Oblong Folio album (ca. 27,5x39,5 cm). 25 card stock leaves. With 106 mounted gelatin silver photographs, including 21 large photos ca. 24x29 cm (9 ¼ x 11 ¼ in), one photo ca. 14,5x20,5 cm (5 ¾ x 8 in) and 84 smaller photos from ca. 8x10,5 cm (3 ¼ x 4 in) to ca. 6,5x9 cm (2 ½ x 3 ½ in). All but one photo with period white ink captions on the mounts, several images also dated 1920 or 1921. Nineteen photos signed “Holmes” and numbered in negative. With four loosely inserted gelatin silver photos from ca. 21x28,5 cm (8 ¼ x 11 ¼ in) to ca. 25x30,5 cm (10x12 in). Period olive green full cloth album fastened with metal bolts; front board with a gilt-lettered title “Wana Column.” Binding rubbed and slightly discoloured on the spine, two of the loose photos partly faded, a few photos mildly faded or with mild silvering, but overall a very good album of historically important strong photos.
Excellent extensively annotated collection of original photographs, documenting the British reoccupation of Wana on the North-West Frontier (modern-day Wanna, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan) during the 1919-20 Waziristan campaign. “The cantonment on Wana Plain was the headquarters for the regular British and Indian forces in South Waziristan, as well as the base for the South Waziristan Militia. During the 3rd Afghan War (1919), the Militia mutinied, and its British commander, Major Guy Hamilton Russell and 300 loyal men had to fight their way to safety from Wana to Fort Sandeman via Mir Ali Khel between 26-30 May 1919” (National Army Museum, https://collection.nam.ac.uk/detail.php?acc=1995-07-90-24). The specially formed “Wana column” of the British Indian Army under the command of Major-General W.S. Leslie retook Wana in November-December 1920. It was reestablished as a British military post, but local tribes continued their resistance, which resulted in open conflicts during the Waziristan campaigns of 1921-24 and 1936-39.
The album, compiled by Major George Herbert Young, who served in the headquarters of the 24th Indian Infantry Brigade of the Wana column, documents the events from November 1920 to early 1921. The album opens with twenty-two excellent large images taken by professional Peshawar photographer Randolph Bezzant Holmes, who accompanied British troops during the Third Anglo-Afghan war and the Waziristan campaign. The photos depict the progression of the Wana column from the British base in Jandola (Tank subdivision, southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province) through the Shahur Tangi gorge, Haidari Kach and Sarwekai camps, thence to Dargai Oba, Rogha Kot camp, and finally Wana. The photos show British forts and military camps, troops moving on roads, ruined military towers and villages, Wazir hostages and the interior of the partly destroyed Wana fort. Three group portraits show the commanders of the Wana column, identifying the column’s commander Major-General W.S. Leslie and commander of the 24th Infantry Brigade, General O.C. Borrett. The extensive captions detail on the landscape, conditions, British engagements with the Wazirs and indicate the neighbouring stations in each direction en route.
The album also contains 84 original snapshot photos, showing British camps and forts at Sarwekai, Rogha Kot and Wana, British bombing planes on “the aerodrome, Sarwekai,” troops clearing roads and building pickets, “getting ready to advance,” “No. 6 pack battery in action (3.7 hows.),” resting, attending a Christmas service in Wana, &c. Several photos show local Waziri and Mahsud people - being interviewed by a political officer Fitzpatrick, attending a jirga at Sarwekai, “paying fines in cattle,” “handing in rifles.” A series of ten photos documents the explosion of native villages by British sappers, as “punitive measures.” A dozen photos at rear document the military operations near Ladha (South Waziristan) and the aftermath of “Mahsuds ambush a convoy.” Several photos portray and identify British commanding officers, including Major General Matheson, General O.C. Borrett, Major G.H. Young (his photos are captioned either “Major Young” or “Self”), Col. Craster, Staff Captain W.T. Bird, Captain Biddulph, Lt. R.W.G. Stephens, and others. The four loosely inserted photos are three group portraits of British and East-Indian officers and a view of the Taj Mahal in the moonlight. Overall a unique content-rich visual source on the history of the 1919-1920 Waziristan campaign and British military operations in modern-day Pakistan in between the two world wars.
Randolph Bezzant Holmes “took over the business established by his father, William D. Homes, around 1899 in Peshawar, Pakistan. Holmes was an official photographer of the Afghan Wars on the North-West Frontier in Afghanistan. He also spent time in Kashmir and in other Asian locales. Later in life, he also painted watercolour landscapes of the same areas. In 1929 he published a memoir of his time in Afghanistan, Story of the North-West Frontier Province, Peshawar, containing gelatin print plates of his landscapes” (Duke University, David M. Rubinstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library).