1800-1859 | Afghanistan | Burning villages | Civilians slaughtered | Demolishing urban areas | Massacres | Palestine



Statue of General William Nott in Nott Square, Camarthen.
John Lucas CC License.

[ 28 August 1842 ]

On 28 August 1842, during the advance of a British punitive expedition led by Major General Sir William Nott, the Reverend Isaac Allen recalled the indiscriminate slaughter of Afghan men in a village, deemed to have been responsible for staging an earlier attack on British troops. The Redcoats shot or bayoneted every man, regardless of age wherever he was found, and forced the women and children out of their homes at gunpoint.  ‘Seldom, I apprehend,’ reflected Allen in his diary, ‘has a clergyman looked on such a scene. Destruction was going on in every form; dead bodies were lying here and there, sepoys (Indian soldiers under British command) were dragging out sheep, goats, oxen and goods…. European and native soldiers were breaking open doors where they supposed anything might be concealed; and every now and then the discharge of a firelock proclaimed the discovery of a concealed victim… (The village) was one mass of blazing ruin before we left it, and continued flaming all night.’ 1


A street in Jenin after the demolitions –
Matson Collection, Library of Congress/Wikimedia.

[ 28 August 1938 ]

Four days had passed since London’s Assistant Commissioner in Palestine, Walter Moffat, was assassinated by an Arab in his heavily guarded office in the town of Jenin, but despite the assassin being shot dead, the British retaliated on 28 August 1938, by ordering the Royal Engineers to blow up over a hundred houses. The entire Arab population, not just the minority who were waging a war of insurgency to end British rule, were to be taught a ‘harsh lesson.’

A brief report in the Birmingham Post, which was carried below a photo showing ‘a pall of smoke and dust over the town,’ declared that the houses had been destroyed ‘partly as a punitive measure against the inhabitants of the town for harbouring Arab rebels and partly for reasons of security.’2  Also for supposed ‘reasons of security,’ terrified Arab taxi drivers were forced to form a protective ‘minesweeping convoy’ to the military vehicles delivering the 4,200 kilos of dynamite. In itself a major war crime.3


  1. The Reverend Isaac Nicholson Allen, Diary of a March through Sinde and Afghanistan, J Hatchard and Son, London, 1843, pp. 241-242.  See also Margaret Kekewich, “Retreat and Retribution in Afghanistan, 1842: Two Journals of the First Afghan War,” Pen and Sword Military, Barnsley, 2011, p. 127.
  2. Caption below a photograph in The Birmingham Gazette, 6 September 1938, p. 7.
  3. Gordon Corera, ‘The British in Jenin’, BBC Radio 4, 3 October 2014 accessed online at url https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/reports/archive/international/jenin.shtml.

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