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The Victorian Soldier in Africa$
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Edward M. Spiers

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780719061219

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719061219.001.0001

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Engaging the Mahdists

Engaging the Mahdists

(p.99) Chapter Five Engaging the Mahdists
The Victorian Soldier in Africa

Edward M. Spiers

Manchester University Press

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

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