World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Tirah Campaign

Tirah Campaign

Though wounded, Sergeant Dargai Heights.
Date 1897-1898
Location Tirah valley, British India
Result British victory
 India Afridis
Commanders and leaders
William Lockhart
34,882 troops

The Tirah Campaign, often referred to in contemporary British accounts as the Tirah Expedition, was an Indian frontier war in 1897–1898. Tirah is a mountainous tract of country in what is now a federally administered tribal area of Pakistan.


  • Rebellion 1
  • British advance 2
    • October 2.1
    • November 2.2
    • December 2.3
  • Surrender 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7


The Afridi tribe had received a subsidy from the government of British India for the safeguarding of the Khyber Pass for sixteen years; in addition to which the government had maintained for this purpose a local regiment entirely composed of Afridis, who were stationed in the pass. Suddenly, however, the tribesmen rose, captured all the posts in the Khyber held by their own countrymen, and attacked the forts on the Samana Range near the city of Peshawar. The Battle of Saragarhi occurred at this stage. It was estimated that the Afridis and Orakzais could, if united, bring from 40,000 to 50,000 men into the field. The preparations for the expedition occupied some time, and meanwhile British authorities first dealt with the Mohmand rising northwest of the Khyber Pass.[1]

British advance


The general commanding was General Sir William Lockhart commanding the Punjab Army Corps; he had under him 34,882 men, British and Indian, in addition to 20,000 followers. The frontier post of Kohat was selected as the base of the campaign, and it was decided to advance along a single line. On 18 October, the operations commenced, fighting ensuing immediately. The Dargai heights, which commanded the line of advance, were captured without difficulty, but abandoned owing to the want of water. On 20 October the same positions were stormed, with a loss of 199 of the British force killed and wounded. The progress of the expedition, along a difficult track through the mountains, was obstinately contested on 29 October at the Sampagha Pass leading to the Mastura valley, and on 31 October at the Arhanga Pass from the Mastura to the Tirah valley.[2]


The force, in detached brigades, now proceeded to traverse the Tirah district in all directions, and to destroy the walled and fortified hamlets of the Afridis. The two divisions available for this duty numbered about 20,000 men. A force about 3,200 strong commanded by Brigadier-General (afterwards Major General Sir Richard) Westmacott was first employed to attack Saran Sar, which was easily carried, but during the retirement the troops were hard pressed by the enemy and the casualties numbered sixty-four. On 11 November, Saran Sar was again attacked by the brigade of Brigadier-General (afterwards Sir Alfred) Gaselee. Experience enabled better dispositions to be made, and the casualties were only three.[2] The traversing of the valley continued, and on 13 November Brigadier General Francis James Kempster's third brigade visited the Waran valley via the Tseri Kandao Pass.[2][3][4] Little difficulty was experienced during the advance, and several villages were destroyed; but on the 16th, during the return march, the rearguard was hotly engaged all day, and had to be relieved by fresh troops next morning. The casualties in the British force numbered seventy-two. Almost daily the Afridis, too wise to risk general engagements, waged a perpetual guerrilla warfare, and the various bodies of troops engaged in foraging or survey duties were constantly attacked. On 21 November, a brigade under Brigadier-General Westmacott was detached to visit the Rajgul valley. The road was exceedingly difficult and steady opposition was encountered. The objectives were accomplished, and the casualties during the retirement alone numbered twenty-three. The last task undertaken was the punishment of the Chamkannis, Mamuzais and Massozais. This was carried out by Brigadier-General Gaselee, who joined hands with the Kurram movable column ordered up for the purpose. The Mamuzais and Massozais submitted immediately, but the Chamkannis offered resistance on 1 and 2 December, the British casualties numbering about thirty.[2]


The Kurram column then returned to its camp, and Lockhart prepared to evacuate Tirah, despatching his two divisions by separate routes: the first under Major-General W. Penn Symons (d. 1899) to return via the Mastura valley, destroying the forts on the way, and to join at Bara, within easy march of Peshawar; the second division under Major General Yeatman Biggs (d. 1898), and, accompanied by Lockhart, to move along the Bara valley. The base was thus to be transferred from Kohat to Peshawar. The return march began on 9 December. The cold was intense, 21 degrees of frost being registered before leaving Tirah. The movement of the first division though arduous was practically unopposed, but the 40 miles to be covered by the second division were contested almost throughout.[2]

The actual march down the Bara valley (34 miles) commenced on 10 December, and involved four days of the hardest fighting and marching of the campaign. The road crossed and recrossed the icy stream, while snow, sleet and rain fell constantly. On the 10th, the casualties numbered about twenty. On the 11th, some fifty or sixty casualties were recorded among the troops, but many followers were killed or died of exposure, and quantities of stores were lost. On the 12th, the column halted for rest. On the 13th, the march was resumed in improved weather, though the cold was still severe. The rearguard was heavily engaged, and the casualties numbered about sixty. On the 14th, after further fighting, a junction with the Peshawar column was effected. The first division, aided by the Peshawar column, now took possession of the Khyber forts without opposition.[2]


Negotiations for peace were then begun with the Afridis, who under the threat of another expedition into Tirah in the spring at length agreed to pay the fines and to surrender the rifles demanded. The expeditionary force was broken up on 4 April 1898. A memorable feature of this campaign was the presence in the fighting line of the Imperial Service native troops under their own officers, while several of the best known of the Indian princes served on Lockhart's staff.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Blunt 1911, pp. 1005,1006.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Blunt 1911, p. 1006.
  3. ^ Biggins 2011.
  4. ^ "Kempster, Francis James (1855–1925), local Major-General commanding Third Brigade, retired 1902 as Colonel" (Churchill & Gilbert 1967, p. 180)


  • Biggins, David (27 January 2011). "Leinster Regiment (Prince of Wales's):Kempster, Francis James (born 12th March 1855)". Retrieved November 2012.  cites: DSO recipients (VC and DSO Book).
  • Churchill, Randolph Spencer; Gilbert, Martin (1967). Winston S. Churchill: Youth, 1874–1900. part 2 (1876–1900) 1. Houghton Mifflin. p. 860. 

Further reading

  • Hernon, I. Britain's Forgotten Wars, Colonial Campaigns of the 19th Century Sutton Publishing, 2002 (Chapter 18)
  • Hutchinson, Col. H.D. The Campaign in the Tirah 1897-1898: An Account of the Expedition Against the Orakzais & Afridis under Gen. Sir. William Lockhart Macmillan, 1898
  • James, Colonel Lionel CBE DSO The Indian Frontier War: Being an Account of the Mohamud & Tirah Expeditions 1897 Heinemann, 1898
  • Johnson, Rob. 1897 Revolt and Tirah Valley Operations.pdf "The 1897 Revolt and Tirah Valley Operations from the Pashtun Perspective" (PDF). Tribal Analysis Center. 
  • - historical fiction  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.