Thursday, May 24, 2012

York and Lancaster Regiment in the Sudan..

A Royal Marine Light Infantry at the Battle
 of Tamai. Illustration by Charles Stadden.
Nothing specifically to do with this figure
but you can't pass up an opportunity
of a Stadden illustration!
Fourth figure from that pack of Newline Designs Sudan British figures (SUD05 - British Foot Advancing) I bought at Salute - I've had a lot of fun with them considering they only cost me half a fiver.. for this figure I decided to represent one of the typical home counties type regiments, in this case the York & Lancaster Regiment...

The regiment was formed on 1st July 1881, from the amalgamation of two regiments of foot, and a militia regiment:

  • 65th (2nd Yorkshire North Riding) Regiment
  • 84th (York and Lancaster) Regiment
  • 3rd West York Light Infantry Militia (two battalions)

The title of the new regiment was going to be "The Hallamshire Regiment", but this was universally disliked by rank and file (but would make a fine name for an Imagination regiment!), and following a vote the title "York and Lancaster Regiment" was chosen as being most representative of the separate battalions that had made it up....

The 65th Foot became the 1st Battalion, the York and Lancaster Regiment, they were serving in India & Aden at the time and whilst returning home in 1882 were diverted to Suakin; the battalion finally arrived home in 1884.

The 84th became the 2nd Battalion the York and Lancaster Regiment, and served in the Egyptian Expedition of 1882.

As we know, from the previous posts, in January 1884 Gordon was appointed to oversee the evacuation of the Egyptian forces from the Sudan. At the same time a British army, including the 1st Battalion, commanded by Major General Graham, landed at Suakin to relieve the Egyptian garrison at Tokar, 50 miles to the south. Once assembled, this force moved down the coast to the relief of Tokar.

On 22nd February while still en route Graham received news of the surrender of Tokar. The British force pushed on anyway, and occupied Fort Baker. On the 29th the infantry brigade (including the York and Lancaster's) formed a square and began the advance on El Teb, where a force under the Mhadi's second in command Osman Digna, was in position.

The left of the square, commanded by Buller, was formed by the 1st York and Lancaster and the RMLI (ok, so there was a reason for the picture other than the link to Stadden!)

The Dervish opened fire with rifles and Krupps artillery captured from the Egyptian forces they had defeated in the course of the revolt.

The British square halted and the infantry were ordered to lie down while the guns and machine guns fired on the Dervish silencing the Krupps. The square stood up and continued its advance under rifle fire.

When the square was within two hundred yards or so of the earthworks, the Dervish charged the square with spears and swords. Large numbers of the tribesmen were shot down by the infantry with rifle fire and by the Gardiner and Gatling guns of the Naval Brigade.

The tribesmen fell back, the square reformed, and the British resumed the advance. The cavalry charged the massed Dervish tribesmen, but suffered heavy casualties. As the British infantry reached the earthworks, the battalions moved out of square formation and, forming line, stormed the tribesmen’s positions at the point of the bayonet, winning the battle...... superb!


At Tamai a month later the British advanced to attack Osman Digna’s camp, two brigade squares were formed with the 2nd Brigade leading. The York and Lancaster were again involved as a part of 2nd Brigade commanded by General Graham.

"The 2nd Brigade came into contact with the Mahdists and fire was opened as the brigade square continued to advance. The brigade then found itself on the edge of a wide deep gully. The sides of the square were being subjected to repeated and increasingly threatening rushes by the Mahdists. The fire discipline of the troops began to deteriorate. Smoke from the rifle fire with the dust from the dry plain, stirred up by the numbers of men rushing about, made visibility difficult. The front face of the brigade square moved down into the ravine, but the men forming the sides of the square failed to conform fully to the movement so that the continuity of the square was broken and it began to disintegrate.

The Mahdists launched an attack on the right face of the square, comprising 2nd York and Lancaster, which halted to give fire, while the front face of the square continued to advance. The York and Lancaster fell back on the RMLI and the two battalions became intertwined and disordered. The Black Watch, now thrown into confusion, fell back into the square and the brigade was forced to retreat, pressed hard by the attacking tribesmen. 3 Royal Navy guns had to be abandoned and casualties were mounting. The tribesmen took some of the Gatling and Gardiner guns".

You can almost smell the heat, the dust, and the acrid smoke of the Martini Henry fire....!
The 2nd Brigade was eventually reformed by General Graham and again attacked the Dervish, and the British won the battle but not before the Dervish had broken a British square... 

The 1st Battalion Black Watch and 1st Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment
The 1st Battalion Black Watch and 1st Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment in the 2nd Brigade square at the Battle of Tamai. Painting by Douglas Giles.

This figure represents a soldier from the 1st Battalion who had just arrived at Suakin from India wearing Indian khaki drill uniforms.

According to the Perry's uniform guide:

"It fought with fairly outdated equipment, cartridge pouch and belt from 1854 and 1857 expense pouch. The greatcoat had to be carried over the shoulder. According to Bennet Burleigh of the Telegraph all troops passing through Suakin were issued with Oliver pattern water bottles".

In my case the soldier has decided it's too hot to have the greatcoat draped, or he is just about to go into action, and has rolled the coat in the small of his back..

 ...and here's all of them...  like I said - I enjoyed that little diversion!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent stuff! I always liked Graham's Suakin Campaign over the "main show" along the Nile.