King Amanullah in Berlin

King Amanullah in Berlin (Photo: Deutsches Bundesarchiv <a href="">License</a>)

22.2.1928: Afghanischer König in Berlin is a German-language article from Deutsche Welle about King Amanullah’s visit to Berlin during his 1928 European tour.

In the 1920s a number of German engineers, doctors and other experts were Afghanistan to assist with modernisation and development.

King Amanullah’s visit was particularly significant for Germany, because it was the first state visit to the country since its defeat in World War I.

Afghanistan had remained neutral in the Great War, which was useful for Britain as this meant that some of the troops who would otherwise have been needed to defend the Northwest Frontier were available for deployment elsewhere. However the Third Afghan War took place in 1919.

While in Berlin the King drove a type A-II U-Bahn train, which led to the class being known as the Amanullah-Wagen.

Does anyone know where he drove the train – someone must have made a note of which stations he visited?

Visit of their Majesties the King and Queen of Afghanistan to Swindon Works

Swindon Local Studies Collection has an image of the commemorative booklet containing an illustrated history of Swindon works in Persian which was produced when King Amanullah visited the Great Western Railway‘s works on 21 March 1928.

The Queen did not attend as had been planned: “it was understood that the Royal lady was too fatigued to bear the journey” reported Railway Gazette on 23 March 1928.

The booklet included portraits of the GWR’s Chairman, Deputy Chairman, General Manager and Chief Mechanical Engineer.

British Pathe has some old film KING AMANULLAH IN SWINDON:

Royalty. Amir of Afghanistan Amanullah Khan visits England. The Amir and his entourage visit a railroad engine factory. Dark but interesting footage. The group watches a worker using a gun to spray paint or some sealant on a railroad freight car; the man wears a mask to protect himself from chemicals. The men walk by a locomotive rotating on a turntable outside factory. Interior: they walk through large space w/ many sets of train wheels lined up. Heavy machinery moving another set of wheels overhead. Next; they gather around a finished locomotive. Exterior again;the group walking along beside train. Entering train coach. This visit is probably from 1921 [sic]; when A.K. signed a treaty w/ Great Britain.

I suspect 1921 should say 1928, making it the same as the visit above and as listed by the British Film Institute.

There is also a photo The King of Afghanistan visits the Swindon railway works, Wiltshire, 1928 at the Science & Society Picture Library.

Der Spiegel on King Amanullah’s visit to Berlin

Potentaten als Bittsteller (PDF) is a 2001 article about Afghanistan in Der Spiegel.

There is a 1989 photo of the steam engines at Darulaman. The text says:

Amanullah holte deutsche Firmen und Ingenieure ins Land. Sie errichteten Straßen, Brücken, Staudämme und eine königliche Residenz sowie Prachtbauten in Darulaman, einem Vorort von Kabul. Dort sollte auch eine deutsche Eisenbahn fahren, als Lieblingsspielzeug des Potentaten. Die mit dem Schiff nach Bombay transportierten Lokomotiven wurden von Elefanten über enge Passstraßen durch den Hindukusch geschleppt, ein paar hundert Meter Schienenwege verlegt. Noch nach über 20 Jahren Bürgerkriegswirren und der Zerstörung Kabuls standen dort auf einem von Disteln und Dornenbüschen überwucherten Anger drei verrostete Dampfloks und das Fahrgestell eines Reisewaggons „Made in Germany“.

Whch is something vaguely approximating to:

Amanullah sought German companies and engineers into the country. They built roads, bridges, dams
and royal palace in Darulaman, a suburb of Kabul. There should also be a German rail travel, a favourite toy of potentates. The locomtives were transported by ship to Mumbai and then pulled by elephant in passes through the Hindu Kush, where a couple of hundred metres of rail were laid [not sure I’ve got that translation quite right!]. Yet after more than 20 years of civil war turmoil and the destruction of Kabul, there overgrown by thistles and thorn bushes are three rusty steam engines and the carriage labelled “Made in Germany”.

There is a description (in German) of King Amanullah’s visit to Berlin in 1928.

Die politischen Konsultationen verliefen wenig ergiebig. Der Potentat trat als Bittsteller auf. Er brauche Geld, eröffnete der junge König sogleich dem greisen Reichspräsidenten, „Geld zur Entwicklung meines Landes“. Auch wolle er Eisenbahnen bauen. Bei den Eisenbahnen mahnte Hindenburg zur Vorsicht („wenig rentable Unternehmen“), und über besondere Geldmittel verfüge er leider nicht. Aber Deutschland sei gern bereit, Afghanistan „tüchtige Leute“ zur Verfügung zu stellen.

The political consultations were low yielding. The potentate appeared as a supplicant. He needed money, the young king immediately told the aged President [Hindenberg], ‘money to develop my country.” He even wanted to build railways. Hindenburg warned to be cautious about railways (“little profitable business”), and did not have funds. But Germany was happy to provide “capable people”.

(better translations gratefully accepted!)

King of Afghanistan’s visit to Swindon works

The Railway Magazine of May 1928 (p410) has photo of the “Time-table of Royal Train in English and Persian” for the King of Afghanistan’s visit to Swindon works, G.W.R. On March 21.


The Journey of Their Majesties the
King and Queen of Afghanistan
From Paddington to Swindon
On Wednesday, March 21st, 1928.

More details of King Amanullah’s tour of Europe, with some wonderfully fawning quotes from Railway Gazette. On his peregrinations he also visited Berlin in March 1928, where he went for short ride on – and was allegedly invited to drive – one if the then-new A2 small-profile U-bahn trains, leading to the type becoming known as the “Amanullah-Wagen”.

The March 2008 issue of Majesty magazine has an article: Roaring Twenties: A compelling account of the King and Queen of Afghanistan’s state visit to Britain, by Russell Harris. When I get chance to pop into one of WH Smith’s public reading rooms I’ll see if there is any railway content.