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Because this is Home Game, and because the topic screams for it, I am going to do something I never do for Idol: quote a someone else’s texts extensively and riddle this entry with source links.

One of my happy places is slow reading. To me, this means looking up every little sniff in a text that gives me even a little pause. You are kindly invited to follow as I re-read the first paragraph of A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, the first well known public domain book that has sprung to my mind. (One of the many online texts of this novel can be found here.)

Without further ado, let us begin.


PART I. (Being a reprint from the reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D., late of the Army Medical Department>.)

Now, in the Sherlock series, John is late of RAMC, Royal Army Medical Corps, to which the Army Medical Department is a precursor. RAMC motto is “In arduis fidelis”, faithful in adversity. Wiki says: The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all Army personnel and their families, in war and in peace. Together with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, the Royal Army Dental Corps and Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, the RAMC forms the Army Medical Services., while The Museum of Military Medicine gives a brief rundown of the history of the medical corps tracing its origins to the second half of the 17th century, after which it become an organized structure during the Napoleonic wars, and specifically, the battle of Waterloo. (Tangent: the same battle of Watreloo that saw the wounded Colonel Pontmercy in Les Misérables accidentally rescued by Thénardier.) The then Medical Staff Corps was reorganized into RAMC by Royal Warrant on 23rd June 1898 (years after Dr Watson was discharged from the service).


In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army.

Dr Watson finished University in the year 1878, twenty years before RAMC made an appearance. He was also educated in the University of London, while in Sherlock, John studied at Barts (London’s St Bartholomew’s hospital). Now Netley I am completely unfamiliar with.

Wiki says: The Royal Victoria Hospital or Netley Hospital was a large military hospital in Netley, near Southampton, Hampshire, England. A-ha. Its construction started in 1856, 22 years prior to Dr Watson’s graduation. The main building of the hospital, reporteldly grandiose for its time, was demolished in 1966, so it cannot currently be visited.


Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as Assistant Surgeon.

Wiki says: The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was an infantry regiment of the British Army. Originally raised in 1674 as the 5th Regiment of Foot, it was given the regional designation 'Northumberland' in 1782 and granted the distinction of being a Fusilier regiment in 1836, becoming 5th (Northumberland Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot. This is horrible, because I know so little about the organization of the British army. Very well. The regiment Dr Watson was attached to was an infantry regiment (foot being a contemporary term for infantry), which had been distinguished with the title of Fusiliers, and further renamed into Royal Northumberland Fusiliers after the numbering system for regiments was abolished in the 1880s. As to the number, when regiments were still numbered, it was done in the order that they were “raised”, making the Northumberland Fusiliers one of the earliest. Tangent: there is also, apparently, a Sherockian society of the name Fifth Nurthumberland Fusiliers.


The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before I could join it, the second Afghan war had broken out.

All I know right now is that there were more than one Afghan wars (because it says so in the book).

Britannica says: Anglo-Afghan Wars, also called Afghan Wars, three conflicts (1839–42; 1878–80; 1919) in which Great Britain, from its base in India, sought to extend its control over neighbouring Afghanistan and to oppose Russian influence there.

Wiki says: The Second Anglo-Afghan War was a military conflict fought between the British Raj and the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1878 to 1880, when the latter was ruled by Sher Ali Khan of the Barakzai dynasty, the son of former Emir Dost Mohammad Khan.

This was the second time British India invaded Afghanistan. The war ended after a series of military victories by the British against various Afghan forces. The Afghans agreed to let the British attain all of their geopolitical objectives from the Treaty of Gandamak. Most of the British and Indian soldiers withdrew from Afghanistan. TheAfghan tribes were permitted to maintain internal rule and local customs but they had to cede control of the area's foreign relations to the British, who, in turn, guaranteed the area's freedom from foreign military domination as a buffer between the British Raj and the Russian Empire. Afghanistan also officially ceded various border territories to the British empire.



On landing at Bombay, I learned that my corps had advanced through the passes, and was already deep in the enemy's country.

The Khyber pass, which is now connects Afghanistan and Pakistan (Kabul and Islamabad), was once part of the famous Silk route.



Tangent : Hindu-stan (another name for both India and Indian peninsula), Paki-stan, Afghani-stan. Hindu Kush, the mountain range through which cuts the Khyber pass means “Hindu killer”. Extra tangent: the Durand line seen in the above map is the “official” border from Afghanistan and Pakistan (British India at the time); it was drawn after the second Anglo-Afghan war by a British policitcian by the name Durand and caused a lot of strife and anger in the Pashtun people who it divided between the two countries, and played a hand in the India partition of 1947 and the creation of Pakistan.


I followed, however, with many other officers who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded in reaching Candahar in safety, where I found my regiment, and at once entered upon my new duties.



Kandahar being (today) the second largest town in Afghanistan after Kabul, the capital.

Thus ends the reading for the first paragraph of the Study in Scarlet.


These excerpts, and all the extra bits and pieces gleaned from the articles cited, is more or less the amount of extra information I collect when feasting on a book I like this way. I have never yet finished a single novel thusly, but it is the process of “fleshing” it that interests me in the exercise. I also usually stop myself reading up on more than the “second level” tangent you could have noticed above, because with how little I know, reading about the things I don’t understand sufficiently in the text only unearths even more things that I often have never even heard about (like the Durand line mentioned), but I have to stop my descent into this rabbit hole somewhere, and this is as a good a place as any.

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