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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The British Army at Charasiab, October. 6th 1879

For some time now I've been researching the make-up of the forces General Roberts commanded at the Battle of Charasiab.  There are many secondary sources which list these forces and they are largely consistent but like much else from the Second Afghan War, sometimes they are not.

One particular complication re: Charasiab is that for various reasons some regiments were split up into two or more elements and the seperate elements assigned to different sub-commands.  Another complication is that some units which were part of Roberts' Kabul Field Force and made the march to Kabul were not present at the battle at all.

Luckily I managed to track down three primary sources online which I believe helped me work out a little more accurately which specific units and portions of units were directly involved in the battle, and where they were positioned.

In case you're interested here are the three sources with a LINK to each:

(1)  41 YEARS IN INDIA - Lord Roberts' 1896 autobiograpy


(the above link can only bring you to the cover-page -- to reach the related material scroll up to Chapter L (approach to Charasiab) and/or Chapter LI (the Battle itself) OR type "charasia" into the search bar and jump to the 3rd match)

(2)  RECOLLETIONS OF THE KABUL CAMPAIGN - written by Joshua Duke, who served as a Medical Officer during the campaign

(material related to Charasiab is contained in CHAPTER IV, starting on page 112 )



LINK to General Baker's dispatch re: the battle

Before getting into the details re: the Army Lists, I'll lay the scenario out very briefly:

October 1879.  A British Army under the command of Major-General Frederick Roberts is en route to Kabul, to exact vengeance for the massacre on September 3rd  of the British Embassy led by Major Cavagnari.  Due to a severe shortage of transport animals, General Roberts' is unable to move his entire Kabul Field Force at once, instead moving first one portion, then sending the same pack animals back to move the other. 

On October 5th Roberts and the larger part of his Field Force reached the village of Charasiab (sometimes referred to in period writings as "Charasia", "Charasiah", or "Chaharasia"), located about 2 miles South of the last mountain-range seperating them from Kabul.

There were two roads for the British to take forward: one to the East, skirting the Logar River through the "Sang i-Nawaishta" Gorge on their right, and one to the West, skirting the Kabul River to their left.

The Afghans occupied the hills North of Charasiab and the mountains all around.

Although a substantial portion of his Field Force was still out of reach, on the morning of October 6th General Roberts chose to attack the Afghan positions before they could be further reinforced by additional tribesmen from nearby areas and regulars reported to be already en route.

General Roberts launched a feint attack to the East while dispatching his main attack to the West.  Despite the very strong advantage of the Afghan position, the British attack succeeded in routing all the assembled Afghan regular and tribal forces and clearing passage to both the East and West roads North to Kabul.  But it was a close-run thing, as Wellington might have put it, and despite resulting in a near-total victory* for the British, at several points during the course of the battle the result hung in the balance and might have gone either way

(*What could have made it a more "total victory" is if the British had been able to cut off or pursue and destroy the substantial Afghan forces which survived the battle and managed to escape.)

Over the past year or so I've posted a bunch of pics of my table laid out in various incomplete versions of what will hopefully in the not-too-distant future be its full Charasiab glory, as well as Google Earth images of the battlefield, but for now we'll use two more familiar maps of the battlefield, the first from the "British Battles" website and the second from the "British Empire" site:

Without further ado, here's my take on the British Order-of-Battle...


(combined Art. commanded by Capt. Swinley)

1.   F-A Battery RHA, 6 guns    (Held in reserve w/Roberts)
2.   G-3 RA, 6 guns                   (3 with White’s feint attack,
                                                   disposition of other 3...?)
3.   No. 2 Mt. Battery, 4 guns    (2 with each attack at the start, but 2
                                                   reassigned to Baker's attack, which
                                                   then included all 4 Mt. Guns)

Total 16 guns


4.   9th Lancers - 1 squadron, Capt.  Apperley
5.   5th Punjab Cavalry - 2 squadrons, Maj. Hammond
6.   12th Bengal Cavalry - 3 squadrons, Maj. Green
7.   14th Bengal Lancers (Murray’s Jats) - 3 squadrons, Lt. Col. Ross

Total 9 squadrons cavalry

*NOTE: much of the cavalry was assigned to guard the lines of communication between Charasiab and Brigadier Macpherson’s troops escorting the baggage & reserve ammunition from Saiadabad to the South, and also to serve as piquets to the East & West to deter attacks on the British camp by large gatherings of tribesmen visible on the heights on both sides of the Logar Valley -- which is why out of a total of 9 squadrons, barely 2 squadrons worth of cavalry were engaged during the battle. 


8.   67th Foot - half battalion (Lt. Col. Knowles)
9.   72nd Highlanders (Lt. Col. Clarke)
10.  5th Punjab Inf. (Maj. Pratt)
11.  23rd Bengal Native Infantry (Sikh Pioneers) (Lt. Col. Currie)
12.  5th Gurkhas (Maj. Fitzhugh)
13.  No. 7 Company Bengal Sappers & Miners (Lt. Nugent, RE)

Total equivalent to 5½ battalions of infantry

14.  2 Gatling Guns (Maj. Broadfoot)

NOTE:  The above British Inf, Cav, & Art. forces were split into three parts, one for the main attack on the British left commanded by Brigadier Baker, one for the feint attack on the British right commanded by Major White of the 92nd Highlanders, and one held in reserve at the British camp with Gnl. Roberts.

Brigadier Baker (main attack on British left):

1.   12th Bengal Cavalry
2.   No. 2 (Dejarat) Mt. Battery - 2 guns (Lt. Allsopp)
3.   2 Gatling Guns (Capt. Broadfoot)
4.   72nd Highlanders (700 bayonets, Lt. Col. Clarke)
5.   5th Punjab Inf. (200 bayonets, Capt. Hall)
6.   5th Gurkhas (300 bayonets, Maj. Fitzhugh)        
7.   No. 7 Company Bengal Sappers & Miners (Lt. Nugent, RE)
8.   23rd Bengal Native Inf. (Sikh Pioneers) (350 bayonets,
       Lt. Col. Currie)

Total 1,650 Infantry, 450 Cavalry

Major White (feint attack on British right):

1.   One combined squadron of cav from 5th Punjab Cav & 9th Lancers
       (Major Hammond)
2.   3 field guns G-3 RA
3.   2 Mt. guns No. 2 (Dejarat) Mt. Battery (Lt. Montanaro)
4.   Wing of 92nd Highlanders (284 bayonets, Major Hay)
5.   100 men of 23rd Bengal Native Inf. (Sikh Pioneers)
      (*originally 450 but 350 reassigned to reinforce the
        main attack on the left)

Total  384 Infantry, 140 Cavalry

General Roberts reserve at camp:

1.   RHA battery - 6 field guns
2.   450 cavalry  - 14th Bengal Lancers (Murray’s Jats) & elements other
      Cav regts.
3.   Approx. 650 Inf. (½ battalion 67th Foot & elements of other
      Inf regts.)

ADDITIONAL TROOPS AWAY with Brigadier General Macpherson at Saiadabad, near the Logar River crossing:

1.   1 squadron 5th Punjab Cav.
2.   2 Mt. Guns, No. 2 (Dejarat) Mt. Battery
3.   one wing of the 67th Foot (other half of the battalion)
4.   full battalion 28th Punjab Infantry


3 ½ battalions of infantry
2 weak squadrons of cavalry
7 guns

2,600 troops

...consisting of 1,090 British & 1,513 Native troops

(Field Hospital led by Surgeon Major Bourke)


(using a 1:15 figure-to-man ratio)


2 guns No. 2 Dejarat Mt. Battery w/4 crew each. . . . . . . . .8 figs
2 guns G-3 RA w/4 crew each. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 figs
1 Gatling Gun w/4 crew. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 figs   

+1 Art. higher command              

TOTAL:     21 Artillery figs


5th Punjab Cav & 9th Lancers combined detachments. . .12 figs
12th Bengal Cav. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 figs

+1 Cav. higher command

TOTAL:     25 Cavalry figs


72nd Highlanders. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 figs
           (*in 2 basic units of 20 figures each)
5th Gurkhas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 figs
5th Punjab Infantry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 figs
23rd Pioneers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 figs*
           (*in 2 basic units of 20 and 10 figs each)
92nd Highlanders. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 figs
No. 7 Company Bengal Sappers & Miners....6 figs

+8 Inf. higher command

TOTAL:     144 Infantry figs

TOTAL 3 COMBAT ARMS:     190 figs

(Above total includes 10 combat arms higher command figs)

+ 2 General Staff figures

Grand total:  192 figs


14th Bengal Lancers (Murray’s Jats) & elements of 9th Lancers & 5th Punjab Cavalry (450 sabres)
Wing of 67th Foot & other Inf. elements (600-700 bayonets)
F-A RHA w/6 guns


3 field guns of F-A RHA. . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 figs
14th Bengal Lancers (Murray’s Jats). . . . 24 figs
Wing of the 67th Foot. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 figs

+1 Cav Higher Command fig, +2 Inf Higher Command figs.  + 3 Gnl. Staff figs.


GRAND TOTAL of troops, including Roberts’ reserve: 274 figs

274 figs x 15 = 4,110 men

This number is pretty accurate vis-a-vis the historical record of 4,000 troops w/Roberts at the battle, properly erring by being slightly generous to Brits, who will have their work cut out for them in the scenario, with the Afghans occupying multiple strong defensive positions.

NOTE: removing the 6 figure No. 7 Company Bengal Sappers & Miners would give me a total force of 268 figs, which multiplied by 15 = 4,020 men, virtually exactly the size of Roberts' force.  But... it would mean dropping a unit that was really there, and I love my Sappers & Miners!  I will wait and see how the play-tests go and whether or not the Brits have too many or too few troops, or perhaps just the right number.


As with most battles of the Second Afghan War, historical reference concerning Afghan forces engaged at Charasiab consists almost exclusively of contemporary British estimates.  These range from "several thousand" to "thirteen regular regiments, (and) between eight and ten thousand (Tribal) Afghans."  Standard size of Afghan regular infantry regiments on paper was 690 men but of course that does not mean that the 13 Afghan Infantry regiments present at Charasiab were all up to full compliment, and it's very likely that few if any of them were.  There were also a great many Tribesmen ensconced on the mountains above the battlefield to the East and West, who never became engaged in the battle.  How many of them may be counted amongst Lord Robers' "ten-thousand Afghans" I don't know.  If things had gone differently, those additional Tribesmen would no doubt have descended upon the British, but that's not what happened.  For this scenario, I only want to involve the Afghans occupying the hills and mountains on the battlefield itself.

From a more macro view, my "go-to" Colonial rules set The Sword And The Flame (aka: TSATF) suggests a Pathan-to-British ratio of 2:1 for "balanced" games.  But of course, the devil's in the details, and it all comes down to the specifics of the scenario.  The scenario at Charasiab involves a substantial but by no means large Anglo-Indian army facing off against a larger Afghan force occupying a series of very strong defensive positions.  With the British having a grand-total of 192 figures (not counting the reserve, which for now I'm leaving out of play), twice as many troops for the Afghans might just be too much.  On the other hand, in reality the British were facing at least three or four to one odds in terms of troop strength and possibly more.

Commander:  Sardar Nek Muhammad Khan

Other Afghan leaders:          General Ghulam Haidar Khan
                                             General Muhammad Afzal Khan
                                             Sardar Muhammad Zaman Khan

12 Mountain Guns on heights to the West of the Sang-i-Nawishta Gorge
4 Armstrong breechloaders in front of the Gorge (supported by 3 battalions of Regular Infantry)
20 guns in total (4 more guns somewhere on Afghan heights to the West)


4 guns in front of Gorge = 2 guns w/8 crew
12 guns on heights West of Gorge = 6 guns w/24 crew
4 remaining Afghan guns = 2 guns w/8 crew positioned at West edge of heights (…or not, just leave them out???)


2 x 61 fig. tribes ½ rifles, ½ sword-&-shield. . . . .122 Tribal figs
1 x 61 fig. Ghazi tribe, fanatic sword-&-shield. . . . .61 Ghazi figs
2 x 85 fig. regular infantry “Brigades”. . . . . . . . . . .170 Reg. Inf. figs
8 x 4 fig. gun crews. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Art. Figs

GRAND TOTAL:         385 figs

At a figure-to-man ratio of 1:15 this translates to 5,775 men, somewhere on the lower end of British estimates of Afghan strength.  If it turns out the British have too easy a time with the scenario, the Afghan numbers could be increased, but due to the very strong defensive positions I doubt this will be the case.

Another interesting element is what Donald Featherstone might call the "Military Possibilities" concerning additional Afghan troops believed to be on their way to reinforce the Afghan positions at the time the battle took place...


3 Inf. regts. from Ghazni
3 Inf. Regts. from Kohistan
6 Inf. Regts. & 3 Cav. Regts. from Herat (Afghan Turkistan)

IN GAME TERMS this could translate to:

42 Inf. figs from Ghazni
42 Inf. figs from Kohistan
42 Inf. figs & 25 Cav. figs from Herat
(…or 85 Inf. figs & 25 Cav. figs - but is that just too much?!?!)

Again, depending on how well-balanced the scenario proves itself to be during play-testing, use of these potential Afghan reinforcements could provide an "equalizer" -- though my expectation is that it is the British who will probably need more troops, perhaps to be provided by Robers' real-world substantial reserve force, due to the very strong defensive positions occupied by the Afghans at the start of the game.

NOTE:  I have been unable to find ANY MENTION WHATSOEVER of Afghan Cavalry, be it Tribal irregular horsemen or Regular Army Cavalry troopers, being present at Charasiab.  The only mention of any mounted Afghans is a reference to mounted leaders on horseback atop the mountains at the North edge of the battlefield, encouraging their men and mocking the British.  If anyone reading this has read something to the contrary, relating to the presence of any regular or tribal Afghan cavalry being present during the battle, I'd love to hear from you!

Beyond the narrow matter of Afghan cavalry, if anyone out there has some supplementary or contradictory info with regard to the British order-of-battle as discussed above, I'd truly appreciate hearing from you in the comments section below!


This is the first time in a LONG TIME I've put a post up here without any visual content whatsoever.  Even though I highly value the research and thought I put into the above post... I have something I figure I can add to spice things up just a lttle bit -- my homemade version of the Sang-i-Nawishta monument that had stood at the Southern edge of the Sang-i-Nawishta Gorge since it was put there at the order of Mughal Emperor Sha Jahan some time in the early 17th Century.  Shah Jahan ordered a road built through the gorge, linking the Logar Valley with Kabul to the North.  When when the road was done the "Carved in Stone" monument was erected at its Southern entrance to mark the event.  Sang-i-Nawishta translates to "carved in stone" and became the name for the gorge itself.

After his army won the victory and he advanced North and occupied Kabul, General Roberts had the "Sang-i-Nawishta" stone transported to the Sherpur Cantonments and  placed in front of his tent.

Here's my scratchbuilt attempt at a 28mm version, using a couple of garden wood-chips, a square shaped antique Mughal coin and an early 20th Century Iranian coin (turns out the winged lion holding a sword on those Iranian coins is almost identical to the 17th Century Mughal emblem used by Shah Jahan's regime) mounted onto a 40mm Round Rock Base from Itar's Workshop...


  1. Ethan, What a great post. I thoroughly enjoyed the reference works, very cool, awesome reads, very exciting and informative. Thanks for the links. I'm impressed with the research and how you broke down the battle into game terms, especially in units for my favorite rules set TSATF. Oh how I wish I could be there for the play test of yet another Mad Guru epic game!!!! I can't wait to read the AAR's and see pics of the play tests.

    Sterling work sir!

    Sgt. Guinness

  2. AHHHHHH!!!!!! FINALLY, someone left a comment!

    Thanks very, very much for taking the time and effort, Sarge! I have to say I'm pretty happy myself with the research I did to come up with the above Army Lists, and with regard to the Anglo-Indians I'm pretty satisfied with their accuracy. Unfortunately the Afghan Army List is more of an educated guess based on the Brits' own educated estimate.

    I'm still wrestling with fiishing up the terrain, especially the resin for the river boards, which I've been pouring into some little test pieces I built for that purpose. Needless to say, it's a SLOW process! I hope to get the very last board frames built later this week at my friend's shop. I've decided to make a 2'x4' SWAMP BOARD so the Khairabad Marsh dips below ground level same as the two rivers, instead of just lying atop the table as a nice laid-down terrain piece. Using it means I also need one more 2'x2' plain ground-cover board, but that will be a super-easy build compared to what I've been doing!

    OH -- did that tiny pack of figures and heads I sent you show up yet? It was supposed to be delivered this past Saturday -- at least that was what the Post Office machine predicted. If it hasn't arrived yet hopefully it will show up tomorrow...

    I wish you could be here for the play tests too, Jeff, and I hope we'll both be in Metarie, LA, to play it at Colonial Barracks V this coming November!

  3. Hi Ethan,

    The figs have not yet arrived, I will let you know as soon as they do, thank you!!!

    I'm really looking forward to seeing your completed project. Obviously not as much as you are, I'm sure! Lol

    Yes, may we both visit CB again this year brother.


  4. Ethan, the figs and spare heads arrived Saturday afternoon. Thank you very much for taking the time and expense to sends these to me my friend! Your effort is very much appreciated. I'm looking forward to fielding my first unit of Afghan regulars. Thanks to you the units will have a full compliment of troops.

    I think I may have a few of the figs you need and will check my lead pile boxes this coming weekend. The family and work responsibilities have been insurmountable lately leaving me with no hobby time. Tonight was the first night I got to steal any time for my projects.

    Take care my friend!

  5. Very Happy to hear the tiny package arrived, Jeff!