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John Burke (1843-1900)

Officers of the 51st King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 1878

RCIN 2501350

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This photograph is from an album recording the progress of the Peshawar Valley Field Force in 1878-9, during the second Afghan War. In the late 1870s Britain and Russia were each trying to establish political influence in Afghanistan. In 1878 the Afghan King, Amir Shere Ali Khan, received an envoy from Russia but refused the British envoy that was sent from India around the same time. When the British mission was turned back at the Afghan frontier, hostilities were declared by the Viceroy of India and the Second Afghan War began. Three British forces, including the Peshawar Valley Field Force, invaded Afghanistan causing the Amir to flee into the northern province, where he died in February 1879. He was succeeded by his son, Yakub Khan. After 6 months of fighting, little had been achieved but in May 1879, Yakub Khan signed the Treaty of Gandamak which granted territories and control of foreign policy to the British in return for peace. However, several Afghan regiments mutinied in September 1879 so hostilities between Afghanistan and Britain were resumed.