11 minutes & 48 seconds into the video, the narrator tells a brief story of Great Grandads 2nd Battalion H.L.I. and the brave Lieutenant William Mordaunt Marsh Edwards (1855-1912) Image below/right from the From the collection of Queen Victoria c.1882 – Place/date of birth: Hardingham, Norfolk/May 7, 1855. Rank when awarded VC (and later highest rank): Lieutenant (Major). Date of bravery: September 13, 1882.
Attestation In Manchester
Patrick, joined the army in Ashton Under Lynne on the 15th September 1881 aged 20 years & 6 months, and according to his attestation information he had “Ennistymon, County Clare, Ireland” as his place of birth. His Manchester Regiment Number was 267, after transfer to the Highland Light Infantry his number was 449.
Great Grandad Patrick fought in the Battle of Tel El Kebir in September 1882. He was posted to the Khyber Pass in India… originally in the Manchester Regiment, transferred to the 2nd Battalion Highlanders Infantry.
One Shout In The Darkness
One shout in the darkness, one rifle accidentally discharged, and the vital element of surprise would be lost with unforeseeable results.
Wolseley had available five brigades with a total of 17 battalions, making 12,124 infantrymen. Six cavalry regiments (2,785 troopers) and 61 guns brought the total up to 17,401 men. Arabi had 20,000 regulars waiting in the great trench with 6,000 Bedouin and 2,500 cavalry. There were 75 Egyptian guns, including 60mm and 80mm Krupp breech-loaders. On the railway itself sailors of the Naval Brigade manned an armoured train carrying a 40-pounder gun.
Wolseley’s audacious plan would be put to the test in the very early hours of the morning of September 13th. There was some nervousness when a Scotsman let out a peal of laughter. He was quickly silenced and taken to the rear to sober up. The rest of the Highlanders would fail to get into their proper positions and would have the misfortune of coming face-to-face with some of the toughest troops in Arabi’s army – seasoned fighters from the Sudan who gave no quarter and expected none. At 0455, Egyptian army sentries fired one or two individual shots. Then a blaze of fire burst from the whole line of the parapet. The Highland Brigade was only 150 yards short of their objective, while on the right the 2nd Brigade was only 800 yards from the enemy.
When the concentrated fire was opened against the Highlanders they fixed bayonets. The charge was sounded by the regimental buglers, and the position was rushed. Soft sand on the outer slope of the parapet impeded the troops and 200 casualties were caused by enemy fire at point-blank range. The first man to reach the top, Lieutenant Brooks of the Gordon Highlanders, was shot dead but the Gordons together with the Camerons reached the top and pouring down into the main trench and quickly cleared it. Gunners in the artillery redoubts were bayoneted in the back serving their guns. Pressing on, the Highlanders assaulted the second line in isolated parties and were there held up by rifle fire from Egyptian and Sudanese troops being rushed to counter the attack. On the left of the position it was even direr as the Sudanese not only held there position but counterattacked.
The Highlander’s faltering advanced was steadied by the arrival of the second wave. Meanwhile the cavalry hit the right flank and the Indian brigade skirted around the rear to head off the anticipated Egyptian retreat. By 0520 it was light enough for the British artillery to move. Two batteries of guns were pushed forward in the gap between the two leading infantry brigades and, reaching the great trench crossed it, forming up facing south. From here they enfiladed the enemy from the flank. This greatly shook the enemy on the lower right half of their main position and their units started to disintegrate. This allowed the Highlanders to renew their advance fully.
The Egyptians were individually brave, but their leadership displayed a lack of initiative and adaptability to changing circumstances. Retreat soon turned to a rout, although most soldiers could not avoid the pincer movement conducted by the Indian brigade.
Within two hours it was all over. For the loss of 57 men killed, 383 wounded and 30 missing, Sir Garnet Wolseley had crushed Arabi Pasha’s main force. The road to Cairo was wide open. British cavalry raced ahead of the main force to try and avoid any coalescing of residual forces. They persuaded the garrison commander not to offer any resistance. They proceeded to the Citadel to negotiate the final surrender of the city. Arabi Pasha was located there and and arrested. Sir Garnet Wolseley arrived on September 15th aboard a special train.
As for Arabi Pasha, initially he was sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to a exile to Ceylon. However what was more difficult to ascertain was what the British should do now that they had secured the Suez Canal. Most Liberal politicians were keen on leaving Egypt. However, the country was still in a financial mess and the canal might soon be re-imperilled if the British were to leave. However, other European nations were not keen on seeing the British add such a large, close and famous colony to its growing empire. Instead, Gladstone and the Liberals prevaricated before trying to come up with a complicated Condominium solution – that was all but colonialism in another name.
Sir Evelyn Baring was appointed as British agent and consul-general. He had had an illustrious career as finance member of the Viceroy’s council in India. He would serve a total of 23 years in his post. The strength of British domination and Egyptian weakness would be revealed shortly with the Mahdi’s uprising in the South of the country and in the Sudan. It would soon be clear who was really controlling Egypt.
Mackenzie Pattern Tartan
The Mackenzie pattern tartan was worn by The Highland Light Infantry, the only highland regiment not to adopt the kilt. For field service the standard khaki battledress trousers would be worn.
Egypt Medal (Clasp – Tel-El-Kebir) and 1882 Khedives Star – 2nd Bn. Seaforth Highlanders
Great Grandad Patrick Joins Up
Lieutenant William Mordaunt Marsh Edwards
Lieutenant William Mordaunt Marsh Edwards (1855-1912) Image credit from the from the collection of Queen Victoria c.1882
The 2nd Battalion saw action at the Battle of Tel El Kebir in September 1882 during the Anglo-Egyptian War: Lieutenant William Edwards was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the battle. The 2nd Battalion was stationed in Britain from 1883, but moved to India the following year.