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George Molesworth's "An Account of Operations in the Third Afghan War" or Brian Robson's "Crisis on the Frontier"


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Does anyone have access to a copy of George Molesworth's book, "An Account of Operations in the Third Afghan War" - sadly I don't have one. Or Brian Robson's "Crisis on the Frontier" - my copy of which has been left in storage while on posting!

 

I am specifically looking for any details on the following three actions which are mentioned in the Official History of the Third Afghan War 1919:

 

  • 15th Motor Machine Gun Battery formed part of the Shabkadr column under command of 44 Inf Bde, which left Peshawar on 21 May 1919, to reinforce the Mohmand blockade ivo Subhan Khwar. They returned back to Peshawar by 30 May as the Afghans withdrew.
  • 15th MMG Battery also appear to have been part of the operations on 19th July, which located a party of Afridi tribesman on Karawal Hill, 7 1/2 miles west of Bara Fort, but are not mentioned in the actual attack on the hill on 22nd Jul.
  • 19th MMG Battery are recorded as being in action, with 2 sections, north of Hindubagh and Karezgi Fort, approx. 50 miles / 80 km NE of Quetta, in late July (26th-30th) 1919.

 

Thanks, Paul

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6 hours ago, pjwmacro said:

Does anyone have access to a copy of George Molesworth's book, "An Account of Operations in the Third Afghan War" - sadly I don't have one. Or Brian Robson's "Crisis on the Frontier" - my copy of which has been left in storage while on posting!

 

I am specifically looking for any details on the following three actions which are mentioned in the Official History of the Third Afghan War 1919:

 

  • 15th Motor Machine Gun Battery formed part of the Shabkadr column under command of 44 Inf Bde, which left Peshawar on 21 May 1919, to reinforce the Mohmand blockade ivo Subhan Khwar. They returned back to Peshawar by 30 May as the Afghans withdrew.
  • 15th MMG Battery also appear to have been part of the operations on 19th July, which located a party of Afridi tribesman on Karawal Hill, 7 1/2 miles west of Bara Fort, but are not mentioned in the actual attack on the hill on 22nd Jul.
  • 19th MMG Battery are recorded as being in action, with 2 sections, north of Hindubagh and Karezgi Fort, approx. 50 miles / 80 km NE of Quetta, in late July (26th-30th) 1919.

 

Thanks, Paul

 

Hi Paul,

 

I have a copy of 'Crisis on the Frontier', but I'm not sure that it will be much help to you.  Looking in the index for the units you mention, there is no mention of 15th Motor Machine Gun Battery.  There is a reference to the Shabkadr column which reads as follows: "From the troops now available, two columns were formed to confront the Mohmand threat.  The first column, under the commander of 44 Brigade, was sent to Shabkadr, in the centre of the Mohmand Blockade Line, to where it was believed the Afjhans were headed.  The second column went to Michni, at the southern end of the Line.  Beyond burning some empty towers on the Line, the tribesmen showed little activity and soon dispersed when their food ran out.  The Afghan regulars then retired to their original bases on the Kunar river, sixty miles from Peshawar.  Both columns were withdrawn on 25 May and were back in Peshawar by the 30th."  In the chapter notes, the first column comprised "44 Brigade minus one battalion (1/1 Kent Regiment, 1/30 and 2/30 Punjabis). one squadron 23rd Cavalry F.F., half squadron 30th Lancers, two armoured car batteries and 167th Brigade RFA (minus 1 battery)."  The 15th MMG may have been in this column.  The second column mentioned comprised "Half squadron 30th Lancers, 1/6 Jat Light Infantry (from 44 Brigade) and two machine gun sections".

 

Re the actions on Karawal Hill, the book says as follows: "The raiding went on unchecked and in July reconnaissance located a body of 500 tribesmen on Karawal Hill, due west of Bara fort, just outside the area of the 'drive' in May.  The continued presence of this party led to a decision to attack it on 22 July.  The two columns employed from Kacha Garhi and Bara, comprised the 30th Lancers, 23rd Cavalry, two armoured car batteries, 3/5 Ghurkhas, two companies 2/35 Sikhs and two sections of field artillery.  The cavalry moving in from north, east and south, managed ultimately to clear the hill but failed to trap the tribesmen.  In their retreat, they came under fire from the armoured cars who had managed to get into posiltion three miles west of Karawal.  Casualties were negligible, but the operation had not been particularly successful.  Nevertheless, raiding gradually died away, largely because the Afridis were anxious to get home to plough their fields in readiness for the spring sowing."  Again, although not mentioned directly, the 15th MMG may have been included in this column.

 

The 19th MMG Battery is identified regarding the action in which you are interested, as follows:  "Action now shifted to the Lower Zhob where a force of rebellious tribesmen, including deserted from the Militia, gathered north of Hindubagh.  A force of Jhind Infantry sent out from Iindubagh on 14 July proved incapable of attacking the tribal positions and h ad to retire to Hindubagyh.  It was decided to replace the Jhind troops with 2/15 Sikhs from lQuetta, where they had arrived at the end of May.  Before this could happen, the local Extra District Commissioner, who was presumably aware of the debacle eight days earlier, took out an escort of Jhind Infantry on 22 July to destroy two towers in the hostile village of Urgas, three miles north of :Hindubagh.  The force was attacked by a large body of tribesmen, and the under-trained and ill-disciplined infantry got out of hand and fired off all their ammunition.  Eventually, the survivors reached Hindubagh protected by a party of 3rd Skinner's Horse.  The Jhind Infantry lost one British officer and fourteen other ranks killed, and one British officer and twenty-one other ranks wounded.  The same evening Hindubagh came under fire all night and the railway station was burned.  The situation was not cleared up until the arrival at Hindubagh of 1/102 Grenadiers and two sections of No. 19 Motor Machine Gun Battery (armoured cars) from Quetta, followed by No. 11 Armoured Motor Battery and a squadron of the Alwar Lancers from Kila Saifullah.  It was not until Karezgi, just west of Hindubagh, was occupied and garrisoned that the fighting round Hindubagh died away".

 

Hope this helps,

 

Dave

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18 hours ago, 593jones said:

and two sections of No. 19 Motor Machine Gun Battery (armoured cars) from Quetta, followed by No. 11 Armoured Motor Battery

 

Hi Dave

 

Many thanks for your response and for taking the time to type in sections of Crisis on the Frontier. Much Appreciated.

 

It's interesting that Robson appears to consistently mis-associate the Motor Machine Gun Batteries with Armoured Cars, rather than what they actually were which was Motorcycle Combinations (generally Clymos). I had noticed previously that he did so for 22 MMG (my grandfather's battery) - but hadn't realized that he had carried this into the other MMG Batteries (15 and 19) which were on the Frontier during the Third Afghan War. No 11 Armoured Motor Battery was, in contrast, an early armoured car unit. It is possible that men were taken from the MMG batteries in order to crew armoured cars, but I`d have thought they`d have probably focused on giving more mobility to Infantry MG units, rather than removing a well proven capability of the motorcycle combination.

 

I wonder if Robson gets this from Molesworth - but given Molesworth was serving on the frontier, I`d be surprised if he got it wrong.

 

Hoping that somebody has access to a copy of Molesworth!  I believe there is a copy in the NAM, and possibly also in IWM, but as I am in the Netherlands at present that isn't much help!

 

Thanks again for your help.

 

Regards

 

Paul

 

 

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Brian Robson includes Molesworth's book and his papers, (held at the NAM) in his bibliography, and does refer to him in chapter notes earlier in the book.  In one note, referring to an action at Dakka on the 20th June 1919, Robson states that Molesworth's account differs somewhat from the official history, Third Afghan War, including one instance regarding the placing of troops.  In that instance, Robson says he prefers the account in the official history.  As Molesworth's book was published in 1962, I wonder if, perhaps, the passage of forty years or so had affected Molesworth's memories, possibly leading to confusion between Motor Machine Gun batteries and Armoured Cars.  It would possibly depend on how detail a record Molesworth had kept at the time.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 14/08/2020 at 20:30, 593jones said:

Brian Robson includes Molesworth's book and his papers, (held at the NAM) in his bibliography, and does refer to him in chapter notes earlier in the book.  In one note, referring to an action at Dakka on the 20th June 1919, Robson states that Molesworth's account differs somewhat from the official history, Third Afghan War, including one instance regarding the placing of troops.  In that instance, Robson says he prefers the account in the official history.  As Molesworth's book was published in 1962, I wonder if, perhaps, the passage of forty years or so had affected Molesworth's memories, possibly leading to confusion between Motor Machine Gun batteries and Armoured Cars.  It would possibly depend on how detail a record Molesworth had kept at the time.

 

Dave, Hi

 

Apologies for the delay in replying - I have been away.

 

You are quite correct that Molesworth's memory could be faulty - he was aged 72 when Operations was published and he died 6 years later in 1968. However, he was Adjutant of the Somersets at the time - so should have been in a position to have a reasonably clear picture of the campaign, particularly in the Khyber area. I wonder how much access he might have had to the various war diaries.

 

It should also be kept in mind that The Official History was written several years after the 1919 War (released in 1926) and was prepared by the Staff - but they clearly did have access to the War Diaries.

 

So I`d still love to get my hands on a copy of Molesworth's book (despite its imperfections) and i suspect that some of the answers are burried in War Diaries. But although I have found 22 MMG Battery War Diary I have never found 1919/Third Afghan War Diaries for 15 or 19 (or 3) MMG Batteries. There may be some help in the 44 Inf Bde diary for the two 15 MMG actions - but it's not digitised so I need to get to Kew to find it. And I still haven't established an equivalent Bde for 19 MMG's action down near Quetta.

 

Regards

 

Paul

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There are some records at the British Library, London which possibly might contain something

IOR/L/MIL/17/5/4057 -4065, consisting of 9 volumes of printed war diaries for the Afghan War period 19 April 1919 to 14 September 1919

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/browse/r/h/cbdc7e28-3775-4cd3-856b-9485472cc771

 

Molesworth's book is also available at the British Library.

 

Cheers

Maureen

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 26/08/2020 at 15:06, Maureene said:

There are some records at the British Library, London which possibly might contain something

 

Many thanks Maureen

 

I have never researched at the British Library - but I really need to go and have a look! May be someway in the future though, given the current situation, and my current location in the Netherlands!

 

Hope you are keeping well, Regards

 

Paul

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