I am going to give this journal writing another try because Lady Sales says I really need to vent my anger out on paper or else I will vent my anger out on one of the god damn pigs taunting us as they guard us. The bastards. And I am too sick from typhus now to put up much of a fight.
Where do I start?
We were posted at Ghazni Fort when Afghanistan went rotten. Why the fuck Britain is even in this fucking hell hole is beyond me. Let Dost Muhammad have the fucking place. The bastards call it Yaghestan. That means Land of Rebellion. They see the place like a woman in purdah. Veiled. Holy. A thing that cannot be violated by profane eyes. Fuck. The Sikhs say when Allah created the world he found a bunch of stones left over and he tossed them all in a pile and called it Afghanistan. That is all the god damn place is. A pile of stones. Big stones. Small stones. Mountains. Cliffs. Gorges between mountains. Rocky passes between mountain ranges. A few miserable valleys like Swat that they don’t even farm because the savages just spend their lives fighting each other. The only time they stop fighting each other is when they fight anyone who is stupid enough to come into Afghanistan. Like us. We were told the Russians were invading so we came because the Russians were suppose to be invading and all were found were stones and god damn savages. I knew that the moment we saw their god damn handiwork.
As we arrived Chamberlain and others of the English officers on temporary duty did a detour to show us red necked green horn ‘griffins’ one of the wonders of Ghuzni: it was a famous monument to Buddha called the Tapar Sardar. That is a sort of artificial hill-like temple with a dome which guarded a gigantic reclining Buddha carved into the face rock. Chamberlain kept talking and talking about how wonderful a sight it was suppose to be. Sort like an Indian Sphinx. A sort a wonder of the world. He had a drawing in a book and everything. Except when we rode up all we saw was vandalized ruins all smashed to pieces and destroyed. The savages had destroyed every part they could reach. That was when I knew in my guts Ghuzni was not going to turn out well.
I was posted to Ghuzni Fort under Colonel Palmer. I was a young cadet. A new Lieutenant. A ‘griffin’ the veterans call raw recruits just arrived to India. Ghuzni rests on a mountain over 70 feet high with massive walls over 50 feet high and over 30 feet thick. It was an old Mughal fort, all huge stones and moldering semi-ruined buildings deep and massive to withstand the extremes of weather. And weather is a bitch. Either it is Hot Weather and then it is 120 degrees, or else it is Monsoon and then it is flooding and humid and raining all of the time, or else it is Cold Weather which is nice some days but freezing and snowy other days. So the deep massive vaults and barracks were fine and the deep cisterns were quite striking: huge cave-like pools like mountain lakes cool and still and dark. But the damn fort was too damn big for our tiny garrison to hold.
Uncle Hogg warned me and he was right. Other nations have armies. Huge armies. Britain has a huge navy to control the oceans to guard world trade and a tiny army. Other nations collect real estate. Britain collects sea ports. Other nations keep huge armies because they dream of world conquest. Britain just wants to guard it’s world trade ie it’s collection of sea ports. We are the only fucking nation in the entire history of the world to accidentally conquer half of the fucking planet just because we live and die by world trade. No one in ‘John Company’ or HM for that matter, wants to be Caesar or Napoleon. We just have to keep the world safe for businessmen and insurance companies and brokers and bankers and lawyers like Uncle Hogg. Ego and laurel crowns be damned! We are here to allow people like my Uncle Hogg to make money and get rich in relative safety and stability.
In India ‘John Company’ hires mercenary infantry soldiers called sepoys and mercenary cavalry called sowars to augment the ridiculously tiny ‘John Company’ army and even more ridiculously tiny HM Army. That is because Britain is suppose to just be a sea power. Britain was never suppose to be in India. India was an accident. An historical accident. Somehow we ended up in the wrong place and somehow by some freak accident we ended up all but ruling it. But it was not suppose to happen that way. Canada was suppose to happen. America. Except they kicked our butts. Australia. Even Singapore and Hong Kong. But India? How the hell did we end up all but ruling India? So because of a historical accident I ended up in some tiny garrison too small to guard a moldering old fort that was too large, perched on top of a small mountain, in the middle of desolate mountains, in the middle of nowhere, beside a village full of dirty savages howling how much they wanted to kill us.
We were suppose to be guarding a diplomatic mission but in fact we were all but surrounded by savages who hated our guts. Then it all went to shit and suddenly the main army was fleeing through the Khyber Pass. Sir Alexander Brunes was being butchered alive. Sir William Macnaghten was assassinated. Akbar Khan carved the man’s heart out while it was still beating. He held it up on his hand as he screamed he was going to slaughter every single Englishman west of the Khyber Pass. The whole diplomatic mission, including women and children, were butchered in the deep snows of the Knyber Pass. Captain Souter and his 44th Regiment were butchered except for Souter. They let him live or at least that is the rumor of the day. He was wearing a gaudy cummerbund so the Afghans thought he was some rich guy they could hold for ransom. The gaudy cummerbund was the regimental colors rolled up around his waist so the savages would not seize the regimental colors — as if they would either know or care.
By the time we heard about the disaster, one of the greatest military disasters our country ever sustained, we were surrounded. Ghazni Fort, along with the forts of Jalalabad and Kandahar were cut off, surrounded and sitting ducks. Oh yes. Did I mention it was also the dead of winter? The mobs were howling at us. The fort was surrounded and under attack. We did not know if Auckland in Calcutta was going to abandon us or try to send reinforcements or some sort of a rescue column. It was now winter in the mountains of the Frontier. Freezing. Snow five feet deep inside the fort. And it was a drafty, miserable fort in the best of times and now it was the worst of times.
Major Palmer put the fort on half rations trying to compute how long we could hold out. We did for months. Scurvy and frostbite soon bedeviled us all. The worst part was there were women and children. Why the fuck the Military allows women and children in military missions on the Frontier is beyond me. But the fort with it’s huge moat defied the savages howling below us. We beat off every assault. Their cannon was lousy but to our consternation their handmade matchlock muskets were damn good. Frankly, better than our muskets. But two kids died of scurvy and one of the women died too. That gutted a lot of the men to see that. It was embarrassing to see grown men cry. I was taught to never cry by my Mother and Minister and school teachers who all took turns flogging softness out of me. So it was shocking to see grown men, big hairy Scots, bawling over some dead child. I wonder what the Hindu sepoys thought of it all. I gather they think life is a continuous merry-go-round of reincarnation so what is one particular life worth? I was sorry about the kids but God damn it! Those civilians should never have been allowed to come!
Finally the Afghans called a truce and the leader of the bastards produced a Letter apparently written and signed by the Commander of Kabul who was being held hostage. It purported to order us to surrender the fort to the Afghans. Palmer could not tell if the letter was even genuine or if the officer signed it with a gun pointed to his head or what. Palmer played for time but finally on March 6 he surrendered despite all of our protests. I thought we should go down fighting to the last man. Why surrender to savages who would just see surrender as weakness and degrade our corpses after they slaughter us in cold blood?
Things did not look good. They quickly got worse…..