The Afghanistan Wars (1839 – 1842), (1878 – 1880)

The recent conflict involving British forces in Afghanistan is still a very current affair and fresh in the mind of the nation. This is the fourth time Britain troops have fought within Afghanistan. The first Anglo- Afghan war occurred between 1839 to 1842, The Second Anglo-Afghan (1878-1880), and the Third Anglo Afghan War in 1919.

The conflict occurred following concerns regarding the Russian empire’s expansion and interest in central Asia. The British Empire entered negotiations with the ruler, Dost Muhammad, looking to form an alliance with Afghanistan against Russia. However, this failed and, following support from the deposed leader of Afghanistan, Shuja Shah Durrani, the Governor-General of India, Lord Auckland, set out plans for British intervention in Afghanistan to aid Shuja Shah Durrani’s restoration to the throne of the country.

This was achieved in August 1839 by re-entering Kabul. Following this, the British troops started returning to India, with 8,000 British soldiers remaining in a British Cantonment at Kabul to aid Shuja Shah Durrani. From 1840 the Afghans started to rebel against the British troops remaining in the country and the British were forced to retreat from Kabul back to India in 1842 with heavy casualties.

The Second Anglo-Afghan war occurred from 1878 to 1880. The origins of this conflict are similar to the events which triggered the first Afghan war. This was due to a still perceived threat from Russian interests within the region and Britain preferring to have an influence on the ruler of Afghanistan, Sher Ali Khan, to counteract this interest. The event which triggered the war occurred when a Russian Envoy visited the Amir in Kabul in July 1878, Following this the British demanded a British envoy to be accepted.

The British envoy was refused entry into the country at the Khyber Pass. This act triggered the Second Afghan war with the British Indian Army invading the country. The British forces were successful in this attempt and following the death of Sher Ali Khan and the succession of his son, Mohammad Yaqub Khan, the Treaty of Gandamak was signed. The British army withdrew and through the terms of this treaty a British envoy was sent to Kabul. This envoy was killed in an uprising in September 1879 and the conflict was reignited. This ended in September 1880 and a new Amir was installed who was more supportive of the British interest in the region. It was during this phase of the conflict Captain J C Robson was killed.

A memorial can be found at Englefield Cemetery on the family gravestone of the Robson family. Here an addition was made to remember the eldest son of Captain J C Robson. He was serving with the Royal Artillery and lost his life at Sibi Afghanistan on 27th May 27th 1880, during the First Phase of the Second Afghan War.

Captain Robson is one of a number of men from Surrey who took part in the campaigns within Afghanistan, who are remembered on memorials across the county.

Further Reading

  • For the Historic Environment Record (HER) record of the War Memorial that lists Captain J C Robson Click Here.

One thought on “The Afghanistan Wars (1839 – 1842), (1878 – 1880)”

  1. Kathleen davies says:

    Did a man from surrey named john.fennel.richardson serve in the Afghanistan second war or any,I have been trying to find out without any success,he was born in Lambeth, London 1853, I think he could’ve been in the indian staff corps but I’m.not sure,his census paper says militiaman, please can you help?

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