The Imperial force had three brigades of infantry, two Egyptian and one British (all with artillery support), a cavalry brigade with two mounted infantry units plus a lancer regiment and artillery,plus, on the Nile, a steamer with a unit of blue jackets. Our task was to capture Ad Dueim and disperse the Dervish force.
|A general view of the table|
A report submitted by the Imperial Commander General James Blackadder after the battle stated that the overall plan was to advance with the Egyptian brigades in the centre and the open desert flank to be covered by the cavalry. The naval contingent, under the command of Captain (retired) Alfred Horatio Lines RN on the gunboat Tamei would cover the other flank and provide fire support to assist the Egyptian advance. The British brigade was to be the reserve, ready to steady the line if the Egyptians faltered and exploit any opportunities as the Dervishes were driven back.
"With the first rays of the sun dispelling the desert darkness, the Imperial forces advanced with a steady step; the months of training under British officers bearing fruit as the native infantry maintained their lines admirably" (The Times).
The Cairo Examiner lauded the martial attitude of the Egyptian infantry under the charismatic leadership of Ibrahim Bey and Abdullah Zim Bey. Ibrahim Bey had taken the instructions of the British officers extolling the virtue of keeping the men 'in hand' to heart and advanced his men in square. To his right Abdullah Zim Bey opted for a more flexible deployment, but curiously he made no quicker progress than his compatriot.
|Ibrahim Bey's brigade advance|
On the Tamei, Captain Lines ordered the helmsman to move closer to the bank to give covering fire. The Dervishes under the command of Emir Mustafa Maq advanced with determination, reports in the Mahdi Post describing the men chanting verses as they closed on the enemy. However, the concentrated fire from the Tamei caused such casualties that the advance stalled. Emir Maq was saved by the jamming of the machine gun on the Tamei as the barrel overheated.
|The Tamei steams upstream|
Seeking new 'prey' the lancers advanced past the village and soon found all the opponents they could wish for (and more if truth be told). Suddenly the cavalry troopers found Dervish infantry to their front and both flanks . The Mahdi had brought forward some units of Hadendoah and Emir Mohammed Roy had brought forward his troops in support of Abdul Garab. Leading from the front Mohammed Roy and his men surged forward in what the Times correspondent likened to a "tidal wave".
|The lancers in their final charge|
The colonel of the lancers was heard by a survivor to have said "I didn't come all this way to turn back now" and ordered the bugler to sound the charge. As the cavalry gathered speed the fluttering lance pennons dipped and the men crouched in their saddles. The impact was terrific, men and horses tumbled to the ground, lances, swords and spears clashed and glinted through the dust clouds. Unbelievably, the lancers held the first Dervish attack, driving off two attacking units. Amongst the dead was Mohammed Roy, the charismatic leader had been in the front line of the Dervish attack and was felled with multiple lance wounds. Before the lancers could catch breath another wave of attackers surged forward and this time, inspired by the presence of the Mahdi the Dervishes prevailed. Slowly the line of lancers was pushed back and their formation broken. Little knots of men, their horses dead, fought back to back against overwhelming odds. One survivor, a young lieutenant told the Times correspondent how a veteran trooper gave him his horse and told him to ride back for reinforcements. Suddenly, it was all over, a few lucky survivors escaped and made what speed they could for the safety of the Imperial lines, but the lancers would play no further part in the battle.
Meanwhile Mustafa Maq was carrying out his orders with some success. He had deployed skirmishers to shoot at Ibrahim Bey's men and a firefight ensued. Little real damage was inflicted on either side, but it did buy time for more Dervish troops under Emir Talik Bak to move forward.
|Problems for the Tamei|
Abdullah Zim Bey's dismounted cavalry had found themselves attacked by a mass of Dervish warriors and they were forced to recoil. Aid was at hand as Zim Bey had deployed a battalion of Egyptian infantry as a precaution and they stood firm repelling this dangerous attack. Indeed the Cairo Examiner later carried a letter of commendation for the officers of this unit, signed by the Khedive himself
|Abdullah Zim Bey's men stand firm|
|The Mahdi leads the attack|
|The Gentlemen Pensioners before battle was joined|
For other views on the game check out Wills blog and Phil's blog