The Illustrious Garrison

Amid the disasters of the first Afghan War, writes James Lunt, the successful defence of Jellalabad, beyond the Khyber Pass, stands out as a well-deserved battle-honour.

It was a little afternoon on Thursday, January 13th, 1842, when a solitary horseman was seen plodding along the track from Kabul to Jellalabad.

The sentry on that part of the walls of Jellalabad which faced towards Kabul was the first to see him and soon the ramparts were crowded with officers, their glasses levelled on the approaching rider and their hearts heavy with foreboding. There had been no news of the Kabul Force for several days and there was something about the appearance of the stranger that told of tragedy and disaster.

Two months had passed since Major-General Sir Robert Sale first marched into Jellalabad, winter capital of the Kings of Afghanistan, with H.M. 13th Light Infantry, 35th Bengal Native Infantry, some gunners, sappers, and Afghan irregulars, and began to fortify the town. They had been two months of rumour, divided counsels, unconfirmed stories of treachery, assassinations, and even of massacre.

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