By Victoria Schofield
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Extra resources for Afghan Frontier: Feuding and Fighting in Central Asia
Twelve miles long and half as wide, it is surrounded by mountains. Captain Shadwell, who was one of those who came fighting into Tirah in 1897, found that it was unlike any valley he had seen before. ‘When one talks of a valley, people who have not been in India, especially in the northern part of it, probably picture to themselves a valley such as one sees in England with the meadows gently sloping down to the river, which flows peacefully along in the centre. ’ During heavy rainfall the water pours off the spurs on either side in torrents, ‘for the soil, which is very scanty on the mountain sides, absorbs very little.
No one could be expected to describe Waziristan as beautiful. ’ Even so, Brigadier John Prendergast, who soldiered on the Frontier in the 1930s, found that there was something about the place which gave it an appeal all of its own: The morning sun picks out the hills and clothes them minute by minute with rich, warm colours, as though to compensate for their starved aridity. The air is exciting. From the tops of the crests down to its little valleys, it varies from iced champagne to the heat of a furnace.
A bottle of medicine which had been mixed in the hospital and sent across to the camp ‘was a solid block of ice before it reached us’. Dr Hugh Luard became very ill with constant diarrhoea all his life due to sleeping out in appalling weather conditions in the 1890s. With no tents the men made a rough hut of stones for the officers with a grass roof to try and afford some protection from torrential rains. But the storm continued: . . with violent wind that threatened to take the roof off; then tremendous thunder roaring round us, lightning and torrents of rain which soon soaked through the roof and ran through like a sieve: I shuffled round in a circle half asleep trying to find a place where my face was protected; roof, mud and water fell everywhere: in the middle of the night [I was] disturbed by fellows walking over me, kicking me, trying to find a dry place: in the morning the floor was full of puddles in which we were lying.
Afghan Frontier: Feuding and Fighting in Central Asia by Victoria Schofield