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The Battle of Omdurman-Sudan 1898
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Posted on 11/21/2002 3:10:36 PM PST by Sparta

In 1898 Kitchener led a force of 8,200 British troops, 17,600 Sudanese and Egyptians up the Nile to capture a city in the Sudan called Omdurman, the Dervish capital across the river from Khartoum. The army camp formed an arc with it's back to the Nile river, in which there were several armed gunboats anchored. Macdonald's brigade was posted in the center of the arc.

It was feared the Dervishes would launch a night attack on the camp from the surrounding hills, so the troops slept with their rifles. In the morning the men in the camp could see the Dervishes advancing, the 1st battle began with a charge from the Dervish army. With the British army pounding the oncoming force with howitzers and machine guns, the attack was short lived and after the battle 2,000 Dervishes lay dead in front of the British lines.

Kitchener assuming the battle was over ordered the troops to advance on Omdurman. Hector Macdonald's brigade was in reserve about a mile or two north of the main body of Kitchener's force, Macdonald commanded a force of 3,000 Sudanese and Egyptians and most unlikely would not be used. Later a Camel Corps' officer arrived at Macdonald's line and informed Macdonald that a sizable force of about 20,000 Dervishes was advancing towards Macdonald's line.

Macdonald's 3,000 troops were all that stood between the main force and the oncoming Dervishes. Kitchener was unaware of the danger and had his troops marching in columns with their rear flank to the attacking Dervishes, and ordered Macdonald to break camp and join the rest of the army. Macdonald had gotten the order from Kitchener, Macdonald replied: "I no do it. I'll see them damned first. We maun just fight!" Macdonald called his commanders to order and quickly mapped out in the sand a plan of defense. Macdonald wheeled his troops into a half circle and had the task of meeting the attacking Dervishes from two directions. If Macdonald's line was to fail, it could result in the destruction of the army. Dervishes attacked in wave after wave, the attack was so heavy that one of the lines of Macdonald's Sudanese battalions broke, and had to resort to hand to hand fighting.

"The valiant blacks prepared themselves with delight to meet the shock, notwithstanding the overwhelming numbers of the enemy"- Winston Churchill

Meanwhile Kitchener was now aware of the grave danger the army was in and ran about desperately shouting orders and trying to reverse his army, and put them back into fighting formations. Macdonald's brigade met the attacking Dervishes with heavy fire, Macdonald kept his troops well organized and disciplined, he continually maneuvered the lines to meet the ongoing threat of the attacking Dervishes.

"Amid the roar of the firing and the dust, smoke and confusion of the charge of front, the general [Macdonald] found time to summon the officers of IX Sudanese around him, rebuked them for having wheeled into line in anticipation of his order, and requested them to drill more steadily in brigade."- Winston Churchill

Before long other regiments began to arrive and backup Macdonald's lines, the firing upon the Dervishes was so intense that they began to retreat, fleeing into the desert. At the battles end 10,000 Dervishes lay dead, 16,000 wounded, and 5,000 prisoners. The battle was over the British army saved, the army lost 48 men and 382 wounded. At the end of the day, when the ammunition from Macdonald's brigades was counted, there were two rounds per man. The British army won the battle and avenged the death of General Gordon of Khartoum. Macdonald was the hero of the day and truly saved the British army.

"The charging Devishes succeeded everywhere in coming to within a hundred or two hundred yards of the troops, and the rear brigade of Sudanese, attacked from two directions, was only saved from destruction by the skill and firmness of its commander, General Hector Macdonald."

Winston S.Churchill

"Macdonald had handled his troops with masterly skill, and had snatched victory from the jaws of peril."

Lord Kitchener

Story based on sources:

Death Before Dishonour 1982 Toll of The Brave 1963 Hector Macdonald: His Rise Through The Ranks And His Contributions To The British Empire 1980 My Early Life: W.S.Churchill 1930


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: britain; islam; kitchener; sudan
If you want on or off the Western Civilization Military History ping list.
1 posted on 11/21/2002 3:10:36 PM PST by Sparta
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To: Sparta
... "The valiant blacks prepared themselves with delight to meet the shock, notwithstanding the overwhelming numbers of the enemy"- Winston Churchill ...
Churchill, in his book The River War, also praises the defenders of Obdurman for their bravery and strategy in the field. Their only mistake, writes Churchill, is that they underestimated the range and power and accuracy of the more modern weapons the British carried with them.
2 posted on 11/21/2002 3:20:25 PM PST by Asclepius
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To: Sparta
Chinese Gordon bump.
3 posted on 11/21/2002 3:21:39 PM PST by Argus
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To: Sparta
I'll get on that list!
4 posted on 11/21/2002 3:21:40 PM PST by gridlock
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To: sphinx; Toirdhealbheach Beucail; curmudgeonII; roderick; Notforprophet; river rat; csvset; ...
Traditional West vs the Religion of Peace ping!!!



5 posted on 11/21/2002 3:21:51 PM PST by Sparta
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To: Sparta
Good Article
6 posted on 11/21/2002 3:28:04 PM PST by Fiddlstix
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To: Sparta
Thanks, Sparta. It does my heart good to read about men who valued honor above gain. Please keep me on the list if I am already on it and if not please place me on it.

Be good and live free,
MoGalahad
7 posted on 11/21/2002 3:39:52 PM PST by MoGalahad
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To: Sparta
Put me on that ping list if you don't mind. Thanks.
8 posted on 11/21/2002 3:50:14 PM PST by walkingdead
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To: Sparta
My Early Life: W.S.Churchill 1930

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and can heartily recommend it.

His description of his own part in this particular battle is very well written, and has stuck in my mind. He was involved in a cavalry charge, and was not at all bashful about describing his own confusion in this fight.

Just a short note of another part of this book that I recall. Shortly after this battle, he was on a ship home, or maybe to another posting. He wrote a section about how he had to donate portion of skin from his forearm to help an injured comrade. His description made it sound excruciating.

Andrew

9 posted on 11/21/2002 3:51:50 PM PST by Andy Ross
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To: Sparta
The amazing thing about this battle, RE "Carnage and Culture," is that the Muslims had relatively modern weapons---at least rifles and some cannons. But not one Madhist got within 30 yards of the British squares. Only when the 17th lancers charged out of the square, thinking that the battle was over, did they run into a gully where the dervishes laid a trap. (This was Curchill's unit).

Naturally, the best painting of this battle was the near massacre of the 17th Lancers---something about the Brits, they always save their best art for the defeats (Balaclava, Isandlwana).

10 posted on 11/21/2002 3:53:02 PM PST by LS
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To: Sparta
An interesting aside (to movie buffs) was that this little episode in British colonial history was more or less chronicled in the novel "The Four Feathers" by A.E.W. Mason. A number of movie versions based on this book were made, the best (in my opinion) being the 1939 version directed by Zoltan Korda. There has been a very recent re-make this year, which is not too bad, either. Serious students of history might not be impressed, however.
11 posted on 11/21/2002 3:58:13 PM PST by 45Auto
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To: Sparta
You gotta hate Kitchener. He was the butcher responsible for introducing the modern world to concentration camps, in the form of disease ridden slaughterhouses for Boer women and children. The British were definitely on the wrong side of that conflict: the Boers were completely justified in their self defense against the arrogant British imperialists.

BTW, how did the British get gunboats up the Nile? What about the cataracts?

12 posted on 11/21/2002 4:30:16 PM PST by Maedhros
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To: Maedhros
BTW, how did the British get gunboats up the Nile? What about the cataracts?

Dragged through rapids, portaged around the cataracts. There's a good book on the topic, Omdurman, Philip Ziegler, Dorset Press.

13 posted on 11/21/2002 4:34:35 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: Sparta
Bump, for a hell of a story..
Semper Fi
14 posted on 11/21/2002 4:34:53 PM PST by river rat
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To: Sparta
Please add me to the WCMH list!
15 posted on 11/21/2002 4:36:13 PM PST by F-117A
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To: Maedhros
Also, the gunboats themselves were custom for the Nile.

Kitchener would have hesitated to venture even so far unless he had complete command of the river. The fact that he enjoyed this advantage was due, above all, to his fleet of gunboats. These lumbering, armour-plated Leviathans, slow in movement, inelegant in lines, still carried an amoury capable of demolishing any Arab fort which they might encounter along the banks of the Nile. Kitchener started with four of them, antiquated by the standards of what was to come, but still quite formidable enough to have maintained Gordon indefinitely in Khartoum if he had had the good luck to include them in his armoury. [But Gordon had been murdered in 1885. -- VR] Then came a new and yet more fearsome model, designed especially for the campaign, crated in a myriad of containers and carried laboriously by train, camel and steamer up the Nile to the assembly point. One hundred and forty feet long and 24 feet wide, these boats could steam at twelve miles an hour and draw only 39 inches of water. Each carried a twelve-pounder quick-firing gun, two six-pounders, a howitzer, four Maxim guns and, what was to prove as useful as anything, a battery of searchlights. They provided the most formidable concentration of firepower in the Sudan.
Fat-fingered in from Ziegler's book. Typos mine, British-isms his.
16 posted on 11/21/2002 4:48:58 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: LS
Naturally, the best painting of this battle was the near massacre of the 17th Lancers---something about the Brits, they always save their best art for the defeats (Balaclava, Isandlwana).

Well, not Just the Brits. There must be at least a dozen artistic impressions of Lt. Danjou and the French Foreign legion battle at Camerone in Mexico, and there are many U.S. versions of the Last Stand at the Alamo and of Custer's last fight. But several of the renditions of the 17th Lancers interesting bad day at Omdurman are quite good.


17 posted on 11/21/2002 4:52:39 PM PST by archy
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To: archy
Great artwork. Where do you get such pictures at the drop of a pith helmet?
18 posted on 11/21/2002 5:27:24 PM PST by LS
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To: Asclepius
Whats the matter? Was Mohammed's allah so weak that he had to rely on dervishes to carry out his goal for the world? If the mahdi was a true prophet and if Mohammed's allah were a true god he would have won.
19 posted on 11/21/2002 5:36:47 PM PST by Ruy Dias de Bivar
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To: Maedhros
Ummm, we're not discussing the Boer War, but thanks for the suggestion. I'll try to get back to you on the gunboats.
20 posted on 11/21/2002 5:57:28 PM PST by Sparta
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To: archy; All
But several of the renditions of the 17th Lancers interesting bad day at Omdurman are quite good.

The use of Soft Point Ammo, from the Dum Dum Arsenal in India helped the Brits...That is how a .303 stops a Dervish.

Presumably the Officer in the bottom painting is Winston C, with his famed Model 1896 Mauser semi-automatic pistol.

21 posted on 11/21/2002 6:10:28 PM PST by Lael
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To: Ruy Dias de Bivar
... If the mahdi was a true prophet and if Mohammed's allah were a true god he would have won ...
The mahdi did win. He had departed this world long before the British columns reached Obdurman. The British commanders had to content themselves with an artillery strike on the mahdi's tomb. As for Sudan, it remains in the indissoluble embrace of the Prophet to this day. Where, however, is the British empire?

Islamic civilization is the only civilization that ever threatened the West in any real way. As late as five hundred years ago Vienna, at the heart of middle-Europe, was beseiged by Ottomans. We underestimate these people at our peril.
22 posted on 11/21/2002 6:24:14 PM PST by Asclepius
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To: Asclepius
As late as five hundred years ago Vienna, at the heart of middle-Europe, was beseiged by Ottomans.

This happened twice. You probably refer to the earlier siege of Vienna, about 1530 by Suleiman the Magnificent. That was a failure. The armies gave up and withrew.

Another attempt was made circa 1683, IIRC. That was a disaster, with the Ottoman armies surprised by a relieving force and routed.

23 posted on 11/21/2002 6:37:11 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: Sparta
Another excellent post sparta. If you're not careful you may develop a cult following amongst us testosterone laden FReepers.

May I suggest the Siege of Malta (1568?)for a future post. There's a great book by Ernle Bradford about the battle but you may be able to find a shorter article about how the vastly outnumbere Knights of Saint John withstood a massive siege by the religion of piece.

Another suggestion would be the exploits of Decatur along the Barbary Coast.

24 posted on 11/21/2002 6:39:56 PM PST by MattinNJ
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To: MattinNJ
I already have. (63 have already signed up)
25 posted on 11/21/2002 6:42:42 PM PST by Sparta
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To: Lael
Presumably the Officer in the bottom painting is Winston C, with his famed Model 189g Mauser semi-automatic pistol.

He'd been given permission to carry his personally owned pistol rather than a saber that day, having previously suffered a slight injury to his right arm. Interestingly, some authorities list his actions that day as being the first documented account of the use of an autoloading handgun in combat.

And here we are, a hundred-four years later. And beneath the seat of my pickup truck sits a C96 Mauser *broomhandle* pistol that he'd have found instantly familiar, quite capable of doing the job it did then just as effectively for me. Due to a quirk in local firearms laws, it's the best immediate choice available to me for the purpose, and if called upon, I expect it'll serve me well.

But the *DumDum* arsenal *manstopper* loads were soft-nosed pistol ammunition meant to drop an adversary with an edged weapon immediately, and fired in the .455 MkI and .450 pistols of the day, I'd expect they did. Winston carried the C96 for ease of reloading, but missed out on a 20-round magazine like mine has....

And I think the Sudanese batallions at least, and possibly some of the Brits at Omdurman were still using the Martini-Henry. Churchill's own description of a mangled recipient of one of the Martini slugs, which needed little help in the stopping department, mentions their use.

-archy-/-

26 posted on 11/21/2002 6:43:05 PM PST by archy
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To: Sparta
(63 have already signed up)

Kindly make that 64, and add me to the list, please.

-archy-/-

27 posted on 11/21/2002 6:44:32 PM PST by archy
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To: LS
I'm a former newspaper photog, researcher and sometimes editor. And the subject is one with which I'm familiar.

Check out my freeper profile for an interesting Civil War rendition from Don Trioni, a really talented artist.

-archy-/-

28 posted on 11/21/2002 6:53:34 PM PST by archy
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To: Asclepius
The mahdi may have captured Kartoom and killed Gordon but he still died not long afterward. Another sand prophet reduced to sand.You are correct.
We now have the wake up call I have been worrying about for the last 30 years.
29 posted on 11/21/2002 6:59:06 PM PST by Ruy Dias de Bivar
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To: Sparta
Didn't Kitchner do something with the Mahdi's skull?
I have a vague memory.
30 posted on 11/21/2002 7:11:05 PM PST by tet68
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To: Sparta
Great! please add me to the Western Civilization Military History ping list.
31 posted on 11/21/2002 7:21:31 PM PST by CapandBall
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To: Sparta
Lord Kitchener

32 posted on 11/21/2002 7:32:51 PM PST by Consort
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To: Sparta
I know we're talking about different conflicts here; I was just trying to moderate the exuberant pro-Britishnes of some of the posters.
33 posted on 11/21/2002 7:39:02 PM PST by Maedhros
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To: Maedhros
Your apology is accepted. Seriously, thanks for the suggestion.
34 posted on 11/21/2002 7:45:47 PM PST by Sparta
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To: Sparta
Ad me to your ping list, Sparta. Great stuff here, thanks.

Grizz
35 posted on 11/21/2002 7:59:55 PM PST by Grizzly Bear
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To: archy
I've have a copy of "Frontiers and Wars" which (it says from the Publisher's Note)is a compilation of churchill's first four books. The River War was first published in 1899, "describes the re-conquest of the Soudan... from the Mahdi who was, as Sir Winston saw in 1899, the father of Arab nationalism".
It is Kipling era stuff. White man's burden and all that!
36 posted on 11/21/2002 9:12:35 PM PST by glorgau
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To: Sparta
I already have. (63 have already signed up)

OK, you got me. Put me on the list. :-)

37 posted on 11/21/2002 9:28:44 PM PST by an amused spectator
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Comment #38 Removed by Moderator

To: Sparta
"They say it was a shocking site

After the field was won:

for many thousand bodies were

Lay rotting in the sun:

But things like that, you know must be

After a famous victory."

Robert Southey

39 posted on 11/21/2002 11:15:52 PM PST by Eternal_Bear
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To: Maedhros
The Boers were sorta like a Calvinist Taliban but Kitchener's method of breaking their will by starving their children in concentration camps was definitely beyond the pale.
40 posted on 11/22/2002 3:30:56 AM PST by weikel
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To: weikel
Kitchener got his payback during WW I when he and his lover Major Fitzgerald were drowned on their way to Russia.
41 posted on 11/22/2002 6:47:57 AM PST by Eternal_Bear
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To: Eternal_Bear
Kitchener was the only general of either side in World War I who came any place close to predicting the length of that bloody conflict. The Brits couldn't think of any way to use his appreciable talents and finally decided to ship him off to help the Russians. The armored cruiser in which he was sailing struck a mine [probably; there are no claims of a torpedo hit by any German submarine] and sank with geeat loss of life.
42 posted on 11/22/2002 12:48:52 PM PST by curmudgeonII
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To: Sparta
If you want on or off the Western Civilization Military History ping list.

I want on. Thx.
43 posted on 11/28/2002 7:46:06 PM PST by witnesstothefall
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To: VadeRetro
Gunboats sort of remind me of precision guided missiles: they blow up mohammedan castles and things very nicely. It's tough work, but it has to be done.
44 posted on 11/28/2002 8:04:54 PM PST by mathurine
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