Landi Kotal bazaar ín Khyber Region - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

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Landi Kotal bazaar ín Khyber Region

On a second excursion into the North West Frontier Province some weeks later I paused to take this pic (below) at what was called the Gateway to the Khyber, a magnificent gate and fort sitting astride the Grand Trunk Road, 17 kms west of Peshawar. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the British had used the fort as the base for their three major wars in Afghanistan, and for countless Frontier campaigns.

For security reasons it was forbidden to take photographs of the fort nearer than this one. I waited to click the shutter until there were no recognisable faces, no women, and no weapons in shot although as soon as I put my camera down, weapons of various kinds appeared in the hands of almost all the men - and they all smiled cheerily to us as we passed. The local people were unfailingly friendly and polite because I was in the company of Pakistanis; it would not have been safe for me to have been travelling alone. To be honest, my Pakistani escorts were on a shopping expedition and had invited me along for the ride.

After passing through the gateway, we were in the so-called Tribal Regions. Jamrud is 1512 feet (461 metres) above sea level but the road soon starts twisting and climbing all the way through the Khyber Pass and right up to Landi Kotal, 3517 feet (1072m) above sea level, the last town in Pakistan. Carved into the rock faces on the higher stretches of the Pass by soldiers as they passed through the Khyber around the turn of the 19th/20th Century during one or other of the other Afghan Wars, are the regimental badges of many British and British Indian regiments. I remembered vaguely, from my school years, Rudyard Kipling's very long poem called The Young British Soldier but I had to look the text up to get this particular quote correct:
When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier, soldier of the Queen!

Above: The badge of the 1st Battalion of the 22nd (Cheshire Regiment) 1933 in close up
Landi Kotal, hidden from view off to one side of the road almost at the Afghan border and sadly not to be photographed, was an amazing bazaar where all manner of European goods could be bought in 1969/70, not just electronic and household goods but, unexpectedly, St Michael brand clothing from Marks and Spencer. Older readers may remember that for many years St Michael was the trade mark for men and women’s clothing which was widely worn in UK and, it seems, in Pakistan. The only difficulty for the Pakistanis was that M & S had Jewish founders. However, the clothing was such good value that the Pakistanis used to cut off the St Michael tags as soon as they bought the clothes. Indeed, before I had left UK for my tour in Pakistan I had been officially advised to remove any St Michael tags from my own shirts, socks, trousers and underclothes. At the end of my tour of duty and before returning to UK, I had many offers to sell off all my well-worn St Michael clothing - but I thought that would be going too far for decency.

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