The Desert Column

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The Desert Column

Postby HerbertKitch12 » 21 Aug 2015 08:31

My stupid question of the day - did they take servants and camp staff with them? Reason I ask is that when you consider the urgency of the mission and the perilous terrain it makes me wonder if having them would have been seen as an extra piece of baggage for them. Also surely they would have had to provide extra camels and extra provisions etc which would have been an extra strain.
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Re: The Desert Column

Postby petergoose » 21 Aug 2015 15:09

They took some. Go strong into the desert mentions at least 300 native drivers at Abu klea. I imagine many officers had servants some of whom may have been taken. This is not a subject I'm a expert on but I'm sure someone here is.
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Re: The Desert Column

Postby Mark A. Reid » 21 Aug 2015 18:31

Hello HerbertKitch12;

Not a stupid question at all! I'm no expert either but perhaps I can add something to petergoose's comments?

There certainly were a number of servants who accompanied the Nile Expedition. The medal roll lists five civilian servants to HQ Staff members like General Wolseley, General Earle, Colonel Blundell, etc. but none of these seem to have gone with the Desert Column. However, a number of the soldiers in the Column acted as servants to senior regimental officers. For example, 638 Trooper D. Gilligan of the 2nd Life Guards, serving with the Heavy Camel Regiment, was servant to Major the Earl of Dundonald and actually fought at Abu Klea.

Lest we imagine these same officers sipping iced drinks whilst being fanned by an attentive batman, nothing could be further from the truth. On active service, or even peacetime exercises, a good officer is preoccupied with performing his unit's duties as well as keeping an eye on the welfare of others. With Orders Groups, Recce's, etc. he ( or she ) will have little or no time to grab a sandwich or locate a sheltered spot to doss down for a snatched 15 minutes of sleep. Another person, able to look after the commander's meagre creature comforts, can make an enormous difference in the outcome of operations. The social order of 1884 probably also dictated that a senior officer need not wash his own socks, 'though many probably did!

Regarding the presence of " natives, " why the Desert Column could probably never have made it without them! They provided the guides, interpreters, drivers, etc. that kept the Column mounted and mobile, albeit with different degrees of success. If I thought that Mike Snook was reading this then I would also mention how the 8 Egyptian artillerymen in the Column were the real brains behind the operation and largely responsible for the victory at Abu Klea ... but I won't.

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: The Desert Column

Postby privatejones » 22 Aug 2015 01:41

I cannot say if Colonel Fred Burnanby had his soldier servant with him when the Colonel was serving with the Desert Column. However, I have read in some accounts that Burnaby's batman, private Henry Storey, was with him at the first battle of El Teb. In fact, Colonel Burnaby saved Storey's life during the battle.
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Re: The Desert Column

Postby HerbertKitch12 » 01 Sep 2015 12:41

Thanks for the replies gents, especially Mr Reid. Very informative as ever and very much appreciated :)
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