The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir

YE sons of Great Britain, come join with me,
And sing in praise of Sir Garnet Wolseley;
Sound drums and trumpets cheerfully,
For he has acted most heroically.

Therefore loudly his praises sing
Until the hills their echoes back doth ring;
For he is a noble hero bold,
And an honour to his Queen and country, be it told.

He has gained for himself fame and renown,
Which to posterity will be handed down;
Because he has defeated Arabi by land and by sea,
And from the battle of Tel-el-Kebir he made him to flee.

With an army about fourteen thousand strong,
Through Egypt he did fearlessly march along,
With the gallant and brave Highland brigade,
To whom honour is due, be it said.

Arabi’s army was about seventy thousand in all,
And, virtually speaking, it wasn’t very small;
But if they had been as numerous again,
The Irish and Highland brigades would have beaten them, it is plain.

’Twas on the 13th day of September, in the year of 1882,
Which Arabi and his rebel horde long will rue;
Because Sir Garnet Wolseley and his brave little band
Fought and conquered them on Kebir land.

He marched upon the enemy with his gallant band
O’er the wild and lonely desert sand,
And attacked them before daylight,
And in twenty minutes he put them to flight.

The first shock of the attack was borne by the Second Brigade,
Who behaved most manfully, it is said,
Under the command of brave General Grahame,
And have gained a lasting honour to their name.

But Major Hart and the 18th Royal Irish, conjoint,
Carried the trenches at the bayonet point;
Then the Marines chased them about four miles away,
At the charge of the bayonet, without dismay!

General Sir Archibald Alison led on the Highland Brigade,
Who never were the least afraid.
And such has been the case in this Egyptian war,
For at the charge of the bayonet they ran from them afar!

With their bagpipes playing, and one ringing cheer,
And the 42nd soon did the trenches clear;
Then hand to hand they did engage,
And fought like tigers in a cage.

Oh! it must have been a glorious sight
To see Sir Garnet Wolseley in the thickest of the fight!
In the midst of shot and shell, and the cannons roar,
Whilst the dead and the dying lay weltering in their gore

Then the Egyptians were forced to yield,
And the British were left masters of the field;
Then Arabi he did fret and frown
To see his army thus cut down.

Then Arabi the rebel took to flight,
And spurred his Arab steed with all his might:
With his heart full of despair and woe,
And never halted till he reached Cairo.

Now since the Egyptian war is at an end,
Let us thank God! Who did send
Sir Garnet Wolseley to crush and kill
Arabi and his rebel army at Kebir hill.

Tel-el-Kebir, September 13.

The most complete success has attended our attack upon the enemy’s position, and not only has Tel-el-Kebir fallen into our hands, but the Egyptian army has ceased to exist.

Never did a body of 14,000 men get under arms more quietly. The very orders appeared to be given in lowered tones, and almost noiselessly the dark column moved off, their footfalls being deadened by the sand. The silence, broken only by the occasional clash of steel; the certainty that the great struggle would commence with the dawn; the expectation that at any moment we might be challenged by the Bedouin horsemen far out in the plain in front of the enemy, all combined to make it impressive march, which none who shared in it ever will forget.

By early dawn the troops had arrived within a thousand yards of the enemy’s lines, and halted there for a short time to enable the fighting lines to be formed and other preparations to be made.

A perfect silence still reigned over, the plain, and it was difficult to credit the fact that some 14,000 men lay in a semicircle round the enemy’s lines, ready to dash forward at a signal at the low sand trenches in front, behind which twice as many men slumbered unsuspicious of their presence. As is usual in a movement carried out in the darkness, many detached parties lost their way. I was with the Mounted Police, and for a while we completely beat the rest of the forces, and went hither and thither all night, until just at daybreak we nearly stumbled into the enemy’s lines.

The attack began on our left, and nothing could be imagined finer than the advance of the Highland Brigade. The 74th were next to the Canal. Next to them were the Cameronians. The Gordon Highlanders continued the line, with the Black Watch upon their flank. The 46th and the 60th formed the second line.

Swiftly and silently the Highlanders moved forward to the attack. No word was spoken, no shot was fired, until within 300 yards of the enemy’s earthworks; nor up to that time did a sound in the Egyptian lines betoken that they were aware of the presence of their assailants.

Then, suddenly, a terrific fire flashed along the sand heaps, and storm of bullets whizzed over the heads of the advancing troops.

A wild cheer broke from the Highlanders. In response the pipes struck shrilly up, bayonets were fixed, and at the double this splendid line of men dashed forward.

The first line of entrenchments was carried without enemy scarce offering any resistance, but from another line of entrenchments behind, which in the still dim light could scarcely be seen, a burst of musketry broke out. For a few minutes the Highlanders poured in a heavy fire in exchange, but that was probably as innocuous as that of the unseen enemy, whose bullets whistled harmlessly overhead.

The delay in the advance was but a short one. Then the order was given, and the brigade again went rapidly forward. Soon a portion of the force had passed between the enemy’s redoubts and opened a flanking fire upon him.

This was too much for the Egyptians, who at once took to their heels and fairly ran, suffering, the crowded masses rushed across the open, very heavily from our fire—being literally mown down by hundreds.

Meanwhile the fighting had begun upon the other flank. The Horse Artillery shelled the enemy’s extreme left. Here the Egyptians were more prepared than they had been in their right, and for time kept up steady fire. The 18th Royal Irish were sent to turn the enemy’s left under the guidance of Major Hart, who accompanied them as staff officer, and at the word dashed at the trenches and carried them at the bayonet’s point, so turning the flank of the defenders of the position.

Next to the 18th came the 87th, and next them the 84th, the Guards being close up behind in support. These regiments advanced by regular rushes. For a short time the enemy clung to his line of entrenchment, but his fire was singularly ineffective, and our troops got fairly into the trenches. Then the enemy fought stoutly for a few moments, and the combat was hand to hand. Major Hart shot one man as he was trying to wrest his revolver from his hand, and this even after the trench had been turned by our advance on their flank. Then as our troops poured in the Egyptians fled as rapidly as those upon the other side of the Canal had done before the Highlanders.

The fight was now practically over, the only further danger arising from the bullets of our own troops, who were firing in all directions upon the flying enemy, as with loud cheers our whole line advanced in pursuit.

The Egyptians did not preserve the slightest semblance of order, but fled in a confused rabble at the top of their speed.

As we descended the hill leading down to Tel-el-Kebir station, we captured the standing camp with immense stores of forage and provisions.

At the station were two trains, which were filled with fugitives, and these managed to get away before our troops came up. Another engine, however, on the point of starting was blown up by one of our shells.

The victorious line of troops advanced cheering across the enemy’s camp and halted at the station, where Sir Garnet Wolseley soon after arrived.

Immediately afterwards General Drury Lowe with his staff rode up, having cut across the line of retreat of the flying enemy. A good many of them had been killed by our rifle and artillery fire, but immense numbers throwing their arms away delivered themselves up as prisoners.

How many of them have been taken I cannot at present say, but certainly far more than we shall be able to dispose of.

On the bridge of the Canal the General declared his orders to General Macpherson and General Lowe.

The former was ordered to move at once with the Indian Brigade on Zagazig, the latter to continue the work of the total dispersion of the enemy.

As I write the troops are cheering their Brigadiers, Alison and Graham, who rode into the trenches at their head.

The Highlanders and Guards are making themselves comfortable in the abandoned Egyptian tents, and are preparing to snatch a few hours’ repose.

Our casualties are at present unknown, but are not heavy. Those of the enemy are very large indeed.

Arabi barely escaped our cavalry, galloping off alone on a thoroughbred Arab.

The British wounded are being well cared for, and will be sent down by the Canal.

Reschid Pacha and Isanad Pacha are both wounded. Forty guns are believed to be captured. Major Colville and Lieutenant Somerville, of the 74th, are, I hear, killed. Captain Keppel, Lieutenant Medwood, Capt. Cumberland, and Lieutenant Gordon Cary are among the wounded. The last-named killed three Egyptian officers who set upon him, with his claymore.

Colonel Richardson, of the 46th, was wounded in the mouth as with his regiments he dashed over the entrenchments.

In the course of a brief ride I counted 300 Egyptians dead.

I hear that General Drury Lowe, with the cavalry, is to advance through Belbeis towards Cairo.

Dundee Evening Telegraph, 14th September 1882

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Comments (1) »

  1. John E P
    In the year 2014, on the 4th day of January at 6:54 am

    This nearly made me spit my coffee over my netbook most dear,
    Which would have been a sight quite queer.
    I will thank you most profoundly, in genuine delight,
    For assembling this hilarious website!

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