This book is the outcome of my own experience of the want of something of the kind in the early autumn of 1897, when the Second Battalion of my old Corps, the Sherwood Foresters, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment, then serving at Bareilly, was ordered to join the Tirah Expeditionary Force. The Battalion had then been in India for nearly fifteen years, but only one or two of the officers, and none of the other ranks, had ever been west of the Indus, and few of us therefore knew anything of the wild men against whom we were to fight, or of the equally wild country in which the operations were to be conducted.
The fault for such ignorance cannot fairly be said to have been ours. There was at that time no single book, generally procurable and of an up-to-date character, describing the country immediately beyond the North-West border, the men who inhabited it, and the campaigns which, since the decline of the Sikh power, have there become our natural and our troublous inheritance. Paget and Mason’s monumental work, Expeditions against the North-West Frontier Tribes, published in 1885, was wholly admirable, but much of it was ancient history; it was an enormous volume; it had for long been “confidential,” and had never been placed on general sale. Mr. Oliver’s most fascinating book, Across the Border, or Pathan and Biluch, had been published in 1890, but it contained little more than a general mention of certain campaigns. It was therefore almost inevitable that British officers—and especially those serving in India in British regiments—had no idea where, in regard to the Frontier, they could draw their knowledge or inspiration.
Even in the present day matters have not greatly improved. The cream has been drawn from Paget and Mason’s book, it has been brought up-to-date, and re-christened Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India; but the material is now contained in several large volumes, of which seven have already appeared, and it does not seem to be intended that these should be generally available, since each is labelled “For Official Use only.”
It seemed then to me that there was room for a single volume, compiled from official and other sources, describing the more turbulent of the tribes beyond our Border, the countries they inhabit, and the campaigns which the Indian Government has undertaken against them during the last sixty-five years; and up to the time of completing the chapters which follow, I believe this to have been the first attempt which has been made to put such a record before the Army in one handy volume.