held death at arm's length, for seven nights, and seven days.
It is a significant fact, that, though the cavalry horses were exposed to the enemy's fire the whole time, hardly any were killed or wounded. The tribesmen, feeling sure that the place was theirs, and hoping that these fine beasts would fall unto their hands alive, had abstained from shooting them.
As far as could be ascertained by careful official inquiries the enemy lost over 2000 men in the attack upon Chakdara.
[The following statistics as to the expenditure of ammunition may be of interest:—
Rounds. 28th July. Maxim...... 843 " Martini-Henry... 7170 29th July. Maxim...... 667 " Martini-Henry... 4020 30th July. Maxim...... 1200 " Martini-Henry... 5530 31st July. Maxim...... 180 " Martini-Henry... 2700
This is approximately twenty rounds per man per diem. The fire control must have been excellent.]
CHAPTER VII: THE GATE OF SWAT
The Malakand Pass gives access to the valley of the Swat, a long and wide trough running east and west, among the mountains. Six miles further to the east, at Chakdara, the valley bifurcates. One branch runs northward towards Uch, and, turning again to the west, ultimately leads to the Panjkora River and beyond to the great valley of Nawagai. For some distance along this branch lies the road to Chitral, and along it the Malakand Field Force will presently advance against the Mohmands. The other branch prolongs the valley to the eastward. A few miles beyond Chakdara a long spur, jutting from the southern mountains, blocks the valley. Round its base the river has cut a channel. The road passes along a narrow stone causeway between the river and the spur. Here is the Landakai position, or as the tribesmen have for centuries called it, the "Gate of Swat." Beyond this gate is Upper Swat, the ancient, beautiful and mysterious "Udyana." This chapter will describe the forcing of the gate and the expedition to the head of the valley.
The severe fighting at the Malakand and Chakdara had shown how formidable was the combination, which had been raised against the British among the hill tribes. The most distant and solitary valleys, the most remote villages, had sent their armed men to join in the destruction of the infidels. All the Banjaur tribes had been well represented in the enemy's ranks. The Bunerwals and the Utman Khels had risen to a man. All Swat had been involved. Instead of the two or three thousand men that had been estimated as the extreme number, who would follow the Mad Fakir, it was now known that over 12,000 were in arms. In consequence of the serious aspect which the military and political situation had assumed, it was decided to mobilise a 3rd and Reserve Brigade composed as follows:—
3rd Brigade. Commanding—Brigadier-General J.H. Wodehouse, C.B., C.M.G. 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry. 1st " Gordon Highlanders. 21st Punjaub Infantry. 2nd Battalion 1st Gurkhas. No. 3 Company Bombay Sappers and Miners. " 14 British Field Hospital. " 45 Native " " " 1 Field Medical Depot.
The fighting of the preceding fortnight had left significant and terrible marks on the once smiling landscape. The rice crops were trampled down in all directions. The ruins of the villages which had been burned looked from a distance like blots of ink. The fearful losses which the enemy had sustained, had made an appreciable diminution, not of an army, but of a population. In the attacks upon the Malakand position, about 700 tribesmen had perished. In the siege of Chakdara, where the open ground had afforded opportunity to the modern weapons and Maxim guns, over 2000 had been killed and wounded. Many others had fallen in the relief of Chakdara and in the cavalry pursuit. For days their bodies lay scattered about the country. In the standing crops, in the ruins of villages, and among the rocks, festering bodies lay in the blazing sun, filling the valley with a dreadful smell. To devour these great numbers of vultures quickly assembled and disputed the abundant prey with the odious lizards, which I have mentioned in an earlier chapter, and which emerged from holes and corners to attack the corpses. Although every consideration of decency and health stimulated the energy of the victors in interring the bodies of their enemies, it was some days before this task could be accomplished, and even then, in out-of-the-way places, there remained a good many that had escaped the burying parties.
Meanwhile the punishment that the tribesmen of the Swat Valley had received, and their heavy losses, had broken the spirit of many, and several deputations came to make their submission. The Lower Swatis surrendered unconditionally, and were allowed to return to their villages. Of this permission they at once availed themselves, and their figures could be seen moving about their ruined homes and endeavouring to repair the damage. Others sat by the roadside and watched in sullen despair the steady accumulation of troops in their valley, which had been the only result of their appeal to arms.
It is no exaggeration to say, that perhaps half the tribesmen who attacked the Malakand, had thought that the soldiers there, were the only troops that the Sirkar [The Government] possessed. "Kill these," they said, "and all is done." What did they know of the distant regiments which the telegraph wires were drawing, from far down in the south of India? Little did they realise they had set the world humming; that military officers were hurrying 7000 miles by sea and land from England, to the camps among the mountains; that long trains were carrying ammunition, material and supplies from distant depots to the front; that astute financiers were considering in what degree their action had affected the ratio between silver and gold, or that sharp politicians were wondering how the outbreak in Swat might be made to influence the impending bye-elections. These ignorant tribesmen had no conception of the sensitiveness of modern civilisation, which thrills and quivers in every part of its vast and complex system at the slightest touch.
They only saw the forts and camps on the Malakand Pass and the swinging bridge across the river.
While the people of Lower Swat, deserted by the Mad Mullah, and confronted with the two brigades, were completely humbled and subdued, the Upper Swatis, encouraged by their priests, and, as they believed, safe behind their "gate," assumed a much more independent air. They sent to inquire what terms the Government would offer, and said they would consider the matter. Their contumacious attitude, induced the political officers to recommend the movement of troops through their country, to impress them with the determination and power of the Sirkar.
The expedition into the Upper Swat Valley was accordingly sanctioned, and Sir Bindon Blood began making the necessary preparations for the advance. The prospects of further fighting were eagerly welcomed by the troops, and especially by those who had arrived too late for the relief of Chakdara, and had had thus far, only long and dusty marches to perform. There was much speculation and excitement as to what units would be selected, every one asserting that his regiment was sure to go; that it was their turn; and that if they were not taken it would be a great shame.
Sir Bindon Blood had however already decided. He had concentrated a considerable force at Amandara in view of a possible advance, and as soon as the movement was sanctioned organised the column as follows:—
1st Brigade. Commanding—Brigadier-General Meiklejohn. Royal West Kent Regiment. 24th Punjaub Infantry. 31st " " 45th Sikhs
With the following divisional troops:— 10th Field Battery. No.7 British Mountain Battery. " 8 Bengal " " " 5 Company Madras Sappers and Miners. 2 Squadrons Guides Cavalry. 4 " 11th Bengal Lancers.
This force amounted to an available fighting strength of 3500 rifles and sabres, with eighteen guns. Supplies for twelve days were carried, and the troops proceeded on "the 80 lb. scale" of baggage, which means, that they did not take tents, and a few other comforts and conveniences.
Before the force started, a sad event occurred. On the 12th of August, Lieut.-Colonel J. Lamb, who had been wounded on the night of the 26th of July, died. An early amputation might have saved his life; but this was postponed in the expectation that the Rontgen Rays would enable the bullet to be extracted. The Rays arrived from India after some delay. When they reached Malakand, the experiment was at once made. It was found, however, that the apparatus had been damaged in coming up, and no result was obtained. Meanwhile mortification had set in, and the gallant soldier died on the Sunday, from the effects of an amputation which he was then too weak to stand. His thigh bone had been completely shattered by the bullet. He had seen service in Afghanistan and the Zhob Valley and had been twice mentioned in despatches.
On the 14th Sir Bindon Blood joined the special force, and moved it on the 16th to Thana, a few miles further up the valley. At the same time he ordered Brigadier-General Wodehouse to detach a small column in the direction of the southern passes of Buner. The Highland Light Infantry, No.3 Company Bombay Sappers and Miners, and one squadron of the 10th Bengal Lancers accordingly marched from Mardan, where the 3rd Brigade then was, to Rustum. By this move they threatened the Bunerwals and distracted their attention from the Upper Swat Valley. Having thus weakened the enemy, Sir Bindon Blood proceeded to force the "Gate of Swat."
On the evening of the 16th, a reconnaissance by the 11th Bengal Lancers, under Major Beatson, revealed the fact, that the Landakai position was strongly held by the enemy. Many standards were displayed, and on the approach of the cavalry, shots were fired all along the line. The squadron retired at once, and reported the state of affairs. The general decided to attack at day-break.
At 6.30 A.M. on the 17th, the cavalry moved off, and soon came in contact with the tribesmen in some Buddhist ruins near a village, called Jalala. A skirmish ensued. Meanwhile the infantry were approaching. The main position of the enemy was displayed. All along the crest of the spur of Landakai could be seen a fringe of standards, dark against the sky. Beneath them the sword blades of the tribesmen glinted in the sunlight. A long line of stone sungars crowned the ridge, and behind the enemy clustered thickly. It is estimated that over 5000 were present.
It is not difficult to realise what a strong position this was. On the left of the troops was an unfordable river. On their right the mountains rose steeply. In front was the long ridge held by the enemy. The only road up the valley was along the causeway, between the ridge and the river. To advance further, it was necessary to dislodge the enemy from the ridge. Sir Bindon Blood rode forward, reconnoitered the ground, and made his dispositions.
To capture the position by a frontal attack would involve heavy loss. The enemy were strongly posted, and the troops would be exposed to a heavy fire in advancing. On the other hand, if the ridge could once be captured, the destruction of the tribesmen was assured. Their position was good, only as long as they held it. The moment of defeat would be the moment of ruin. The reason was this. The ground behind the ridge was occupied by swampy rice fields, and the enemy could only retire very slowly over it. Their safe line of retreat lay up the spur, and on to the main line of hills. They were thus formed with their line of retreat in prolongation of their front. This is, of course, tactically one of the worst situations that people can get into.
Sir Bindon Blood, who knew what the ground behind the ridge was like, perceived at once how matters stood, and made his plans accordingly. He determined to strike at the enemy's left, thus not only turning their flank, but cutting off their proper line of retreat. If once his troops held the point, where the long ridge ran into the main hills, all the tribesmen who had remained on the ridge would be caught. He accordingly issued orders as follows:—
The Royal West Kent were to mask the front and occupy the attention of the enemy. The rest of the infantry, viz., 24th and 31st Punjaub Infantry and the 45th Sikhs, were to ascend the hills to the right, and deliver a flank attack on the head of the ridge. The cavalry were to be held in readiness to dash forward along the causeway—to repair which a company of sappers was posted—as soon as the enemy were driven off the ridge which commanded it, and pursue them across the rice fields into the open country beyond. The whole of the powerful artillery was to come into action at once.
The troops then advanced. The Royal West Kent Regiment began the fight, by driving some of the enemy from the Buddhist ruins on a small spur in advance of the main position. The 10th Field Battery had been left in rear in case the guns might stick in the narrow roads near Thana village. It had, however, arrived safely, and now trotted up, and at 8.50 A.M. opened fire on the enemy's position and at a stone fort, which they occupied strongly. A few minutes later No.7 Mountain Battery came into action from the spur, which the Royal West Kent had taken. A heavy artillery fire thus prepared the way for the attack. The great shells of the Field Artillery astounded the tribesmen, who had never before witnessed the explosion of a twelve-pound projectile. The two mountain batteries added to their discomfiture. Many fled during the first quarter of an hour of the bombardment. All the rest took cover on the reverse slope and behind their sungars.
Meanwhile the flank attack was developing. General Meiklejohn and his infantry were climbing up the steep hillside, and moving steadily towards the junction of the ridge with the main hill. At length the tribesmen on the spur perceived the danger that was threatening them. They felt the grip on their line of retreat. They had imagined that the white troops would try and force their path along the causeway, and had massed considerable reserves at the lower end of the ridge. All these now realised that they were in great danger of being cut off. They were on a peninsula, as it were, while the soldiers were securing the isthmus. They accordingly began streaming along the ridge towards the left, at first with an idea of meeting the flank attack, but afterwards, as the shell fire grew hotter, and the musketry increased, only in the hope of retreat. Owing to the great speed with which the mountaineers move about the hills, most of them were able to escape before the flank attack could cut them off. Many however, were shot down as they fled, or were killed by the artillery fire. A few brave men charged the 31st Punjaub Infantry, but were all destroyed.
Seeing the enemy in full flight, Sir Bindon Blood ordered the Royal West Kent to advance against the front of the now almost deserted ridge. The British infantry hurrying forward climbed the steep hill and captured the stone sungars. From this position they established touch with the flank attack, and the whole force pursued the flying tribesmen with long-range fire.
The "Gate of Swat" had been forced. It was now possible for troops to advance along the causeway. This had, however, been broken in various places by the enemy. The sappers and miners hastened forward to repair it. While this was being done, the cavalry had to wait in mad impatience, knowing that their chance lay in the plains beyond. As soon as the road was sufficiently repaired to allow them to pass in single file, they began struggling along it, and emerged at the other end of the causeway in twos and threes.
An incident now ensued, which, though it afforded an opportunity for a splendid act of courage, yet involved an unnecessary loss of life, and must be called disastrous. As the cavalry got clear of the broken ground, the leading horsemen saw the tribesmen swiftly running towards the hills, about a mile distant. Carried away by the excitement of the pursuit, and despising the enemy for their slight resistance, they dashed impetuously forward in the hope of catching them before they could reach the hills.
Lieutenant-Colonel Adams, on entering the plain, saw at once that if he could seize a small clump of trees near a cemetery, he would be able to bring effective dismounted fire to bear on the retreating tribesmen. He therefore collected as many men as possible, and with Lieutenant Maclean, and Lord Fincastle, the Times correspondent, rode in the direction of these points. Meanwhile Captain Palmer, who commanded the leading squadron, and Lieutenant Greaves of the Lancashire Fusiliers, who was acting war correspondent of the Times of India, galloped across the rice fields after the enemy. The squadron, unable to keep up, straggled out in a long string, in the swampy ground.
At the foot of the hills the ground was firmer, and reaching this, the two officers recklessly dashed in among the enemy. It is the spirit that loses the Empire many lives, but has gained it many battles. But the tribesmen, who had been outmanoeuvred rather than outfought, turned savagely on their pursuers. The whole scene was witnessed by the troops on the ridge. Captain Palmer cut down a standard-bearer. Another man attacked him. Raising his arm for a fresh stroke, his wrist was smashed by a bullet. Another killed his horse. Lieutenant Greaves, shot through the body, fell at the same moment to the ground. The enemy closed around and began hacking him, as he lay, with their swords. Captain Palmer tried to draw his revolver. At this moment two sowars got clear of the swampy rice fields, and at once galloped, shouting, to the rescue, cutting and slashing at the tribesmen. All would have been cut to pieces or shot down. The hillside was covered with the enemy. The wounded officers lay at the foot. They were surrounded. Seeing this Lieutenant-Colonel Adams and Lord Fincastle, with Lieutenant Maclean and two or three sowars, dashed to their assistance. At their charge the tribesmen fell back a little way and opened a heavy fire. Lord Fincastle's horse was immediately shot and he fell to the ground. Rising, he endeavoured to lift the wounded Greaves on to Colonel Adams' saddle, but at this instant a second bullet struck that unfortunate officer, killing him instantly. Colonel Adams was slightly, and Lieutenant Maclean mortally, wounded while giving assistance, and all the horses but two were shot. In spite of the terrible fire, the body of Lieutenant Greaves and the other two wounded officers were rescued and carried to the little clump of trees.
For this gallant feat of arms both the surviving officers, Colonel Adams and Lord Fincastle, were recommended for, and have since received, the Victoria Cross. It was also officially announced, that Lieutenant Maclean would have received it, had he not been killed. There are many, especially on the frontier, where he was known as a fine soldier and a good sportsman, who think that the accident of death should not have been allowed to interfere with the reward of valour.
The extremes of fortune, which befell Lord Fincastle and Lieutenant Greaves, may well claim a moment's consideration. Neither officer was employed officially with the force. Both had travelled up at their own expense, evading and overcoming all obstacles in an endeavour to see something of war. Knights of the sword and pen, they had nothing to offer but their lives, no troops to lead, no duties to perform, no watchful commanding officer to report their conduct. They played for high stakes, and Fortune never so capricious as on the field of battle, dealt to the one the greatest honour that a soldier can hope for, as some think, the greatest in the gift of the Crown, and to the other Death.
The flight of the enemy terminated the action of Landakai. Thus in a few hours and with hardly any loss, the "Gate of Swat," which the tribesmen had regarded as impregnable, had been forced. One squadron of the Guides cavalry, under Captain Brasier Creagh, pursuing the enemy had a successful skirmish near the village of Abueh, and returned to camp about 6.30 in the evening. [This officer was mentioned in despatches for his skill and judgment in this affair; but he is better known on the frontier for his brilliant reconnaissance towards Mamani, a month later, in which in spite of heavy loss he succeeded in carrying out General Hammond's orders and obtained most valuable information.] During the fight about 1000 tribesmen had threatened the baggage column, but these were but poor-spirited fellows, for they retired after a short skirmish with two squadrons of the 11th Bengal Lancers, with a loss of twenty killed and wounded. The total casualties of the day were as follows:—
BRITISH OFFICERS. Killed—Lieutenant R.T. Greaves, Lancs. Fusiliers. " " H.L.S. Maclean, Guides. Wounded severely—Captain M.E. Palmer, Guides. Wounded slightly—Lieutenant-Colonel R.B. Adams, Guides. NATIVE RANKS—Wounded—5. FOLLOWERS—Wounded—2. Total Casualties—11.
It must be remembered, that but for the incident which resulted in the deaths of the officers, and which Sir Bindon Blood described in his official despatch as an "unfortunate contretemps," the total casualties would have only been seven wounded. That so strong a position should have been captured with so little loss, is due, firstly, to the dispositions of the general; and secondly, to the power of the artillery which he had concentrated. The account of the first attempt to storm the Dargai position on the 20th of October, before it had been shaken by artillery fire, when the Dorsetshire Regiment suffered severe loss, roused many reflections among those who had witnessed the action of Landakai.
The next morning, the 18th, the force continued their march up the valley of the Upper Swat. The natives, thoroughly cowed, offered no further opposition and sued for peace. Their losses at Landakai were ascertained to have exceeded 500, and they realised that they had no chance against the regular troops, when these were enabled to use their powerful weapons.