Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Online collection of original Second Afghan War pics

While Googling around for some Battle of Charasiab-related info -- probably connected to the 14th and 12th Bengal Cavalry -- I happened across a collection of period photos from the Second Afghan War, several of which I've never seen before, available at a site called World Digital Library.  The source they credit is an album of photos donated to the Library of Congress.  As someone who's been seriously interested in this campaign for about 40 years, and has been researching and collecting every tidbit of information I could find -- especially contemporary VISUAL information -- it's always a great feeling to find something new, and it includes some uniform and equipment details of special value to me, and hopefully perhaps a few others as well.

I've posted a handful of the photos below, just to show you the quality and some of the great details, but you will find a handy LINK to the web-page where the collection resides at the bottom of this post.

First up is a photo of a Royal Artillery Mountain-Gun and crew alongside a Royal Artillery 40lb. breechloader, drawn by a pair of elephants.  What's of special value to me in this pic, is the fact that the Mountain-Gun crew is dressed khaki uniforms, while the 40lb. crew is dressed wears Royal Artillery Service Dress of blue.  This kind of proves -- if it were ever in doubt -- that during the 1878-1880 war in Afghanistan, gun crews from different artillery units could have and probably did serve their guns side-by-side while dressed in completely different uniforms.  It also pushes me to make a final decision and paint my own Royal Artillery Mountain-Gun battery crews in solid khaki uniforms...


Next up is a photo which I believe shows one of the pair of Gatling Guns which was part of General Roberts' army that marched on Kabul in the aftermath of the massacre of Cavagnari and his Guides escort.  What's interesting here is that most of the gunners appear to wear Royal Artillery blue, while two or three of them -- who all happen to be holding the reins of various mules -- wear the "transitional" or "mixed" dress of khaki jackets with blue trousers... BUT, after I blew up the photo and examined it more closely, I realized it might be possible that the two or three men wearing khaki and holding the reins of the mules might possibly be 72nd Highlanders, as you may be able to discern a tartan pattern on the pants -- or perhaps the trews -- of the fellow standing second from right in the photo.  At various times during the Second Afghan War and many other Victorian colonial campaigns, men from infantry units were detailed to serve as impromptu artillery crewmen or  transport or support staff, and I may recall reading in the "Abridged Official History" of the war that some infantrymen served along with the gunners crewing the pair of Gatling Guns that participated in the battle of Charasiab and the defense of the Sherpur Cantonments.  So... does the photo show an example of uniform variation within a single gun or battery crew... or does it show a mix of uniforms for a mix of troops detailed to serve together?  If someone reading this blog post is privy to more information related to the photo and happens to know the answer, please be sure to leave a comment and share it...


Third is a photo of the Medical Doctors who accompanied General Roberts' famous "Kabul to Kandahar" march in August of 1880.  What's great about this photo is the incredibly wide array of uniform styles on view.  Of course these men probably belonged to many different regiments, but I think the point is still valid.  Some wear puttees, others wear boots, one even wears buttoned gaiters, which are rarely if ever seen in depictions of British troops during the Second Afghan War...


Finally, number four shows an elephant-drawn Royal Artillery battery.  The gunners appear to wear Blue Service Dress, and I believe the photo's location must be the Baba Wali Kotal just outside Kandahar, as it is a very striking and singular landscape:


There are a lot more photos at the below web-page, and I highly recommend anyone interested in the Second Afghan War to pop over and look through them.  A few may already be familiar to you, but speaking for myself there are a good number more photos that I had never seen before.


Here's a LINK directly to an incredible set of photos forming a PANORAMA OF KANDAHAR filled with plowed-fields, walls, karez (irrigation canals), roads, the British camp, the Baba Wali mountains in the background, and what may be the rocky high-ground above the village of Gundigan in the far left foreground...


I'm very glad I found these photos and I truly hope some of you will enjoy seeing them as well, and HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone kind enough to stop by and spend some of their time reading this blog!

5 comments:

  1. What an amazing resource, thank you for sharing the link and a very Happy New Year to you too.

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  2. Very glad you enjoyed them, gentlemen, and thanks for taking the time to leave comments letting me know!

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  3. Thanks, Willie, glad you liked it! Still waiting in anticipation to see your model of Acre, its fortress walls and harbor, laid out in its shcokingly-impressive entirety!

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