North-West Frontier of India: Military Field Sketches 1890s

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This fascinating small collection of works were produced by a British soldier on the North-West Frontier of India in the 1890s. The paper was purchased in Aberdeen and there is one Scottish subject, indicating that the soldier was from Scotland, and inscriptions on the works refer to the Miranzai Valley Expedition of April 1891.

The object of the Miranzai Expedition, under the command of Brigadier-General Sir William Lockhart, was to overawe the Samil tribes of the Khanki Valley. In 1891 the north-western border of British India was the boundary of the old Sikh state of the Punjab. This border area was occupied by numerous tribes, the lawlessness of which the British authorities found unacceptable, and they felt bound to protect their Indian subjects. The British also wished to improve communications in the tribal area invaded, by building tracks, roads and bridges and establishing garrisons in key places.

These modest field sketches give a real sense of the overwhelming immensity of the region’s inhospitable mountains and valleys - tellingly these are more landscape sketches than they are depictions of military detail. The troops of the Miranzai expedition experienced very severe weather and torrents of rain with intense cold, necessitating long marches through swollen streams and intense snow drifts on the Samana Range.