2 September 1898 sees Britain's last full cavalry charge

  • Today, the 2nd September, in 1898 the British under Lord Horatio Kitchener dealt the Mahdi a crushing defeat at Omdurman, near Khartoum, in the Sudan. The  troops of the Mahdi were called Dervishes and  outnumbered the British two to one. Numbers would count for nothing as modern arms won the battle, in what was a massacre. The  British who were  firing Lee Metford or .303 Lee Enfield rifles, backed up by Maxim machine guns and artillery, cut swathes through the attacking Dervishes, armed with spears and  antique rifles.
    The battle is also remembered as Britain’s last cavalry charge. The 21st Lancers were reconnoitring in force when they came upon 700 tribesmen, who they charged, only to discover 2500 Dervishes appear from hiding in a dry streambed. The Lancers fought their way out as best they could.
    The Mahdi lost 20000 men and 5000 captured, whereas Kitchener lost a few hundred.
    A certain young Winston Churchill was one of these Lancers present at the battle and wrote romantically of the cavalry charge, in which he personally killed three.
    Anyone who has watched the great Dad’s Army may also remember the septegenarian Lance Corporal Jack Jones stories of the battle and his cry of: “They do not like it up 'em”, when urging his Captain, a  non professional banker,  to rely on  the bayonet to defeat Hitler’s invaders.

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    Thanks, Wittmann. I always enjoy your historical notes.

    In this particular case, I couldn’t resist checking for any possible British cavalry charges of a later date, and indeed found one: a charge of the 20th Hussars on Turkish positions near the village of Gebze, in 1920. From http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=89391:

    13 July 1920 (Based in PAVLO). Operations against GEBZE held by Nationalists-reputed numbers 350. Troops engaged from the 20th Hussars and one section from the 30th Howitzer Battery,and 2/39 Garwhalis. The 20th encircled GEBZE from the north. Enemy had retired on first shell being fired. Position E of GEBZE taken up by Regiment. A patrol under Sergeant Waite of C Squadron charged 3 enemy snipers,enemy sabred. I troop C Squadron under Sergeant Mountford charged retiring party of enemy twice,results from first charge 3 enemy sabred,and second charge 4 enemy sabred and 4 killed by rifle fire. 50 Nationalists attacked by Rear Guard while column was approaching from the east of GEBZE. Enemy held in check by the Rear Guard,commanded by Captain JWS Gailbraith Squadron A. Believed many casualties by Hotchkiss rifle fire-4 killed or wounded. Regiment withdrew from position through GEBZE to PAVLO arriving 1500,halting en route at TUZLA for a meal and food and water for the animals. Casualties for the 20th Hussars Lt.JT Way wounded and 1 horse killed.

  • Evening Herr KaLeun. I too have always been surprised that this charge was the last large scale one, but it is how I remember it.
    Just to be sure, I did google last  British cavalry charge and found and read of the one you mention about an hour ago!

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