In 1942 William Brown was posted as a recently commissioned Indian Army Officer to the Gilgit Agency in the very north of the North West Frontier. He traveled widely, learnt the local dialects and built the Chilas Polo ground. After a brief period away from Gilgit, just prior to Partition in early 1947 he was appointed acting Commandant of the Gilgit Scoots.
To his horror he learnt that the Viceroy Lord Mountbatten had ruled
that Gilgit, despite being 99% Muslim, should be ceded to Hindu
rule. Knowing that this was a disastrous and callous decision that
would lead to insurrection, chaos and bloodshed, the 25 year-old
acting Major Brown took it upon himself to oust the Indian
Governor, fly to Karachi and offer Gilgit to the Pakistanis, who
accepted with alacrity.
Brown knew that he was in the eyes of the Indians and Mountbatten,
a mutineer who would have been executed, had he fallen into Indian
hands. Thus it is all the more extraordinary that six months later
he was awarded the MBE, the citation of which was so vague that it
gave no indication of the reason.
As well as giving an hour-by-hour account of this unfolding
political and military drama, Brown’s memoir captures the
atmosphere and magic of this remote country at the close of the