'Sorry it's taken 19 years!'
This is the note that accompanied an intriguing array of maps and charts delivered by the postman in the past week. And as Jane says: better late than never.
Back in 2001, I wrote to a Captain Wimbush, a veteran of the British Indian army, to ask whether he had any memories of serving in or around Kashmir. I was researching what became my book A Mission in Kashmir - an account of the opening salvos of the Kashmir conflict in 1947, and particularly of a massacre at a Catholic mission in which an off-duty British army officer and his wife were among those killed.
As far as I can make out, I never heard back from Captain Wimbush. I didn't think too much of it - it's in the nature of research that many leads are dead ends.
But very recently I heard from Jane who now lives in Captain Wimbush's old house. In a big Lockdown sort-out, she had come across my old letter. And with huge kindness and generosity, she parcelled off to me Captain Wimbush's maps and charts relating - as best as I can tell - to his service in the North West Frontier and (perhaps) Afghanistan between the world wars.
In the inter-war period, the Frontier was the most turbulent of the extremities of the British Raj and there was a specific Frontier Force (known as the Piffers) to keep it under control. The maps which Captain Wimbush and his colleagues appear to have relied upon were first drawn up in some cases as early as the 1860s. The cartography at the time of the Afghan wars and the initial incursions into the tribal areas on the border of what's now Pakistan and Afghanistan served the British army - it seems - until independence in 1947.
Alongside the maps, there's this wonderful chart, marked 'CONFIDENTIAL', which lists the various Frontier tribes and their fighting strength. It specifies where each tribe is located and whether these are Pathans or otherwise. It also lists which British official or agent had responsibility for each group.
An extraordinary document. And well worth the wait!
Hi Andrew, like dozens of others I found you because I’m reading Home Fires and can’t believe I’ve driven along the North Circular countless times without ever realising the Grand Union Canal goes over it on (in?) a bridge. Thank you for the video clip. Then I delved further into your excellent blog and came across across Captain Wimbush. My maiden name was Wimbush and another lockdown activity, more fun but less useful than clear-outs and house-tidying, has been researching my family history. I will try and discover where Captain W might be added to the extended family tree!
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