|Colonel Frederick Rowcroft of the 4th Battalion,
The Gurkha Rifles.
The image shows evidence of being taken by an
itinerant photographer. The card mount is
completely unmarked except for two different
pencil inscriptions identifying the sitter. The card
mount is also very thin - almost paper itself. The
backdrop is a simple piece of canvas with an old
carpet or mat on the floor. The typical studio chair
and table offer the only hint of a professional
He seems to be wearing some sort of personal
variation khaki undress uniform. His tunic or
frock actually appears to be of a pull over variety
worn over a shirt.
Carte de Visite
(6 x 9.5 cm)
Unknown Date c. 1870's
Possible Indian or Afghan Location
You may guess what the cold was here when I kept
pigeons that I had shot hanging 35 days (without
cleaning them) and they were then perfectly fresh.
The whole scene is dark and gloomy, the country
soaked in rain is one sea of mud and slush. Oh!
How I should like to pay off these vile accursed
Afghans, foul race of bloody minded and
treacherous fiends for their deeds of 1841-42.
Our people here were simply besotted. They had
lost all the attributes and characteristics of
Englishmen. They seemed to have gone stark mad!
Camp valley of Maidan,
Monday April 19, 1880
It is a lovely fresh morning, cloudy and sunny over the dark mountain ranges in shadow. The glorious snow peaks
The valley is green with cultivation and dotted over thickly with strong-walled villages fringed with willow and mulberry
trees. The larks are singing cheerily as in England and all looks peaceful.
Cavalry trumpets are ringing out "boot and saddle". There is a strong cavalry reconnaissance now going off up the Ghazni
road on the forces of those foul brutes, Mahomed Hassan and Mahomed Jan. Some 7,000-strong with several guns, they are
gathered at a point some five to six miles off. We expect to have a fight tomorrow.
The inhabitants of this valley are a particularly bad lot. I only hope we collar their guns and capture Mahomed Hassan and
These two brutal scoundrels have been guilty of great cruelties to the Hazaras. I have not the least doubt in my own mind
that if we caught them and handed them over to the Hazaras they would soothe themselves by skinning the two brutes alive.
I must try and pick up some little curiosity for Mrs Forbes if I live to return to Kabul in the way of Bokhara silk or
Tuesday May 25 1880
On the 21st April Sunday it was, I had a fight (a stiffish one too) all to myself with the "Wurdaks" and Ghilzais. This is
how it was.
On Sunday morning the hills out of camp were occupied by scattered groups of the enemy and soon a body of them, some
700, occupied a succession of rocky points on a high ridge not more than three miles from camp.
Well this was not to be stood, so the general ordered me to go and drive them out of that. My force consisted of four
companies of my own regiment, two companies 9th Foot, and two guns of the Hazara mountain battery and one troop 3rd
Bengal Cavalry. In all some 500 men of whom 400 only were infantry.
I left camp at 11am and in about half an hour got within range of the enemy who had thrown up stone works ("sangahs").
They at once opened on me a heavy fire but I got my column round a hill to my left; kept them under cover of the ridge and
at once got my two guns into action on the crest.
The enemy lined the sangahs and waved their standards flashing their swords and yelling like fiends.
Between them and us was a steep descent and a narrow valley. The two guns opened with shell and shrapnel at 1,100 yards.
It was delightful and soothing to one's feelings to see the shells burst slap in the middle of them scattering them at once.
They at once took cover and blazed away at us. After a few rounds I determined to go at them with the Britishers and
I left the guns in position to cover our advance which they did beautifully shelling the enemy's position over our heads.
How the enemy blazed away but we were in extended order and the splendid practice of the guns unsteadied them.
The 9th and the Gurkhas breasted the hill in first-rate style and then rushed it. The shells flying over us till we were within
300 yards or less of the enemy who then cleared out and fell back to a similar but stronger position.
We immediately lined the crest, our men lying down and opened a very hot and effective fire upon them. I had ordered the
guns, as soon as they saw us lining the ridge, to limber up and join us.
They came into action again doing excellent work. The enemy were now to our front, left and to our right, holding strong
sangahs on very steep precipitous rocky ridges.
We advanced under an infernal fire from both sides and drove the enemy off slap.
This process was repeated three times again till they took up their last and very strong position. They had already lost a lot
of men. We hardly had any casualties but from their last position they kept up a devil of a fire.
I got the guns into a good position and getting every available rifle to bear on them with shrapnel and rifles we opened such
a hot and deadly fire that they dare not show their heads. So their firing was most wild and inaccurate.
I ordered the advance again and then, taking advantage of the lull, the enemy fired a volley and bolted. They streamed up a
hill side in full view of us.
But my men were deadbeat, it was very hot and the hills awfully steep. Then commenced the most infernal fire you ever
heard from us.
The roar of the guns and bursting shells and a ceaseless role of musketry echoed from hill to hill. The enemy were between
400 and 450 yards off and they fell freely.
A largish body of them descended partly to their right. At once a company of my gallant little Gurkhas rushed down a
ravine that skirted the hill and intercepted some of these men and killed 16.
By Jove it was very exciting but thank God I kept perfectly cool and clear headed. All behaved splendidly. There were
certainly some 70 dead, besides those carried off, and about 180 to 200 wounded. We had just one Gurkha killed and five
In the midst of all the excitement and fascination of the fighting I could not help admiring the lovely scene, and noting it. I
never saw anything like the wonderful eagerness of our little Gurkhas in a fight. Literally you see the "light of battle" in
their round eager little faces!!!
On the march back to Kabul we heard the horrible news of Gladstone being made Prime Minister! I climbed down off my
noble war steed and lay down by the side of the road and was quite sick! I have not been myself since!
Sherpur Cantonment, Kabul
Tuesday June 1 1880
We are on the warpath again. We go out in a very few days towards Istaliff on the slopes of the "Koh-i-Daman" upon my
Davy! It looks as if they wanted to set up a row!
For the Kohistanees are most bumptious and ready for fight and will never brook our presence without a "goin" at us.
Well, I hope we take the "durned conceit" out of them! They are a "yagee" lot and want a good licking.
But as you know old Forks I am getting very tired of all this! I am tired of being always belted and booted and armed! And
my heavy helmet and bronze chin strap stir up my wrath.
I hate the sight of my old frayed, rapidly wearing out uniform, and my heavy ammunition boots unlovely to look upon.
I long with an unutterable longing for a little civilisation, privacy and peaceful quiet life. Two years of this sort of life
begins to pall on me and the constant living with the chance of a violent death either in action or by of the knife or bullet of
"Karez Meer", Kohistan
Monday June 28, 1880
My dear old Forky,
Here we are 15 miles from the "Istaliff" near the Pughman valley.
All the horses are hanging their heads from the heat and look languid as they lazily whisk off the flies with their tails. But
as I write 12 o'clock strikes and the cavalry trumpets ring out the "feeding" call.
Every horse of the 850 cocks his ears and they and the mountain battery mules neigh out all together for they know that
My soul longs for some claret or hock or champagne or better still good home-brewed bitter English ale, poured out of a
brown jug, Forky!
I say Forky old man, if I live through this business and see it out and get home to old England once more.
If I come down to your bungalow in Dorset I ask for no better dinner than a roasted loin or leg of pork and a treacle
roly-poly pudding, and home brewed bitter beer. Oh for a clean wholesome English dinner!
I was very honourably mentioned in despatches for my action of Saidabad on the 25th April.
Sunday July 25, 1880
The very day after I last wrote to you we had a flare up with some of the Mir Buchas forces at Sohpian.
It was a very pretty fight. It was a beautiful day. All the Valley and the wooded villages and orchards lay bathed in a bright
The blue smoke from the bursting shells curled up out of the dark woods. In front of us all was hustle and excitement. The
crackle of musketry and the roar of guns and bursting shells.
Behind us, literally just a few hundred yards off all was peace and quiet! The reapers were cutting the ripe golden corn and
hundreds of women and girls and little children were gleaning in the fields, larks carolled merrily overhead in the bright
The people here don't fear of us. This speaks volumes for the good behaviour of our soldiers!
One of the most pleasing recollections of this campaign will be the splendid behaviour, the humanity and self-denial of our
soldiers British and native.
Camp Killa Dushman, Eight miles from Kabul
Tuesday July 27 1880
When this reaches you I fancy you will be out on the moors after the grouse! Happy Forky!
The present idea is that we evacuate Kabul by 15th August but probably an entire division or more will remain at
Gundamak six marches from Kabul.
If all goes well then the force will move down to Peshawar reaching it about latter end of September but I can't help
thinking our worthy government of poops and old women in dealing with Abdur Rahman have reckoned entirely without
This place is only eight miles from Kabul separated from it by a rugged chain of hills crossed by it the Paiminar Kotul
descending into the Behmaroo plain.
Give my very kind just warm embraces to Mrs Forks, I hope she and all the youngsters are well. I hope to hear from you
again soon. Goodbye old Forky.
|As mentioned previously, after leaving Afghanistan, Rowcroft would assume command of a Indian infantry regiment before
returning to England in 1883. He died that same year at his home in Brighton.