The Story of the Malakand Field Force
Century People


About - The Story of the Malakand Field Force
Language - English
Published -


"According to the fair play of the world,

Let me have an audience."

"King John," Act v., Sc. 2.

On general grounds I deprecate prefaces. I have always thought that if an author cannot make friends with the reader, and explain his objects, in two or three hundred pages, he is not likely to do so in fifty lines. And yet the temptation of speaking a few words behind the scenes, as it were, is so strong that few writers are able to resist it. I shall not try.

While I was attached to the Malakand Field Force I wrote a series of letters for the London Daily Telegraph. The favourable manner in which these letters were received, encouraged me to attempt a more substantial work. This volume is the result.

The original letters have been broken up, and I have freely availed myself of all passages, phrases, and facts, that seemed appropriate. The views they contained have not been altered, though several opinions and expressions, which seemed mild in the invigorating atmosphere of a camp, have been modified, to suit the more temperate climate of peace.

I have to thank many gallant officers for the assistance they have given me in the collection of material. They have all asked me not to mention their names, but to accede to this request would be to rob the story of the Malakand Field Force of all its bravest deeds and finest characters.

The book does not pretend to deal with the complications of the frontier question, nor to present a complete summary of its phases and features. In the opening chapter I have tried to describe the general character of the numerous and powerful tribes of the Indian Frontier. In the last chapter I have attempted to apply the intelligence of a plain man to the vast mass of expert evidence, which on this subject is so great that it baffles memory and exhausts patience. The rest is narrative, and in it I have only desired to show the reader what it looked like.

As I have not been able to describe in the text all the instances of conduct and courage which occurred, I have included in an appendix the official despatches.

The impartial critic will at least admit that I have not insulted the British public by writing a party pamphlet on a great Imperial question. I have recorded the facts as they occurred, and the impressions as they arose, without attempting to make a case against any person or any policy. Indeed, I fear that assailing none, I may have offended all. Neutrality may degenerate into an ignominious isolation. An honest and unprejudiced attempt to discern the truth is my sole defence, as the good opinion of the reader has been throughout my chief aspiration, and can be in the end my only support.

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