xxxxxIn the early 1880s when rebellion broke out in the Sudan, the British decided to withdraw all the Egyptian garrisons from the country. This policy, as we have seen, led indirectly to the Siege of Khartoum and the death of General Gordon in 1885. By the mid-
THE SECOND ANGLO-
THE BATTLE OF OMDURMAN 1898
Map (Sudan): considered to be in the public domain. Author: Directorate of Intelligence, United Stated Intelligence Agency – https.//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Su-
xxxxxIn 1884, as we have seen, the British determination to keep out of Sudanese affairs led to the First Anglo-
xxxxxTowards the end of the century, however, the British were obliged to reconsider their commitment to the Sudan. Egypt, under their control since 1882, depended for its survival upon the head waters of the Nile, and these vital waters were becoming increasingly under threat, not by the Mahdist regime -
xxxxxThis growing fear of colonial rivalry became a reality in 1896. By that year the Belgian and the Italians had been persuaded to keep out of the Nile Valley -
xxxxxThe French Nile expedition, led by Captain Jean-
xxxxxThe Sudan at that time was under the rule of Khalifa Abdullah. He had succeeded Muhammad Ahmad, the self-
xxxxxGeneral Kitchener, who took over command of the Egyptian Army in 1892, had prepared well for the invasion. His force consisted of some 8,000 British and 17,000 Egyptian troops, all well trained and equipped, supported by artillery and a flotilla of river gunboats. He began moving his army slowly up the Nile in March 1896, laying a railway as he went to assist in the transport of reinforcements, and by the end of the month he had established his headquarters at Wadi Halfa, just inside the Sudan. Over the next six months he occupied the whole of Dongola province and met no serious resistance. Therexwere battles at Ferkeh and Hafir, but these were not sufficient to halt the advance. On advancing further south there were two notable engagements. In August 1897 the riverside town of Abu Hamed was captured by the invading force and this enabled the completion of the railway from Wadi Halfa to the Nile -
xxxxxFollowing this encounter, fought in April 1898, the Anglo-
xxxxxBut the battle was far from over. When Kitchener then advanced his troops, anxious to capture Omdurman, the rearguard was suddenly attacked by a force of some 20,000 tribesmen which had been held in reserve, and there was fierce fighting before the attack was repulsed. Likewise the cavalry charge of the 21st lancers (illustrated), ordered to clear the way through the small number of Dervishes remaining on the battle field, suddenly found themselves confronted by a force of two to three thousand infantry which had been concealed in a hollow. They eventually managed to force the tribesmen to retreat, but not before losing seventy men and 120 horses. Andxbecause Khalifa Abdullah had escaped from the battlefield, the conquest of the Sudan was not completed until November 1899, when he was eventually confronted and killed at the Battle of Umm Diwaikarat.
xxxxxBut Kitchener had no time to savour his victory at Omdurman. In July, while his army had been advancing up the Nile, the French expedition under the command of Captain Marchand had reached Fashoda on the Upper Nile and claimed the area as a French protectorate. Having achieved his mission -
xxxxxIncidentally, the charge of the 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman was the last charge made by a British cavalry regiment against a standing army. Winston Churchill, the British prime minister during the Second World War, 1940 to 1945, took part in the charge as a young subaltern and afterwards wrote about the campaign in The River War, An Account of the Re-
xxxxx…… As noted earlier, on the 4th September, two days after the Battle of Omdurman, a memorial service for Gordon was held in front of the palace where he was killed in January 1885.