Journal of the Affghan War in 1842


Edward William Bray was a young lieutenant serving with the 31st Regiment of Foot of the British Army during the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839‒42). In early 1842 the regiment was ordered to leave its quarters at Agra, in British India, and march toward Afghanistan, with the aim of joining the army of Major General (later Field Marshal) George Pollock, which had been sent to the relief of Jalalabad, where a British force was surrounded and under siege by Afghan troops. Journal of the Affghan War in 1842 is Bray’s firsthand account, published more than two decades later, of the events from early 1842 to January of the following year. The 31st Regiment proceeded by stages to Jalalabad, which it reached on May 13, nearly a month after Pollock had relieved the garrison. From there it marched to Gandamak and finally to Kabul, where it participated in the punitive actions by the British against the city. The journal concludes with the march back to Agra via Peshawar. Bray’s journal is full of interesting details. He describes, for example, how at the tope of Manikyala, said by the locals to be the tomb of Alexander the Great’s horse Bucephalus, villagers came forward with ancient Greek coins to sell. He gives a vivid account of the advance through the passes from Gandamak to Kabul, where all along the way were strewn the dead bodies of British and Indian soldiers from the force that had been annihilated by Afghan tribesmen in January 1842. Bray writes: “It was a shocking sight for English soldiers to behold, and many a deep vow of vengeance was made by those who witnessed it, which was fulfilled to the best of our ability, as no quarter was given in actual action after this.” His journal records the death, by combat and disease, of soldiers and civilians on both sides in a way that captures the gruesomeness and the brutality of the war. Bray later served with distinction in the Abyssinian Campaign (in present-day Ethiopia) in 1868 and in the Zulu War of 1879. He retired in 1882 with the rank of major general.

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Nelson and Company, London


Title in Original Language

Journal of the Affghan war in 1842

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108 pages ; 17 centimeters


  1. R.H. Vetch, revised by Roger T. Stearn, “Pollock, Sir George, first baronet (1786‒1872),” in Oxford Dictionary of national Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: September 30, 2016