Skip to main content

Full text of "The sepoy"

See other formats










n>(v>«(*jca fcrt wt-3 

Presented to the 


by the 
















BY ^/^T-rf^^cO 



1919 ^ 





All rights reserved 




All these sketches, except *' The Sikh " and 
" The Drabi," were written in Mesopotamia. 
My aim has been, without going too deeply into 
origins and antecedents, to give as accurate a 
picture as possible of the different classes of sepoy. 
In Mesopotamia I met all the sixteen types in- 
cluded in this volume, some for the first time. 
My acquaintance with them was at first hand. 
But neither sympathy nor observation can initiate 
the outsider into the psychology of the Indian 
soldier ; or at least he cannot be certain of his 
ground. One must be a regimental officer to 
understand the sepoy, and then as a rule one only 
knows the particular type one commands. 

Therefore, to avoid mistakes and misconcep- 
tions, everything that I have set down has been 
submitted to authority, and embodies the opinion 
of officers best qualified to judge — that is to say, of 
officers who have passed the best part of their 
lives with the men concerned. Even so I have 
no doubt that passages will be found that are 


open to dispute. Authorities disagree ; estimates 
must vary, especially with regard to the relative 
worth of different classes ; and one must always 
bear in mind that every company officer who is 
worth his salt is persuaded that there are no 
men like his own. It is a pleasing trait and an 
essential one. For it is the sworn confraternity 
between the British and Indian officer, and the 
strong tie that binds the sepoy to his Sahib which 
have given the Indian Army its traditions and 

All references and statistics concerning the 
Indian Army will be found to relate to the pre- 
war establishment ; and no class of sepoy is 
included which has been enlisted for the first time 
since 19 14. At the outbreak of war the strength 
of the Army in India was 76,953 British and 
239,561 Indian. During the war 1,161,789 
Indians were recruited. The grand total of all 
ranks sent overseas from India was 1,215,338. 
The casualties sustained by the force were 
101,439. Races which never enlisted before en- 
listed freely, and the Indian Army List when 
published on the conclusion of Peace will be 
changed beyond recognition. 

One or two classes I have omitted. The intro- 
duction of the Gujar, Meo, Baluchi and Brahui, 
for instance, as separate types, would be an error 
of perspective in a volume this size. It is hardly 


necessary to differentiate the Gujar from the J at ; 
the origin of the two races is much the same, and 
in appearance they are not always distinguishable. 
The Meo, too, approximates to the Merat. The 
Baluchi proper has practically ceased to enlist, 
and the sepoy who calls himself a Baluch is 
generally the descendant of immigrants. There 
is also a scattering of Brahuis in the Indian Army. 
They and the Baluchis are of the same stock, 
and are supposed to have come from Aleppo 
way, though in some extraordinary manner which 
nobody can understand the Brahuis have picked 
up a Dravidian accent. 

It is difficult, too, to write of the Madras! — 
Hindu, Mussalman, or Christian — as an entity 
apart. All I know of him is that in the Indian 
Sappers and Miners and Pioneer regiments, when 
he is measured with other classes, his British 
officer speaks of him as equal to the best. 

The names of the officers to whom I am 
indebted would make a long list. I met them 
in camps, messes, trenches, dugouts, and in the 
open field. Some are old friends ; others are 
unknown to me by name ; many are unaware 
that they have contributed material for these 
sketches ; and I can only thank them collectively 
for their help. For verification I have consulted 
the official handbooks of the Indian Army ; and 
for certain of my references to the achievements 


of the Indian Army in France I am indebted 
to the semi-official history (" The Indian Corps 
in France," by Lieut.-Col. J. W. B. Merewether, 
C.I.E., and Sir Frederick Smith) published under 
the authority of the Secretary of State for India. 
One chapter, " The Drabi," I have taken almost 
bodily from my " Year of Chivalry," which also 
included the story of Wariam Singh ; my thanks 
are due to the publishers, Messrs. Simpkin 
Marshall, for their permission to reprint it. For 
the account of the Jharwas I am indebted to 
an officer in a Gurkha regiment who wishes to 
remain anonymous. For illustrations my thanks 
are due to General Holland Pryor, M.V.O., 
Major G. W. Thompson, and Lieut. -Cols. Alban 
Wilson, D.S.O., R. C. Wilson, D.S.O., M.C, 
F. L. Nicholson, D.S.O.. M.C, H. M. W. Souter, 
W. H. Carter, E. R. P. Berryman, and Mr. T. 
W. H. Biddulph, CLE 

Two Indian words occur frequently in these 
pages. They are izzat and jiwan, words that 
are constantly in the mouths of officers and 
sepoys. " Izzat" is best rendered by "honour" 
or "prestige " ; " jiwan " means a " youngster," 
and is applied to the rank and file of the Indian 
Army without reference to age. I have kept 
the vernacular forms, as it is difficult to find exact 
English equivalents, and much that is homely 
and familiar in the words is lost in translation. 



The Gurkha i 

The Sikh 26 

The Punjabi Mussalman 49 

The Pathan 63 

The Dogra 92 

The Mahratta 104 

The Jat 115 

The Rajput and Brahman 125 

The Garhwali 138 

The Khattak 149 

The Hazara 159 

The Mer and Merat 170 

The Ranghar i8i 

The Meena 188 

The Jharwas J92 

The Drabi 208 

The Santal Labour Corps 217 

The Indian Follower 227 





Havildar Chandradhoj (Rai) 6 

Tekbahadur Ghotam (Khas) 6 

The Sikh -° 

The Punjabi Mussalman 5° 

The Pathan Pipers ^4 

The Dogra 9 

The Konkani Mahratta io4 

The Dekhani Mussalman "2 

A Jat Camel Sowar ^^^ 

The Rajput ^^° 

The Garhwali "38 

The Hazara ^^° 

The Merat "7° 

The Ranghar ^^^ 

The Meena ^^^ 

The Jharwa ^°° 

Bhil Followers -3° 




So much has been written of the Gurkha and the 
Sikh that officers who pass their lives with other 
classes of the Indian Army are tired of listening 
to their praises. Their fame is deserved, but 
the exclusiveness of it was resented in days when 
one seldom heard of the Mahratta, Jat, Dogra, 
and Punjabi Mussalman. But it was not the 
Gurkha's or the Sikh's fault if the man in the 
street puts them on a pedestal apart. Both 
have a very distinctive appearance ; with the 
Punjabi Mussalman they make up the bulk of 
the Indian Army ; and their proud tradition has 
been won in every fight on our frontiers. Now 
other classes, whose qualities were hidden, live 
in the public eye. The war has proved that all 
men are brave, that the humblest follower is 
capable of sacrifice and devotion : that the Afridi, 



who is outwardly the nearest thing to an imper- 
sonation of Mars, yields nothing in courage to 
the Madrasi Christian of the Sappers and Miners. 
These revelations have meant a general levelling 
in the Indian Army and the uplift of classes 
hitherto undeservedly obscure. At the same 
time the reputation of the great fighting stocks 
has been splendidly maintained. 

The hillmen of Nepal have stood the test as 
well as the best. Ask the Devons what they 
think of the i/9th Gurkhas who fought on their 
flank on the Hai. Ask Kitchener's men and 
the Anzacs how the 5th and 6th bore themselves 
at Gallipoli, and read Ian Hamilton's report. 
Ask Townshend's immortals how the 7th fought 
at Ctesiphon ; and the British regiments who 
were at Mahomed Abdul Hassan and Istabulat 
what the ist and 8th did in these hard-fought 
fights. Ask the gallant Hants rowers against 
what odds the two Gurkha battalions * forced 
the passage of the Tigris at Shumran on Feb- 
ruary 23rd. And ask the commander of the 
Indian Corps what sort of a fight the six Gurkha 
battalions f put up in France. 

* 2nd and 9th. 

t The i/ist, 2/2nd, 2/3rd, i/4th, 2/8th, and i/9th. 


Nothing could have been more strange to 
the Gurkha and more different from what his 
training for frontier warfare had taught him to 
expect than the conditions in Flanders. The 
first trenches the Gurkhas took over when they 
were pushed up to the front soon after their 
arrival in France were flooded and so deep that 
the little men could not stand up to the parapet. 
They were exposed to the most devastating fire 
of heavy artillery, trench-mortars, bombs, and 
machine guns. Parts of their trench were broken 
up and obliterated by the Hun Minnewerfers and 
became their graves. They hung on for the best 
part of a day and a night in this inferno, but in 
the end they were overwhelmed and driven out 
of the position, as happens sometimes with the 
best troops in the world. The surprising thing 
is that they became inured to this kind of war- 
fare. Not only did they stand their ground, but 
in more than one assault they drove the Huns 
from their positions, and in September, 19 15, 
the same battalion that had suffered so severely 
near Givenchy carried line after line of German 
trenches west of Martin du Pietre. 

Those early months in France, when our 
troops, ill provided with bombs and trench- 


mortars and inadequately supported by artillery, 
were shattered by a machinery of destruction to 
which they could make little reply, were very 
much like hell. The soldier's dream of war had 
come, but in the form of a nightmare. After- 
wards in Mesopotamia, the trench-fighting at 
El-Hannah and Sannaiyat was not much more 
inspiring. But the hour was to come when our 
troops had more than a sporting chance in a 
fight, and war became once more for the man at 
the end of the rifle something like his picture 
of the great game. The Gurkhas were severely 
tried in the ordeal by which this change was 
effected, and they played a stout part especially 
in the Tigris crossing, the honour of which they 
shared with the Norfolks ; but, like the British 
Tommy in these trying times, they were always 

It is not the nature of any Sepoy to grouse. 
Patience and endurance is the heritage of all, but 
cheerfulness is most visible in the " Gurkh." He 
laughs like Atkins when the shells miss him, and 
he is never down on his luck. When the Turks 
were bombarding us on the Hai, I watched three 
delighted Gurkhas throwing bricks on the corru- 
gated iron roof of a signaller's dug-out. A lot 


of stuff was coming over, shrapnel and high 
explosive, but the Gurkhas were so taken up with 
their Httle joke of scaring the signallers that the 
nearer the burst the better they were pleased. 
The signallers wisely lay "doggo" until one of 
the Gurkhas appeared at the door of the dug- 
out and gave the whole show away by a too 
expansive grin. 

In France the element of shikar was elimi- 
nated. It would be affectation in the keenest 
soldier to pretend that he enjoyed the long-linked 
bitterness of Festubert, Givenchy, and Neuve 
Chapelle. But in Mesopotamia, especially after 
the crossing of the Tigris and the capture of 
Baghdad, there were many encounters in which 
one could think of war in the terms of sport. 
" There has been some shikar," is the Gurkha's 
way of describing indifferently a small scrap or 
a big battle. Neuve Chapelle was shikar. And 
it was shikar the other day when a Gurkha 
patrol by a simple stratagem surprised some 
mounted Turks. The stratagem succeeded. The 
Turks rode up unsuspectingly within easy range, 
but the Gurkhas did not empty a single saddle. 
Their British officer chaffed them on their bad 
shooting ; but the havildar grinned and said, *' At 


least a little shikar has taken place." That is 
the spirit. War is a kind of sublimated shikar. 
It is the mirror of the chase. The Gurkha is 
hunting when he is battle-mad, and sees red ; 
and he is hunting when he glides alone through 
the grass or mud on a dark, silent night to stalk 
an enemy patrol. Following up a barrage on the 
Hai, the i/9th were on the Turks like terriers. 
" Here, here, Sahib ! " one of them called, and 
pointing to a bay where the enemy still cowered, 
pitched his bomb on a Turk's head with a grin 
of delight and looked round at a paternal officer 
for approval. Another was so excited that he 
followed his grenade into the trench before it 
had burst, and he and his Turk were blown up 

The first time I saw Gurkhas in a civilized 
battle was at Beit Aieesa, where the little men 
were scurrying up and down the trenches they 
had just taken, with blood on their bayonets and 
clothes, bringing up ammunition and carrying 
baskets of bombs as happy and keen and busy 
as ferrets. They had gone in and scuppered 
the Turk before the barrage had lifted. They 
had put up a block and were just going to bomb 
down a communication trench. I saw one of 












them pull up the body of a British Tommy who 
had been attached to the regiment as a signaller 
and was bombed into a mess. The Gurkha 
patted him on the shoulder and disappeared 
behind the traverse without a word. 

The Gurkha fights as he hunts. Parties of 
them go into the jungle to hunt the boar. They 
beat the beast up and attack him with kukris 
when he tries to break through their line. It 
is a desperate game, and the casualties are a 
good deal heavier than in pig-sticking. The 
Gurkha's attitude to the Turk or the Hun is his 
attitude to the boar. There is no hostility or 
hate in him, and he is a cheerful, if a grim, 
fighter. There was never a Gurkha fanatic. 
The Magar or Gurung does not wish to wash 
his footsteps in the blood of the ungodly. To 
the righteous or the unrighteous stranger he is 
alike indifferent. There is no race he would 
wish to extirpate, and he has few prejudices and 
no hereditary foes. When his honour or interest 
is touched he is capable of rapid primitive re- 
prisals, but he does not as a rule brood or 
intrigue. His outlook is that of a healthy boy. 
There is no person so easy to get on with as 
the " Gurkh." The ties of affection that bind 


him to his regimental officers are very intimate 
indeed. When the Sahib goes on leave trekking, 
or shooting, or climbing, he generally takes three 
or four of the regiment with him. I have often 
met these happy hunting-parties in and beyond 
the Himalayas. I have a picture in my mind of 
a scene by the Woolar Lake in Kashmir. The 
Colonel of a Gurkha regiment is sitting in a boat 
waiting for a youth whom he has allowed to go 
to a villaofe on some errand of his own. The 
Colonel has waited two hours. At last the youth 
appears, all smiles, embracing a pumpkin twice 
the size of his head. No rebuke is administered 
for the delay. The youth squats casually in the 
boat at his Colonel's feet, and as he cuts the 
pumpkin into sections, makes certain unquotable 
comments on the village folk of Kashmir. As 
the pair disappear across the lake over the lotus 
leaves I hear bursts of laughter. 

The relations between officers and men are 
as close as between boys and masters on a jaunt 
together out of school, and the Gurkha no more 
thinks of taking^ advantagfe of this when he 
returns to the regiment than the English school- 
boy does when he returns to school. It is part 
of his jolly, boyish, uncalculating nature that he 


is never on the make. In cantonments, when 
any fish are caught or any game is shot, the first- 
fruits find their way to the mess. No one knows 
how it comes. The orderly will simply tell you 
that the men brought it. Perhaps after a deal 
of questioning the shikari may betray himself by 
a fatuous, shy, bashful grin. 

The Gurkha does not love his officer because 
he is a Sahib, but because he is his Sahib, and 
the officer has to prove that he is his Sahib first, 
and learn to speak his language and understand 
his ways. A strange officer coming into a 
Gurkha regiment is not adopted into the Pan- 
theon at once. He has to qualify. There may 
be a period of suspicion ; but once accepted, he 
is served with a fidelity and devotion that are 
human and dog-like at the same time. I do not 
emphasize the exclusive attachment of the 
Gurkha to his own Sahib as an exemplary 
virtue ; it is a fault, though it is the defect of a 
virtue. And it is a peculiarly boyish fault. It 
is the old story of magnifying the house to the 
neglect of the school. Infinite prestige comes 
of it ; and this is to the good. But prestige is 
often abused. Exclusiveness does not pay in a 
modern army. In the organism of the ideal 


fighting machine the parts are compact and 
interdependent ; and it would be a point to the 
good if every Gurkha were made to learn Hin- 
dustani and encouraged to believe that there 
are other gods besides his own. 

When one hears officers in other Indian 
regiments disparage the Gurkha, as one does 
sometimes, one may be sure that the root of the 
prejudice lies in this exclusiveness. I have heard 
it counted for vanity, indifference, disrespect. It 
is even associated, though very wrongly, with the 
eminence, or niche apart, which he shares in 
popular estimation with the Sikh. But the 
Gurkha probably knows nothing about this niche. 
He is a child of nature. His clannishness is 
very simple indeed. He frankly does not under- 
stand a strange Sahib. Directly he tumbles to 
it that anything is needed of him he will lend a 
hand, but having no very deeply-ingrained habit 
of reverence for caste in the abstract apart from 
his devotion to the proved individual, he may 
appear sometimes a little neglectful in ceremony. 
But no Sahib with a grain of imagination or 
understanding in him will let the casual habits of 
the little man weigh in the balance against his 
grit and gameness, his loyalty, and his splendid 


fighting spirit. I am always suspicious of the 
officer who depreciates the Gurkha. He is either 
sensitively vain, or dull in reading character, or 
jealous of the dues which he thinks have been 
diverted from some other class to which he is 
personally attached. 

This last infirmity one can understand and 
forgive. It grows out of an officer's attachment 
to his men. It is present sometimes in the 
British officers who command Gurkhas. Indeed, 
a man who after a year's service with any class of 
Sepoy is so detached and impartial in mind as 
not to find peculiar and distinctive virtues in his 
own men, ought not to be serving in the Indian 
Army at all. I remember once hearing a sub- 
altern in a very obscure regiment discussing his 
class company. The battalion had not seen 
service for at least three generations, and every- 
one took it for granted that they would " rat " 
the first time they heard a shot fired. But the 
boy was full of " bukh." 

" By Jove ! " he said, " our fellows are 
simply splendid, the best plucked crowd in the 
Indian Army, and so game. . . . Oh no! 
they've never been in action, but you should just 
see how they lay one another out at hockey." 


Before the war one would have smiled in- 
wardly at this "encomium," if one could have 
preserved one's outward countenance, but Arma- 
geddon, the corrective of exclusiveness and pride, 
has taught us that gallantry resides under the 
most unlikely exteriors. It has taught us to look 
for it there. Anyhow che boy had the right spirit 
even if his faith were founded in illusion ; for it 
is thrdugh these ties of mutual loyalty that the 
spirit of the Indian Army is strong. 

The devotion of the Sepoy to his officer is 
common to most, perhaps to all, classes of the 
Indian Army. In some of the Gurkha battalions 
it is usual for two of the men to mark their Sahib 
when he goes into action, to follow him closely, 
and if he falls, to look after him and bring him 
back whether wounded or dead. This is a tacitly 
understood and quite unofficial arrangement, and 
the officer knows no more about his self-appointed 
guard than the hero or villain of melodrama about 
the detective who dogs his footsteps in the street. 
In France a British officer in a Gurkha regiment 
knocked out by shell-shock opened his eyes to 
find his orderly kneeling over him fanning the 
flies off his face. He lost consciousness again. 
When he came to the Gurkha was still fanning 


him, and the tears were rolling down his 

" Why are you crying, ' Tegh Bahadur ? ' " he 
said ; ** I am not badly hit." 

" I am crying, Sahib," he said, " because my 
arm is gone, and I am no more able to fight." 
And with a nod he indicated the wound. The 
shell that had stunned the Sahib had carried off 
the orderly's forearm at the elbow. 

The Medical Officer will tell you that the 
Gurkha is the pluckiest little fellow alive. In 
hospital he will go on smoking and chatting to 
you when he is dying, fighting his battles over 
again. I remember a Gurkha in an ambulance 
at Sinn pointing his index finger, which was 
hanging by a tendon, as he described the attack. 
During a cholera outbreak in 1916 among the 
Nepalese troops garrisoning the Black Mountains 
frontier a Gurkha, who was evidently in extremis^ 
was being carried by his Major and another 
officer to a bit of rising ground where there was 
some shade and a little breeze. When in an 
interval of consciousness he opened his eyes and 
saw two Sahibs carrying him, he tried to raise 
himself to the salute, but fell back in a half faint. 
" You must pardon me, Sahib," he said, '* but 


owino: to weakness I am unable to salute." The 
Major told him to lie still. " We are taking you 
to a cool place," he explained. " Now you must 
be quick and get well." The Gurkha answered 
with a faint smile, " Now that your honours 
have honoured me by carrying me, I shall quickly 
ofet well." In a few minutes he died. 

The Gurkha is not given to the neatly turned 
speech, the apt phrase, and one might search 
one's memory a long time before one recalled a 
compliment similar to this one spoken in simple 
sincerity by a dying man. The arts of concilia- 
tion are not practised where he camps. There 
is a delightful absence of the courtier about him, 
and he could not make pretty speeches if he 
tried. The " Our Colonel Sahib shot remark- 
ably well, but God was merciful to the birds " 
story is told of a very different race. If a colonel 
of Gurkhas shoots really badly, his orderly will 
probably be found doubled up with mirth. The 
few comments of the Gurkha that stick in the 
mind are memorable in most instances for some 
crudeness, or misconception, or for a primitive, 
and not infrequently a somewhat gruesome, sense 
of humour. One meets many types, but the 
average " Gurkh," though observant, is not as a 


rule quick at the uptake. I heard a character- 
istic story of one, Chandradhoj, a stalwart Limbu 
of Eastern Nepal. It was in November last year, 
in the days of trench warfare. His Colonel had 
sent him from the Sannaiyat trenches to Arab 
Village to have his boots mended, and when he 
was returning in the evening the Turks got it 
into their heads that a relief was taking place, 
and put in a stiff bombardment, paying special 
attention to the road. Chandradhoj got safely 
back through this. When the Colonel met him 
in the evening passing his dug-out he stopped 
him and asked him how he had fared. 

" Well, you've got back all right," he said. 
'• You wern't hit ! " 

" No, Sahib, I was not hit. I came back in 
artillery formation." 

One could see him solemnly stepping aside a 
few paces from the road, the prescribed distance 
from the imaginary sections on the left or right. 
These were the Sahib's orders at such times, he 
would argue, and there must be salvation in the 

The Gurkha sees what he sees, and his visual 
range is his mental range. At Kantara he only 
saw the desert, and the desert was sand. Other 


conditions beyond the horizon, an oasis for 
instance, were inconceivable. He tried to get it 
out of his Sahib how and where the Bedouin 
lived who came into Kantara Post. He thought 
they Hved in holes in the sand, but what they ate 
he could not imagine. When they came into the 
Post looking wretched and miserable he gave them 
chapattis. " But, Sahib," he asked, " what could 
they have eaten before we came other than sand.-*" 

One is never quite sure what will move a 
Gurkha to laughter. He grins at things which 
tickle a child's fancy, and he grins at things which 
make the ordinary man feel very sick inside. 
When the Turk abandoned Sinn in May, 191 6, 
we occupied the position. The advance lay over 
the month-old battlefield of Beit Aieesa, and the 
enemy's dead were lying everywhere in a very 
unpleasant stage of dissolution. Suddenly the 
grimness of the scene was disturbed by explosive 
bursts of laughter. It was the Gurkhas. " Well, 
what is the joke ? What are you laughing at ? " an 
officer asked them. " Look, Sahib !" one of them 
said. " The devils are melting." Only he used a 
much more impolite word than " devil," for which 
we have no translation. 

The Gurkha has not a very high estimate of 


the value of life. A few years ago, when Rugby 
football was introduced in a certain battalion, 
there was an unfortunate casualty soon after the 
first kick-off. One of the men, collared by his 
Sahib, broke his neck on the hard ground, and 
was killed stone-dead. The incident sealed the 
fate of Association in the regiment, and Rugby 
became the vogue from that hour. " This is 
something like a game," they said, " when you 
kill a man every time you play." 

The Gurkha would not be such a fine fighter 
if he had not a bit of the primitive in him. 
Several years ago two companies of a Gurkha 
battalion, who were holding a post in a frontier 
show, were bothered by snipers at night. The 
shots came from a clump of bushes on the edge 
of a blind nullah full of high brushwood, which 
for some reason it was inadvisable to picquet. 
Here was an excellent chance of shikar, and a 
havildar and four men asked if they might go 
out at night and stalk the Pathans. They were 
allowed to go, the conditions being that they were 
to go bare-footed, they were not to take rifles, 
and they were to do the work with the kukri. 
Also they were to stay out all night, as they 
would certainly be shot by the sentries of other 



regiments if they tried to come in. Only one 
sniper's bullet whizzed into camp that night. 
The next morning the havildar entered the mess 
while the officers were breakfasting. He came 
in with his left hand behind his back and 

" Sahib," he said, " two of the snipers have 
been killed." , 

'* That's good, havildar," the Colonel said. 
" But how do you know that you got them ? 
Are they lying there, or have their brothers 
taken them away ? " 

The havildar, grinning broadly, produced a 
Pathan's head, and dumped it on the breakfast 
table. "The other is outside," he said. "Shall 
I bring it in ? " 

The Gurkha is good at this kind of night- 
work; he has the nerve of a Highlander and 
the stealth of a leopard. His great fault in a 
eeneral attack is that he does not know when 
to stop. Without his Sahib he would not survive 
many battles. And that is why the casualties 
are so heavy in regiments when the British 
officers fall early in the fight. When the Gurkhas 
were advancing at Beit Aiseesa, I heard an 
officer in a Sikh regiment say, " Little blighters. 


They're always scurrying on ahead, and if you 
don't look after them they will make a big salient 
and bite off more than they can chew." This 
is exactly what happened, though with the 
Turkish guns as a bait, guns which they took 
and lost afterwards by reason of the offending 
salient, they would not have been human if they 
had held back. 

The Gurkha battalions, as everybody knows, 
have permanent cantonments in the hills, and do 
not move about like other regiments from station 
to station. Most of them have their wives and 
families in the lines, and in the leave season they 
oret away for a time to their homes in Nepal, 
In peace the permanent cantonment with its 
continuity of home life is a privilege ; but in the 
war the Gurkhas, like every other class of sepoy, 
have had to bear with a weariness of exile which 
it is difficult for any one but their own officers to 
understand. It is true of the Gurkha, as of the 
Indian of the plains, that he gives up more when 
he leaves his home to fight in a distant country 
than the European. The age-worn traditions and 
associations which make up homeliness for him, 
the peculiar and cherished routine, cannot be 
translated overseas. And it must be remembered 


that the sepoy has not the same stimulus as we 
have. It is true that he is a soldier, and that it 
is his business to fight, and that he is fighting his 
Sahib's enemy. That carries him a long way. 
But he does not see the Hun as his Sahib sees 
him, as an intolerable, blighting incubus which 
he must cast off or die. One appreciates his 
cheerfulness in exile all the more when one re- 
members this. 

On a transport this summer in Basra, Asba- 
hadur, a young Gurung from Western Nepal 
was pointed out to me. He had just come home 
from leave. He had six weeks in India, but 
there was the depot to visit first. He had to 
pick up his kit and draw his pay, and by the 
time he had got to his village, Kaski Pokhri, on 
the Nepal frontier, sixteen days hard going from 
Gorakhpur in the U.P., he found that he had 
only four days at home before he must start oft" 
again to catch his steamer at Bombay. But he 
had seen his family, his house, his crops, the 
barn that had to be repaired, the familiar stretch 
of jungle and stream. He had dumped his 
money in the only place where money is any 
ofood ; and he had seen that all was well. 

He had learned, too, that it was well with 


his young brother, who had run away from home 
to join the army, as so many young Gurkhas did 
at the beginning of the war, — literally " running " 
for the best part of two nights and days, only a 
short neck ahead of his pursuing parents, who 
had now forgiven him. 

There is conscription in Nepal now and there 
is no need for the young men to run away. 
Asbahadur told me that he had met very few 
young men of his age near his home. In his 
village the women were doing the work, as they 
were in France, and as he understood was the 
case in the Sahib's country. The garrisoning 
of India by the Nepalese troops had depleted 
the county of youth. You only met old men 
and cripples and boys. Early in the war the 
Nepal Durbar came forward with a splendid 
offer of troops, which we were quick to accept. 
Thousands of her best, including the Maharaja's 
Corps de garde, poured over the frontier into 
Hindustan, and released many regular battalions 
for service overseas. They have fought on the 
frontier, and taken their part in policing the 
border from the Black Mountains on the north 
to as far south as the territory of the Mahsuds. 

There are three main divisions of Gurkhas : 


the Magar and Gurung of Central and Western 
Nepal, indistinguishable except for a slight 
accent ; the Limbu and Rai of Eastern Nepal ; 
and the Khattri and Thakur, who are half Aryan. 
The Magars and Gurungs are the most Tartar- 
like, short, with faces flat as scones. The Limbu 
and Rai physiognomy assimilates more with the 
Chinese. In the Khattri and Thakur, or Khas 
Gurkhas as they are called by others, though 
they do not accept the term, the Hindu strain 
is distinguishable, though the Mongol as a rule 
is predominant. They are the descendants of 
Brahmans or Rajputs and Gurkha women ; 
hence the opprobrious "khas," or " fallen." But 
it is a blend of nobility — a proud birthright. It 
is only the implication of the " fall " they resent, 
— for these marriages were genuine but for the 
narrow legislation of orthodoxy and caste. Before 
the war it was taken as a matter of course by 
some that the streak of plainsman in the moun- 
taineer must imply a softening of the national 
fibre, but the war has proved them as good as 
the best. In the crossing of the Tigris at 
Shumran, the miniature Mesopotamian Gallipoli, 
the Khas (9th Gurkhas) shared the honours in 
full with the Magars and Gurung (2nd Gurkhas) ; 


but long before that any suspicion of inferiority 
had been dissipated. 

It is difficult to differentiate the different 
classes, but the Khas Gurkha is probably the 
most intelligent. In the Limbu and the Rai 
there are sleeping fires. They are as fastidious 
about their honour as the Pathan and the Malay, 
and when any sudden and grim poetic justice is 
exacted in blood in a Gurkha regiment the odds 
are that one or the other are at the bottom of it. 
The Magars and the Gurung are the basic type, 
the "every man" among Gurkhas, the backbone 
in numbers of the twenty battalions. As regards 
pluck there is nothing to choose between any of 
them, and if one battalion goes further than 
another the extra stiffening is the work of the 
British officers. 

One's impression of the Gurkha in war and 
peace is of an almost mechanical smartness, 
movements as quick and certain as the click of a 
rifle bolt. Soldiering is a ritual among them. 
You may mark it in the way they pitch camp, 
solemnly, methodically, driving in each peg as if 
it were an ordained rite. They have learnt it 
all by rote. They could do it as easily in their 
sleep. And the discipline has stood the shock 


of seismic disturbance. In the Dharmsala earth- 
quake of 1905 the quarter guard of the 2/8 th 
Gurkhas turned out and saluted their officer with 
the same clockwork precision, when their bun- 
galow had fallen like a house of cards. They 
had escaped by a miracle, and half the regiment 
had been killed, or maimed, or buried alive. 

But remove the Gurkha from the atmosphere 
of barracks and camps and the whole ritual is 
forgotten like a dream. Out on shikar, or 
engaged in any work away from the battalion, he 
becomes his casual self again. But the guest of 
a Gurkha regiment does not see this side of him. 
I have memories of the men called into the mess 
and standing round like graven images, the 
personality religiously suppressed, the smile 
tardily provoked if Generals or strange Sahibs 
are present. A boy, with a smooth, round, in- 
nocent face, as still and as expressionless as if he 
had been hypnotized. Next him a man with the 
face of a bonze. Another with an expression 
of ferocity asleep and framed in benevolence. 
Passion has drawn those deep lines at right 
angles with the mouth. They are scars of the 
spirit — often enough now in the same setting as 
dints of lead and steel. 

LOOT 25 

You get these faces in Gurung, Magar, 
Limbu, Khas, and Rai. But differentiation is 
profitless and often misleading, whether as re- 
crards the outward or inward man. I heard an 
almost heated discussion as to relative values by 
officers, who should know best, terminated by an 
outsider with the laconic comment, " They are 
all dam good at chivying chickens." As to this 
all were agreed. And the remark called up 
another picture — the Gurkha returning from a 
punitive raid against a cut-throat tribe, smothered 
in spoil and accoutrements, three carpets under 
one saddle, and the little man on top with 
chickens under each arm, and strung as thick 
as cartridges to his belt and bandolier. 


It has often been said that the Indian Army has 
kept Sikhism alive. War is a conserver of the 
Khalsa, peace a dissolvent. When one under- 
stands how this is so, one has grasped what 
Sikhism has done for the followers of the faith, 
and why the Sikh is different in habit and thought 
from his Hindu and Muhammadan neighbour, 
though in most cases he derives from the same 

The Sikhs are a community, not a race. The 
son of a Sikh is not himself a Sikh until he has 
taken the pahul, the ceremony by which he is 
admitted into the Khalsa, the community of the 
faithful. It would take volumes to explain 
exactly what initiation means for him. But the 
important thing to understand is that the convert, 
in becoming a Sikh, is not charged with a 
religious crusade. There is no bigotry in the 
faith that has made a Singh of him. His baptism 
by steel and "the waters of life" only means 
that he has gained prestige by admission into a 


To face p. 26.] 



military and spiritual brotherhood of splendid 

Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the 
sect, was a man of peace and a quietist. He 
only sought to remove the cobwebs that had 
overgrown sectarian conceptions of God. He 
could not in his most prophetic dreams have fore- 
seen the bearded, martial Sikh whom we know 
to-day. This is the Govindi Sikh, the product 
of the tenth Guru, that inspired leader of men 
who welded his followers into the armed fraternity 
which supplanted the Moguls and became the 
dominant military class of the Punjab. 

It was persecution that made the Sikh what 
he is — not theological conviction. Dogma was 
incidental. The rise of the Khalsa was a political 
movement. The thousands of Jat yeomen who 
joined the banner accepted the book with the 
sword. To make a strong and distinctive body 
of them, to lift them above the Hindu ranks, to 
convert a sect into a religion, to give them a 
cause and a crusade was Govind's work. It was 
he who consolidated the Sikhs by giving them 
prestige. He instituted the Khalsa, or the com- 
monwealth of the chosen, into which his disciples 
were initiated by the ceremony of the pahul. He 


swept away ritual, abolished caste, and ordained 
that every Sikh should bear the old Rajput title 
of Singh, or Lion, as every Govindi Sikh does 
to this day. He also gave national and dis- 
tinctive traits to the dress of his people, ordaining 
that they should carry a sword, dagger, and 
bracelet of steel, don breeches instead of a loin- 
cloth, and wear their hair long and secured in a 
knot by a comb. He it was who grafted the 
principles of valour, devotion, and chivalry on 
the humble gospel of Nanak, and introduced the 
national salutation of " Wah Guru ji ka Khalsa ! 
Wa Guru ji ki Futteh ! "— " Hail to the Khalsa ! 
Victory to God " — a chant that has dismayed the 
garrison of many a doomed trench held by the 
Turk and the Hun. 

"The Sikhs of Govind shall bestride horses. 
And bear hawks upon their hands ; 
The Turks who behold them shall fly ; 
One shall combat a multitude, 
And the Sikh who thus perishes shall be blessed for ever."* 

It was odd that the Arabs in Mesopotamia 
should have called the Sikh " the black lion," f 
bearing witness to the boast that every member 
of the Khalsa when he puts on the consecrated 
steel and adopts the title of Singh is lionised in 

* The Tunkha Nameh of Guru Govind. 
t Sabaa aswad. 


the most literal sense of the word and becomes 
the part in fact as well as in name. 

War is a necessary stimulus for Sikhism. In 
the reaction of peace the Sikh population dwindles. 
It was in the struggle with Islam, during the 
ascendency of Ranjit Singh, in the two wars 
against the British, and after in the Mutiny, when 
the Sikhs proved our loyal allies, that the Khalsa 
was strongest. Without the incentive to honour 
and the door open to military service the inera- 
dicable instincts of the Hindu reassert themselves. 
Fewer jiwans come forward and take the pahul ; 
not only is the community weakened by lack of 
disciples, but many who hold fast to the form let 
go the spirit ; ritual, idolatry, superstition, exclu- 
siveness, and caste, the old enemies to the 
reformed religion, creep in again ; the aris- 
tocracy of honour lapses into the aristocracy 
of privilege. Then the Brahman enters in, and 
the simple faith is obscured by all manner of 
un-Sikh-like preoccupations. Sikhism might have 
fallen back into Hinduism and become an obscure 
sect if it had not been for the Indian Army. But 
here the insignia of Guru Govind have been 
maintained, and his lav/s and traditions. The 
class regiments and class-company regiments 


have preserved not merely the outward obser- 
vances ; they have kept alive the inward spirit of 
the Khalsa. Thus it is that the Sikh has more 
class feeling than any other sepoy, and more pride 
in himself and his community. Govind set the 
lion stamp on him as he intended. By his out- 
ward signs he cannot be mistaken — by his beard, 
the steel bracelet on his wrist, his long knotted 
hair, or if that is hidden, by the set of his turban, 
above all by his grave self-respect. The casual 
stranger can mark him by one or all of these 
signs, but there is a subtler physical distinction 
in expression and feature that you cannot miss 
when you know the Sikh well. This is quite 
independent of insignia. It is as marked in a 
boy without a hair to his chin as in an old 
campaigner. This also is Govind's mark, the 
sum of his influence inscribed on the face by 
the spirit. A great tribute this to the genius of 
the Khalsa, when one remembers that the Sikh 
is not a race apart, but comes of the same original 
stock as most of his Hindu and Muhammadan 
neighbours in the Punjab, and that Govind, his 
spiritual ancestor, only died two hundred years ago. 
Amongst all the races and castes that have 
been caught up into the Khalsa, by far the most 


important in influence and numbers is the Jat. 
Porus was probably of the race. When Alexander, 
impressed by his gallantry, asked him what boon 
he might confer, he demanded "to be treated 
like a king" — a very Sikh-like speech. The 
Sikh soldier is the Jat sublimated, and the bulk 
of the Sikhs in the Indian Army are of Jat origin. 
Authorities differ as to the derivation of the Jats, 
but it is commonly believed that they and the 
Rajputs are of the same Scythian origin, and that 
they represent two separate waves of invasion ; 
and this is borne out by their physical resemblance 
and by a general similarity in their communal 
habits of life. The Jat, so long as he remains a 
Hindu, is called Jat (pronounced Ja-at), while the 
Jat who has adopted Sikhism is generally referred 
to as Jat (pronounced Jut). The spelling is the 
same, and to the uninitiated this is a constant 
source of confusion. The difference in pronunci- 
ation arose from a subtlety of dialect, it beino- 
customary in the part of the Punjab where Sikhs 
preponderate to shorten the long a of the Hindi. 
The Jat is the backbone of the Punjab. From 
his Scythian ancestors is derived the same stub- 
born fibre that stiffens the Punjabi cultivator, 
whatever changes he may have suffered by 


influence of caste or creed, whether he be Hindu, 
Muhammadan, or Sikh. The admitted character- 
istics of the Jat are stubbornness, tenacity, patience, 
devotion, courage, discipline and independence 
of spirit fitly reconciled ; add to these the prestige 
and traditions of the Khalsa and you have the 
ideal Sikh. 

I say ** the ideal Sikh," for without the 
contributory influences you may not get the 
type as Govind conceived it. The ideal Sikh 
is the happy Sikh, the Sikh who is content with 
the place he occupies in his cosmos, who respects 
and believes in his superior officers, who does 
not consider himself unjustly treated, and who 
has received no injury to his self-esteem. For 
the virtuous ingredients in his composition are 
subject to reaction. When he fancies he is 
wronged, he broods. The milk in him becomes 
gall. The ** waters of life " stirred by steel, his 
baptismal draught, take on an acid potency. " I'd 
rather command Sikhs than any other class of 
sepoy," a brigadier told me, and he had com- 
manded every imaginable class of sepoy for 
twenty years, " but they must be happy Sikhs," 
he added. The broodinor or intris^uinof Sikh is 
a nuisance and a danger. 


The pick of the Khalsa will be found in 
the class regiments and class company regiments 
to which the Sikhism of to-day owes its con- 
servation, vigour, and life. The 14th Sikhs 
were raised at Ferozepore in 1846 ; the 15th at 
Ludhiana in the same year ; the 45th Rattray's 
Sikhs in 1856 for service among the Sonthals ; 
the 35th and 36th Sikhs in 1887, the 47th in 
1901. The 15th, the oldest Sikh battalion, and 
the 47th, the latest raised, were the first to be 
given the opportunity of showing the mettle of 
the Khalsa in a European war. The 47th, 
who were not raised till 1901, earned as proud 
a record as any in France, distinguishing them- 
selves from the day in October, 1914, when, with 
the 20th and 21st Sappers and Miners, they 
cleared the village of Neuve Chapelle after some 
Homeric hand-to-hand fighting in the houses 
and streets, to the desperately stubborn advance 
up the glacis to the German trenches on April 26, 
191 5, in the second battle of Ypres, when the 
regiment went in with eleven British and ten 
Indian officers and 423 other ranks, of whom 
but two British and two Indian officers and 92 
rank and file mustered after the action. The 
15th Sikhs, one of the two earliest-raised Sikh 



battalions, were the first to come into action in 
France, and they maintained a high-level repu- 
tation for gallantry all through the campaign. 
The story of Lieutenant Smyth and his ten Sikh 
bombers at Festubert is not likely to be forgotten. 
Smyth and two sepoys were the only two sur- 
vivors of this gallant band who passed by a 
miracle, crawling over the dead bodies of their 
comrades, through a torrent of lead, and carried 
their bombs through to the first line. Smyth 
was awarded the V.C., Lance-Naik Mangal 
Singh the Indian Order of Merit, and every 
sepoy in the party the Indian Distinguished 
Service Medal. Two of these men belonged 
to the 45th Sikhs, four to the 19th Punjabis. 
And here it should be remembered that the 
Sikhs earned a composite part of the honour of 
nearly every mixed class-company regiment in 
France ; of the Punjabi regiments, for instance, 
and of the Frontier Force Rifle battalions, in 
which the number of Sikh companies varies from 
one to four, not to mention the Sappers and 
Miners. It was in the very first days of the 
Indians' debut in France that a Sikh company of 
the 57th Rifles earned fame when it was believed 
that the line must have given way, holding on 


all through the night against repeated counter- 
attacks, though the Germans were past them on 
both flanks. As for the Sappers, the story of 
Dalip Singh is pure Dumas. This fire-eater 
helped his fallen officer, Lieut. Rail- Kerr, to 
cover, stood over him and kept off several parties 
of Germans by his fire. On one occasion — a feat 
almost incredible, but well established — he was 
attacked by twenty of the enemy, but beat them 
all off and got his officer away.* 

It is in ''sticking it out " that the Sikh excels. 
No one will deny his elaw^ yet 6lan is not so 
remarkably and peculiarly his as the dogged 
spirit of resistance that never admits defeat, 
the spirit that carried his ancestors through the 
long ordeal by fire in their struggle with the 
Moofuls. It is in defensive action that the Sikhs 
have won most renown, fighting it out against 
hopeless, or almost hopeless odds, as at Arrah 
and Lucknow in the Mutiny, and in the Tirah 
campaign at Saraghiri on the Samana ridge. 
The defence of the little house at Arrah by 
Rattray's (the 45th) Sikhs was one of the most 
glorious episodes of the Indian Mutiny, and the 

* " The^Indian Corps in France," by Lieut.-Colonel J. W. B. 
Merewether, C.I.E., and Sir Frederick Smith. 


story of the Sikh picket at Saraghiri will live as 
long in history. The whole garrison of the post, 
twenty-one men of the 36th Sikhs, a battalion 
lately raised and then in action for the first 
time, fell to a man in its defence. The Afridis 
admitted the loss of two hundred dead in the 
attack. As they pressed in on all sides in over- 
whelming numbers the Sikhs kept up their steady 
fire for six hours, until the walls of the post 
fell. The last of the little band perished in the 
flames as he defended the guard-room door, and 
shot down twenty of the assailants before he 

Strangely enough, these two regiments, the 
36th and 45th Sikhs, to whom we owe two of 
the most enduring examples in history of " stick- 
ing it out," fought side by side on the Hai in 
an action which called for as high qualities of 
discipline and endurance under reverse as any 
that was fought in Mesopotamia. The Sikhs 
lived up to their tradition. Both regiments went 
over the parapet in full strength and were prac- 
tically annihilated. Only 190 effectives came out 
of the assault ; only one British ofticer returned 
unwounded. The 45th on the right were ex- 
posed to a massed counter-attack. A British 


officer was seen to collect his men and close in 
on the Turks in the open ; he and his gallant 
band were enveloped and overwhelmed. So, 
too, in Gallipoli the 14th Sikhs, who saved 
Allahabad in the Mutiny and immortalized them- 
selves with Havelock in the march on Lucknow 
and the defence of the Residency, displayed 
their old spirit. When they had fought their 
way through the unbroken wire at Gully Ravine 
(June 4, 191 5) and taken three lines of trenches, 
they hung on all day, though they had lost three- 
fourths of their effectives, and every British 
officer but two was killed. 

But I must tell the story of Wariam Singh, 
a Jat Sikh of a Punjabi regiment; it was told 
me by one Zorowar Singh, his comrade, in France. 
" You heard of Wariam Singh, Sahib," he asked 
— ** Wariam Singh, who would not surrender ? " 

Wariam Sinorh was on leave when the reei- 
ment was mobilized, and the news reached him 
in his village. It was a very hot night. They 
were sitting by the well, and when Wariam 

Singh heard that the Punjabis were going 

to Wilayat to fight for the Sircar against a dif- 
ferent kind of white man, he said that, come what 
might, he would never surrender. He made a 


vow then and there, and, contrary to all regi- 
mental discipline, held by it. 

I can picture the scene — the stencilled 
shadows of the kikar in the moonlight, the 
smell of baked flour and dying embers, the 
almost motionless group in a ring like birds on 
the edge of a tank, and in the background the 
screen of tall sugar-cane behind the dry thorn 
hedge. The village kahne-wallah (recounter of 
tales) would be half chanting, half intoning, with 
little tremulous grace-notes, the ballad about 
" Wa-ar-button Sahib," or Jan Nikalsain, when 
the lumbardar from the next village would appear 
by the well and portentously deliver the message. 

The scene may have flickered before the 
eyes of Wariam Singh, lying stricken beside his 
machine-gun, just as the cherry blossom of Kent 
is said to appear to the Kentish soldier. The 
two English officers in his trench had fallen ; 
the Germans had taken the trenches to the left 
and the right, and they were enfiladed up to the 
moment when the final frontal wave broke in. 
The order came to retire, but Wariam Singh 
said, ** I cannot retire, I have sworn " ; and he 
stood by his machine-gun. 

"If he had retired no doubt he would have 


been slain. Remaining he was slain, but he slew 
many," was Zorowar Singh's comment. 

Afterwards the trench was taken back, and 
the body of Wariam Singh was found under the 
gun. The corpses of the Germans lay all round 
"like stones in a river bed." 

The disciples of Govind comprise many classes 
other than the J at, of whom there are some thirty 
main clans. There are Sikhs of Brahman and 
Rajput descent, and a number of tribes of humbler 
origin. The J at stands first in respect to honour 
and numbers ; apart from him, it is the humbler 
classes who have contributed most weight to the 
fighting arms of the community. The Brahman-, 
Rajput-, and Khatri-descended Sikhs do not 
enlist freely. 

The 48th Pioneers are recruited almost en- 
tirely from Labanas, a tribe whose history goes 
back to the beginning of time. There are 
Labanas, of course, who are not Sikhs. The 
Raja of the community is a Hindu and lives at 
Philibit, and there are Labana hillmen about 
Simla, farmers in the Punjab, traders in the 
Deccan and Bombay, and owners of ships ; but I 
have no doubt that the pick of them are those 
that have enlisted in the Khalsa. The Labanas 


were soldiers at least two thousand years before 
Govind, and according to tradition formed the 
armed transport of the Pandavas and brought 
in the fuel (labanke — a kind of brushwood, hence 
the tribal name) for the heroes of the Mahabha- 
rata. I heard this story from a Labana Sikh one 
night on the upper reaches of the Euphrates near 
Khan Baghdadi, when we were miles ahead of 
our transport and had rounded up a whole army 
of Turks. He told it me with such impressment 
that I felt it must be true, though no doubt there 
are spoilers of romance who would unweave 
the web. 

Theoretically Sikhism acknowledges no caste ; 
but in practice the Sikh of Jat or Rajput descent 
will not eat or drink with Sikhs drawn from the 
menial classes, though the lowest in the social 
scale have been tried and proved on the field, and 
shown themselves possessed of military qualities 
which, apart from caste prejudice, should admit 
them to an equal place in the brotherhood of the 
faithful. The Mazbhis are a case in point. The 
first of this despised sweeper class to attain dis- 
tinction were the three whom Guru Govind ad- 
mitted into the Khalsa as a reward for their 
fidelity and devotion when they rescued the body 


of Tegh Bahodur, the murdered ninth Guru, 
from the fanatical Moslem mob at Delhi. When 
Sikhism was fighting for its life, these outcasts 
were caught up in the wave of chivalry and 
** gentled their condition;" but as soon as the 
Khalsa were dominant in the Punjab the Maz- 
bhis found that the equality their religion pro- 
mised them existed in theory rather than fact. 
They occupied much the same position among 
thejat- and Khattri-descended Sikhs as their 
ancestors, the sweepers, enjoyed amongst the 
Hindus. They were debarred from all privileges, 
and were at one time even excluded from the 
army. It fell to the British to restore the status 
of the Mazbhi, or rather to give him the opening 
by which he was able to re-establish his honour 
and self-esteem. The occasion was in the Mutiny 
of 1857, when we were in great need of trained 
sappers for the siege-work at Delhi. A number 
of Mazbhis who were employed at the time in 
the canal works at Madhopur were offered mili- 
tary service and enlisted readily. On the march 
to Delhi these raw recruits fought like veterans. 
They were attacked by the rebels, beat them 
off, and saved the whole of the ammunition and 
treasure. During the siege Neville Chamberlain 


wrote of them that "their courage amounted to 
utter recklessness of life." Eight of them carried 
the powder-bags to blow up the Kashmir Gate, 
under Home and Salkeld. Their names are 
inscribed on the arch to-day and have become 
historical. John Lawrence wrote of the deed as 
one of " deliberate and sustained courage, as noble 
as any that ever graced the annals of war." 

The Mazbhis are recruited for the Sikh 
Pioneer regiments, the 23rd, 32nd, and 34th, 
sister regiments of whom one, or more, has been 
engaged in nearly every frontier campaign from 
Waziristan in i860 to the Abor expedition in 
191 1. It was the 32nd who carried the guns 
over the Shandur Pass in the snow, in the march 
from Gilgit, and relieved the British garrison 
in Chitral. The 34th were among the earliest 
Indian regiments engaged in France, and the 
Mazbhis gained distinction in October, 191 4, 
when they were pushed up to relieve the French 
cavalry, and the Sikh officers carried on the 
defence for a day and a night under repeated 
attacks when their British officers had fallen. 
Great, too, was the gallantry of the Indian 
officers of the regiment at Festubert (November, 
1914), and the spirit of the ranks. Yet the 


Mazbhis are still excluded from most privileges 
by the Khalsa. They are not eligible for the 
other Sikh class regiments. Nor are they accept- 
able in the cavalry or in other arms, for the 
aristocratic J at Sikh, as a rule, refuses to serve 
with them. Yet you will find a sprinkling of Jat 
Sikhs in the Mazbhi Pioneer regiments — quick- 
witted, ambitious men usually, who are ready to 
make some sacrifice in the way of social prestige 
for the sake of more rapid promotion. The solid 
old Mazbhis, with all their sterling virtues, are 
not quick at picking up ideas. It is sometimes 
difficult to find men among them with the 
initiative to make good officers. Thus in a 
Mazbhi regiment the more subtle-minded Jat 
does not find it such a stiff climb out of the 

It would be a mistake to think that the Jat 
Sikh is necessarily a better man in a scrap than 
the Mazbhi, though this is no doubt assumed as 
a matter of course by ofificers whose acquaintance 
with the Sikh is confined to the Jat. I shall 
never forget introducing a young captain in a 
Mazbhi regiment to a very senior Colonel on the 
Staff. The colonel in his early days had been 
a subaltern in the — th Sikhs, but had put in 


most of his life's work in " Q " Branch up at 
Simla, and did not know a great deal about the 
Sikh or any other sepoy. He turned to the 
young leader of Mazbhis, who is quite the keenest 
regimental officer I know, and said — 

" Your men are Mazbhis, aren't they ? But 
I suppose you have a stiffening of Jats." 

The youngster's eyes glinted rage and he 
breathed fire. 

"Stiffening, sir? Stiffening of Jats ! Our 
men are Mazbhis." 

Stiffening was an unhappy word, and it stuck 
in the boy's gorge for weeks. To stiffen the 

" to gild refined gold, 
To add another hue unto the rainbow," 

all come in the same catalogue of ridiculous 
excess. Stiffening ! Why the man is solid con- 
crete. It would take a stream of molten larva 
to make him budge. Or, as Atkins would 
say — 

" He wants a crump on his blamed cokernut 
before he knows things is beginning to get a bit 
'ot, and then he ain't sure." 

It was to stiffen his men a bit, as they were 
all jiwans and likely to get a little flustered, that 


old Khattak Singh, Subadar of the 34th Sikh 
Pioneers, called " Left, right ; right, left," as the 
regiment tramped into action at Dujaila ; but 
the Mazbhi did not want stiffening. It is rather 
his part to contribute the inflexible element when 
there is fear of a bent or broken line. In the 
action at Jebel Hamrin, on March 25, 191 7, 
when we tried to drive the Turks from a strong 
position in the hills, where they outnumbered us, 
the Mazbhis showed us how stiff they could be. 
They were divisional troops and for months they 
had been employed in wiring our line at night, 
— a wearing business, standing about for hours 
in the dark, under a blind but hot fire, casualties 
every night and never a shot at the Turk. So 
tired were they of being fired at without return- 
ing the enemy's fire that, when they got the 
chance at Jebel Hamrin and were rolling over 
visible Turks, for a long time they could not be 
induced to retire. The Turks were bringing 
off an enveloping movement which threatened 
our right. The order had been given for the 
retirement. But the Mazbhis did not, or would 
not, hear it. Somebody, I forget whether it was 
a British officer, or if it was an Indian officer 
after the British officers had all fallen, said that 

46 the; SIKH 

he would not retire without a written order. 
Ninety of them out of one hundred and fifty fell. 
Old Khattak Singh got back in the night, 
walked six miles to the hospital with seven 
wounds, one in his shoulder and two in his thigh, 
and said, " I had ninety rounds. I fired them all 
at the Turks and killed a few. Now I am happy 
and may as well lie up for a bit." 

The Staff Colonel had a certain spice of 
humour, if little tact, and I think he rather liked 
the boy for his outburst in defence of his dear 
Mazbhis. To the outsider these little passages 
afford continual amusement. One has to mix 
with different regiments a long time before one 
can follow all the nuances, but it does not take 
lone to realize to what extent the British officer 
is a partisan. Insensibly he suffers through his 
affections a kind of conversion. He comes to 
see many things as his men see them, even to 
adopt their own estimate of themselves in relation 
to other sepoys. And one would not have it 
otherwise. It speaks well for the qualities of 
the Indian soldier, for the courage, kindliness, 
loyalty, and faith with which he binds his British 
officer to his own community. It may be very 
narrow and wrong, but an Indian regiment is the 


better fighting unit for it. Better an enthusiasm 
that is sometimes ridiculous than a lukewarm 
attachment. The officer who does not think 
much of his jiwans will not go far with them. 
There are cases, of course, where pride runs riot 
and verges on snobbishness. I remember a 
subaltern who was shocked at the idea of his 
men playing hockey with a regiment recruited 
from a lower caste. And I once knew a field 
officer in a class regiment of Jat Sikhs who, I 
am sure, would have felt very uncomfortable if 
he had been asked to sit down at table with an 
officer who commanded Mazbhis. Yet, I am 
told, he was a fine soldier. 

Fanatics of his kidney were happily rare. I 
use the past tense for they have gone with the 
best, and I am speaking generally of a school 
that has vanished. It may be resuscitated, but 
it will hardly be in our time. Too many of 
the old campaigners, transmitters of tradition, 
splendid fellows who lived for the regiment and 
swore by it, are dead or crippled, and the pick 
of the Indian Army Reserve has been reaped 
by the same scythe. The gaps have had to be 
filled so fast and from a material so unready that 
one meets officers now who know nothin<i about 


their sepoys, who do not understand their lan- 
guage and who are not even interested in them, 
youngsters intended for other walks of life who 
will never be impressed by the Indian soldier 
until they have first learnt to impress him. 


The •• P. M.", or Punjabi Mussalman, is a 
difficult type to describe. Next to the Sikh, he 
makes up the greater part of the Indian Army. 
Yet, outside camps and messes, one hears little of 
him. The reason is that in appearance there is 
nothing very distinctive about him ; in character 
he combines the traits of the various stocks from 
which he is sprung, and these are legion ; also, as 
there are no P. M. class regiments, he is never 
collectively in the public eye. 

Yet the P. M. has played a conspicuous part 
in nearly every action the Indian Army has 
fought in the war, and in every frontier campaign 
for generations ; in gallantry, coolness, endurance, 
dependability, he is every bit as good as the 


" Why don't you write about the P. M. ? " a 
friend in the Nth asked me once. He was a 
major in a Punjabi regiment, and had grown grey 
in service with them. 

49 E 


We were standing on the platform of a flank- 
ing trench screened by sandbags from Turkish 
snipers, looking out over the marsh at Sannaiyat. 
Nothing had happened to write home about for 
six months, not since we delivered our third and 
bloodiest attack on the position on the 22nd April. 
The water had receded nearly a thousand yards 
since then. Our wire fences stood out high and 
dry on the alkaline soil. The blue lake seemed 
to stretch away into the interstices of the hills 
which in the haze looked a bare dozen miles 

Two days before our last attack in April the 
water was clean across our front six inches deep, 
with another six inches of mud ; on the 21st it 
was subsiding ; on the 22nd the flooded ground 
was heavy, but it was decided that there was just 
a chance. So the assault was delivered. The 
Turkish front line was flooded ; there was no one 
in it, and it was not until we had passed it that 
we were really in difficulties. The second line of 
trenches was neck deep in water; behind it there 
was a network of dug-outs and pits into which 
we floundered blindly. Beyond this, between the 
Turkish second and third lines, the mud was knee 
deep. The Highlanders, a composite battalion of 




the Black Watch and Seaforths, and the 92nd 
Punjabis, as they struggled grimly through, came 
under a terrific fire. It was here that their 
splendid gallantry was mocked by one of those 
circumstances which make one look darkly for 
the hand of God in war. 

The breeches of their rifles had become 
choked and jammed with mud. The Jocks were 
tearing at them with their teeth, panting and 
sobbing, and choking for breath. They were 
almost at grips with the Turk, but could not 
return his fire. 

The last action we fought for Kut was un- 
successful, but the gallantry of the men who 
poured into that narrow front through the marsh 
will become historic. The Highlanders hardly 
need praise. The constancy of these battalions 
has come to be regarded as a natural law. " The 
Jocks were magnificent," my friend said, "as they 
always are. So were the Indians." 

And amongst the Indians were the P. Ms. 
There were other classes of sepoy who may have 
done as well, but the remnants of the three 
Indian battalions in this fight were mostly Pun- 
jabi Mussalmans. And here, as at Nasiriyeh, 
Ctesiphon and Kut-el-Amara, in Egypt and 


France, at Ypres, Festubert and Serapeum, the 
P. M. covered himself with glory. The Jock, 
that sparing critic of men, had nothing but good 
words for him. 

" Yes ! Why don't you write about the 
P. M. ?" the Major asked. One of the reasons 
why I had not written about the P. M. is that he 
is a very difficult person to write about. There 
is nothing very salient or characteristic about 
him ; or rather, he has the characteristics of most 
other sepoys. To write about the P. M. is to 
write about the Indian Army. And that is why, 
to my friend's intense annoyance, the man in the 
street, who speaks glibly of Gurkha, Sikh, and 
Pathan, has never heard of him. 

" Here's the old P. M. sweating blood," he 
said, *' all through the show, slogging away, 
sticking it out like a good 'un, and as modest 
as you make 'em. Never bukhs ; never comes 
up after a show and tells you what he has done. 
You don't know unless you see him. Old 
Shere Khan, our bomb havildar, was hit through 
both jaws on the 22nd. He got two bullets in 
the arm. Then he was shot in the lungs. But 
it was only when he got his fifth wound in the 
leg that he ceased to lead his men and limped 


back to the first-aid post. All our B. O.'s were 
down, but a doctor man with the Highlanders 
happened to see the whole thing. So Shere 
Khan was promoted." 

The Major was bound to his P. Ms. with 
hoops of steel. It was the rifles with fixed 
bayonets slung from pegs between the sandbags 
that recalled Polonius' metaphor. It seemed 
more apt at Sannaiyat. 

He introduced me to the Jemadar, Ghulam 
Ali, a man with a mouth like a rat-trap and 
remarkable for a kind of dour smartness. The 
end of his pagri was drawn out into a jaunty 
little tuft by the side of his kula. His long hair, 
oiled, but uncurled, fell down to the nape of his 
neck. Ghulam Ali, though shot through the 
forearm himself, had built up a screen of earth 
round his Sahib when he was severely wounded 
at the Wadi, stayed with him till dusk, helped 
him back to better cover, and then returned to 
the firing line to bring in a lance-naik on his 

There were very few of the old crowd left 
in the trenches. " These youngsters are mostly 
recruits," the Major explained, "but they are a 
good lot. I wish you could have seen Subadar 


," and he mentioned a man who had prac- 
tically run a district in East Africa all on his 
own when there was no white man by. A 
tremendous character. "And Subadar-Major 
Farman Ali Bahadar. He got the D.S.M. when 
he was with us in Egypt, led a handful of his 
men across the open at Touffoum, and turned the 
Turkish flank very neatly. He got an I.O.M. 
at Sheikh Saad. And he led the regiment back 
at Sannaiyat when all the British officers were 
down. He was a Khoreshi, by the way." 

A Khoreshi is a member of the tribe of the 
Prophet. A good Khoreshi is a man to be 
sought for and honoured, for his influence is 
great ; but a bad Khoreshi among the P. Ms. 
is as big a nuisance as a Mir among Pathans. 

"A kind of ecclesiastical dignitary," the 
Major explained, "a sort of Rural Dean. You 
will find men who funk him for reasons which 
have nothing to do with discipline ; and if he 
pulls the wrong way it is the very devil." 

The P. Ms. in the trenches were varied in 
type. There was nothing distinctive or showy 
about them, only they all looked workman-like ; 
Sikh, Jat, and Punjabi Mussalman are mostly of 
common stock, and they assimilate so much in 


feature that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish 
between them. The P. Ms. ancestry may be 
Rajput, J at, Gujar, Arab or Mogul. There are 
more than 400 tribes which he can derive from, 
and these are broken up into innumerable sects 
and sub-divisions. He does not pride himself on 
his class, but on his clan. The generic "izzat" 
of the P. M. is merged in the specific "izzat" of 
the Gakkar, Tiwana, Awan, or whatever he may 
be. "Punjabi Mussalman" is a purely official 
designation. And that is why the general public 
hears so little of him. 

As a class he is a kind of Indian Everyman 
and comprises all. You will find among the 
P. Ms. every variety of type, from the big-boned 
Awan, stalwart of the Salt Range, to the thin- 
bearded little hillman of Poonch ; from the 
Tiwanas, bloods of the Thai country who give 
us the pick of our cavalry and will not serve on 
foot, to the wiry Baluchi, who has forgotten the 
language and observances of his kinsmen over 
the border. You will find descendants of all the 
Muhammadan invaders of India, from the time 
of Mahmud of Ghazni in a.d. 1001, and of pre- 
Islamic invaders centuries before that, and of the 
converts of every considerable Moslem freebooter 


since. The recruiting officer encourages pride 
of race, which is generally accompanied with a 
soldierly bearing and pride in arms, though the 
oldest stock is not always the best. You will 
find among the P. Ms. Khoreshis and Sayads of 
the tribes of the Prophet and of Ali, Gakkars 
who will only give their daughters to Sayads, 
Ketwals who descended from Alexander the 
Great. The Bhatti are Pliny's Baternae. The 
Awans claim descent from the iconoclast Mah- 
mud. At Sannaiyat I saw a Jungua of the 
Jhelum district who might have stood for a 
portrait of Disraeli. The true, or spurious, seed 
of the Moguls are scattered all over the Punjab, 
and there are scions of ancient Rajput stock like 
the Ghorewahas, who preserve their bards and 
are still half Hindus, and the Manj, who are too 
blue-blooded to follow the plough. But as a 
rule the P. M. has less frills than the Hindu of 
the same stock ; he will lend a hand at any 
honest work, and falls easily into disciplinary 

What is it then that differentiates the Punjabi 
Mussalman ? I put the case to my friend. 

"Your P. M. comes from all stocks, has the 
same ancestor as the Jat, the Sikh, the Rajput, 


or the Pathan. Can you tell me exactly what 
being a P. M. does for him ? " 

The Major was unable to enlighten me fully. 
He told me what I had heard officers say of 
other classes of sepoy ; only he left out all their 

" Personally, I think the P. M. is more 
human," he said. " He is not so proud as the 

, or so ambitious as the , or so mean 

as the , or so stupid as the . He is 

a cheery soul, and when he gets money he 
doesn't mind spending it. He is the most 
natural and direct of men, and there is no damned 
humbug about him. I remember old Fazal 
Khan pulling up a jiwan (youth) we had up, and 
who was being cross-examined in an inquiry about 
some lost ammunition. The youngster hedged, 
corrected himself, modified his statements, and 
generally betrayed his reluctance to come to the 
point. Fazal Khan's rebuke was characteristic. 
* Judging distance ka mafik gawahi mut do ! ' he 
said (' Don't give your evidence as if you were 
judging distance at the range ! '). He had a 
wholesome contempt for civilian ways. The 
regiment was giving a tamasha in the lines — an 
anniversary show— and one of our subalterns 


suggested putting up a row of flags all the way 
from the gate to the marquee. But Fazal Khan 
was not for it. 'No, sahib!' he said gravely, 
* too civil ka mafik,' * the sort of thing a civilian 
would do.' The old fellow is a soldier all 

The Major's story gave me a glimmering of 
what it was that being a P. M. did for Fazal 
Khan and his brood. "There is no damned 
humbug about them," — which was his way of 
saying that his friends neglect the arts of in- 

" There is something downriorht about the 
p. M. Even when he is mishandled, he is not 
mulish, only dispirited. And he'll do anything 
for the right kind of Sahib. Besides, look how 
he rolls up, recruiting is now better than ever — 
he is the backbone of the Indian Army." 

A good " certifkit " and I think in the main 
true, though necessarily partial. But the Major 
was not literally accurate in saying that the P. M. 
is the backbone of the Indian Army. The Sikhs 
would have something to say to that, for 214 
companies of infantry, including the class regi- 
ments, and forty squadrons of cavalry, are re- 
cruited entirely from the Khalsa, besides a large 


proportion of sappers and miners, and half the 
mountain batteries. The Gurkhas contribute 
twenty battalions of foot, but they serve only in 
the infantry. Taking infantry, cavalry, artillery 
and sappers, the P. M. in point of numbers is an 
easy second to the Sikh.* 

There are, of course, Mussalman sepoys and 
sowars recruited from other provinces than the 
Punjab. Those from the United Provinces fall 
under the official designation of " Hindustani 
Mussalman," and need not be differentiated from 
the Muhammadans east of the Jumna. The 
same qualities may be discovered in any clan ; 
the difference is only in degree ; it is among the 
Punjabi Mussalmans that you will find the pick 
of Islam in the Indian Army. 

Of quality it is difficult to speak. He is a 
bold man who would generalise upon the Indian 
Army, more especially upon the Punjab fighting 
stocks. The truth is that, if you pick the best of 
them and give them the same officers, there is 
nothing to choose between Sikh, Jat, and Punjabi 
Mussalman. Only you must be careful to choose 
your men from districts where they inherit the 

* These statistics relate to the pre-war establishment of the 
Indian Army. 


land and are not alien and browbeaten, but carry 
their heads high. 

Why, then, if the P. M. is as good as the 
best, has he not been discovered by the man in 
the street ? One reason I have suggested. You 
can shut your eyes in the Haymarket and conjure 
up an image of Gurkha, Sikh, or Pathan, but 
you cannot thus airily summon the P. M. — be- 
cause he is Everyman, the type of all. Another 
source of his obscurity is the illogical nomen- 
clature of the Indian Army. A class designation 
does not mean a class regiment. How many 
Baluchis proper are there in the so-called Baluchi 
regiments ? Who gives a thought to the Dogras, 
P. Ms. and Pathans in the 51st, 52nd, 53rd, 
and 54th Sikhs, the Dekkani Mussalman in the 
Maharatta regiments, or the Dogras and P. Ms. 
in the 40th Pathans .'* Now the P. M. only 
exists in the composite battalions. He has no 
class regiment of his own. You may look in 
vain in the Army List for the 49th Gakkars, 
50th Awans, or the 69th Punjabi Mussalmans. 
Hence it is that the P. M. swells the honour of 
others, while his own name is not increased. 

Every boy in the street heard of the 40th 
Pathans at Ypres, but few knew that there were 


two companies of P. Ms. In the crowd — " as 
good as any of them," the Major said, "men 
who would stiffen any regiment in the Indian 

And when it is generally known that the 

Sikhs were first into the Turkish trenches 

on the right bank at Sheikh Saad and captured 
the two mountain guns, nobody is likely to hear 
anything of the P. M. company who was with 
them, a composite part of the battalion. ' 

The Major's men had been complimented for 
every action they had been in, and this was the 
scene of their most desperate struggle. But 
there was little to recall the Sannaiyat of April 
— only an occasional bullet whistling overhead, 
or cracking against the sandbags. Instead of 
mud a thin dust was flying and the peaceful 
birds stood by the edge of the lake. 

I wished the P. M. could have his Homer. 
Happily he is not concerned with the newspaper 
paragraph. Were the Press to discover him it 
is doubtful if he would hear of it. He enlists 
freely. He is such an obvious fact, stands out 
so saliently wherever the Indian Army is doing 
anything, looms so large everywhere, that it has 
probably never entered his head that his light 


could be obscured. But his British officer takes 
the indifference of the profane crowd to heart. 
When he hears the Sikh, Gurkha, and Pathan 
spoken of collectively as synonymous with the 
Indian Army he is displeased ; and his dis- 
pleasure is natural, if not philosophic. If he 
were philosophic he would find consolation in 
the same sheets which annoy him, for it is better 
to be ignored than to be advertised in a foolish 
way. It is with a joy that has no roots in pride 
that the Indian Army officer reads of the Gurkha 
hurling his kukri at the foe, or blooding his 
virgin blade on the forearms of the self-devotingr 
ladies of Marseilles, or of the grave, bearded 
Sikhs handing round the hubble-bubble with the 
blood still wet on their swords ; or of the Bengali 
lancer dismounting and charging the serried ranks 
of the Hun with his spear. Hearing of these 
wonders, the Sahib who commands the Punjabi 
Mussalman, and loves his men, will discover 
comfort in obscurity. 


One often hears British officers in the Indian 
Army say that the Pathan has more in common 
with the EngHshman than other sepoys. This 
is because he is an individuahst. Personality 
has more play on the border, and the tribesman 
is not bound by the complicated ritual that lays 
so many restrictions on the Indian soldier. His 
life is more free. He is more direct and out- 
spoken, not so suspicious or self-conscious. He 
is a gambler and a sportsman, and a bit of an 
adventurer, restless by nature, and always ready 
to take on a new thing. He has a good deal of 
joie de vivre. His sense of humour approximates 
to that of Thomas Atkins, and is much more 
subtle than the Gurkha's, though he laughs at 
the same things. He will smoke a pipe with 
the Dublin Fusiliers and share his biscuits with 
the man of Cardiff or Kent. He is a Highlander, 
and so, like the Gurkhas, naturally attracted by 
the Scot. Yet behind all these superficial points 



of resemblance he has a code which in ultimate 
things cuts him off from the British soldier with 
as clean a line of demarcation as an unbridged 

The Pathan's code is very simple and distinct 
in primal and essential things. The laws of 
hospitality, retaliation, and the sanctuary of his 
hearth to the guest or fugitive are seldom vio- 
lated. But acting within the code the Pathan 
can indulge his bloodthirstiness, treachery, and 
vindictiveness to an extent unsanctioned by the 
tables of the law prescribed by other races and 
creeds. It is a savage code, and the only saving 
grace about the business is that the Pathan is 
true to it, such as it is, and expects to be dealt 
with by others as he deals by them. The main 
fact in life across the border is the badi, or blood- 
feud. Few families or tribes are without their 
vendettas. Everything that matters hinges on 
them, and if an old feud is settled by mediation 
through the Jirgah, there are seeds of a new one 
ready to spring up in every contact of life. The 
favour of women, insults, injuries, murder, debt, 
inheritance, boundaries, water-rights, — all these 
disputes are taken up by the kin of the men con- 
cerned, and it is a point of honour to assassinate, 

To face p. 64.] 



openly or by stealth, any one connected by blood 
with the other side, however innocent he may be 
of the original provocation. Truces are arranged 
at times by mutual convenience for ploughing, 
sowing, or harvest ; but as a rule it is very difficult 
for a man involved in a badi to leave his watch- 
tower, and still more difficult for him to return 
to it. It will be understood that the Pathan is 
an artist in taking cover. He probably has a 
communication trench of his own from his strong- 
hold to his field, and no one better understands 
the uses of dead ground. 

What makes these blood-feuds so endless 
and uncompromising is that quarrels begun in 
passion are continued in cold blood for good 
form. The Malik Din and Kambur Khil have 
been at war for nearly a century and nobody 
remembers how it all began. It is a point of 
honour to retaliate, however inconvenient the 
state of siege may be. The most ordinary 
routine of life may become impossible. The 
young Pathan may be itching to stroll out and 
lie on a bank and bask or fall asleep in the sun. 
But this would be to deliver himself into the 
hands of his enemy. There is no dishonour in 
creeping up and stabbing a man in the back 



when he is sleeping ; but there is very great 
dishonour in failing to take an advantage of an 
adversary or neglecting to prosecute a blood 
feud to its finish. Such softness is a kind of 
moral leprosy in the eyes of the Pathan. 

With so much at stake the Pathan cannot 
afford to be long away from home. In peace- 
time he frequently puts in for short leave. 
"Sahib," Sher Ali explains, "it is the most 
pressing matter." And the Sahib gathers that 
evil is likely to befall either Sher All's family or 
his neighbour Akbar Khan's during the next two 
weeks, and is bound by the brotherhood of arms 
to provide, so far as he is able, that it is not Sher 
All's. So the Pathan slips away from his regi- 
ment, anticipating the advertised date of his leave 
by consent, for there are men in his company 
connected by blood ties with the other party — 
men perhaps who are so far committed that they 
would lie up for Sher Ali themselves on a dark 
night if they were away on leave in their own 
country at the same time. But the code does 
not permit the prosecution of a vendetta in the 
regiment. A Pathan may find himself stretched 
beside his heart's abhorrence in a night picquet, 
the two of them alone together, alert, with finger 


on the trigger. They may have spent inter- 
minable Ions: hours stalkincj each other in their 
own hills, but here they are safe as in sanctuary. 

The trans-frontier Pathan would not wittingly 
have enlisted in the Indian Army if he could 
have foreseen the prospect of a three years' 
campaign in a foreign land. The security of his 
wife, his children, his cattle, his land, depend on 
his occasional appearance in his village. The 
interests of the Indian sepoy are protected by the 
magistrate and the police, but across the border 
the property of the man who goes away and fights 
may become the property of the man who stays at 
home. The exile is putting all the trump cards 
into his enemy's hands. The score will be 
mounting up against him. His name will become 
less, if not his kin ; his womenkind may be dis- 
honoured. In the event of his return the other 
party will have put up such a tally that it will 
take him all his time to pay off old scores. After 
a year of "the insane war" in which he has no 
real stake, and from which he can see no probable 
retreat, he is likely to take thought and brood. 
Government cannot protect his land and family ; 
continued exile may mean the abandonment of 
all he has. In the tribal feud the man away on 

68 the: PATH AN 

long service is likely to go under ; the man on the 
spot has things all his own way. 

Now the Pathan is a casuist. He is more 
strict in the observance of the letter of his code 
than in the observance of the spirit. An oath on 
the Koran is generally binding where there is no 
opening for equivocation, but it is not always 
respected if it can be evaded by a quibble. A 
Pathan informer was tempted by a police officer 
to give the names of a gang of dacoits. 

"Sahib," he said, " I've sworn not to betray 
any son of man." 

" You need not betray them," the officer sug- 
gested. " Don't tell me, tell the wall." 

The Pathan was sorely tempted. He thought 
over the ethics. Then he smiled, and, like 
Pyramus, he addressed the wall : 

" Oh ! whited wall," he began, " their names 
are Mirza Yahya, Abdulla Khan ..." 

The code was not violated, as with a robust 
conscience the Pathan gave away the name of 
every man in the gang. 

A tribesman who boasts that he would not 
injure a hair of an unclean swine which took 
sanctuary in his house, will conduct the guest 
with whom he has broken bread just beyond the 


limits of his property and shoot him. In a land 
dispute a mullah ordained that the two rival 
claimants should walk the boundary of the 
property in question on oath, each carrying a 
Koran on his head. They walked over the same 
ground, and each bore witness that he trod his 
paternal acres, and they did so without shame, 
for each had concealed a bit of his own undoubted 
soil in his shoe. When a round or two of ammu- 
nition are missing, the subadar of the company 
will raise a little heap of dust on the parade 
ground and make each man as he passes by 
plunge his clenched fist in it, and swear that he 
has not got the ammunition. The rounds are 
generally found in the dustheap, and nobody is 

An officer in a Pathan militia regiment found 
a stumpy little tree stuck in the sand near the 
gate of the camp where trees do not grow. He 
was puzzled, and asked one Indian officer after 
another to explain. They all grinned rather 
sheepishly. ** It is this way, Sahib," one of them 
said at last. "We lose a number of small things 
in the camp. Now when an object is lost the 
theft is announced, and each man as he passes 
the tree says, ' Allah curse the Budmash who 



stole the boots,' or the dish, or the turban, or 
whatever it may be. And so it will happen 
sometimes that the article will be found hanging 
in the fork of the tree in the morning when dark- 
ness gives place to light." 

The Pathan cannot bear up under the weight 
of such commination, it spoils his sleep at night. 
Not that he has a sensitive conscience : theft, 
murder, and adultery are not crimes to him in the 
abstract, but only so far as they violate hospi- 
tality or loyalty to a bond. He has no sentiment, 
or inkling of chivalry ; but he must save his face, 
avoid shame, follow the code, and prefer death 
to ridicule or dishonour. One of the axioms of 
his code is that he must be true to his salt. The 
trans-frontier Pathan is not a subject of the King 
as is the British Indian sepoy, but he has taken 
an oath. An oath is in the ordinary way binding, 
but if it can be shown that he has sworn unwit- 
tingly and against his religion — every text in the 
Koran is capable of a double interpretation — why, 
then the obligation is annulled. " Your religion 
comes first " — the argument is put to him by the 
Hun and the Turk. *' No oath sworn to infidels 
can compel you to break your faith with Allah." 
The Pathan is not normally a religious fanatic 


any more than the Punjabi Mussalman. Had he 
been so he would not have ranged himself with 
us against an Islamic enemy, as he has done in 
every frontier campaign for the last half-century. 
But in this war Islam offered him the one decent 
retreat from an intolerable position. 

There were one or two cases of desertion 
among the Pathans in France and Mesopotamia. 
The Pathan did not expect absolution if he fell into 
our hands afterwards, or if he were caught trying 
to slip away. Forgiveness is not in his nature. 
But think of the temptation, the easiness of self- 
persuasion. Remember how subtly the maggot of 
sophistry works even in the head of the Christian 
divine. Then listen to the burning words of the 
Jehad : — 

" Act not so that the history of your family 
may be stained with the ink of disgrace and the 
blood of your Muhammadan brethren be shed for 
the attainment of the objects of unbelievers. We 
write this to you in compliance with the orders 
of God Almighty, the kind and also stern 

A hundred texts might be quoted, and have 
been quoted, from the Koran to show that it is 
obligatory for the Moslem soldier to fight against 


his King's enemies, whether they be of his own 
faith or no. But how many, after taking thought 
and counsel of expediency, are quite sure that 
black is not white after all ! The deserter may 
not escape to the Hun lines and the pretended 
converts of Islam, whom instinct, stirring beneath 
the Jehadist's logic, must teach him to despise. 
And he is for the wall if he is caught, shame- 
fully led out and bandaged and shot in the eyes 
of his brethren who have been true to their 
oath. None of us would hesitate to slip the 
trigger against a traitor of his kidney. The 
man's very memory is abhorred. Yet in dealing- 
out summary execution one should remember 
the strone bias that deflected his mind. Out of 
the mud and poisoned gas of Flanders. Out 
of Mesopotamia. Out of the blood and fruitless 
sacrifice, the doom of celibacy, the monotony 
which is only broken by the variety it offers of 
different shapes of disease and death. Back to 
his tower and maize field if his kin have held 
them, and his wife if she has waited for him, 
and all in the name of honour and religion. 

It may seem a mistake in writing of a brave 
people to take note of backsliders; but the 
instances in which the Pathan has been seduced 


from loyalty have been so discussed that it is 
better for the collective honour of the race to 
examine the psychological side of it frankly. It 
would be a great injustice to the Pathan if it were 
thought that any failed us through fear. 

In couraee and coolness the Pathan is the 

unquestioned equal of any man. Mir Dast, of 

Coke's Rifles F.F., attached to Wilde's Rifles 

F.F. in France, the first Indian officer to win the 

V.C., was a type of the best class of Afridi. No 

one who knew him was surprised to hear how, at 

the second battle of Ypres, after all his officers 

had fallen, he selected and consolidated a line 

with his small handful of men; how, though 

wounded and gassed himself, he held the ground 

he had hastily scratched up, walking fearlessly up 

and down encouraging his men ; how, satisfied at 

last that the line was secure, he continued to 

carry in one disabled man after another, British 

and Indian, back to safety under heavy fire. Mir 

Dast had told the Colonel of the 55th, when he 

left the battalion in Bannu to join the regiment 

he was attached to in France, that he would not 

come back without the Victoria Cross. "Now 

that Indians may compete for this greatest of all 

bahadris," he said, " I shall return with it or 


remain on the field." And he did not say this in 
a boastful manner, but quietly as a matter of 
course, as though there were no other alternative ; 
just as a boxer might tell you by way of assur- 
ance, repeating an understood thing, that he was 
going to fight on until the other man was knocked 
out. I met Mir Dast afterwards in hospital, and 
was struck with the extraordinary dignity and 
quiet reserve of the man ; an impression of 
gallantry was conveyed in his brow and eyes, like 
a stamp on metal. 

It was in the Mohmand compaign that Mir 
Dast won the I.O.M., in those days the nearest 
Indian equivalent to the V.C. An officer friend 
of mine and his who spoke to him in his stretcher 
after the fight, told me that he found Mir Dast 
beaming. " I am very pleased, Sahib," he said. 
" I've had a good fight, and I've killed the man 
that wounded me." And he held up his bayonet 
and pointed to a foot-long stain of blood. He 
had been shot through the thigh at three 
yards, but had lunged forward and got his man. 
On the same day another Afridi did a very 
Pathan-like thing. I will tell the story here, as 
it is typical of the impetuous, reckless daring of 
the breed, thai sudden lust for honour which 


sweeps the Pathan off his feet, and carries him 
sometimes to the achievement of the impossible — 
an impulse, brilliant while it lasts, but not so 
admirable as the more enduring flame that is 
always trimmed and burns steadily without 

Nur Baz was a younger man than Mir Dast, 
and one of the same Afridi company. It entered 
his head, just as it entered the head of Mir Dast 
when he left Bannu for France, that he must 
achieve something really remarkable. The young 
man was of the volatile, boastful sort, very different 
from the hero of Ypres, and to his quick imagina- 
tion the conception of his bahadri was the same 
thing as the accomplishment of it, or the difference, 
if there were any, was only one of tense. So he 
began to talk about what he was going to do until 
he wearied the young oflicer to whom he was 
orderly. *' Bring me your bahadri first, Nur Baz," 
the subaltern said a little impatiently, " then I 
shall congratulate you, but don't bukh so much 
about it." 

The pride went out of Nur Baz at this snub 
as the air out of a pricked bladder, and he was 
very shamefaced until his opportunity came. 
This was in the same attack in which Mir Dast 


fell. The regiment were burning a village, and 
the Afridi company had to clear the ridge behind 
which commanded it ; they and another Pathan 
company were attacking up parallel spurs. Nur 
Baz, finding that his orderly work committed 
him to a secondary role in the operations, asked 
if he might join his section, which was to lead the 
attack. He obtained his officer's consent, and 
was soon scrambling up the hillside in the pursuit. 
When the leading section extended he found the 
advance too slow, so he squatted behind a boulder, 
waited until the wave had got on a few yards, 
then dived down to the bottom of the nullah, 
climbed up again under cover, and in a few 
minutes appeared on the edge of the spur some 
250 yards in advance of the assault. A yell of 
rage went up from the Pathans behind when they 
found that Nur Baz had forestalled them and was 
CToinor to be first in at the death. But Nur Baz 

o o 

was happy as he leapt from one great boulder to 
another, the ground spitting up under him, and 
stopped every moment to get in a shot at the 
men in the sangar in front. Just as he reached 
it a Martini bullet struck his rifle in the small of 
the butt and broke off the stock. He could not 
fire now, but he fixed his bayonet and charged 


the sangar with his broken weapon. There were 
three men in it when he clambered over the 
parapet. One was dead, another who had missed 
him with his muzzle-loader a second or two before 
was reloading, and the third was slipping away. 
Nur Baz bayoneted the man who was reloading 
just as he withdrew the rod with which he was 
ramming the charge home ; then he picked up 
the dead man's rifle and shot the fugitive ; thus 
he cleared his little bit of front alone. 

His subaltern had watched this very spec- 
tacular bit of bahadri from the parallel spur ; but 
he only discovered that the central figure of it 
was his orderly when Mir Dast in his stretcher 
remarked, " Nur Baz has done well, Sahib, 
hasn't he ? " Afterwards Nur Baz appeared 
"with a jaw like a bulldog, grinning all over, 
and the three rifles slung to his shoulder," and 
received the congratulations of his Sahib. 

" Sahib," he said, " will you honour me by 
taking one of these ? Choose the one you like 

The subaltern selected the muzzle-loader, but 
Nur Baz demurred. 

" I must first see the Colonel Sahib," he said, 
" if you choose that one." 


" And why ? " 

"It is loaded, and it is not permitted to fire 
off a round in the camp without the Colonel 
Sahib's permission." 

Just then the Colonel arrived, and Nur Baz, 
having obtained permission, raised the rifle 
jauntily to his shoulder and with evident satis- 
faction loosed the bullet which oufjht to have 
cracked his brain pan into the empty air. Nur 
Baz and Mir Dast, though differing much in style, 
both had a great deal of the original Pathan in 

One more story of an Afridi. It was in 
France, There had been an unsuccessful attack 
on the German lines. A sergeant of the Black 
Watch was lying dead in no-man's land, and 
the Hun sniper who had accounted for him lay 
somewhere in his near neighbourhood ; he had 
lain there for hours taking toll of all who exposed 
themselves. It was gfettinof dark when an officer 
of the 57th Rifles saw a Pathan, Sher Khan, 
pushing his way along the trench towards the 
spot. The man was wasting no time ; he was 
evidently on some errand, only he carried no 
rifle. The officer called after him : 

" Hello, Sher Khan, where are you off" to ? " 


" I am going to gtit the sniper, Sahib, who 
shot the sergeant." 

" But why haven't you got a rifle ? " 

*' I am not going to dirty mine, Sahib. I'll 
take the sergeant's." 

It was still light when he crawled over the 
parapet and wriggled his way down a furrow to 
where the sergeant lay. The sniper saw him, 
and missed him twice. Sher Khan did not reply 
to this fire. He lay quite still by the side of the 
Highlander and gently detached one of his spats. 
This he arranged so that in the half light it 
looked like a white face peeping over the man's 
body. Then he withdrew twenty yards to one 
side and waited. Soon the Hun's head appeared 
from his pit a few yards off and disappeared 
quickly. But Sher Khan bided his time. The 
sniper was evidently intrigued, and as it grew 
darker he exposed himself a little more each time 
he raised his head peering at the white face over 
the dead Highlander's shoulder. At last he 
knelt upright, reassured — the thing was so motion- 
less ; nevertheless he decided that another bullet 
in it would do no harm. He was taking steady 
aim when the Pathan fired. The range was too 
close for a miss even in that light, and the Hun 


rolled over. Half an hour afterwards Sher Khan 
returned with the Hun's rifle and the High- 
lander's under his arm ; in his right hand he 
carried the Hun's helmet, a grisly sight, as his 
bullet had crashed through the man's brain. 

It is his individual touch, his brilliancy in 
initiative and coolness and daring in execution 
that has earned the Afridi his high reputation 
among Pathans. The trans-frontier Pathan with 
his eternal blood-feuds would naturally have the 
advantage in this kind of work over the Pathan 
from our side of the border ; his whole life from 
his boyhood up is a preparation for it. That is 
why some of the most brilliant soldiers in the 
Indian Army have been Afridis. On the other 
hand, collectively and in companies, the cis-frontier 
Yusafzais and Khattaks have maintained a higher 
aggregate of the military virtues, especiaily in the 
matter of steadiness and " sticking it out." 

A strange thing about the Pathan, and in- 
consistent with his hard-grained, practical nature, 
is that he is given to visions and epileptic fits. 
He is visited by the fairies, to use his own 
expressive phrase. I knew a fine old subadar 
who believed that these visitations came to him 
because he had shot a pigeon on a mosque. He 


became a prey to remorse, and made ineffectual 
pilgrimages to various shrines to exorcise the 
spirit. How much of this subconscious side of 
the Pathan is responsible for his state of mind 
when he runs amok would be an interesting point 
for the psychologist. The man broods over some 
injury or wrong and he is not content until he 
has translated his vision into fact. Sometimes 
he goes to work like the Malay, killing in a hot, 
blind fury. But there is often method in the 
orgy. It is an orgy of blood, one glorious hour, 
perhaps, or a few rapturous seconds in which 
vengeance is attained and satisfaction demanded 
of collective humanity, and the price to be paid 
for it, the Pathan's own life, is perfectly well 

Take the case of Ashgar AH. He learnt 
that a disparaging report as to the work of 
his brother had been sent in to the O.C. 
of the battalion by one Fazal-ud-din, a non- 
commissioned Pathan officer. Fazal-ud-din slept 
with him in the same tent, and Ashgar Ali lay 
brooding and sleepless all night. Before day- 
break he had devised a plan. In the darkness 
he removed all the rifles from the tent and hid 
them outside. He waited till the moon rose, 



Then standing by the door he shot the betrayer 
through the head as he slept. He shot another 
Pathan by his side who leapt to his feet, awakened 
by the report. Then he slipped away stealthily 
to the little round knoll which he had marked 
out for the catastrophe of his drama. Here he 
kept up a steady fire at any human shape that 
came within range, a stern dispenser of justice 
in full measure making good the errors of a too- 
biassed Providence. It was a calculated adjust- 
ment of right and wrong, and he kept a cool head 
as he counted up his tally. He saw his Colonel 
stalking him, an iron-grey head lifted cautiously 
from behind a hummock at fifty yards, an easy 
target. But Ashgar Ali called out, " Keep away, 
Sahib. I have no quarrel with you. My account 
is with the men. Keep away, or I must shoot." 
Snipers were firing at him at long range ; a sepoy 
was creeping up behind, and almost as he spoke 
he rolled over and lay still. 

A Pathan murder, as viewed by the assassin, 
generally stands for judgment and execution at 
the same time. There must be some such system 
among a people who have no Government or 
police. When a Pathan comes over the frontier 
and is arraigned by our code for a crime sanctioned 


by his own there is trouble. It is a tragic 
matter when law, especially if it is the Indian 
Penal Code, defeats the natural dispensations of 
justice. A splendid young Pathan, the pick of 
his battalion, was tried for shooting a man in his 
company. The act was deliberate, and to the 
Pathan mind justified by the provocation. The 
man who was put away meanly denied an obliga- 
tion of honour. The Pathan shot him like a dog 
before a dozen witnesses, and no doubt felt the 
same generous thrill of satisfaction as he would 
have done in passing judgment in his own land. 
But to the disgust of the regiment, and more 
especially of the British officer, who understood 
the Pathan code, the upholder of honour, one 
of the best and straightest men they had, was 

The great difference between the Pathan and 
the Sikh is that the Pathan is for himself. He 
has a certain amount of tribal, but no national, 
pride. His assurance is personal. Family pride 
depends on what the family has done within the 
memory of a generation ; for there is little or 
no distinction in birth. The Pathan is genuinely 
a democrat, the Sikh only theoretically so. In 
strict accordance with his code the Sikh should 


be democratic, but whatever he may profess, he 
is aristocratic in spirit. His pride is in the com- 
munity and in himself as one of the community.. 
The prestige of the Khalsa is always in his 
mind. The Pathan's pride is there, but is latent. 
It leaps out quickly enough when challenged. 
But when the Pathan is boastful it is in a casual 
manner. Normally he does not bother his head 
about appearances. He is more like an English- 
man in taking things as they come. But the 
Sikh is always acquisitive of honour. One cannot 
imagine Sikhs turnino: out old kit in order to 
save the new issue for handing in to the quarter- 
master when they " cut their name." Yet the 
Pathan, with his eye on the main chance, is quite 
content to go shabby if when he retires he can 
get more for his equipment on valuation. On 
one occasion on manoeuvres, when a Pathan 
company had carried their economy in this re- 
spect a bit too far, their company commander 
got even with them in the kind of way they 
respect. Haversacks, water-bottles, coats, ban- 
doliers, were laid on the ground for inspection. 
Then he sent them off to dig the perimeter. 
While they were digging some distance away, 
he went round quietly with an Indian officer and 


weeded out all the unserviceable kit. Then he 
sent for the men to come back. " I'm going to 
make a bonfire of these things," he said, "and 
what is more, you are going to dance round it." 
That young officer had the right way with the 
Pathan, who can enjoy a joke turned against 
himself better than most people. They danced 
round the fire, hugely amused, and no one re- 
sented it. 

It must not be imagined that the Pathan is 
of a careful or saving disposition. He is out to 
enjoy himself, fond of all the good things of life, 
open-handed, and a born gambler. The money 
he would have saved on his new kit would 
probably have been gambled away a few days 
after he had "cut his name." I knew a regiment 
where some of the young Pathans on three and 
a half months' leave never went near their homes, 
but used to enlist in the coolie corps on the Bolan 
Pass simply for the fun of gambling ! Gambling 
in the regiment, of course, was forbidden. But 
here they could have their fling and indulge a 
love of hazard. Wages were high and the place 
became a kind of tribal Monte Carlo. If they 
won, they threw up the work and had a good 
time; if they lost, it was all in the day's work. 


The Pathan is very much a bird of passage in a 
regiment. He is a restless adventurer, and he 
is always thinking of " cutting his name." He 
likes a scrap on the frontier, but soldiering in 
peace-time bores him after a little while. It is 
all " farz kerna," an Orakzai said, " make believe," 
like a field-day. " You take up one position and 
then another, and nothing comes of it. One gets 
tired." Raids and rifle-thievinor over the frontier 
are much better fun. The Pathan had the repu- 
tation of being the most successful rifle-thief we 
had rubbed up against in a campaign until we 
met the Arab in Mesopotamia. The Arab, when 
he goes about at night, seems to be leagued with 
Djinns; but in stealth, coolness, invisibility, daring, 
the Pathan runs him close. A sergeant of the 
Black Watch told me a characteristic story of 
how a Pathan made orood a rifle he had lost in 


France. There had grown up a kind of entente 
between the Black Watch and Vaughan's Rifles, 
who held the line alongside of them. It could 
not be otherwise with two fighting regiments of 
like traditions who have advanced and retired 
together, held the same trenches and watched 
each other closely for months. 

The Black Watch had been at Peshawar ; 


some of them could speak Hindustani, and one or 
two Pushtu. Their scout- sergeant, MacDonald, 
lost his rifle one night. He had stumbled with 
it into a ditch during a patrol, and left it caked 
with mud outside his dug-out when he turned in 
in the small hours. When he emerged it was 
gone, gathered in by the stretcher-bearers with 
the rifles of the dead and wounded, for Mac- 
Donald's dug-out was beside a first-aid station, 
and his rifle looked as if it belonged to a man 
who needed first aid. 

He had to make a reconnaissance. There 
was a rumour that the enemy had taken down 
the barbed wire in the trenches opposite and 
were going to attack. It was the scout-sergeant's 
business to see. Luckily there was grass in no- 
man's-land knee-deep. But he wanted a rifle, 
and he turned to his good friends the Pathans as 
a matter of course. 

" Ho, brothers ! " he called out. "Where is 
the Pathan who cannot lay his hands on a rifle ? 
I am in need of a rifle." 

It was, of course, a point of honour with the 
58th Rifles to deliver the goods. Shabaz Khan, 
a young Afridi spark, glided off in the direc- 
tion from which the scout-sergeant had come. 


MacDonald had not to wait many minutes before 
he returned with a rifle. 

A few minutes afterwards he was sHpping 
down the communication trench when he heard 
an oath and an exclamation behind him. 

" By ! There was eight rifles'against the 

wall ten minutes ago, and now there's only seven, 
and nobody's been here." 

It was the stretcher-bearer sergeant. Mac- 


Donald examined his rifle and found the regi- 
mental mark on the stock. He went on his way 
smiling. The Black Watch were brigaded with 
the 58th Rifles at Peshawar. " I remember," 
Sergeant MacDonald told me, "when the High- 
land Brigade Sports were held there, one of our 
fellows was tossing the caber — it took about six 
coolies to lift the thing. I thought it would 
impress the Pathans, but not a bit of it. I asked 
the old Subadar what he thought of MacAndrew's 
performance, and he said, * It is not wonderful 
that you Jokes ' — 'Joke' was as near as he could 
get to Jock — * should do this thing. Are you 
not Highlanders (Paharis) like us, after all ? ' " 

There is a marked difterence in temperament 
among the Pathan tribes. The Mahsud is more 
wild and primitive than most, and more inclined 


to fanaticism. There are the makings of the 
Ghazi in him. On the other hand, his blood- 
feuds are more easily settled, as he Is not so 
fastidious in questions of honour. The Afridi 
is more dour than the other, and more on his 
dignity. He has not the openness and cheer- 
fulness of the Usafzai or Khattak, who have a 
great deal of the Celt in them. The Afridi likes 
to saunter about with a catapult or pellet bow. 
He will condescend to kill things, even starlings, 
but he does not take kindly to games. He is a 
good stalker and quite happy with a rifle or a 
horse. He excels in tent-pegging. But hockey 
and football do not appeal to him as much as 
they do to other sepoys, though he is no mean 
performer when he can be induced to play. This 
applies in a measure to all Pathans. An outsider 
may learn a good deal about their character by 
watching the way they play games. One cannot 
picture the Afridi, for instance, taking kindly to 
cricket, but a company of them used to get some 
amusement out of net practice in a certain frontier 
regiment not long ago. An officer explained the 
theory of the game. The bat and ball did not 
impress the Pathan, but the gloves and pads 
pleased his eye with their suggestion of defence. 


Directly the elements of a man-to-man duel were 
recognized cricket became popular. They were 
out to hurt one another. They did not care to 
bat, they said, but wished to bowl, or rather shy. 
The Pathan likes throwing things, so he was 
allowed to shy. Needless to say the batsman 
was the mark and not the wicket. A good, low, 
stinging drive to the off got one of the men on 
the ankle. Shouts of applause. P^irst blood to 
the Sahib. But soon it is the Pathan's turn to 
score. His quick eye designs a stratagem in 
attack. By tearing about the field he has col- 
lected three balls, and delivers them in rapid 
succession standing at the wicket. The first, a 
low full-pitch, goes out of the field ; the second, 
aimed at the Sahib's knee, is neatly put into the 
slips , but the batsman has no time to guard the 
third, hurled with great violence at the same 
spot, and it is only the top of his pad that saves 
him from the casualty list. 

The Pathan is more careless and happy-go- 
lucky than the Punjabi Mussalman, and not so 
amenable to discipline. It is his jaunty, careless, 
sporting 'attitude, his readiness to take on any 
new thing, that attracts the British soldier. That 
rifle-thief of the 58th was dear to Sergeant 


MacDoriald. But it is difficult to generalize 
about the Pathan as a class. There is a sensible 
gulf fixed between the Khattak and the Afridi, 
and between the Afridi and the Mahsud. I think, 
if it were put to the vote among British officers 
in the Indian Army, the Khattak would be 
elected the pick of the crowd. A special chapter 
is devoted to him in this volume, and as his 
peculiar virtues are discoverable in some degree 
among other classes of Pathans, the Khattak 
chapter may be regarded as a continuation of 
the present one. There used to be an idea that 
the cis-frontier Pathan, by reason of his settled 
life and the security of the policeman and the 
magistrate round the corner, was not a match for 
the trans-frontier Pathan who adjusted his own 
differences at the end of a rifle. But the war 
has proved these generalizations unsafe. The 
Pathan is a hard man to beat whichever side 
of the border he hails from ; but in a war like 
this he is all the better for being born a subject 
of the King. 


Chance threw me amon^j the Dosfras after a 
battle, and I learnt more of these north-country 
Rajputs than I had ever done in times of peace. 
Everybody knows how they left Rajputana before 
the Muhammadans conquered the country and so 
never bowed to the yoke, how they fought their 
way north, cut out their own little kingdoms, and 
have held the land they gained centuries ago by 
the sword. I have travelled in the foothills where 
they live, both in Kangra and Jammu, and can 
appreciate what they owe to a proud origin and 
a poor soil. But one cannot hope to learn much 
of a people in a casual trek through their country. 
The Dogra is shy and does not unbosom himself 
to the stranger. Even with his British officer 
he is reserved, and one has to be a year or more 
with him in the regiment before he will talk freely 
of himself. But the confidence of the British 
officer in the Dogra is complete, and his affection 
for him equals that of the Gurkha officer for "the 


To face p. 92.] 



Gurkha." " He is such a Sahib," the subaltern 
explained. "You won't find another class of 
sepoy in the Indian army who is quite such a 
Sahib as the Dogra." 

And here I must explain that I am only 
setting down what the subaltern told me, that I 
tapped him on the subject he loved best, and 
that I am making no invidious comparisons of 
my own. One seldom meets a good regimental 
officer who does not modify one's relative estimate 
of the different fighting stocks of the Indian Army. 
Still one can discriminate. What the subaltern 
told me about the gallantry of the Dogras I saw 
afterwards repeated in " Orders " by the General 
of the Division. There were other regiments 
which received the same praise, and if I had 
fallen among these I should have heard the same 

" The first thing we knew of that trench," the 
subaltern explained, " was when the Turkey-cock 
blazed off into us at three hundred yards. Thank 
heaven, our fellows were advance guard." 

I smiled at the boy's delightful conceit in his 
own men. His company were sitting or lying 
down on the banks of a water-cut in the restful 
attitudes men fall into after strain. They were 


most of them young men, clean-shaven with neat 
moustaches, lightly built but compact and supple, 
of regular features, cast very much in a type. 
Some were smoking their chillums, the detached 
bowl of a huqah, which they hold in their two 
palms and draw in the smoke between the 
fingers through the aperture at the base. The 
Dogra is an inveterate smoker and will have his 
chillum out for a final puff two minutes before 
going into the attack. I was struck by their 
scrupulous neatness. The morning had been the 
third day of a battle. The enemy had decamped 
at dawn, but in the two previous days half the 
regiment had fallen. Yet they seemed to have 
put in a toilet somehow. Their turbans, low in 
the crown with the shell-like twist in front peculiar 
to the Dogra, were as spick and span as on 
parade. They looked a cool crowd, and it was 
of their coolness under the most terrible fire that 
the subaltern spoke. One of them was readjust- 
ing his pagri by a mirror improvised out of a tin 
he had picked up in the mud, and was tying it in 
neat folds. 

" The Dogra is a bit fussy about his personal 
appearance," the subaltern explained. " He is a 
blood in his way. I have seen our fellows giving 


their turbans the correct twist when they are up 
to the neck in it during an advance. 

" It was the devil of a position. The Turkey- 
cock lay doggo and held his fire. We didn't see 
a sign of him until he popped off at us at three 
hundred yards. Their trenches had no parapets 
and were almost flush with the ground. In places 
they had built in ammunition boxes which they 
had loopholed and plastered over with mud. 
They had dotted the ground in front with little 
mounds which they used as range-marks, and 
they had every small depression which offered 
any shelter covered with their machine-guns." 

And he told me how the Dogras pressed on 
to the attack over this ground with a shout — 
not the *' Ram Chandra ji ki jai " of route marches 
and manoeuvres, but with a " Ha, aha, aha, aha, 
aha," a sound terrifying in volume, and probably 
the most breath-saving war cry there is. 

A great many of the regiment were new to 
the game, mere boys of seventeen, and the old 
hands had piqued their vanity, reminding them 
that they had never been in battle and expressing 
a pious hope that they would stand their ground. 
The subaltern had to pull some of these striplings 
down who exposed themselves too recklessly. 


He pointed out to me one Teku Singh, " a top- 
hole fellow." In the trench a machine-gun 
jammed, Teku Singh clambered out to adjust it. 
The subaltern called to him to keep his head 
down. " What does dying matter, Sahib ? " he 
answered, echoing at Sheikh Saad the spirit of 
Chitore. " The only fit place for a Rajput to 
die is on the field of battle." Teku Singh was 
modestly smoking his chillum on the bund. 

The Dogra's is an unobtrusive gallantry. He 
is no thruster. He has not the Pathan's devil- 
may-care air, nor the Sikh's pleasing swagger. 
When a group of Indian officers are being intro- 
duced to an inspecting general or the ruler of a 
province, you will find it is the Dogra who hangs 
in the background. Yet he is intensely proud, 
conservative, aristocratic. The subaltern's de- 
scription of Teku Singh at home reminded me 
of the hero of the " Bride of Lammermuir," 
that classic and lovable example of the im- 
poverished aristocrat, whose material poverty 
is balanced by more honourable possessions. 
I have seen the land the Dogra cultivates. It 
is mostly retrieved from a stony wilderness. His 
cornfields are often mere sockets in the rock 
over which a thin layer of earth has gathered. 


His family traditions forbid him to work on the 
soil and compel him to keep a servant, though 
he has been known to plough secretly by night. 
Under- fed at home, he will not accept service 
save in the army. There are families who do 
nothing but soldiering. There is no difficulty 
about recruits. "When a man goes home on 
leave," the subaltern explained, " he brings back 
his pals. There is always a huge list of umedwars 
(candidates) to choose from. It is like waiting 
to get into the Travellers or the Senior Naval 
and Military." 

Most of the men in the regiment were Katoch 
Dogras from the Kangra district, the most 
fastidious of all. They won't plough, and won't 
eat unless their food is cooked by a Katoch or a 
Brahmin. There are families who will only join 
the cavalry. The plough they disdain, as they 
boast that the only true weapon of a Rajput is 
the sword ; when driven by hunger and poverty 
to cultivate their land themselves, they do it 
secretly, taking out their oxen by night and 
returning before daylight. The head of the 
house has his talwar, or curved Indian sword 
with a two-and-a-half-foot blade. It is passed 
down as an heirloom from father to son, and is 



carried on campaigns by the Dogra officer. 
I have seen them in camp here, though they 
are not worn in the trenches. The Dogra 
has a splendid heart, but his physique is often 
weakened by poverty. It is extraordinary how 
they fill out when they come into the regiment. 
It is the same, of course, with other sepoys, but 
there is more difference between the Dogra 
recruit and the seasoned man than in any other 
slock. The habit of thrift is so ingrained in 
them that it is difficult to prevent them stint- 
ing themselves in the regiment. The subaltern 
had a story of a recruit who left his rations 
behind on manoeuvres. It was the General 
himself who discovered the delinquent. Asked 
for an explanation the lad thought awhile and 
then answered bashfully, " Sahib, when I am 
fighting I do not require food." 

Every Dogra is shy and reserved and very 
sensitive about his private affairs. When his 
name is entered in the regimental sheet roll, the 
young recruit is asked who is his next of kin. 

** Wife," he will say bashfully. 

"What age?" 

He is not quite certain, thinks she is about 


'* How high is she ? " 

" About so high." He stretches his hand 
four feet from the ground. 

He is dreadfully bashful as he makes this 
gesture, afraid the other recruits should hear, 
just like a boy in the fourth form asked to 
describe his sister's complexion or hair. 

Needless to say, the Dogra seldom, if ever, 
brings his wife into cantonments. Exile must 
be harder to him than to many as he is the most 
home-loving person. His only crime is that 
when he goes to his village he sometimes runs 
things too close, so that an accident by the way, 
a broken wheel or swollen stream, makes him 
overstay his leave. 

" I wish I could show you Moti Chand," 
the subaltern continued. " He was a mere boy 
not turned seventeen. This show was the first 
time he had been under fire ; he was one of the 
ammunition- carriers and had to go from the 
front trenches to the first-line transport and bring 
back his box. He made two journeys walking 
slowly and deliberately as they all do, very erect, 
balancing the ammunition-box on his head. 
When he came up the second time I told him 
to hurry up and get down into the trenches. 


' No, Sahib/ he said, ' Ram Chand, who was 
coming up beside me, was killed. I must go 
back and bring in his box.' He brought in the 
box all right, but was shot in the jaw. I think 
he is doing well. 

" I can tell you, you would like the Dogra if 
you knew him. He is difficult to know and his 
reserve might make you think him sulky at first, 
but there is nothing sulky or brooding about him. 
He never bears a grudge ; he is rather a cheery 
fellow and has his own sense of humour. As a 
shikari " 

The subaltern sang the praises of Teku Singh 
and Moti-Chand in a way which was very pleasant 
to hear. He told me how their families received 
him in Kangra, every household insisting that he 
should drink tea, and he ended up by repeating 
that the true Dogra was the most perfect sahib 
he knew. 

It was no new experience for me to hear the 
Dogra praised. Their fighting qualities are well 
known, and they have proved themselves in 
many a frontier campaign, more especially in the 
capture of Nilt (1891), and in the defence of 
Chitral and in the memorable march to the relief 
of the (garrison. And one had heard of the 


Dogra officer, Jemadar Kapiir Singh, in France, 
who held on until all but one wounded man had 
been put out of action, and then rather than 
surrender shot himself with his last cartridge. 
Besides the three Dogra class regiments, the 
37th, 38th, and 41st, there are many Dogra 
companies in mixed-company battalions, and 
Dogra squadrons in cavalry regiments. They 
may not make up a large part of the Indian 
Army, but they contribute a much larger part in 
proportion to their numbers than any other stock. 

When next I met the subaltern the regiment 
had been in action again and he had been 
slightly wounded. He took me into his tent 
and showed me with pride what the General 
had written about his Dogras. One of them, 
Lance-Naik Lala, had been recommended for 
the Victoria Cross ; he was the second sepoy in 
Mesopotamia on whom the honour was conferred. 

" You'll see I haven't been talking through 
my hat," he explained. " Lala was at it all day 
and most of the night, and earned his V.C. a 
dozen times. It seemed certain death to go 

out to ; the enemy were only a hundred 

yards off." 

** Lance-Naik Lala insisted on going out to 


his Adjutant," the recommendation ran, " and 
offered to crawl back with him on his back at 
once. When this was not permitted, he stripped 
off his own clothing to keep the wounded officer 
warmer, and stayed with him till just before 
dark when he returned to the shelter. After 
dark he carried the first wounded officer back to 
the main trenches, and then, returning with a 
stretcher, carried back his Adjutant," 

This was at El Hannah on the 21st January. 
There was a freezing wind and the wounded 
lay out in pools of rain and flooded marsh all 
night ; some were drowned ; others died of ex- 
posure. It was a Dogra-like act of Lala to strip 
himself, and to make a shield of his body for 
his Adjutant, an act of devotion often repeated 
by the sepoy in Mesopotamia ; and the Adjutant 
was only one of five officers and comrades whom 
Lala saved that day. 

In a special issue of orders the Divisional 
General spoke of the splendid gallantry of the 
41st Dogras in aiding the Black Watch to storm 
and occupy the enemy's trenches. The 6th Jats 
and 97th Infantry were mentioned with the 
Dogras. Of the collective achievement of the 
four regiments on that day the General wrote : — 


" Their advance had to be made across a 
perfectly open, bullet-swept area, against sunken 
loop-holed trenches in broad daylight, and their 
noble achievement is one of the highest. The 
great and most admirable gallantry of all ranks, 
and especially that of the British officers, is 
worthy of the highest commendation. They 
showed the highest qualities of endurance and 
courage under circumstances so adverse as to be 
almost phenomenal," 


I SAW it stated in a newspaper that one of the 
surprises of the war has been the Mahratta. 
*' Surprise " is hardly a tactful word ; and it 
points back to a time when two or three classes 
of sepoy were praised indiscriminately to the 
disparagement of others. The war has brought 
about a readjustment of values. Not that the 
more tried and proven types have disappointed 
expectation ; the surprise is that less conspicuous 
types have made good. 

In France one heard a great deal about the 
Garhwali ; in Mesopotamia the Cinderella of the 
Indian Army was undoubtedly the Mahratta. 

That his emergence should be a surprise was 
illogical. The Mahratta horseman was once a 
name to conjure with, and the sword of Siwoji 
has left a dint in history legible enough. He 
was once the "Malbrovck" of Hindustan. If 
the modern Mahratta has fallen under an eclipse 
the cause has been largely geographical. Our 













frontier campaigns have never offered the Indian 
Army active service enough to go round ; cer- 
tainly the Bombay Army has not come in for its 
share, and Saihan, on the 15th of November, 
1 9 14, was the first pitched battle in which a 
Mahratta regiment, constituted as such, had been 
ensfaeed. What honour he earned before that 
went to swell the collective prestige of class- 
company regiments ; for it was not until the 
Indian Army was reorganised in 1897 that the 
Mahratta battalion came into being. The British 
officer, of course, in these regiments knew his 
sepoy ; he believed that the Dekkan and Konkan 
produced as stout a breed as any other soil, and 
he would tell you so in the most definite terms, 
and remind you how the Mahrattas proved their 
mettle at Maiwand. But then one never listened 
seriously to a regimental officer when he talked 
about his own men. 

The Sapper in a field company with divers 
races under his command is listened to with less 
suspicion. It was a Sapper who first opened my 
eyes to the virtue of a Mahratta, and that was 
before the war. 

" Who do you think the pick of your lot ? " I 


" The Mahratta," he replied, unhesitatingly. 

" Because he can dig ? " 

" None better. But it is his grit I, was think- 
ing of. I'd as soon have a Mahratta with me in 
a scrap as any one." 

One heard little or nothing of the Mahratta 
in France. Yet it was a Mahratta who earned 
the Medaille Militaire — I believe the first be- 
stowed on an Indian — for an unobtrusive bit of 
work at Givenchy on the nth of December, 
19 1 4, We took a German saphead that day 
and drove the Huns down their communication 
trench, and then we had to sap back to our own 
lines, while another sap was being driven forward 
to meet us. For twenty-three hours the small 
party was cut off from the rest of the lines, and 
they worked steadily with their backs to the 
enemy, bombed at and fired on the whole time. 
Supplies and ammunition ran short, and we 
threw them a rope with a stone on it, and they 
dragged ammunition and food and bombs into 
the trench, bumping over the German dead, and 
the Mahratta took his turn at the traverse 
' covering the party, as cool as a Scot. 

There were but a sprinkling of them in 
Flanders, a few Sappers and Miners and two 


companies of the 107th Pioneers. It was left 
to Force " D " to discover that the Mahratta has 
as big a heart for his size as any sepoy in the 
Indian Army. To follow the exploits of the 
Mahratta battalions from the battle of Saihan 
on the 15th November, 19 14, to Ctesiphon is to 
follow the glorious history of the 6th Division. 
Up to and including Ctesiphon, no Mahratta 
battalion was given a position to attack which 
it did not take, and in the retirement on Kut-el- 
Amarah their steadiness was well proved. It 
is a record which is shared with other regiments ; 
but this chapter is concerned with the Mahratta 
alone. They were in nearly every fight, and for 
a long time they made up a fourth part of the 
whole force. 

It was the 1 1 7th who, with the Dorsets, took 
the wood, and cleared the Turks out of their 
trenches at Saihan, It was the iioth, with the 
Norfolks, who led the attack on Mazeera village 
on the 4th December, clearing the left bank of 
the river ; and a double company of the regiment 
captured the north face of the Ournah position 
four days afterwards. Two battalions of the 
Mahrattas were in the front line again at Shaiba 
when the Turks were routed in one of the hardest 


fought and most critical battles of the campaign. 
They were at Nasiriyeh and Amara, and they 
were a tower of strength in the action at Sinn 
which p-ave us Kut-el-Amarah. Here all three 
battalions — the 103rd, iioth, and 117th — were 
engaged. They went without water and fought 
three consecutive engagements in forty-eight 
hours. The 117th, with the Dorsets, and the 
22nd company of Sappers and Miners, were the 
first troops to enter the enemy's trenches. They 
broke through the wire and rushed the big 
redoubt, led by a subadar-major when all their 
British officers had fallen. At Ctesiphon again 
they covered themselves with glory. The British 
regiment brigaded with them speak well of these 
hard-bitten men, and many a villager of Dorset, 
Norfolk, or Oxford will remember the Mahratta, 
and think of him as a person one can trust. 

"What was the Indian regiment on your 
right ? " I heard a Norfolk man ask another, in 
discussing some obscure action on the Tigris of 
a year ago. 
, "The Mahrattas." 

The Bungay man nodded. " Ah, they wouldn't 
leave you up a tree." 

«' Not likely." 




And being familiar with the speech of Norfolk 
men, who are sparing of tribute, or admiration, 
or surprise, I knew that the "Mahratta" had 
received a better " chit " than even the Sapper 
had given him. 

It was in the trenches, and I had been getting 
the Norfolks to tell me about the thrust up the 
river in the winter of 19 14. 

There was a lull in the firing. The Turks, 
200 yards ahead, were screened from us by the 
parapet ; and as I stood with my back to this 
looking eastward, there was nothing visible but 
earth and sky and the Norfolk men, and a patch 
of untrodden field, like a neglected lawn, running 
up to the next earth-work, and yellow with a kind 
of wild mustard. The flowers and grasses and a 
small yellow trefoil, wild barley, dwarf mallow, 
and shepherd's purse were Norfolk flowers. They 
and the broad, familiar accent of the men made 
the place a little plot of Norfolk. Nothing 
Mesopotamian impinged on the homeliness of 
the scene. 

And beyond the traverse were the Mahrattas, 
sons of another soil. They were a new draft, 
most of them mere boys who had come straight 
from the plough into this hard school. They 


looked dreamy and pensive, with a not very 
intelligent wistfulness, but they were ready for 
anything that was going on. Two of them were 
sniping from a loophole. One of them was shot 
in the shoulder through a sandbag while I was 
there. Soon after dark I saw a batch of six with 
an officer step over the parapet into that particu- 
larly horrid zone called no-man's-land. They 
were to look for surface mines and to be careful 
not to tread on one. The bullets cracked against 
the parapet, but they were as casual as if they 
were going out to pick mushrooms. 

The " mines " were charged shell-cases lying 
flat on the ground. The difficulty with these 
young recruits was to prevent them feeling for 
them with their feet or prodding them with a 
bayonet. They were quite untrained, but there 
was the same stuff in them as in the men who 
fought at Shaiba and Ctesiphon, and boasted 
that they had never been beaten by the Turks. 
A boy of seventeen who had gone out a few 
nights before was shot in the leg and lost his 
patrol. In the morning he found he was crawling 
up to the Turkish trenches. He was out all that 
day, but got back to his regiment at night, and 
all the while he hung on to his rifle. 


The Subaltern had been a little depressed 
with this new batch of recruits. There was so 
little time to knock them into shape, and he was 
particularly pleased that Ghopade had brought 
back his rifle. 

" They've got the right spirit," he said. " It's 
only a question of a month or two. But look at 
these children." 

They certainly did not look very smart or 
alert or particularly robust. 

" This one doesn't look as if he could stick 
a Turk," I said, and pointed to a thin hatchet- 
faced lad who could not have weighed much more 
than eight stone. 

"Oh, I expect he'd do that all right. They 
are much wirier than you would think. It's their 
turn-out I mean." 

"They've been in the trenches a week," I 
said, by way of extenuation. But the Subaltern 
and I had passed by the — th and the — th in 
the same brigade, equally trench-bound, and they 
were comparatively spick and span. 

The Mahratta sepoy is certainly no swash- 
buckler. To look at him, with his dark skin 
and irregular features, you would not take him 
for a member of a military caste. No one cares 


less for appearance; and his native dress — the 
big, flat pagri, dhoti, and large loose shoes of the 
Dekkan and Konkan — do not lend themselves 
to smartness. Nor does the King's uniform bring 
with it an immediate transformation. The un- 
accustomed military turban, which the Sikh or 
Pathan ties deftly as if with one fold, falls about 
the head and down the neck of the Mahratta in 
the most capricious convolutions. If he is a 
Bayard he does not look the part, and looks, no 
doubt, as well as his geographical position, 
have stood in the way of his finding himself. 
Anyhow, the men who move the pawns on 
the board in the war-game had long passed him 

The Mahratta battalions are not, strictly 
speaking, class regiments, for they each contain 
a double company of Dekkan Muhammadans. 
These, but for their inherited religion, are not 
very widely separated from the Mahrattas. They 
too have brought honour to the Dekkan. At 
Ctesiphon a double company of them were attack- 
ing a position. They lost all five officers, the 
British subaltern killed, two jemadars wounded, 
two subadars killed. One subadar, Mirza Rustum 
Befj, was wounded twice in the attack, but went 



To face p. 1 12.J 


on and received his death-wound within twenty- 
five yards of the enemy. The rest of the com- 
pany went on, led by the havildars, and took 
the trench at the point of the bayonet. 

That is not a bad record for a class of sepoy 
who has probably never been mentioned in the 
newspapers during the war. But it has been a 
war of " surprises," and one of the morals of 
Mesopotamia is that one ought not to be sur- 
prised at anything. What the Mahratta and 
Dekkani Muhammadan have done may be ex- 
pected from — has, indeed, been paralleled by — 
other hardened stocks. With good leading and 
discipline and the moral that tradition inspires, 
you can make good troops out of the agriculturist 
in most lands, provided he is not softened by a 
too yielding soil. 

The Mahratta has no very marked charac- 
teristics to distinguish him from other sepoys. 
He is just the bedrock type of the Indian culti- 
vator, the real backbone of the country. And 
he has all the virtues and limitations which you 
will find in the agriculturist whether he be Sikh, 
Rajput, Dogra, Jat, or Mussalman, whether he 
tills the land in the Dekkan or Peshawar. A 
prey to the priests, money-lenders and vakils, 


litigious, slow-thinking, unsophisticated — but of 
strong affections, long-enduring and brave. The 
small landowner, where the soil resists him and 
the elements chastise, is much the same all over 
the world. 


The Jat, as we have seen, is the backbone of 
the Punjab ; for it is from this Scythian breed 
that most of the Sikhs and a number of the 
Punjabi Mussalmans derive their sinews and 
stout-heartedness. If you used the word in its 
broad ethnic sense, signifying all classes of Jat 
descent, the muster would include the best part 
of the roll of modern Indian chivalry. But it 
is with the Hindu Jat, whose ancestors were 
not seduced or intimidated by Islam and who 
himself is not sufficiently attracted by the Khalsa 
to become a Sikh, that this chapter deals. That 
neither material expediency, love of honour, 
nor the glamour of an ideal has turned him 
aside from the immemorial path of his ancestors 
presupposes a certain stolidity, in which one is 
not disappointed when one knows the man. 

I have passed many years in a district where 
there are Jats, but the Jat villager is not the 



same man as the J at sepoy, and I did not make 
acquaintance with the sepoy breed until I ran 
across the bomb-havildar of the 6th Jats in 

I was taking my bully, and " Tigris " and 
whisky, with a Jat regiment, the 6th, when 
the discussion arose as to why the Jat wears 
gold in his teeth. The doctor thought the 
idea was that gold carried you over the Styx ; 
it was a kind of Elysian toll. I persuaded the 
Colonel to call one of the men into the dug-out 
and to draw him on the point. So Tara, the 
bomb-havildar, was sent for, a jiwan of five 
years' service and the quickest intelligence in 
the regiment. 

Tara entered, saluted and stood at attention, 
each joint of him independently stiff and inflexible, 
the stiffest wooden soldier could not be more 
stiff than he, and his rifle was speckless in spite 
of the mud. At the O.C.'s command his limbs 
became more independent of one another, but 
rigidity was still the prominent note. 

"Why do Jats wear gold in their teeth, 
Tara?" the Colonel asked: "this Sahib wants 
to know." 

Tara pondered. 

To face p. ii6.] A JAT camel SOWAR. 


" For the sake of appearance, Sahib," he 
said, "to give them an air." 

" Is there no other reason ?" 

Tara consulted the tarpauHn overhead, the 
mud walls, the mud table of the mess, v^here 
" La Vie Parisienne " and a Christmas annual 
gave the only bit of relief to this dun-coloured 
habitation. Then he smiled and delivered him- 
self slowly, " There is a saying among my people, 
Sahib, that he who wears gold in his teeth must 
always speak what is true. Gold in the teeth 
stops the passage of lies." 

*' But you have no gold in your teeth ? " 

" No, Sahib." 

" Is that why you tell the tall story about 
all those Germans you killed at Festubert ? " 

Tara smiled at this thrust. 

'* No, Sahib," he said, laughing. " It is true 
I killed ten between two traverses." 

*• Better ask him right out, sir," the doctor 

" I have heard some story about gold helping 
the J at to heaven," the Colonel observed to 

The gleam of reminiscence in the havildar's 
eyes, as he confirmed this legend, showed that 

ii8 THE JAT 

he was not speaking merely to please. It was 
the old story of Charon. Gold, he explained, 
was a passport in the other world as in this, and 
it was not safe to carry it on the finger or on 
the ear where it might be detached, so it was 
worn in the teeth. 

" And who puts it there ? " 
J **The goldsmith. Sahib," and he enlarged 
upon the exorbitance of the Sonari ; for the Jat 
is as thrifty as the Scot. 

It was on account of these chargres that Tara 
had omitted the rite. 

" When you go back to your village," the 
Colonel said, dismissing him, "don't forget to 
visit the Sonari, and then you will not tell any 
more lies." 

Tara saluted with an irradiating smile. 

" Assuredly, Sahib, I will not forget," he said. 
" I shall go straight to the Sonari." 

This was quite a sally for Tara, and we all 
laughed, for the Jat is not quick at repartee. 
The way we had to dig the story out of him was 
characteristic, but he is not as a rule so responsive 
to badinage. The Jat has no time for play. 
When he is a boy he is too busy looking after 
the cows, and his nose is kept at the grindstone 


until he crumbles into the soil that bore him. 
He has no badges, flags, emblems, no peculiar 
way of tying his turban or wearing his clothes ; 
and he has very little sentiment. It was a stroke 
of genius in Guru Gobind Singh when he turned 
the Jat into a Sikh, gave him the five badges, 
and wedded him to steel. Tradition grew with 
the title of Singh, and a great military brother- 
hood was founded : but in the unconverted Jat 
there is the same strong fibre, the stronger, the 
regimental officer will tell you, for not having 
been uprooted or pruned, and he prides himself 
that he will make as good a soldier out of the 
Jat as ever the Guru did. 

The Jat is primarily a farmer. He has not 
the ancient military traditions of the Rajput, 
Mahratta, or Sikh, though none so stubborn as 
he to fight for his own land. He does not 
figure in history among the adventurers, builders 
of kingdoms, leaders of men, but circumstance 
has moulded him from time to time into a 
fighting man. Prosperity may soften him, but 
adversity only stiffens the impression of the 

It was during the reconstitution of the Indian 
Army in 1893, that the Jats were built up again 

120 THE JAT 

into a fighting race. A good regimental officer 
can make anything he will out of the J at. It 
takes earthquakes and volcanoes to turn a 
regiment of these hard-bitten men out of a 
position they have been given to hold. If the 
Jat is wanting in initiative and enterprise, this 
is merely a defect of a virtue, for once set going 
it never enters his honest hard head to do any- 
thing else but go on. And that is why the 
Jat has done so well in this war. Every knock 
hardens him. Courage is often the outcome 
of ignorance, but the remnants of a Jat battalion 
which has been wiped out half a dozen times 
will go into the attack again as unconcerned 
as a new draft. 

The 6th Jats was one of the first of the 
Indian regiments to be engaged in France. As 
early as the i6th of November, 19 14, they had 
broken into the German trenches. It was on 
the 23rd of the same month that they made the 
gallant counter-attack over the snow at Festubert 
with the Garhwalis and won back the lost 
trenches. At Givenchy, on December 20th, 
they held their ground against the German wave 
when they were left practically in the air; and 
they would not let go their hold at Neuve- 


Chapelle when they were enfiladed from the 
Port Arthur position, still intact, on their right. 
Two months afterwards, on the 9th of May, 
they made their frontal attack on Port Arthur. 
A double company penetrated the German lines ; 
only seven men returned un wounded. History 
repeated itself in Mesopotamia. It has been 
the part of this gallant stock to arrive on the 
scene in the nick of time and to be thrown into 
the brunt of the attack. 

The Jat is not troubled with nerves or 
imagination, and he is seemingly unacquainted 
with fear. Alarums, bombardments, and ex- 
cursions having become his normal walk of life, 
he will continue on his path, probably with fewer 
inward questionings than most folk, until the 
end of the war. Give him a trench to hold and 
he will stick to it as a matter of course until 
he is ordered to come out. 

The regiment in the trenches were mostly 
Jats of Hissar and Rohtak, and the Colonel told 
me with the pride that is right and natural in the 
regimental officer that this was the best stock. 
'* You must get the Jat where he is top dog in 
his own country," he said, " and not where he 
lives among folk who think they are his betters. 

122 THE JAT 

And he is best where the land is poor. In 
districts where the sub-division of the soil among 
large families does not leave enough to go round 
you will get a good recruit." Locality is all 
important; a dividing river may make all the 
difference. The Colonel admired the Jats of A, 
bat he had no good word for the Jats of B. The 
Rajput Jat, especially from Bikaner, he admitted, 
were stout fellows, though they were not of his 
crew. There were well-to-do districts in which 
the Jat would not follow the pursuit of arms 
whether in peace or in war. " And if you want 
recruits," he enjoined on me, "don't go to an 
irrigated district." Water demoralises them. 
When a Jat sits down and watches the canal 
water and the sun raise his crop, his fibre 
slackens, for his stubborn qualities proceed from 
the soil. It is the same with other ac^ricultural 
classes in the Indian Army, but the Jat is pro- 
bably the best living advertisement of the uses 
of adversity. There is a proverb in the Punjab 
on the lines of our own tag about the three things 
that are most improved by flagellation, but 
woman is the only item recommended in both 
cases. The Hindu variant adds "flax" and 
"the Jat." 


There is another rude proverb of the country. 
" Like Jat, like byle (ox)." There are many Jats 
and most of them have some peculiar virtue of 
their own, but quickness of apprehension is not 
one of them. I had an amusinof reminder of this 
before I left the trench. Bullets were spattering 
against the parapet with a crack as loud as the 
report of a rifle, and our own and the Turkish 
shells screamed over the dug-out with so con- 
fused a din that one was never quite sure which 
was which. It was the beginning of the after- 
noon "strafe." Still there was no call for 
casualties, and one only had to keep one's head 
low. In the middle of it a subaltern coming 
down " Oueen Street " looked in and told us 
that one of the Jats was hit. " Loophole ? " the 
Colonel asked. But it was not a loophole. 
The jiwan had got hold of somebody's peri- 
scope ; he had heard that it was a charm which 
enables you to see without being hit — he was 
standing up over the parapet trying to adjust 
it like a pair of field glasses, when a bullet flicked 
off part of his ear. 

The supply of good Indian officers is some- 
times a difticulty in a Jat regiment, for these 
children of labour follow better than they lead. 

124 THE JAT 

But even in the acquisition of understanding 
it is hard plugging appHcation that tells. " Con- 
tinuing " is the Jat's virtue, or " carrying on " 
as we say, and he will sap through a course 
of signalling with the same doggedness as he 
saps up to the enemy's lines. " We've got some 
first class signallers," the Colonel boasted, " they 
can write their reports in Roman Urdu." 

And the pick of the lot was Tara. What 
that youth has seen in France and Mesopotamia 
would keep old Homer in copy through a dozen 
Iliads, but it has left no wrinkle on his brow. 
Tara is still as fresh as paint. 

"Sahib," he asks, "when may I go to the 
Turkish saphead with my bombs?" He lost 
a brother at Sheikh Saad and wants to make 


In the early days before the British Raj had 

spread North and West, there was a period 

when the Bengal Army was enlisted almost 

exclusively from the high-caste Hindu. In the 

campaigns against the Muhammadan princes 

the Mussalman sepoy, for reasons of expediency, 

was gradually weeded out. The Gurkha was 

unknown to Clive's officers ; the day of the 

Sikh and Mahratta was not yet ; the Dogra 

was undiscovered ; there was a sprinkling of 

Pathan adventurers in the ranks and a few 

Jats and Rohillas ; but, generally speaking, the 

Rajput and Brahman had something like a 

monopoly in military service. 

The Rajputs, of course, are par excellence 
the military caste of Hindustan, and there is 
no more glorious page in the annals of chivalry 
than the story of that resistance to the succes- 
sive waves of Moslem invaders. Three times the 
flower of the race were annihilated in the defence 



of Chitore. But they never yielded, for the 
Rajput would take no quarter. He was true 
to his oath not to yield ; and when the odds 
against him offered no hope of victory, his only 
care was to sell his life dearly and to cut his 
way deep into the ranks of the enemy before 
he fell. The women, too, refused the dishonour 
of (Survival. Led by their queen and the prin- 
cesses they passed into a sepulchre of flame. 
Others fought and fell beside their husbands 
and sons, and their courage was celebrated by 
the pen of Akbar, whose testimony to the spirit 
of the race does not fall short of the Rajput 

The Rajput of to-day does not hold the same 
pre-eminence in the army as did his ancestors. 
His survival in the land he held so bravely is 
due to the British, who only came in time to 
save the race, exhausted by centuries of strife, 
from conquest by more vigorous invaders. Yet 
it was on the Rajput and the Brahman more 
than on any other class of sepoy that we de- 
pended in our early campaigns. They fought 
with us against the French ; they helped us to 
crush the Nawab of Oudh. They served with 
conspicuous gallantry in the Mahratta, Nepal, 


To face p. 126.] 



Afghan, and Sikh wars. They formed part of 
the gallant band that defended the Residency 
at Lucknow.* And later in Egypt, Afghanistan, 
and Burma, they maintained the honour they 
had won. Had there been class regiments in 
those days the izzat of the Rajput and Brahman 
sepoy would have been higher than it is. 

The Brahmans only enlist in two class 
regiments of the Indian Army. The type re- 
cruited is of magnificent physique ; their breed- 
ing and pride of race is reflected in their 
cleanliness and smartness on parade. They are 
fine athletes, expert wrestlers, and excel in feats 
of strength ; and they have a high reputation 
for courage. Unhappily they have seen little 
service since the class system was introduced, 
and so have not had the opportunity of adding 
to a distinguished record. 

For various reasons the Rajput does not 
enlist so freely in the Indian Army as his proud 
military traditions might lead one to expect. 
The difficulties of recruiting are greatest among 
the classes which should provide the best 
material. The difference of quality among 

* The remnants of "the gallant few" became the nucleus of 
the Loyal i6th Regiment. 


Rajput sepoys is to a large extent determined 
by the locality of enlistment. Those from 
Rajputana and the neighbouring districts of the 
Punjab as a rule rank higher than recruits from 
the United Provinces and Oudh. The western 
Rajputs, generally of purer blood, are not so 
fastidious about caste, while farther east, espe- 
cially Benares way, the Rajput is inclined to 
become Brahmanised. Brahmanism, whatever 
its merits, is not a good forcing ground for 'the 
military spirit. Exclusiveness is the bane of 
" the twice-born," especially in war. On service 
the essentials of caste are observed amone 
Rajputs and Brahmans as fastidiously as in peace- 
time, only a certain amount of ceremonial is 
dispensed with. At ordinary times the high- 
caste Hindu when he is away from home prepares 
his own dinner and eats it alone. Before cook- 
ing he bathes. Complete immersion is pre- 
scribed, preferably in natural running water. 
Where there is no stream or pool he is content 
with a wash down from a bucket ; and as he 
washes he must repeat certain prayers, facing 
the east. While eatino- he wears nothings but 
his dhoti (loin cloth) and sacred thread ; the 
upper part of his body and his feet are bare. 


A small square is marked off for cooking. This 
is called the chauka. It is smoothed and plas- 
tered over, or lepai-ed as he calls it, with mud, 
or cowdung when available. Should anyone not 
of the caste touch the chauka after it has been 
prepared, all the food within its limits is defiled 
and must be thrown away. 

There are two distinct kinds of food, kachi 
which is cooked in ghi, and pakhi which is 
cooked in water. Kachi may be eaten only 
at the chauka ; but happily for the sepoy pakhi 
may be carried about and eaten anywhere ; other- 
wise caste would completely demobilise him. 
Amongst Brahmans the caste convention of cook- 
ing their own food and eating it alone dies hard ; 
and I know a Rajput class regiment in which 
it took ten years to introduce the messing system. 
Company cooking pots were accepted at first, 
but with no economy of space or time ; for the 
vessels were handed round and each man used 
them to cook his own food in turn. The Brah- 
mans are even more fastidious. I remember 
watching a class regiment at their meal in the 
Essin position ; their habit of segregation had 
spread them over a wide area. Each man had 
ruled out his own pitch, and a Turk would have 



taken the battalion for a brigade. Only in the 
case of near relatives will two men sit at the 
same chauka. In spite of the cold, one or two 
of them were naked except for the loin cloth. 
The others wore vests of wool, which (apart 
from the loin cloth) is the one and only material 
that Brahmans may wear at meals. All had first 
bathed and changed their dhoti according to the 
prescribed rites, and carried water with them 
to wash off any impurity from their feet when 
they entered the chauka. 

There are many prescribed minutiae of ritual 
which vary with each sect and sub-tribe, but 
these are the main inhibitions. Even on service 
the Hindu preserves the sanctity of the chauka, 
and if not a Brahman, takes with him a Brahman 
cook, relaxes nothing in regard to the purity 
of his water from contamination by the wrong 
kind of people, and would rather starve than eat 
meat killed in an unorthodox way. The mutton 
or goat that the Mussalman eats must be slain 
by the halal or the stroke at the throat, and the 
mutton the Sikh or Hindu eats by the jatka 
or stroke at the back of the neck. The most 
elaborate precautions were taken in France and 
were observed in Mesopotamia and elsewhere. 


to keep the two kinds of meat separate. There 
was once a complaint that the flies from the 
Muhammadan butchery settled on the meat 
prepared for the Hindus, and the two slaughter- 
houses were accordingly removed farther apart. 
Orthodoxy in this point is no mere fad, but a 
genuine physical need born of centuries of tradi- 
tion. The mere sight of the wrong kind of meat 
is nauseating to the fastidious, and in cases where 
it is not physically nauseating, toleration would 
be extremely bad form. I think the story has 
already been told of the Gurkha subadar on 
board the transport between Bombay and Mar- 
seilles who, when asked if his men would eat 
frozen meat, replied, after consulting them, 
" Sahib, they will have no objection whatever, 
provided one of them may be permitted each 
day to see the animal frozen alive." 

On service, of course, as on pilgrimages 
under hard climatic conditions, there are dis- 
pensations in the ceremonial, though not in the 
essentials, of caste. Brahmans have fought for 
us from Plassey to the present day and their 
fastidious personal cleanliness has contributed 
to the smartness and discipline of the Indian 
Army. In early days, when the ranks of the 


Bengal regiments were filled almost entirely 
with high-caste Hindus, orthodoxy was main- 
tained in spite of all the rigours of war. To-day 
little has changed. Bathing when the nearest 
water is an icy glacier stream is not indulged 
in now on a frontier campaign ; and where there 
is no water at all the sepoy does not lose caste 
by the neglect of his ablutions. The Rajput 
as a rule will eat his meals with his boots and 
clothes on, as he has done no doubt whenever 
he has been under arms since the Pandavas and 
Kouravas fought at Delhi. 

The fastidious caste ceremonial is discouraged 
in the Indian Army. It leads to complications 
at all times, especially on a campaign ; and a 
good Commanding Officer prides himself on his 
men's common sense and adaptability to environ- 
ment. Yet there have been occasions, even 
among sepoys, when ritual and caste exclusive- 
ness have been turned to disciplinary uses. 
Here is a story which is very much to the point. 
The first scene of this little drama was played 
in Egypt ; the last on the banks of the Tigris. 

There was a company of Rajputs somewhere 
in the neighbourhood of Suez, which contained 
a draft of very raw recruits. Three of these 


youngsters and a particularly callow lance-naik 
were holding a picquet on the east bank of the 
canal when they lost their heads. One of them 
blazed off at a shadow. He was frightened by 
the tamarisk bushes in the moonlight, and thought 
they were Turks' heads. A panic set in. All 
four blazed into the scrub, threw down their 
rifles, bolted as if the devil were behind them, 
and were only held up by the barbed wire of 
their own outpost. The jiwans were notori- 
ously wild and jungly, and everything that a 
recruit should not be. They had never left 
their village save for a few months' training 
before they embarked on the transport in 
Bombay. A certain allowance might be made 
for stupidity and bewilderment, sufficient in the 
case of extreme youth to waive the death penalty. 
Had it been a moving campaign ; had the regi- 
ment been in actual contact with the enemy, 
these young men would have been "for the 
wall." There is nothing else to do when soldiers 
go the wrong way. The O.C. and the Adjutant 
were considering how to deal with them when 
the Subadar-Major entered the orderly room. 
The man was a veteran, with a double row of 
ribbons on his breast, and he had never let the 


regiment down in all his service. He begged, 
as a special favour, that Rajput officers should 
be permitted to wipe out the stain. " Leave it 
to us, Sahib," he said : " we will put such an 
indignity on them, that there will not be a jiwan 
in the regiment who will shrink from bahadri * 
again." The Colonel saw the wisdom of this. 
The Rajput izzat was at stake, and he knew 
his man. So the Indian officers of the regiment 
were deputed to deal with the case themselves, 
just as prefects at school take the law into their 
own hands and administer it with a much more 
deterrent effect than the headmaster with his 
cane. The jiwans were tapped on the head with 
a slipper, the last ignominy that can befall a 
Rajput. After such disgrace they could not 
enter the chauka and mess with their caste com- 
panions. That is to say, they were socially 
excommunicated until their honour was retrieved. 
For nearly eighteen months they lit their outcast 
fire and took their meals apart at a measured 
distance from the chaukas — at such a distance 
that no ray of contamination could proceed from 
them to it. 

They were still under the ban when the regi- 

♦ Brave deeds. 


ment left Egypt and went to Mesopotamia. 
They did not go into action until the relieving 
column found themselves in the impasse before 
Kut. This was their first chance, and all four 
rehabilitated themselves. Two died honourably, 
one of them inside the enemy's trenches killed 
by a Turkish grenadier ; one was awarded 
the Indian Order of Merit ; and the lance-naik 
degraded was promoted to naik. He was in 
the rearguard covering the retirement until dark, 
and it was noticed that he laid out all his 
cartridge cases as he fired, keeping them nicely 
dressed in a neat little heap, as had been well 
rubbed into him on parade. I am told that there 
is much promise in this jiwan. And it must be 
admitted that the caste instinct with all its dis- 
abilities made a man of him. Breedingf brouorht 
into contact with regimental tradition gives the 
sense of 7ioblesse oblige, and deference is the 
birthright of the twice-born. Thus the Brahman 
of Oudh, tried and proved in a wrestling match 
or a tug-of-war, thinks himself as good a man 
in a scrap as the most fire-eating Turk ; and 
the assumption is all on the credit side. 

Rajput pride is at the bottom of the saddest 
story of a sepoy I have ever heard. The 


man was not a Rajput of the plains, but a hill- 
man of Rajput descent, as brave a man as any 
in a battalion whose chivalry in France became 
a household word. After two days' incessant 
fighting with a minimum of rest at night, he fell 
asleep at his post. On account of his splendid 
service, and his exhaustion at the time, which 
was after all the tax of gallantry, the death 
penalty was commuted, and the man was sen- 
tenced to thirty lashes. He would much have 
preferred death. However, he took the lashes 
well, and there was little noticeable change in 
him afterwards beyond an increase of reserve. 
He went about his work as usual, and was in 
two or three more actions, in which he acquitted 
himself well. After a complete year in France, 
the battalion was moved to Egypt, where they 
stayed five months. Then came the welcome 
news that they were returning home. On the 
afternoon of the day he disembarked at Bombay 
the Rajput shot himself. He had chosen to live 
when there was work to do and death was his 
neighbour every day ; now, when he might have 
lived, and when he was a bare three days from 
his family and home, he chose to die. The 
British officers tried to find out from the men 


what had driven him to it. But the sepoys 
were very silent and reticent. All they would 
say was that it was " on account of shame." 

The boy who commanded his platoon, and who 
had been shooting with him in his district before 
the war, knows no more than I the processes of 
his mind. He is inclined to think that he 
decided at once, immediately after sentence had 
been executed, to destroy himself when his 
regiment returned. Or he may have turned it 
over in his mind day and night for more than 
a year, and in the end the sight of Hindustan 
resolved him. When the idea of home became 
real and imminent, the thought became unen- 
durable that he should be pointed at in the 
village street as the man who had been whipped. 
In one case there is heroism ; in the other a 
very human weakness ; and in either case a 
tragedy of spirit that reveals the intensity of 
pride which is the birthright of the " twice-born." 


The iGarh walls' debut in Mesopotamia was 
worthy of their inspiring record in France. It 
was at Ramadie. They made the night march 
on September 27th, 191 6, marched and fought 
all the 28th, and on the morning of the 29th 
carried the Aziziyah and Sheikh Faraja Ridges 
at the point of the bayonet, in an advance of 
1500 yards under frontal and enfilade fire. The 
Sheik Faraja ridge was their objective. But 
this 'was not enouo^h. The bridcje of the 
Aziziyah Canal lay beyond, a point of vantage, 
for over it all guns or wheeled transport that 
escaped from Ramadie would have to pass. 
Feeling that they had rattled the Turk, that his 
tail was down, and that it was a moment when 
initiative might turn the scale, they pushed on 
another thousand yards over open ground, '* as 
bald as a coot," crossed a deep nullah, seized the 
bridge, scuppered the teams of three Turkish 
guns, captured them, and accepted the surrender 
of a Turkish General and two thousand men. 


To face p. 138.] 



Of course there was a lot of luck in it, but it 
was the luck that gallantry deserves and wins 
for itself and turns to account. The Turk was 
cornered and hemmed in with the cavalry astride 
the Aleppo road to the west, the Euphrates at 
his back and no bridge, and our infantry pressing 
in on the south and the east. But it was a 
wide front and our line was thin ; by the time 
that they had reached the Canal the three 
assaulting companies were a bare hundred strong, 
and if the Turk had had the heart of the 
Garhwalis he would have rolled them up. 

Standing by the captured guns, with the 
stalwart Turks coming in submissively all round, 
as if the surrender of the Anatolian to the 
Garhwali were a law of nature and a pre- 
ordained thing, a subadar of the regiment turned 
modestly to his lieutenant and said, " Now it 
is all right, Sahib. I had my fears about the 
young men. They knew so little and were 
untried. Now we may be assured. They will 

When the battalion made the night march on 
September 27th, exactly two years and two days 
had passed since they had fought their last action 
in France ; and they had seen more than one 


incarnation. The Subadar might well be anxious. 
The regiment had a large proportion of recruits, 
and they had a tall record to preserve. For the 
" gharry- wallah," or Indian cabby, as he is 
familiarly called, though he has never driven 
anything but the Hun — and the Turk, leapt 
into fame at Festubert, and has never lost an 
iota of his high repute. Before the war his name 
was unknown to the man in the street. The first 
battalion of the 39th Garhwal Rifles was raised 
in 1887 — the second in 1901, and they had seen 
little service till France. Yet the Garhwali had 
always been a fighting man. He enlisted in the 
Gurkha regiments before the class battalions 
were formed, and his prowess helped to swell 
their fame, though one heard little or nothing 
of him. He was swallowed up and submerged 
in the Gurkha, and did not exist as a race apart. 
When at last the class regiments came into being 
he had to wait thirty years for his chance. But 
his officers knew him and loved him, and were 
confident all the while that his hour of recog- 
nition would come. 

It came at Festubert, when the first battalion 
attacked and recaptured the lost trenches. Regi- 
ment after regiment had driven in the most 


determined counter-attacks across a thousand 
yards of snow-covered ground, and every assault 
had been withered up by the enemy's lire. The 
GarhwaHs got in on the flank, working along 
trenches held by our own troops to the left of those 
captured by the Germans. They carried traverse 
after traverse, and the taking of every traverse 
was as the taking of a fort. At first they had 
a bagful of "jampot " bombs hastily contrived by 
the Sappers — it was long before the days of 
Mills and Stokes and other implements of 
destruction ; but the bombs soon gave out, and 
for the long stretch of trench, 300 yards or more, 
it was nothing but rifle and bayonet work. A 
few men would leap on the parapet and parados 
at each traverse, and then the party in the trench 
would charge round the traverse and dispatch 
the garrison with the bayonet until the whole 
line was in our hands. These are familiar tactics 
to-day, but trench warfare was then in its infancy, 
and it fell to the Garhwalis to give the lead and 
point the way. The gallant Naik Dewan Singh 
Neei, who led his men round traverse after 
traverse and evicted the Hun, was awarded 
the V.C. 

That was in the last week of November, 


1 91 4. For the next few months the Garhwahs 
were tried and proved every day. Neither the 
severe conditions of the winter, nor the strange 
and terrible phenomena of destruction evolved 
in the new Armageddon, could damp his fighting 
spirit. But it was on the loth March, 1915, when 
the two battalions " went over the top " at Neuve 
Chapelle, that the name of Garhwal, no longer 
obscure, became a name to conjure with in 
France. Ever since that day the Garhwali has 
stood in the very front rank in reputation among 
the fighting classes of the Indian Army. The 
I St Battalion charged a line of trenches where 
the wire was still uncut. Every British officer 
and nearly every Indian officer in the attacking 
line was killed, but the men broke through the 
wire, bayoneted the garrison of the trench, and 
hung on all that day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with 
no Sahib in command. The CO. and Adjutant 
were both wounded, and at nightfall two officers 
were sent across from the 2nd Battalion, who had 
got through with less severe loss, to help the 
shattered remnants of the ist. They hung on 
all that night and the next day, and beat off a 
heavy counter-attack on the morning of the 12th. 
Rifleman Gobar SinG:h was awarded the V.C. for 


his day's work on the loth, when he led the 
front line bayoneting the Hun, but the gallant 
sepoy never lived to wear his award. 

The Garhwali subadar who went over the 
field with us after the Ramadie fight, said to his 
officer that the regiment had not had such a day 
since the " charge-ki-din." The loth of March 
at Neuve Chapelle is remembered by the 
Garhwali as "the day of the charge." For 
them it is the day. Even Ramadie will not 
wipe it out with all its fruits of victory. For the 
regiment was put to a grimmer test at Neuve 
Chapelle, and the reward in the measure of 
honour could not possibly be surpassed. Still 
it was good to see that the new lot was as 
staunch as the first. They are a modest-looking 
crowd, some of the youngest mere boys without 
a wrinkle on their faces. The veterans reminded 
me very much of Gurkhas, but more of the 
Khas Ghurka, who is half a Rajput, than of 
the Magar or Gurung. The Garhwalis, like the 
Dogras, are direct descendants of the Rajputs 
who cut out kingdoms for themselves in the hills 
centuries ago. There is no Mongol blood in 
them, save in the case of intermarriage with 
Nepal. They are a distinct race, yet bein 


hillmen and neighbours, they naturally have much 
in common with the Gurkha, in habit as well as 
look. They have the cheerfulness and simplicity 
of the Gurkha, and the same love of a scrap for 
its own sake, and, what is more endearing, the 
same inability to grow up. They are always 
children. They care nothing for drill books and 
maps, and as often as not hold them upside 
down. But they see red in a fight, and go for 
anything in front of them. Both battalions 
would have been wiped out a dozen times had it 
not been for their British officers. 

There is in build a great deal in common 
between the Gurkha and Garhwali, and confusion 
is natural in the uninitiated. It is not only that 
both are hillmen, belong to riile regiments, 
and wear slouch or terai hats ; the Garhwali is in 
appearance a cross between the Dogra and the 
*' Ghurk." He has the close-cropped hair, the 
'* bodi " or topknot, the hillman's face, and you 
will find in the veterans the same tight-drawn 
lines under the eye that bespeak stiffening in 
a hard school and give them a grim and warlike 
look. But the British officer in a Garhwali 
regiment naturally resents the swallowing of 
the small community, with its honour, prestige, 


individuality and all, by the great. The Garhwali, 
he argues, has at least earned his right to a 
separate identity now, and he is jealous of the 
overshadowing wing. 

Ramadie was a great day for him. The 
Garhwalis did not win the battle, but they reaped 
the rich field by the bridge alone. Other regi- 
ments did splendid work that day, and the officer 
who showed me over the oround was afraid that 


I should forget them in "booming his show." 
"It was just our luck," he explained, " that we 
happened to be there." Most of the 90th 
Punjabis had side-tracked to the right to take 
Unjana Hill, while the rest of the brigade swept 
on and cleared the Sheikh Faraja Ridge. To 
gain the Aziziyah Canal the Garhwalis changed 
direction and bore off to the left. Other com- 
panies came up afterwards, but when the Garh- 
walis reached the bridge they were unsupported. 
They took the bridge, the guns, the 2000 
prisoners, the Turkish General,* alone. As for 
the prisoners, " It was not so much a capture," 
the officer explained to me modestly, " as a 
surrender to the nearest troops, and we hap- 
pened to be there." 

* The Commander, Ahmed Bey, surrendered to the 90th 



I had watched them in the distance, black 
specks on the sand, but it was not until I went 
over the field with them the next day, and they 
fought the battle again, that I realised what they 
had done. As the Garhwalis charged over the 
open from Sheikh Faraja Ridge, the three guns 
in front of them, firing point-blank over their 
sights, poured in shrapnel, raking the ground, 
churning up the sand in a deadly spray. Half- 
way across there was a deep dry nullah, with 
steep banks and a few scattered palms on the 
other side. It was an ideal place to hold, but the 
enemy were slipping away. In a moment the 
Garhwalis were in the nullah, clambered up the 
opposite bank, and had their Lewis-gun trained 
on the gun teams at 400 yards. The Turkish 
gunners died game, and in the Garhwalis' last 
burst over the flat not a man fell. They rushed 
the palm-clump to the right of the guns and the 
guns, which were undefended with their dead 
all round. The three pieces were intact. The 
Turks had no time to damage them. The horses 
were all saddled up in the palms, with the 
ammunition limbers, officers' charges, mules and 
camels. Very quickly the Garhwalis dug a pot- 
hook trench round the guns and palm-clump, 


watched eagerly for the supports, and waited for 
the counter-attack which surely must come. The 
three assaulting companies were a bare hundred 
strong now, and behind the mud walls five 
hundred yards in front of them, though they 
did not know it, lay the Turkish General and 
2000 of his men. But the silencing of the 
guns was the beginning of the collapse. The 
Turks knew the game was up. The iron 
ring we were drawing round them, their unsuc- 
cessful sortie against the cavalry in the night, had 
taken the heart out of them. No doubt they 
thought the Garhwalis the advance-guard of a 
mighty host. 

White flags appeared on the mud wall in 
front. A small group of Turks came out un- 
armed. Eight men were sent to bring them in. 
Then a "crocodile" emerged from the nullah. 
"I've seen some crocodiles," a very junior 
subaltern said to me, *' but I have never seen one 
which bucked me like that." The monster grew 
and swelled until it assumed enormous pro- 
portions. One could not see whence each new 
fold of the beast proceeded. It was like dragon 
seed conjured up out of invisibility in the desert 
by a djinn. But it was a very tame dragon and 


glad of its captivity. And there was really 
something of a miracle in it, — the kind of miracle 
that happens in a legend or at the end of a fairy 
tale, where the moral is pointed of the extra- 
ordinary rewards that befall all the young who 
are single-minded and unafraid. Half an hour 
after the crocodile had collected its folds Ahmed 
Bey, the Turkish General, was discovered in a 
neighbouring house, and surrendered to a young 
British officer of the company. 

When they saw the Turkish General coming 
in, all the jiwans (young men) must have thought 
of the "charge-ki-din," the day of honour of 
which they had inherited the tradition but not the 
memory, and wished they had been there too. 


The Khattaks kept their spirits up all through 
the hot weather. They were too lively some- 
times. There was one man who imitated a 
three-stringed guitar a few yards from my tent 
as an accompaniment to his friend's high treble. 
One night after a good feed, when the shamal 
began blowing, they broke out into one of their 
wild dances, after the Dervish fashion, swinging 
swords and leaping round the bonfire. You 
would think the Khattak would be up to any 
murder after this kind of show, but I am told 
the frenzy works the offending Adam out of 

I was watching a fatigue party working at 
a bund on a particularly sultry afternoon. They 
were all a bit "tucked up," but as soon as the 
dhol (drum) and serinai (oboe) sounded, they 
started cat-calling and made the earth fly. The 
Khattak is as responsive to the serinai as the 
Highlander to the regimental slogan, but he is 



more demonstrative. It is a good thing to be 

by, when the Rifles leave camp. At the 

first sound of the dhol and serinai the Khattak 
company breaks into a wild treble shriek, tailing 
off perhaps with the bal-bala, the Pathan imita- 
tion of the gurgling of the camel. The Sikh 
comes in with his "Wah Guru-ji-Ki-Khalsa, 
Wah Guru-ji-Ki-jai! " and the Punjabi mussal- 
man with his "Allah, Allah, Allah, Allah"; or 
he may borrow the Khattak's bal-bala, or the 
British " Hip, hip, hooray ! " 

The Khattak is impulsive, mercurial, easily 
excited, seldom dispirited, and if so, only for 
a short time. His 61an is sometimes a positive 
danger during an attack. At Sheikh Saad, on 
the right bank on January 7th, it was difficult 
to hold the Khattak company back while the 
regiment on their left was coming up ; they were 
all for going on ahead and breaking the line ; 
and in the end it was a premature sortie of the 
Khattaks that precipitated the assault. 

Shere AH was among these. He and his 
father, Shahbaz Khan of the Bhangi Khel, were 
typical Khattaks. From these two one may 
oather a fair estimate of the breed. Shahbaz 
Khan, the father, I did not meet. Shere Ali 


I saw wounded on a barge at Sheikh Saad. He 
was introduced to me by his machine-gun officer, 
who was wounded at the same time. 

Father and son both served in the Khattak 

double company of the Rifles. Shahbaz 

Khan, retired subadar, died after eighteen 
months of the Great War without hearing a shot 
fired. It was very galling to the old man to 
be out of it, for his idea of bliss was a kind 
of glorified Armageddon. He had fought in 
Tochi and Waziristan, but these frontier scraps 
were unsatisfying. "It was only playing at 
war," he said. He longed for a padshah-ki-Ierai, 
"a war of kingdoms," in the old Mahabharat 
style. " Sahib," he said, " I should like to be 
up to my knees in gore with thousands of dead 
all round me." But the old man was born fifteen 
years too soon. He would have been happy in 
the night attack upon Beit Aieesa, or even 
perhaps with Shere Ali on the right bank at 
Sheikh Saad, when the regiment rushed the 
Turkish trenches. 

Shere Ali was with the regiment in Egypt, 
left the canal with them in December, 19 15, 
and was just in time for the advance from Ali 
Gharbi. Shahbaz Khan came down to the depot 


and dismissed his son with envious blessings. 
He had dyed his beard a bright red, and he 
carried himself with a youthful air, hoping that 
the Colonel might discover some subterfuge by 
which he could re-emerge on the active list. 
The Colonel would have given ten of his jiwans 
for him, and Shahbaz Khan knew it. But the 
rules were all against him. So the regiment 
went off to the accompaniment of the dhol and 
serinai, amidst many loud shouts and salutations, 
mingled with British cheers, and old Shahbaz 
Khan was left behind. He died in his bed 
before Shere Ali came back, and no doubt a 
broodinof sense of having been born too soon 
hastened his end. 

Father and son, I have explained, were 
faithful to type. The Khattak is the Celt of 
the Indian Army, feckless, generous, improvident, 
mercurial, altogether a friendly and responsive 
person, but with the queer kink in him you get 
in all Pathans, that primitive sensitive point 
of honour or shame which puzzles the psycho- 
logist. It is often his duty to kill a man. On 
these occasions the cegis of the British Govern- 
ment is a positive misfortune. For the Khattaks 
are mainly a cis-frontier race, and therefore 


subject to all the injustice and inequalities of 
our law. Citizenship of the Empire hampers 
the blood feud. A stalking duel started in 
British territory generally ends in the Andamans 
or Paradise. If you lose you lose, and if you 
win you may be hanged or deported for life. 
Nevertheless, the instinct for honour survives 
this discouragement, and there is a genial colony 

of Khattak outlaws over the border. 

Old Shere Khan killed a rival for his wife's 
affections in the regimental lines, and he could 
not have done anything else. The man's offence 
carried its own sentence in the minds of all 
decent-thinking people. The Subadar-Major 
begged the Adjutant to cut the fellow's name — 
Sher Gol, I think it was — and to get him well 
away before night. Otherwise, he said, there 
would be trouble. But the Adjutant could not 
look into the case before the next morning. In 
the meantime, to safeguard Sher Gol, he told 
the Subadar to see that twenty stout men slept 
round his bed. The Subadar made it fifty, but 
the quarter guard would have been better; for 
at one in the morning — it was a late guest-night 
— the Adjutant and Sher Gol's company com- 
mander were called out quietly to see the remains 


of him. His head was swaying slowly from side 
to side on the edge of the bed. A hatchet 
planted in the skull and oscillating with every 
movement of it had been left there as evidence. 
The Subadar put his knee against the charpoy 
(bed) and pulled the chopper out. Whereupon 
Sher Gol opened his eyes, saying, " Ab roshni 
hai " ("Now there is light"), and expired. He 
had been killed with fifty men sleeping round 
him. They had all slept like the dead and 
nobody had heard the blow. There was no 
evidence against Shahbaz Khan whatever ; public 
opinion was on his side. 

Of such stock was Shere Ali, and though a 
mere lad he had killed his man at Kohat before 
he fought at Sheikh Saad. Zam, zan, zar (land, 
women, and gold), according to the Persian 
proverb, are at the bottom of all outrages, and 
with Shahbaz Khan and Shere Ali, as with nine 
Khattaks out of ten, it was zan. And zan 
(woman), too, was in Shere All's mind when he 
brooded so dejectedly over his wound at Sheikh 
Saad. He was hit in the foot and lamed the 
moment he left the trenches. This meant a 
two-inch shortage, and, as he believed, permanent 


" I have never seen him so down in the 
mouth," Anderson, the machine-gun officer, said 
to me on the barge. "He has lost all his cheery 

Shere Ali was certainly dispirited. He had 
his head and chest low, and all the wind taken 
out of him. He looked like a bird with its 
crest down and its feathers ruffled. 

The Khattak thinks no end of his personal 
appearance. He dresses to kill, and loves to 
go and swank in the bazaar in his gala kit. He 
will spend hours over his toilet peering at himself 
in the glass, all the while without a trace of self- 
consciousness, though his neighbours may be 
almost as interested in the performance as he. 
Then when his hair is neatly oiled and trim to 
the level of the lobe of his ear, he will stride 
forth in his flowery waistcoat of plum-colour or 
maroon velvet with golden braid, spotless white 
baggy trousers, a flower behind his ear, a red 
handkerchief in his pocket, a cane in his hand, 
and for headgear a high Kohat lungi — black 
with yellow and crimson ends, and a kula * 
covered with gold. 

Every Khattak is a bit of a blood, and Shere 

* The peak which protrudes from the centre of the turban. 


Ali was true to type. In his country a showy 
exterior betokens the gallant in both senses of 
the word. A woman of parts will not look at 
a man unless he has served in the army, or is 
at least something of a buccaneer. Of course, 
a wound honourably come by is a distinction, 
and Shere Ali should not have been depressed. 
He would return a bahadur, I told him, but he 
only smiled sadly. He was crippled ; there was 
no getting over it. He would join in the 
Khattak dance no more. As for the dhol and 
serinai — if that intriguing music had broken out 
just then I believe we should both have 

I heard more of Shere Ali from Anderson 
when he returned fit three months afterwards. 
In the depot the lad's depression seemed per- 
manent. He was very anxious to get back to 
his village, and kept on asking when he might 
go. But he was told that he must wait for a 
special pair of boots. He was sent to Lahore 
to Watts to be fitted. 

"Give him the best you can turn out," the 
Adjutant wrote ; " a pair that will last at least 
three years." Shere Ali returned all impatience. 

" I have been measured, Sahib," he said ; 


" but I have not yet got the boots. Now may 
I go back to my village." 

*' No," the Adjutant told him, " you must wait 
for the boots. We must see you well fitted 
out first." 

He had another weary two weeks to wait. 
He was evidently rather bored with all this fuss 
about footgear. What good are boots to a man 
who can't walk ? 

At last they came. He untied the box with 
melancholy indifference, threw the tissue paper 
and cardboard on the floor, and examined them 

" Sahib," he said, " there is some mistake — 
they are not a pair." 

He was persuaded to put them on. 

** Now walk," the Adjutant said. 

Shere Ali rose with an effort, and was leaning 
forward to pick up his crutches, when he noticed 
that his lame foot touched ground. He advanced 
it gingerly, stamped with it once or twice in a 
puzzled way, and then began doubling round 
the orderly room. The Adjutant said that his 
chest visibly filled out and the light came back 
to his eyes. He took a step forward and 


" When is the next parade, Sahib ? " he 

*• Never mind about parades," the Adjutant 
told him. " Go back to your village and bring 
us some more jiwans like yourself, as many as 
you like, and keep on bringing them." 

We can't have too many Khattaks. Shere 
Ali, I am told, has quite a decent stride. He 
is no end of a bahadur. And he is a sight for 
the gods in his white baggy trousers, flowery 
waistcoat, and Kohat lungi, when he dresses 
to kill. 


I THOUGHT I had met all the classes in the 
Indian Army. But one day at Sheikh Saad, 
when I was half asleep with the heat, I opened 
my eyes to see a company of unfamiliar faces. 
They were not unfamiliar individually. I had 
met the double of each of them ; yet collectively 
they were unfamiliar. In the first platoon I 
could have sworn to a Gurkha, a Chinaman, a 
Tibetan, a Lepcha of Sikkim, a Chilasi, and an 
undoubted Pathan with a touch of the Turki 
in him. 

Whether in eye, nose, complexion, or the 
flatness of the cheek there was something Mongol 
in them all, while in at least half there was a 
suggestion of the Semitic. The Lepcha had the 
innocent jungly glance of the cowherd of Gantok 
or Pemiongchi ; the Chinaman with the three- 
cornered eyes was an exaggeration of type ; 
the Pathan would have passed muster in the 
Khyber Rifles. They were all fairer than many 



Englishmen after a year ,of Mesopotamia, and 
they spoke a kind of mongrel Persian with a 
Tibetan intonation. 

The reofiment disembarked from the steamer 
and filed out to the rest camp behind my tent 
in the intense heat of a September afternoon. 
It was too hot to sleep, much too hot to wander 
about and ask questions. If it had been cooler 
I should have gone out and talked to one of 
the regimental officers. But ii8 degrees in the 
shade under canvas kills curiosity. I remember 
there was a dog under the outside fly of my tent, 
and for half an hour I mistook its breathing for 
the engine of a motor-car, but never quite rose 
to the effort of getting up to see if the machine 
could not be persuaded to move on. Happily 
there was no need to go out and ask who these 
men were. I soon tumbled to it, though I had 
never seen the breed until they landed in the 
blinding glare of Sheikh Saad. 

The history of the Hazaras is written in their 
faces. They are of Mongol origin, though the 
colony is settled near Ghazni in Afghanistan. 
I had heard how they came there, but had for- 
gotten the story, only remembering that the 
Mongols had married wives of the country of 






their adoption. Hence the curious blend of the 
Central Asian and the Jew in the crowd that 
was stumbling up the bank. A little reflection 
solved the puzzle in spite of the heat.| 

There was one small tamarisk bush, not 
more than eighteen inches high, but where it 
stood on the edge of the bank it threw a four- 
foot patch of shade ; the only natural shadow 
to be had anywhere round. A sepoy of the 
regiment appropriated this. Then a jemadar 
came up and demanded it for himself. The 
sepoy pretended not to hear. "Go and relieve 
the sentry," his officer said, pointing to an erect 
figure in the sun who was being broiled by 
inches, "over the kit pile there by the steamer. 
Look alive. Clear out ! " The Hazara dragged 
himself out of the shade, and approaching his 
friend the guard, caught him a resounding whack 
on the ear. One cannot strike an officer; yet 
something had to be done ; one has to let steam 
off somehow. The guard jabbed at him with 
the bayonet and took himself off in good spirit. 
The jemadar laughed. 

All this horseplay was characteristic of every- 
thing I had heard of the Hazara. The psy- 
chology of it was not of the East. There was 



something Cockney or Celtic in the blows taken 
in good part, the give and take, the common- 
sense and easy-going humour of the scene. 

In the evening I went over and had a chat 
with the Hazara. One or two of them spoke 
Hindustani with the accent of a Tommy, calling 
me "Sabb." Finding them friendly and com- 
municative folk, I asked them their history. 
They had come over with a Ghenghiz Khan, 
they told me, to sack Delhi ; all agreed that it 
was Ghenghiz Khan, and that it was about 800 
years ago and that they had crossed the Kara- 
koram, and that their own particular ancestors 
had been left by the Khan to hold the outpost 
of Ghazni in Afghanistan. I looked up their 
history afterwards and found that they had given 
it me more or less as it is set down in the text- 

Also I learnt that it is not easy for the 
Hazaras to leave Afghanistan. The Amir's 
cruards have orders to hold them up at the 
frontier, though there are time-honoured ways 
in which they contrive to break the cordon, 
bribing the guards or slipping through in dis- 
o-uise. fyenerallv with the Powindah caravans. 
It is still more difficult for them to get home 


and return when on leave, and this is an embargo 
which indulges the Hazara's natural bent for 
travel. In the furlough season you will find 
him as far afield from cantonments as he can get 
in the time, often as far as Colombo, Calcutta, 
Madras, or Rangoon. Filthy lucre is not his 
motive. What he earns he spends. He has a 
curiosity uncommon in the Asiatic. He likes 
wandering and seeing the world for its own 
sake ; he lives comfortably, is a bit of a spend- 
thrift, gambles a lot, dresses with an air, and 
likes to cut a figure in a tonga where the ordi- 
nary sepoy would save a few annas by going 
on foot. If he belongs to a Pioneer regiment 
he can afford it. For the Pioneer works on a 
Government contract in peace time, and the 
Hazara thinks he has fallen on a poor job if he 
cannot make twelve annas extra for a day's work 
in addition to his pay. 

Few of them can read or write, but though 
illiterate they are keen-witted and speak with 
the terseness of a proverb. They are much 
quicker " at the uptake " than the Gurkha, whom 
they resemble in many ways. When they go to 
Kirkee for Pioneer training they generally come 
out top in the machine-gun, musketry, and 


signalling courses, and they make excellent sur- 
veyors. As Pioneers they are hard to beat. 

It will be gathered from the incident of the 
sepoy who was dispossessed of his tamarisk bush, 
that the Hazara is of a cheerful disposition. 
There is generally a comedian in the regiment, 
and after dinner at Sheikh Saad one of the 
men was called in to give us a kind of solo- 
pantomime. He began with the smart salute 
of the sepoy, bringing his hand down with the 
mechanical click of a bolt ; then he gave us the 
Sahib's casual lifting of the cane, next he was 
a havildar drilling a raw recruit. He took the 
parts in turn and contrived some clever fooling. 
But I gathered that the man was only second- 
rate. No sooner had he made his exit than 
everybody in the mess lamented Faizo who 
beguiled so many nights of the New Zealanders 
on the canal, a subtle artist compared to this 
clown with his stock regimental turns. Faizo is 
the castigator of pretence, scourge of hypocrisy 
and the humbug of the Church. In one scene 
he is the shaven mullah abstractedly mumbling 
his prayers while he intently prepares his food. 
A doe comes in and defiles the dish, Faizo for 
the moment becomes the dosf — then the mullah 

FAIZO 165 

torn with the fury of commination, pursuing the 
dog with oaths and missiles and spurning the 
polluted food. Then the mullah again, hungry 
and unctuously sophisticated, blessing the food, 
miraculously restoring its virtue, and finding it 

No one is better at a nickname than Faizo. 
Few men are known in the regiment by the 
name their father gave them. They are remem- 
bered by some oddity or unhappy lapse of con- 
duct, or the place they come from, and Faizo is 
the regimental godfather of them all. There is 
Mahomet Ulta — Mahomet upside down — who 
always gets hold of the wrong end of the stick ; 
Ser Khuskh— the dry-head, and " The Mullah," 
and " Kokri Gulpusht," "the frog with a shining 
posterior,'* who looks as if his face had been 
glazed. Also there is Ghulam Shah the " May- 
gaphon." This is how he came by the name. 

Ghulam Shah is that rare thing, a stupid 
Hazara — and what is worse a stupid havildar. 
One day on manoeuvres he had tied the Hazaras 
up in an inextricable knot through misunder- 
standing some command. The Colonel stood on 
a mound and cursed him from afar off, and as 
his language became more violent Ghulam Shah 


became more confused. He stood on one leg 
and then on the other. Then remembering the 
megaphone he carried he put it to his ear, and 
lastly, in despair, to his eye. On the evening of 
the field day Faizo borrowed the regimental 
megaphone and pursued the wretched Ghulam 
Shah round the parade ground. Ghulam Shah 
was a fat man who ran heavily and panted. 
Faizo put the instrument to his ear and to his 
eye. He inspected him with a theatrical gesture 
of his disengaged hand. He listened to him 
curiously, as though he was some strange beast. 
Last insult of all, he put the megaphone to his 
nose and smelt him. 

It was refreshing to see how the Hazaras 
kept their spirits up in this firepit, and to hear 
the clipped Mongol speech of the tableland in 
the plain of Iraq. At Sheikh Saad we were 
little more than a hundred miles from the plain 
of Shinar and the site of the Tower of Babel, 
and we were carrying on with a confusion of 
tongues that would have demobilised the tower 
builders. Here was a man talking Persian like 
a Tibetan, and from beyond the circle of light 
there penetrated to us the most profane com- 
ments delivered in the homeliest Devonshire burr. 


Among the Hazaras were Baltis, who are 
being recruited into the Hazara battalion now. 
Their country, Baltistan, or Little Tibet, lies to 
the north of Kashmir, between Fadakh and the 
Gilgit district. The Baltis, too, have a distinct 
language of their own and come of a semi- 
Mongolian stock, and are Shiahs by faith like 
the Hazaras. They were originally polygamists, 
like their neighbours the Bhots of Fadakh, but 
when they became Muhammadans they adopted 
polyandry. They resemble the Hazaras in looks, 
but on the whole are shorter and darker. They 
are an extremely hardy race, and eke out a very 
scanty living as coolies and tillers of the soil 
in the valleys of the Indus and its tributaries 
up Skardu and Shigar way — a happy hunting- 
ground, the mere thought of which gave one an 
empty and homesick feeling inside when tied 
down to one's gridiron or Iraq. I had seen 
them at work in the high snow passes of Tibet, 
their natural home, and little expected to meet 
them in the malignant waste by the Tigris, 
which one would have thought must be death to 
mountain-born folk whose villages are seldom 
found at an altitude of less than 8000 feet 
above the sea. Yet the descent to Tartarus 


did not seem to have dismayed them in the 

The Hazara is probably the nearest approach 
to the European you will find in the Indian 
Army. It is odd that a cross of the Mongol 
and Semitic should have produced this breed. 
His leg is not of the East ; he walks like the 
Tyke. I do not know the Tartar in his home, 
but these descendants of his have much in com- 
mon with us. In his sense of humour, quick 
temper, rough and tumble wrestling, ragging 
and practical jokes, and practical common sense ; 
in his curiosity and love of travel, in his com- 
plexion and disposition and in his easy-going 
habits of life, the Hazara is not so very far 
removed from an Islander of the West. 

The Hazara has a good opinion of himself 
though his pride is unobtrusive. He is hard 
as nails, a man of tremendous heart, and he is 
not easily beaten in a trial of physical strength. 
They nearly always pull off the divisional tug- 
of-war. In the two mixed-company battalions 
that enlist Hazaras it is a recognised tradition 
that the light-weights should be a purely Hazara 

There is not much material as yet for an 


estimate of the military virtue of the race, but 
according to all precedent they should prove 
good men in a scrap. For the Hazara is an 
anomaly in the East, where men as a rule are 
only stout-hearted and self-respecting where they 
are lords of the soil and looked up to by their 
neighbours. In Afghanistan, as alien subjects 
of the Amir, Shiahs among Sunnis, Mongols 
among Pathans, they have held their heads 
high and proved themselves unbroken in spirit ; 
though living isolated and surrounded by hostile 
peoples, and from time to time the objects of 
persecution, you will find few types of manhood 
less browbeaten than the Hazara. 


The Hindu and Muhammadan Mers and Merats 
from the Merwara Hills round Ajmere are men 
of curious customs and antecedents, very homely 
folk, and as good friends to the British Govern- 
ment as any children of the Empire. I met them 
first at Qurnah, in June, 1916; thin, lithe men 
with sparse beards like birds' nests in a winter 
tree. You could not tell the Mer from the 
Merat. They are of one race, and claim to 
be the issue of a Rajput king — Prithi Raj, I 
believe — by a Meena woman, — a mythical an- 
cestry suggested no doubt by Brahmans in order 
to raise their social standing among other 
Hindus. They are really the descendants of 
the aboriginal tribes of Rajputana, but in course 
of time, through intercourse with Rajput Thakurs 
as servants, cultivators, and irregular levies, they 
have imbibed a certain amount of Rajput blood. 
They are a democratic crowd, and have never 
owed allegiance to the princes of Rajasthan. 


To face p. 170.] 


.^**'" ?;•. 

1 \ 


Nor have they been defeated by them. In the 
old days when they made a foray the Rajput 
cavaHers would drive them back into their 
impossible country, where among their rocks and 
trees they would hurl defiance in the shape of 
stones and arrows at mounted chivalry. Then 
in the middle of last century an Englishman 
came along and did everything for them which 
a true friend can do. Like Nicholson, he became 
incorporated in the local Pantheon. He gave 
the Mers a statute and a name, and lamps are 
still burning at his shrine. 

Mota is a Mer. There are six regiments in 
the Indian Army that draw from his community, 
one class and five company class battalions. But 
as Mota is an exaggeration of type, and more 
blessed with valour than brains and discretion, 
I will not say to what particular battalion he 

When I saw Mota Jemadar he was rehearsing 
a part. His Colonel and I were sitting on the 
roof of a mud Arab house, then a regimental 
mess, where we had established ourselves for 
the evening, hoping to find some movement in 
the stifling air. Looking down we saw the 
jemadar doubling painfully and deliberately 


across the walled palm grove in a temperature 
of 105 degrees in the shade. We thought at first 
the man had been bitten by a scorpion or a 
snake, and the Colonel called out to him from 
the roof, " What is the matter, Mota ? " 
" Nothing is the matter. Sahib," he called up, 
*' I am practising for the Victaria Crarse." 

The Colonel smiled and sighed. He knew 
his man, and he told me what these preparations 
impended. The regiment was new to the 
country and to war, and I gathered that unless 
otherwise instructed the jemadar would go over 
the parapet the first time he found himself in 
action, doubling along clumsily in the same 
determined fashion as if he had been propelled 
mechanically from behind, and that he would not 
pull up or look round until he got to the enemy's 
trenches. And he would do this with the full 
expectation of having the glittering cross pinned 
on his breast in the evening. The other alter- 
native would not trouble his head. 

Also I gathered that the phrase ** unless 
otherwise instructed " implied much uphill work 
on the part of the regimental officer. Mota was 
imbued with a fixed idea. His mind was not in 
that receptive mood which enables the fighting 


man to act quickly in an emergency. Supposing- 
his role were not the offensive. Supposing 
that he were suddenly attacked at the moment 
when he felt himself secure, and had no time for 
deliberation or counsel, the old jemadar might be 
doubling in any direction under the contagion of 
example or to reach a place where he could think 
out the new situation and resolve how to act. 
When a Mer gets as far as a rehearsal he will 
never fail in the performance. He is all right so 
long as he knows exactly what he is expected 
to do. 

There was the historic occasion of Ajmere in 
1857. when the action of the Mers and Merats 
altered the whole course of the Mutiny in their 
own district, and held back the wave that 
threatened to sweep over Rajasthan. News 
came to the local battalion that the garrison had 
risen at Nasirabad and murdered the British 
officers. Led by their Sahib and lawgiver, the 
Mers made a forced march of thirty-eight 
miles from Beawar to Ajmere, dispossessed the 
mutinous guards of the treasury and arsenal, 
and held the fort against the rebels who were 
advancing upon the city, flushed with success, 
from Nasirbad. All of which fell in with the 


Mer legend that they would never be ruled by 
any save a white king.' 

It was a class battalion that I met at Ournah 
in June, 1916; incidentally it was not Mota's 
crowd. They had already seen much hard 
campaigning, and a small scrap or two in the 
desert between the Kharkeh and Karum rivers, 
where some of the regiment had died of thirst. 
But the most interesting point about the Mers 
and Merats to a student of Indian races is the 
relationship between the Hindus and Muham- 
madans of the same stock. In the chapter about 
the Brahmans and Rajputs in the Army I have 
given an instance of how the caste system 
strengthened discipline. Caste, of course, is in 
itself a discipline, and was originally imposed as 
such. In its call for the sacrifice of the indi- 
vidual to the community it has played its part 
in the stiffening of the Hindu for countless 
generations. But in the twentieth century the 
most orthodox will admit its disabilities, the 
exacting ritual involved in it, and the artificial 
and complex differentiation between men who 
have really everything in common. The caste 
question as a rule, when it emerges in a regi- 
ment, creates difficulties, and very rarely, as in 


the case of the excommunicated Rajputs, smooths 
them over. The Merwara battalion, which was 
once divided by caste into two camps, is a case 
in point. It is an old story, but as it is little 
known it is worth recording as an example of the 
evils of exclusiveness. And as both parties are 
now good friends, no harm can be done by 
telling it. 

First it should be understood that the Mers 
and Merats are the most home-staying folk in 
the Indian Army. Like the Gurkhas, the class 
battalion has one permanent cantonment, and 
never leaves it except to go on active service. 
Until this war they had not been on a campaign 
since the Afghan expedition in 1878-9. They 
are even more domiciled than the Gurkha, for their 
depot at Ajmere is in their own district, and they 
can get home on a week-end's leave from Friday 
night till Monday morning ; and when their turn 
comes they seldom let the privilege go by. 

Living and serving in their own country, 
detached from other folk, they evolved a happy 
easy-going, tolerant, social system of their own. 
The Mers are Hindus ; the Merats Muham- 
madans. They are of the same stock, but the 
Mussalman Merats are the descendants of the 


Mers who were forcibly converted to Islam by 
Aurungzeb. This conversion did not break 
up the brotherhood. Hindu and Muhammadan 
intermarried, and sat at meals together within 
the chauka as before. It is no doubt on account 
of their freedom from the restrictions of both 
religions that the Merats have never reverted 
to Mers or become Muhammadans in real 
earnest. They still feared the Hindu deities, 
and were strangers to the inside of a mosque. 
Mer and Merat together made up a very united 
people, and one quite apart. They cared little 
for dogma or ritual, and had their own ideas 
about caste. Thus they lived contentedly to- 
gether until 1904, when a party of them were 
sent home to England with other details of the 
Indian Army to attend the Coronation of King 
Edward VII. 

It is sad to think that this happy anniversary 
should have been the beginning of discord, but 
the serpent entered their Eden when they took 
train to Bombay and embarked on the transport. 
Here they found themselves amongst every kind 
of sepoy from the Mahratta of the Konkan to 
the Jharwa of Assam, from the Bhangi Khel of 
Kohat to the Mussalman of Southern Madras — 

AT SEA 177 

all of whom had their prescribed ritual and fixed 
rules of life. Few of this crowd had ever seen 
the sea before, but they were most of them 
travelled men of the world compared to the Mer 
and Merat. Amongst the Rajputs, Gurkhas, 
Sikhs, Pathans, and Punjabi Mussalmans, the 
Ajmere contingent must have appeared the most 
open-mouthed and bewildered of country cousins. 
None of the sepoys knew anything about them. 
"Who are you? Where do you come from?" 
they were asked. They were just like children 
torn from the bosom of the family and plunged 
for the first time into the unsympathetic en- 
tourage of a school. They were twitted un- 
mercifully for their unnatural alliance. Asked 
to define themselves they stated, quite honestly, 
that they were Rajputs. The easy-going Hindus 
made a huge joke out of this ; the orthodox were 
angry and rude. For whoever saw a Rajput and 
a Mussalman break bread together ? The Mer 
was told that he was not a true Rajput, not even 
a true Hindu. The poor Merats, too, were 
regarded as blacksliders from Islam. They did 
all sorts of things that a good Muhammadan 
ought not to do. All their old customs and 
easy compromises, all the happy little family 



understandings, those recognised and cherished 
inconsistences which make half the endearments 
of home-life, became the subject of an unfeeling 

Mer and Merat became mutually suspicious. 
Before they reached Aden the Mers had already 
begun to dress their hair differently, more in the 
Rajput style. At Suez they were in two distinct 
camps. The cooking-vessels which had been 
common to both were abhorred by the Hindus ; 
neither would eat what the other had touched ; 
each eyed the other askance. 

When they returned to India the infection 
of exclusiveness spread, and Hindu sectarian 
missionaries coming into the fold added to the 
mischief. But happily common sense and old 
affections prevailed. Now they do not ostensibly 
feed together and intermarry ; but they are good 
friends, and relations are smooth, though they 
can never be quite the same happy family again. 

Two generations or more of regimental life 
have passed since these events, and I heard a 
very different story of a Merwara company on 
board a transport in this war. When they em- 
barked in Karachi harbour they trod the deck of 
the vessel tentatively and with suspicion. But 


soon timidity gave place to pride. " You see, 
Sahib," the Subadar explained, " we are not laid 
out by this sea-sickness which we are told is very 
disastrous to certain classes of sepoys, and even 
to some sahibs." The unknown peril had been 
the theme of conversation most of the way from 
Rajputana, and the Mers, no doubt, believed 
that the first entries in the " Regimental Roll of 
Honour " would be the victims of the subtle and 
malignant paralysis with which Kala pani (the 
black water) can infect the strongest. As bad 
luck would have it, no sooner had the transport 
cleared the harbour than they struck dirty 
weather and a choppy sea. Mer and Merat 
collapsed as one. On the third day those who 
had legs to support them or strength to stir the 
pot were carrying round food to the less fortu- 
nate, united in this common emergency and 
careless of caste and creed. The sea separated 
them, and ten years afterwards the sea joined 
them again. Let us hope that the voyage 
marked a revival of the golden age. 

The story of both voyages bears out the 
comment of Mota's Colonel, that the Mer and 
Merat, though far from being impressionable, are 
singularly open to example. These brave and 


friendly folk may be lacking in initiative, but 
give them a lead, show them what may be done, 
and they will never fail in emulation. Hardly 
a man of military age is not enlisted, and the 
traditions of Ajmere were continued at Kut, 
where there was a company of Mers and Merats 
in one of the two regiments who held the 
liquorice factory so gallantly through the siege. 


The Mussalmans of Rajput descent are a fine 
fighting stock. The best known are the Ran- 
ghars of the Eastern Punjab and the Kaim 
Khanis of Rajputana proper. The handsomest 
sepoy I met in Mesopotamia was a Ranghar, 
and he had that jolly, dare-devil look about 
him which recalls the best traditions of the 

When the non-military Hindus, most of them 
unwilling converts, embraced Muhammadanism, 
it was the custom in choosing their Islamic name 
to adopt the prefix "Sheikh." Alma Ram be- 
came Sheikh Ali, for instance, and Gobind Das 
Sheikh Zahur-ud-din. But the proud Rajput 
warriors were unwilling to be classed with these. 
"We come of a fighting stock," they argued, 
" like the Pathans. Our history is more glorious 
than theirs." So they adopted the suffix " Khan," 
which with the man of genuine Muhammadan 
ancestry implies Pathan descent. The Chohans, 



when they became converted, were known to 
the Rajputs as the Kaim Khanis, or " the firm 
and unbreakable ones." Every Ranghar, too, was 
be-khaned, and as a class they have shown a 
martial spirit equal to the title. 

The British officer in the Indian Cavalry 
swears by the Ranghars. I know cavalry leaders 
who would unhesitatingly name him if asked in 
what breed they considered there was the best 
makings of a sowar. He is born horseman and 
horsemaster. And he is very much " a man." 
Even in the Punjab, where there are collected 
the best fighting stocks in India — that is to say, 
the best fighting stocks in the East — he is a 
hero of romance. " You'll find the Ranghar," 
the Pirrhai tells us, 

" In the drink shop, or in the jail, 
On the back of a horse, 
Or in the deep grave." 

I had heard that tag long before I met the 
Ranghar on service, and I wanted to see how 
his dare-devil, undisciplined past — if indeed it 
was as dare-devil as it is painted — served him 
on a campaign. The Ranghar, one knows, is a 
Rajput by origin and a Muhammadan by faith. 
His ancestors were brought to see eye to eye 

To face p. 182.] 



with the Mogul — a change of vision due to no 
priestcraft, but dictated by the sword. It must 
be remembered that their lands were exposed 
to the full tide of the Moslem flood. The Raj- 
puts who earned immortality by their defiance 
of Akbar, the lions of Rajasthan, lived far from 
Delhi in the shelter of their forests and hills. 
The vicinity of the Ranghars to the Mogul 
capital helps to explain their submission ; it does 
not explain the relative virility and vitality of 
the breed to-day compared with their Hindu 
Rajput contemporaries. It will be generally ad- 
mitted, I think, that the average Ranghar or 
Khaim Khani is a stouter man than the Rajput 
pure and simple. Why this should be so ; why 
the descendants of the unconverted Rajputs who 
held by their faith should not produce as hard 
a breed of men as the Rajputs who were the 
first to submit to Islam, and that under com- 
pulsion, is a mystery unexplained. One does 
not set much store by converts in the East. 
They are generally a yielding, submissive crew. 
But the Ranghar is very decidedly " lord of him- 
self," a man of action, with something of the 
pagan in him perhaps, but no hidden corners in 
his mind where sophistry can enter in and 


corrupt. The best answer I have heard to the 
Hun Jehadist wile was given by a Ranghar. 

It was in the Shabkadr show on the 5th 
September, 191 5, when the Mohmunds had the 
support of the Afghan Ningrahahis under the 
notorious Jan Badshah, who came in against us 
in defence of the Amir. There had been some 
hot scrapping. Our cavalry were clearing a 
village out Michni way in the afternoon, and had 
had heavy casualties in horses and men. The 
scene was a long, walled compound, from which 
we had been sniped at for hours. Into this rode 
half a dozen men of the ist D.Y.O. Lancers, 
headed by the Ranghar Jemadar Rukkun-ud-din. 
The colonel of the regiment, standing up in his 
stirrups, saw the whole affair from over the wall, 
and heard the first parley, or rather the Afghans' 
impudent Jehadist appeal and the Ranghars' 
answer to it. As the Lancers cantered through 
the gate three abreast, the head of the Afghan 
crowd stepped forward, gave them the Muham- 
madan greeting, and with the confidence of an 
unassailable argument cried out to them, " We 
are of the true faith. Ye are of the true faith. 
Why then do ye fight for unbelieving Kafirs ? " 
For answer Jemadar Rukkun-ud-din drew his 


revolver and shot the man in the stomach where 
he stood. In the scrimmage that followed the 
two parties were evenly matched in respect of 
numbers. No one gave quarter ; in fact, no 
quarter had been given or taken all day ; it is 
not the Mohmund or the Afghan habit, and 
they do not understand it. The sowars were 
mounted, and rode in with their lances ; the 
Afghans were unmounted, but their magazines 
were full, and they iired a volley at the Lancers 
as they charged. Two sowars fell wounded, but 
not mortally. There was pandemonium in the 
compound for the next forty seconds, the Afghans 
running round and firing, the Ranghars galloping 
and swerving to get in their thrust. The lance 
beat the rifie every time, for the Afghan found 
the point and the menace of impact, and the 
plunging horse too unsteadying for accurate aim. 
In less than a minute they were all borne down. 

Some one suggested that in the natural course 
of events Rukkun-ud-din would receive a reward, 
but the astute Colonel, said in the hearing of all — 

" Reward ! What talk is this of reward ? 
What else could a Ranghar do but kill the man 
who insulted him. It would be a deep shame to 
have failed." 


At the moment the speech was worth more 
than a decoration. It made the Ranghars feel 
very Ranghar-Hke — and that is the best thing 
that a Ranghar can feel, the best thing for him- 
self and for his regiment. Incidentally the 
decoration came. One has not to search for 
pretexts for bestowing honour on men like 

There was another youngster in that melee 
who deserved an I.O.M., a lance-duffadar, a lad 
of twenty. He had been hit in the seat from 
behind. The colonel heard of it and noticed 
that the lad was still mounted. 

" You are wounded ? " he asked. 

" Sahib, it is nothing." 

" Answer my question. Where were you 
hit ? " 

The boy for the first time showed signs of 

" Sahib," he said hesitatingly, " it is a shame- 
ful thing. These dogs were spitting in every 
corner. I have been wounded in the back." 

He was made to dismount. His saddle was 
ripped by a bullet and sodden with blood. 

" You must go back to the ambulance, young 
man," his Colonel told him. 


*' Sahib, I cannot go back in a doolie like a 


He was allowed to mount, though it was an 
extraordinarily nasty wound for the saddle. A 
weight seemed to be lifted from him when the 
Colonel explained that to a Ranghar and a 
cavalryman a wound in the back could only 
mean one was a good thruster and well in 
among the enemy when one was hit. 


I FOUND the Meenas of the DeoH regiment in a 
backwater of the Euphrates some days' journey 
from anywhere. They were so far from any- 
where that when we came round a bend in the 
river in our bellam the sight of their white camp 
on the sand, and the gunboat beside it, made me 
feel that we had reached the coast after a voyage 
of inland exploration. The Meenas were a 
little tired of Samawa, where nothing happened. 
They wanted to be brigaded ; they wanted to 
fight ; they wanted at least to get up to Baghdad. 
They had to wait a long time before any of these 
desires were fulfilled. Nevertheless, although 
they had reasons to think themselves forgotten, 
they were a cheery crowd. 

There are two classes of Meenas — those of 
the 42nd Deoli regiment, the Ujlas, Padhiars 
and Motis, who claim to have Rajput blood in 
them, and the purely aboriginal stock enlisted by 


To face p. i88.] 



the 43rd Erinpura regiment from Sirohi and 
Jodhpur. I expected to find the Deoli Meenas 
small, alert, suspicious-looking men of the Bhil, 
Santal, or Sawarah cast. I was surprised to 
discover them tall and stolid ; pleasant, honest, 
plain in feature ; and offering great variety in 
type. The Rajput blood is no myth. They do 
not look the least like aboriginals, and you could 
find the double of many of them among Dogras, 
Jats, Mahrattas, and Rajputana and Punjabi 
Mussalmans. This normal Aryan appearance 
is no doubt partly the impression of discipline, 
drill, confidence, training. In their own hills, 
before they enlisted they were a wild and startled- 
looking breed. And they had curious customs. 
One was that a man on losing his father had 
the right to sell his mother. In the days when 
they were first recruited you had to pay a man 
four annas to come in for a drill. The Meena 
would arrive with his bow and arrow, which were 
deposited in the quarter-guard. He was taught 
drill and paid for a day's work. He then picked 
up his bow and arrow and departed. Gradually, as 
they realised that no harm came of it, they began 
to settle and to bring their families into canton- 
ments. But they were so distrustful of us in the 


beginning that we had to pay them every evening 
after the day's work. 

The taming of the Meena and the genesis of 
the Deoli cantonment were slowly evolved pro- 
cesses. The history of it reads like an account 
of the domestication of a wild creature. First 
the Meena was encouraged to build. A collec- 
tion of huts was soon grouped together, and the 
men lived in them. Each man built his own 
hut, and when he left the regiment sold it to his 
successor. After some little time they asked if 
they might bring their wives and families to live 
in them. This marked the beginning of an 
unalienable confidence, but the Meena was 
already imbued with a faith in his British 
officer. In after days, when the old huts were 
pulled down and regimental lines constructed, the 
men still lived in their own quarters, and this 
proprietary right was maintained until a few 
years ago. The motto of the regiment, "E turba 
legio," well describes the method of raising it. 

Suspicion is the natural inheritance of the 
Meenas. They are the sons of catde-lifters, 
dacoits, and thieves. For centuries they plun- 
dered the Rajput and were hunted down by him. 
It was the British who helped the Rajput to 


subdue them. To clear the district they infested 
it was necessary to cut down the jungle. The 
Meenas were gradually rounded up and confined 
to a prescribed area — the Meena Kerar, which 
lies partly in Jaipur and partly in Udaipur and 
Bundi, and is administered by the Political 
Agent at Deoli. Roll was called at night in the 
villages, and the absentee was the self-pro- 
claimed thief. The system still holds in the 
more impenitent communities, but the restric- 
tions on the Meena's movements are becoming 
fewer as he conforms with the social contract. 
The pleasing thing about it is that he bears us 
no grudge for the part we played in breaking 
him in. Like his neighbours, the Mer and the 
Merat, he recognises the British as the truest 
friends he has. 

The simplicity, disingenuousness, and friendli- 
ness of the Meena are unmistakable. They are 
the most responsive people, and as sepoys, 
through contact with their British officers, they 
soon lose the habit of suspicion. I spent half 
a day with the Indian officers, and neither I nor 
they were bored. They like talking, and inter- 
sperse their conversation with ready and obvious 
jokes. It seemed to me that though they had 


had most of the mischief knocked out of them, 
they retained a good deal of their superstition 
and childishness. That was to be expected, but 
one missed the shyness and sensitiveness that 
generally go with superstition. They were 
curiously frank and communicative about their 
odd beliefs. Like the old Thugs they have 
faith in omens. The Subadar showed me the 
lucky and unlucky fingers, and I gathered that 
if the jackal howls twice on the right, one's 
objective in a night march is as good as gained ; 
if thrice on the left, the stars are unpropitious, 
and the enterprise should be abandoned. In 
November, 19 14, the regiment was moved to 
Lahore to do railway defence work. The 
morning the battalion left the railway station 
where they entrained most of the men did puja 
(homage) to the engine, standing with open 
mouths, and fingers tapping foreheads. The 
railway is fifty-eight miles from cantonments in 
Deoli, and it was the first train that many of 
them had seen. Until the regiment moved 
opinions were divided as to whether the Meenas 
would continue to enlist. Such an upheaval and 
migration had not happened since the Afghan 
war. Wild rumours flew round the villages, but 


the Commanding Officer, by a wise system of 
letting a few men return on leave to their homes 
to spread the good news that the regiment was 
well and happy, soon quieted the countryside. 
Living so far out of the world they are naturally 
clannish. There is as much keenness about 
winning a hockey match against an outside team 
as there is in the final for a house-cup in an 
English public school. And here in Mesopo- 
tamia they were full of challenge. They wanted 
to show what Deoli could do, but as luck would 
have it there was not a Turk within a hundred 
and fifty miles. 

The most delightful story I got out of the 
Subadar was the history of a Meena dynasty 
which ruled in Rajputana in the good old days 
before the orods became indifferent. I learnt 
that the proud Rajputs who claim descent 
from the sun and the moon are really inter- 
lopers who dispossessed the Meena by an act 
of treachery a hundred years ago. 

" Fifteen princes have been Rajputs," the 
Subadar told me. " Before that the Meenas 
were kings. The last Meena king was the 
sixteenth from now.". 

" What was his name ? " I asked. 



"Sahib, I have forgotten his name— but he 
was childless. One day, when he was riding 
out, he met a Rajput woman who carried a child 
unborn. ' Your son shall be the child of my 
heart,' he told her ; and when the boy was born 
he brought him up, and made him commander of 
his horse." 

" Did he adopt him ? " 

" Sahib, he could not adopt him. The 
custom was in those days that when the old 
king died, the new king must be one of his line. 
Thus the gadi would pass to his brother's son, a 
Meena. No Rajput could inherit. Neverthe- 
less, he treated the boy as his' child. And then, 
Sahib, one day when the boy came back from 
seeing the Emperor at Delhi, he killed the king 
and all his relatives, and the whole army. It 
was like this, Sahib. It was the Kinaghat 
festival, when the king and all his people used 
to go down to the river without arms, and 
sprinkle water for the dead. It was the old 
custom, Sahib, and no one had ever made use of 
it for an evil purpose. But the Rajput secretly 
gathered his men behind a hill, and when the 
king and his people had cast aside their arms, 
and were performing the holy rite, the Rissaldar 


and other Rajputs fell upon them and killed 
them all, so that there was not a Meena left 
alive within a great distance of the place of 
slaughter. That is how the Rajput became the 
master, and the Meena his servant." 

The Subadar's solemn "Again Huzoor" as 
he introduced each new phase in the tragedy 
was inimitable, but there was nothing tragic or 
resentful in his way of telling it. It was a 
tale comfortable to Meena pride, and therefore 
it was believed as leofends are believed all 
over the world which make life easier and 
give one a stiffer back or a more honourable 

The Subadar told me that the books of the 
Meena bards had been confiscated. They are 
locked up In the fort at Ranatbawar, and no one 
may enter. If any one reads them, the Rajput 
dynasty will pass away, and the Meena will be 
restored ; therefore the Rajputs would like to 
destroy them, but there is some ancient inhibition. 
The chronicles are put away in an iron chest 
under the ground; yet, as the Subadar explained, 
the record is indestructible. It has lived in 
men's memories and hearts, new epics have been 
written, and the story is handed down from 


father to son. Another Meena told me the 
story is written " in the PoUtical Agent's Book 
at Jaipur." This, I think, was by way of refer- 
ence rather than confirmation, for it could never 
have entered any of their heads that one could 
doubt the genuineness or authenticity of the tale. 
When the usurper was crowned a Meena was 
called in from afar to put the tilak, or caste 
mark, on the king's forehead. And here the 
fairy story comes in again, for the tilak was 
imprinted on the king's brow by the Meena's 
toe. This is still the custom, the Subadar 
assured me, and he explained that it was a 
humiliation imposed upon the king by the priests 
as an atonement for his bad faith. The priest 
persuaded the king that the only way that he 
could hope to keep his throne was by receiving 
the tilak from the toe of the Meena, and he 
appeased his vanity by pretending that the 
Meena, by raising his toe, signified submission, 
just as the Yankee talks about turning up his toe 
to the daisies. 

Here the Subadar was becoming too subtle 
for me, and I felt that I was getting out of my 
depth. But there was another point which was 
quite clear and simple. It bore out his theory 


of an hereditary obligation which the Rajput 
owes the Meena by way of restitution. In 
Jaipur and Alwar the Ujla Meenas are the 
custodians of the State treasure. I used to 
think that they were appointed on the same 
principle as the Chaukidar who would be a thief 
if he were not a g-uardian of the property under 
his trust. But in this I wronged the Meena. 
The Ujlas are honourable office-holders. When 
the Maharaja of Jaipur comes to the gadi he has 
to take an oath that he will not diminish his 
inheritance, and he is responsible to the Ujlas 
that anything that he may take away in times 
of famine or other emergency shall be restored. 
The old Subadar took this as a matter of pride. 
He was quite content with his ancestry — if 
indeed he bothered his head about the status 
of the Meena at all. The legend of the regicide 
rissaldar was well found. You could tell by 
the way he told the story that he was pleased 
with it. One hears yarns of the kind, comforting 
tales of legendary wrong, all over the world, in 
Hottentot wigwams and Bloomsbury lodging- 
houses. The difference is only in degree. They 
contribute mildly to self-respect ; the humble are 
rehabilitated in garments of pride ; and very few 


of those who inherit the myth look for the miracle 
of reversion. 

The Meenas are as contented a people as 
you could find, a cheery, simple, frugal, hardy 
race. The old Subadar boasted that his men 
never fell out. " Even when the mules fall out," 
he told me, " they go on." They are very brave 
in the jungle, and will stand up to a wounded 
leopard or tiger. The Meena is a good shot, 
and a fine shikari. He will find his way any- 
where in the dark, and he never loses himself. 
He ought to be useful in a night raid. He is 
a trifle hot-headed, I gathered. In the divisional 
manoeuvres near Nasiriyeh the cavalry were 
coming down on a line of them in open country, 
when they fixed bayonets and charged. " They 
are a perfectly splendid crowd," one of the 
officers told me, " I should dearly love to see 
them go into action, and take twenty-five per 
cent, casualties. It would be the making- of 
them." But his Meenas had no luck. No 
doubt, if they had been given a chance, they 
would have fought as well as the best. It was 
their misfortune that they came too late, and 
that they were sent up the wrong river. In the 
meanwhile, at Deoli, recruits are pouring in. 


Every village contains a number of old pen- 
sioners who, like my friend the Subadar, love 
to talk of their own deeds, the prowess of their 
Sahibs, and how they marched with the regiment 
towards Kabul. The young men stand round 
and listen, and are fired with emulation, and 
there is no doubt that if the Sircar wants them 
the contingent of Meenas will increase. They 
are not a very numerous class, but they are 
steadfast and loyal. The love of honour and 
adventure will spread as wide a net among 
them as conscription, and there will be no jiwans 
seen in the villages who are not home on leave. 


(by an officer who has commanded them) 

There are not many aboriginals in the Indian 
Army — a few Brahuis from the borders of Belu- 
chistan, the Mers and Merats and Meenas from 
the hills and jungles of Rajputana, and the 
Jharwas of Assam. The word *' Jharwa " is the 
Assamese term for a "jungle-man," and how 
it came to be generally applied to the enlisted 
man from Assam and Cachar is lost in the 
obscurity of years. It is now the usual term 
for any sepoy who hails from these parts, with 
the exception of the Manipuri. 

When the Sylhet local battalion, afterwards 
the 44th Sylhet Light Infantry, now the i/Sth 
Gurkha Rifles, was raised on February 19th, 
1824, it was composed of Sylhetls, Manipuris, 
and the surrounding tribes of Cachar, which pro- 
vince took its name from the Cacharis, who 
settled there at the beginning of the seventeenth 
century, having been driven out of the Assam 






■ -' i 




To face p. 200.] 



valley by the Ahoms, or Assamese, and Muham- 
madans. The plainsmen of Assam were very 
warlike till the Muhammadan invasion in the 
sixteenth century, when they were so thoroughly 
overcome they fell an easy prey to the Burmese, 
who were finally driven out of Assam and Cachar 
by the British in 1824-26, since when the 
Assamese have settled down peacefully. 

The principal races, now enlisted under the 
name of Jharwa, are the Mech, the Kachari, and 
the Rawa. The Mech mostly came from the 
region of Jalpaiguri, and spread eastwards. The 
Kachari were the original inhabitants of Assam ; 
they are also found in Cachar, and are of the 
Koch stock, from whom Coochbehar takes its 
name ; they generally call themselves Rajbansi, 
" of princely race." The Rawa (Ahoms) are 
also original Assamese. There are, besides, the 
Garos, who come from the Goalpara district. 
All the three former are Hindu converts, and 
show much more caste prejudice than the Gurkha 
does, though he, in turn, is not impressed with 
their Hindu claim?. He raises no objection, how- 
ever, to living under the same barrack-roof with 
them, but will not eat their food. In the old 
days, the Jharwa proved his value as a soldier 


in all the fighting in the valleys of Assam and 
Cachar, and surrounding hills. He rid the low 
country of the Khasias, who were the terror of 
the plains, as can be seen from the " The Lives 
of the Lindsays " and a recent publication " The 
Records of Old Sylhet," compiled by Archdeacon 
Firminger. The first troops engaged in the 
subjugation of the Khasias and Jaintias in their 
hills were Jharwas of the Sylhet battalion ; the 
campaign began in 1829, and was continued at 
intervals until 1863, when the Jaintia rebellion 
was finally stamped out. Two companies of 
Gurkhas were brought into this regiment in 1832, 
and by degrees the Jharwa ceased to be enlisted 
in the regular army, till at last, in 1 891, it was 
ordered that no more were to be taken. This 
was the time of the Magar and Gurung boom ; 
in fact, except as regards the Khas, it was not 
considered the thing to enlist any other Gurkha 
races in the army. The fact that the Gurkha 
regiments up country earned their name with a 
large admixture of Garhwalis in their ranks, in 
the same way as the Assam regiments earned 
theirs with the help of many Jharwas, seemed 
largely to be lost sight of, and though the Jharwa 
had continued to do yeoman service in the ranks 


of the Assam Military Police, it was not till 191 5 
that it was thought worth while to try him in the 
regular army again. After the war, a regular 
Jharwa Regiment raised and stationed in Assam 
should be a most efficient unit, and a most valu- 
able asset on that somewhat peculiar frontier. 

The Jharwa is a curious creature in many 
ways. He has nothing in common with the 
Gurkha, except his religion, and to a certain 
extent his appearance ; nor is he even a hillman. 
Till he joins, he has probably never done a hard 
day's work, nor any regular work, but has earned 
his living by cutting timber, or doing a little 
farming in a rich and fertile country where a man 
does not need to do much to keep himself. He 
is more intelligent than the Gurkha, and has, as a 
rule, a fairly good ear for music ; he is lazy, hard 
to train, and not very clean in his person, unless 
well looked after, but he is a first-class man at 
any jungle work. The last of the old lot of 
Jharwas in the i/8th Gurkhas, Havildar Madho 
Ram (Garoo), won the Macgregor Memorial 
medal, in 1905, for exploration and survey work 
in Bhutan. Others again are intensely stupid. 
In October 19 16, a Military Police havildar came 
out in charge of a small draft to Mesopotamia, 


and his CO. tried to find out how much he knew 
about practical soldiering. He put him in charge 
of a squad of men, and told him to exercise them. 
The worthy havildar was soon in a fix. When 
asked how he rose to be havildar, he replied that 
he was promoted because he was a good wood- 
cutter and repairer of buildings. The CO. asked 
him where he was to get wood to cut in Meso- 
potamia, upon which he looked round vacantly 
on all sides and remarked, " Jhar na hoi " ("there 
is no jungle "), whereupon he was sent back to 
look after the regimental dump. Where the 
Jharwa fails is as an officer or non-commissioned 
officer, since for generations he has never been 
in a position to enforce or give implicit and 
prompt obedience. In Assam, it is all one to the 
ordinary villager whether he does a thing now 
or next week ; a high standard of work or punc- 
tuality has never been expected of him, con- 
sequently he does not expect it of anyone else, 
and a good many N.C.O.'s got the surprise of 
their life when they found that the excuse, " I 
told them, but they didn't do it," would not go 
down. But in jungle work there are few to 
touch him, and he has proved his grit in the 
stress of modern battle. Many years ago, I was 


following up a wounded buffalo in the Nambhar 
forest, and one of our men was walking in front 
of me, snicking the creepers and branches, which 
stretched across the track, with a little knife as 
sharp as a razor. Suddenly, without a word, he 
sprang to one side to clear my front, and there 
lay the huge beast about ten yards off, luckily 
stone dead. It requires some nerve to walk up 
to a wounded buffalo, without any sort of weapon 
to defend oneself with. In the winter of 19 16-17, 
a small party of the 7th Gurkhas swam the Tigris, 
to reconnoitre the Turk position near Chahela. 
They carried out their work successfully, but two 
Jharwas, who had volunteered to go with the 
party, were overcome with the cold, and were 
drowned coming back. The surviving Gurkhas 
all got the I.O.M. or D.S.M. On February 17th, 
19 1 7, at Sannaiyat, a signaller, attached to the 
I /8th Gurkhas, Lataram Mech, took across his 
telephone wire into the second Turkish line under 
very heavy shell- fire, which wiped out the N.C.O. 
and another of his party of four, established com- 
munication with battalion headquarters and the 
line behind him, and, when that part of the trench 
was recaptured, came back across the open and 
rolled up his wire, under fire all the time. On 


the same day another Jharwa lad, when he got 
into the Turkish trench, flung away his rifle and 
belt, and ran amok with his kukri. He broke 
that one and came back, covered with blogd from 
head to foot, into our front trench to get another, 
when he went forward again. I could never find 
out his name. If he was not killed, he lay low, 
probably thinking he would be punished for 
losing his rifle. 

At Istabulat, another Jharwa (Holiram Garo) 
got separated from the rest of his party, and 
attacked a part of the Turk position by himself. 
Although wounded in the head, he lay on the 
front of the enemy's parapet, and sniped away till 
dark, when he returned to his platoon, and asked 
for more ammunition. For this he got the 
I.O.M. The poor little Jharwa did wonderfully 
well, seeing that, till he left Assam, his horizon 
had been bounded by the Bhootan-Tibet range 
on one side and the Patkoi on the other. He 
had never seen guns, cavalry, trenches, or any- 
thing to do with real warfare. Although reared 
in the damp enervating climate of the plains of 
Assam, he stuck the intense cold and heat, as 
well as food to which he had never been accus- 
tomed, without grumbling, whilst the doctors said 


his endurance of pain in hospital was every bit as 
good as the Gurkha's, and an example to all the 
other patients. Till 191 5, the authorities knew 
nothing about him, his antecedents, or peculiari- 
ties, so he was looked on as merely an untidy 
sort of Gurkha, with whom, as said before, he 
had no affinity, besides not having anything like 
the same physical strength. 

Before we went out to Mesopotamia, my 
regiment was detailed to counter an expected 
raid on a certain part of the Indian coast. We 
entrained at midnight, and in the morning it was 
reported we had fifty more men than we started 
with. It turned out that a party of fifty Jharwas 
had arrived at the railway station, just before we 
left, and when they realised that the regiment 
was going off without them, they made a rush, 
crowded in where they could, and came along, 
leaving all their kit on the platform. This, if not 
exactly proving good discipline, showed at any 
rate they were not lacking in keenness an.d 


In the Great War the Drabi has come by his own. 
He is now a recognised combatant. At Shaiba 
and Sahil alone six members of the transport corps 
were awarded the Indian Order of Merit. This 
is as it should be, for before August, 19 14, there 
was only one instance recorded of a Drabi 
receiving a decoration. 

The Drabi is recruited from diverse classes, 
but he is generally a Punjabi Mussalman, not as 
a rule of the highest social grade, though he is 
almost invariably a very worthy person. If I 
were asked to name the agents to whom we owe 
the maintenance of our empire in the East, I 
should mention, very high in the list, the Drabi 
and the mule. No other man, no other beast, 
could adequately replace them. There are com- 
binations of the elements which defeat the last 
word of scientific transport. And that is where 
the Drabi, with his pack mules or A.T. carts, 
comes in. 



In France, when the motor-lorries were stuck 
in the mud, we thanked God for the mule and 
the Drabi. I remember my delight one day 
when I saw a convoy of Indian A.T. carts 
swinging down the road, the mules leaning 
against one another as pack mules will do when 
trained to the yoke. The little convoy pulled 
up outside the courtyard of an abattoir in an 
old town in Picardy, where it had been raining 
in torrents for days, until earth and water had 
produced a third element which resembled 
neither. The red-peaked kula protruding from 
the khaki turban of the Drabi proclaimed a Pun- 
jabi Mussalman. Little else was distinguishable 
in the mist and rain, which enveloped every- 
thing in a dismal pall. The inert bundle of 
misery unrolled itself and, seeing a Sahib by 
the gate, saluted. 

" Bad climate," I suggested. 

*' Yes, Sahib, very bad climate." 

" Bad country ? " 

But the man's instinctive sense of conciliation 
was proof against dampness, moral or physical. 

" No, Sahib. The Sircar's country is every- 
where very good." The glint of a smile crept 
over the dull white of his eyes. 



To the Drabi there are only two kinds of 
white people — the Sircar, or British Raj, and the 
enemy. The enemy is known to him only by 
the ponderous and erratic nature of his missiles, 
for the mule-cart corps belongs to the first line 
of transport. 

" Where is your home ? " I asked. 

*' Amritsar, Sahib." 

I wondered whether he were inwardly com- 
paring the two countries. Here, everything 
drenched and colourless ; there, brightness and 
colour and clean shadows. Here, the little stone 
church of a similar drabness to its envelope of 
mist ; there, the reflection of the Golden Temple 
sleeping in the tank all day. The minarets 
of his mosque and the crenellated city walls 
would be etched now against a blue sky. I 
looked at his mules. They did not seem at all 

*' How do they stand the damp } " I asked. 
" Much sickness ? " 

" No, Sahib. Only one has been sick. 
None have died except those destroyed by the 

I wondered what the carts were doing at 
. They were of the first line ; the first line 


transport carries the food into the very mouth 
of the Army. Being the last link in the line 
of communications, it is naturally the most vul- 
nerable. Other links are out of range of the 
enemy's guns and immune, in this phase of the 
operations at least, from attack except by air- 
craft. The Drabi explained that they had been 
detailed for forage work. 

As he lifted the curricle bar from the yoke 
one of the mules stepped on his foot, and he 
called it a name that reflected equally on his own 
morals and those of the animal's near relations. 
He did not address the beast in the tone an 
Englishman would use, but spoke to it with 
brotherly reproach. Just then an officer of the 
Indian Army Supply and Transport Corps rode 
up, and I got him to talk, as I knew I could if 
I praised his mules and carts enough. He en- 
larged on the virtues of the most adaptable, 
adjustable, and indestructible vehicles that had 
ever been used in a campaign, and of the most 
hardy, ascetic, and providentially accommodating 
beast that had ever drawn or carried the muni- 
tions of war. These light transport-carts are 
wonderful. They cut through the mud like a 
harrow over thin soil. The centre of the road 


is left to the lorries. " They would be bogged 
where we go," the S. and T. man said proudly. 
" They are built for swamps and boulder-strewn 
mountain streams. If the whole show turns 
over, you can right it at once. If you get stuck 
in a shell-hole, you can cut the mules loose, use 
them as pack transport, and man-handle the 
carts. Then we have got component parts. We 
can stick on a wheel in a minute, and we don't 
get left like that menagerie of drays, furnishing 
vans, brewers' carts, and farmers' tumbrils, which 
collapse in the fairway and seem to have no 
extra parts at all — unadaptable things, some of 
them, like a lot of rotten curios. And, of course, 
you know you can take our carts to pieces and 
pack them ; you can get " — I think he said 
fourteen — *' of them into a truck. And if 


Then he enlarged on his beasts. Nothing 
ever hurts a mule short of a bullet or shell. 
Physical impact, heat or cold, or drought, or 
damp, it is all the same. They are a little 
fastidious about drink, but they deserve one 
indulgence, and a wise Staff officer will give 
them a place up-stream for watering above the 
cavalry. For hardiness nothing can touch them. 


They are as fit in Tibet as in the Sudan, as com- 
posed in a blizzard on the Nathu-la as in a sand- 
storm at Wadi Haifa. And I knew that every 
word he said was true. I had sat a transport- 
cart through the torrents of Jammu, and had 
lost a mule over a precipice in a mountain pass 
beyond the Himalayas. It lay half buried in 
the snow all night with the thermometer below 
zero. In the morning it was dragged up by 
ropes and began complacently grazing. 

" And look at them now in this slush ! " 
They certainly showed no sign of distress or 
even of depression. 

" And the Drabis ? Do they grouse ? " 

" Not a bit. They are splendid. They have 
no nerves, no more nerves than the mules. You 
ought to have seen Muhammad Alim come back 
from Neuve Chapelle. When hell began the 
order had gone round 'All into your dug-outs,' 
and the bombardier of his cart had buried him- 
self obediently in the nearest funkhole. He 
stuck it out there all day. The next morning 
he rolled up at the Brigade Column and reported 
his cart was lost. Nothing could have lived 
in that fire, so it was struck off." 

But Drabi Muhammad Alim had not heard 


the order. He sat through the whole of the 
bombardment in his cart. After two days, 
not having found his destination, he returned. 
" Sahib," he said, " I have lost the way." When 
asked what the fire was like he said that there 
had been a wind when the boom-golies passed, 
which reminded him of the monsoon when the 
tufan catches the pine trees in Dagshai. 

It occurred to me that the Asiatic driver 
assimilated the peculiar virtues of his beast. 
The man with a camel or bullock or mule is 
less excitable, more of a fatalist, than the man 
who goes on foot alone. The mule and the 
Drabi would rattle along under shell-fire as im- 
perturbably as they run the gauntlet of falling 
rocks on the Kashmir road in the monsoon. I 
have seen the Drabi calmly charioteering his 
pontoons to the Tigris bank, perched on a thwart 
like a bird, when the bullets were flying and 
the sappers preparing the bridge for the crossing. 
And I have seen him carry on when dead to 
the world, a mere automaton like Ali Hussein, 
who reported himself hit in the shoulder two 
days after the battle at Umm-el- Hannah. *' Yes, 
Sahib," he admitted to the doctor a little guiltily 
when cross-examined, " it was in the battle two 


days ago that I came by this wound." Then he 
added shamefacedly fearing reproof, *' Sahib, I 
could not come before. There was no time. 
There were too many journeys. And the 
wounded were too many." 

When his neighbour is hit by his side, the 
Drabi buries himself more deeply into his wrap- 
pings. He does not want to pick up a rifle and 
kill somebody for shooting his "pale" as a 
Tommy would, but says, " My brother is dead. 
I too shall soon die." And he simply goes on 
prepared for the end, neither depressed at its 
imminence, nor unduly exalted if it be postponed. 
He is a worthy associate of those wonderful carts 
and mules. 

In the evening I passed the abattoir again 
and looked over the gate. Inside there was 
a batch of camp followers who had come in 
from fatigue duty. I saw the men huddling 
over their fires in groups in that humped attitude 
of contented discomfort which only the Indian 
can assume. Their families in the far villages 
of the Punjab and the United Provinces would 
be squatting by their braziers in just the same 
way at this hour. Perhaps the Drabi would be 
thinking of them — if thought stirred within his 


brain — and of the golden slant light of the sun 
on the shisham and the orange siris pods and the 
pungent incense that rises in the evening from 
the dried cow-dung fire, a product, alas ! which 
France with all its resources, so rich, varied, and 
inexhaustible, cannot provide. 


The Labour Corps in Mesopotamia introduced 
the nearest thing to Babel since the original 
confusion of tongues. Coolies and artisans 
came in from China and Egypt, and from the 
East and West Indies, the aboriginal Santals 
and Paharias from Bengal, Moplahs, Thyas and 
Nayars from the West Coast, Nepalese quarry- 
men, Indians of all races and creeds, as well as 
the Arabs and Chaldeans of the country. They 
made roads and bunds, built houses, loaded and 
unloaded steamers and trucks, supplied car- 
penters, smiths and masons, followed the fighting 
man and improved the communications behind 
him, and made the land habitable which he had 

One day I ran into a crowd of Santals on the 
Bridge of Boats in Baghdad. It was probably 
the first time that Babylon had drawn into its 
vortex the aboriginals of the hill tracts of 
Bengal. They were scurrying like a flock of 



sheep, not because they were rushed, I was told, 
but simply for fun. Some one had started it, 
and the others had broken into a jog-trot. One 
of them, with bricks balanced on his head, was 
playing a small reed flute — the Pipe of Pan. 
Another had stuck a spray of salmon-pink 
oleander in his hair. The full, round cheeks of 
the little men made their black skin look as if 
it had been sewn up tightly and tucked under 
the chin. They were like happy, black, golly- 
wogs, and the dust in their elfin locks, the colour 
of tow, increased the impish suggestion of the 
toy-shop. The expression on their faces is 
singularly happy and innocent, and endorses 
everything Rousseau said about primitive content. 
Evolution has spared them ; they have even 
escaped the unkindness of war. 

When the Santal left his home, all he took 
with him was two brass cooking-pots, his stick, 
and a bottle of mustard oil. The stick he uses 
to sling his belongings over his shoulder, with 
a net attached, and generally his boots inside. 
He loves to rub himself all over with oil, but in 
this unfruitful land he can find little or none, and 
he had not even time to refill at Bombay. On 
board ship he saw coal for the first time. Each 


man was given a brickette with his rations, for 
fuel, and Jangal, Baski, Goomda Kisku, and 
others put their vessel on the strange, black 
substance, and expected it to boil. A very- 
simple, happy, and contented person is the 
Santal. Once gain his confidence, and he will 
work for you all day and half the night ; abuse 
it, and he will not work at all. 

I found them in their camp afterwards in a 
palm grove by the Tigris, not unlike a camp in 
their own land, only the palms were dates and 
not cocoanuts. Here the Santals were very 
much at home. The pensioned Indian officer 
in charge, a magnificent veteran, of the 34th 
Sikh Pioneers, with snowy beard and moustache 
and two rows of ribbons on his breast, was 
pacing up and down among these little dark 
men like a Colossus or a benevolent god. The 
old Subadar was loud in their praises. He had 
been on the staff of a convict Labour Corps, and 
so spoke from his heart. 

" There is no fighting, quarrelling, thieving, 
lying among them, Sahib. If you leave any- 
thing on the ground, they won't pick it up. No 
trouble with women folk. No gambling. No 
tricks of deceit." 


A British officer of the company who knew 
them in their own country told me the same tale. 

" They are the straightest people I have 
ever struck," he said. "We raised nearly 1700 
of them in the district, paid them a month's 
wages in advance, and told them to find their 
way to the nearest railway station, a journey of 
two or three days. They all turned up but one, 
and the others told us he had probably hanged 
himself because his wife would not let him go. 
They are very honest, law-abiding folk. They 
leave their money lying about in their tents, and 
it is quite safe. They have no police in their 
villages ; the headman settles all their troubles. 
And there is no humbug about them. Other 
coolies slack off if you don't watch them, and 
put on a tremendous spurt when they see an 
officer coming along, and keep it up till he is 
out of sight. But the dear old Santal is much 
too simple for this. If the Army Commander 
came to see them they'd throw down their picks 
and shovels and stare at him till he went away. 
They are not thrusters ; they go their own pace, 
but they do their day's work all right. And 
they are extraordinarily patient and willing. 
They'll work over time if you don't tell them to 


stop ; and they'll turn out, if you ask them, and 
do an extra turn at a pinch, without grumbling, 
even if they have only just got back to camp and 
haven't had time to cook their food." 

All this sounded very Utopian, but the 
glimpse of them on the Bridge of Boats, and an 
hour spent in their camp on Sunday morning, 
gave one the impression of children who had not 
been spoilt. We went the round of their tents, 
and they played to us on their flutes, the same 
pastoral strains one hears in villages all over 
the East ; and they showed us the sika mark 
burnt in their forearms, always an odd number, 
which, like Charon's Obol, is supposed to give 
them a good send-off in the next world. They 
burn themselves, too, when they have aches and 
pains. One man had a scar on his forehead a 
week old, where he had applied a brand as a 
cure for headache. Nearly every Santal is a 
musician, and plays the drum or pipe. The 
skins of the drums had cracked in the heat at 
Makina, and they had left them behind, but 
they make flutes out of any material they can 
pick up. One of them blew off two of his fingers 
boring stops in the brass tube of a Turkish shell 
which had a fuse and an unexploded charge left 


in it. That is the only casualty among the 
Santals remotely connected with arms. It is 
an understood thing that they should not go 
near the firing line. Once an aeroplane bomb 
fell near the corps. They looked up like a 
frightened herd. A second came sizzling down 
within a hundred yards of them, and they took 
to their heels. A little man showed me how he 
had run, rehearsing a pantomime of panic fright, 
with his bandy legs, and doubled fist pummelling 
the air. 

The Santals came out on a one year's agree- 
ment, as they must get back to their harvest. 
But they will sign on again. They have no 
quarrel with Mesopotamia. Twenty rupees a 
month, and everything found, is a wage that a 
few years ago would have seemed beyond the 
dreams of avarice. They are putting on weight ; 
fare better than they have ever done, and their 
families are growing rich. Most of them have 
their wages paid in family allotments at home, 
generally to their elder brother, father, or son, 
rather than their wife. The Santals are dis- 
trustful of women as a sex. " What if I were 
labouring here," one of them said, " and she were 
to run off with another man and the money ? " 


The women are not permitted to attend the 
sacrifices in the Holy Grove, or to eat the flesh 
of offerings, or to cHmb the consecrated trees, or 
to know the name of the family's secret god lest 
they should betray it ; or even, save in the case 
of a wife or unmarried daughter, to enter the 
chamber where the household god dwells in 
silent communion with the ancestors. Save for 
these restrictions the relations between men and 
women in the tribe are happy and free. In 
social life the women are very independent and 
often masters in the house. They are a finer 
physical type, and the men of the tribe are proud 
to admit it. The corps was collecting firewood 
when one of the officers twitted a man on the 
meagre size of his bundle. 

" Look at the Arabs," he said. " Even the 
women carry a bigger load than you." 

But the Santal was not abashed. He did not 
resent this reflection upon himself; it was the 
carrying power of his own women he defended. 
" Our women, too, carry much bigger loads than 
we do," he said ingenuously. 

There is a curious reticence about names 
among the Santals. Husband and wife will 
not mention each other's names, not even when 


speaking of some one else bearing the same name. 
When receiving her allotment from a British 
officer the Santal woman has to call in a third 
person to name the absent husband. It would 
be a species of blasphemy to divulge the secret 
herself. There is a table of degrees of relation- 
ship in which the mention of names is taboo 
among the tribes, similar to the catalogue pro- 
hibiting intermarriage of kin in our Prayer Book. 
And, of course, it is quite useless to ask a Santal 
his age. Dates and sums of money are remem- 
bered by the knots tied in a string ; but the 
birth date is not accounted of any importance. 
•' How old are you ? " the O. C. of the corps 
asked one of these bearded men of the woods. 
•' Sahib," the Santal replied, after some pucker- 
ing of the brow in calculation, "I am at least five 
years old." 

There is one comfort the Santal misses when 
away from home. He must have his handi, or 
rice beer, or if not his handi, at least some 
substitute that warms his inside. They said 
they would make their own handi in Mesopo- 
tamia if we gave them the rice ; but they dis- 
covered it could not be done. Either they had 
not the full ingredients, or their women had the 


secret of the brew. Hence the order for a tri- 
weekly issue of rum. Many of the Santals were 
once debarred from becoming Christians, fearing 
that the new faith meant abstention from the 
tribal drink. 

This summer the Santals will be at home 
again, drinking their handi, looking after their 
crops and herds, reaping the same harvest, think- 
ing the same thoughts, playing the same plaintive 
melodies on their pipes, as when Nebuchadnezzar 
ruled in Babylon. Three dynasties of Babylon, 
Assyria, Chaldea, and the Empire of the 
Chosroes, have risen and crumbled away on the 
soil where he is labouring now, and all the while 
the Santal has led the simple life, never straying 
far from the Golden Age, never caught up in the 
unhappy train of Progress. And so his peace is 
undisturbed by the seismic convulsions of Arma- 
geddon ; he has escaped the crown that Kultur 
has evolved at Karlsruhe and Essen and Potsdam. 
At harvest-time, while the Aryan is still doing 
military duties, the Santal will be reaping in the 
fields. As soon as the crops are in, there is the 
blessing of the cattle, then five days and nights 
of junketing, drinking and dancing, bathing and 
sacrifice, shooting at a target with the bow, and all 



the licence of high festival. Then after a month 
or two he will return to the fringe of the Great 
War, and bring with him his friends. He will 
fall to again, and take up his pick and shovel, the 
most contented man in Iraq. 


The Drabi and Kahar ^ are no longer followers. 
They are combatants and eligible for decora- 
tions, and their names appear in the columns of 
honour in the Army List, and occupy an in- 
creasing space. If cooks, syces, bhisties, bearers 
and sweepers were eligible too, their names 
would also appear ; for the war has proved that 
chivalry exists under the most unlikely exteriors. 
A great deal has been written about the Drabi 
and the Kahar, and their indifference to danger. 
The nature of their work keeps them constantly 
under fire, whether they are bringing up rations 
to the trenches, or searching the ground for the 
wounded. The recognition of them as com- 
batants is a belated act of justice, and one wishes 
that the devotion of the humbler menial classes 
could be recognised in the same way. One 
meets followers of the wrong kind, but the old 
type of Indian servant has increased his prestige 

^ Stretcher-bearer. 


in the war. Officers who did not know him 
before are impressed with his worth. He has 
shown courage in emergency, and, what is more, 
he has the British habit, only in the passive 
voice, of ** slogging on." 

One admires the Indian's impassivity under 
fire, and one is sometimes led into neglecting 
cover on account of it. It does not do for the 
Sahib to sneak along behind an A.T. cart when 
the Drabi is taking his chance with the mules in 
front. In France I heard an amusing story of a 
Sergeant- Major who had to thread a bombarded 
area much more slowly than his wont, on account 
of the sang-froid of a syce. An officer was 
taking an extra horse with him into Ypres at a 
time when the town was beginning to establish 
its reputation for unpleasantness, and he came in 
for a heavy bombardment. Besides the usual 
smaller stuff, seventeen-inch shells were coming 
over like rumbling trains, and exploding with 
a burst like nothing on earth. The officer 
wished he had left his second horse behind, and 
was wondering if it would be safe to send his 
syce back on the chance of his finding the new 
dump when he met the Sergeant- Major who 
was returning direct to it. The Sergeant-Major 


undertook to show the syce the way, and to 
look after him. When next the two met, the 
officer asked the Sergeant-Major if the syce had 
given him any trouble. 

" Trouble, sir ! He came along fast enough 
until we got to the pave. Then he pulled up, 
and wouldn't go out of a walk. It was as nasty 
a mess-up as ever I've been in, but he wouldn't 
quit his walk." 

The Sergeant- Major's language, I believe, 
was as explosive as his surroundings ; but the 
syce humbly repeated that it was the Sahib's 
orders never to go out of a walk where there was 
hard ground or stones, and " here it was all 
stones." Five battery mules were knocked out, 
and a syce and horse killed next door to him ; 
stilled he walked — or capered, for the horse, 
even more than the sergeant-major, was for 
taking over charge. 

I remember an old cook of the Black Watch 
who persisted in wearing a saucepan on his 
head in the trenches at Sannaiyat when the 
Turks w'ere bombarding us. The man had to 
be humoured, so a special cooking vessel — 
rather a leaky one — was set aside by the mess- 
sergeant for his armour}\ He was nervous 


because the regimental bhistie had been killed 
by a shell. There was great lamentation in the 
battalion when the bhistie fell. The bhistie, 
that silent, willing drudge, is always a favourite 
with the British soldier. His gentleness, 
patience, and devotion are proverbial. Even 
in cantonments, bent under the weight of his 
massaq,^ he is invested with a peculiar dignity, 
and in desert places he appears as one of the few 
beneficent manifestations of Providence. One 
always thinks of him as a giver ; his bestowals 
are without number, his demands infinitesimal. 
I have never heard of a grumbling, or impatient, 
or morose bhistie, or of one whose name has 
been associated actively or passively with 
violence, or provocation, or crime. There was 
a dreadful day during the Ahwaz operations in 
May, 191 5, when our troops, after a stifling 
night, found the wells they had counted on were 
dry. They were already exhausted ; the tem- 
perature was 125 degrees in the shade, or would 
have been if there had been any shade, and to 
reach water they had another ten or fifteen 
miles' march to Kharkeh. An officer in the 
Indian Cavalry told me that he watched a 

* Waterskin. 


To face p. 230.] 



bhistie of the Merwara battalion supporting a 
man, who was too weak to walk unaided, for 
more than two miles. When the sepoy came 
to the end of his tether the bhistie stayed with 
him a few seconds, and then relieved him of his 
rifle which he carried into camp. That was 
probably the hottest and thirstiest day's march 
our troops endured in Mesopotamia. A number 
of the Merwaras died of thirst. It was just 
before Dunlop's burning march over the desert 
by Illah and Bisaitin to Amara, when even the 
most hard-bitten old campaigners fell through 
heat-exhaustion. During all these operations 
the bhisties behaved splendidly at a time when 
any form of effort was a virtue, fetching water 
untiringly and pouring it over the victims of the 

The bearer, too, has played up well when he 
has had the chance. During the retirement 
from Ctesiphon the last batch of boats to leave 
Kut just before the siege came in for a good 
deal of sniping. One of them put ashore at a 
bend, and landed a party which took up a 
position on the bank and tried to keep down 
the enemy's fire. This was very early in the 
morning. " It was quite a hot corner," an 


officer told me. " I had spotted a man who had 
crawled up to within a hundred and fifty yards 
of us, and was drawing a bead on him. I had 
clean forgotten the boat, and Kut, and the 
retreat, and all the rest of it, when I heard a 
familiar voice behind me, ' Tea ready, sorr.' 
It was good old Dubru, my Madrasi bearer, who 
had come up under fire. The tea was good and 
the buttered toast still hot. His only remark 
when I had finished it was ' Master like another 
cup ? ' I should have been very unhappy if the 
old fellow had been hit." 

I could multiply instances of the providence 
that keeps the follower to his prescribed task, 
whether in emergency or in the ordinary day's 
work. A medical officer was going round his 
camp during a bombardment, to see that his 
staff were taking cover. He found the infection 
ward in a great state of perturbation — not from 
fright as might have been expected. The 
trouble was a violation of the rules. " Sir," a 
Babu explained to him, " it is a serious matter, 
no doubt, two contact cases have escaped con- 
finement of ward." It was his way of saying 
that two men with mumps had had the sense to 
discover a funk-hole and make themselves scarce. 


The name of the sweeper is associated with 
chivalry in an ironic sense only. His Indian 
titles "Mehtar" and "Jemadar" are facetiously 
honorific, as when one speaks of him as "the 
knight." Yet the sweeper has won laurels in the 
war. It was at Givenchy, I think, at the very 
beginning of things, when cartridges were 
jammed in the magazines, and men were wanted 
to take ramrods to the front, and there were no 
spare combatants for errands of this kind, that 
the sweepers carried the ramrods over the open 
ground with no cover of communication trenches 
to the men in the firing line. In Mesopotamia 
a sweeper of the — th Rifles took an unautho- 
rised part in an assault on the Turkish lines, 
picked up the rifle of a dead sepoy, and went on 
firing until he was shot in the head. 

What are the elements of the follower's sang- 
froid ? In the case of this sweeper it can only 
have been the love of honour or adventure, but 
he was a very exceptional man, and one cannot 
expect to find the same spirit in the normal 
drudsfe. The orood old Drabi who, when the 
bullets are flicking round, pulls his blanket about 
his ears and subsides a little in his cart is not of 
this mould. In an analysis of the composition 


of his courage lack of imagination would play a 
part, and fatalism, which becomes a virtue in the 
presence of death ; but the main thing, and this 
explains two-thirds of his stiffening, is that it 
never enters his head that it is possible not to 
carry on with his job. In the follower's honest, 
slow brain, the processes which complicate 
decision in subtler minds are clotted into one — 
the sense of order, continuity, routine, every- 
thing that is implied in a regulation. These 
things are of the laws of necessity. He does 
not know it, but "carrying on" is his gospel, 
philosophy, and creed. 




With an Introduction by the Right Hon. the EARL CURZON 

Dedicated by special permission to H.M. 

the King-Emperor. Published under the 

authority of His Majesty's Secretary of 

State for India in Council. 

SECOND EDITION {Revised), Illustrated. 12s. 6d. net. 

The new edition has been thoroughly revised, and 
a mass of fresh information has been collected 
from returned prisoners and others. Accounts of 
gallant deeds which could not be obtained earlier 
are also included. 


Including all British India, the Portuguese 
and French Possessions and the Protected 
Native States. 

With 79 Maps and Plans. TENTH EDITION. 24s. net. 

" No visitor to India should start without a 
• Murray ' ."—Pall Mall Gazette. 



AIRMEN O' WAR 6. net. 

" He does for the flying men what he did for their 
colleagues in the trenches. Knowledge of the 
airmen's life, humour and imagination all contribute 
to the making of these stories of adventure," — 

The Observer, 


Lines from the Front, about the Front, and dedi- 
cated to the Front. 68. net. 

"There is a rush and a swing in Mr. Cable's narra- 
tive that gets us close to the reality of war." — 

Pall Mall Gazette. 


New and Cheaper Edition. 2s. 6d. net. 

"For a conspectus of daily routine within the limited 
area of first-line trenches, we think Mr. Boyd Cable's 
book the most fully informing we have read." — 

The Spectator. 

GRAPES OF WRATH Third impression. 6s. net. 

Boyd Cable is already one of the prose Laureates 
of the war . . . No one can describe more vividly 
the fierce confusion of trench fighting." — Punch. 


ACTION FRONT Fourth Impression. 6s. net. 

"An admirable volume from one who has really seen 
war." — Mr. Clement Shorter in The Sphere. 






Candler, Edmund 
The sepoy