Afghanistan - The Great Game - A personal view by Rory Stewart

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
There was a bit missing from the 1840 part, which was that our forces were set up in an absolutely indefensible position. But Rory has spent a lot of time in the area and appears keen to frat with the locals.

My grandmother always maintained that her father 'rode with Lord Roberts from Kabul to Kandahar' but I have never been able to substantiate that from original sources.
 
#4
It was pretty much as you would expect from the beeb, unbalanced. It was unbalanced because it drew too heavily and uncritically from the Afghan side. An Afghan interviewee laughed at the idea that a british column could be outgunned, but that is precisly what happened at Maiwand. The Afghans under Ayub Khan massively outnumbered the British even before being joined by 6000 British-equipped Afghans who mutinied and abandoned their blocking position at Girishk, they had a 30 guns (inc 14 pounders) to 12 superiority, and much more ammunition. The British guns having only 50 rounds per gun due to transport logistics problems and had dumped a lot of ammo into the Helmand river. Even so, the Afghans had 5x as many casualties as the british, who did eventually manage a fighting retreat to khandahar.
A bad defeat certainly..but the Afghans had had to put in a mighty effort against a numerically smaller and "outgunned" opponent.
 
#5
#6
I liked the bit where the Afghan emigre living in London fondly reminisced about the glory of Maiwand and how it's coded into Afghan DNA. I wonder if child prostitution and endless civil war are also encoded as well.
 
#7
I'm not sure it's fair to blame the Beeb, the show was written & produced by Mr Stewart.

He's not an ignorant man but I think he might be suffering from a touch of 'Lawrence-of-Arabia' syndrome. He's quite good in Parliament.
 
#8
I'm not sure it's fair to blame the Beeb, the show was written & produced by Mr Stewart.

He's not an ignorant man but I think he might be suffering from a touch of 'Lawrence-of-Arabia' syndrome. He's quite good in Parliament.
Funny you should say that. T E Stewart did a doc recently about his alter ego, including a shot of himself walking along a railway line.

I always thought Rory should have had himself buggered by the Turks ... for research purposes, natch.

He could have done a piece to camera while the Pasha flicked his scrotum with a glint in his eye.
 
#9
I always thought Rory should have had himself buggered by the Turks ... for research purposes, natch.

He could have done a piece to camera while the Pasha flicked his scrotum with a glint in his eye.
The SAS briefed him about being raped, according to his book, so he was well on his way.

Takes some balls to walk across Afghanistan with nowt but a stick, some paracetamol and a half-dead dog to keep you company.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#10


'Saving the Guns at Maiwand'
 
#11
The SAS briefed him about being raped, according to his book, so he was well on his way.

Takes some balls to walk across Afghanistan with nowt but a stick, some paracetamol and a half-dead dog to keep you company.
I'd forgotten the dog. It was a horrible, bad tempered beast. I think it was called N... oh..

He's a good egg is Mr Stewart, imho, even though he sometimes comes across as the Stephen Fry of military history. In his mind's eye, he has got his frock on, strolling across the roof of a train.
 
#12
I'd forgotten the dog. It was a horrible, bad tempered beast. I think it was called N... oh..

He's a good egg is Mr Stewart, imho, even though he sometimes comes across as the Stephen Fry of military history. In his mind's eye, he has got his frock on, strolling across the roof of a train.
Cracking bit of cinema that.

I quite enjoyed the programme, made me want to dig out Peter Hopkin's On Secret Service East of Constantinople from whever it has gone in the admin vortex of my place.

I do wonder what a chap like Mr Stewart will do as an MP. Can't be for long surely, I can't see him to happy with the professional politicians of the Whitehall village. Boring sycophants, and I am astounded by the spread between really thick and hyper-bright-but all hot-housed.

I seem to think he won't fit the "I always listened to my party's call and I never thought of thinking for myself at all" way it seems done at Westminster.

Did like one of his offerings in Parliament was quite interesting:

We need to remember at times like this how vital is the ability to set out our limits, to set out a strategy and vision, to explain exactly, as this Government are doing, and to continue to explain more clearly to the public, exactly what Britain believes and what our strategy is—that peculiar mixture of pragmatism and belief in rights, a belief not just in ideals but in common sense, expressed in a world that understands that today of all times a residence can be much more powerful than a regiment, a Tuareg specialist than a Tornado, an Arabist than an aircraft carrier, and that the Foreign Office is our strength, our nation, and our defence
HoC 28/11/11
 
#13
Reading the thread title I actually thought this was about a book I read titled Shooting Leave - Spying Out Central Asia In The Great Game by John Ure. The book centres very much on Afghanistan and doesn't really, from memory, delve into any of the modern history instead focusing on the great game of the 19th century. Fantastic book that I would highly recommend.
I'll need to look into this programme though. Has anyone read Shooting Leave and do they know if this programme is along the same lines?

Sent from my brick using poo stained fingers
 
#14
Cracking bit of cinema that.

I quite enjoyed the programme, made me want to dig out Peter Hopkin's On Secret Service East of Constantinople from whever it has gone in the admin vortex of my place.

I do wonder what a chap like Mr Stewart will do as an MP. Can't be for long surely, I can't see him to happy with the professional politicians of the Whitehall village. Boring sycophants, and I am astounded by the spread between really thick and hyper-bright-but all hot-housed.

I seem to think he won't fit the "I always listened to my party's call and I never thought of thinking for myself at all" way it seems done at Westminster.

Did like one of his offerings in Parliament was quite interesting:


HoC 28/11/11
Cracking book, that. Agreed, El Stewart won't last long in the Palace of cnuts. He's far too close to the Royals to have his heart in what we might call public service.

The only slight beef I had with him, apart from the need to emulate the saintly Lawrence in such a cartoon way was his charity in Kabul. It was - occasionally - a case of buying up old buildings, hoofing the poor beggars who lived in them out on the street with a brogue up their hoop, in order to 'restore' it and flog it on for a profit.
 

sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
#15
a good piece of historic reporting , it seems that even in 2000 the lessons were lost . Of course the programme was biased towards the Afghans , it was about their history . However it didn't mention the internal infighting and attempted coups that have plagued them since time immemorial . Yon feller has been there done it and got the bow legs from all his walking in the region . Cant wait to see Wednesdays episode .
 
#16
I liked the bit where the Afghan emigre living in London fondly reminisced about the glory of Maiwand and how its coded into Afghan DNA. I wonder if child prostitution and endless civil war is also encoded as well.
It maybe.


A few years ago I took a group from a London comprehensive school to the battlefields of the Great War. As we were driving through the countryside I asked them what they could see out of the windows and what that might mean if they were soldiers.
"I can see a hill".
"So what?"
"You can hide up there and shoot your enemy, then run away before they catch you"
"where are you from?
"Afghanistan"

That was the lad at 2.10 posing with the tin hat, sunglasses, scarf and SMLE.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msVSOTLVzz8
A well organised shcool with good teachers. A pleasure to take around the battlefields.
 
#18
Reading the thread title I actually thought this was about a book I read titled Shooting Leave - Spying Out Central Asia In The Great Game by John Ure. The book centres very much on Afghanistan and doesn't really, from memory, delve into any of the modern history instead focusing on the great game of the 19th century. Fantastic book that I would highly recommend.
I'll need to look into this programme though. Has anyone read Shooting Leave and do they know if this programme is along the same lines?

Sent from my brick using poo stained fingers
I'll be having a look for that one, thanks mate.

I'm sure Hopkirk (think I got the name wrong in my original post, sorry) wrote a couple of books about Colonial Service Int/political officers. I can't remember and my stuff is in crates over about three different counties due to (b)admin.

Reading "The Intelligencers", the point is made that our G2 was always run by slightly eccentric, talented people and we required them to be in the right place at the right time. The Ashanti ring in Africa in the late 19th Century and so forth. Wonder if now that sort of thing would work. I read a bit on the tinternet somewhere that said the Cousins liked recruiting Mormons into their intelligence services as they had tended to do lots of missionary work and were easy to vet. We shall see, I suppose. Can't see clean living people sitting down nicely with evil people and talking with them.

Then again I had a history professor who stressed the personnel running through the post-war British experience of insurgency. To the point that the Palestine Police tie was black and tan! Then you have people from the Mau Mau turning up in NI when it kicks off (and writing that infamous book, Low Intesity Operations).

How far it goes as a theory to preserve experience I don't know, good theory however.

If you are into such strange stories and places, may I draw to the attention of ARRSE a book called "In a Sea of Knowledge", about the teaching of Arabic in Britain. it had a longer history than I suspected. it is also good because it is form a non-military pespective. Good for people to be reminded that sometimes you might just like foreign languages and are learning them for that reason, doesn't mean you want to be tapped on the shoulder and asked "Didn't we meet at Oxford? Have you every thought of visiting me down at Vauxhall...." or are into simulated drowning.

Anyway, long may strange people go to strange places and rely on the their languages, their politness and their sense of humour.

Cracking book, that. Agreed, El Stewart won't last long in the Palace of cnuts. He's far too close to the Royals to have his heart in what we might call public service.

The only slight beef I had with him, apart from the need to emulate the saintly Lawrence in such a cartoon way was his charity in Kabul. It was - occasionally - a case of buying up old buildings, hoofing the poor beggars who lived in them out on the street with a brogue up their hoop, in order to 'restore' it and flog it on for a profit.
Proper Tory then.

Have they privatised the ANP yet? :)
 
#19
Reading the thread title I actually thought this was about a book I read titled Shooting Leave - Spying Out Central Asia In The Great Game by John Ure. The book centres very much on Afghanistan and doesn't really, from memory, delve into any of the modern history instead focusing on the great game of the 19th century. Fantastic book that I would highly recommend.
I'll need to look into this programme though. Has anyone read Shooting Leave and do they know if this programme is along the same lines?

Sent from my brick using poo stained fingers
Yes, a copy was given to me last summer. Political Officers....remarkable capability and a principle/concept that may have been useful in recent years?!
 

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