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THE KHYBER PASS
I AM going to tell the story of the greatest disaster
that ever happened to a British army.
In 1838-39 the Indian Government sent an army into
Afghanistan. Its object was to restore a certain
prince, Shah Soojah by name, who had been driven into
exile nearly twenty years before. It hoped that he
would be grateful for what had been done for him, and
that the country which he ruled would be a valuable
ally. Unfortunately, Shah Soojah was a feeble creature,
and his people hated him because he had been put over
them by foreigners.
 For some time, however, everything was quiet, though
there were some who suspected danger. But in 1841 some
of the Afghan chiefs rebelled. They had been provoked
by having the payment which had been made to keep them
quiet reduced. What they did was to occupy the passes
between Afghanistan and India. The most important of
these was the Khyber Pass, of which I shall have more
to say hereafter. A brigade which was returning to
India was attacked on its way, and suffered no small
loss, though it managed at last to get clear. The
officer in command, General Sale, thought it best not
to go further than the town of Jellalabad. This place,
of which we shall hear again, he occupied and
Meanwhile a riot had broken out at Cabul, the capital
of Afghanistan, and the envoy of the Indian Government
was murdered. Very soon the whole city was in a state
of revolt. The English force, which was
considerable—four regiments of infantry and two of
cavalry, with some other troops—was badly managed.
Forts which might have been defended were given up, and
other opportunities of attacking or resisting the enemy
were lost. Elsewhere, also, great losses were suffered.
One native regiment mutinied and murdered its officers;
another was destroyed by the Afghans.
Then the civil officer, Macnaughten by name, to
 whom the generals had to look for orders, resolved to
negotiate with the enemy. The Afghan chiefs made delay
after delay, but at last, on December 11, they agreed
to a treaty. Twelve days afterwards, when Macnaughten
rode out from Cabul to have a conference with the
chiefs, he was seized and murdered.
Still, even after this, the English officers went on
negotiating. They thought that they could neither
remain in Cabul nor force their way back to India, and
that therefore nothing could be done but accept the
terms which the enemy offered them. Briefly, these were
that they were to evacuate the country, and, in
consideration of this, were to be allowed to return
unhurt, with their arms and property. On January 6,
1842, a bitterly cold day, with the snow lying deep on
their road, all that was left of the British army, with
the women and children that belonged to them, left the
city. There were 4500 men in all, of whom 690 were
Europeans, an army quite strong enough to hold its own
even then, if it had been well commanded.
All the day was occupied in moving out, and from the
first the enemy broke in the cruellest way the
promises made by their chiefs that the British should
be allowed to retreat in safety. The first day only six
miles of march were accomplished. The army and its
followers bivouacked in the snow, without fire,
 or food. Many soldiers and camp-followers, accustomed
to the warmth of an Indian climate, perished of cold.
During the night a part of the native troops deserted.
The next day, the march—if march it can be called—was
resumed. The enemy still continued to plunder and kill.
The soldiers had lost all heart, and made no
resistance. They even allowed five out of their seven
guns to fall into the hands of the Afghans. Another
night even more miserable than the first followed. When
the morning came, only a few hundred men were able to
bear arms. In the course of the next day the women and
children with the married officers were given over to
the Afghan chiefs.
On the 10th the advance, consisting of what was left of
the 44th Regiment (Europeans) and a few native cavalry,
with one gun, had found their way through a narrow
pass, in some places not more than ten feet wide, which
lay in their way, and waited to be joined by the main
body. But the main body had perished. Only a few
stragglers survived to tell the story to those who, for
the time, but only for the time, had escaped.
AN AFGHAN PASS. SOLDIERS HAULING A GUN.
The Afghan commander now offered to take the remnant
that was left safely to Jellalabad, if they would lay
down their arms. The offer was rejected, and Brigadier
Shelton, who was in command,
pro-  posed that they should make a night march to a place
called Jugdulluk, which was about forty miles short of
Jellalabad. The march was made, though not till after
long delay, for the force had still a crowd of
camp-followers with it, and could not move quickly.
Jugdulluk was reached on the afternoon of the 11th, but
no shelter was to be found here, and those still
surviving had to march on again. The Afghans had put up
across the road a barrier of prickly brushwood. This
kept back the front rank from advancing; the rear was
continually attacked by the savage enemy. The British
soldiers made a brave defence. One officer, a captain
in the 44th regiment, slew five Afghans before he fell.
At last the brushwood barrier was broken down, and the
few survivors—twenty officers and forty-five European
soldiers—reached Gundamuk, a place half-way between
Jugdulluk and Jellalabad. They took up their position
on a little hillock.
At first the Afghans charged them, trying to wrest
their arms from them, but were beaten back. The enemy
then retired to a distance, and fired, picking off man
after man. When they had weakened it, as they thought,
enough, they charged again—they greatly wished, you
see, to have some prisoners—and at last overpowered the
little band. One officer, who had wrapped the colours
 the 44th round his waist, was carried off, and with him
a few private soldiers who had been wounded.
Meanwhile the mounted officers had ridden forward. Of
these five were killed on the way, two of them within
four miles of Jellalabad. One survivor only, a doctor,
Brydon by name, reached that town.
I must now relate what happened at Jellalabad. When
Sale reached this town its fortifications were not
capable of being defended. He had thirteen days to
strengthen them, and his engineers made such good use
of the time that when on November 29 the Afghans
attacked it, they were driven off with heavy loss.
About a month later came the news of what had happened
at Cabul, and soon afterwards came a command from the
General-in-Chief ordering Sale to give the place up,
according to the terms of the agreement that had been
made. Sale declared that he should not heed an
agreement that had been made under fear of death, and
that he should hold the place till the Government
itself should order him to retire. Two or three days
later came Dr. Brydon with the dreadful news that he
was the sole survivor of the army that had marched a
week before out of Cabul.
Sale himself was now shaken. A council of war was held,
at which he declared that they could not hope to be
relieved for a long time to come, and that his own
opinion was to make terms. The Afghans
 offered a safe retreat to India, and he advised the
council to accept the offer. Broadfoot, the engineer
officer who had strengthened the defences, declared
that such conduct would be neither safe nor honourable.
They could hold Jellalabad, he said, as long as they
wanted to. Another officer, Oldfield by name—I feel
bound to mention these gallant men—exclaimed, "I will
fight to the last drop of my blood, but I will never be
a hostage, and I wonder that any one should regard an
Afghan's word as worth anything." But the majority was
the other way. Only these two voted for holding the
town. But their example had its effect. The others soon
recovered their courage, and it was resolved by all
that they would hold on.
For nearly three months the siege went on. Then as the
town was closely blockaded, supplies began to fall
short, and Sale determined on making a sally. The
Afghan general had about 5000 men, and the garrison
marched out in three columns, one of them led by an
officer who was to become famous afterwards, Henry
Havelock, to attack him. In the end the Afghans were
swept out of their position, lost all their guns, and
had their camp set on fire. Jellalabad was now safe. A
fortnight afterwards General Pollock arrived with a
relieving force, which was played into its camp on the
plain by the band of the 13th
 Regiment playing the tune of "'Oh! but ye've been lang
Five months afterwards the British army again entered
Cabul. The great Bazaar, in which the heads of Burnes
and Macnaughten had been paraded, was burnt, and the
two places at which British regiments had been
slaughtered were also destroyed. This done, the army
returned to India.