Afghanistan 1878-80

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There were two distinct phases in this war, which were caused by British fears of Russian involvement in Afghan affairs, the decades-long power struggle known as ‘the great game’. The first phase (1878-79) began when Shere Ali, the pro-Russian Afghan Amir [ruler], refused to accept a British Resident and signed a treaty with Russia. An ultimatum was sent to the Afghans, and when this was ignored three columns entered the country in November 1878. The Afghans were defeated at Ali Musjid and Peiwar Khotal, and as the British advanced, the Afghans sued for peace. The Amir accepted a Resident in return for a large annuity, and Major Caagnari was sent to Kabul. However, in September 1879 Cavagnari and his escort were massacred and the war recommenced. There was much more fighting in the second phase than in the first. General Roberts marched on Kabul, defeating the Afghans en route at Charasia, and reached the capital in October 1879. A full-scale action took place, and the city fell. There was then a lull in the fighting until April 1880, when another large battle was fought at Ahmed Khel near Ghuznee. In July 1880, General Burrows was severely defeated at Maiwand, near Kandahar, the Horse Artillery and 66th Foot suffering heavily. The force withdrew into Kanahar where it was besieged by a large Afghan force. Roberts collected a force at Kabul and made an epic march to Kandahar, where in a major battle on 1st September 1880, he soundly defeated the Afghans. Following this peace was agreed and the troops withdrew. A wide range of British and Indian troops were involved.

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