Onwards to Omdurman

The Anglo-Egyptian Campaign to Reconquer the Sudan, 1896-1898

Keith Surridge

Following a two-year campaign that employed the latest Victorian technology, General Kitchener's Anglo-Egyptian army crushed the Mahdist Sudanese at the battle of Omdurman on 2 September 1898. Thus, Britain ended the Islamic government of the Khalifa Abdallahi, gained control of the Nile Valley, and avenged the death of General Gordon in 1885.
Date Published :
September 2022
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
From Musket to Maxim 1815-1914
Illustration :
c15 b/w ills, 10 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781915070517
Pages : 200
Dimensions : 9.75 X 7 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order


On 2 September 1898, the Anglo-Egyptian army under General Kitchener crushed the Mahdist Sudanese army of the Khalifa Abdallahi at the battle of Omdurman. Depictions of the battle, in books and films, have too often depicted it as the hapless slaughter of the Mahdists by a modern, well-equipped professional army. This book seeks to show, however, that the battle was not a foregone conclusion and that the result might have been closer if the Mahdists had conformed to their battle-plan. By examining the battle in fair detail, the book emphasizes that the Mahdists battle plan was poorly executed, hence their defeat. Although it took another year before the Khalifa was defeated and killed, the battle at Omdurman ended a two-year campaign that had utilized the power of modern Victorian technology.

To fully understand how and why an Anglo-Egyptian army arrived to fight at Omdurman, the book takes a fresh look at the Sudan campaign as a whole, because it provides an excellent example of how modern technology was used to overcome the vagaries of the desert and the river Nile. Thus, railway lines were built to bring troops and supplies across the desert. Communications were enhanced by miles of telegraph wire. Control of the Nile was ensured by British-built gunboats, armed with machine guns and artillery. While the Anglo-Egyptian army carried modern rifles, machine guns and artillery. Kitchener had witnessed Britain’s failed Sudan campaign in 1884-85 to rescue General Gordon trapped in Khartoum by Mahdist forces, because of too much haste and not enough forethought. Kitchener did not make the same mistakes. Moreover, he and his officers never underestimated the fighting prowess of their enemy.

Before Kitchener’s campaign is examined, however, the book provides context by discussing how and why Britain was involved in Egypt and why the decision was made to invade Mahdist Sudan. It then considers the political, social and military organization of the Khalifa’s domain. The book also examines the Egyptian army and provides details later on the British contingent. The various stages of Kitchener’s advance are then discussed.

The book is based British accounts from unpublished material in archives and published contemporary works, for they are readily available. Where possible, the book takes into account the Mahdist perspective by using the available published sources and the Intelligence reports prepared from information supplied by Sudanese agents and informers.

About The Author

After leaving Midland Bank plc to pursue an academic career, Keith Surridge gained his BA in history at Queen Mary College, London in 1989, and his Ph.D at King's College, London in 1994. Since 1993, he has taught aspects of British history at various American university programs in London. His books include Managing the South African War, 1899-1902. Politicians vrs Generals (1998) and with Denis Judd, The Boer War (2002). He has also published many articles on aspects of the South African war 1899-1902 and on the British army and imperialism during the late-nineteenth century.

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