Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Malakand Campaign of 1897

Winston Churchill’s first published work of non-fiction was The Story of the Malakand Field Force: An Episode of Frontier War published in 1898. It details a military campaign on the Northwest Frontier, in an area of what is now Pakiston, close to Afghanistan. Churchill took part as a young 2nd Lieutenant in the cavalry, but also served as “war correspondent” to The Daily Telegraph during the campaign. His book was pulled together from the columns he submitted.

The Indian border was somewhat fluid at that time – Pashtun tribes were raiding on the plains and the Russians had advanced somewhat, leading to fears of a Cossack attack. Then, in late July of 1897, thousands of native tribesmen laid siege to Malakand, a British outpost. A relief force was assembled under Sir Bindon Blood to punish the aggressors, many of whom had come out of Swat and Bunerwal which had not felt the force of British power and were spoiling for a fight. Among the weapons assigned to Blood’s force were new breech loading weapons. The campaign is also credited with inspiring Churchill’s understanding of trench warfare in WW1 and his support for the development of the tank.

One of the narratives in the Chicksands collection which also details this campaign is A Frontier Campaign: a narrative of the operations of the Malakand and Buner Field Forces, 1897-1898, by the Viscount Fincastle, VC, Lt., 16th Queen’s Lancers and P.C. Eliott-Lockhart, Lt., Queen’s Own Corps of Guides. [London: Methuen, 1898]

Fincastle was Alexander Edward Murray, 8th Earl of Dunmore; he received the Victoria Cross for a daring rescue in August 1897 in a continuation of the campaign. This volume is illustrated with sketches by other officers accompanying the expedition, namely, Major Biddulph of the 19th Lancers, Captain Hewett of the Royal West Kent Regiment and Lieutenant Dixon of the 16th Lancers.

A second volume on the Malakand Expedition, also in the Chicksands Collection, is Sketches on service during the Indian frontier campaigns of 1897, by Major E. A. P. Hobday, R.A., 1st Brigade Malakand Field Force. [London: James Bowden, 1898]

Edmund Arthur Ponsonby Hobday, Royal Artillery, was the Quarter-Master of the Malakand Field Force. A skilled draughtsman/artist, he wrote and profusely illustrated this volume. He later went on to illustrate a number of other published memoirs by fellow officers, including Service and sport on the Tropical Nile by C.A. Sykes, [London: John Murray, 1903], another volume in the Chicksands Collection.

Scenes from Hobday's description of the campaign

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