Passing It On


Introduction (continued)

    The Times’ reporter made a very accurate prediction and the tribesmen were soon “stimulated.”  The “mad mullah,” or Lewanai2 Faqir, claimed to have “been visited by all deceased Fakirs” and relied upon the usual assertions that bullets would be turned to water and that a pot of rice would feed multitudes.  Mobilizing the Pashtuns against the British was a comparatively easy task for Saidullah3, the Lewani Faqir. 

    Attacks by approximately 10,000 Pashtuns were made on both British posts and the fighting continued for nearly a week until relief forces arrived to break the sieges.  The relief columns from the south drove off the attacking tribesmen while suffering 206 men killed and wounded.  The tribesmen lost approximately 2000 casualties.

    Additional punitive columns departed the vicinity of Chakdara approximately two weeks after breaking the Pashtun siege for Upper Swat where the attackers retreated.  The enemy tribesmen were soon found in strong positions on the Landakai Ridge where old Buddhist ruins were located.  Andrew Skeen was with the attacking force that also encountered some very fanatical Bunerwal fighters.  A witness later wrote about the suicidal attack:

    “When within about 300 yards of the crest, a halt was called to enable the men to get their breath before the final attack, while No. 8 Mountain battery shelled the sangars4 at the top of the hill.  Just at this time some half-dozen Ghazis5 rushed down on the skirmishing line – the Afridi company of the 24th.  Nearly all were shot as they came on, but one or two got close up; and one fine Bonerwal [sic] broke right into the front line, driving our sepoys back some paces before he was shot dead – a very plucky display.”6 

    Andrew Skeen participated in additional operations in Bajaur and Mamund territory before departing for duty in China in 1900.  Somalia service occurred before the outbreak of World War I where he served in the dangerous Gallipoli amphibious campaign where he was mentioned in dispatches.


2. Edwards, pg. 187.  Edwards points out that the term Lewani Faqir also translated to “mad faqir,” but to the Pashtuns this indicates a madness that is more of an “intoxication” while in close proximity to God. 

3. Edwards, Heroes of the Age, pg. 187.

4. A sangar is a defensive position made of loose stones.

5. A ghazi is a man who survived his fight against infidels.

6. Hobday, Edmund Arthur Ponsonby, Sketches On Service During the Indian Campaign of 1897, London: James Bowden, 1898, pg.42.