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

bewildering effect.

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

of affairs."

"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.