RPG: A Soldier’s Life (extract)

This is an extract from one of my Gas-Lamp Fantasy RPG supplements.


Mahdist War

This is also known as the Sudan Campaign.

Following the invasion by Muhammed Ali in 1819, Sudan was governed by an Egyptian administration. This colonial system was resented by the Sudanese people, because of the heavy taxes it imposed and because of the bloody start of the Turkish-Egyptian rule in Sudan.

Due to the importance of the building of the Sudan canal, Britain took an increasing interest in the area. With corruption increasing in Egypt, in 1873 the British government supported a program where an Anglo-French debt commission assumed responsibility for managing Egypt’s fiscal affairs. This commission eventually forced Khedive Ismail, the Egyptian ruler, to abdicate in favor of his son Tawfiq in 1877.

Ismail had appointed General Charles “Chinese” Gordon Governor of the Equatorial Provinces of Sudan in 1873. For the next three years, General Gordon fought against a native chieftain of Darfur, Zobeir.

Upon Ismail’s abdication Gordon found himself with dramatically decreased support. He eventually resigned his post in 1880. Although the Egyptians were fearful of the deteriorating conditions, the British refused to get involved.

In the 1870s, a Muslim cleric named Muhammad Ahmad preached renewal of the faith and liberation of the land, and began attracting followers. He announced that he was the Mahdi, the occluded imam. Soon his followers were in open revolt.

Arab tribes rose up to support him. The weak Egyptian government moved its army against the Mahdi, but all that happened was that the Egyptian military forces were slaughtered.

Another, ill-disciplined Egyptian army was assembled, under the command of the British Colonel Hicks. This army was annihilated at the battle of El Obeid.

The British, who were now effectively running Egypt, decided to get serious, and sent for General Gordon. Gordon left England on 18 January 1884 and arrived in Cairo on the evening of the 24th January. Gordon was largely responsible for drafting his own orders.

Gordon arrived in Khartoum on 18 February. He did not move out of the city quickly enough, and allowed himself to be besieged by the forces of the Mahdi.

A relief force was despatched to relieve Khartoum, but it did not arrive in time: the city fell on January 25, 1885, and Gordon and his men were butchered. The relief column arrived two days two late, after defeating Mahdist forces at Abu Klea.

The British also sent an expeditionary force under Lt-Gen Sir Gerald Graham, including an Indian contingent, to Suakin in March 1885. It became known as the Suakin Expedition. Although it was successful in the two actions it fought, it failed to change the military situation and was withdrawn. These events temporarily ended British and Egyptian involvement in Sudan, which passed completely under the control of the Mahdists.

Muhammad Ahmad died soon after his victory in 1885, and was succeeded by the Khalifa Abdallahi ibn Muhammad. He proved not to be as good a leader, and the British, the military bolstered by several army wizards, won back control of the Sudan. The British set up a new colonial system, the Anglo-Egyptian administration, which effectively established British domination over Sudan.



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