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Battle of Maiwand

The Second Anglo-Afghan War was a conflict between the United Kingdom and the Emirate of Afghanistan that lasted from 1878 to 1880. Britain mistrusted the increasing influence of the Russian Empire over Afghanistan, and was concerned that it could directly threaten British India. When the Emir of Afghanistan rejected a diplomatic mission the British sent to secure their interests, the British-Indian army invaded and occupied the country.

The Emir died soon after and left the throne to his son. The British forced the new Emir to sign the Treaty of Gandamak, which attempted to secure British interests by forcing Afghanistan to cede control over its foreign policy to Britain. An uprising resulting from this treaty killed the British representative and sparked renewed hostility. The uprising was quickly put down, however, and the British forced the second Emir to abdicate in favor of a cousin who was willing to accept the terms of the treaty. Having achieved their objectives, the British allowed Afghanistan to remain independent as a buffer between their Indian possessions and the Russian Empire.

Several figures connected to Sherlock Holmes served in the British forces during this campaign. The most notable was Dr. John Watson, who served as an army surgeon until he was wounded at the Battle of Maiwand, forcing him away from the frontlines and back to London. Others included the villainous Colonel Sebastian Moran, and General de Merville, who served with distinction and achieved some fame for his actions at the Khyber Pass.

John Watson[]

Watson recounts some of his service in A Study in Scarlet. In 1878, having received his medical doctorate from the University of London and completed his army surgeon's training, Watson was attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as an assistant surgeon. The regiment was stationed in India, and before Watson could join them the war broke out and the regiment was deployed to Afghanistan. By the time Watson reached Bombay, they had already advanced deep into the country and Watson joined his regiment in Kandahar.

Fatefully, however, shortly thereafter he was reassigned to the 66th Berkshire Regiment of Foot, which participated in the disastrous Battle of Maiwand on July 27, 1880. The regiment was routed, and Watson was shot in the shoulder - fortunately, Murray, his orderly, managed to carry his safely back behind British lines. Watson was taken to a British hospital in Peshawar, where after a brief initial recovery he took seriously ill with typhoid fever. After months of illness, it was determined that he should be sent back immediately to England to ensure his full recovery. Arriving in London, he finds himself aimless and adrift until his old friend Stamford introduces him to a remarkable man named Sherlock Holmes.

Sebastian Moran[]

Colonel Sebastian Moran served with the 1st Bangalore Pioneers, and was known to be an outstanding marksman. He participated in several battles in the second half of the war: notably the Battle of Charasiab (6 October 1879), and the Siege of Sherpur (December 1879), near Kabul. Watson describes his career in "The Adventure of the Empty House" as that of "an honorable soldier", and is shocked that such a man could turn to crime.

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