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This review is from: Kabul Catastrophe: The Invasion and Retreat 1839-1842 (Prion Lost Treasures) (Paperback)
The most amazing thing about the Retreat from Kabul is how it appears to be a forgotten incident in history. It is easily a catastrophe to be placed alongside the Light Brigade, Rourke's Drift and Gallipoli in the peons of British military disasters. The recent shenanigans in Iraq make this doubley relevant: most powerful nation on Earth invades a Middle Eastern state to enact regime change, with no exit strategy, in the face of a hostile populace. The British venture was doomed from the start: Afghanistan had few natural resources to cater for an invading army, cue inflation and localised starvation wherever they went. As a fighting force they were compromised by each officer bringing with them an average of ten servants each, plus their wives and children. Elementary mistakes were made such as placing their food and armaments store outside of their encampments (otheriwse where would they accomodate all the servants?) where they were easy pickings for marauding Afghan warlords. Military tactics which worked fine at Waterloo simply gave the Afghan guerillas and cavalry a bigger target to aim at, and to top it all they were commanded by a septigenarian in precarious health, who was medically incapable of issuing orders for several days at a time.
All of this is described in excruciating detail, then onto the Retreat during which 16,000 soldiers and hangers on were slaughtered over three days by Afghan snipers, and their wives, servants and Indian sepoys being little more than cannon fodder. Overall this book is engrossing, frightening and unbelievable. The best history book I have read.
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Initial post: 27 Mar 2008 11:57:13 GMT
J. Macdonald says:
George MacDonald Fraser's novel "Flashman" (the first of a very enjoyable series) covers the retreat from Kaboul in well researched detail.
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