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1883 EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT ARMY UNDER THE HICKS EXPEDITION

1883 Gendarmes Regiment

Right - Valentine Baker (also known as Baker Pasha), was largely responsible for developing between 1882 till 1887 the Egyptian police, training them as a gendarmerie, and military reserve [1]. Extracted from an 1883-period print of various Egypt Army uniforms (Vinkhuijzen Collection), this clearly identifies General Valentine Baker Pasha, in a light blue uniform as the Commander of the Egyptian Gendarmes. The same illustration also has an Egyptian Gendarme, with Baker. Notwithstanding the late date (as the pith helmet had become common in this period), Baker Pasha as a European officer in Egyptian service wears a 'Crested Ellwood’s helmet (c1850s)'. This figure is represented wearing a gold shoulder knot (right side), and this appears to have an aiguillettes cord coming from it. However, as can be seen in photographs of Baker (discussed below), this is in fact the aiguillette pulled through the right-shoulder epaulet strap and hooked to the base of the collar.

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[1] Carr, William (1901). "Baker, Valentine". In Sidney Lee. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​.London: Smith, Elder & Co.

1883 Egyptian Camel Corps

The pre-1882, Egyptian Camel Troops officer; and, Egyptian Camel Trooper, can be seen in various illustration of the 1883-period Egypt Army troops (Vinkhuijzen Collection): The Egyptian army used camel riders as a significant part of its transport [1]. Prior to 1884-85, there was one company of Camel troops, and one Camel battery [2] [3]. The Egyptian Army's Camel Corps existed from early 1883, and were recruited from First-Class shots within the army, and from men already familiar with camels. It proved to be a highly successful force [4].

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[1] John P. Dunn. Khedive Ismail's Army, Psychology Press, 2005: 42.

{2] Doug Johnson. The Egyptian Army 1880-1900. S&S Vol VIII, No. 1. (1972): 3-21.

[3] Doug Johnson. The Egyptian Camel Corps 1883-1885. S&S Vol. V, No. 1-2 (June, 1969): 15-16.

[4] J. E. H. Boustead. The Camel Corps of the Sudan Defence Force. Royal United Services Institution. Journal. Volume 79, Issue 515, 1934: 547-557. "First raised in early days of the Egyptian Army in April, 1883, the Camel Corps was then an irregular corps, in which the men found their own food and clothing; it was composed of Sudanese and Egyptian soldiers mounted entirely on Government camels.”

1883 Egyptian Army Officers

Below - Egyptian Army officers in the Sudan, during the period of Hicks' Expedition force. They wear a variety of pre-1883 Egypt Army Uniforms.These officers are identified (Left to Right), as: (1) IZZET EFFENDI; (2) MESSADAGLIA BEY; (3) ABDUL RASSAK; (4) UNKNOWN; (5) YUSUF BEY; and, (6) UNKNOWN (Ernestine Isabella Sartorius. Three months in the Soudan. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1885).

Hicks Expedition Staff Officers (1883)

Below - One of the 1883 group portraits taken of William Hicks Pasha and his staff (1883): These were 'Standing (from left to right). Captain Massey, Colonel Arthur Farquhar (Q.M.G.), Major Warner, Sergeant Brady (Hicks orderly), Captain Edward Baldwin Evans (intelligence officer, interpreter), Captain Forestier Walker. Seated (from left to right): Colonel John Colborne, Major Martin, General William Hicks Pasha, colonel Henry de Coëtlogon Pasha.' (John Colborne: With Hicks Pasha in the Soudan. 2nd edition, London 1885.) All the officers in the Hicks party wear the same pattern uniforms, these appears to be specifically modified/created for the Hicks' Expedition Force, and are based, elements from regulation uniforms for the Egypt Army, from pre-1883; and a single-breasted version of Baker Pasha's Gendarmes Uniform (Discussed Above and Right).

Hicks Expedition Flag, and Army Organisation (1883)

Right - Flag of Khedive Ismail of 1867 until 1882.

The Hicks expedition was sponsored by the Egyptian government, and the national flag was used for all units in Hick's army.

The actual organisation and composition of the Hick's Expedition Army is not well documented; however, it appears he had the following troops [1] [2]; Arriving in Khartoum on 4 March, 1883, Hicks had:

  • 7,000 Regular Egyptian Infantry [3] [4] [5];
  • 900 Cavalry [6]; and,
  • Two batteries of Artillery (14 artillery pieces,) [7].

Hicks later received from Maj. Gen. Valentine Baker [8]:

  • 600 Infantry;
  • 600 irregular cavalry; and.
  • 1,800 ‘old soldiers’.

The 1886 history of the Hick's Expedition lists the forces [9], on 9 September, 1883 as numbereing 10,000, consisting of:

  • 7,000 regular infantry (following the pre-1883 Egyptian army organisation of 800-man battalions, or eight and a half battalions organised into 200-man companies [ see NOTE 4]);
  • 400 Mounted Bashi-Bazouks (see discussion relating to the Kurd Cavalry - below);
  • 100 Cuirassiers, sheathed in coats of mail resembling those worn in the middle ages  (see discussion below relating to these cavalry from the Khedive's Guard);
  • Four Krupp field guns, ten mountain guns, and six Nordenfeldts.

There are 500 additional horses listed, and some 5,500 camels; these 'other horses' appear to be treated as additional mounted troops, and many modern accounts simply say that Hicks has some 1,000 irregular cavalry, however this seems incorrect and it is more likely these were part of the transport group (some 2,000 additional drivers and camp followers).

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[1] J. Harold Ellens. Winning Revolutions: The Psychosocial Dynamics of Revolts for Freedom, Fairness, and Rights. ABC-CLIO, 2013: 129.

[2] There is also a pictorial illustration that identifies a number of troop types, found in ‘1883 Hick's Expedition soldiers’, seen in The Graphic (24 November, 1883): 516.

[3] There is an account that identifies “two black battalions, one raised in Sennaar and the other from the Muireer of Sankett.” (HOW HICKS PASHA DIED.; THE STORY OF THE DESTRUCTION OF HIS ARMY TOLD BY AN EYE-WITNESS. The New York Times, 19 June, 1885.

[4]"In the early 1880's, the Egyptian army battalion consisted of four Buluks (companies) of approximately 200 men each." (Doug Johnson. The Egyptian Army1880-1900, S&S Vol VIII, No. 1)

[5] [6] [7] “On Sept. 7 Hicks Pasha was ready to march, ... His force consisted of 7,000 regular infantry, 400 cavalry, of which 100 were Cuirassiers, and the rest Bashi-Bazouks, a battery of Krupp guns, two batteries of mountain guns, and one of Nordenfeldts. He expected to pick up in the neighbourhood of Berair 1,600 regular infantry, and about 1,000 Bashi-Bazouks, or Arabs”. SLAUGHTER IN THE SOUDAN; HICKS PASHA'S ARMY ANNIHILATED BY THE FALSE PROPHET. THE ENGLISH GENERAL AND HIS MEN DECOYED INTO A DEFILE AND MASSACRED AFTER THREE DAY'S FIGHTING. The New York Times, 23 November, 1883.

[8] “The Egyptian Government, on 11th June, decided to despatch 3000 men as reinforcements. 600 of these were Bashi-Bazouks, and 1800 were old soldiers who had been rejected by General Baker as unfit for the reorganised army, on account of insufficient height or other physical defects.” (Charles Royle. The Egyptian campaigns, 1882 to 1885. Vol II. Hurst & Blackett, 1886: 61).

[9] Charles Royle. The Egyptian campaigns, 1882 to 1885. Vol II. Hurst & Blackett, 1886: 63.

Egyptian Infantry (1883)

Right - Three figures extracted from a larger grouping of 1883 Hick's Expedition soldiers, seen in The Graphic (24 November, 1883): 516. These are:

  • Sudanese Regular, Egypt.
  • Egyptian Infantryman, Egypt
  • Arab Infantryman (Country between Shendy and Dongala). Egypt.

Both the ordinary Egyptian Battalion soldier, and the 'Arab Infantrymen',  wearing a white fatigue uniform identical to the Ottoman Imperial Army's 1860-1877 White Smock.

Egyptian Artillery (1883)

1883 Khedive's Zirkhagi, "Iron Men" (Cuirassiers)

Right - An illustration from The Graphic (c.1883) ‘Egyptian Cuirassier’. This particular illustration was extracted from a larger grouping of 1883 Hick's Expedition soldiers, seen in The Graphic (24 November, 1883): 516. This shows three key parts to the "Iron Men" equipment: A British made helmet [1]; and, Wilkinson Sword Company coat of mail [2]; and 1860 Wilkinson Sword Co. Gauntlets [3] [4]. The right rein-hand gauntlet is completely covered in mail. Whereas, the left (sword) hand gauntlet is only partially covered in mail, leaving the leather hand portion, which would be protected by the basket-hilt of his sword - which is a standard French Army heavy cavalry sword, dating from the Napoleonic period, as these were sold in large quantities to the Egyptian and Turkish Armies.

An illustration seen in the London Illustrated News (No.2218.-Vol.IXXX. 3 June 1882), shows the Khedive's Zirkhagi: Iron Men (Cuirassiers) using the standard Egyptian Army cavalry saddles [5].

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[1] Birmingham, UK Helmets Supplied to the Khedive of Egypt’s Regiment of Iron Men. In 'Oriental Armour', by H. Russell Robinson (1967), it is stated: “now in the Tower Collection (which would now be the ‘Royal Armouries’) – the helmet shown with which is one of many made in Birmingham for the Khedive of Egypt’s regiment of Iron Men." Information from Auctions Imperial (2012), indicates that deeply-domed helmets (similar to one on display in the National Army Museum, UK), from the Sudan surmounted by a spike ball-finial, with separately-applied brow plate and adjustable nasal guard. It originally included a camail woven of heavy split rings. The description of this helmet included the note: "Helmets of this type were made in Birmingham, originally for the bodyguard of the Khedive of Egypt, known as the "Iron Men" (Auctions Imperial, 2012).It also notes that in their original form, these Sudanese helmets with their long chainmail neck curtains were “sewn to a thickly quilted lining which extends to the shoulders, across the lower face, and then down to form a cuirass which laces up under the left arm.” (Robinson, pg86) This notes as well: "The Sudanese, it would appear, only used the helmets they captured from the Egyptians” (Robinson, pg85).

[2] "The equipment was completed with a mail shirt made of split rings-and when the mail was struck by Sudanese bullets the brittle rings shattered and caused appalling wounds. The Sudanese, 'preferred the old shirts they had to the new ones fraught with so much risk' (Robinson, pg85). The 1860 Wilkinson Sword Co. "Coats of Steel Chainmail". These were the 'Split link mail hauberk', made in England for export. These mail shirts used by the forces of the Khedive of Egypt in the 1800s until they were replaced with a French made steel cuirass around 1840. In the 1880s, the Khedive Tewfik ordered from a Birmingham firm 600 hauberks made of split rings for the Egyptian army under Colonel Hicks, and are said to have 'proved worse than useless'.

[4] It appears that Wilkinson Sword Co. catalogues, from the 1860's were selling, "coats of steel chainmail, gauntlets and sword-proof helmets."

[5] Egyptian cavalry used up till the end of the Crimean War, Napoleonic period horse Schabracke. From the 1870s, most illustrations show mounted troops using all leather saddles, not unlike the British Army’s 1856 Wood-Arch saddle. The Egyptian cavalry also commonly strapped a large blanket roll to the front of the saddle, and due to the saddle’s underneath padding, commonly did not use a horse blanket.

Kurd Cavalry (1883)

At the time of the 1882 rebellion the Egyptian Army, had eight regiments of cavalry representing a total establishment of about 4,000 men and horses. Each comprised of five squadrons.

Right - A Kurd cavalryman illustration extracted from a larger grouping of 1883 Hick's Expedition soldiers, seen in The Graphic (24 November, 1883): 516. This figure is wearing an 1877-period Ottoman Imperial Army's 'Ilave Battalions and Auxiliary Troops' uniform, which suggests these troops came out to Egypt following the 1877-78 war (see discussion below). This trooper is identified, as from the '400 Mounted Bashi-Bazouks'. This cavalry used the Egyptian Army cavalry saddles.

Albanian; Bosnian; Syrian; and Greek Bashi Bazouk, in Egypt (1883)

The Ottoman Bashi Bazouk troops were trained as dragoons, and so fought on foot, as well as mounted. These troops made a large proportion of the Egyptian cavalry in the early 1880s,

Below - Four figures extracted from a larger grouping of 1883 Hick's Expedition soldiers, seen in The Graphic (24 November, 1883): 516. These are: Albanian; Bosnian; Syrian; and Greek Bashi Bazouk, all in Egypt [1]. These various figures are wearing the 1877-period Ottoman Ilave Battalions and Auxiliary Troops' uniforms as the Kurdish cavalryman (Right). The Albanian figure, is actually, an officer, wearing 1860 'New' Ottoman Army Rank insignia [2] [3] [4].

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[1] According to 'Khedive Ismail's Army', by John P. Dunn (2013) : 35, - 'By the mid-1870s, Bashi Bazouk were organised into nine main bodies of 300-400 men, plus a large collection of smaller units'; and in regards to the Albanian Bashi Bazouk, the last attempt to recuit them in large numbers ended in 1884 (p.172).

[2] Doug Johnson. Bashi-Bazouks in the Sudan: S&S Vol. XVII, No. 4 (October-December, 1972): 2-6.

[3] The 1877 war was the last time an Egyptian expedition force participated in an Ottoman led campaign, and the returning Egyptian contingent, likely returned with a number of former Ottoman Bashi Bazouk; whom the Ottoman General Staff had abolished the use of these troops due to their disastrous use in the 1877 war.

[4] Ian Durry. The Russo-Turkish War 1877. Osprey Publishing, 20 Aug 2012: 46. identifies the Greeks as renegade from Thessaly, in the 1877 Russo-Turkish War.

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