I apologise to those who receive this message and have no interest in the lecture programme. Unfortunately Cheda has gone to London to be with his elderly mother and give her carer a break. He had intended to send out the usual pre-talk notice from there but unfortunately he forgot to pack his notebook.

‘THE FIRST AFGHAN WAR 1838’ - A lecture on Afghanistan and Britain’s first disastrous political and military intervention in 1838.   Monday 25th September, La Senieta Lecture Theatre in central Moraira, at 10.30 a.m. You do not have to formally join any group, just turn up. We have plenty of comfortable seating.

For a major part of the 19th century England was closely involved in Afghanistan and the delay in scheduling this talk gave me time to decide which of the three major campaigns I would present. I eventually decided that it made sense to start at the beginning, rather than half way through the century which was my original intention.

It is very difficult for Europeans to even begin to understand the mind set of those who have departed from mainstream Islam and have become what we call ‘radicalised’. I am not  an expert on Islam but I have studied, over many years, the British Indian army of the 19th and 20th centuries up to 1947. A significant part of that army consisted of Muslim soldiers who fought with honour, up to and through WW2, significantly in Burma, The Western Desert and Italy.

In the early years of England’s obsession with India and the riches it contained, it had not bothered with the mountainous country beyond India’s northern border as it had little of interest at that time to offer in the way of exploitable assets. During the early years of the 19th century however, Russia became interested in getting involved with India, and Britain very quickly realised that Afghanistan could no longer be ignored either politically or militarily. The wild, and in some cases, undisciplined hill tribes who, under a weak ruler were impossible to control, and quite capable of liaising with Russian officials in return for payment, allowing them to gain a foothold in the more remote parts of the country.

This situation, England could not tolerate, and in 1838, just a few years into the young Queen Victoria’s reign, it was decided to invade Afghanistan and install a stronger Amir. This task turned out to be not so easy as the British politicians, several thousand miles away, had believed. This first Afghan war was to be the first of of three, the second in 1879 and the third in 1919.  It was marred by unbelievable incompetence, especially so when the army foolishly invited their families to join them in Kabul in what was to prove to be a highly dangerous and volatile situation.

Brian Nicholls, Art and History groups co-coordinator.