Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stoddart

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stoddart was one of the earliest victims of the unfortunate events unleashed by the invasion. He had been sent by the British to Bokhara to convince the Emir there that he had nothing to fear from the arrival of the British in Kabul. Unfortunately, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stoddart seems to have made several etiquette blunders that got him arrested and thrown into terrible conditions in a 20 foot deep pit known as 'the black hole'. Amir Nasrullah didn't appreciate his failure to bring gifts from Queen Victoria or in failing to dismount from his horse before approaching the Amir. In reality, the Amir had already decided that he did not wish to have any British interference lest it bring unwanted Russian interest in his kingdom. It is notable that when a Russian invasion of Khiva had to be cancelled and pulled back, Stoddart's conditions improved markedly.

Arthur Conolly was the last hope for Stoddart when he arrived in Bokhara and attempted to negotiate Stoddart's release. He had been trying to create a coalition of Uzbeks and Central Asias to unite to resist Russian expansion in the area. The emir heard of his exploits and invited him to Bokhara which fitted Conolly's plans. Unbeknownst to Conolly, the Emir was hostile to his plans and did not wish a united force to rise up on his border and promptly arrested Conolly on his arrival. The fate of both men was looking bleak. The emir was emboldened in his hostile treatment once he heard of the defeat and massacre of the British in their retreat from Kabul. They were both executed by beheading them in public. The Emir wanted it clear that he did not wish his lands to become pawns in the Great Game.

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by Stephen Luscombe