Friday, 9 September 2016

Colonial Wars

I was wandering around my new home town of Thornbury recently when I came across this monument to a local man, Lieutenant Hector Maclaine of the Royal Horse Artillery, who was captured at the battle of Maiwand in 1880. The inscription reads:

Erected by public subscription in addition to a window in Thornbury Church to the memory of Lieut. Hector Maclaine, Royal Horse Artillery, who was taken prisoner while trying to get water for the wounded, after the battle of Maiwand, and was afterwards murdered in the camp of Ayoub Khan, near Candahar, on 1st September 1880.

After a little searching on the internet I came upon the excellent Thornbury Roots website which gives a little more detail:

Hector Maclaine, born on 24th November 1851 at Murtle, Aberdeenshire.  He was educated at Eton and Woolwich and commissioned into the Royal Horse Artillery on 6th January 1872.  He served for many years in India.  In December 1879 he volunteered for active service under General Roberts in Afghanistan where the English forces were fighting a claimant to the Afghan throne, Ayoub Khan.  On Christmas Day 1879 Hector was sent to the Khyber Pass.  He held the rank of lieutenant.  At the battle of Maiwand, fought on 27th July, 1880, Hector distinguished himself by his bravery.  After three hours of fighting his guns ran out of ammunition and he was attending to wounded men who had gathered at the guns.  He was captured and taken to Kandahar where he was treated badly in the first few days of his captivity.  Then a nobleman leader arrived in the camp where Hector was prisoner.  This leader had known Hector previously and he was given better treatment and held in the nobleman’s own bungalow.  Shortly after Hector was moved by Ayoub to another camp, but he was still treated well.  The English demanded Hector’s release and offered Ayub Khan an exchange of prisoners, but this offer was dismissed.  Thereupon General Roberts executed the famous march from Kabul to Kandahar, 313 miles over the worst country in Asia in 23 days in an attempt to save Hector. He managed to destroy Ayoub Khan’s large army with the loss of 40 men, but on the point that his army were breaking into the camp where Hector was held, a guard took it upon himself to slit Hector’s throat.

Although I have read a little about the battle of Maiwand and General Roberts' famous march, I confess I cannot remember reading anything about the unlucky Lieutenant Hector Maclaine. Fascinating.

In other copy of The Men Who Would Be Kings finally arrived today! Hooray! Very much looking forward to sitting down and having a good read of this. 

Talking of which...I also recently picked up a few secondhand books on the Colonial period. First of all...

...The Colonial Wars Source Book by Philip J Haythornthwaite. I've seen this mentioned a few times on various blogs and forums recently and as it can be picked up quite cheap secondhand I grabbed myself a copy. Looks like an excellent resource book for the period.

Next up...

...The Blue Nile and The White Nile by Alan Moorehead. I'd also seen these recommended somewhere and again they can be picked up quite cheap secondhand. I've already dipped into these and they are very well written. Looking forward to reading them properly once I've finished my current book. 

What with The Men Who Would Be Kings and Congo, it really does seem to be all about the Colonial period at the moment!

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