GENERAL SIR ANDREW SKEEN, KCB, KCIE, CMG (20 January 1873-18 February 1935) served in the British Indian Army, rising to the position of Chief of the General Staff. He also served in China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and in Gallipoli during the First World WAR. ROBERT JOHNSON is the author of Spying for empire: The Great Game in Central and Southern Asia.
TRIBAL FIGHTING IN NWFP
PRACTICAL GUIDE TO SOLDIERING DURING THE BRITISH ERA OF THE INDIAN ARMY INCLUDES TIPS ON FIGHTING AN INSURGENT ENEMY, THE PRINCIPLES OF SECURITY IN MOUNTAIN WARFARE AND TACTICS FOR HARD FIGHTING REVEALS INTERESTING PARALLELS WITH THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ‘WAR ON TERROR’
In May 1919 the new Emir of Afghanistan Amanullah Khan-convinced that the British Empire was on the brink of collapse-proclaimed a jihad against Britain in the hope the could seize the old Afghan provinces west of the River Indus and humiliate his old enemy. The war began with the invasion of the tribal belt, in what is today Pakistan, where Amanullah expected to rouse all the tribes against the British. British-Indian forces retaliated by fighting their way across the mountains and back up the Khyber Pass. For the sake of a better peace, the third Afghan War ended with Britain granting autonomy in foreign affairs to the Afghans in the Treaty of Rawalpindi. Whilst air power had played a significant part in the British success, the Afghans had issued a stark reminder that they were formidable adversaries.
General Sir Andrew Skeen was one on Britain’s most experienced frontier warfare officers and spent the years 1919-1920 fighting the Mahsuds and Waziris, the most notorious of all cross border groups. The majority of troops under his command were initially wholly inexperienced and barely fit for frontier service. Lessons in imperial Rule (first published in 1932 under the title passing it on) was written with a view to imparting sound, practical advice on fighting in this region for future generations.
The lesson explained include the various aspects of work in establishing new camps, securing perimeters, moving platoons, setting up watching posts, methods foraging and demolition, and the emergency occupation of villages. His work became and unofficial textbook and was widely read in Britain and India. Despite the later introduction of armored cars, light tanks and aircraft, it retains much of its value and it was recently reissued to the Pakistan army.
Britain’s return to Afghanistan in 2001 alongside Coalition forces, and the Pakistan Army fighting in Wazirstan, conjures inescapable parallels with earlier conflicts, and the Third Afghan War in particular. Remarkably many of the ideas and principles Skeen identified still hold true. Now as then, the arena of fighting was tough and unforgiving. The Afghans and Pashtuns have proved themselves incredibly resourceful, skilled and resolute, demanding the very best expertise, tactics and dedication from the Coalition troops. This book offers an evocative insight into the period and serves as a timely reminder of Britain’s historic association with the North West Frontier and Afghanistan.
Publisher: VANGUARD BOOKS