September 1897 and a pushy young officer is on the Afghan border. Before our hero advances towards the sound of firing - here's his view of his C.O., the wonderfully named Sir Bindon Blood.
Sir Bindon Blood was a striking figure in these savage mountains and among these wild rifle-armed clansmen. He looked very much more formidable in his uniform, mounted, with his standard-bearer and cavalcade, than he had done when I had seen him in safe and comfortable England. He had seen a great deal of the British and Indian armies in war and peace, and he had no illusions on any point. He was very proud to be the direct descendant of the notorious Colonel Blood, who in the reign of King Charles II had attempted to steal by armed force the Crown jewels from the Tower of London. The episode is in the history books. The Colonel was arrested as he quitted the Tower gates with important parts of the regalia in his hands. Brought to trial for high treason and several other capital offences, he was acquitted and immediately appointed to command the King's bodyguard. This strange sequence of events gave rise to scurrilous suggestions that his attempt to abstract the Crown jewels from the Tower had the connivance of the Sovereign himself. It is certainly true that the King was very short of money in those hard times, and that the predecessors of Mr. Attenborough were already in existence in various parts of Europe. However this may be, Sir Bindon Blood regarded the attempted stealing of the Crown Jewels by his ancestor as the most glorious event in his family history, and in consequence he had warm sympathy with the Pathan tribes on the Indian frontier, all of whom would have completely understood the incident in all its bearings, and would have bestowed unstinted and discriminating applause upon all parties. If the General could have got them all together and told them the story at length by broadcast, it would never have been necessary for three brigades with endless tails of mule and camel transport to toil through the mountains and sparsely populated highlands in which my next few weeks were to be passed. The General, then already a veteran, is alive and hale to-day (written in 1930). He had one personal ordeal in this campaign. A fanatic approaching in a deputation (called a jirga) whipped out a knife, and rushed upon him from about eight yards. Sir Bindon Blood, mounted upon his horse, drew his revolver, which most of us thought on a General of Division was merely a token weapon, and shot his assailant dead at two yards. It is easy to imagine how delighted everyone in the Field Force, down to the most untouchable sweeper, was at such an event.
(Blood's forebear was the subject of an epigram by Andrew Marvell)
(Photograph of Bindon Blood's staff via the excellent Sikh Cybermuseum).
Things that make you go hmmmmm
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