Fragment of silk, reputedly from a Sikh flag, 1st Afghan War, 1842
Silk with dye pigment.
In January 1842, following the murder of British diplomats, including Sir William Hay MacNaghten, 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.
This fragment of silk was associated by its donor with his ancestor Frances Tazeena Waller, named after her place of birth, Fort Tezeen, Afghanistan. Her mother Anne was five months pregnant with Frances when the Waller family left Kabul with the garrison. Anne's husband, Lieutenant Robert Waller, had been wounded and so travelled into the passes with his wife and their 14-month-old daughter Selina rather than his battery.
The long column came under immediate attack as it struggled through the cold, mountainous terrain en route to Jellalabad.
Waller was taken hostage, with his wife Annie and their daughter Selina, on 9 January 1842, when the British commanders were persuaded to hand over several women, children and wounded officers in return for supplies and a safe escort for the column. At Fort Tezeen, Anne gave birth to Frances in April, 'on the ground of a hovel…rain pouring in on every part, and the floor one perfect swamp of wet mud'. The Wallers were eventually released on 21 September 1842 after the Army of Retribution reached Kabul.
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National Army Museum, Study Collection