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Author Topic: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!  (Read 4072 times)

Offline Sparrow

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Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« on: January 15, 2016, 08:58:39 PM »
I wonder if anyone out there can point me in the right direction?

I've drifted into gaming C19th North West Frontier (started with the wonderful Empress Jazz Age figures for the 1920's but now working backwards) and have started putting together an Afghan force. I've just about got my head around the various regions and the afghan regular army but I've hit a problem re the Ghazis fanatics. Can anyone out there possibly point me in the direction of some sources where I can read up on: -

A) What they actually looked like, and
B) How they actually performed on the field.

Any pointers greatly appreciated and thanks in advance!
Put your trust in God and keep your powder dry!

Offline Atheling

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2016, 06:04:46 AM »
Best thing to do to get a general view is to actually buy the NWF Osprey. It's not bad, although it only has one plate of illustration but it does mention the different colours of clothing preferred by the different 'tribes'/clans.

You can probably pick on up cheaply on Amazon.

Cheers,
Darrell.

Offline Sparrow

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2016, 07:44:20 AM »
Hi Darrell

Already done I'm afraid  (plus plenty others as I fully realised when the credit card bill arrived yesterday  o_o ). There's info out there on the general stuff  (although less on the Afghan regulars than is deal, thank gawd for those WI articles a few years ago!) but the Ghazi just seem elusive.

I could paint them as normal Afghan tribesmen but I wondered if any particular clothing was donned (as is sometimes the case with religious fanatics in other cultures) - not least as it would make them a bit more distinctive on the tabletop.

Being a C17th buff where info is often scarce I was looking forward to doing a period with a lot more "certainty" but it seems I misled myself - doh! That said, no regrets, it's fascinating!

Any thoughts/pointers anyone can give are much appreciated!


Offline Atheling

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2016, 07:54:25 AM »
Hi Darrell

Already done I'm afraid  (plus plenty others as I fully realised when the credit card bill arrived yesterday  o_o ). There's info out there on the general stuff  (although less on the Afghan regulars than is deal, thank gawd for those WI articles a few years ago!) but the Ghazi just seem elusive.

Well then, you have the information about the preferred tribal colours at your fingertips ;) :)

I could paint them as normal Afghan tribesmen but I wondered if any particular clothing was donned (as is sometimes the case with religious fanatics in other cultures) - not least as it would make them a bit more distinctive on the tabletop.

See above. ;) :)

If you're not satisfied with the info in the Osprey then you could do worse than pop the question on the Victorian Wars Forum:

http://www.victorianwars.com/index.php

Please report back with your findings as I'm very interested too :)

Darrell.

Offline Romark

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2016, 08:54:49 AM »
Hi Sparrow,don't know if this will be of help but reports by British officers during the Mutiny mention green flags,turbans and cummerbunds in conflicts with ghazis. :)


Offline joroas

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2016, 09:09:24 AM »
Green was a favourite colour of Muslim badmash in the IM.
 
'So do all who see such times. But that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that we are given.'

Offline Captain Blood

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2016, 09:16:59 AM »
I don't know for sure, but I believe 'Ghazis' was probably just a catch-all phrase for what the average British soldier would regard as maniacal attackers, rather than a specific troop type in separate units. I think bands of swordsmen assigned to suicidally charge British positions, would be described as 'ghazi' or mad. Green was certainly the prevalent colour of Islam at the time, and associated with such fanaticism, in much the same way that black is now defining of the Taliban or IS.
But I think they'd just look like any other tribesmen.

Offline Mad Guru

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2016, 09:29:27 AM »
Re: what Ghazis actually looked like... all of the descriptions given by British soldiers which I've read over the years describe Ghazis as being dressed overwhelmingly, often exclusively, in WHITE clothing.  The explanation generally given is that white represented purity, and so was in keeping with their role as Holy Warriors.  Their standards on the other hand are usually described as being in a vareity of different colors, including white, red, green, and black, and they are sometimes described as carrying a great many of them (my own Ghazis come with a large collection of ragged but still colorful banners).

Re: how they performed on the field of battle... it depends on the specific battle.  At Maiwand the repeated Ghazi charges against the British and Indian fighting line resulted in enormous casualties on the part of the "Holy Warriors," but in combination with Afghan regular artillery and infantry fire, helped to break the British line and send it routing across Mundabad Ravine.  A month later at the Battle of Kandahar (aka: Baba Wali), those Ghazis who still remained with Ayub Khan's army again made a fierce showing and attempted a number of fanatical charges, but were stopped dead in their tracks by General Roberts and his army.

A good place to find more info on the part Ghazis played at Maiwand in particular is in the Maiwand chapter of Colonel Mike Snook's, "Into The Jaws of Death," which provides a comprehensive history of the battle, including more details on the Afghan side of the battle, including commanders and forces, than any previously published material on the subject, at least that I am aware of.

There's a book of illustrations done by a Royal Artillery officer named Major E.A.P Hobday, published in 1898, filled with sketches he made while serving in the Mohmand campaign of 1897, including one showing a Ghazi attack on the 24th Punjab Infantry down a hillside at Landakai.  Here's a LINK which I hope will bring you to pages 42 & 43 of an online copy, which hold a description and the illustration itself...

https://archive.org/stream/sketchesonservi00ponsgoog#page/n52/mode/2up

And here's an attempt to copy and paste the, "Ghazi Charge," illustration in question...



NOTE: Captain Blood added his above comment while I was in the midst of writing mine.  In a way I believe he is absolutely right about "Ghazis" being not all that different from their fellow hostile Tribesmen... but in another way, at least during the period of the Second Afghan War, I think they can be said to have comprised a distinct troop type, at least on those occasions when they came together in substantial numbers, often under a prominent religious figure, such as Mullah Mushk-i-Alam, to form what were defacto "units" of their own, seperate and apart from their less fiercely devoted comrades, who could very well have been present at the same battle, but fighting in a different style on a different part of the field, under a different leader.  Another action where this was the case, in addition to Maiwand and Kandahar, was the earlier Afghan attack on Roberts force occupying the Sherpur Cantonments just outside Kabul in the Winter of 1879.  An estimated 50,000 Afghans attacked altogether, but the lead elements in the assault were described as, "Ghazis clothed in white."
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 09:58:39 AM by Mad Guru »
"We shall see what wisdom lies beneath my madness!"

Offline Sparrow

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2016, 01:23:08 PM »
A big thank you to everyone (and particularly Mad Guru!) - that's plenty to steer me onwards - hugely appreciated - Ian

Offline Atheling

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2016, 01:45:40 PM »
You're welcome....  :)

Please post up the results.

Darrell.

Offline Hobbit

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2016, 04:44:31 PM »
I've done a fair bit of reading on the campaigns of the 1890s and would agree that it seems to be used as a catch-all phrase for those warriors willing to try to close in for hand-to-hand combat. During those campaigns they rarely seemed to be particularly effective but that could be because they seemed to attract a lot of fire to try to prevent them from making contact. I played quite a lot of NWF action with Black Powder and that is more-or-less what happened in the games too.

Offline Sparrow

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2016, 07:29:52 PM »
Cheers, appreciated.

Offline Leigh Metford

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2016, 06:57:32 AM »
As previous posters have intimated, colonial forces often weren't au fait with the cultural nuances of their opponents, so you probably need to draw a distinction between who an Afghan would consider a ghazi and which enemy combatants a British soldier would apply the term to.

True ghazis made a commitment to kill the enemy until themselves killed, so the only way to stop them would be to shoot them. In wargames rules terms they would never need to check morale. Muslim rebels of this calibre were certainly encountered in small bands during the Indian Mutiny, but the fact that the large masses of charging swordsmen of the 2nd Afghan War could be stopped by killing only a proportion of them suggests that, while the leading elements might very well have been true ghazis, the majority probably weren't.

If its of any assistance, during the Moro Wars in the Philippines US troops were subjected to frenzied attacks by juramentados (individual fanatics sworn to kill until killed) who prepared for their missions in part by donning an entirely white costume.     

Offline Sparrow

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2016, 08:28:24 AM »
Leigh - thanks. Your thinking and comments confirm where my own thoughts are going as I'm reading into this. As you say, a lot of the problem is based around interpretation of Afghan culture etc.

How I currently see it is a few genuine fanatics amongst a larger group of motivated but less "dedicated" warriors/tribesmen. As the "hard core" are killed so you then get a morale deterioration. In effect, on the tabletop, the body/"unit" keeps a high morale/(no morale test?) status until a certain level of casualties is sustained and then could deteriorate quite rapidly?

The above is very much "thinking out loud" though and not properly thought through. What do others think? 

Offline guitarheroandy

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Re: Ghazis (North West Frontier) - help required!
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2016, 02:26:05 PM »
It's an interesting debate...

I suspect that 100% religiously inspired fervour (or fanaticism if you prefer) as typified by the word 'Ghazi' was actually quite variable depending on the individuals and the circumstances. There are numerous instances from the various Afghan wars and NW Frontier campaigns where the term 'Ghazi' is used to describe on-rushing swordsmen who seemed to be heedless of enemy fire, yet the proportion who were truly prepared to die for their faith would have been variable.

Take the assault on Chakdara fort in the 1897 Pathan Revolt. Thousands of Pathans hurled themselves with reckless abandon at the (about 300 if memory serves) Sikh defenders, who were well served by stone walls, artillery and maxim guns. Those assaults continued for several days with very numerous enemy casualties. Commentators often attribute this to religiously inspired fervour, but the fact that every assault was beaten off despite the massive numerical odds in the Pathans' favour suggests that, despite the exhortations of the mullahs and the promises of paradise, eventually, morale crumbled and the attacks broke up. So some of those tribesmen must have decided that Paradise would have to wait until another day! :D I guess this probably means that the true Ghazis led the way and died first, leaving the less 'Ghazi-inclined' warriors to continue the attack until incoming fire just became too hot!

When we play The Men Who Would Be Kings, we have units we designate as 'Ghazi' and they are subject to increased melee capability, no shooting ability and a 'free' (i.e. no activation check) order to 'attack' as opposed to the usual free 'move'. We sometimes make them 'elite' or 'veteran' which gives them further pluses to their morale factor, so they can still be pinned, etc, but are less likely to be and are more likely to recover if they do get pinned. It works well enough for us. :D

 

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