South African Military History Society



The Annual General Meeting held on the above date revealed that the Society had had another successful year. The membership now stands at 517.
Maj. D.D. Hall was re-elected Chairman and the following members were elected onto the Executive Comittee :

Dr. Ian CopleyDr Felix Machanik
Mr. Gill[sic] GarrMr. Mike Marsh
Mr. Maurice Gough-PalmerMr. Stewart Stiles
Mr. Nick KinseyMr. Ian Uys

The AGM was followed by the excellent film "Churchill-Champion of Freedom"

100 Years Ago - March to May 1885

After the fall of Khartoum and Gordon's death in January 1885 it was decided to send a force from Suakin on the Red Sea to attempt to seize Berber on the Nile. The force was placed under the command of Major-General Sir G. Graham and consisted of the following troops :

Guards BrigadeInfantry BrigadeIndian BrigadeCavalry
3rd Grenadiers2nd East Surreys9th Bengal Cavalry5th Lancers
1st Coldstream1st Shropshire L.I.15th Sikhs20th Hussars
2nd Scotslst Berkshires17th Bengal InfantryMounted Infantry
 Marine Battalion28th Bombay Infantry 

In addition there were three batteries of Royal Artillery and a battery and infantry battalion from New South Wales - the debut of Australian troops in war.

On 19th and 20th March actions took place around Hashin (ten kilometers from Suakin). The infantry attacked a ridge held by Osman Dignas' Hadendoa. There was however no serious opposition. It had been hoped that the tribesmen could be tempted to attack the infantry squares and that they would suffer heavy casualties as a result. The 9th Bengal Cavalry attempted a charge but were ambushed in thick scrub and forced to retire to the Guards' square. The force then retired back on Suakin leaving the East Surreys at a post guarding the right flank.

Graham now determined to move on Tamai, some 22 kilometers from Suokin, where Osman Digna's main force was concentrated. He despatched a force under Major-General J. Mc Neill on 22nd March to Tofrek approximately halfway to Tomai. The force consisted of 1 squadron 5th Lancers, the Berkshires, Marines and the Indian Brigade. The construction of 3 zeribas (thorn forces) was commenced under the protection of covering parties of infantry and 'cossack posts' of 5th Lancers

No enemy had been seen, but the high scrub made observation difficult. When the zeribas were almost complete, and the troops in considerable disarray - some working, and some having their midday meal, a large body of approximately 5,000 Hadandoa rushed the force. The lancers rushed in to raise the alarm, closely pursued by the tribesmen. The 17th Bengal Infantry broke. The brunt of the onslaught fell on the Berkshires who formed rough rallying squares and opened rapid fire at close range. The Sikhs and Marines supported the Bershire and the combined fire repulsed the attack. The battle only lasted 20 minutes, but in that time 117 men were killed and 179 wounded. The Dervish loss was approximately 1500.

The advance on Tamai resumed on 3rd April. Only light opposition was encountered and after destroying Tamai the force returned to Suakin. The final action of the campaign took place in the T'Hakul valley on the 6th May.

The British Government now became seriously concerned about Russian intentions in Afghanistan. The Suakin Field Force was withdrawn on 17th May, leaving a predominantly Indian garrison to hold the post.

Battlefield Tours

The Museum intends organising a one day tour in June (probably 16th) and a long weekend trip from 11th to 13th October. Details to follow.

Future Meetings

May, 9th Mr. H.W. Kinsey - "The Brandwater Basin and Golden Gate Surrenders, 1900"

June, 13th Major D. Sheil-Small, M.C. - "Green Shadows (Gurkhas)"

Stewart Stiles
(883-1383 Home)
(609-3621 Office)

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