The Sword and the Flame - The Battle of Chamla Valley, Part II

As the white-garbed Pathan Spearmen mustered their courage to brave another charge, the distant Pathan Riflemen prepared to fire another volley. The blue-turbaned Sikhs closed ranks and awaited their order to fire.

The Pathan Spearmen, without their leader, failed to muster the courage to move and stood rooted to the spot. The Sikhs had no such misgivings and fired into their mass, wounding many over successive volleys. The Pathan Rifles' luck deserted them and their bullets failed to find targets again and again. As spearman after spearman fell to the fusillade it was only a matter of time until they broke and fled the field.

Further up the valley, the second half of the Pathan force in reserve heard the exchange of rifle fire and decided to advance in secret. But would it be in time to save their fellow warriors and win the day? The Sikhs decided to put an end to the pesky riflemen and marched forward... ignoring the wails of a wounded man left behind with Gunga Din. The wounded man's cries turned to shrieks of fear as a group of Pathan reserves appeared from behind the nearby hill and rushed toward him!

The Sikhs were about to be flanked! Luckily, their training paid off. The Sikhs quickly stepped back, picked up their wounded man and withdrew to a nearby hill and neatly formed a defensive wedge. A few of their number were positioned to exchange volleys with the riflemen, while the rest stood to face the inevitable charge of the spearmen!

Surprisingly, the Pathan reserve Spearmen chose to scurry past the bristling wall of barrels and bayonets and jumped into some nearby brush. Perhaps rushing past their fallen brethren made them cautious? Although the small group of distant Pathan Riflemen fired again and again at the maneuvering Sikhs to their front, their earlier luck did not continue; only one Sikh fell to their bullets.

The battle paused again. The threat of the nearby spearmen and the distant rifles forced the Sikhs to defend on two fronts, halving their firepower. In the distance the Pathan commander could be heard berating his troops to improve their aim. The crisis of the battle was quickly approaching. But a disturbing question remained: where was the other half of the Pathan reserves?

To be continued...