Nov 072013

Regimental VC`s (Anglo-Egyptian War (1882)

  (Regimental Airs (Please Play Me)

The Anglo-Egyptian War occurred in 1882 between Egyptian and Sudanese forces under Ahmed Orabi, and the United Kingdom.

In 1878, an Egyptian army officer, Colonel Orabi Pasha, initiated a coup against Tewfik Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, because of grievances over disparities in pay between Egyptian and European employees, as well as other concerns. In January 1882 the British and French governments sent the “Joint Note” to the Egyptian government, declaring their recognition of the Khedive’s authority. On 20th May 1882, British warships arrived off the coast of Alexandria. France had withdrawn at the last minute. On 11th June 1882, a riot occurred in Alexandria that killed 50 Europeans, though Colonel Orabi ordered his forces to put down the riot. On 11th July 1882, after confused orders, British warships began their bombardment of Alexandria.

The reasons why the British government sent a fleet of ships to the coast of Alexandria is a point of historical debate, as there is no information available that is capable of identifying a definitive cause for the invasion.

In their 1961 essay Africa and the Victorians, Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher argue that the British invasion was ordered in order to quell the perceived anarchy of the Orabi Revolt, as well to protect British control over the Suez Canel in order to maintain its shipping route to the Indian Ocean.

A.G. Hopkins rejects Robinson and Gallagher’s argument, citing original documents and second-hand sources to claim that there was no perceived danger to the Suez Canal from the Orabi movement, and that Orabi and his forces were not chaotic “anarchists”, but rather maintained law and order.He alternatively argues that British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone’s cabinet was motivated by protecting the interests of British bondholders with investments in Egypt as well as pursuit of domestic political popularity. Hopkins cites the British investments in Egypt that grew massively leading into the 1880s, partially as a result of the Khedive’s debt from construction of the Suez Canal, as well as the close links that existed between the British government and the economic sector.He writes Britain’s economic interests occurred simultaneously to a desire within the ruling Liberal Party for a militant foreign policy in order to gain political domestic political popularity to compete with the Conservative Party.Hopkins cites a letter from Sir Edward Malet, the British consul general in Egypt at the time, to a member of the Gladstone Cabinet offering his congratulations on the invasion, “You have fought the battle of all Christendom and history will acknowledge it. May I also venture to say that it has given the Liberal Party a new lease of popularity and power.”

John Galbraith and Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid-Marsotmake a similar argument to Hopkins, though their argument focuses on how individuals within the British government bureaucracy used their positions to make the invasion appear as a more favourable option to Gladstone’s cabinet. First, they describe a plot by Edward Maletin which he portrayed the Egyptian government as unstable to his superiors in the British cabinet in order to provoke a British military intervention, which Galbraith and al-Sayyid-Marsot write contributed to the decision to invade. They portray him as having been naive, that he believed that he could convince the British government to militarily intimidate the Egyptian government, though he never imagined a full-out invasion or occupation. They also describe the actions of Admiral Beauchamp Seymour, commander of the British fleet that bombarded Alexandria, who personally hastened the start of the bombardment by exaggerating the danger posed by Orabi’s forces in Alexandria to his ships in his telegrams back to the British government.

Initial British Bombardment

The British fleet bombarded Alexandria from 11–13 July followed by British marines occupying it. The bombardment was very one sided, the British did not lose a single boat. Much of the city was destroyed by fires that broke out as a result of the bombardment. Orabi had his men start these fires to ruin the city that the British were taking over.The British then installed the Khedive Tawfiq, who declared Orabia rebel and took away his political rights.

Orabi`s Response

Orabi then counteracted by obtaining a Fatwa, which was authorised by Al Azhar shaykhswhich stated that Tawfiq was a traitor who brought on the occupation of Egypt by a foreign nation and stated that he betrayed his religion. Orabi also ordered conscriptionand he declared war on the United Kingdom

British Expeditionary Force Order of Battle

The British army tried to reach Cairo through Alexandria but was stopped for five weeks at Kafr-el-Dawwar. In August, a British army of over 40,000, commanded by Garnet Wolseley, invaded the Suez Canel Zone. He was authorised to destroy Orabi’s forces and clear the country of all other rebels.

Battle of Tel el-Kebir

Orabi redeployed to defend Cairoagainst Wolseley. His main force dug in at Tel el-Kebir, north of the railway and the Sweet Water Canel, both of which linked Cairo to Ismailiaon the canal. The defences were hastily prepared as there was little time to arrange them. Orabi’s forces possessed 60 pieces of artillery and breech loading rifles. Wolseley made several personal reconnaissances, and determined that the Egyptians did not man outposts in front of their main defences at night, which made it possible for an attacking force to approach the defences under cover of darkness. Wolseley sent his force to approach the position by night and attacked frontally at dawn, which they did successfully, officially losing only 57 troops while killing approximately two thousand Egyptians. The Orabi forces were routed, and British cavalry pursued them and captured Cairo, which was undefended. Khedivepower was then restored as the authority of Egypt.

During the build up to the battle at Tel-el-Kebir the specially raised 8th Railway Company RE operated trains carrying stores and troops, as well as repairing track. On the day of the battle they ran a train into Tel-el-Kebir station at between 8-9am (13th September) and “…found it completely blocked with trains, full of the enemy’s ammunition: the line strewn with dead and wounded, and our own soldiers swarming over the place almost mad for want of water…” (extract from Captain Sidney Smith’s diary), Once the station was cleared they began to ferry the wounded, prisoners and troops with stores to other destinations.

In the wake of the advancing columns, telegraph lines were laid on either side of the Sweet Water canal. At 2 am (13th September) Wolseley successfully sent a message to the Major General Sir H Macpherson VC on the extreme left with the Indian Contingent and the Naval Brigade. At Tel-el Kebir a field telegraph office was established in a saloon carriage, which Arabi Pasha had travelled in the day before. At 8.30 am (13th September) after the victory at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, Wolseley used the telegram to send messages of his victory to Queen Victoria; he received a reply from her at 9.15 am the same day. Once they had got connected to the permanent line the Section also worked the Theiber sounder and the telephone.

The forerunners of Royal Engineer(Postal Section) made their debut on this campaign. They were specially raised from the 24th Middlesex Rifles Volunteers (Post Office Rifles) and for the first time in British military history, post office clerks trained as soldiers, provided a dedicated postal service to an army in the field. During the battle of Kassassin they became the first Volunteers ever to come under enemy fire.

Prime Minister Gladstone initially sought to put Orabi on trial and execute him, portraying him as “…a self-seeking tyrant whose oppression of the Egyptian people still left him enough time, in his capacity as a latter-day Saladin, to massacre Christians.” After glancing through his captured diaries and various other evidence, there was little with which to “demonize” Orabi in a public trial. His charges were down-graded, after which he admitted to rebellion and was sent into exile.

British troops then occupied Egyptuntil the Anglo–Egyptian Treaty of 1922 and Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936, giving gradual control back to the government of Egypt.

Hopkins argues that Britain continued its occupation of Egypt after 1882 in order to guarantee British investments, “Britain had important interests to defend in Egypt and she was prepared to withdraw only if conditions guaranteeing the security of those interests were met – and they never were.”Consistent with this view, investment in Egypt increased during the British occupation, interest rates fell, and bond prices rose.

Regimental VC`s (Anglo-Egyptian War (1882)

Frederick Corbett VC (17th September 1853 – 25th September 1912) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Corbett was born on 17th September 1853 in Maldon, Essex. His name at birth was David Embleton

Corbett was 28 years old, and a  Private in the 3rd Battalion, The King`s Royal Rifle Corps of the British Army during the 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

The Citation in The London Gazette  on 16th February 1883 read

During the reconnaissance upon, Kafr Dower, Egypt, on 5th August 1882, the Mounted Infantry, with which Private Corbett was serving, came under a hot fire from the enemy and suffered some loss, including Lieutenant Howard Vyse, mortally wounded. This officer fell in the open, and there being then no time to move him, Private Corbett asked and obtained permission to remain by him, and though under a constant fire, he sat down and endeavored to stop the bleeding of this officer’s wounds, until the Mounted Infantry received orders to retire, when he rendered valuable assistance in carrying him off the field

Corbett served in the Army between 1873 and 1891. He was one of eight men whose VCs were forfeited. He was stripped of the medal on 30th July 1884 after being convicted of embezzlement and theft from an officer.

He died in Maldon Union Workhouse on 25th September 1912. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Maldon cemetery. Then a regimental headstone was placed over the grave and in a simple ceremony on 16th April 2004 the headstone which was covered in the regimental flag of the 60th Rifles was unveiled by Lieutenant General Sir Christopher Wallace.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the RGJ / Rifles museum at the former Peninsula Barracks

Sourced from Wikipedia

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