Warburton, Robert (DNB01)
WARBURTON, Sir ROBERT (1842–1899), warden of the Khyber, born in a Ghilzai fort between Jagdallak and Gandamak on 11 July 1842, was the only son of Robert Warburton (d. 10 Nov. 1864), lieutenant-colonel in the royal artillery, by his wife, a noble Afghan lady, niece of the Amir Dost Muhammad. At the time of his birth his mother was flying from the troopers of Sardar Muhammad Akbar Khan, who pursued her for months after the massacre of English at Kabul on 1 Nov. 1841. She was sheltered by her relatives, and finally rejoined her husband on 20 Sept. 1842. At the close of the Afghan war Robert and his mother accompanied his father's battery to Sipri, whence they removed to Morar in Gwalior. In 1850 he was placed at school at Mussoorie under Robert North Maddock, where he remained until 1 Dec. 1856. He was then sent to England, and was placed at Kensington grammar school under G. Frost. Thence he obtained a cadetship, and after one term at Addiscombe and two at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich he obtained his commission in the royal regiment of artillery on 18 Dec. 1861. In 1862 he was sent to India and stationed with the 1st battery of the 24th brigade at Fort Govindghar, the fortress of Amritsar. In August 1864 he exchanged into the F battery of the 18th brigade and was stationed at Mian Mir. In 1866 the failure of the Agra and Masterman's bank left him with only his pay to support himself and his mother. To increase his resources he exchanged into the 21st Punjab infantry. This regiment was then under orders for the Abyssinian campaign, and disembarked at Zoula on 1 Feb. 1868. While serving with the transport train he showed great tact in conciliating native feeling and received the thanks of Sir Robert Napier (afterwards Baron Napier) [q. v.] for his services. When he was invalided to England Napier interested himself in his behalf, and wrote to the lieutenant-governor of the Punjab recommending him for employment on the frontier. On his return to India in April 1869 he was attached as a probationer to the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs, and in July 1870 he was appointed to the Punjab commission as an assistant commissioner to the Peshawar division. At the end of September 1872 he was removed temporarily to the sub-district of Yusafzai and stationed at Hoti-mardan, and in February 1876 he was permanently appointed. Under Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari [q. v.] he took part in several enterprises against the hill tribes who persisted in raiding British territory, particularly against the Utman Khel in 1878, and was five times complimented by the government of the Punjab and thrice by the secretary of state for India. In 1879, during the Afghan campaign, Cavagnari nude repeated applications for his services, but the Punjab government refused to spare him. In July, however, he was appointed political officer of the Khyber, a post which he held for eighteen years.
On the news of the murder of Cavagnari at Kabul, Warburton was nominated chief political officer with General Sir R. O. Bright, Commanding the Jalalabad field force. He joined the force on 10 Oct. and proceeded to Jalalabad to ascertain the revenues of the district. In April 1880 he was invalided to England, and he did not return to the Khyber Pass until 16 Feb. 1882. From that time he remained on the frontier almost continuously until his retirement. He obtained a remarkable influence over the hill tribes, due in part no doubt to his Afghan blood. He raised the Khyber rifles from among these tribes, a force which for many years kept the pass tranquil. His camp became the rendezvous of mutually hostile tribesmen, who carefully refrained from hostilities so long as they remained within its precincts. He was accustomed to travel with no weapon but a walking-stick, and everywhere met with demonstrations of attachment. Able to converse fluently with the learned in Persian and with the common folk in the vernacular Pushto, he succeeded, by his acquaintance with tribal life and character, in gaining an influence over the border Afghans which has never been equalled. In 1881 he attained the rank of major, and in 1887 that of lieutenant-colonel. On 1 Jan. 1890, in recognition of his services, he was created C.S.I. In 1893 he was nominated to the brevet rank of colonel. He resigned his post on 11 July 1897 and received the thanks of the Punjab government. He had frequently requested government to give him an English assistant who might continue his policy and succeed to his influence after his retirement. This request was never granted, and the advent of a successor without local experience was at once followed by disquiet. On the outbreak of excitement among the Afridis in August, he was asked by the Indian government on 13 Aug. whether he was willing to resume his service in connection with the Khyber Pass and the Afridis. He declared himself willing, but on 23 Aug., before definite order had been given, hostilities broke out. He served with the Tirah expedition of 11 and in 1898 he was created K.I M.K. The hardships of the Tirah campaign wore out his frame and the loss of the Khyber port broke his heart. He returned to England with broken health, and dying at 3 Russell Road, Kensington, on 22 April 1899, was buried at Brornpton cemetery on 27 April. In 1868 he married Mary, eldest daughter of William Cecil of Dyffrin, Monmouthshire.
Warburton's reminiscences of his life were published in 1900 under the title 'Eighteen Years in the Khyber,' London, 8vo.
[Eighteen Years in the Khyber (with portraits) ; Times, 24, 25, 28 April 1899.]