How some command decisions of the First Anglo-Sikh War were taken…. In Flashman’s words IX

And going with Flashman’s account of the Battle of Ferozeshah (Dec 21-22, 1845), – this passage does not strictly deal with command decisions, but is a marvellously evocative and colourful piece of writing  that conveys not only the unspeakable horrors of war, but how the British registered a spate of spectacular victories in war, often against the greatest odds imaginable, throughout the 1800s….. intrepid and fast-thinking commanders (no, not Sorr Hinry…I beg your pardon, Sir Henry, I mean, or even Sir Hugh)

But before I begin, I must add a bit of background between the British army’s first and second taking of Ferozeshah.

~~ Oh, aye, and Lumley, the Adjutant General, went of his rocker and ran about telling everyone we must retire on Ferozepore. Luckily no one minded him.

And now, I’ll get back and again hand over the narration to Flashman….

~~~~ I had one night’s sleep out of eight, counting from the first I had gallopin (hmm, anyway); then there’d been my Khalsa frolic, the Sutlej crossing, the ride from Lal and Tej to Ferozepore, the vigil as we listened to distant Moodkee, uneasy slumber after Broadfoot had given me his bad news, the freezing march to Misreewallah, and finally, the first night of Ferozeshah. Oh, I was luckier than many, but I was beat all to nothing – and now it was past, and I was safe, and could lurch from my stool and fall face-down on the charpoy, dead to the world.

Now, when I’m dog-tired with shock, I have nightmares worthy of cheese and lobster, but this one laid it over them all, for I fell slowly through the charpoy, into a bath of warm water, and when I rolled over I was staring up at a ceiling painting of Gough and Hardinge and Broadfoot, all figged out like Persian princes, having dinner with Mrs Madison, who tilted her glass and poured oil all over me, which made me so slippery, that I couldn’t hope to transfer the whole Soochet legacy, coin by coin, to Queen Ranavaloona as she pinned me down on a red-hot billiard table. Then she began to pummel and shake me, and I knew she was trying to make me get up because Gough wanted me, and when I said I couldn’t, because of my ankle, the late lamented dr Arnold, wearing a great tartan puggaree, came by on an elephant, crying he would take me, for the Chief needed a Greek translation of Crotchet Castle instanter, and if I didn’t take it to Tej Singh, Elspeth would commit suttee. Then I was following him, floating across a great dusty plain, ad the smell of burning was everywhere, and filthy ash was falling like snow, and there were terrible bearded faces of dead men, smeared with blood, and corpses all about us, with ghastly wounds from which their entrails spilled out on earth that was sodden crimson, and there were great cannon lying on their sides or tumbled into pits, and everywhere the charred wreckage of tents and carts and huts, some of them still in flames.

There was a mighty tumult, too, a great cannonading, and the shriek and crach of shot striking home, the rattle of musketry, and bugles blowing. There were voices yelling on all sides, in a great confusion of orders: “By sections, right – walk-march, trot!” and “Battalion, halt! Into line – left turn!” and “Troop Seven – left incline, forward!” But Arnold wouldn’t stop, though I shouted to him, and I couldn’t see where the troops were, for the horse I was riding was going too fast, an,d the sun was in my eyes. I raised my left hand to shield them, but the sun’s rays burned more fiercely than ever, causing me such pain that I cried out, for it was burning a whole in my palm, and I clutched at Arnold with my other hand – and suddenly he was Mad Charley West, gripping me round the shoulders and yelling me to hold on, and my left hand was pumping blood from a ragged hole near the thumb, causing excruciating agony, and all hell was loose around me.

That was the moment I realised that I wasn’t dreaming….

To be continued….


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