March 10th 1939 – Bannu

An RIASC captain detained at Razani with his convoy. He gives me a lift to Bannu on a lorry, the remainder knocking off at Mir Ali. It was an open sort of lorry, no wind screen, only a bit of tarpaulin to cover your knees. The rain came in, hit the back of the cab, and formed a large puddle which soaked my arse to the skin. I had understood it was essential to leave Bannu by 12.15, so I curse the driver to get me there in time and to go faster, but of no avail.

There is water in the nullah, and green stuff springing up in fields on the banks, a welcome sight. We reach Bagai Bannu depot at about 12.25 but they don’t mind, and say road is open until 4pm. I seem to remember threatening a tonga wallah with my revolver, to make him get off the road quicker, as I was in such a bloody hurry. Bagai had a beautiful Oldsmobile ready, and off we go to Kohat. That stretch – Bannu-Kohat – is pretty desolate, a salt range looking like sandstone. No vegetation, all this bare red earth. We pass a few police posts, but no sign of R.P. troops or sangars or picquets.

There is a fellow Heard of 3/12 here. He was in Wanu during Shahur Tangi show and lost one subaltan of about six months service. About six British Officers killed and nine wounded. A convoy with Wanu pay, and scouts, had passed through the day before, and they saw all these birds, like vultures, lining the Tangi. They said they were just sitting there watching , beady eyed.  In the Club some wit said they were bagging who would get who, for future reference. Quite true.

Next day the convoy was told by Khassadars at Manzani it would be suicide to go on. In the official report the blame was put on the political “Consequent on the political strategy…” – so off the convoy went and the Tangi wasn’t picqueted. They were well and truly ambused (late ’36/early ’37). Fire poured in all along the line. A company of Punjabis, as local protection, took to the hills overlooking the Tangi, and did their best. The armoured cars did their’s. After they had finished the slaughter the tribesmen raided the lorries, took what they wanted (about the only arms were British Officers’ revolvers), and left the next morning.

Scouts had arrived the evening before, but could only close picquet the column, so that anyone coming near them went to hell, but could loot the convoy at his leisure. The convoy eventually reached Wana, with whole lorries full of dead, shot in the first volley. The bloody shame was that everyone knew it would happen, but yet the convoy was allowed through.

Heard had also seen cheetah hunting – a disgraceful sport. The cheetah is sent after a herd of buck in the manner of a falcon. If well tarined, it tracks down a good stag and holds it down, without breaking its skin. Then the tribesmen slit its belly, having first castrated it, whilst it is still alive, and give the cheetah some blood from the bowels, apparently the only way to make the cheetah let go.

Went drinking to the Ekins with Hearn. Colonel Ekin seems to think the Bagai and the Mashud contractors pay out half their earnings to the Badmashes to keep the pot boiling. He reckons Razmak, being troops in advance of scouts, is the wrong principal for Waziristan, and the worst blunder we ever made. He recoomends withdrawing to the administrative border and building a sort of “Taggarts Wall”, with troops behind it and possibly scouts inside the area. Kohat is rather like Bannu, only smaller, and with magnificent flowers just now. A rather nice bazaar too, natural, and not like Razmak’s pseudo Bond Street.


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