Voyager Press Rare Books & Manuscripts

1925 - Photograph Albums - Pre-Independence Pakistan

British Raj in North-West Frontier Province - Balochistan and Sindh

Three Albums with Original Negatives

1925 - Photograph Albums - Pre-Independence Pakistan

British Raj in North-West Frontier Province - Balochistan and Sindh 1925


Views of Quetta, Chaman, Karachi, Bela, and Forbidden Border Regions

[Balochistan, Sindh, North-West Frontier (India and Pakistan), 1925] - Three photograph albums of firsthand views captured by a young soldier whilst serving in the era of British Raj, with the Rifle Brigade of the British Army (The Prince Consort's Own). Altogether containing 188 gelatin silver print photographs measuring approximately 4 x 6 cm, neatly ensconced behind window mounts, recto and verso onto thick grey cardstock leaves. With 6 larger print photographs (16 x 11 cm, captioned to verso) of certain images in the album, loosely inserted. 8vo. albums with like bindings, grey cloth boards ruled in black, two volumes measuring approximately 15,5 x 11,5 cm, one larger oblong volume measuring approximately 20 x 15,5 cm. Together with the original film negatives contained in an Eastman Negative Album complete with manuscript numbered index, rare with the original sleeve, and captioned to front in manuscript "4th Batt. Rifle Brigade." A scant few of the negatives are captioned in manuscript to margins, revealing dates in 1925, and one possibly being as early 11/1923. Together with 1 newspaper clipping showing and describing a natural disaster which took place ten years later at Quetta.

Through the eyes and camera lens of a young British Infantry soldier we are shown what life was like in Pakistan long before independence, prior to the Second World War, and even before the devastating earthquake of 1935. Captivating scenes illustrate local custom and trades, British Army duty and collaboration with the Indian Army.

Images and corresponding film negatives suggest that the lad arrived at Karachi onboard the troopship SS Barpeta. Changes in seasons, together with one captioned negative which seems to bear the date 1923, and others definitely dating to 1925, indicate a lengthy tour abroad. Scenes are from Quetta, Chaman, Karachi, Bela, and travelling in between, sometimes on the brink of forbidden regions of the Northwest Frontier.

Local custom and trades are seen in images of a quarry and brick-making facility, an array of cart styles for conveyance, as well as the use of camels, horses, donkeys, oxen, even elephants used for transport and labour, Especially unique are the beehive-like dome dwellings made of stones and mud seen in the desert, nomadic or impoverished families living in tents, and a large mud-walled native tomb. Lively images capture a large native trolley filled with passengers, and merchant shops at the Suraj Gonj Bazaar in Quetta.

Also at Quetta, some ten years before earthquake of 1935, we can identify the Quetta railway station with horse-drawn carriages for hire upon arrival, the Sandeman Darbar Hall [Sandeman Memorial Hall] with a statue erected in memory of Sir Robert Groves Sandeman, KCSI (1835-1892), and also the Command and Staff College at Quetta (1907-1955) which had been founded two years earlier in Deolali, and, interesting to note, was equipped with a canon nestled in the bushes to guard the front entrance. For equestrian enthusiasts, an event took place at the Quetta race course, the sport being relatively new to the region as there is no seating, nor shelter for spectators or participants.

A lovely and rare large print photograph of the old water tower at Chaman, with a camel caravan in the foreground, is captioned, "Chaman. Water tower. An active service on the Afghan border showing camel transport. This is the most northern station in India, no white people whatever live here & no white women ever allowed." Also at Chaman, he photographs street scene and a "native sentry".

[Chaman or Chamman, situated some 130 km from Quetta, is the capital of Qilla Abdullah District, Balochistan, in today's Pakistan. It is situated south of the Chaman border crossing with neighbouring Spin Boldak in Kandahar Province of Afghanistan. The town is an important trade point in the Balochistan region, providing a gateway on the trade routes between Afghanistan and Karachi.]
A large view marked "Bela" further reveals that foreigners were not permitted in certain regions. The caption to verso describes this location as "A short distance from camp on the north-west frontier [with] the Himalayas in the background" further remarking on the photograph, "a party of Afghan merchants can be seen... Photo was taken as near as we were allowed to go in..."

[Bela is an important town of Lasbela District in Balochistan today, and is the chief town of the Bela Tehsil. It is an ancient town in a historic track surrounded by hills above the Arabian Sea nearly 200 km west of Karachi.]
Dated 20 August 1925 at "Anna" on the film negative, a large dam dons a narrow bridge top to cross the river, and a winding railway leads to the village of "Anna" [presumably referring to Pakka Anna in the Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab, which was developed by the British toward the end of the 19th Century when a canal system was built].

Views of the British military garrison "Karachi Rest Camp" illustrates the desolation of many regions to which the regiments were assigned and lived. Possibly from the nearby city of Karachi, photographs show colonial European built churches, a Freemason Hall, and an Indian Army practice exercise. Karachi is located on the coastline of Sindh province in today's southern Pakistan, along a natural harbour on the Arabian Sea. At the time of these photographs it was in British India. The city's municipal government was established under British rule.

British army tent encampments are erected in remote locations, and permanent other guarded barracks are shown, including the Quetta Fort. A rather comfortable estate with an entrance sign reading "Soldiers home" provides fine accommodations and mess. Rail travel being the principle mode of transportation for the regiments, images of new tracks and stations appear, as does an incident of a runaway train collapsed at the point where the cars join.

The Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own) was an infantry rifle regiment of the British Army, formed in January 1800 as the "Experimental Corps of Riflemen" to provide sharpshooters, scouts and skirmishers. The unit was distinguished by its use of green uniforms as standard in place of the traditional redcoat, as well as being armed with the first British-made rifle accepted by the British Army, in place of smooth-bore muskets. The infantry served in India from the early years, participating in the Indian Rebellion and the Siege of Lucknow in Autumn 1857.

SS Barpeta (1914) was a Steel Screw Steamer, 3283gt, built by Barclay Curle & Company Glasgow, Yard No 509, for the British India Steam Navigation Company. During the Great War she served as a troopship, bringing squadrons into Karachi harbour, from where they would travel by rail. Evidently after the war she continued army service to India. In WWII she was requisitioned for temporary use as a Landing Ship Infantry under the Red Ensign. In July 1950 she was sold and scrapped at Bombay by Indian Steel Syndicate.

Sandeman Darbar Hall in Quetta, with the statue erected in memory of Sir Robert Groves Sandeman, KCSI (1835-1892), Colonial British Indian officer and administrator who took part in the final capture of Lucknow as adjutant of the 2nd Bengal Lancers, was appointed to the Punjab Commission after the suppression of the mutiny, and introduced an innovative system of tribal pacification in Balochistan which remained in effect from 1877 to 1947.

Quetta is the provincial capital of Balochistan, Pakistan, and situated near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, beneath the slopes of Murdar, at the northern end of the Quetta-Pishin valley. At an elevation of 5,500 feet above sea level, the city lies on the Bolan Pass route which was once the only gateway from Central Asia to South Asia, and remains important link on the line of communication with India. During the era of British Raj, in 1876 Quetta was incorporated into British controlled territories of the subcontinent. The military station was designed by Sir Hugh Barnes in 1881 and laid out on systematic lines of which broad axial roads were a predominant feature. British Troops constructed the infrastructure for their establishment as it was a strategic location. By the time of the earthquake on 31 May 1935, Quetta had developed into a bustling city with a number of multistory buildings and was known as "Little Paris". The epicenter of the earthquake was close to the city and destroyed most of the city’s infrastructure and killed an estimated 40,000 people.

The 1935 Quetta earthquake occurred on 31 May between 2:33 am and 3:40 am at Quetta, Balochistan, British Raj (now part of Pakistan). The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.7 Mw and anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000 people died from the impact. This ranked as the deadliest earthquake that hit South Asia until the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. The quake was centered 4.0 kilometres south-west of Ali Jaan, Balochistan, British India. A Regimental Journal for the 1st Battalion of the Queen's Royal Regiment based in Quetta issued on November 1935 stated, "It is not possible to describe the state of the city when the battalion first saw it. It was razed to the ground. Corpses were lying everywhere in the hot sun and every available vehicle in Quetta was being used for the transportation of injured... Battalion Headquarters were established at the Residency. Hardly had we commenced our work than we were called upon to supply a party of fifty men, which were later increased to a hundred, to dig graves in the cemetery..."

The North-West Frontier Province was a former province created by the British in their vast territories in South Asia then called British India. It was established in 1901 and dissolved in 1955, after eight years as part of the independent state of Pakistan. The province covered an area of 70,709 km², including much of the current Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (also called KPK) province but excluding the former princely states of Amb, Chitral, Dir, Phulra and Swat. The capital was the city of Peshawar and the province was composed of three divisions (Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan and Malakand. Until 1947 the province was bordered by five princely states to the north, the minor states of the Gilgit Agency to the northeast, the province of West Punjab to the east, and the province of Balochistan to the south. Afghanistan lay to the northwest, with the tribal agencies forming a buffer zone.

Current Condition

Album corners slightly bumped, otherwise in Very Good Condition.