Last updated: 21 April 2011
The National Army Museum's new exhibition will explore the turbulent history and long-lasting legacies of three important, but overlooked conflicts - the First, Second and Third Afghan Wars. 'The Road to Kabul: British Armies in Afghanistan, 1839-1919' will use the extensive collections of the National Army Museum to give an insight into the experiences of some of the British and Asian soldiers and civilians who participated in the conflicts.
The British forces fought three wars in Afghanistan, battling to manage a volatile frontier for over 80 years because of Afghanistan's crucial geographical position between Russia and British India. Fearful of Russian intentions in the area, Britain engaged in a series of wars with Afghanistan in 1839, 1878 and 1919, in an attempt to control the country.
'It may come as a surprise to many people that the British Army has been involved in three previous wars in Afghanistan,' says exhibition curator Tristan Langlois. 'Although this unforgiving battleground currently preys heavily on the minds of British politicians, soldiers and civilians alike, the past has largely been forgotten in Britain, Afghanistan has a longer memory.'
'The Road to Kabul' will explore the First, Second and Third Afghan Wars using the National Army Museum's rich Collection to tell the story of each of the wars and their key moments chronologically. The Museum holds the definitive Collection relating to the British Army's involvement in Afghanistan which contains objects with powerful stories to tell, including:
In contrast to the information about the historical conflicts, the Museum will also be displaying paintings depicting the current conflict in Afghanistan from the contemporary war artist Matthew Cook. Cook is the official war artist for 'The Times' and visited soldiers serving in Afghanistan in both 2006 and 2009. His images depict all aspects of a modern soldier's life from playing football outside the patrol base to clearing suspected areas of IEDs. Displayed in a separate space within the exhibition they will provide a reminder of the British Army's ongoing presence in Afghanistan as well as providing visual parallels between the life of a serving soldier in Afghanistan in the present, and in the past.
National Army Museum
Royal Hospital Road
London SW3 4HT
Date: 9 September 2010 until 2011
Opening hours: Daily from 10.00am until 5.30pm
Visitor enquiries: 020 7730 0717
For more information or images, please contact:
The National Army Museum explores the impact of the British Army on the story of Britain, Europe and the world; how Britain's past has helped to shape our present and our future and how the actions of a few can affect the futures of many.
The National Army Museum was established by Royal Charter to tell the story of the Land Forces of the Crown wherever they were raised. Opened by the Queen in 1960, it moved to its current site in Chelsea in 1971.
Matthew Cook is a trained illustrator and Territorial Army (TA) soldier with nearly 20 years of experience. He was chosen by 'The Times' to act as an artist-reporter in Iraq in 2003 before being deployed there as a TA soldier the following year. As an artist, he accompanied the The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry to Afghanistan in 2006 and returned there as a guest of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines in 2009. His work has been featured extensively in 'The Times' throughout this period and has also been exhibited at the Ministry of Defence main building.
The First Afghan War lasted from 1839 to 1842, and started over territorial disagreements between the Amir of Afghanistan and the Governor-General of India. Despite an initial British victory, and the retreat of the Afghan Amir, the British suffered several defeats and by 1842 the Afghan Amir resumed the throne and the British Armies returned to India.
The Second Afghan War, from 1878 to 1880, also began over territorial disagreements between the Amir of Afghanistan and the Viceroy of India. Despite the massacre of the British Residency in Kabul, and a number of difficult battles, the British had a decisive victory at Kandahar ensuring control of Afghanistan’s foreign policies and control of agreed areas.
The Third Afghan War, from 6 May to 8 August 1919, began after a new Afghan Amir broke the treaty that ended the Second Afghan War. After a few weeks of fighting the Amir ordered a ceasefire in June. Although his plan to throw the British out of India had failed, a new treaty, which ended the conflict, recognised full Afghan independence.