'The last stand of the 44th East Essex Regiment at Gandamuk, 12th January 1842'
Watercolour by Richard Simkin (1851-1926), 1915.
After installing Shah Shuja as Emir of Aghanistan in August 1839 the British force that had captured Kabul and overthrown Dost Mohammed was withdrawn. Two envoys and a small garrison were left in the city. Popular opposition to Shah Shuja and resentment of the British grew. It soon developed into an insurrection led by Dost Mohammad's son, Muhammad Akbar Khan. The British diplomats, including Sir William Hay MacNaghten, were murdered and the garrison was eventually forced to surrender.
In January 1842 the Kabul garrison of 4,500 British and Indian troops with 12,000 camp followers marched out of the city with the promise that it would be allowed to retreat to India in safety. It came under immediate attack as it struggled through the cold, mountainous terrain and only a few troops escaped massacre at the Gandamak Pass. When the Afghans surrounded these survivors on 12 January they offered surrender terms once more. This was refused. According to legend, one British NCO shouted back: 'Not bloody likely'. Only a handful of men, including Dr. W. Brydon, survived to tell the tale.
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National Army Museum, Out of Copyright
National Army Museum, Study collection
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