|Corporal and Company Officer in Foreign Service Dress.
70th (Surrey) Regiment was committed to the 2nd Afghan
War. During the period between 1878 and 1880, no less than thirty-one
regiments of cavalry and eighty battalions of infantry from both
the British and Indian Army had become involved. Many were responsible
for guarding the lines of communication through the passes of
Khyber, Kuram and Bolam.
|Private of the 31st in home service dress and the newly introduced
Home Service helmet.
The beginning of the War had similarities with the 1st Afghan
conflict with the British fearing the influence of the Russians
in Afghanistan and the potential threat to British India. Initially,
the Afghan Amir accepted a Russian Mission to Kabul, but refused
a British one. An ultimatum to the Amir followed and in November
1878, the British force crossed the frontier and advanced on Kabul.
The Amir, Sher Ali, was defeated the following month, his son,
Yakub Khan, was put into power and a treaty was signed. Unfortunately,
in September 1879, the British envoy in Kabul, Sir Louis Cavagnari,
Major-General Frederick Roberts, known as “Little Bobs”
and later Lord Roberts of Kandahar, led the Kuram Valley Field
Force as the nucleus of the British force and moved towards Kabul.
Meanwhile, the Afghans were calling for a holy war or “jihad”
against the British. An Afghan Army was defeated at Charasiah
on 6th October 1879 and Kabul was occupied a few days later. The
British campaign went well until news was received of a defeat
at Maiwand; there, Ayub Khan had decimated a British battalion
and its artillery and, as a result, was marching on Kandahar.
Roberts then began his famous Kabul to Kandahar march; 313 miles
across mountainous terrain was covered by 10,000 men in just twenty-two
days. Ayub Khan and his allies were defeated and the British forces
left Afghanistan in 1881.
70th (Surrey) Regiment had marched from Quetta to Kandahar
in November 1878 and suffered greatly from the cholera and other
diseases. It did not take part in any major battles, but it was
involved in many frequent skirmishes with dissident Ghazis and
they helped keep open the vital lines of communication between
the British forces and India.