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With the Ghurkas in Afghanistan

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With the Ghurkas in Afghanistan
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Author(s): John Haughton & Eden Vansittart
Date Published: 2010/10
Page Count: 156
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-364-9
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-363-2

The hill men with kukris at war in Afghanistan, 1841

The Ghurkhas—the irrepressible warriors from Nepal—were, soon after their own war with the British, incorporated as a vital component part with the HEIC army in India. So it was that the 4th Ghoorkas were made part of Shah Shuja’s force during the disastrous First Afghan War. The Nepalese soldiers were commanded by British officers and among them were the authors of both accounts in this special value Leonaur two books in one edition. The first piece is an account of a very typical Afghan War action with events that resonate to the present day. The author and his resolute contingent were surrounded and outnumbered by hostile Afghan forces and had to fight a running battle through fields, ditches, villages and walled gardens until they were forced to defend their own tenuously positioned base set in hostile countryside not far from Kabul. Within the city the situation also daily plummeted towards the catastrophe that would mean the retreat and total ruin of the army under Elphinstone. With mounting casualties at Char-ee-kar and the most gallant defence all but exhausted the survivors attempted a breakout. This vital account is demonstrative of the war in Afghanistan and the fighting qualities of Ghurkha troops that have made them so highly regarded by comrades and the nation .The second book enables the reader to understand the background and structure of Ghurkha society and perhaps what makes them the world renowned soldiers they are today. Available in soft cover and hard back with dust jacket.

On the 6th they attacked us with renewed vigour. The possession of the large garden in front was hotly contested, and the enemy early in the day got possession of it. I was not at that post at the time, but shortly after, hearing what had occurred, determined if possible to recapture it. I went up the bed of the canal, with a few followers, to ascertain the number of the enemy in possession. I had on the previous day caused a portion of the wall next to our barracks to be broken down, but for its strength I would have destroyed the whole. There was a gap about ten feet wide broken down to the height of a man’s chest. Up to this I got, and from the silence within thought the place empty. I was soon undeceived, for I found it fully occupied and a sentry standing with his matchlock ready, a pace or two in the rear of the gap:<br>
He at once fired at me, but without wounding me. In return I attempted to shoot him with a double barrelled pistol by Staudenmeyer, which, with its fellow, had cost me 30l. Both barrels missed fire. I then and there threw both pistols away, and trusted to my sword, the scabbard of which I had lost on the first day of the outbreak. As the enemy at once rushed up to the breach and I had only the Bugle major with me, of whom more hereafter, I was compelled to take ignobly to my heels; however, the disgrace did not rest long; having collected a sufficient body of men, I easily retook the place.<br>
I note here that the enemy never stood when deprived of the protection of walls, even though they were ten to one, or the disproportion was still greater. We could not, however, attack them in the open plain, as our entire number was as nothing to the circle hemming us in. Later in the day I left Sergeant Major Byrne, a gallant soldier, in charge of the post; but shortly after he was brought in mortally wounded I took his place, the doctor and Mr. Rose defending the barrack; and the enemy having towards evening retired a little from our outpost, I went out, wishing to see if I could do anything towards the town. I had a very gallant little Goorkha orderly with me, we both kneeled behind the bank of a ditch looking in the direction in which we supposed the enemy to be.<br>
We had been in our position but a few minutes, when we were enlightened as to the enemy’s “whereabouts.” My orderly was, like most of his race, a little short man, his head and mine were both turned to the left. He was on my left side, a rifle ball passed through his head, striking me on the throat a little to the right side. We both fell: he stone dead, and I feeling paralyzed. I was not at all stunned. Our men, who were watching us, thought both killed; my poor orderly was dragged into the garden as men drag a wheelbarrow, the poor man’s legs being used in place of the handles and his back as the wheel. The same process was commenced with me; but as I was alive and conscious, my objections I presume got me a lift at the head. I well remember that when set down inside, I came to the conclusion I was not “killed,” that I sat up, and that when the enemy advanced again and there was in consequence a fresh alarm, I got up, took my part in their repulse, and forgot all about the matter.<br>
When night set in, the combat was for a time closed. I went into the barracks, and there meeting the doctor, remembered that I was badly wounded. I learnt the sad news of the death of my beloved commander, and yet felt relief, as I felt it would have been impossible to move him in any exigency. The fact was kept secret, that the troops might not be disheartened. When I had the doctor apart, I told him that I feared I was badly wounded. He took me into an inner room for examination, that the disaster might not be known.<br>
The doctor removed my neck cloth with the utmost care, opened my shirt collar which adhered slightly to my throat, and on looking burst out laughing, telling me I was not wounded at all! The truth is that partly owing to the fact that I had on an extremely thick silk neckerchief, consisting of a square yard of Mooltan silk, and partly owing to the obliquity with which the ball struck me, I had only received a severe blow on the front of the spine and an abrasion of the skin sufficient to let out a very little blood. There was a red mark on the skin, as though a finger smeared with blood had passed over it, and no more.<br>
We were compelled to withdraw from the outposts in the evening. Our numbers were much diminished, and the men quite worn out with fasting and fatigue. To this was added the fact that we had now no water in the canal to protect, and therefore little object in maintaining the outposts in front of it.
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