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Battle of Abu Klea, January 17, 1885

Battle of Abu Klea, January 17, 1885

In 1881, Mohammed Ahmed, a Sudanese Islamic prophet, had declared himself the "Mahdi" or "Guided One" and launched a desert revolt with the intent of removing all foreigners from the Sudan. By 1884 the Mahdi and his forces had laid siege to the largest foreign outpost in the Sudan, Khartoum. British Major General Charles "Chinese" Gordon had been given the task of evacuating the city but delayed too long and was trapped in the city.

Initially, the British Government was reluctant to send troops to Gordon's aid, but under intense public pressure relented with the dispatch of British troops under the command of Wolseley. The Gordon Relief Expedition progressed very slowly and eventually Wolesley split his forces into separate "River" and "Desert" Columns in hopes that the land force might arrive at Khartoum sooner. Unfortunately the Relief Expedition did not reach Khartoum until January 28, 1885, two days after a Mahdist attack and massacre that resulted in the death of Gordon.

This new series by W. Britain will initially focus on two of the key battles, Tamai and Abu Klea, and will grow to include the various units involved in the campaign from both the river and desert columns.

This battle was fought by the Desert Column of the Gordon Relief Expedition on its way to Khartoum. British troops included 4 regiments of camel troops (Guards, Heavy, Light and Mounted Infantry), the 19th Hussars,Royal Artillery, Royal Marines, Naval Brigade, and the Sussex Regiment. They were attacked by an enemy force of 12,000 including the Beja warriors of the Hadendoa tribe. The British defensive square included a new Gardiner gun manned by the Naval Brigade that jammed during the battle. A massive rush by the Mahdist warriors ensued and broke the square but intense fire from troops in the rear drove them out and into a retreat from the field. Rudyard Kipling commemorated the battle in his poem entitled "Fuzzy-Wuzzy", the nickname given to the Hadendoa tribesmen by the British soldiers because of the appearance of their hair.

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