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"Soldier Sahibs" by Charles Allen.

#1
The sub-title of this book is "The Men Who Made the North-West Frontier". I have just re-read the book following "that" incident in Abbottabad. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around. I have an advantage as I was lucky to be based in Islamabad in the late seventies/early eighties when it was safe to travel around Pakistan, India and Afghanistan (the latter country until late 1979 anyway). At that time I had family Army stories in mind from the thirties and pre-World War 1. I hope the day comes when it will be safe to travel again in this wonderful region although I suspect that it will not be in my own lifetime.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
Zero:

IIRC: The book ends with Nicholson, Hodson and other similarly dangerous chaps going out in a blaze of black smoke during the storming of Delhi - so the John Company period.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
A brilliant book, particularly if you have family links to that period or, more particularly, were caught up in the Mutiny.
 

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#8
A brilliant book, particularly if you have family links to that period or, more particularly, were caught up in the Mutiny.
Careful you'll have tropper reminisicng in a moment!

Word of advice buy any of Charles Allen's Histories or Historical Compilations they are all excellent, I heartily recommend "Plain Tales from the Empire"
 
#9
My Dad has a medal with India on it and the clasp is Afghanistan. What time period does the book cover as I know he was in India in the 1920s and again in 1947?
Ta
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
Fairy, we had a war (our third) in Afghanistan and neighbouring Waziristan in 1919 (try Wiki). My great uncle left his right arm there.
 
#13
Zero:

IIRC: The book ends with Nicholson, Hodson and other similarly dangerous chaps going out in a blaze of black smoke during the storming of Delhi - so the John Company period.
Brigadier-General John Nicholson is still causing controversy today. Believe it or not in relation to the proposed Memorial to the UDR that is going to be erected in Lisburn. It will be close to his statue, as people are comparing the stance of the male figure on the UDR statue to his,saying it is too aggressive, like the one of Nicholson. (his record in the Indian Mutiny is brought up as well)
 
#14
One little niggle from this book that has caused me to reach for my anorak. According to Charles Allen, the "five rivers" from which the Punjab derives it's name are: Indus, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum. Surely, some mistake? It's the Beas, rather than the Indus is it not?
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#15
Since you ask, Falls, it was hit with a slug from a jezail hammered out of stolen Govt of India copper telephone wire. Repeated amputations were needed because of the poisoning caused by the copper.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
I have a (very prospective) publishing project in the works that would cover a fair bit of the same ground as Allen, so pulled his tome off the shelf and have been rereading it.

Very, very good indeed - better than I remembered. There is wide use of original sources, with Allen's travelogue interspersed. Damn. Allen is not great on combat, but even so, it'll be a hell of a job improving upon any of this.

RE: Nicholson
A fascinating figure, indeed. The statue of him running amok in Lisburn, gat in one hand, gut-spiller in the other - a true stormtrooper of empire - is a classic piece of work, hope they leave as is.

As for his record, it is interesting to read the comments of his Mutiny contemporaries: Virtually all of them agreed on the kind of ruthless approach he epitomized. (Breakfast on Delhi Ridge: "Gentlemen, apologies for my lateness - I've been hanging your cooks.") It was those who were removed from the action - either by space or time - who preached a kinder and gentler line.

With the fullness of time, we can now say that the latter approach was the right one, but as always with history, one needs to put oneself in the boots of the men on the ground, making decisions from their perspective and with the info they had, before passing judgment with the broad benefits of hindsight.

Johno:

Was at a pish-up last week and got talking to a Pakistani chap. He was telling me that North West Frontier Province is one of the most beautiful spots on earth, and regretted that it was so dodgy to travel there at present.

A similar view is put forth by some of Allen's sources.
 
#17
Andy S. Northern Pakistan is, indeed, stunningly beautiful, as is Kashmir. "In my day" I drove through the Khyber Pass and the Kabul Gorge many times, sometimes with my wife and very young sons, in a Mark III Ford Escort. We had a picnic with another Brit family at Mardan, posed for photos at places like the Attock Bridge, the Nicholson Monument and the confluence of the Kabul and the Indus. I could go on....it is so sad that this is no longer possible. A former Pakistan army officer, now resident in the UK, traveled in NWFP a couple of years ago, on charitable work following the earthquake. Luckily for him, one of his old army pals was now a Brigadier and he arranged an armed escort throughout the trip. Otherwise the trip would have been impossible. This is all so very sad.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#19
Johno:

Ye sound like an interesting chap, sir. I will be in the UK in late June/early July, mainly London, but will also be presenting in Aldershot and NI. (I'll shed a bit more light on this when my next tome hits the shelves on 1 June.)

Wonder if you'd care to meet? Speaking of which, where you are located? If you want to take this to PM, please do.
 
#20
Andy S: I'm not that interesting...and I am in New England at the same time you are in London. Send me a message and we can arrange to exchange e-mails or maybe Skype.
 

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