Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pure History

Last Stand of the 44th at Gandamak, 1842
William Barnes Wollen (Source)
My brother-in-arms across the pond had this great post the other day. Made me think it did.

The West has had its great empires: the Macedonians of Alexander, the Romans, the Spaniards, the French, the Germans and of course our own forebears, the British.

Some exploited the lands they conquered, some brought peace and prosperity and a legacy of freedom to the lands they held so long.

Great Britain was once the Motherland to our own land and to our brothers and sisters to the north. Think of some of the countries where Tommy Atkins soldiered and where British commerce held sway.

The United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the largest democracy - India.

Yes, there was strife, there were iniquities and no small measure of suffering for the native population. The original peoples of most of those countries were displaced and marginalized for the most part. With the notable exception of India.

Commerce followed the flag in those days. The never ending search for new markets and new sources of raw materials drove this small island nation ever outwards.

Leaving many a legacy for those who followed.

Of all the empires which ever flourished and then passed into history, the British Empire, for all its faults, was, in my opinion, the best. Mankind has benefited greatly from the legacy of those shopkeepers, sailors and soldiers.

History is fact. People may have opinions but what was remains and cannot be rewritten by those with an agenda.

The Brits paid the price on many an occasion.

Still they soldier on...

Remnants of an Army
Elizabeth Butler
Depicting the arrival of assistant surgeon, William Brydon, at Jalalabad on 13 January 1842. (Source)

The story behind the paintings...
The 44th Foot fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War and the regiment initially formed the advance and later the rearguard on the retreat from Kabul. After a continuous running battle in two feet of snow, the force had been reduced to fewer than forty men. On 13 January 1842, the few survivors of the decimated regiment made a last stand against Afghan tribesmen on a rocky hill near the village of Gandamak. The ground was frozen and icy. The men had no shelter and were starving. Only a dozen of the men had working muskets, the officers their pistols and a few unbroken swords. When the Afghans surrounded them on the morning of the 13th the Afghans announced that a surrender could be arranged. "Not bloody likely!" was the bellowed answer of one British sergeant. Only a few men survived the massacre. Most notable was Captain Thomas Souter, who by wrapping the regimental colors around himself was taken prisoner, being mistaken by the Afghans as a high military official, also Sergeant Fair and seven other soldiers were taken prisoner. One more, Surgeon William Brydon, made it back to the British garrison at Jalalabad on the afternoon of the same day. The only member of the 44th to get away... W&W

May there always be an England!

(And a Scotland, an Ireland and a Wales for that matter.)


  1. "Of all the empires which ever flourished and then passed into history, the British Empire, for all its faults, was, in my opinion, the best. Mankind has benefited greatly from the legacy of those shopkeepers, sailors and soldiers."

    On balance, I agree for relatively modern Empires. The early to middle Roman Empire did rather well, too IMO.

    1. I agree with you on the Romans Cap'n. Some of their engineering work can still be seen long after the last Legionary departed.

    2. Yes indeed. While stationed in Italy, a Roman road (Still in use) ran by our apartment. Chariot wheel ruts worn in it. Lots of that thereabouts, Impressive.

    3. Very practical engineers those Romans.

  2. History records that no one changes Afghanistan for long.

    1. Not even the Afghans can do that.

      Still very tribal in most of the country away from Kabul.

  3. OldAFSarge, here is a post from a blog, that is unfortunately relatively dormant, about gandamak:

    Let me know what you think.

    1. Superb! Thanks for the link. A fascinating look at modern Afghanistan. Seeing photos of where the 44th made their stand sent chills up my spine.

    2. Not a problem, glad you like it.

    3. Hopefully the guy posts some more!

  4. ...always be a USS ENGLAND.

    It is a great pity that the name has lapsed. She was a very good destroyer.

    1. Sinking six Japanese destroyers in the space of 12 hours is amazing.

      Don't get me started on how our ships are currently being named. Some good choices, some hideously bad and downright insulting.

  5. I have always admired Kipling and I am reminded of this:

    When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

  6. I've always had the warmest regard for my cousins who struggle so with the language! We're two peoples divided by a common language, as they say.