AFGHANISTAN, 1908

by Major Loren Schave

     As I scanned through our Company Enlistment Book recently, I came across a familiar name, George Baillie Williamson. He was an old friend of the family. I did not realize that he had been a member of the Foot Guard. I learned from his wife that he also served in "The British Army", from 1904 - 1915.

     Private Williamson, #9064, served with The First Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, on the Northwest Frontier of India. As a result of raiding tribesmen, this was an area of continual unrest. The Khyber Pass was a particularly dangerous place. In February 1908 a punitive expedition was launched against the Zakka Khel Afridis which would take the Highlanders into Afghanistan.

     Private Williamson wrote the following account, "The campaign was short and severe. The Regiment bore the brunt of the fighting. Major the Hon. Douglas Forbes-Sempill, commanding, was killed in a rear guard action, Three months after the Battalion, under the command of Major N. C. MacLacklan, again crossed the frontier on an expedition against the Mohmands, a Pathan tribe. The weather was very hot and the campaign, which lasted 6 weeks, was an exceptionally trying one. The Regiment again acquitted itself with credit." Private Williamson received "The 5th India General Service Medal and Bar for the Northwest Frontier, 1908.

     With the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, Williamson and the Seaforth Highlanders were sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, known as "The Old Contemptibles". Many of these veteran soldiers did not survive beyond the first year of fighting; Williamson was wounded and as a result, honorably discharged on August 6, 1915. For his service in the Great War, he was awarded the 1914 Star (Mons Star), the British War Medal 1914-1920 and the Victory Medal.

     After the War he married and came to the United States and settled in Hartford, working as an office equipment and appliance serviceman. On October 22, 1934, at the age of 46 he enlisted in the Foot Guard.

 

Photos, souvenirs, medals and discharge papers for George Williamson are now on display in the Foot Guard Museum.

February 22, 2004

This article was originally printed in "Battalion Review"
Used with permission

 

 

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