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Dakka Fort & Lalpura, showing cemetery from picket at western end of fort.

Dakka Fort & Lalpura, showing cemetery from picket at western end of fort.

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1878

Shelfmark: Photo 487/(53)

Item number: 53

Length: 17.7

Width: 31.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph with the view looking down onto the fort at Lowyah Dakkah, with Lalpura visible in the distance on the farther side of the Kabul river, taken by John Burke in 1878. Pickets are posed at a sentry post in the left foreground. Burke accompanied the Peshawar Valley Field Force, one of three British Anglo-Indian army columns deployed in the Second Afghan War (1878-80), despite being rejected for the role of official photographer. He financed his trip by advance sales of his photographs 'illustrating the advance from Attock to Jellalabad'. Coming to India as apothecary with the Royal Engineers, Burke turned professional photographer, assisting William Baker. Travelling widely in India, they were the main rivals to the better-known Bourne and Shepherd. Burke's two-year Afghan expedition produced an important visual document of the region where strategies of the Great Game were played out.

The Anglo-Russian rivalry (called the Great Game) precipitated the Second Afghan War. Afghanistan was of strategic importance to the British in the defence of their Indian Empire, and the prevention of the spreading influence of Russia. They favoured a Forward Policy of extending India's frontiers to the Hindu Kush and gaining control over Afghanistan. An opportunity presented itself when the Amir Sher Ali turned away a British mission while a Russian mission was visiting his court at Kabul. The British had demanded a permanent mission at Kabul which Sher Ali, trying to keep a balance between the Russians and British, would not permit.

British suspicions of the Amir's perceived susceptibility to the Russians led them to invade Afghanistan.

The Khyber Pass opened onto the barren plain of Lowyah Dakkah (or Loe Dakka). The village of Loe Dakka stood on the Afghanistan side of the Khyber Pass, a trade checkpoint and a garrison to protect the trade caravans against bandits. Lalpura was the seat of the most important Mohmand tribal chief. 'One mile to the west of the village stands an old fort, built in 1876 by Amir Sher Ali but now (1905) in ruins and unoccupied. The fort is rectangular, about 400 yards by 500, with walls 15 feet high. It has a circular bastion at each corner and three semi-circular bastions on each face. It stands close to the right bank of the river and on the opposite bank, at a distance of 1,300 yards from the north-east corner of the fort, is the town of Lalpura. The interior of the fort is completely commanded by the low spurs of the hills to the north-west and south-west within 400 yards. The fort was occupied by us during the second Afghan war, the normal garrison being 2 guns, 1 company British Infantry, 1 squadron, Native Cavalry, and 1 battalion, Native Infantry. The place proved most unhealthy to our troops, pneumonia being the most fatal disease. No opposition was offered to our occupation of the place which is of some importance owing to its position opposite Lalpura and to its being at the junction of several routes from the Peshawar valley' (Gazetteer of Afghanistan, part IV, p.97, Calcutta, 1910).

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