THE RELIEF OF CHITRAL.*
To all who can enjoy military history this will be a fascinating book. It is written in conjunction by Captain F. E. Young- husband, formerly political officer at Chitral, and during the campaign correspondent of the Times, and his brother, Captain G. J. Younghusband, of the Guides who was with his regiment in General Low's force through the whole affair. Its information is therefore all first-hand, and as it is charm. ingly written, even the ordinary reader, while anathematising a few sentences of detail only interesting to soldiers, will find himself unable to lay it down. The cause of the war, the arrest of Captain Ross, the advance of General Low, Colonel Kelly's rush, the defence of Chitral, and the relief of Chitral, are all described with a lucid brevity and clearness which never fatigue. It was a wonderful little campaign ; but to our minds the most interesting part of the book is the incidental proof it contains, that in spite of the success of Colonel Kelly's small force, the military authorities were in the right in their careful preparations. They knew they might have to meet thirty thousand hill-clansmen, and the hill-clansmen are of this type :— " Of the enemy's bravery it is difficult to speak too highly, and individual cases were conspicuous. One leader, carrying a large red and white banner, called on his men to charge the Scottish Borderers when they were half way up the hill. The charge was made, but all his followers gradually fell, till the leader alone was left. Nothing daunted he held steadily on, now and again falling, heavily hit, but up and on again without a moment's delay, till at last he was shot dead close to the line. More desperate courage than this is difficult to imagine. Again, one of the enemy's drummers, not content with taking his fair share of risks, persisted in mounting on to the roof of a hut, where he showed up clear and conspicuous against the sky line, and thence cheered on his comrades Every now and again a bullet would find him out, and he would drop to dress his wounds, and then again mounting recommenced beating his drum. At last a bullet got him through the heart, and he fell headlong a hundred yards down the cliff, and there lay stark dead, but with his drum round his neck, and his arms ready raised to strike it."
Moreover, there were endless castles occupying points of van- tage, many of which would have to be stormed; and the castles were built after this fashion :—
" The fort is called Ramora, and lay east of Chakdara, being Umra Khan's advanced fort, with which he practically dominated the entire Swat Valley. This was captured after a short resist- ance, and sentenced to be blown up by the Sappers. But sentence was one thing, and execution another. A heavy charge was placed at the foot of one of the towers, the train lighted, and the spectators stood afar off, expecting to see the whole structure lifted sky high. There was a very loud report indeed, but that was all, for the tower stood perfectly unmoved. On further examination it was found that the base of each tower was per- fectly solid masonry from the foundation to fifteen feet above ground line, whilst the walls above were of immense thickness. All the forts built by Umra Khan were of the same pattern, that is, four-cornered, with one of these strong towers at each corner, and with high walls of great thickness and carefully loopholed forming the four sides. Our artillery could make no impression on these forts."
Their defenders, too, besides being brave, were men of very singular vitality:—
• Tho Relief of Chitral. By Captain G. J. Yonnghtisband and Captain F. E. Younghn-band, C.I.E. London: hlacm:Pan aril Co.
"Several curious cases of the vitality of the wounded was fur- nished by both sides. A man of the Guides, hit in the region of the stomach, climbed down to the foot of the pass, and walked five miles back to the Field Hospital, supported by a comrade. One of the enemy on the other hand, with no less than six bullets through him, walked all the way to Chakdara, nine miles off, and was afterwards treated by our surgeons, and, strange to say, made a rapid recovery. There is no doubt that Asiatics can stand wounds inflicted by sword or bullet infinitely better than Europeans can. Wounds that would kill a European, or at any rate lay him up for months, affect these hardy and abstemious mountaineers in a very much less severe manner. Imagine, for instance, having the whole lock of an exploded gun blown into one's shoulder, and going about as if nothing in particular had happened ! Yet such a lock was cut out of a man's shoulder months after the occurrence by one of our surgeons. Marvellous cases of recovery, without number, might be told, but perhaps the case of quite a young boy is as typical as any. Like boys in any other part of the world, hearing that a fight was going to take place hard by, he naturally determined to go and look on. Whilst he was thoroughly enjoying himself in all the excitement of the fight, and probably throwing stones vigorously, a stray bullet hit him in the arm, passing through it in several places and splinter- ing it badly. When the pass was taken he was found lying wounded, and his wound was examined. The doctors decided that he must have his arm cut off, or mortification would cer- tainly set in, and they gave the boy the choice between death or the amputation of his ann. He chose the former, but in a few days instead of being dead he was better, and in a few days more was out and about again."
In such a region inhabited by such men, defended by such
works, it does not do for an expedition to be too weak, and the Government of India was therefore right in its careful preparations, its large supplies—take the single item of twenty-eight thousand pack-animals—and its consequently great expenditure. The tribesmen had a leader in whom they trusted too, and the Government of India may possibly attach more importance to the following strangely suggestive story than our authors apparently do :— "One evening before the Eritish advance began, after attend- ing evening prayers on the praying platform in the clump of ehenars below Munda fort, Umra Khan, turning to his followers, said : I have just received a letter from Gholam Hyder, the Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan army. His proposal is that I shall invade the Peshawar Valley by way of the Malakand with thirty thousand men, and that he will co-operate through the Khyber Pass with ten thousand men. What say you, my brave warriors P' Whereupon the whole assembly arose with a mighty shout, 'To Peshawnr !' travestying a somewhat more celebrated cry which was heard in Europe in 1870. Whether such a letter had been received or not, and whether, if it had been, it was any- thing more than one of those neighbourly acts by which, in the East, one friend lures another to certain destruction, it is not necessary here to discuss. The anecaote is merely told as showing the immense confidence Umra Khan had in his own powers, and the faith his followers had in his skill. Years of conquest, and years of unchequered success, had led the petty border chieftain into half thinking that he could withstand the power of a mighty empire. It was a thousand pities that this chief took up the attitude he did. If he had chosen to be the friend of the British he might now be despotic ruler of all the country which lies between Chitral and the Peshawar Valley, with the firm affiance of the British Government at his back."
Umra Khan's men, too, were all experienced, knew how to mine forts, and repeatedly displayed, to the admiring despair of the defenders of Chitral, the highest skill in devising plans for attack. All they lacked that the British had was the discipline which even in the Sikhs had become second nature: "After poor Baird I think the subject on which the officers of the garrison spoke most feelingly, was the devotion and noble spirit of discipline and determination shown by the Sikhs. There were but a hundred of them in a garrison of nearly four hundred, but the officers said that without them they could never have held out, and that but for these Sikhs not one of them would have been there now. These Sikh soldiers only grew more enthusiastic as the siege became closer and times seemed harder. With calm self- reliance they stood proudly at bay like a rock with the waves beat- ing against it. And so great was the sense of discipline which their stern old native officer Gurmurkh Singh instilled into them, that when during an attack the sick struggled out of hospital to join in the fight he would not excuse even their impulsive bravery, but told them that a soldier's first duty was to obey, that they had been ordered to hospital and there they must stay. It was the discipline ingrained into these men that saved the garrison. As long as a Sikh was on sentry, while Sikhs were holding a threatened point, Captain Townshend had nothing to fear. The enemy would never catch a Sikh off his guard and could never force their way through a post of Sikhs while one remained alive. They saved the garrison, and the officers gratefully acknowledged their service."
Our extracts are unusually long for our comments, but they will show the quality of this book better than we could. They increase our longing for the great book by Captain F. E. Younghusband on The Heart of a Continent, which is, we believe, to appear in December.