Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

This is coolbert: Comments on the British retreat from Kabul in 1842. Let us not hope that U.S. troops some day have to run such a gauntlet: [my comments in bold].

17,000 persons had to make it 90 miles to safety. Mixed forces of this type cannot fight well to begin with. And who were all these camp followers?? Not fully described.

"By the end of the first day only five miles had been covered . . ."

This is a sure indication that all was lost at the end of the first day.

"Only two groups had clawed their way out of the jaws of death. Brydon attached himself to one of them. It consisted of fourteen mounted men and together they raced for Jalalabad. The other group were on foot and was made up of 45 soldiers and 20 officers, mostly of the 44th Foot."

Such an odd number of enlisted and officers still alive tells me something was terribly wrong here. All sense of unit cohesion had broken down.

"For days afterwards, a great bonfire was kept burning in front of Jalalabad's Kabuli gate, and others on the the city's ramparts. Bugles sounded out there plaintive cries in the hope that their calls might guide in any stragglers."

None ever came.

Out of all those that started out, only one man made it out alive!!! ONE!!!

"He also lured Shah Shujah out of the Bala Hissar under a promise of safe conduct and then had him brutally murdered. Although Shah Shujah was dead the Bala Hissar continued to hold out, proving the tragedy of the retreat could have been averted if only Elphinstone had listened to Pottinger's advice."

All this time the British installed Shah had been holed up in the Bala Hissar fort that could not be captured by the rebels. Pottinger was right!!

"In the end Pollock settled for blowing up the great covered bazaar, one of the marvels of Asia. So strong was the structure it took Pollock's engineers two days to successfully complete the job and in the meantime the British troops embarked on an orgy of looting that affected both friends and enemies of the British alike."

This bazaar exists again. A picture of it is shown in a late edition of the National Geographic.

See the navigation bar at the bottom of the web site page listed above for the entire story of the British sojourn in Afghan. Especially about the matter of the romantic liaisons between the British officers and compliant Afghan women. To put in bluntly, if you want to get an occupied people pissed at you big time, mess with their women. The occupied people will really have it in for you then. Witness the retreat from Kabul!