Siege of Malakand - Relieving Chakdara

Relieving Chakdara

On 28 July, when word of the attacks were received, a division of "6800 bayonets, 700 lances or sabres, with 24 guns" was given to Major-General Sir Bindon Blood with orders to hold "the Malakand, and the adjacent posts, and of operating against the neighbouring tribes as may be required." Blood arrived at Nowshera on 31 July 1897 to take command, and on 1 August he was informed that the Pashtun forces had turned their attention to the nearby British fort of Chakdara. This was a small, under-garrisoned fort with few supplies that had itself been holding out with 200 men since the first attacks in Malakand began, and had recently sent the signal "Help us" to the British forces. Blood reached Malakand at noon on the same day. While Blood and his relief force marched for Chakdara from the main camp at Nowshera, Meiklejohn set out from Malakand South with the 45th, 24th and guns from No. 8 Battery. An advance force of Guides cavalry under Captain Baldwin met with an enemy force along the road and were forced to retreat with two British officers and one sepoy officer wounded and 16 other ranks killed or wounded.

Following this failed attempt, Blood arrived and appointed Reid commander of the forces at Malakand South, giving command of the rescue force to Meiklejohn. The rescue column of 1,000 infantry, two squadrons from the 11th Bengal Lancers, two of the Guides cavalry, 50 sappers, two cannons and a hospital detail, rested on the night of August 1, despite a night attack by Pashtun forces. On the following day, the relief force advanced along the road to the abandoned Malakand North in order to avoid fire from the Pashtun sharpshooters who still occupied the heights around the Malakand South "cup". With low morale, the relief force assembled at 4:30 am on 2 August; however, with the use of diversionary attacks, they were successful in breaking out of the Pashtun encirclement without loss. This led to confusion amongst the Pashtun forces, "like ants in a disturbed ant–hill" as observed Blood. The 11th Bengal Lancers and the Guides cavalry went on to relieve the threatened fort at Chakdara, while the 45th Sikhs stormed nearby Pashtun positions. The British recorded 33 casualties from the action on August 2.

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