Battle of El Teb
Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines
Period/ Conflict: Sudanese War
Date/s: 29 February 1884
On the 21st, the force under the command of Sir Gerald Graham left for El Teb, via Trinkitat. It was composed of 4,500 men with 22 guns and 6 machine guns. On the 29th, they approached the main Mahdist position, on a hill near El Teb. This position consisted of various entrenchments and rifle pits. The Mahdists also had several artillery pieces including Krupp guns captured from the Tokar garrison, some of whom had changed sides, and were now fighting for the Mahdists.
The British, forming into a square, circled the Mahdist entrenchments to outflank them, under cover of dense rifle and cannon fire. After a brief artillery duel, the Mahdist guns were silenced, and the British advanced. The Mahdists hid in trenches to avoid incoming British rifle and artillery rounds, then rushed out in small groups of twenty to thirty warriors instead of the massive attack that was expected. Another tactic was to pretend to lie dead on the battlefield as British cavalry charged through, then, as the cavalry returned at a slower pace back through the ranks of the 'dead', the Mahdists would rise up and slit the hamstrings of the horses then proceed to kill the riders.
At the top of the hill, a village had been fortified by the Mahdists, and here they resisted the most stubbornly. The British infantry had to clear the trenches with bayonets after which the fighting died down. During the battle, Captain Arthur Wilson of HMS Hecla joined the right half-battery, Naval Brigade, in place of a lieutenant who was mortally wounded. As the troops closed on the enemy battery, the Dervish charged out on the detachment which was dragging one of the guns, whereupon Captain Wilson sprang to the front and engaged in single combat with some of the enemy, and so protected the detachment until men of the 1st Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, came to his assistance. For this action captain Wilson was awarded the Victoria Cross. Graham's force then advanced to Tokar, encountering no further resistance.
After the battle, most of the equipment lost by Baker's force was recovered. The British suffered only light casualties, the Mahdist fire being generally inaccurate. Baker Pasha, who accompanied the force, was wounded in the jaw. The Mahdists suffered heavily from British firepower, losing 2,000 killed.
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