When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
The Dehli Telegraph
Jezzailchi Attack On Hill 371 Signal Station
Brigadier General Ferguson-Smythe and Soldiers of the 60th Rifles Slain
Latest news by telegraph from Kandahar from :
Your correspondent in the Field with 14th Brigade on the North West Frontier
- George MacDonald Brookes
An audacious early morning attack on the Hill 371 Signal Station earlier today left 14th Brigade mourning the loss of its commander and several of the signals section on the hill. The signal station was to have been one of several co-ordinating units as the brigade's infantry battalions swept the nearby hills of dissident tribesmen. The attackers, led by the infamous Abdul Rashid, apparently infiltrated into their ambush positions by night and it was only with the lifting of the dawn mists and the subsequent start of signalling for the day that they opened fire.
While it appears that the initial attack on the Hill Station was simply intended as a disruption to the Brigade's sweep of the villages around Lashkar Gah the discovery of Brigade HQ in attendance at the hill will have been a welcome bonus to the attacking tribesmen and the demise of Brigadier Ferguson-Smythe will be celebrated in the jirgas and sangars across Western Afghanistan. Regular readers of my despatches will remember the controversy over the Brigadier's part in the pacification of Ghuzni Province earlier this year and the subsequent criticisms in the press by both by officers of the 92nd Highlanders, the 60th Rifles and the several Indian Army units involved.
The first indication that aught was amiss came with a fusilade of jezzail rounds through the ranks of the signal crew and the mounted headquarters group as a band of jezzailchis opened fire from a rocky outcrop to the west of the Signal Station. Almost immediately Lt. Blair, commander of the signals troop, fell wounded and both Brigadier Ferguson-Smythe and Major Allan were unhorsed.
With Lt. Blair out of action, Colour Sgt. Devlin ordered his troops on to the roof to return fire towards the jezzailchis in the nearby rocky outcrop. However a second fusillade from the rocks wounded the Brigadier in the upper thigh and forced several soldiers outwith the building to fling themselves prone despite a couple of shots from the sentries on the roof. Simultaneously, Sher Zaher Khan, one of three ghazis hidden in the gully just below Hill 371, charged out of cover and towards the hill.
In an exchange of fire the sentries shots knocked down Daoud Abdullah with a bullet through his pugaree but an unexpected fire volley from the rocky outcrop to the north killed Cpl. Green and Pte. Brown of the signals section and two more went to ground. At this point Drummer Boy Pte Sturridge gallantly braved the hail of fire to tend to the wounded Brigadier being himself knocked down by a glancing shot but returning to his bandaging.
The first casualty incurred by the Afghans came a few seconds later as the two Ghazis burst from the gully and Dost Hekmatyar was put out of action by shot from the roof. At the same time Sher Zaher Khan was driven back by Lt.Col West's excellent swordsmanship. Meanwhile Pte Sturridge, having patched up Brig. Ferguson-Smythe's leg wound moved on to treat Lt. Blair.
Under Sgt. Devlin's urging the sentries on the roof kept up a steady fire and the two remaining ghazis threw themselves to the ground and Nadir Afzul in the northern rocky outcrop was hit and put out of action. The response from Abdul Rashid's jezzailchis was immediate and Brigadier Ferguson-Smythe was hit again and killed while Pte Hitchcock was hit and wounded while Pte Sturridge, tending Lt. Blair, was knocked down yet again.
With the situation worsening by the second it was with great relief to the beleaguered defenders that the sound of a Martini-Henry volley came from the south and Captain Douglas's platoon of the 92nd hove into view - their exertions plain upon their faces.
With the arrival of the Highlanders Abdul Rashid and his henchman Shah Mohammed swiftly withdrew their jezzailchis while the two remaining ghazis took to their heels pursued by the highlanders and the remaining wounded ghazi was captured.
Luckily for the wounded on Hill 371, Col. Flashman, who had been with the 92nd, had had the presence of mind to gallop off to secure the services of the medical section while ordering Captain Douglas forward with his platoon.
Postscript - Rumours abound in military circles in the Kandahar containment of a confrontation after the engagement between Maj. Allan and Captain Douglas. It appears that while Maj. Allan had accused the 92nd of tardiness the Captain had pointed out that his troops had covered nearly a mile over broken ground in under ten minutes and in addition that the officers of the 60th and the 92nd had pointed out at the previous day's brigade planning conference that the hill signal stations were an undermanned disaster waiting to happen. This further example of ill-feeling between the senior officers Brigade HQ and the 92nd comes after the Ghuzni campaign in which Captain Douglas was one of the officers who formally protested the actions of Brigade HQ.
Afghans attack a supply column guarded by captain Douglas.