Landi Kotal Pass, showing road made by the (Q.O.) Madras Sappers.
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
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.
Military engineering in India was the responsibility of the Royal Engineers, the Indian Sappers and Miners and the Indian Pioneer Regiments. Their role was to assist the movement of the Army and impede that of enemy forces. Working mostly in rugged terrain, their duties included road and bridge construction, water supply, construction of fortifications, camp construction, and the demolition of enemy defensive works, as well as other general engineering works. They marched and fought side by side with the infantry, cavalry and artillery. The Queen's Own Madras Sappers and Miners was one of three Corps of sappers drawn from each of the British Presidencies in India, and was originally raised in 1780.