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The First Battle of El Teb – 4th Feb 1884


On the 4th February 1884 Lt General Valentine Baker Pasha (picture about with his Chief of Staff Col Abd al-Razmi, Fred Burnaby on the left and Maj Harvey in the scarlet jacket)  set out with an army of just over 3500 men and cavalry in hope of crushing the Mahdist rebellion and relieving the besieged garrison of Sinkat.  The battle ended in disaster for Baker and a major victory for the Mahdist cause. We wanted to give him another chance and hopefully reverse that fatal day to a Egyptian victory.

All started well for Baker’s little Army, we had cavalry out to the front (Mounted Gendarmeries and Bashi-buzuqs) scouting for hidden enemy and formed out troops into three perfect squares with mutual support…or that was the plan.

Our best troops, the Turkish Battalion under the command of Major Yusuf Tahir Bey and the Senhit Battalion (Black Sudanese)

The left hand square of our forces consisted of the Alexandria and Cairo Gendarmerie battalions

And our final square of dismounted Bashi-Buzuq and the 1st Battalion of Zunbair’s Bazingers under the command of Major Khalil Ali

A beautiful deployment…perfect
There is alway a need to defend the camp and these lads are doing a great job.

The squares move out from the base camp and head off into the unknown expanse. 

The central square under the command of Bakers’ 2IC Maj. Gen G.C. Sartaorius

Two squadrons of bashi-buzuqs spur ahead to reconnoitre some high ground in the distance

Artillery deploys between the squares in order to support their advance.

Hidden behind one of the low lying hills a large force of mounted warriors spring their trap and ride down the bashi-buzuqs.  Maj Giles tries to rally them but is unsuccessful and retreats with what is left of them to the safety of the squares.

The willy Osman observes the unfolding battle from a safe vantage point, directing his commander on the ground, Amir Adb Allah ibn Hamid. 

Soon the squares are attached from the flanks as warriors charge out from the mimosa, forcing the Egyptian MG crews to deploy.

But it seemed to late. A gun is lost even before they got a chance to fire a single shot.

Soon there are warriors charging from all directing and it seems to the Egyptians commanders that they had just walked right into and ambush. But the first wave of attacks are defeated and the nervous  Egyptian troops have stood up well to their first taste of battle against some of the best warriors the Mahdist forces have.

However the Munted Gendarmerie, commanded by Maj. Maletta did not fear as well and are caught in the flank. They loose half their number and route across the front of two squares causing much confusion. 

The good Maj. Giles manages to rally the irregular horse and charges the Mahdist warriors but is again defeated and he looses his life in the effort with a spear to the heart.

The battle intensifies with the Egyptian left square coming under repeated charges from the brave Bija warriors

But still they stand steady and defend themselves well with bayonets. Maj. Harvey rides over to assist in the fire and control of the square and directs some well timed volleys into the charging warriors.

With the Egyptian cavalry all but defeated Bija warriors now throw themselves at the right hand Egyptian square

In the centre square Baker and his officers direct supporting fire for the other squares, but is of little effect as the willy warriors are weary of the effectiveness of the Remington rifle and steer clear of its deadly range.

Finally the full weight of the Mahdist forces now come to bare and the centre square comes under heavy attack.

The Turkish battalion, under the command of Maj. Yusuf Tahir Bey, puts up a tough fit but is soon pushed back and the protection of the square is broken

The Bija warriors charge forward in the flank of another comany from the Egyptian Battalion but are in turn counter charged by the quick thinking of Lt. Col. Ahmad Kamal Bey who directs a company of black Sudanese to charge into the melee (below)

The last remaining MG is charged and lost to the warriors

So too is a section of guns who only had enough time to fire one round each of canister into the charge mass, which was unfortunately not enough to stop the charge and the guns are lost.

With the middle square now broken a vicious hand to hand melee takes place with both sides loosing many good men….but the Egyptians manage to hold on.

Hit in the flank and rear the Egyptians are starting to get a little nervous and many are looking to the rear for support that is not there.

Can they hold? Another section of guns is soon attacked

Finally under much pressure the Egyptian left square is also broken and troops start to run to the rear.

With all three squares now broken and troops in disarray everywhere Valentine and his European Officers are desperate to stop the route.

Directing well directed volleys from surviving companies the Egyptian make one last desperate bid to  win the day.

But is seems all is lost and with moral low and warriors everywhere there can be no hope and it is every man for himself.

Valentine Baker Pasha however does not live this time as he did in the past and in a desperate bid he rallies some bashi-buzuqs and charges into the history books….RIP.


0 thoughts on “The First Battle of El Teb – 4th Feb 1884”

  1. Smashing stuff! Looking through those excellent photos I think the Egyptians didn't find much joy in the encounter with the Mahdists. That forlorn Nordenfeltd gun spoke volumes.

  2. Thanks for the great comments everyone and sorry for being a little slack with the AAR. I will however hope to have the report finished sometime today.

    All the best


  3. Always a pleasure to see your wonderful table in action Nathan. You can see the dust and the mimosa bushes flying high in the air as the troops charge across the plains from here! Wonderful read and excellent viewing.

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