The Camp Of Lahore
: The Coming Conquest Of England
An unusually beautiful and dry spring favoured the advance of
the Russian army through the mountains. In the north of India the
temperature kept at an average of 68 degrees F., and day after day the
sun streamed down from a cloudless blue sky upon the broad plains of the
Punjab, through the bright green of which the Russian troops, in their
white summer uniforms, pushed on like long streaks of silver.
ything pointed to the fortune of war being on their side, for they
had overcome the difficult and dreaded passage at Attock with unexpected
The commander of this lofty fortress received orders not to break
down the bridge across the Indus until General Blood's army, which was
directed to hold Peshawar and the Khyber Pass, had effected its retreat
and had to the last man passed the river.
The bridge at Attock, which is a high structure built across the narrow
bed of the Indus, which here foams down with swirling swiftness, is
considered a masterpiece of engineering. It is built in two tiers, the
upper of which carries the railway, while the lower forms a road for
carriages, beasts of burden, and foot-passengers. On either side of the
river is a fortified gate. The English commander of Attock trusted to
the strength of the forts standing some 800 feet above the river, and
imagined the Russians to be still far away.
The Russian vanguard had crossed the river Cabul, which joins the Indus
at Attock, at a point a few miles above the city, and thus appeared
simultaneously with General Blood's troops before the fortress.
Blood's troops were passing the bridge in endless long columns. Their
movement was often checked by blocks, caused by the dislocation of
the several units, and so it came about that, in the early morning,
a superior Russian force had, unperceived by the English, reached the
northern end of the bridge just as a gap had been caused in the English
The thick fog of the morning had hidden the approach of the Russians
from the English outposts. The Russians at once occupied the bridge, and
so cut off the remainder of the English that were on the northern bank
from their main body that had already crossed the bridge. The commander
of the Russian advance guard was himself quite astounded at the success
that the fortune of war had thrown into his lap: had not the fog
rendered the scouting on both sides illusory, and had not chance allowed
him to fall in with this gap in the English columns, the chances would,
considering the narrowness of the road, have been much more favourable
to the English than for him, and the battle would probably have ended
with the defeat of his forces. As it was, General Ivanov, who had
crossed the Khyber Pass, came upon the English rearguard, and five
thousand men of the Anglo-Indian troops had to surrender after a short
struggle. Two thousand English and three thousand Mohammedans fell
into the hands of the Russians. As soon as the Mohammedan-Indians were
informed by the victors that they were fighting for the true faith
against the infidels, they went over without more ado to the Russian
The commander at Attock refused to surrender the fortress, and trained
his guns upon the Russian columns; but, in consequence of the fog, the
batteries did not inflict much damage upon the Russians, who being now
in possession of the bridge continued their advance to the south.
But, however, before the march that had thus been so successfully begun
was continued, the Russian commander-in-chief collected, not far
from Attock, all the troops that had crossed the Hindu-Kush in small
detachments, and united them with the army corps advancing from
Afghanistan, so that he now disposed of an army of seventy thousand men.
It was a blood-stained road upon which this host travelled behind the
retreating English army. This was the road upon which Alexander the
Great in days of yore entered India. Here, at the beginning of the
sixteenth century, the Afghan sovereign Ibrahim Lodi had fought with the
Grand Mogul Baber; here, a few decades later, Mohammed Shah Adil, the
generallissimo of the Afghans, when at the head of fifty thousand horse,
five hundred elephants, and innumerable infantry, was defeated by the
youthful Grand Mogul Akbar. Still more bloody was the battle, which
about the middle of the eighteenth century the Afghan Sultan Ahmed Shah
Durani fought with the great Mahratha princes, Holkar Sindhia, Gaekwar
and the Peschwas; and here, once again, all the horrors of war raged,
when in the year 1857, the English Generals Havelock, Sir James Outram,
Sir Colin Campbell, Sir Hugh Rose, Sir John Lawrence, and Sir Robert
Napier, crushed with pitiless severity the dangerous sepoy mutiny. East
and West had, in gigantic struggles, fought together on this spot so
full of legends, this the cradle of mankind. Hundreds of thousands of
human lives had been sacrificed on this blood-drenched soil, and yet
again was a decisive battle impending, destined to be engraved with a
steel pencil on the tablets of the world's history.
The movements of the Russian army had upset the plan of the English
generals. The English corps which had collected at Mooltan were quickly
pushed on to Lahore, as soon as the Russians' intention to proceed to
the south-east became clear. The time which General Ivanov required for
concentrating his troops at Attock rendered it possible for the English
to reach Lahore. Here their forces were considerably increased by the
strong garrison, and each day new regiments came in from Delhi and
Lucknow, which brought the strength of the army commanded by Sir Bindon
Blood up to the number of one hundred thousand combatants.
The English prepared for a decisive battle, for already the head of
the Russian columns was no further than ten English miles north of
the mausoleum of the Emperor Jahangir at Shah Dara, a military station
scarcely eight English miles north-west of Lahore.
The English troops advanced in their concentrated formation in single
line; their left wing occupied the Shah Dara plantations and the pontoon
bridge across the river Ravi that flows close to Lahore. It extended
thence five English miles further eastwards to a canal which flows
past the Shalimar Park towards the south. This park and a place called
Bhogiwal, lying next to it, formed the right wing. Before their front
stretched a tributary of the sinuous Ravi with its marshy banks. To the
rear of their position lay the fortress of Lahore with its brick wall,
fifteen feet in height, pierced by thirteen gates.
The Ravi, a tributary of the Indus, had at this time but little water.
The bed of the river was for the most part dry, and only consisted of
rapid, irregular rivulets, which here and there exposed between them
larger and smaller, but for the most part, muddy islands. The bed of
this river formed the chief obstacle to the Russian attack, for they had
to pass it before reaching the English front and the city of Lahore.
Heideck occupied a small tent that he had brought with him from
Chanidigot. Morar Gopal's horse had carried it on its back during the
march from Mooltan to Lahore, for the lancers, whom Heideck had joined
as being a friend of their officers, had not covered the distance by
railway. They were now encamped in the Shalimar Park, an extensive
enclosure surrounded by a wall and full of the most beautiful mango
trees, and among them many small fountains and pretty pavilions. As
Heideck wore a khaki suit and a cork helmet, he looked, in spite of his
having no distinctive military dress, quite like an English officer, the
resemblance being increased by his martial bearing.
During the march and during his stay in the camp he had had an
opportunity of closely observing the British system of campaigning. But
he took good care not to mention it to the English officers, for they
were not very favourable conclusions at which he had arrived. He
had gained the impression that the troops were neither well led, nor
displayed any special knowledge of campaigning. The men both in bivouac
and in camp were often in want, and, indeed, frequently suffered real
distress, because the necessary material was not always at hand, and
their food was not regularly supplied; the greatest confusion reigned in
the commissariat department.
Not alone there, but also in the tactical units serious confusion was
everywhere apparent, in consequence of the unpractical and heterogeneous
composition of the detachments. First of all, the regiments which were
to make up the army corps in Peshawar and Quetta were all jumbled up
together, because as soon as ever they appeared to be ready to march,
they were separately taken away from their garrisons and placed upon the
railway. Concentration upon Mooltan and the hurried march to Lahore had
resulted in downright inextricable confusion.
Heideck found himself in the middle of an army which had never engaged
in a great war and certainly never in one against regular troops. It
is true that the English were accustomed to fighting, for they had
been constantly obliged to measure themselves with barbarous and
semibarbarous peoples. They had made expensive expeditions and gained
dearly purchased victories; but it was always the undisciplined,
dark-skinned, and black hordes with whom they had had to deal. The
experiences of the Boer War had not entered into the flesh and blood
of the troops. The personal bravery of the individual had almost always
been regarded as the main thing, and it was easy to understand why all
the officers should be puffed up with vanity. They looked down with
contempt upon all foreigners, because they had, as a matter of fact,
almost always gained their victories over superior numbers.
Heideck noticed with astonishment that the tactical rules and
instructions in the British army were still often at variance with
modern armament, particularly in the case of the infantry; volley firing
was habitually employed as the general way of engaging the enemy. The
men were drilled at the word of command to open and keep up a steady
even fire and then in close ranks to rush with the bayonet on the enemy.
This powerful nation was, in fact, too listless to utilise the most
modern experiences of the science of war: proud Albion blindly believed
everything English to be good and despised everything new and foreign.
Or did the English perhaps only avoid advancing in loose order in
action because they were afraid that they would otherwise not be able to
control their Indian soldiers?
The environs of Lahore, particularly to the north of the city between
the wall and the camp, presented a very lively scene. The innumerable
camels which had served as baggage animals and formed the major portion
of the transports afforded a very peculiar spectacle. They were either
lying on the ground closely packed together or solemnly paced along,
while the shrill yells of the drivers filled the air. Moreover, there
was here congregated a huge crowd of men belonging to the army in one or
other capacity without being combatants, and the eye fond of picturesque
impressions could feast with delight on the gay, ever-changing
kaleidoscopic effects of the wide plain; while the distant scenery was
also interesting enough in itself. Between the widely scattered villages
and suburbs of the city, which contained 180,000 inhabitants, beautiful
parks and gardens shone in fresh green foliage, mostly surrounding
the burial-place of a sultan or a famous Mohammedan saint. Towards the
south-east there stretched away the great encampments of the cavalry and
artillery in which were included many elephant batteries.
The city itself was choked full of military and the families of the
officers. Almost all the women and children of the garrisons lying to
the north-west of Lahore had fled here at the advance of the troops.
Mrs. Baird, too, with her two little daughters and Mrs. Irwin were also
in the city, where they were lodged in the Charing Cross Hotel. Although
the city was packed to a most alarming degree and the military situation
was decidedly critical, Heideck did not anywhere observe any particular
The English preserved their peculiarly calm demeanour, and the natives
kept silence out of fear: upon the latter the fully unexpected and
incomprehensible change in the situation had probably had a certain
When Heideck, shortly before sunset, went from the camp to the city to
visit the ladies, he only became more firmly convinced, as he passed
through the surging crowd outside the walls, that the position of the
army had been very badly selected. Far too large a number of men and
animals had been crowded within a comparatively small space. If Russian
shrapnel were to fall among this dense mass a terrible panic was
inevitable. The proximity of the fortified city was sure to induce
the soldiers to take refuge behind its walls. Heideck had hitherto not
gained the impression that resolute courage was to be expected of the
native soldiers. In the street which led from the Shalimar Park to the
railway station in the suburb of Naulakha, Heideck had constantly to
go out of his way to allow the long columns of heavily laden camels and
ox-waggons which came towards him to pass, and he therefore took nearly
two hours to reach his goal. The Charing Cross Hotel was full up to the
attics, and the two ladies had, with the children, to be content with a
small room on the third floor which had been let to them at an enormous
Mrs. Baird, a lady of small, delicate build, but of energetic spirits
and genuine English pride, appeared perfectly collected and confident.
She did not utter a single word about her own evidently very
uncomfortable position and of the privations which, under the existing
circumstances, her children had to suffer, but only about the victory of
the British arms, that she was convinced would immediately take place.
The march from Mooltan to Lahore was, in her eyes, an advance, and she
did not entertain the smallest doubt that the Russian insolence would in
a short time meet with terrible chastisement.
"It is terrible to think," she said to Heideck, "that a nation that
calls itself Christian should dare attack us in India. What was this
unhappy land before we took pity on it? England has freed it from the
hands of barbarous despots and brought it happiness! The Indian cities
have grown in prosperity because our laws have paved the way for free
development of commerce and intercourse. It is in the highest sense of
the word a mission of civilisation that our nation has here fulfilled.
If Heaven gives Russia the victory, this now so happy land will be
hurled back into the blackness of barbarism." She appeared to wait for a
word of assent from Mrs. Irwin, but the latter sat in serious silence.
"You ought not to be so silent, dearest Edith, and ought not to pull
such a melancholy face," said the Colonel's wife, turning to her with
a gentle reproach. "I perfectly understand that the sad events of your
private life are distressing you. But all personal sorrow should now be
merged into the general grief. What is the fate of the individual, when
his country is exposed to such danger? I know that you are as good a
patriot as any Englishwoman, but it appears to me that it is necessary
to prove it in these hours of danger. Anxiety and moroseness have at
such times upon one's surroundings the effect of a contagious disease."
"But possibly I am not the good patriot you take me for."
"Ah! What do you mean by that?"
"I cannot look at wars from your point of view, dear Mrs. Baird. It
almost seems to me that there is not a very great difference between men
and brute beasts, who fight each other out of hunger, or jealousy, and
all kinds of low instincts."
"Oh, what a comparison to draw!"
"Well, it is true we know better how to wage war. We invent complicated
instruments wherewith to destroy our fellow-beings in enormous numbers,
whilst animals are limited to their own natural weapons. But do we,
therefore, know better what we are doing than the animals? Don't you
think that, when hosts of ants, or bees, or weasels, or fishes in the
sea sally forth to destroy other creatures of their species, they may be
guided perhaps by the same instincts that govern us also?"
"I cannot follow you there, Mrs. Irwin," the little lady replied, with a
shade of irritation in her voice. "Human beings are endowed with reason,
and are conscious of their aims and actions."
"Is it really so reasonable when peasants and labourers go to war as
soldiers? Are they really led by a conscious purpose within them? None
of them has anything to gain. They are compelled by others to allow
themselves to be maimed and killed, and to kill their fellow-beings. And
the survivors are in no respects better off, after gaining a victory,
than they were before. And the leaders themselves? In the morals of
Christian faith honours, orders, and endowments are only idle toys.
Let us be honest, Mrs. Baird. Did England conquer India in order to
propagate the Christian gospel? No! We have shed rivers of blood solely
in order to spread our commerce, and in order to increase the wealth of
a few, who themselves wisely remained at a safe distance from the fray,
in the possession of luxury beyond the dreams of avarice."
"It is sad to hear such words from the mouth of an Englishwoman."
The conversation was in danger of taking a critical turn, as the
Colonel's wife felt seriously annoyed and wounded by Edith's words.
Heideck turned the discussion into a less dangerous channel. Soon
afterwards the Colonel arrived; he occupied a tent further away in the
camp, and only rarely found time to look after his family.
He simulated an air of gaiety and composure which he was far from
feeling, and he was too indifferent an actor to succeed in his part.
"I am sorry, but I can only stay a very short time," he said, when he
had caressed and kissed the little girls, whom he loved so tenderly,
with still greater affection than usual. "My chief object in coming
was to instruct you, dear Ellen, what you have to do in case we have to
"To retire--? For Heaven's sake--I hope there is no question of
The Colonel smiled, though not quite naturally.
"Of course, we cannot reckon with certainty upon victory. He would be a
bad general who did not consider the possibility of defeat. During the
last few hours all our dispositions have been altered. We are on the
point of starting to attack the Russians."
"That is right!" cried Mrs. Baird, with bright eyes. "A British army
must not wait for the enemy, but go and meet him."
"We shall march out at early dawn to try and prevent the Russians from
crossing the Ravi. The engineers leave to-night in advance to destroy
the bridges, if it is not already too late. The army has to execute a
considerable movement to the left about, in order to reach the right
position. At the same time the front has to be extended and lengthened
to the right. The left wing remains at Shah Dara and the pontoon
"Is it not possible for us to come out also and look on at the battle?"
inquired Mrs. Baird. But her husband shook his head in decided refusal.
"For you, dearest Ellen, our trustworthy Smith will have a cart, with
two strong oxen, ready here in the hotel. That is to provide for all
eventualities. Should you receive news that the army is retreating upon
Lahore--which the Lord forbid--you must lose not a minute, but drive
as quick as possible, before the crush at the gates and in the streets
begins, through the Akbari gate over the canal bridge leading to the
Sadrbazar, and so to Amritsar, where you may be able to take the railway
to Goordas. All other lines are closed for other than military purposes.
Panic will not extend so far as that, and there, in any small hill
station, you will find a safe resting-place for the present. And now,
Mr. Heideck, may I trouble you by asking a great favour of you?"
"I am entirely at your disposal, Colonel."
"Stop here in the hotel--try to obtain the latest intelligence as to the
course of events, and act as protector to the ladies and children until
they are in security. If you will permit me to hand you a cheque--"
"Please leave that for the present, Colonel," Heideck replied. "I am
provided with plenty of money and will render you an account later. I
promise to protect your family and Mrs. Irwin as well as I can. But
I think it would be better for me not to remain in the town, but to
accompany the troops. I will return as soon as possible should
events take an unfavourable turn. The anxiety of the ladies would be
unnecessarily increased, and I myself should be uncertain as to what to
do if we received unreliable news here in the hotel as to the position
"You are right," said the Colonel, after a moment's hesitation. "Already
now the most absurd rumours are flying about. Leaflets have been
distributed amongst our Mohammedan troops inciting them with the maddest
and most deceitful promises to desert from the British army. A few
persons, taken whilst distributing such leaflets, have been already
shot without more ado. I leave everything to your circumspection and
decision. In any case, it will be best for you to keep as near to the
Commander-in-Chief as possible. My permit will open the road to you
everywhere. I will thank you later on."
He shook Heideck's hand warmly, and embraced his wife and his children
once more, and the two men turned to leave. The dull foreboding that it
was a parting for ever lay heavily upon all of them.