In the middle of March of the present year, people in England were suddenly made aware that grave trouble had arisen upon the northern frontier of India ; that the representative of the British Government was besieged in the heart of a mountainous country, hundreds of miles from the nearest support; and that operations on a large scale were contemplated by the Government of India to effect his release, and restore British prestige. Some account of how this trouble arose is required to enable readers of this brief narrative, of the brilliant exploits by which the honour of the British name was saved, and British officers were rescued from an untimely end, to understand the reasons for and the results of this successful campaign.

India is bounded on the north by successive ranges of mountains of great height, and among these mountains is the State of Chitral, a country somewhat larger than Wales, and supporting a population of 70,000 or 80,000 rough, hardy hill- men. Both the capital and the state itself are called Chitral, and the principal place, where is the fort of Chitral, is situated at a distance of about forty-seven miles from the main water-shed of the range of the Hindu Kush, which divides the waters flowing down to India from those which take their way into the Oxus, and on to Turkestan and Central Asia. Chitral is an important state, because of its situation at the extremity of the country over which the Government of India exerts its influence, and for some years past, it had been the object of the policy of the Government of India, to control the external affairs of Chitral, in a direction friendly to our interests ; to secure an effective guardianship over its northern passes ; and to keep watch over what goes on beyond those passes. With these objects in view. Major Biddulph was sent to the country in 1877, and the first attempt to enter into relations with the Ruler or Mehtar of the country was made. No very definite arrangement was come to at this time, but in 1885, when war between Russia and England was imminent. Lord Dufferin, despatched the present Sir William Lockhart at the head of an important mission to enter into more definite and complete relations with the Mehtar, and to report upon the defences of the country. Colonel Lockhart spent more than a year in Chitral and the neighbouring states on the north, as well as on the south side of the Hindu Kush range, and from that time to this the relations of the Government of India with the Rulers of Chitral have been of a close and intimate nature. At this time Chitral was governed by old Aman-ul-Mulk, a strong, astute ruler, who, by the force of his character, by intriguing, murdering those of his rivals whom he could ensnare with his wiles, and by fighting the remainder, had consolidated a number of small states, incessantly at warfare with one another, into the Chitral of the present year. Under his firm rule, the country was held together, and, so long as he lived, no one dared to rise against him, or dispute his authority. But he had seventeen sons, and those who knew the customs of Mohammedan countries foresaw that, on his death, these must in- fallibly commence a fratricidal struggle for the throne.

At the end of August 1892, old Aman-ul-Mulk died, and the long-expected scramble for the Mehtarship immediately commenced. Of the seventeen sons, there were two who by reason of the rank of their mother, were regarded as having the strongest claims to the Mehtarship. These two youths had been invited down to India on a visit to the Viceroy some years before, and they were in receipt of small subsidies from the Government of India. Nizam-ul-Mulk was the name of the elder, and the younger was named Afzul-ul-Mulk. At the time of the old M eh tar's death, the second son happened to be in Chitral, while his elder brother was away in Yasin, i6o miles distant, carrying out his duties as Governor of that out-lying province. Afzul-ul-Mulk immediately seized the arms and treasure in the fort, attached a large following to himself, for he was decidedly the more popular of the two brothers, and then proceeded to murder all those of his other brothers, who, in spite of their lower birth, might certainly be expected to make a bid for the throne. He killed a number of these, and then set off with an army to fight his elder brother, Nizam-ul-Mulk, in Yasin. Afzul was a bold and daring leader, while Nizam was never noted for his courage, and had none of his brother s personal popularity. He was therefore only able to make a very feeble show of resistance, and he then fled to Gilgit, to the head-quarters of the political agent, and of the troops stationed there for the protection of this part of the Indian frontier, to seek refuge under British authority. Afzul-ul-Mulk returned to his capital elated and triumphant. He was recognised by all his people as the Mehtar of the country, and the Government of India, in accordance with their principle of recognising as ruler the man whom the people themselves chose, proceeded to congratulate him upon his accession to the throne of Chitral. The anticipated troubles seemed to have come to an end in the space of a very few weeks, and there appeared to be nobody now to oppose Afzul-ul-Mulk s rule. The British Government saw seated on the throne of this important state a man for whom British officers who had met him had considerable admiration, and a man who, having visited India, and become acquainted with our real strength and resources, and who was believed to be loyally attached to the alliance with the British Government, was likely to prove an almost model ruler for the country.

Everything then seemed to have settled down satisfactorily ; but Afzul-ul-Mulk had only just received the recognition of the Government of India, he had not been two months on the throne, when absolutely without warning, and suddenly as the fall of a thunder- bolt, appeared one upon the scene who, in the space of a single night, upset all these dreams of peace. Afzul- ul-Mulk had by one means and another ridded himself of those of his brothers who were likely to cause him trouble. He was reasonably safe as regards brothers, but there was an uncle who had been overlooked. This was Sher Afzul, who many years before had struggled for the throne with the old Mehtar, but who had long since been driven from the country, and forced to live in exile in Afghan territory. This prince suddenly appeared before the walls of the Chitral fort. He had successfully intrigued with a number of men in Chitral who were inimical to Afzul-ul-Mulk, and so secured an entrance to the country. The fort of Chitral is situated only forty-seven miles distant from the pass into Badakhshan, over which Sher Afzul advanced, and he had ridden rapidly in with a hundred or more of horsemen, collected a few followers on the way, killed the Governor of the valley through which he passed, and in the dead of night appeared before the walls of Chitral itself. Success or failure now turned upon the action of a few hours. If he could gain an entrance to the fort, and hold it, he would secure the throne for himself ; but if he were held at bay for even that one night, he could only expect to- be swamped in the morning by the undoubtedly strong following of Afzul-ul-Mulk. Sher Afzul was making a bold and daring move, and fortune favoured his audacity. Afzul-ul-Mulk, hearing from the inside of the fort the clamouring at the gate as Sher Afzul appeared, rushed out to ascertain what was the matter. In so doing he exposed himself, was shot down, and died almost immediately. And now, one king being dead, the Chitralis, with that versatility of temperament so characteristic of them, immediately proceeded to recognise as their ruler the man who had killed him. In no other country is the principle, so dear to the heart of the British Government, of recognising the de facto ruler, more fully acted upon than in Chitral. There was now no attempt to turn the invader out of the country, and no one waited to call in from Gilgit the eldest son of their old ruler. The Chitralis simply recognised as their chief the man who was the last to say he intended to rule them. Sher Afzul was to be their Mehtar. They believed all the promises so utterly incapable of fulfilment which he made to them, and Sher Afzul, having now seized the rifles, ammunition, and treasure which had before been taken possession of by Afzul-ul-Mulk, assumed the reins of government, and by promising houses, lands, and fair wives to every one who asked for them, and by liberal gifts of money, speedily made himself the popular idol of the people. But his lease of power was a short one. While these events were occurring, Nizam-ul-Mulk, the eldest son of the old M eh tar, had been living quietly at Gilgit, enjoying a daily allowance from the British Government. He had seen his younger brother succeed to the throne, and recognised as Mehtar by the Government of India, and his fortunes for the time seemed at their lowest ebb, but in these turbulent countries, where the wheel of fortune turns so rapidly, no claimant to a throne need despair, however remote his chances of succeeding may seem for the time. And now Nizam-ul-Mulk, hearing of the death of his younger brother, at once plucked up courage to make an attempt to gain the throne of Chitral. He wrote to Colonel Durand, the British agent at Gilgit, asking him for his support, and saying that, should he become Mehtar, he would agree to British officers being stationed in Chitral^ and to the establfshment of a telegraph line, and would carry out all the wishes of Government. Nizam also signified his intention of moving against Sher Afzul ; and having come to Gilgit of his own accord, and being there as our guest and not under detention. Colonel Durand was unable to refuse him permission to leave Gilgit, and accordingly allowed him to go, while he despatched 250 rifles, 2 guns and lOO levies, into the province of Yasin, in order to strengthen his own position, in the event of its becoming necessary to treat with Sher Afzul, and to preserve order in the western part of the Gilgit district and in Yasin.

Nizam-ul-Mulk on crossing the frontier, was joined by a large number of men from the upper valleys of Chitral, with whom he had been brought up as a youth, and who were always much attached to him. A force of 1,200 men, which Sher Afzul sent to oppose him, also went over to him, and he immediately marched on Mastuj, which he occu- pied without difficulty. Drasan fell into his hands on the I St of December, and Sher Afzul, seeing the game was up, fled as rapidly as he had appeared, back into Afghan territory ; where he remained, till at the commencement of the present year he again appeared upon the scene to set the whole of Chitral once more in a ferment.

Nizam-ul-Mulk felt that his success had been very largely due to the countenance which had been given him by the British authorities, and his first act on ascending the throne was to ask that a British officer might be sent to remain by his side. The Government of India directed that a mission under the charge of Surgeon-Major Robertson, and which consisted of Lieutenant The Honourable C. G. Bruce, Lieutenant J. H. Gordon, and myself, with fifty men of the 15th Sikhs should be deputed to proceed to Chitral to congratulate the new M eh tar on his succession, and to promise him the same subsidy and support as were given to his late father. In the middle of January 1893, we crossed the Shandur Pass, 12,400 feet high, since rendered famous by the march of Colonel Kelly's column over it, and, in spite of the severity of the weather and the extreme cold, reached Chitral without mishap on the 25th of January. Here the mission remained till May, giving to the Mehtar, that support which he so much required in the consolidation of his rule. Dr. Robertson and Lieutenant Bruce returned to Gilgit at the end of May, while Lieutenant Gordon and myself, with the whole of the escort, remained on in Chitral. As the months went by, the Mehtar gradually strengthened his position, and at the end of September, we were able to withdraw to Mastuj, a place sixty-five miles nearer Gilgit, which the Government of India desired should in future be the headquarters of the political agent. During the following year, no event of importance occurred upon this frontier, though the restless Pathan chief, Umra Khan, the Mehtars neighbour on the south, was constantly causing trouble by attack- ing the villages considered by the Mehtar to belong to Chitral. In the autumn of last year the Honourable George Curzon, M.P., the present Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, entered Chitral territory from the direction of the Pamirs. He and I rode down together to the Mehtars capital, and were received by him with every mark of hospitality. We had long conversations together, we dined with him and he with us, and we played polo together ; and when on the nth of October we rode away from Chitral, no one would have supposed it possible that in a few months' time the country, which then seemed so quiet, should be the scene of the bloody conflict which raged there in the first months of the present year. Nizam-ul-Mulk was by no means a pattern ruler, but, though deficient in courage, and unpopular with many of his people on account of his avaricious habits, was in many respects a good ruler, and he was certainly a firm ally of the British Government. He had been to India, had mixed with British officers, and had suffered adversity. At the same time he had no wild ambitions to lead him astray. His ruling passion was love of sport ; and as long as he had the support of the Government of India to guard him from outside troubles, he felt that he could indulge his inclinations in that respect to his heart's content. The result, both to ourselves and to the Chitralis, was certainly satisfactory. The Chitralis were free from any gross oppression or misgovernment, they could enjoy life in their easy-going way as they would wish, and they could be ruled by their own ruler. At the same time, we had never to fear that the Mehtar would not be guided by us in any matter relating to his external affairs.

When, therefore, on the first day of January of the present year Nizam-ul-Mulk was shot dead while out hawking, by the directions of his half-brother, Amir- ul-Mulk, a characterless youth of about nineteen, every one who knew the country felt that a grave misfortune had occurred. At a stroke this miserable boy was able to sweep away the good results of two years’ careful thought on the part of the Government and of their local officers, and to transform a peaceful state into the scene of a desperate struggle. The youth who had shattered the promising fabric, which had slowly been set up, was a son of the old Mehtar by one of his four legitimate wives, and Nizam-ul-Mulk would have liked to have murdered him, knowing that if he did not do so he ran the risk of himself being murdered by the youth. But knowing how averse the British authorities were to these murders he had refrained from carrying out what he knew to be a prudent measure of self-defence, and he had now suffered for his leniency and his loyalty to the wishes of his allies.

At the time of this unfortunate occurrence, Lieutenant B. Gurdon, who had succeeded me a few weeks before in the political charge of Chitral, was on a visit to the capital with an escort of eight Sikhs: the remainder of his escort of l00 men being posted at Mastuj, sixty-five miles north-east of Chitral. Amir-ul-Mulk immediately sent a deputation to him asking to be recognised as Mehtar ; and it is significant of the prestige and authority which we then enjoyed, that a reckless youth, in the very excitement of his impetuous action, should have come cringing in to a young British officer with only eight native soldiers at his back, asking for his countenance and support. Lieutenant Gurdon told him that he could merely refer the matter to the Government of India and await their orders. This Lieutenant Gurdon now did, but it may be imagined that his position at this time was one of considerable anxiety which required all the tact and coolness which he now proved himself to possess. He had at once sent for a reinforcement of fifty Sikhs from his escort at Mastuj, and these reached him on the 8th ; and that they were able to do so, and were not hindered or molested on the way, is another sign that at that time there was no defined spirit of hostility to the British.

In anticipation of trouble, however, lOo men were sent to reinforce Mastuj, 200 men were marched to Ghizer, and in the middle of January Surgeon- Major Robertson, the British agent at Gilgit, started for Chitral to report on the situation. Mr. Robertson arrived in Chitral at the end of January, and afforded timely relief to Mr. Gurdon, who, in the meantime had, in the words of the despatch of the Government of India on the subject, acted with admirable coolness and judgment, occupying a house in an excellent position for defence, if necessary, and quietly laying in supplies in case of trouble. Meanwhile Umra Khan, chief of the Jandul State, immediately bordering Chitral on the Photo A. Esmi Collings, IV. Brighton. south, had taken the opportunity which the troubles which were occurring in Chitral afforded to invade the country, ostensibly with the object of sup- porting Amir-ul-Mulk, but with the real intention of annexing it to his own dominions. This enterprising chief was the son of the ruler of the little Pathan state of Jandul, who, on the death of his father in 1879, had made an attempt to seize the throne from his eldest brother, but not being successful had prudently retired on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Having plucked up heart again two years later, he murdered his brother, seized the throne, and then commenced a series of wars against his neighbours, which only culminated in the disasters of the present year. Valley after valley he annexed to his country. Scarcely a month passed by without a fight, and with each success his ambitions only grew wider and stronger. His, indeed, was one of those un- controllable spirits which feed upon high adventure, and tire of nought but rest. He now thought he saw his opportunity of acquiring the more important and larger state of Chitral. He had dreamed one night that this should be his, and, to the excitable imagination of an Oriental, it seemed that his dream was a prophetic inspiration from on high. He was, undoubtedly, an accomplice with Amir-ul-Mulk in the murder of the late Mehtar ; but it is not so certain whether he had done more than give that youth a general assurance that if he would murder the Mehtar he should be supported. Umra Khan at the time of Nizam's murder was preparing for an expedition elsewhere, and, had he been in direct communication with Amir-ul-Mulk as to the precise time of the murder, it is questionable whether he would have chosen the season of the year when the high pass between his own and Chitral territory was blocked with snow. However, seeing that the murder had occurred, and knowing that all the leading men in Chitral had previously been made away with, that the country had now no leaders, and must of necessity be split up into a number of op- posing factions, he, without a moment's hesitation, seized the opportunity, and in spite of the heavy snow on the pass, 10,000 feet in height, which separated him from Chitral, marched with 3,000 men into that country.

The Chitralis at first opposed this Pathan force. They had always looked upon the Pathans as their hereditary enemies, and had on many previous occasions resisted invasions by them. Had they now had any leader to keep them together, and to encourage them, the Chitralis would have been able to repulse the invaders. Could the British have supported them in their resistance, as Lieutenant Gurdon did with a few men in one of the preliminary skirmishes, they would have gained heart, and, with the spirit which they are capable of showing when once they are fairly aroused, would have beaten back Umra Khan s men ; but Amir-ul-Mulk, their would-be leader, was incapable of exercising authority. He had not been recognised by the British officers as Mehtar, and it was doubtful whether he ever would be ; and his hope lay therefore more with Umra Khan than with the British, and the British officers were unable to support the Chitralis in a quarrel of their own with this neighbouring chief without the direct instructions of their Government. The resistance of the Chitralis therefore collapsed, Umra Khan succeeded in capturing Kila Drosh, the principal fort on the southern frontier of Chitral, and this he immediately commenced to strengthen, so as to form of it a firm ** pied-a-terre " on Chitral territory ; and now, just as affairs had taken this unfavourable turn, just when the Chitralis were divided and leaderless, when their country had an invader in its midst, once more appears upon the scene that evil spirit of Chitral and persevering aspirant for its throne, Sher Afzul, the prince who a little more than two years before had killed one Mehtar, ruled the country for a month, and then been ousted by the elder brother, and who now, after a further sojourn of two years in Afghan territory, in a confinement which the Amir of Cabul had most solemnly declared to the Government of India would be permanent, so that he might never again be allowed to disturb the peace of Chitral, was now allowed to escape from Afghan territory — and men do not escape from the hands of the Amir of Cabul without the knowledge of that ruler — and joined Umra Khan at Drosh in the latter half of February.

Mr. Robertson did not receive reliable information of his arrival in Chitral territory until the 24th of February, when he at once entered into communication with him. On the 27th of February, Mr. Robertson received from Sher Afzul a demand that he should go back to Mastuj at once. Sher Afzul promised to be friends with the Government on the same terms as previous M eh tars of Chitral, that is to say, that he was to receive subsidies from the Government, but that no British officer should reside in the country. But his promise was coupled with the threat that if his terms were not accepted, Umra Khan would at once advance. The two princes had, in fact, made an alliance, the basis of which was really hostility to the British Government. They were to induce or force the British officers from Chitral territory, and after that had been effected, they could then decide who should rule the country, one thing only being certain, that whoever should be the nominal Mehtar, Umra Khan would be the ruler practically. Mr. Robert- son replied to Sher Afzul that the Maharajah of Kashmir was the Suzerain of Chitral, and that neither Umra Khan nor any one else could impose a Mehtar on Chitral without the permission of the Government ; he added that Sher Afzul was wanting in respect to the Government of India, that he was informing the Government of Sher Afzul’s demands, and would communicate their instructions to him, and that if in the meantime he attempted any overt acts of hostility, he must take the consequences on his own head.

At the end of February, the Chitralis were still holding a position a dozen miles below Chitral, and Umra Khan was rapidly completing his preparations for the defence of Kila Drosh against an attack from the Chitralis, which he believed to be imminent. A few Chitralis of the lower class had gone over to Sher Afzul, but the principal men, though suspected of being partisans of Sher Afzul, did not openly defect. They suddenly, how- ever, changed their minds and went over in a body to Sher Afzul ; in that versatile and impulsive way so characteristic of them, they turned completely round, and, in place of joining the British and opposing Umra Khan, they now, thinking that Umra Khan was the stronger, being the nearer power, and that the British were the weaker, be- cause the more distant, joined the Pathan chief and came surging on in a wave towards the fort of Chitral, which Mr. Robertson, with the escort of 400 men, which he had brought with him, had now occupied. Amir-ul-Mulk had been deposed . and was now under the custody of the British officers, and Mr. Robertson had formally recognised Shuja- ul-Mulk, an intelligent, trustworthy little boy, nine or ten years old, as provisional Mehtar of Chitral, pending the orders of the Government of India. On the 3rd of March, the combined Chitrali and Pathan forces appeared before Chitral, an action took place in which one British officer was mortally wounded,. and another severely wounded, in which a General and a Major and twenty-one non-com- missioned officers and sepoys of the Kashmir Infantry were killed, and twenty-eight wounded. The British force was then shut up within the walls of the fort, and no further news of them reached the Government of India for many weeks to come.

Information of the serious turn which affairs had taken in Chitral was received by the Government on the 7th of March, and they immediately decided that preliminary arrangements should be undertaken, in order to be prepared if necessary to operate against Umra Khan from the direction of Peshawur. It was believed that the garrison in the Chitral fort could resist an attack from Umra Khan and Sher Afzuls forces, and hold out as long as their ammunition and supplies lasted ; but as communications were all interrupted, and as retreat was cut off, it appeared imperative that no effort should be spared to effect their relief by the end of April, if the investment was not otherwise removed before that date. On the 14th of March, in order that Umra Khan might have distinct notice of the decision to which the Government of India had thus come, a final letter of warning was sent to him recounting the various warnings given to him against interfering with Chitral affairs, mentioning his various acts of aggression, directing him to at once quit Chitral territory, and telling him that if by the 1st of April he had not withdrawn, the Government of India would compel him to do so. The letter went on to say that the Government were making fresh preparations to send forward their forces for that purpose, and that he would only have himself to blame for any evil results that might fall upon him. At the same time a proclamation in the following terms was issued :

To all the people of Swat and the people in Bajaur who do not side with Umra Khan,
Be it known to you, and any other persons concerned, that —
Umra Khan, the Chief of Jandul, in spite of his often repeated assurances of friendship to the British Government, and regardless of frequent warnings to refrain from interfering with the affairs of Chitral, which is a protected state under the suzerainty of Kashmir, has forcibly entered the Chitral valley, and attacked the Chitrali people.
The Government of India have now given Umra Khan full warning that, unless he retires from Chitral by the ist of April, corresponding with the 5th day of Shawal 13 12 H., they will use force to compel him to do so. In order to carry out this purpose, they have arranged to assemble on the Peshawur border a force of sufficient strength to overcome all resistance, and to march this force through Umra Khan's territory toward Chitral.
The sole object of the Government of India is to put an end to the present, and prevent any future, unlawful aggression on Chitral territory ; and as soon as this object has been attained, the force will be withdrawn.
The Government of India have no intention of permanently occupying any territory through which Umra Khan's misconduct may now force them to pass, or of interfering with the independence of the tribes ; and they will scrupulously avoid any acts of hostility towards the tribesmen so long as they on their part refrain from attacking or impeding in any way the march of the troops. Supplies and transports will be paid for, and all persons are at liberty to pursue their ordinary avocations in perfect security.
Orders were also now issued for the mobilisation of the 1st Division of the Field Army under Major- General Sir Robert Low.

While preparations were in progress of this force, news reached the Government of India of the disaster to a detachment of troops under Captain Ross on their way to Chitral, when Captain Ross had himself been killed, his Lieutenant Jones been wounded, and fifty-six men killed out of a total of seventy-one ; another detachment under Lieutenants Edwardes and Fowler was also known to be surrounded ; and finally communication with the supporting post of Mastuj was severed. This intelligence materially altered the situation again. It was now known to the Government of India that before they had taken the action described above, Umra Khan and Sher Afzul had actually waged war upon British Indian and Kashmir troops.

The necessity for relieving the little garrison in Chitral was more imminent than had been supposed, while the reason for giving Umra Khan a period of grace within which he might withdraw from Chitral had now disappeared. Colonel Kelly, commanding the 32nd Pioneers, the senior military officer in the Gilgit district, was placed in command of the operations in the Gilgit district. His orders permitted him to make such dispositions and movements as he might think best, provided he undertook no operations which did not offer reasonable prospects of success; It was, however, felt that the relief of Chitral from the side of Gilgit was probably impossible. Gilgit is 220 miles from Chitral, and at this season of the year was cut off from all support from India, bypasses 13,000 feet in height, which were now covered deep in snow, and which would not become available for the passage of troops till June. On the other hand, the road from Peshawur to Chitral was less than 200 miles in length, and on it there was only one pass of 10,000 feet which would still have snow upon it. This pass was not altogether impracticable for an army. Orders were therefore issued for the despatch of the Chitral Relief Force under Sir Robert Low, as soon as it could be made ready.

Before, however, describing General Low s advance, it is necessary to relate the circumstances under which the detachments under Captain Ross and Lieutenant Edwardes had, as mentioned above, suffered such signal loss.