It’s not difficult to imagine a war beginning for no wise purpose...
...but it’s hard to fathom how the First Anglo-Afghan War, starting in 1839, came to be defined as the worst military humiliation ever suffered by a British army.
In A Very British Disaster, author S. J. Butler brings to life the bumbling leaders of Britain’s first invasion of Afghanistan and its deadly ending three years later. From the book’s beginnings in British India, we witness the combative goings-on between the waspish and sharp-witted Emily Eden, her silly sister, Hetty, and their exalted brother George, the Governor-General of India and the instigator of the catastrophe.
In 1838, George Eden – Lord Auckland, Governor-General of India – was a single man who enjoyed few of the freedoms that usually go with the condition. His sister Emily kept house for him. That is, she decorated his table, saved him from the bottle, rode on his elephants, and hired and fired his servants. All with sisterly zeal, no doubt, but she was suspected of bending her brother’s ear in the direction she wished it to go.
She was a burra memsahib of the first order, and as waspish and pale as such a great lady ought to be. During Auckland’s tours of the Punjab, she could always be found in an elephant’s howdah, receiving the acclaim of local officials with a vice-regal wave of her hand. Oh, and sister Hetty was there, too, with her ugly poke bonnets, her shawls and her lapdogs.
But she was such a dull stick that she was easily forgotten, poor thing.
And so the whole sorry business began. Lord Auckland believed the Russians were trying to talk the warrior king of Afghanistan, Dost Mohammed Khan, into allowing them passage through Afghanistan to India.
About The Author
S. J. Butler was born in London, England, and grew up writing poetry in the Essex countryside.
She always loved writing.
By age ten she was turning out science fiction stories with a readership of one – herself; and around age 15 found she had a talent for writing angst-filled poetry in dark places on a cheap blue typewriter.
After leaving school she turned down a place at university and instead bought a ticket to Australia for £75, courtesy of the Australian Government. She planned to hang out in Australia for two years before returning to England and uni. But she met and married her husband in Australia shortly after arriving in Australia and the return trip didn’t eventuate.
After raising three children, working in the fields of education and human resources management, and sitting in more cold basketball stadiums than she cares to remember, S. J. Butler graduated from university in her fifties but her dream was always to become a published author.
A Very British Disaster is the realisation of that dream. She lives with her husband and their couch-buddy, Rusty, near Canberra.