Engaging the Mahdists

Edward M. Spiers

in The Victorian Soldier in Africa

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780719061219
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700556 | DOI:
Engaging the Mahdists

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Gladstone's Government established a temporary military occupation of Egypt to ensure the victory at Tel-el-Kebir. Egypt employed a retired British officer, Lieutenant-General William Hicks, to lead an army of 11,000 men against the Mahdists, an offensive that ended in spectacular failure on the plain of Shaykan, near El Obeid, where his army was annihilated with only a few hundred survivors. Gladstone's cabinet wanted to evacuate the Egyptian garrisons from the Sudan as the rebels threatened further towns, including Khartoum. Gladstone reluctantly agreed to send a British relief force to Tokar. The ensuing campaign was extremely brief, but represented the first encounter of British forces with the Mahdists and their first experience of campaigning in the eastern Sudan. Some 4,000 men, drawn from the garrisons in Egypt, Aden and India, served under Sir Gerald Graham, VC. They comprised two brigades of infantry, including a body of Royal Marine Light Infantry, a cavalry brigade under Colonel Herbert Stewart, and a naval detachment operating three Gatling and three Gardner machine-guns.

Keywords: military occupation; plain of Shaykan; British relief force; Gardner machine-guns; Gatling guns; Mahdists; Royal Marine Light Infantry

Chapter.  6105 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Colonialism and Imperialism

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