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Author Topic: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War  (Read 7755 times)

Offline Driscoles

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Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« on: January 01, 2010, 01:52:06 PM »
Hi,

can anyone give me information about organisation of the Regular Afghan Army from 1878 to 1881 !

I also need information about tactics. Because I strongly believe they fought different than the tribesmen. Probably a more european alike style of combat.

My resources are plentyfull when it comes to Pathans and the like but are poor on the regulars.

Any help appreciated. thank you !

Cheers
Björn
, ,

Offline oxiana

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2010, 03:19:48 PM »
Hi Björn,

I'm not sure that there was really a regular army as such during this conflict. What is thought of as the 'Afghan army' didn't exist until the mid-80s, until it was raised Amir Abdur Rahman, partly on the back of British subsidies. Before this there were tribal militias (lashkars) raised during times of war, for example the Ghilzais (one of the two main branches of Pashtun) of Mushk-e Alam. There were also more standing forces that were tied to a particular city or ruler. That was often the same thing - the Afghan state of of the 19th century was more of a nebulous affair of semi-independent citystates. Some, like Kandahar and Ghazni were more closely allied with Kabul, others (like Herat) were effectively independent, and others still those in the north, ethnically Turkmen and Uzbek) had few relations with Kabul at all and frequently fought the 'Afghans'. Abdur Rahman's formation of a modern army allowed the final military conquests of those regions to bring them under central control for the first time - which is why he's still revered today as the father of modern Afghanistan.

In term of game play, the standing city armies would, I imagine, be strongly on unit discipline and morale than tribal lashkars. They also have some access to artillery.

Hope this is of some help. I'd welcome any clarifications myself - my Afghan expertise is more history/political rather than strictly military - most of my books are good on the history of the various wars, but not on wargamer-friendly specifics!


Offline Mosstrooper

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2010, 03:34:38 PM »
Think if you search TMP site I seem to think there is some disscussion about this subject . The Osprey Man at Arms has a few illustrations and a photo or two , they seem to have worn old british type uniforms in red, blue, and browns with various coloured facings . Think they may have tried to fight in a European type fashion , the artillery had heavier guns than the British and where very effective at battle of Maiwan. Not sure however if an entire unit would wear the same colour uniform , I've painted mine in a mixture of colours . Just remembered that there was an article on this subject in a old Foundry catalouge (one of the little yellow ones they use to produce ) . Foundry do/did nice figures for this period.

Offline oxiana

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2010, 03:45:44 PM »
Some extra clarification, as I pulled some more books off my shelves.

Following the First Anglo-Afghan War, Dost Mohammed was given a small subsidy by the British to form a standing army to resist aggression from Russia and Persia. He was also meant to allow British officers to train the Afghans, but he only allowed one in, who apparently sweated it out in Kandahar during the Indian Mutiny, presumably assuming that everyone he saw was about to slit his throat. I can't find any evidence of the size and scale of this army, but Dost Mohammed certainly used it to finally conquer Herat in 1863. Possibly through the age old tradition of buying off his opponent's troops (in fact just what the CIA did in 2001! 'You can rent an Afghan, but you can't buy him.')

When Sher Ali took the Kabul throne in 1863 he was later also given a British subsidy to build up a regular army. Apologies for the earlier confusion. Three regiments of these soldiers were the ones who attacked Cavagnari at his residence in Kabul. I still can't find anything about the uniforms etc.

Offline oxiana

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2010, 05:04:50 PM »
OK, here's my last attempt at answering this question, as I've just found hidden away an old British imperial gazetteer on Afghanistan.

At the start of the 1860s, Dost Mohammed had formed the nucleus of a regular army, which consisted of 16 infantry regiments (nominally 800 men), 3 cavalry regiments and about 80 artillery pieces. Sher Ali tried to build on this, but apparently with mixed success. Officers were often men of inferior birth, with the result that they had little control over their men, and insubordination was rampant. Breech loading weapons were rare until the 1890s. Army strength was supplemented with mounted and foot levies, raised by individual chiefs and their vassals. The mounted forces were of higher prestige and status as they reflected the authority of a particular chief, so in game terms these would rate higher than regular cavalry. They were raised only at particular times. The foot levies were generally permanently raised, and used by the civil authorities as local auxiliaries, often to keep the peace. I'd probably rate these as lower quality troops than the regular infantry.

After the Second Wnglo-Afghan , the army was reorganised to model the British army, in terms of divisions, brigades etc, and became better equipped and much larger. Cavalry from Turkistan (eg Turkmens) were recruited (note that this area wasn't part of Afghanistan until the 1880s, so these troops shouldn't really appear before then). Presumably the quality of training was also improved at this point, although this would be done locally rather than using foreign military advisers as Abdur Rahman was famously xenophobic, and refused to let British military personnel into the Afghanistan, even though they were subsidising his army!

Hope some of this helps. It's been fun going through my books to find it all out, anyway!

Offline Driscoles

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2010, 05:42:11 PM »
Thank you for your prompt replies.

The information I have from the latest essential Osprey about Afghanistan regulars is that they had no standing force during the first conflict of 1839 - 42 !

By the time of the 2nd war Sher Ali had a standing force of infantry regiments, cavalry and artillery available. About 37.000 men strong.

They were eqipped with muskets and rifles . The guns were old fashioned.
I also have some info about Uniform.

I wonder now how they were trained. If formations or disciplined  rifle fire was  part of their training ?

But anyway. Thank you so much for your help. If you find more just come back please.

I go and search TMP now.

Cheers and a Happy New Year
Björn



Offline guitarheroandy

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2010, 09:28:28 PM »
I've just been reading a few books about the 2nd Afghan War and from what I have read the following emerges:

Regular infantry armed with snider and Enfield rifes (so many were at least comparable to the Sepoys weapon-wise!) At least one book mentions Afghan regular infantry shooting very accurately!! Uniforms were largely old British kit (as were many of the guns - how ironic!!) so I'm assuming red jackets, variety of trousers from the dark blue to the various shades of white-grey from the 1860's campaign kit...

Artillery was the best arm - outperformed the British guns at Maiwand (although that might be down to sheer number of pieces available on the day)

Interestingly, despite significant numerical advantage and advantage of position, Afghan regular forces seem very vulnerable to British volley fire and bayonet charges - at Maiwand, the 66th foot's volleys were apparently on the point of collapsing the regulars opposing them at the point when the Sepoys next to them broke. This, and other evidence from other battles suggests that, although the Afghan troops were well armed, led by officers who could choose good positions, etc,  they can't have put as much lead into the air as the British and Indian regiments firing volleys. Perhaps partly due to numbers of them only having muzzle-loading Enfields, but also probably because British tactics emphasised putting out a lot of firepower through the volley system.

I also wonder how much 'help' the massed irregulars and Ghazis actually were to the regulars - I'd imagine that their indisciplne might have been more of a hindrance...espcially if they were on the flanks of the regular forces. They wouldn't inspire confidence as a flank guard. That and the Ghazi tendency to charge at any time they felt like it...if the charges were not well timed, there would be little chance for Afghan gunfire to do its work before the tribesmen charged, the ensuing retreats that almost invariably occurred would put strain on the morale of regulars and irregulars alike...

Interesting subject and one that is really important if trying to game the period - exactly how good do you make the Afghan regulars compared to the British and Indians?

Cheers
Andy

Offline Driscoles

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2010, 10:52:23 AM »
Thanks Andy !

You shared some very interesting thoughts.
I read they were poor in defence.
Maybe its  because the tribesmen easily broke.
How good were they ?
I think they were good but not professional enough.

Offline AndyG

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2010, 07:17:17 PM »
Hi
The best source I've seen was a series by Ian Heath in Wargames Illustrated. I think you can stlll coipes on CD. I'll see if I can find out which year/number the articles are in. For some reaon I've only got a copy of part of the article on organisation.
It says the Regular Artillery had 
145 horse guns including 89 breech loaders, the majoriy being Armstrong 6pdl or 12pdr and 56 brass muzzle loaders (mainly 6 or 9pdrs).
150 mountain guns inc 6 4 pdr BL, the rest being muzzle loaders with the majority rifled.
34 siege guns - 16 elephant drawn and 18 bullock drawn.
50 small guns of position - misc types inc morters and 8" howizters

Most of these guns were found in storage in 1879 so he concludes a shortage of ammo/trained  gunners acounts for a differance between the peper strength and asctual numbers in the field.
Organisation was based on a gubarg or platoon of 2 guns. 3 splatoons normaly made up a battery or kund. He suggests that the artillery was well trained and brave but poor fuzes made it less effective tha it could have been.


hope this helps, Andy

Offline Driscoles

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2010, 09:51:39 AM »
Cheers Andy !

Offline john Hollyoak

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2010, 10:19:52 PM »
Ian Heath's articles are in WI issues 93-96 from 1995.

Regards
John

Offline aecurtis

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2010, 05:05:09 AM »
The British intelligence services in London and India--the same offices that produced the "Armed Strength of Russia" series and similar analyses of foreign militaries--did a number of studies on the Afghan army.  They're filed (using the term very loosely) in the Old War Office Library in Whitehall, or were fifteen years ago.  Not many are available elsewhere, although I've found useful bits in the Staff College library and the National Army Museum reading room.

I have a stash of photocopies of useful sections, but they're stored away, and I won't get to them soon, I'm afraid.

Allen
What fresh hell is this?

Offline Driscoles

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2010, 10:42:20 AM »
Thanks Allen

Offline aecurtis

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2010, 06:22:03 PM »
Oh, don't thank me!  I honestly don't know how soon I can get around to digging those out.  And unless you have the right connections, it's not particularly easy to do research at the most useful of those places.

If you can get access to the Old War Office Library, though, it is a gold mine.  It's not easy to find things: the staff simply have a *typed* listing of what is in what cupboard (literally, cupboard), and will bring the documents to you.  But I was questioning the "Most Secret" markings on some of the turn-of-the century documents, and the ladies just said, "No worries; we can copy it for you!"  As an aside, from the 1870s on, these types of sources became more and more sensitive.  When they started, the "Armed Strength" series could be bought at booksellers, but in the late '80s and '90s, they became classified documents. 

Not sure if they have modernized the collection by now.  It's been a while.   When I was first there, Clancy's "Patriot Games" was just out, and you may recall that his protagonist was researching in London in the naval archives at the beginning of the book.  Well, there I was, in the Army's equivalent, with my wife off shopping, so I was all set to meet the Prince of Wales!  (It turned out to be a different Royal, a few years later, but that's another story...)

On another trip, I dug some stuff on the Second Afghan War out of the NAM and the Staff College library for Howard Whitehouse.  I may have those easier to hand, but I don't recall anything specific about the Afghan army in them.  Howard was interested in the facts behind Kipling's poem "Ford O' Kabul River"...

Allen

Offline Smokeyrone

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Re: Regular Afghan Army during the 2nd Anglo Afghan War
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2010, 07:40:27 PM »
Didn't the Afghans have a few units wearing tartan, and based upon the dreaded Highlanders?  I know this is true, I just can't remember tyhe source.
Reigning USTA Florida, and National 50+ Singles Champion  (tennis)  TWO Time Florida 50+ Singles Champion!  Just won State 2019!

 

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