The news of the destruction of the Wickes Expedition stunned the British. Coming as it did after the death of General Gordon and Egyptian and British withdrawal from most of the Sudan, it seemed that the power and influence of the mightiest nation in the World was on the wane. Newspapers printed critical editorials, the Opposition asked searching questions, and the Cabinet sought advice from the Sirdar. The latter’s reply was blunt. Either Britain must accept the defeat inflicted upon it or a further expedition must be mounted against Osman Dogma.
After considerable discussion in Cabinet the Prime Minister decided that Britain’s honour had been slighted, and that there was a need for her military prowess to be demonstrated to the rest of the World. Despite the cost, Osman Dogma must be punished! When he made an announcement to this effect in Parliament, Members cheered and waved their Order Papers. In reply to a question from one of the more radical MPs about the validity of Britain’s right to involve itself in the internal affairs of a foreign country, he replied, “In the time of the great Roman Empire, all a citizen had to do was to say ‘Civis Romanus sum!’ to remind people that the power of the whole Empire was behind him. The time has now come when the citizens of the British Empire need to know that they, like their Roman predecessors, can go anywhere in the World in peace and without fear.”
The Sirdar was ordered to mount a new expedition as soon as possible, but although his preparations were purposeful they were also unhurried. He knew that the time was not yet right to defeat Dogma, and he had no wish to repeat the mistakes made when the Wickes Expedition was mounted. Troops were assembled and trained, stores accumulated, rumours spread, and plans were made. It was now only a matter of time before Osman Dogma was defeated.
Chapter 2 – Osman Dogma prepares
Osman Dogma was not well educated by Western standards – he knew the Koran by heart and could sign his name – but he was no fool. After the destruction of the Wickes Expedition he expected that the ‘Turks’ (the Egyptians and their British allies) would retaliate sooner or later. He therefore withdrew northward from the hinterland surrounding Tewfpik into the heartland of his power, the area around the town of Mirkat and the nearby port of Koktat.
He had learned one lesson from his fight with the ‘Turks’. This lesson was that intense rifle fire could kill his warriors before they could get into hand-to-hand combat with their enemies. Dogma therefore recruited a new, rifle-armed bodyguard of Hadendowah tribesmen, and this now formed the core of his forces. He also reinforced the defences of Koktat in the expectation – backed up by rumours – that this is where the ‘Turks’ would attack. He was not mistaken.
Chapter 3 – The capture of Koktat
The Sirdar knew of Osman Dogma’s withdrawal to Mirkat as well as his dependence upon the port of Koktat for supplies and revenue. Koktat was the conduit through which Dogma exported his captives into slavery and by which arms and ammunition for his forces were imported. The Sirdar therefore let it be known that he intended to capture Koktat as a precursor to invading Dogma’s bailiwick. A landing force was assembled, and within four months of the destruction of the Wickes Expedition it had set sail for Koktat.
The landing force, commanded by Colonel Algernon Boothby and carried aboard two Stowe Steamship Line vessels (Lady Alexandra and Lady Victoria), was escorted by HMS Insolent. The troops in the landing force included:
- 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Light Infantry
- 1st Egyptian Infantry Battalion
- IX Sudanese Infantry Battalion
- 1st Egyptian Artillery Battery
Osman Dogma had reinforced Koktat’s defences with a group of Jiadia Riflemen and a battery of ancient muzzle-loading Artillery. This garrison was commanded by Omar Gourd, and had orders to defend Koktat at all costs.
As the sun rose the British-led landing force approached Koktat from the East. Omar Gourd’s gunners were blinded by the rising sun and were unable to see their targets clearly. They opened fire, but the range of their Artillery was insufficient to reach the approaching ships, and their aim was very poor. The same could not be said of HMS Insolent‘s gunners. They were able to pin-point the position of Gourd’s Artillery because of the clouds of smoke produced ever time the muzzle-loaders fired, and the second 10 inch shell fired by HMS Insolent destroyed the Mahdist battery.
The Naval gunners then turned their attention to the port’s other defences. The Jiadia Riflemen were undaunted by the Royal Navy’s firepower, but were unable to answer it effectively. Volley after volley of rifle fire was directed against the British gunboat, but it had no effect. All it did was to expose the positions occupied by the Riflemen, and one by one HMS Insolent‘s main armament pounded them to dust. Realizing that Koktat was indefensible, Omar Gourd ordered his men to withdraw. By lunchtime the British-led landing force had occupied the port and Colonel Boothby had ordered the rebuilding its defences in anticipation of a Mahdist counter-attack.
Chapter 4 – The Mahdist counter-attack
The Colonel was not mistaken in his belief that the Mahdists would try to re-take Koktat as soon as possible. Within two days of the capture of the port a large force of Mahdist Infantry, commanded by Omar Gourd and supported by Artillery, began to besiege Koktat. HMS Insolent‘s 10 inch, 18-ton BLR gun deterred them from mounting an all-out attack, and this allowed time for Koktat’s defences to be strengthened considerably.
Four days after the landing force had captured Koktat, the 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Light Infantry re-embarked on to the transports that had brought them. The vessels then sailed southward, escorted by HMS Insolent.
Within hours of the departure of HMS Insolent and the British Infantry Battalion, the Mahdists attacked. Massed attacks by spear and sword-armed Infantry, supported by rifle fire from Jiadia Riflemen and a battery of Mahdist Artillery, were beaten back time and time again by the steady rifle and artillery fire of the garrison.
Mahdist casualties were heavy, and Gourd sent messages to Osman Dogma asking for further troops to be sent to aid him. Dogma, who was enjoying the pleasures of Mirkat, finally agreed to come to the aid of his underling, and escorted by his bodyguard and a force of Infantry, Cavalry, and Camelry, he set off for Koktat.
Chapter 5 – The trap is sprung
Unbeknown to all save a few trusted subordinates, the Sirdar had used the Stowe Steamship Line’s vessels to land the 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Light Infantry on the Red Sea coast south of the Tokar Hills. There they had rendezvoused with an Egyptian force – The Mirkat Field Force – led by General Horace Gardener. The Mirkat Field Force now included:
- 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Light Infantry
- 2nd Egyptian Infantry Battalion
- X Sudanese Infantry Battalion
- 1st Egyptian Cavalry Squadron
- 1st Egyptian Lancers
- 1st Egyptian Gatling Gun Battery
The Field Force had then advanced through the unguarded Tokar Pass, hoping to outflank the besiegers of Koktat. However circumstances had delivered a far better objective into General Gardener’s hands – Osman Dogma himself!
Chapter 6 – The Battle of Mirkat
Realizing that he now faced a superior force, Osman Dogma sent messengers to Omar Gourd informing him that the siege of Koktat should be lifted, and the besieging forces should march towards Mirkat at once. Dogma also despatched his Cavalry towards the Anglo-Egyptian force in the hope of delaying its advance. Finally, he placed himself in the centre of his bodyguard.
General Gardener ordered his own Cavalry – the 1st Egyptian Cavalry Squadron and 1st Egyptian Lancers – to charge the oncoming Mahdist Cavalry.
The effect was devastating on the Mahdist horsemen, who were swept aside by the Egyptians. Furthermore, the Egyptians were able to charge home on to the Baggara Infantry and Camelry who were accompanying Osman Dogma, causing them considerable casualties. Of Dogma’s troops only his Hadendowah Riflemen held their ground and were able to beat off the attacking Egyptians.
Seeing that his mounted troops were now spent and in need of support, General Gardener hurried forward to urge Lieutenant Colonel Rutland – the 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Light Infantry’s commanding officer – to move his men forward as fast as possible. Colonel Rutland had anticipated this order and was already deploying his men into line prior to receiving this order.
Omar Gourd took little time to acquiesce to his superior’s demands for assistance once Osman Dogma’s message to break off the siege had reached him.
However, as Gourd’s troops withdrew westward, the commander of Koktat’s garrison – Colonel Algernon Boothby – ordered his men to pursue the retreating Mahdists. The steady rifle fire of the 1st Egyptian Infantry Battalion and IX Sudanese Infantry Battalion, augmented by the Shrapnel shells of 1st Egyptian Artillery Battery, caused considerable casualties amongst the Mahdists.
Seeing that there was now little likelihood that Omar Gourd’s troops could help relieve the pressure on his own forces, Osman Dogma ordered his bodyguard to cover his own retreat from the battlefield.
Whilst Dogma made good his escape, the Hadendowah Riflemen fought to the last man, shot to pieces by the rifle fire of the 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Light Infantry and X Sudanese Battalion.
Chapter 7 – The aftermath of the battle
The destruction of the Osman Dogma’s bodyguard marked the end of the battle. So great was the slaughter that despite the escape of both Osman Dogma and Omar Gourd, the survivors were no longer considered to be a threat to the Tewfpik Enclave.
As far as Britain was concerned, the Mirkat Campaign had been a complete success. A new foothold – Koktat – had been gained on Sudan’s Red Sea coast, Osman Dogma’s power had been broken, Britain’s pre-eminence in the World had been re-established, and the Egyptian and Sudanese troops had proved themselves in battle.
The troops featured in the photographs are 15-mm scale Essex Miniatures figures. They were painted by MILI-ART and Essex Miniatures Painting Service. The buildings and ships are home-made from FIMO™, the trees are Small Palm Trees supplied by Essex Miniatures and Sugarcraft, the terrain is made from cork floor tiles, the Red Sea is made from Solid Marine Marley self adhesive floor tiles, and the hills and mountains are home-made from plywood, cork tiles, white glue, Dulux matt emulsion paint, and various scenic scatter materials.
The rules used are the latest version of SCWaRes (Simple Colonial Wargames Rules) which use a zonal movement and weapon range system.
In the aftermath of the death of General Gordon in Khartoum, the Egyptians and British withdrew from most of the Sudan. They did, however, retain some small enclaves on the Red Sea coast, and amongst these was the small port of Tewfpik. A small garrison of Egyptian troops, led by Colonel Cuthbert Wickes, maintained an uneasy peace in the town and its hinterland.
The garrison was under constant threat of attack by Mahdist forces led by Osman Dogma and his trusted lieutenants Omar Gourd and Emir Baggar-Tel, and what later became known as ‘The Wickes Expedition’ arose because of increasing Egyptian (and thus British) disquiet about the depredations wreaked upon the area by the Mahdists.
Chapter 2 – Colonel Cuthbert Wickes
Colonel Cuthbert Wickes was a brave, genial, middle-aged but somewhat unimaginative man who was held in high regard in Cairo for his ability to handle poor-quality native troops. He had gained this reputation during earlier campaigns in the Sudan, where he had raised a group of irregular Arab riflemen who had harassed Mahdist operations. His skills were recognised, and he was promoted from the rank of Captain (Yuzbashi) to Colonel (Miralai) in the Egyptian Army.
Colonel Wickes was not, however, happy with his lot in life. He had only joined the Egyptian Army because he felt that his humble origins – he was the only son of a prosperous Norwood builder – had hampered his progress in the British Army. This had left him resentful of the influence of younger, more senior officers who served in Egyptian Army Headquarters in Cairo, and had clouded his otherwise sound judgment on several occasions in recent years. Wickes was, however, a basically sound officer, and he was the obvious choice to lead the punitive expedition against Osman Dogma’s Mahdist forces.
Chapter 3 – The Wickes Expedition
It was the arrival of Arnold Hack, then roving correspondent of “The London Weekly Enquirer”, in Tewfpik that forced the Egyptians and British to take action against Osman Dogma. Having obtained permission from Colonel Wickes to accompany a cavalry patrol into the hinterland, Hack went to several native villages that had been ‘visited’ by the Mahdists. What he saw appalled him. The Mahdists had taken everything they could – including food, young women, and all the able-bodied men – under the pretext of ‘taxing’ the villagers. Those that remained were starving to death.
As soon as he had returned from the patrol Hack sent a cabled report about what he had seen to his London office. The report made front page news, and the Opposition asked questions in the House of Commons about Government policy relating to the capture and defeat of Osman Dogma. Stung by this, the Prime Minister ordered the Sirdar to take action. Within a week of Hack’s report appearing on the pages of “The London Weekly Enquirer” reinforcements had been sent to Tewfpik, and Colonel Wickes was ordered to mount a punitive expedition against Osman Dogma.
Dogma and his Mahdists were believed to be based in and around the town of Dahmot, and Wickes decided to march on the town with all available troops. His intention was to surprise the Mahdists and to defeat them in open battle.
The troops available to Colonel Wickes included:
- 21st Egyptian Infantry Battalion
- 22nd Egyptian Infantry Battalion
- 16th Egyptian Cavalry Squadron
- 11th Egyptian Artillery Battery
- 12th Egyptian Gatling Gun Battery
Chapter 4 – The first day
After a delayed start, the Wickes Expedition marched westward from Tewfpik towards Dahmot. The column was led by the Egyptian Cavalry Squadron, with Colonel Wickes and his Staff following immediately behind. The main body of the column was formed by the two Egyptian Infantry Battalions, and the advance was covered on the left flank by the Egyptian Artillery and Gatling Gun Batteries.
The force made slow progress during the first day, and had only managed to march half the distance Colonel Wickes had planned to cover before nightfall.
Despite this set-back there had been no sign of the Mahdist forces, and as the column began to form square and make camp for the night Colonel Wickes confided to his diary that he fully expected to make a surprise attack on Osman Dogma’s army early on the next morning.
Chapter 5 – The first night and the second morning
Colonel Wickes’s confidence that he had stolen a march on Osman Dogma was misplaced. During the night the sentries became aware of movement just beyond the area lit by their watch fires, and their nervousness resulted in a constant stream of alerts and ‘stand to’s’. As a result none of the Egyptian soldiers got more than a few minutes sleep during that first night in the desert.
As morning broke the members of the expeditionary force fully expected to see themselves surrounded by Mahdist troops, but to their amazement the desert appeared empty. There were signs that a large body of troops had passed close by during the night, but it appeared that they had moved off.
Colonel Wickes knew that all chance of surprise was now lost and suspected that a trap had been laid. He was about to order a withdrawal to Tewfpik so that reinforcements could be gathered together to mount a much larger operation against Osman Dogma, when he chanced to hear a remark that made him change his mind. A young officer – Lieutenant the Honourable Ronald Crawley – who had newly joined the Colonel’s Staff as Quartermaster at the direct request Egyptian Army Headquarters, was speaking to another member of the Staff – Lieutenant Marmaduke Tiptree – about the possibility of Colonel Wickes ordering a withdrawal. In reply to Lieutenant Tiptree’s comment that they were lucky to have the Colonel in charge because knew what he was doing, Lieutenant Crawley replied that “What else would you expect from a tradesman’s son? That sort have no backbone for a fight!”. This so enraged the Colonel that he immediately changed his mind and ordered camp to be broken prior to continuing the advance on Dahmot.
Although this major lapse in judgment was to have a profound effect upon course of the battle that followed, the Colonel was sufficiently in control of his temper to order his force to form two mutually supporting squares. Although this would slow the advance even further, it would ensure that if a trap was sprung his troops would be well placed to fight off any attacks.
Chapter 6 – The Mahdists attack
Shortly after the Egyptians resumed their advance towards Dahmot the Mahdists attacked. A group of Jiadia Riflemen and a battery of ancient but nonetheless deadly muzzle-loading Artillery, led by Omar Gourd, attacked the left side of the 21st Egyptian Infantry Battalion’s square. At the same time a mixed force of Baggara and Hadendowa Infantry, led by Emir Baggar-Tel debouched from the nearby ‘deserted’ village, and struck the right side of the 22nd Egyptian Infantry Battalion’s square.
The Egyptian Cavalry had failed to carry out a proper reconnaissance of their line of advance, and they were also attacked without warning. They were outnumbered seven-to-one by Baggara Cavalry and Camelry, and although not surrounded they were forced to make a fighting retreat towards the two Infantry squares.
Osman Dogma had retained a large reserve of Baggara and Hadendowa Infantry in Dahmot, and as the main attacks on the Egyptian Infantry squares developed he led these troops forward into battle.
At first the Egyptian Infantry held their own, and supported by their Artillery and Gatling Guns they inflicted substantial casualties upon their attackers. However it soon became apparent that the supply of rifle ammunition in the 21st Egyptian Infantry Battalion’s square was running low, and that the Quartermaster – Lieutenant the Honourable Ronald Crawley – had placed the ammunition reserve inside the 22nd Egyptian Infantry Battalion’s square. Furthermore, Lieutenant Crawley could do nothing to sort the situation out because he, along with Colonel Wickes and the rest of the Staff, had been caught outside the Infantry squares and were themselves fighting for their lives.
Chapter 7 – The destruction of the Wickes Expedition
As the 21st Egyptian Infantry Battalion began to run out of ammunition its square began to collapse. Seeing that nothing could be done to save it, the 12th Egyptian Gatling Gun Battery that accompanied it, or his own Commander and his Staff, the Commanding Officer of the 22nd Egyptian Infantry Battalion – Bimbashi (Major) Ahmed Bey – ordered his Battalion and the 11th Egyptian Artillery Battery to make a fighting withdrawal towards Tewfpik.
As the surviving Egyptians slowly but surely retreated towards Tewfpik they could see the final destruction of the 21st Egyptian Infantry Battalion and the 12th Egyptian Gatling Gun Battery. They also observed the final moments of Colonel Wickes’s life. With his horse shot from under him, he stood back-to-back with his young Quartermaster, firing his pistol and slashing at his attackers with his sword. Then both men were seen to disappear from sight, and a few moments later their severed heads were raised above the attacking throng on spears.
Now that over half the Egyptian force had been overcome, and with his reserve as yet uncommitted, Osman Dogma ordered his troops forward. Ahmed Bey foresaw this move, and he formed his troops into line so as to maximize their firepower. The combined effect of several minutes of intense rifle fire and Shrapnel shell deterred any further Mahdist attacks, and as night fell the remnants of the Wickes Expedition withdrew forlornly into Tewfpik.
The troops featured in the photographs are 15mm-scale Essex Miniatures figures. They were painted by MILI-ART. The buildings and sailing vessels are home-made from FIMO™, the trees are Small Palm Trees supplied by Essex Miniatures, the terrain is made from cork floor tiles, the Red Sea is made from Solid Marine Marley self adhesive floor tiles, and the hills and mountains are home-made from plywood, cork tiles, white glue, Dulux matt emulsion paint, and various scenic scatter materials.
The rules used were SCWaRes (Simple Colonial Wargames Rules), which use a zonal movement and weapon range system.
When Franz Mattengloss began his exploration of the area he later named Mankanika, he observed that the Nysenezi revered the vulture as a messenger to and from their main deity, the Sky God. This god, who was called Myrhd’k, was the most important of the gods worshipped by the Nysenezi. This importance was due to the fact that he brought light and warmth to the land, as well as chasing away the feared Night God, Nosee. Furthermore, the Nysenezi believed that when they died their spirits, which were contained within the flesh of their bodies, were carried up to become one with Myrhd’k by the vultures who ate their corpses.
The origins of this belief, which later became the basis of the Vulture Cult, are unknown, but anthropological research into Nysenezi folk-tales, oral history, and primitive art found in caves on the slopes of Mount Bloemintall indicates that the vulture was revered by the Nysenezi for over two thousand years before Mattengloss’s explorations began.
Chapter 2 – The origins of the Vulture Cult
The Vulture Cult arose directly out of Mattengloss’s explorations. From the earliest contact with the Nysenezi he noted that they were fascinated with the Imperial German Eagle that emblazoned the flag that he always carried with him. At first he failed to notice the similarity between the design of the Imperial German Eagle and the carved or painted images of the vulture that adorned all Nysenezi huts, but one night, when his Nysenezi guide asked where he had obtained such powerful ‘magic’, Mattengloss realised that the Nysenezi thought that the Imperial German Eagle was one of Myrhd’k’s vultures.
The explorer attempted to explain that the Imperial German Eagle was the emblem of His Imperial Majesty, the Kaiser, and that it was not a vulture. Unfortunately, during his explanation, Doctor Mattengloss included references to the might and power of the German Emperor, and when, in answer to a question about the size of the Kaiser’s ‘tribe’, he told his Nysenezi guide that the Kaiser had as many subjects as there were stars in the sky, this reinforced the guide’s belief that the Kaiser and Myrhd’k were one and the same.
News that Mattengloss was the servant of the physical manifestation of Myrhd’k spread throughout the region, and everywhere that Doctor Mattengloss went he was greeted with all the honours due to a representative of the Sky God. Mattengloss’s arrival at Kisame, which is situated on the lake he later renamed Lake Bismarck, coincided with the end of a particularly bad spell of dark and stormy weather on the lake. This was seen as portentous, and when he gave the local Nysenezi chief of a small picture of the Kaiser wearing a helmet adorned with an Imperial German Eagle, it confirmed the belief that the Kaiser was Myrhd’k in the minds of the Nysenezi.
Upon Mattengloss’s return to the coast on his journey home to Germany, the picture of the Kaiser became a revered object amongst the Nysenezi. A special shrine, guarded by the oldest sons of Nysenezi chieftains and overseen by the most important priests, was made for the picture in a cave on the slopes of Mount Bloemintall. In addition, the word ‘kyseer’ (meaning ‘He upon whom the vulture perches to give shade’) became part of the Nysenezi language.
The shrine soon became a place of pilgrimage for the Nysenezi, and as more and more tribesmen and their families visited the site to see the image of their Sky God, the power of the priests and the shrine guards increased. They took to wearing crudely fashioned copies of the Kaiser’s helmet, and performing ever more elaborate rituals to which only the most pure – those chosen by the priests and shrine guards to become members of the Vulture Cult – were allowed. Thus it was that the Vulture Cult grew to become the most important influence in Nysenezi culture, and its priests the most important men amongst the Nysenezi.
Chapter 3 – The arrival of the first German colonists in Nyseneziland
When the first German colonists arrived at the Hansa Ost Afrika landing stage at the port that was later named Port Wilhelm, they found the local natives – the Nysenezi – to be welcoming, co-operative, and hard working. Within a few short years the whole of Nyseneziland became covered with German-owned farms on which the Nysenezi did almost all of the work. At first the Nysenezi did not seem to mind losing their best grazing and arable land to the colonists, but gradually they began to resent the over-bearing and often cruel attitude of the people they thought were the servant of the physical manifestation of Myrhd’k.
Nysenezi chieftains began to make special visits to the shrine on Mount Bloemintall to ask for advice from the priests. The priests, shrine guards, and other followers of the Vulture Cult held special rituals where they hoped that Myrhd’k would appear to them in a vision. When the hoped for manifestation did not occur, the chieftains were told to return to their villages and to tell their people that Myrhd’k would make his intentions known in due course.
Chapter 4 – Mpoko Finka has a vision
The chieftain of a very small Nysenezi village, that was situated on the slopes of the Northern Usabrela Mountains to the North East of Moroleso, had a sickly young son. The son was named Mpoko Finka (which means ‘he who brings joy in old age’ in the language of the Nysenezi), and he had been expected to die soon after his birth. He did not, but as he grew older he developed into a solitary child who did not mix easily with his peers. His father despaired of him, and when Mpoko reached the age of sixteen, he sent him to the shrine on Mount Bloemintall in the hope that the boy would become a priest or shrine guard.
On his arrival the priests and shrine guards turned him away, not wishing to allow such a person access to the shrine. Mpoko refused to leave, and eventually he was allowed to enter the cave where the Kaiser’s picture was kept. Upon entering the cave Mpoko, doubtless overcome by hunger and fatigue, collapsed onto the floor. The priests and shrine guards hurried forward to remove his lifeless body, which they carried outside. As they laid Mpoko down, a vulture appeared and landed by his head. The stunned priests and shrine guards watched in amazement and wonder as the vulture opened its wings and shaded Mpoko’s head. It stayed there until he regained consciousness, when it slowly flapped its wings and flew away.
This event stunned the priests and shrine guards, and when Mpoko began to tell them of the dream he had had whilst unconscious, they fell to the ground and abased themselves. Mpoko told them that in his dream a vulture had appeared to him with a message from Myrhd’k. The bird had told him that the Germans were not true believers in Myrhd’k, and that the Nysenezi must make them leave the sacred land of the Nysenezi if Myrhd’k was to remain powerful enough to continue to chase Nosee away every day.
Chapter 5 – Mpoko Finka becomes the leader of the Vulture Cult
At first the priests did not know what to do. Mpoko was not a member of the Vulture Cult, but it was obvious that he had been chosen by Myrhd’k to be his messenger to the Cult and the spiritual guide of the Nysenezi. The priests insisted that Mpoko remain with them and undergo a series of ceremonial cleansings and purifications, after which he would be admitted to the priesthood. This appealed to the taciturn young man, who readily underwent the arduous rituals devised by the priests. He seemed to enjoy being sent to meditate for several days at a time – without food or shelter – on the upper, snow covered slopes of Mount Bloemintall. Whereas others who had been sent on similar tests of their suitability for the priesthood had given up or even died, Mpoko seemed to return each time with greater inner strength.
For over four years Mpoko pursued his aim to become a priest. News of his vision had been kept within the membership of the Vulture Cult, but Mpoko’s fame as a mystic who had rejected all the pleasures of an earthly life spread throughout the lands of the Nysenezi. As the time at which Mpoko would become a man – and thus would be able to join the priesthood – approached, the priests became fearful less the story of Mpoko’s vision would become known to all, and the power that the leaders of the Vulture Cult enjoyed would be ended. They therefore decided to send him on one last journey of purification in the hope that he would either die or give up.
The final test of his spiritual purity that Mpoko had to undertake involved spending forty days and nights at the peak of Mount Bloemintall without food or shelter. When he was told what he would have to do, Mpoko is reputed to have said that he had no fear of death because he knew that Myrhd’k would provide all that he needed in order to survive. With that he set off alone to the top of the mountain.
When the time for the ceremony at which Mpoko would reach manhood and become a priest approached, many Nysenezi chieftains – including Mpoko’s own father – came to the shrine to observe the proceedings. They wished to see at first hand the famous mystic, and to hear if he could provide the guidance that they so sorely sought. The assembled priests, shrine guards, and chieftains waited all day for Mpoko, but he did not appear, and as night-time approached they began to prepare to disperse. As the sun began to sink behind the summit of Mount Bloemintall, a large vulture – the largest that any of those gathered for the ceremony had ever seen – flew down and landed in their midst. Seconds later Mpoko appeared out of the gathering gloom.
Mpoko walked into the centre of the assembled priests, shrine guards, and chieftains, and told them to follow him into the sacred cave. Once they were all inside he walked up to the picture of the Kaiser, picked it up, turned to face them all, and threw it to the floor! Mpoko then told them that during his journey of purification on the mountain, he had been visited every day by a vulture that had brought him food from Myrhd’k. He had also had numerous visions in which a vulture had brought him further messages from Myrhd’k.
This revelation spurred the previously speechless and stunned chieftains to demand from the priests information about the earlier messages, but before the latter had a chance to answer Mpoko raised his arms above his head to indicate that he demanded that all present be silent. He then informed them that Myrhd’k had told him the Germans were not true believers in Myrhd’k, that the Kaiser was not the physical manifestation of Myrhd’k, and that the Nysenezi must force them leave Nyseneziland if Myrhd’k was to continue to chase Nosee away every day.
Mpoko’s father then spoke. “My son has told us what to do. The priests have lied to us, and used their power to blind us from our true course. He must now become our guide.” The other chieftains murmured agreement, and the priests, realising that in order to retain any power whatsoever they must wholeheartedly support Mpoko, proclaimed him leader of the Vulture Cult. Mpoko then told them all to leave him alone in the cave until Myrhd’k had chased Nosee away ten times, at which time he would speak to them again. The chieftains, priests, and shrine guards did as they were bidden, and the new leader of the Vulture Cult returned to the quiet, contemplative solitude he seemed to find so spiritually invigorating.
Chapter 6 – The Argi-Bargi Ritual
Ten days passed, and the chieftains, priests, and shrine guards returned to hear what Mpoko had to say to them. He met them at the opening of the sacred cave, and motioned them to sit. They did as they were bid, and once they were all seated Mpoko began to speak. He repeated his previous message from Myrhd’k, and told them that before the Germans could be forced to leave, all the Nysenezi would have to undertake a spiritual cleansing – the Argi-Bargi Ritual (‘Argi-Bargi’ meaning ‘I am pure; I was impure’ in the language of the Nysenezi). He then described the ritual in some detail, and once he had finished, Mpoko bade the chieftains to depart to their villages to prepare their people for the ceremony of cleansing that would be conducted, in due course, by the priests of the Vulture Cult.
When the chieftains had gone, Mpoko called upon the priests to join him in a ceremony of spiritual purification at the peak of Mount Bloemintall. Those priests that survived the three day long rituals then dispersed – each guarded by at least one shrine guard – to begin the process of visiting each Nysenezi village to cleanse the people.
The process of cleansing the Nysenezi took several months, and when it had been completed the chieftains, priests, and shrine guards returned to the sacred cave for guidance. Mpoko told them that the time had now come to drive the Germans from Nyseneziland, and that this would begin at a German-owned farm near his own home village.
Chapter 7 – The Argi-Bargi Rebellion begins
The first Herr Joachim Fassbender – the manager of the German-owned farm nearest to Mpoko Finka’s home village – knew that something was amiss was when his houseboy did not wake him with his breakfast. Herr Fassbender got out of bed, and shouted for Dwangi – his houseboy – to bring his breakfast at once. When no one came, Herr Fassbender dressed and went to the kitchen, determined to find Dwangi and thrash him for his laziness, but he could find nobody. He searched the farmhouse, but Dwangi was gone, and so were the cook, the maids, and even the gardener.
Herr Fassbender then decided to go to the local village to search for his missing servants. Sensing that something might be wrong, he armed himself with his favourite whip – the missing servants would, after all, have to be chastised before being allowed back into the farmhouse to work – and a double-barrelled shotgun. As he made his way to the stables, Herr Fassbender became aware of a large group of natives standing silent and motionless in a field some 100 metres away. He stopped to try to see why they were there, and saw amongst the crowd Dwangi and the rest of his servants.
Enraged by this impudent insolence, Herr Fassbender strode purposefully towards the group, determined to deal with Dwangi and the others at once. As he reached the group an old man – whom Herr Fassbender recognised as being the local chieftain – walked forward and held up his right hand in a gesture that bade the German to stop. Surprised by the firmness shown by someone that he had always found to be so subservient, Herr Fassbender did as he was bid. The old man then spoke to him. “Master, we have come to ask you to leave our land. Myrhd’k has told us that it is ours and ours alone, and that unless you and your people leave he will not chase Nosee from the sky each morning.”
Herr Fassbender only understood part of what was said, but he knew enough of the Nysenezi language to realise that he faced a serious situation. He decided to take firm action, and to nip this potential revolt in the bud. Herr Fassbender dropped his whip, raised his shotgun, pointed it at the old man, and said, “I have heard what you have to say. Return to work now and I will not punish you.” The old man shook his head in disbelief, and turned to rejoin the rest of the natives. At this sign of disobedience Herr Fassbender raised his shotgun to his shoulder and fired. The full force of the blast hit the old man in the back, killing him instantly.
For a few seconds nothing happened. Then the group of natives began to chant. “Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi!” This seemed to spur them into action, and they surged forward. Herr Fassbender aimed his shotgun at the oncoming mob, and fired – killing his gardener and one of his maids – before they were upon him. He fell to the ground under repeated blows from fists, stones, and simple farm implements, and was beaten to death in less than a minute. The natives then took all the weapons they could find in the farmhouse before setting it and its outbuildings on fire. Their final act was to pick up the bodies of their dead and made their way to the sacred cave on Mount Bloemintall.
Chapter 8 – The German reaction to the death of Herr Fassbender
The smoke from Herr Fassbender’s burning farmhouse soon attracted the attention of the manager of the neighbouring farm, Herr Günther Gottlieb. Fearing that his neighbour might be in trouble, Herr Gottlieb saddled his horse and rode in the direction of the fire. On his arrival at the deserted farm he found the farmhouse and nearly all of the outbuildings almost burnt to the ground, and, upon searching the surrounding area, he discovered the mutilated body of a European. He immediately recognised the body to be that of Herr Fassbender from the clothes that it was wearing.
Herr Gottlieb realised that Herr Fassbender’s murder – for it could be nothing else – in conjunction with the burning of the farmhouse and outbuildings, the absence of any native workers on the farm, and the evidence that others had been injured or killed, indicated that a serious native uprising had begun. Fearing for his own life and property, Herr Gottlieb remounted his horse, and rode as fast as he could to his own farmstead. He stayed there long enough to assure himself that his own native workers and servants were working normally, before arming himself with a hunting rifle and revolver, saddling a fresh horse, and riding to the Schutztruppe post at Moroleso to inform the authorities.
On hearing Herr Gottlieb’s story, the commander of the Schutztruppe post at Moroleso – Leutnant Oscar Wirth – immediately telegraphed the information to the headquarters of the Imperial German garrison at Port Wilhelm and asked for instructions. As General von Tippel, the commander of the Imperial German garrison in Mankanika, was away on a hunting trip in Mottenbeleland with Major Christoph (Willi) Wilhelm, the second-in-command, Major Ritter von Stümper, decided to immediately despatch troops to Moroleso. Major von Stümper summoned the commander of 1. Abteilung, Kaiserlich Schutztruppe – Major Theodor von Gow – and told him to prepare to move to Moroleso with 1. and 2. Schutzen-Kompanien, half of 13. Maschinen-Gewehr-Kompanie, and half of 14. Infanterie-Geschutz-Kompanie. Major von Stümper then telegraphed Leutnant Wirth, whose post was garrisoned by 5. Schutzen-Kompanie, 2. Abteilung, Kaiserlich Schutztruppe – recruited from the Mottenbele tribe – and told the Leutnant to defend the post at Moroleso until he and Major von Gow arrived with reinforcements.
Major Ritter von Stümper then contacted the other Schutztruppe posts in Nyseneziland by telegraph to warn them to be on their guard against attacks by Nysenezi tribesmen. He also ordered them to prepare to send troops to support operations against the Nysenezi or to disarm troops of 3. Abteilung, Kaiserlich Schutztruppe, which recruited its rank and file from Nyseneziland. The Major then sent coded telegrams to the commanders of posts garrisoned by 3. Abteilung, Kaiserlich Schutztruppe, informing them of events in Nyseneziland, and warning them to be on their guard against any potential rebellion amongst their troops. He also informed them that Mottenbele troops drawn from 2. Abteilung, Kaiserlich Schutztruppe were available to help deal with any potential rebels, and to assist in disarming Nysenezi troops if necessary.
Before leaving Port Wilhelm to lead the punitive expedition he intended to mount against those Nysenezi responsible for Herr Fassbender’s death, Major von Stümper wrote a detailed report that outlined the information he had received, the forces he had despatched to deal with the insurrection, and his plan of campaign. He then sent one copy of his report to the Governor – Doctor Hans Kniess – and a further copy – by hand of an officer courier – to General von Tippel in Mottenbeleland.
Chapter 9 – Mpoko Finka has another vision
Whilst the troops of the Imperial German garrison prepared to deal with the incipient rebellion, Mpoko Finka was coming to terms with the death of his father. The body of the old man, along with those of Fassbender’s gardener and maid, had been brought to the sacred cave on Mount Bloemintall. On seeing his father’s body, Mpoko became very silent and very still … and then he collapsed onto the floor. The onlookers gasped in horror, but within seconds Mpoko began to writhe around on the ground chanting “Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi!” The crowd began to join in the chant, and as it was repeated over and over again, Mpoko regained consciousness. He stood up and with uplifted arms he commanded them to be silent.
He then spoke. “People of Myrhd’k. You have seen that the Germans are impure and unclean. They kill old men who have done nothing but tell them the will of Myrhd’k. They kill those that have served them faithfully when they have no further use for them. The Germans will not leave because they do not fear the power of Myrhd’k, and have no respect for his wishes. Myrhd’k has told me that this must not go unpunished. He wishes me to send messengers to all the People of Myrhd’k, telling them to come here to purify themselves before we attack and destroy the Germans. This is the will of Myrhd’k!”
Mpoko then told all but the priests and shrine guards to leave. When they were alone, Mpoko assigned priests to go at once to each Nysenezi village so that Myrhd’k’s message could be spread as quickly as possible. In order to ensure their safety and to reinforce the veracity of the message, a shrine guard escorted each priest.
Chapter 10 – The German punitive expeditionary force arrives at Moroleso
The journey from Port Wilhelm to Moroleso took nearly two days, even though the soldiers of the Kaiserlich Schutztruppe forced march all the way. On arriving at Moroleso late in the afternoon of the second day, they found the village deserted. Suspecting a trap, the troops carefully made their way through the village to the Schutztruppe post, where they found Leutnant Wirth and his 5. Schutzen-Kompanie waiting for them.
In reply to Major von Stümper’s request for a report, Leutnant Wirth told him that until midday on the previous day the village had seemed normal. A crowd had then begun to gather in the market place, and, fearing an attack, the Leutnant had placed his troops in their defensive positions. The crowd had stayed in the market place for some time, and after about an hour it had begun to move off, chanting “Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi!” – the meaning of which was unknown to the Leutnant – as it left. The Leutnant then reported that the village had gone very quiet, and patrols he had sent into the village this morning had returned with the information that everyone but the most elderly had gone.
Leutnant Wirth also reported that General von Tippel had returned to Port Wilhelm, and had sent a telegram confirming Major von Stümper’s provisional orders and troop dispositions. Reports had also been received by telegraph from Schutztruppe posts throughout Mankanika. Those in Nyseneziland reported that the local villages were deserted, and that the workers and servants on local farms had disappeared. Posts garrisoned by 3. Abteilung, Kaiserlich Schutztruppe reported no problems with their Nysenezi troops. It had, however, been decided by General von Tippel that they should be confined to barracks until the rebellion was dealt with.
Major von Stümper found the reports about the disappearance of the Nysenezi very puzzling, and decided that he needed more information before he could take further action. After ordering Major von Gow to arrange a meal and rest for the troops they had brought with them from Port Wilhelm, Major von Stümper told Leutnant Wirth to take a patrol into the village and bring back as many natives as he could find. The Leutnant did as he was ordered, and within the hour he had returned with five elderly Nysenezi men and eight women.
After eating his evening meal, Major von Stümper began interrogating the natives. With the help of a Mottenbele soldier of the 5. Schutzen-Kompanie who spoke the language of the Nysenezi, and two burly German Sergeants of the 1. Schutzen-Kompanie, he soon discovered why the Nysenezi had left and where they had gone. The Major then called his officers together, and having apprised them of the information he had obtained, he gave out his orders. The troops who had force marched from Port Wilhelm were to rest for a day before the operation to punish the Nysenezi began. Leutnant Wirth was ordered to remain at Moroleso with half of 5. Schutzen-Kompanie to act as force rearguard and to protect the punitive expedition’s lines-of-communication. The other half of 5. Schutzen-Kompanie was to join the expeditionary force – 1. and 2. Schutzen-Kompanien, half of 13. Maschinen-Gewehr-Kompanie, and half of 14. Infanterie-Geschutz-Kompanie – to act as scouts and flank guards.
Chapter 11 – The Nysenezi gather at Mount Bloemintall for purification
The messengers sent by Mpoko Finka to all the villages in Nyseneziland completed their task within two days, and over the next three days thousands of Nysenezi gathered on the slopes of Mount Bloemintall to be purified. Many of the very young, the very old, or the infirm died during those three days without proper food, water, or shelter on the mountain, and Myrhd’k’s spirit-gatherers – the vultures – were seen in large numbers. This was seen a propitious, and Mpoko made much of this in his speeches to the assembled throng.
On the morning of the fourth day, having pronounced them pure, Mpoko informed the gathering that the time to destroy the Germans had come. He then told them that this would begin with the destruction of the farms nearest his own home village, and that he would personally lead the crusade against the unbelievers. With Mpoko leading, the Nysenezi began to leave the slopes of Mount Bloemintall, chanting “Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi!” as they went.
Chapter 12 – The Battle of Teller’s Farm
After resting at Moroleso for a day, Major von Stümper led the Imperial German punitive expeditionary force towards Mount Bloemintall. He had surmised that the Nysenezi would take several days to assemble on the mountain, and he was sure that their opening attacks would occur in the area where the rebellion had first started. For several days the force slowly but surely made its way towards the farm where Herr Fassbender had been murdered. On the fifth morning one of the Mottenbele scouts reported seeing a large number of Nysenezi near the farm managed by Herr Gottlieb – Teller’s Farm. He told Major von Stümper that the group numbered several thousand, were chanting “Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi!” and were led by a very thin, wild looking young man.
Major von Stümper immediately recalled all his scouts and flank guards, and ordered them to form a wide skirmish line in front of the expeditionary force. He then ordered Major von Gow to form the main body of the force into line, with 1. Schutzen-Kompanie on the right, the machine guns of 13. Maschinen-Gewehr-Kompanie in the centre, 2. Schutzen-Kompanie on the left, and the guns of 14. Infanterie-Geschutz-Kompanie behind the machine guns. When the force was so formed, it moved out in the direction of Teller’s Farm.
The noise of chanting soon reached the advancing troops, as did the smell of smoke from the deserted farm buildings that had been set aflame – Herr Gottlieb having remained at the Schutztruppe post in Moroleso after he had informed the authorities of Herr Fassbender’s death. Less than five minutes later the skirmishers made contact with the rebels, and both side began firing at each other. The Nysenezi were mainly armed with spears, but several had acquired looted firearms from deserted German-owned farms they had already attacked and burned. They were, however, unable to counter the disciplined fire of the troops of 5. Schutzen-Kompanie, and as casualties mounted, many Nysenezi began to run away.
Seeing large numbers of his followers fleeing or dying, Mpoko attempted to rally them for an attack on the skirmishers. He succeeded, and the huge crowd of Nysenezi began to advance on the soldiers of 5. Schutzen-Kompanie, chanting “Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi! Argi-Bargi!” Unknown to Mpoko, Major von Stümper had deployed his troops to counter such a move, and ordered the skirmishers to withdraw through his line and form up as a reserve behind the guns of 14. Infanterie-Geschutz-Kompanie. When the front edge of the crowd was 200 metres from his troops, Major von Stümper gave the order to open fire.
The effect of volley fire from the rifles of 1. and 2. Schutzen-Kompanien, coupled with the sustained machine gun fire of 13. Maschinen-Gewehr-Kompanie and high explosive shells fired by 14. Infanterie-Geschutz-Kompanie, was devastating. Within minutes hundreds of Nysenezi were dead, dying, or wounded. Amongst the first to be killed was Herr Fassbender’s houseboy Dwangi, but miraculously Mpoko remained unharmed, despite being in the forefront of the Nysenezi attack. Mpoko was overcome by the death and destruction that surrounded him, and was incapable of doing anything to stop it. He stood as still as a rock amidst the carnage, whilst those of his followers who were not dead, dying or seriously wounded fled.
When Major von Stümper saw the Nysenezi begin to run away, he ordered the skirmishers of 5. Schutzen-Kompanie to pursue the fleeing natives, which they did with alacrity. He then ordered Major von Gow to send a section of 1. Schutzen-Kompanie – commanded by the Company’s senior N.C.O. – to arrest the leader of the rebellion, whilst the rest of 1. and 2. Schutzen-Kompanien ‘dealt’ with any wounded Nysenezi they found on the battlefield.
Chapter 13 – The trial of Mpoko Finka
The soldiers of 1. Schutzen-Kompanie easily overpowered Mpoko, and he did not resist as he hands and feet were manacled. He was then dragged before Major von Stümper, who interrogated him for some time. The Major was unable to obtain any useful information from his captive, and he ordered that the native leader be kept under close confinement until it was possible to take him back to Port Wilhelm for trial.
After ensuring that the Nysenezi rebels had dispersed, the Imperial German punitive expeditionary force began its return to Moroleso on the morning of the next day. The journey was accomplished in five days, and on reaching the Schutztruppe post Major von Stümper handed command of the force over to Major von Gow. Major von Stümper and a section of 1.Schutzen-Kompanie then escorted Mpoko to Port Wilhelm.
On arriving at the headquarters of the Schutztruppe at Port Wilhelm, Major von Stümper arranged for his captive to be incarcerated in the Colony’s main jail whilst he reported to General von Tippel. The General was very pleased to see his subordinate, and praised him for the decisive manner in which he had dealt with the rebellion so far. He also told the Major that his prisoner would be tried by court-martial next day for treason and rebellion, and that von Stümper would, with the General and Major Wilhelm, preside at the trial.
The trial lasted less than an hour. Mpoko refused – or was unable – to answer any of the questions put to him, nor did he offer a credible defence. All he would say was that Myrhd’k had told him the Germans were not true believers in Myrhd’k, that the Kaiser was not the physical manifestation of Myrhd’k, and that the Nysenezi must force them leave Nyseneziland.
The result of the trial was inevitable, and before lunch sentence of death was pronounced. Mpoko made no comment when he heard what was to happen to him, and he remained silent as he was taken from the courtroom to the gallows that had been set up in the town’s main square. He may have tried to shout “Argi-Bargi!” as the noose was placed around his neck, but the hangman was so swift that Mpoko’s voice was choked off as the trap opened and his body fell through. The corpse was left to hang for an hour before being cut down and taken away. In order to publicly demonstrate that the power of the Vulture Cult was destroyed, the body was then cremated on a funeral pyre built next to the gallows.
Chapter 14 – Revenge and retribution
Whilst Mpoko was being taken to Port Wilhelm for his trial, Major von Gow had already begun the second stage of the military operation to suppress the Argi-Bargi Rebellion. Patrols were sent from the Schutztruppe posts at Moroleso, Kisame, and Mikinmini to each German-owned farm in Nyseneziland to check on the safety of the farm owners and managers. All villages near farms where there were reports or rumours of discontent or unrest amongst the workers were visited, and such visits always result in the confiscation of local stores of grain and herds of cattle.
After Mpoko Finka’s execution, General von Tippel ordered Major von Stümper to return to the area of Nyseneziland where Mpoko had been born to exact retribution from the family of the leader of the rebellion, his village, and the priests and shrine guards of the Vulture Cult.
Major von Stümper took pleasure in obeying these orders. Mpoko’s home village was surrounded before dawn, and as the sun rose Major von Stümper ordered his soldiers to move in and arrest all the inhabitants. Anyone who was identified as being a blood relative of Mpoko’s was taken into the open space in the middle of the village, tied to a newly erected post, and whipped. Once this punishment had taken place, every inhabitant of the village – regardless of age, gender, or infirmity – was manacled together prior to being taken to serve long terms of imprisonment at the Colony’s new prison work camp near Kanika. The village was then looted and set on fire.
Having exacted revenge and retribution on Mpoko’s own family and village, Major von Stümper turned his attention to destroying what remained of the power of the Vulture Cult. The sacred cave of the Vulture Cult on the slopes of Mount Bloemintall was dynamited to remove any evidence of its existence. The Major and his troops then visited every village in Nyseneziland, and anyone identified or suspected as being a Vulture Cult priest or shrine guard was arrested and, after a drumhead court-martial, shot for treason and rebellion. Major von Stümper’s final task was to ‘escort’ Kominda, the supreme chief of the Nysenezi, to Port Wilhelm. Once there Kominda was forced to abase himself in front of the Imperial German Governor, Doctor Hans Kniess, before signing a treaty that accepted, on behalf of the Nysenezi, full responsibility for the uprising and agreeing to pay a punitive tax to defray for the cost of putting down the rebellion.
Chapter 15 – The aftermath
The confiscation of almost all the grain and cattle held in Nyseneziland and the imposition of the punitive tax had severe consequences. Thousands of Nysenezi died of starvation in the twelve months after the suppression of the Argi-Bargi Rebellion, and only those tribes people who agreed to work for nothing but food and shelter on German-owned farms had any assurance of survival. The power of the Vulture Cult was destroyed, and German Lutheran missionaries were encouraged by the Imperial German Governor to set up missions in Nyseneziland to convert the tribes’ people to Christianity.
Major Ritter von Stümper was rewarded for his prompt actions during the outbreak of the rebellion, and the subsequent operations to suppress the uprising, with promotion to Oberst. This did much to restore his reputation, which had been tarnished by his involvement in the defeat of the Imperial German garrison at Arora Junction and the subsequent withdrawal from Deutsches Sudan.
During the reign of Chaka Zulu an impi led by Kakhandi was sent north to reconnoitre the area prior to a possible invasion. Not long after the impi arrived in the area of Dammallia now known as Watawiland, news of Chaka’s death reached Kakhandi and he decided that rather than returning south, he and the warriors of his impi would settle where they were. This brought them into conflict with the Firdarki, who were soundly beaten after a short but bloody war. The Firdarki retreated northward, leaving the Zulu impi to settle and farm the land unopposed.
Within a short time they had built a large kraal, and wives and cattle had been taken from the Firdarki. They also began to refer to themselves as the Watawi (“invincible ones”) and Kakhandi started to term himself Chief of the Watawi. The Watawi continued to follow a Zulu lifestyle based upon the ownership of cattle and military training, and within a few years three “regiments” had been formed. The largest of these – the N’diendi – was based in the Chief’s kraal at Manbashi, and the other two – the N’debagi and the N’dewoopsi – were based respectively in kraals at Buliboi and Xoshi.
Chapter 2 – The arrival of Sir Archibald Creep’s expedition in Watawiland
Very soon after Sir Archibald Creep began his voyage of exploration up the then uncharted Tifooti River he came across signs of the Watawi. Sir Archibald had experience in dealing with the Zulu and recognised the Zulu origins of the Watawi. He therefore made his way to the Chief’s kraal at Manbashi, where he was welcomed by Kakhandi.
Chapter 3 – The Treaty of Friendship
Within a short time both men had concluded a personal treaty of friendship which guaranteed Watawi independence in exchange for mineral rights for the British Afro-Asian Colonial Company. Kakhandi also agreed to allow the Society for the Propagation Of the Gospels to build a missionary chapel and a mission school at Manbashi. The work undertaken by the mission school so impressed Kakhandi that he insisted that his youngest grandson Uphandi attended the school in order to learn English.
In the years that followed the signing of the treaty of friendship, the personal relationship between Sir Archibald and Kakhandi ensured that there was little friction between the Watawi and the British, and the setting up of the British Colony of Dammallia had little impact upon the Watawi. However as Kakhandi grew older his eldest son, Mobhandi, began to voice his opinion that the Watawi were being maltreated by the British, and that Sir Archibald had not upheld his side of the treaty. Mobhandi’s attitude to the British was supported by his eldest son Rithandi, but his other son – the missionary school-educated Uphandi – felt that the treaty had not been broken.
Chapter 4 – The death of Kakhandi and the breakdown of British-Watawi relations
Matters came to a head when Kakhandi died and Mobhandi succeed him as Chief of the Watawi. Within days of Kakhandi’s death the Reverend Seymour Scinne, the SPOG missionary based at the Manbashi mission, was roughly handled by some members of the N’diendi Regiment whilst on his way to see Mobhandi about some pastoral matters. When he complained to Mobhandi about this treatment, Mobhandi dismissed the complaint as being no more than the representative of a devious and deceitful people should deserve.
The Reverend Scinne immediately reported this incident to the Governor of Dammallia, Sir Cedric Knowgoode, who then discussed the matter with Sir Archibald Creep. Sir Archibald cautioned Sir Cedric against taking any immediate military action, but suggested that the Colonial Office and the commander of the British garrison, Sir Garnet Diamond, be informed as a matter of some urgency in case matters deteriorated. He also suggested that a junior representative of the Colonial Government should discuss the matter informally with Mobhandi. This was to be done in the hope that Mobhandi could be made to understand the correct way in which to deal with British subjects without making him lose face in front of his fellow Watawi.
The junior representative chosen for the task was Mr. Richard Hedd, the colony’s newly appointed Tax Collector. Mr. Hedd was chosen for this task because he was due to pay a visit to the Watawi to discuss the collection of the Native Cattle Tax. This tax had been recently introduced by the Governor – at the suggestion of the British Afro-Asian Colonial Company – as a means of raising money to pay for the extension of the docks at Port Albert.
Unfortunately, although Mr. Hedd was a very experienced Tax Collector, he had very little understanding of how to deal with important native chieftains. When he arrived at Manbashi he failed to go through the normal ceremonies visitors were expected to follow before being admitted to the Chief’s presence. Instead he marched through the main gate of the Chief’s kraal and up to the throne. When he found that Mobhandi was not there, he sent one of Mobhandi’s servants to fetch his master.
When Mobhandi finally appeared he was very angry. Not only had his visitor not abided by the normally ceremonies of introduction, but he had also interrupted Mobhandi whilst he was eating – an insult that was unforgivable in Watawi culture. Despite this, at first he spoke politely to Mr. Hedd, and enquired what the Colonial Government wanted of him. Mr. Hedd then began to explain in a very undiplomatic manner how British subjects should, in future, be treated by Mobhandi. Despite Mobhandi’s obvious anger at being spoken to in such a way, Mr. Hedd pressed on with his diatribe, and added that he was serving notice on Mobhandi that he would be coming back in two weeks time to collect the Native Cattle Tax.
Mobhandi immediately protested that being treated in such a way was an insult to him personally and to the Watawi in general. He also added that he felt that the Treaty of Friendship had been abrogated by the imposition of the Native Cattle Tax, and that he had no intention of paying it. At this Mr. Hedd said that a tax was a tax, and would be collected with or without Mobhandi’s assistance. He then turned on his heel, and walked out.
Mobhandi was furious at the way in which he and the Watawi had been insulted, and he called his sons and counsellors together to discuss what course of action the Watawi should take. Rithandi and most of the older counsellors were in favour of immediate military action against the British, but Uphandi and the younger missionary school-educated men wanted to send a message to the Governor outlining the tribe’s grievances. It was finally decided to mobilise the N’diendi, N’debagi, and N’dewoopsi Regiments for war, but to wait until the Tax Collectors next visit before taking action.
When he returned to Port Albert, Richard Hedd wrote a report about his meeting with Mobhandi and sent it to the Governor. Sir Cedric decided that Mobhandi’s reaction to the tax demand indicated that there was likely to be trouble when Mr. Hedd returned to Manbashi in a fortnight’s time, and he asked Sir Archibald Creep, Sir Garnet Diamond, and Commissioner Evelyn Hall to join him for dinner to discuss what action to take.
Over dinner the men discussed what action to take, and it was finally decided to put the British garrison on a wartime footing, and to alert the Dammallian Frontier Force for possible action. It was also decided to send a small force of British Dammallian Police with Richard Hedd when he paid his next visit to Manbashi.
Chapter 5 – The death of Trooper McGrew
Two weeks later Mr. Hedd, accompanied by Sergeant Miller and Troopers Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb, Hugh, McGrew, and Pugh of the British Dammallian Police, set out on horseback for Manbashi to collect the Native Cattle Tax that was now due. When they arrived at Mobhandi’s kraal they were met by a large number of warriors armed for battle, and Sergeant Miller ordered his men to load their carbines in anticipation of trouble. He also warned Mr. Hedd that they should not dismount in case the warriors’ mood became more hostile and they needed to leave quickly.
Mr. Hedd ignored this sound advice, dismounted, and marched into the Chief’s kraal as he had done before. This time, however, Mobhandi was waiting for him, surrounded by his counsellors. Before Mr. Hedd could speak, Mobhandi’s eldest son Rithandi walked up to him and threw a ceremonial spear into the ground between his feet – an action which was a gross insult in Watawi culture and a warning that violence would follow if an apology for previous wrongs was not made immediately.
For a moment Richard Hedd was speechless, and then he lost his temper. He began by shouting threats of retribution at Mobhandi and all those present, and then began to demand that Rithandi be handed over to the waiting members of the British Dammallian Police for arrest and trial for insulting a representative of the Colonial Government. Before he could finish, however, Sergeant Miller rushed in, grabbed him, and pulled him outside.
Mr. Hedd was about to tell the Sergeant that he would have him charged with assaulting a representative of the Colonial Government when the Sergeant drew his attention to the way in which the Watawi warriors were closing in around them. Mr. Hedd immediately mounted his horse, and without another word to the Sergeant he began to push his way through the dense crowd of Watawi. Sergeant Miller ordered the Troopers after Mr. Hedd whilst he and Trooper McGrew formed a rearguard. The group of mounted men had just reached the edge of the crowd when a small child ran towards Mr. Hedd’s horse. Without a thought for the consequences, Richard Hedd lashed out at the child with his riding crop, and caught him a glancing blow on the shoulder. Sergeant Miller had just enough time to shout, “Now we’re for it!”, when the warriors nearest to the party began to throw spears at them, one of which hit Trooper McGrew in the thigh.
Realising that the crowd’s mood was now deadly, Mr. Hedd spurred his horse forward, followed by the Sergeant and the Troopers. Unfortunately Trooper McGrew began to slip from his saddle as his horse began to accelerate, and the group had barely gone 100 yards before he fell off. When Sergeant Miller and Troopers Hugh and Dibble immediately reined their horses in and turned to aid their fallen comrade, Mr. Hedd turned in his saddle and shouted, “Leave him. He’s done for!”, before riding off.
Before Sergeant Miller and the Troopers could dismount, McGrew got to his knees and shouted up to the Sergeant, “Leave me ‘ere Dusty! I’ll cover yer while yer get away!”. Sergeant Miller, who had know McGrew for many years, replied, “I can’t do that Barney. We is old mates, and I never left a mate afor!”. McGrew looked up at his old friend and said, “Don’t be daft, Dusty, there ‘aint no point in all of us gettin’ done. Now eff orf and leave me to do me job.” McGrew then turned away, and aimed his carbine at the charging mass of Watawi warriors.
Reluctantly Sergeant Miller and the two Troopers turned away from McGrew and galloped after the Tax Collector and the other Troopers. Miller looked back over his shoulder as he rode off and, as he stated in his report, he ‘saw Trooper McGrew firing his carbine just as if he was at musketry practice, and he bowled over at least a dozen of the bounders before they got him.’
Chapter 6 – The reactions of the British and Watawi to the death of Trooper McGrew
On their return to Port Albert both Mr. Hedd and Sergeant Miller reported what had happened at Manbashi to their respective superiors. Sir Cedric Knowgoode immediately contacted Sir Archibald Creep and Sir Garnet Diamond to discuss the tragic events, only to find that Commissioner Evelyn Hall had already done so. All four men agreed to meet at the Governor’s Residence that evening to decide what course of action to take. As a result of this meeting it was agreed that the Queen’s Own Rifles, supported by the Port Albert Rifles, the Port Albert Artillery, and the Dammallian Light Horse from the Dammallia Frontier Force, would march on Manbashi in three days time and demand that the killers of Trooper McGrew be handed over for punishment and that a new Treaty of Friendship be signed.
Whilst these discussions were taking place in Port Albert, an equally important meeting was taking place in Manbashi. Mobhandi was both annoyed and apprehensive. He was annoyed because his treatment at the hands of the Tax Collector had caused him to lose considerable status in the eyes of his people, and he was apprehensive because he knew that the death of Trooper McGrew would not go unpunished. He had, therefore, called together all his counsellors to discuss what to do. Rithandi and the older men argued that the best course of action was to attack the British at once in order to catch them unprepared whilst Uphandi and the younger men felt that war should be avoided at all costs. After considerable discussion Mobhandi agreed to send the N’dewoopsi Regiment up to the border between Watawiland and Firdarkiland to dissuade the British from sending a punitive expedition against the Watawi. He also decided to concentrate the N’diendi and N’debagi Regiments at Manbashi in case the British were not dissuaded.
Three days later the British punitive expedition marched out of Port Albert. The Dammallian Light Horse headed the column, followed – in order – by the Queen’s Own Rifles, the Port Albert Artillery, and the Port Albert Rifles. For this expedition the Port Albert Artillery was equipped with a mixture of mule-borne mountain guns and Maxim machine guns, both of types of weapon having recently been acquired by the British Afro-Asian Colonial Company for their troops.
Chapter 7 – The Battle for the Border
The march to the border between Firdarkiland and Watawiland took the British almost a week. Once the expeditionary force was in open country the Dammallian Light Horse had deployed its scouts and outriders, and the column maintained this formation until the border was reached. Once there Sir Garnet Diamond ordered the column to rest for two days whilst the scouts reconnoitred the border area. By the end of those two days the scouts had discovered the location of the N’dewoopsi Regiment and were able to report that it was possible for the Watawi position to be outflanked.
On the morning of the third day Sir Garnet called his unit commanders together and outlined his battle plan. The Queen’s Own Rifles were to advance towards the Watawi position in line, with the mountain guns of the Port Albert Artillery in the centre of the line and their Maxim guns on the flanks. The Port Albert Rifles were to move out on to the left flank, parallel to the Queen’s Own Rifles line of advance, and were to hold their position until the “horns” of the N’dewoopsi Regiment were deployed; they were then to open an enfilading fire on the Watawi. The Dammallian Light Horse were to deploy on the right flank, and were expected to pursue the Watawi regiment when their morale had been broken.
As expected, Uphandi had deployed the N’dewoopsi in traditional Zulu battle formation, and when the British advance came into view he sent the right and left “horns” forward and outwards to envelop the British line. As soon as the Watawi “horns” moved the British advance halted, and the artillery and machine guns deployed. The mountain guns then began a bombardment of the Watawi centre, and the Maxim guns engaged the “horns”. At the same time the Port Albert Rifles began their enfilading fire on the right-hand “horn”.
The impact of this combination of rifle, machine gun, and shell fire on the N’dewoopsi Regiment was dramatic. Within the space of two minutes over a quarter of the Watawi were killed or wounded, and only the bravest managed to get within three hundred yards of the Queen’s Own Rifles before being cut down. Uphandi was appalled by the slaughter, and ordered the N’dewoopsi to withdraw. As they did so the Dammallian Light Horse charged the remnants of the left “horn”, which dissolved into a disorganised mass of dead, dying, and wounded. At the sight of this, the discipline of the remaining Watawi collapsed and they fled the battlefield in total disorder, pursue by the Dammallian Light Horse. Many warriors were killed during the pursuit and Uphandi only just managed to escape death at the hands of a trooper by climbing up a tree and hiding until night-time.
Having won a magnificent victory over the Watawi, Sir Garnet Diamond moved his troops a day’s march towards Manbashi and then set up camp. He then ordered them to rest whilst the scouts were sent ahead to find the location of the main body of the Watawi army.
Chapter 8 – The death of The Reverend Scinne
When news of the defeat reached Mobhandi he immediately ordered the disbandment of the N’dewoopsi Regiment and the enslavement of any surviving members of the Regiment. He also ordered that if Uphandi was still alive he was to be executed as soon as he was found. On hearing of the execution order, the Reverend Seymour Scinne, who had remained teaching at the mission school in Manbashi during the growing crisis, went to Mobhandi to plead for Uphandi’s life. The Chief listened to the missionary in silence, and then told him to leave. As the Reverend Scinne turned to go, Rithandi thrust a spear into the missionary’s back, killing him. The body was then dragged outside and left on the kraal’s rubbish heap for the jackals to feed on. The remains were later found by the British after the Battle of Manbashi, and were buried in the mission graveyard.
Chapter 9 – The rescue of Prince Leopold of Bad Limburg
Amongst the people who accompanied Sir Garnet Diamond’s headquarters during the Watawi War was Prince Leopold of Bad Limburg. The Prince was a distant nephew of Queen Victoria and had served as a Major in the 4 Garde Grenadier Regiment of the Imperial German Army before coming to Dammallia to do some big game hunting. Amongst his accomplishments, the Prince had been trained as a staff officer in the Imperial German Army, and as people with such training were in short supply in Dammallia, Sir Garnet had invited him to join his staff.
The Prince accepted the invitation, and soon made himself indispensable. He was particularly skilled in cartography and sketching, and was employed by Sir Garnet in the capacity of column map-maker. The Prince usually rode out ahead of the column, accompanied by several troopers of the Dammallian Light Horse, and made sketches and maps of the terrain over which the column would move next day.
Three days after the battle with the N’dewoopsi the Prince was on a map-making mission some eight miles ahead of the British camp. He was accompanied by Troopers Wain, Drew, and Tree of the Dammallian Light Horse. At midday Sir Garnet and his Chief of Staff, Major Cyril Frederick, decided to ride out to meet the map-making party in order to get some idea about the terrain over which the column would be moving next day. As they rode up they were met by Trooper Drew, who told Sir Garnet and Major Frederick that the Prince had dismounted and was some one hundred yards ahead drawing a sketch.
Before Sir Garnet and Major Frederick could ride forward, Trooper Wain rode in with the news that a large party of Watawi were moving towards them from the right. At once, Sir Garnet realised that Prince Leopold would be cut off by the Watawi before he could reach his horse. He immediately ordered Major Frederick and the Troopers to remain mounted and to engage the Watawi with rifle fire whilst he rode forward to collect the Prince.
Prince Leopold was unaware of the danger he was in until he heard the fast approaching Sir Garnet shouting a warning to him. As he turned toward his commander, a twenty-strong group of Watawi rushed out of the elephant grass some ten yards away. The Prince drew his pistol and fired at the warriors as they rushed towards him, but after he had fired his first shot his pistol jammed. The Watawi were upon him moments later, and he was knocked to the ground and stabbed with spears in the upper right arm and both legs. At that moment Sir Garnet Diamond arrived, jumped down from his horse, and began fighting off the Watawi warriors with his only weapon, a cavalry sword. Sir Garnet killed three of the Watawi, and rifle fire from Major Frederick and the Troopers accounted for a further four before the survivors drew back. Before the Watawi could renew their attack, Sir Garnet grabbed Prince Leopold by the collar, threw him over his horse’s neck, and mounted the horse. He then galloped off to where the Major and Troopers were, and the group then returned to the British camp, where the Prince received treatment for his wounds. Subsequently Queen Victoria awarded Sir Garnet the Victoria Cross for the bravery he displayed in the rescue of Prince Leopold.
Chapter 10 – The surrender of Uphandi and the N’dewoopsi Regiment
After their defeat, the survivors of the N’dewoopsi Regiment (including Uphandi) returned to their homes in Xoshi. There they were greeted with the news of Mobhandi’s decree that they should be enslaved, that Uphandi was to be executed on sight, and that the Reverend Scinne had been murdered. Uphandi called together those of his counsellors who were still alive, and they discussed what to do. After a night-long discussion it was decided that the only course of action they could follow was to surrender to the British in the hope that they would be merciful.
The next afternoon Uphandi and the counsellors set off on foot and unarmed for the British camp. After several hours they saw Troopers of the Dammallian Light Horse, who kept the Watawi under observation whilst they continued their march. As evening approached a large body of Dammallian Light Horse approached the Watawi, and were obviously preparing to attack. Uphandi immediately raised a white flag to indicate his wish to surrender, and leaving the rest of his party behind he walked towards the horsemen.
They told him to stop when he was ten yards from them, and the detachment’s commander asked him who he was and what he wanted. When Uphandi told the commander that he was Uphandi, son of Mobhandi and commander of the N’dewoopsi, the detachment commander told Uphandi to stay where he was. A messenger was then sent back to the British camp to inform Sir Garnet Diamond of the Uphandi’s desire to surrender.
When they heard the news, Sir Garnet and Major Frederick mounted their horses and rode out to see Uphandi so that they discuss surrender terms with him. Once they had arrived, Sir Garnet, Major Frederick and Uphandi sat down together in the bush as dusk fell, and the surrender terms were agreed. Uphandi undertook to return to Xoshi with his counsellors and a detachment of the Dammallian Light Horse. He would then guarantee that all the remaining weapons held by the survivors of the N’dewoopsi Regiment would be handed over, and the Regiment would be disbanded. In exchange, Sir Garnet undertook to defend Xoshi with a detachment of the Port Albert Rifles from any revenge Mobhandi might try to take.
Chapter 11 – The Battle of Manbashi
On the day after Uphandi and the N’dewoopsi Regiment surrendered, the British resumed their advance on Manbashi. As before the Dammallian Light Horse led the column, with scouts and outriders covering the flanks and line of advance. They were followed by the Queen’s Own Rifles and Port Albert Rifles marching in parallel columns, with the Port Albert Artillery between the two infantry columns. Sir Garnet Diamond expected the Watawi to mount an attack on the British force before it reached Manbashi, but they did not. The N’diendi and N’debagi Regiments remained in Manbashi, although small groups of Watawi warriors were often seen on the horizon by the British scouts.
The British advanced slowly but surely towards Manbashi over the next four days, and when they were five miles from the capital of Watawiland they halted and made camp. Sir Garnet then called all his unit commanders together and outlined his plan for the forthcoming battle. He intended to advance the infantry in line, with the Queen’s Own Rifles on the right and the Port Albert Rifles on the left. The mountain guns were to be deployed in the centre, and the Maxim guns were to be on either flank. The Dammallian Light Horse was to be split into two detachments, which would deploy on either flank to guard against any out-flanking moves by the Watawi. The force was to advance to small hill two miles from Manbashi, where it would deploy along the crest. The artillery was then to open fire upon the town, and this bombardment was to continue until the Watawi were goaded into making an attack.
At first light next morning the British battleline formed up and began its advance on Manbashi. They were about half a mile from their objective when a large body of Watawi appeared along the crest of the hill. It was immediately apparent to Sir Garnet that Mobhandi had stolen a march on him, and was preparing to attack. Moments later both flanks reported that several thousand Watawi warriors were moving around on either flank. Realising the danger his force was in, Sir Garnet rapped out a series of orders to his unit commanders, telling them to form a hollow square with the Dammallian Light Horse inside the square, and the mountain and Maxim guns in each corner.
Sir Garnet was perfectly correct in his assumption that Mobhandi intended to ambush the British before they were able to reach the hill. During the previous day Mobhandi and Rithandi had joined one of the Watawi scouting parties, and had observed the British force on the march. They had realised that the traditional Zulu attack formation used by the Watawi could, if used at the right time, envelop the British force before it could deploy its most powerful weapons – the artillery and machine guns. What they had not realised was that this was not the formation that the British might use for their attack on Manbashi. As a result of this miscalculation, the Watawi flanking movement had been detected before it was in a position to attack.
The outcome of the battle now depended upon whether or not the British could form square before the Watawi attacked. As the minutes ticked by the British moved rapidly into position, whilst the outflanking Watawi got closer and closer. In the end, the Watawi were two hundred yards short of reaching the remaining gap in the square’s wall as the last British soldier got into position. All around the square orders to load and aim were given, and when the outflanking Watawi closed to within thirty yards, the order to fire range out.
The effect upon the attacking Watawi was devastating. The first volley of rifle fire from the sides of the square facing the attacks, coupled with the fire from the Maxim machine guns and mountain gun shells, killed or wounded over a third of the attackers. The subsequent four volleys stopped then in their tracks, and made casualties of three quarters of the remaining attackers.
Whilst the survivors of the first attack withdrew, the Watawi reserve, which had remained on the hill, moved forward. Their advance was rapid, but the British troops they faced were fresh and their rifle fire cut swathes in the ranks of the attackers. Once the mountain guns and the machine guns were swung round to engage the new attack, and their fire had been added to the firepower faced by the Watawi, the attack began to falter. More and more warriors fell to the ground dead or wounded, and the advance of those that remained became slower and slower until it finally stopped about twenty five yards away from the front rank of the British square.
Sir Garnet Diamond immediately ordered the rear side of the square to open. The Dammallian Light Horse then rode out through the gap in the square to charge the stationary Watawi. At the sight of the charging horsemen Watawi morale broke, and they began to run, pursued by the Dammallian Light Horse.
Mobhandi and Rithandi had been watching the progress of he battle from the top of the hill, and now realised that their army had not only been beaten; it had been destroyed. They and their most trusted counsellors now fled the battlefield and made their way to the Tifooti River, where they were able to get aboard a Marzibarian dhow that was anchored there. The captain knew Mobhandi well – he had previously bought captured Firdarki from Mobhandi to sell as slaves in Marzibar City – and agreed to take him and his party to Marzibar.
Chapter 12 – The aftermath
The British resumed their march on Manbashi during the afternoon after the battle. They reached the Watawi capital just before dark, and found it almost deserted. All of the men and most of the women and children had fled, and only the sick or elderly remained. Sir Garnet ordered that a search of Mobhandi’s kraal be made, but no trace of the Chief or Rithandi could be found. The British made their camp outside Manbashi, and during the following week patrols brought in and disarmed the surviving members of the N’diendi and N’debagi Regiments. Many of the inhabitants of Manbashi also returned during that week, and on the seventh day Uphandi arrived to discuss the future of the Watawi with Sir Garnet Diamond and the Governor, Sir Cedric Knowgoode. Sir Cedric arrived by boat with Sir Archibald Creep on the next morning, and the conference began that afternoon.
Uphandi pleaded for mercy for his people, and suggested that in return for disbanding the remaining remnants of the Watawi army he would put the defence of Watawiland in the hands of the British. He also asked to re-negotiate the Treaty of Friendship, and agreed to pay both the Native Cattle Tax and an indemnity to the British to compensate them for the cost of the punitive expedition.
The British listened to Uphandi in silence, and then asked him who was to be the new Chief of the Watawi. Uphandi replied that he was willing to become the new chief if the British agreed. The British then left to discuss what Uphandi had said. When the British returned they told Uphandi that his suggestions were acceptable, and that he would be proclaimed Chief of the Watawi next day. He had, however, to guarantee the following:
- That the N’diendi and N’debagi Regiments would be disbanded at once;
- That a new Treaty of Friendship would be signed next day;
- That the Native Cattle Tax would be paid in full within thirty days;
- That a compensation payment of £100,000 would be paid in full within one hundred days;
- That the British Dammallian Police could set up a permanent police post in Manbashi;
- That the British could station a military garrison in Manbashi.
Uphandi agreed to these terms, and was proclaimed Chief of the Watawi next day. He was further allowed to use ex-members of the N’dewoopsi Regiment to form a native police force, trained by the British Dammallian Police. This unit later formed the basis of 1st Battalion, the Dammallian African Rifles.
During the latter part of the 19th century the German Empire set out to acquire its own colonies in Africa. Most of these colonies flourished, but one – Deutsches Sudan (German Sudan) – was only short-lived.
This colony was founded in 1885, and was situated on the Red Sea coast where the borders of Mahdist Sudan and Abyssinia were unclear. The main settlement – Neu Stettin – was a small coastal port whose main function was to act as a coaling station for the Imperial German Navy. Inland from Neu Stettin, and connected to it by a narrow gauge railway, was the settlement of Arora Junction. Arora Junction was garrisoned by an under-strength battalion of native troops, and they were quartered in a small fort in the centre of the settlement.
Chapter 2 – The Khalifa orders Emir Baggar-Tel to attack
The presence of these infidels on what he regarded as his land was a great irritation to the Khalifa, and he ordered his trusted lieutenant Emir Baggar-Tel to drive the “Turks” into the sea.
Knowing that the German troops would be armed with the latest weapons, Baggar-Tel gathered together a large force of riflemen and cavalry with which he planned to make a surprise attack on Arora Junction. His troops managed to avoid contact with the German patrols, and overnight they surrounded the settlement.
Chapter 3 – The Battle of Arora Junction
As the sun rose Baggar-Tel was amazed to see most of the German garrison forming up on the parade ground outside the fort.
Unbeknown to Baggar-Tel, the garrison commander had received orders from Oberstleutnant Ritter von Stümper – the Colonial Governor’s military adviser – to move two of his three infantry companies to Neu Stettin because it was believed that a large Mahdist force was on its way there.
As soon as the German troops began to march towards the train, Baggar-Tel ordered his forces to attack. Surprise was total, and before the lookouts on the fort walls could call out a warning, hordes of Mahdist riflemen and cavalry began their attack.
The main body of German troops were caught outside the fort’s walls, and were forced back on them by the sheer weight of the attack. They gallantly fought on despite the odds, but were eventually overcome and slaughtered to a man.
The remains of the garrison continued to defend the fort until nightfall, when they attempted to break-out. They managed to reach the train, but by then the locomotive’s boiler was cold and the train was unable to move. They fought on as best they could in the area around the railway, but only one man managed to escape the slaughter.
Chapter 4 – The end of Deutsches Sudan
He reached Neu Stettin next day, and on hearing the news of the massacre the Governor – Doctor Konrad Klutz – contacted Berlin for urgent reinforcements. In reply he was told that a light cruiser of the Imperial German Navy would arrive the next day with orders for him.
At sunrise on the next morning the light cruiser SMS Kaiserberg steamed into Neu Stettin, and the Governor of Deutsches Sudan was summoned aboard. Much to his surprise Doctor Klutz was told to gather all the German citizens and their belongings together at once because the Imperial Government had decided to abandon the colony. The Governor was aghast at the news, but obeyed his orders, and by nightfall Deutsches Sudan had ceased to exist.
The troops featured in the photographs are mainly 20mm-scale Jacklex and Les Higgins figures. They were originally owned and painted by Richard Madder. The buildings are from the Hovels 15mm-scale Middle East Buildings range, the narrow gauge locomotive and rolling stock are made by Liliput™, the trees are Small Palm Trees supplied by Essex Miniatures, the terrain cloth was bought in the Maidstone branch of Games Workshop, and the hills are home-made from plywood, expanded polystyrene, white glue, Dulux matt emulsion paint, and various scenic scatter materials.
That said, I don’t want to see them disappear completely, and I have therefore decided to turn them into blog entries that I will publish over the forthcoming weeks. To regular blog readers who have read them previously, I am sure that you will enjoy reading them again … and for those who have not read them before, I hope that you will enjoy reading them for the first time.
The following are examples of such armoured targets.
5-inch iron armour
11-inch iron armour
13-inch iron armour
As a result of such experiments, it was possible to draw up a table that compared the resistance to penetration of different types of armour.
Guns were also proofed at Woolwich and the largest ever tested there was the 16-25-inch Breech Loading Mk.I that was manufactured by at Elswick by Armstrongs.
Its specifications were:
- Total Weight: 111 tons
- Calibre: 16.25 inches
- Barrel length: 487.5 inches
- Shells: 1,800 pound Armoured-piercing, Common, and Shrapnel shells
- Elevation: -5° to + 13°
- Muzzle velocity: 2,087 feet/second
- Maximum range: 12,000 yards
The gun was introduced into service in 1885, and was used aboard HMS Benbow, HMS Victoria, and HMS Sans Pareil.
The proof mounting used still exists, and was on display in Woolwich until recently. The barrel is NOT a 16.25-inch but an 18-inch howitzer that was developed towards the end of the First World War.
By Sir Henry Newbolt
There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night –
Ten to make and the match to win –
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”
The sand of the desert is sodden red, –
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; –
The Gatling’s jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”
This is the word that year by year
While in her place the School is set
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind –
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”
“The Battle of Abu Klea”
By William McGonagall
Ye sons of Mars, come join with me,
And sing in praise of Sir Herbert Stewart’s little army,
That made ten thousand Arabs flee
At the charge of the bayonet at Abu Klea.
General Stewart’s force was about fifteen hundred all told,
A brave little band, but, like lions bold,
They fought under their brave and heroic commander,
As gallant and as skilful as the great Alexander.
And the nation has every reason to be proud,
And in praise of his little band we cannot speak too loud,
Because that gallant fifteen hundred soon put to flight
Ten thousand Arabs, which was a most beautiful sight.
The enemy kept up a harmless fire all night,
And threw up works on General Stewart’s right;
Therefore he tried to draw the enemy on to attack,
But they hesitated, and through fear drew back.
But General Stewart ordered his men forward in square,
All of them on foot, ready to die and to dare;
And he forced the enemy to engage in the fray,
But in a short time they were glad to run away.
But not before they penetrated through the British square,
Which was a critical Moment to the British, I declare,
Owing to the great number of the Arabs,
Who rushed against their bayonets and received fearful stabs.
Then all was quiet again until after breakfast,
And when the brave little band had finished their repast,
Then the firing began from the heights on the right,
From the breastworks they had constructed during the night.
By eight o’clock the enemy was of considerable strength,
With their banners waving beautifully and of great length,
And creeping steadily up the grassy road direct to the wells,
But the British soon checked their advance by shot and shells.
At ten o’clock brave General Stewart made a counter-attack,
Resolved to turn the enemy on a different track;
And he ordered his men to form a hollow square,
Placing the Guards in the front, and telling them to prepare.
And on the left was the Mounted Infantry,
Which truly was a magnificent sight to see;
Then the Sussex Regiment was on the right,
And the Heavy Cavalry and Naval Brigade all ready to fight.
Then General Stewart took up a good position on a slope,
Where he guessed the enemy could not with him cope,
Where he knew the rebels must advance,
All up hill and upon open ground, which was his only chance,
Then Captain Norton’s battery planted shells amongst the densest mass,
Determined with shot and shell the enemy to harass;
Then came the shock of the rebels against the British square,
While the fiendish shouts of the Arabs did rend the air.
But the steadiness of the Guards, Marines, and Infantry prevailed,
And for the loss of their brother officers they sadly bewailed,
Who fell mortally wounded in the bloody fray,
Which they will remember for many a long day.
For ten minutes a desperate struggle raged from left to rear,
While Gunner Smith saved Lieutenant Guthrie’s life without dread or fear,
When all the other gunners had been borne back,
He took up a handspike, and the Arabs he did whack.
The noble hero hard blows did strike,
As he swung round his head the handspike;
He seemed like a destroying angel in the midst of the fight,
The way he scattered the Arabs left and right.
Oh! it was an exciting and terrible sight,
To see Colonel Burnaby engaged in the fight:
With sword in hand, fighting with might and main,
Until killed by a spear-thrust in the jugular vein.
A braver soldier ne’er fought on a battle-field,
Death or glory was his motto, rather than yield;
A man of noble stature and manly to behold,
And an honour to his country be it told,
It was not long before every Arab in the square was killed,
And with a dense smoke and dust the air was filled;
General Stewart’s horse was shot, and he fell to the ground,
In the midst of shot and shell on every side around.
And when the victory was won they gave three British cheers,
While adown their cheeks flowed many tears
For their fallen comrades that lay weltering in their gore;
Then the square was re-formed and the battle was o’er.
Two somewhat different poetic approaches to the same subject material!
The gun was designed and built by Vickers and was introduced into limited service with the British Army in 1901. Its specifications were:
- Total Weight: 830 pounds
- Calibre: 75mm (2.953 inches)
- Barrel length: 31.6 inches
- Width: 32 inches
- Height: 26 inches (barrel axis)/36 inches (wheel)
- Shells: 12.5 pound Common and Shrapnel shells and 18 pound Double common shell (all fixed rounds)
- Elevation: -10° to + 27°
- Rate of fire: 14 rounds per minute
- Muzzle velocity: 920 feet/second
- Maximum range: 4,825 yards
The guns were not adopted by the British Army although 24 guns were bought and operated by the Royal West African Frontier Force (WAFF). The biggest user of the Ordnance Quick Firing 2.95″ Mk.1 Gun was the United States Army, who bought 132. These were used during the Philippine Insurrection, and sufficient of them were still in service in 1941 for approximately 50 of them to be issued to the Filipino Army artillery regiments, who used them against the Japanese invasion.
One of these guns was used during the filming of CARRY ON, UP THE KHYBER …
… and several of them featured in the Battle of Omdurman scenes in the film YOUNG WINSTON.
They make very interesting reading.
“The Charge of the Light Brigade”
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
“The Last of the Light Brigade”
By Rudyard Kipling
There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.
They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four!
They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”
They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.
They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.
The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said,
“You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. Here’s all that isn’t dead.
An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin’ the mouth of hell;
For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse, an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell.
“No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; but couldn’t you take an’ write
A sort of ‘to be continued’ and ‘see next page’ o’ the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an’ couldn’t you tell ’em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now.”
The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with “the scorn of scorn.”
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.
They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.
O thirty million English that babble of England’s might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children’s children are lisping to “honour the charge they made – “
And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!
The penultimate verse was included in the first publication in the St James’ Gazette, but was omitted from the collected versions