Siege of Malakand
The Siege of Malakand took place between 26 July – 2 August 1897. The British faced a force of Pashtun tribesmen whose tribal lands had been bisected by the Durand Line. The unrest caused by this division led to the rise of Saidullah. Saidullah led an army of at least 10,000 against the British garrison.
About Siege of Malakand in brief
The Siege of Malakand took place between 26 July – 2 August 1897. The British faced a force of Pashtun tribesmen whose tribal lands had been bisected by the Durand Line. The line was drawn up at the end of the Anglo-Afghan wars to help hold back what the British feared to be the Russian Empire’s spread of influence towards the Indian subcontinent. The unrest caused by this division led to the rise of Saidullah. Saidullah led an army of at least 10,000 against the British garrison. The siege was lifted when a relief column dispatched from British positions to the south was sent to assist General William Hope Meiklejohn, commander of the British forces. Winston Churchill, who would accompany the relief force as a second lieutenant and war correspondent, described the camp as a great cup, of which the rim is broken into numerous clefts and jagged points. At the bottom of this cup is the ‘crater’ camp. Churchill goes on to state that the camp was viewed as purely temporary and was indefensible, as a result of its cramped conditions and the fact that it was dominated by the surrounding heights. The town of Nowshera was located south of the Kabul River and served as a hospital while the normal garrison was serving 47 miles away in what was known as the Malak and South Camp. A nearby camp, North Malkand, was also established on the plains of Khar, intended to hold the large number of troops that were unable to fit into the main camp.
Both of these positions were garrisoned for two years with little fear of attack by a 1,000 strong force. Officers brought regular polo matches and shooting competitions, and the camp held regular poli matches and Shooting competitions. Towards 1897 news of unrest in the nearby Pash Tun villages had reached the British garrisons within the British West Frontier Province. British political agent, Major Deane, noted the growing unrest and warned the British. His warnings were officially distributed to senior officers on 23 July, however, nothing more than a minor skirmish was expected of a new religious leader, Saidullah, arriving to the Sartor Fakir, arriving to become the new leader of the bazaars of the Great Fakullah. He became known to the British as the ‘Madakir’ or the Mullah or Mullah Mullah. He was killed by the British in August 1897, but the British were able to hold out for six days against the much larger Pashton army. The battle was one of the most significant battles of the late 19th century, with the other being the Battle of Bhopal in 1899. The Battle of the Bulge in 1899 saw the fall of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Indian state of Zabul in the north-east of the country. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the British and the Russians were locked in a bitter rivalry for influence in Central Asia.