Beyond the Khyber Pass: The Road to British Disaster in the First Afghan War

John H. Waller, Author
John H. Waller, Author Random House (NY) $24.95 (329p) ISBN 978-0-394-56934-5
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
Rich in adventure, intrigue and treachery, this is the story of the British failure in Afghanistan in the 1840s, as England competed with czarist Russia for strategic advantage in Central Asia. Waller relates how the womanizing ways of garrison troops in Kaul (amid a xenophobic, deeply religious society where such behavior was punishable by death) was the ``last straw'' that caused the tribal chiefs to abandon their bloody feuds and declare a holy war against the infidel invader. The war found the vaunted British square formation, cavalry and artillery virtually useless in the high mountain passes where most of the fighting took place. The great set piece of the book is the awesome description of the near destruction of the 4500-man British Kabul garrison and its 12,000 camp followers as they attempted to fight their way to Peshewar. This first-rate history by the author of Gordon of Khartoum captures the savage grandeur of the First Afghan War. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
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