THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Telegrams bring details of siege of the Sherpur Cantonment

From the News Letter, December 15, 1879

British soldiers of the NATO-led forces meet a group of Afghan boys during a routine foot patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan in February 2007. Picture:  AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq
British soldiers of the NATO-led forces meet a group of Afghan boys during a routine foot patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan in February 2007. Picture: AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq

On this day in 1879 the News Letter published a series of telegrams which had been received in London from the British military authorities then on active service in Afghanistan detailing recent developments.

The News Letter noted that the telegrams reported that the current situation in Afghanistan was “more serious than any that has occurred since our troops marched on Cabul [Kabul]”.

On December 8, reported the telegrams, a review had been held in the city when it was noted that “about 5,000” troops were said to be present.

The News Letter recognised the seriousness of the situation, it said: “If the number is correct, it would seem to represent the force available for actual operations; for we must recollect that not every soldier nominally borne on the rolls of the army can be called upon at any moment to fight, unless for a very short time, and under the direst necessity.”

The Afghan forces, it was observed, had been amassing their forces both to the north and the south of the city and would eventually lead to the Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment which began on this day in 1879.

Relief would eventually come on December 23 when a column under the command of Brigadier General Charles Gough who ordered that the cantonment be stormed.

By midday of the assault the Afghans had been dispersed.

No quarter was given to Afghans unlucky enough find themselves captured in the area with weapons.