The Ultimate Imperial Adventure
By Michael Asher
[pounds sterling]25 Viking
The British campaign in the Sudan in Queen Victoria's reign is an epic tale of adventure more thrilling than any fiction. Evoking images of broken squares of British troops, jammed Gatling guns, ferocious locals, gunboats on the Nile, the Camel Corps and the charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman, the story also brings together a cast of larger-than-life characters--Gordon, Wolseley, Kitchener, Gladstone, Churchill, the Madhi, the Khalifa Abdallahi and many others.
The story begins with the massacre of the 11,000 strong Hicks Pasha column in 1883--an event that sent shock waves through the Western world. Dispatched to evacuate the country, British national hero Charles 'Chinese' Gordon was surrounded and killed in Khartoum by a vast army of dervishes commanded by the Mahdi, the 'Expected Guide'.
Gordon held out for months, hoping from day to day to be rescued, but was eventually killed and the city sacked. Wolseley's relief mission, having fought its way across the desert on camels and sailed up the River Nile in steamers, arrived two days too late. The result was a national scandal that shocked the Queen and led to the fall of the British government.
The Mahdi's successor, the Khalifa Abdallahi, according to the author, established the world's...