The End of the Anglo-Persian War
Richard Cavendish remembers the events of March 4th, 1857
In all sixty-three years of Queen Victoria’s reign, there was not one in which British soldiers were not fighting somewhere in the world for queen, country and empire. The minor Anglo-Persian conflict of 1856-57 was fought in Persia, but the bone of contention was Afghanistan, which was a disputed buffer zone between the British in India, the Russians and the Persians.
All three wanted control of it and none of them wanted it in the hands of either of the others.
The Anglo-Afghan War of 1838-42 had been a costly failure and Dost Muhammad, the Afghan warlord of Kabul, had extended his sway over much of the country by 1854. He decided his interests lay with the British rather than the Russians and concluded a formal alliance with the British government in 1855.
The Russians now encouraged the Shah of Persia to seize the town of Herat, close to the Persian-Afghan border. After attempts at a diplomatic solution had failed, the British sent an expeditionary force from India to the Persian Gulf under the command of General Sir James Outram, a vastly experienced and greatly admired officer of fifty-two. Once toasted at a formal dinner as the Bayard of India, he had spent his career in the military and political service of the East India Company.