Intelligence


Burrows' knowledge of Ayub's whereabouts, strength and intentions was woefully inadequate. Apart from information gained from his cavalry patrols all his other intelligence was about three days old. Meanwhile Ayub, it would appear, was much better informed about British movements. It meant that, until sighting Ayub's army on the morning of 27 July, Burrows was unaware of its full strength and was also surprised to find his enemy's main body already at Maiwand before him. Even when one of his patrols did give him information relating to Ayub's early advance on Maiwand, he waited two days for confirmation. In the end he was suddenly forced to act and gave his orders at 10.30 p.m. on the 26th for the advance early next morning, which resulted in few of his men getting any rest the night before the battle.

Colonel Leigh Maxwell has been particularly critical of the intelligence collection plan which he describes as rigid, unimaginative and lacking in initiative and aggression. A more robust patrol plan should have been implemented as soon as the enemy's main body began to close in after its 300 mile march from Herat. There is no doubt that this deficiency put Burrows at a disadvantage at the start of the battle from which he was never able to recover.


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by Stephen Luscombe