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The First and Second Afghan Wars

Painting of William Brydon approaching the fortress of Jalalabad on horseback.'Remnants of an army'  Elizabeth Butler (1879) British and Indian forces occupied Kandahar and Kabul during the First Afghan War (1839-1842) aiming to replace the ruler, Dost Mohammed Khan with the pro-British, Shuja Shah of the rival Durrani dynasty.

The expedition ended in disaster when an evacuation column of British and Indian soldiers and their civilian followers was cut down with the loss of thousands of lives, a disaster immortalised [later in 1879] by Elizabeth Butler in the popular painting 'Remnants of an army', which depicted the sole British survivor, William Brydon, arriving on horseback at the gates of Jalalabad.

Fearing growing Russian influence, British and Indian forces attempted to reassert control over Afghanistan and its Amir, Sher Ali Khan, son of Dost Mohammed, in what became known as the Second Afghan War of 1878-1881.

Black and white printed map of Kabul city showing the defences of Sherpur 12 to 23 December 1879Map of Kabul from Lord Roberts' memoir, 41 Years in India, 1897 The murder, in September 1879, of the British resident in Kabul, Sir Pierre Cavagnari, by Afghan forces, led to the capture of the Afghan city by the celebrated Major General Frederick 'Bobs' Roberts (1832-1914).

In December 1879, British and Indian troops were subsequently besieged by a much larger Afghan force in the ‘Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment’, before rescue in a successful relief operation led by General Sir Charles Gough. 

The Cantonment is now maintained as a British war cemetery.

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