This Day in History: 1897-10-18

In the Tirah Campaign the Second Division, in which the 1st Battalion was part of 3rd Brigade, received orders to seize the Dargai Heights, located some 13kms from Shinaori, from Afridi tribesmen.  The operation did not go according to plan. 3rd Brigade’s approach for a left-flanking attack led by the 2nd Goorkhas proved to be very difficult because of the steep terrain, and Dargai was not reached until 15.00hrs. This march, which lasted 11 hours, was described as ‘the most difficult advance ever experienced by the men of 3rd Brigade’.  Meanwhile 4th Brigade had already carried out a successful frontal assault of Dargai but had been forced to wait for two hours before 3rd Brigade arrived.  The delay meant any exploitation of the 4th Brigade success was impossible.  Water was also very short, and at 17.00hrs orders were given for the two brigades to return to Shinaori.  No sooner had the withdrawal begun (with the 2nd Goorkhas detailed as rearguard)  than the Heights were immediately reoccupied by ‘swarms of enemy’, who reinforced them in anticipation of another British attack which came on 20th October.  Click here to read an account of the campaign.

A view of the Dargai Heights (middle distance) from Shinaori Fort.  Sketch by Melton Prior, an artist/war correspondent for the Illustrated London News.