Fire & Sword Turn 04: February 1884

With January 1884 drawing to a close, the revolt appeared to have been stabilising – however the Eastern Sudan, despite the relative quiet in the region now finally also erupted (or rather simmered) into full blown rebellion – the results were limited however; although Trinkitat & Kassala fell into the hands of dissident Beja Hadendoa Fuzzy-Wuzzies aligned with the Mahdist Rebels, and led by one Osman Diqna, Suakin appears secure – so they aren’t seen as a major threat at this time. Elsewhere no major changes occurred and Akhtar Pasha’s column at Hadiga, and the lone 4th Company of the 1st Egyptian Rifle Battalion on the Atbara River, barely noticed, continuing their journeys initially unaware of what had transpired to the East & South of them…

Fire & Sword Campaign Turn 4

Situation in the Sudan at the start of February 1884

Readers can download a PDF of the Revolt In The Sudan OOB February 1884 for a more detailed list of the Anglo-Egyptian force.

In the North Sir Henry’s column continues South towards Dongola, The Graf proving a great hit with the men and regaling them in his Germanic-English of his adventures throughout Africa (Graf von Schnyder doesn’t make quite so big an impression on the column’s senior officers though). It’s a welcome distraction from the harsh boredom of the Eastern Libyan & Saharan desert… As Sir Henry reaches the 3rd Cataract, the column is met by the first supply steamer to get beyond the 2nd Cataract, in addition to supplies it has the 2nd Company, 19th Yorkshire Regiment (from Wadi Halfa) and the 1st MG Section, The Naval Brigade, on board. Sir Henry welcomes this unexpected reinforcement as he rapidly continues up river to Kerma. Meanwhile the steamer heads down river, back North to Wadi Halfa.

Sudanese Infantry in action near Berber in the Sudan

Sudanese Infantry in action near Berber in the Sudan

Elsewhere in the North the Egyptian Cavalry Regiment at Akasha (HQ & 1st Squadron) continues up river in pursuit of Sir Henry, hoping to link up with him before the month is out. At Abu Hamed Gadelrab Bey plans a quiet month, with a large stock pile of supplies his focus is on recovery of the remaining wounded from the January soiree and strengthening his defences – to which end he debates whether to release the plucky little Talahawiyeh to head back up stream to Maizoub Pasha in Khartoum or retain her to strengthen Abu Hamed’s defences…

In Eastern Sudan the garrison at Suakin are isolated – and low on supplies – however the Garrison Commander,  Captain Finnán Lawrence of The Naval Brigade, elects to sit tight in anticipation of reinforcement and supplies from Alexandria via the Red Sea. Meanwhile Akhtar Pasha chooses to press on West into Northern Sudan, and follows the traditional caravan route to Berber arriving by the middle of the month. Here he finds the Mahdist forces well established, and Berber itself semi-fortified – he immediately opts to assault the town as detailed in Fire & Sword Battle 05: Because We’re ‘ere Yuzbashi! Nobody Else. Just Us. Further South on the Atbara, the isolated 4/1st Company continues down river towards Adararna.

All is currently peaceful in Mahdist controlled Berber

All is currently peaceful in Mahdist controlled Berber

At Khartoum Maizoub Pasha despatches Bordein & Safieh up river with the 1st Company, XIIth Sudanese on board, to El Dueim – hoping to have more success occupying the town the second time around, and have the steamers bring back more supplies to Khartoum – it’s a gamble as Khartoum is left defended only by the scratch forces he is currently conscripting (Bashi-Bazouks and Arab Levies) and any Civilian Militia that can be rounded up (in total about 1 company of troops). With the gunboats gone Maizoub Pasha redoubles his efforts at raising troops from within the town & surrounds, including dredging out everything left in the town arsenal, requisitioning any remaining horses, and conscripting any experienced riders who are reasonably healthy.

In Western Sudan the garrison at El Obeid continues to hold it’s ground – and the XIIth Sudanese column at the W1 well West of El Obeid strikes off East towards the town, but as they approach they quickly encounter a force of Dervish Bandága (riflemen) and Khayála (Cavalry) at a small well, in a rocky area full of Acacia thorn thickets, and a brisk skirmish ensues. It’s essential the column secures the well to replenish it’s water and so they quickly deploy into open order, and supported by the attached artillery section engage the Dervish Riflemen. Very smart accurate fire from the 1st Section, B Battery Egyptian Artillery causes significant casualties amongst the Dervishes, and combined with a telling volley of rifle fire from the Sudanese, that felled their Ra’s Mi’a (leader), the action is over quickly, with just 3 casualties amongst the XIIth Sudanese force (1 killed, 1 died of wounds, 1 wounded recovering). The Dervish Cavalry is unable to play any significant part and moves away, but continues to shadow the little column as it pushes on the last few miles and safely reaches the sanctuary of El Obeid.

Gardner Gun of The Naval Brigade in action

Gardner Gun (a machine-gun) of The Naval Brigade in action with Sir Henry’s column near Dongola

While Maizoub Pasha’s gunboats are heading up the White Nile in the South, in the East nothing has been heard of the 4/1st Company, and back up in the North, Sir Henry’s reinforced column approaches Dongola and is surprised with a sudden onslaught by the Dervish forces defending the Dongola region! Maizoub Pasha’s gunboats meanwhile strike some luck – they find El Dueim weakly held by a small force of Dervish infantry unsupported by any artillery and with no rifles – Safieh, Bordein, and the XIIth Sudanese make short work of them with minimal casualties and soon clear the small river town with minimal casualties! While Bordein immediately heads back down river with supplies for Khartoum and to bring Maizoub Pasha the good news, Safieh stays to support the 1/XIIth Sudanese Company as they start fortifying the town for defence. They can’t believe their good luck at finding it so lightly defended.

Meanwhile out in South-East Sudan the travel worn 4/1st Egyptian Rifle Company arrives in Adararna unmolested having seen no sign of rebel Dervish or Beja forces during it’s trek and finding the town somewhat oblivious to the events elsewhere. Back up north Sir Henry’s badly beaten up column trudges into Dongola, finding some booty, but more importantly freeing several Egyptian & European prisoners who had fallen into the Dervishes hands in the initial uprising. Some succour is provided for Sir Henry however on the last day of February 1884 by the arrival of the HQ & 1st Squadron of the Egyptian Cavalry Regiment, after a hard and arduous forced march up the Nile to catch up with the column.

At Abu Hamed Commander Khatib Gadelrab Bey is cautious and does not endeavour to chance more sorties (he has after all now secured several months of supplies and there is no urgency) but also does not release Talahawiyeh to return to Khartoum. The arrival of the column from Darfur at El Obeid brings a small addition to their supplies (2), while Khartoum receives a boost from Bordein’s return (3). The new garrison at El Dueim has been very successful in foraging with Safieh’s help (7) and at Suakin further supplies arrive with the reinforcements (3). Finally fresh reinforcements are forthcoming from Britain & Egypt – with the 3rd Company, 19th Yorkshire Regiment arriving at Aswan and the 3rd Squadron, Egyptian Cavalry Regiment at Suakin. in Khartoum Maizoub Pasha’s efforts continue and he manages to form a small squadron of cavalry (the grandly named Noble Khartoum Cuirassiers) while he still has some horses remaining for them, as well as slowly improving the organisation of his Bashi-Bazouk and Arab Militia units… At Hadiga Akhtar Pasha licks his wounds and determines his plans for March – will it be another attempt on Berber?

As February concludes, the Revolt Index remained largely unchanged due to the inconclusive battles, however a small decrease occurred in Western Sudan due to the unexpected effect of the lone column reaching El Obeid. The Mahdist Forces accumulated another 33 VPs giving them 134 to date towards their target of 400.

Battles: Fire & Sword Battle 05: Because We’re ‘ere Yuzbashi! Nobody Else. Just Us; Fire & Sword Battle 06: The Gardner’s Jammed & The Yorks Vanquished.

Continue Reading in Turn 5 March 1884.

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