1st KSLI in Egypt, 1882
The service of the 1st Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry during the Egypt Campaign of August - September 1882.
1st KSLI arrive in Egypt, 21st August 1882
The 1st Battalion was in Royal Barracks, Dublin, in the summer of 1882 when it received orders to prepare for active service in Egypt. Under command of Colonel G. N. Fendall, it embarked on 10th August on the steamer Lusitania, strength 29 officers and 860 other ranks.
200 men were reservists of the old 85th, this being the first occasion on which men from the two Regiments served together. The Lusitania arrived at Alexandria on 21st August and the battalion entrained for their camp near Ramleh, where it spent the night on the sand hills near the water tower. It is interesting to note that, at a time when Colours were no longer taken on active service, the Regimental Colour of the 53rd did actually accompany the battalion and was lodged aboard HMS Invincible during the campaign which followed.
British soldiers being rowed ashore : Alexandria August 1882
The KSLI formed part of the 2nd Brigade (later re-designated the 4th Brigade) under Sir Evelyn Wood, VC, in the 2nd Division under Sir Archibald Alison. The other battalions in Wood’s brigade were the Royal Sussex, the Royal Berkshire and the South Staffordshire. Captain F.B.Hitchcock of the KSLI served as Brigade Major to Sir Evelyn Wood.
Service During the Campaign
The KSLI was destined to play only a minor part in General Wolseley’s audacious plan of campaign. Whilst he led the main British and Indian force along the Suez Canal to Ismailia, to attack Egyptian positions under Colonel Ahmed Orabi at Tel-el-Kebir, the bulk of Sir Archibald Alison’s command would remain in the Alexandria region. Here it was to serve as a local defence force for the city (and for its important harbour) and also as a decoy; its task was to lead the Egyptians into believing that the British planned to attack their advance defence works at Kafr Douar from the direction of Alexandria.
Whilst the main British army under Wolseley advanced on and eventually routed the Arabs at Tel-el-Kebir (13th September) the force at Alexandria pushed out reconnaissances in force and mounted infantry patrols and kept up a daily artillery duel with the Egyptian forces to their front. One such reconnaissance on 8th September involved a company of the KSLI and the Mounted Infantry, which reconnoitred the Egyptian defence lines around Kindji Osman and Ramleh. The position of the Alexandria garrison was not without risk: Egyptian forces could have attacked Alexandria in superior numbers at any time from their formidable positions at Kafr Douar.
Wolseley’s total rout of the Egyptian army on 13th September and the rapid occupation of Cairo effectively ended the campaign. The Egyptian commander at Kafr Douar, Talouba Pasha, immediately surrendered and on 16th September Sir Evelyn Wood moved his forces into the Egyptian positions there, with the KSLI camping near Mallaha.
During Wood’s preliminary survey of the surrendered defences, Captain Murray, Adjutant of the KSLI, accompanied him. The works at Kafr Douar were found to be exceptionally strong, with successive lines of ditches and embankments, covered walkways, gun positions, redoubts and embrasures, well stocked with modern Krupp artillery and arms and ammunition of all kinds. Held by determined defenders, they would have been extremely difficult to take.
The KSLI Moves to Kafr Douar
On the 17th, the KSLI moved by train to Kafr Douar to help with the disarming of surrendered Egyptian soldiers and the collection of stores and materiel. Whilst here, news came in of a large force of Egyptian soliders marching towards Kafr Douar from Mariout and Sir Evelyn Wood and his Staff immediately returned to organise a defence. The Berkshires, the 1st Sussex and three companies of KSLI were formed up in square near the railway station, with two more companies of the KSLI with fixed bayonets actually holding the station. In the event, it all came to nothing - the Egyptians were simply coming in to surrender.
Over 4,000 infantry, two squadrons of cavalry and six batteries of guns, with 200 officers, handed over their weapons. The officers were interned in the Khedive’s Palace whilst the men were simply sent home.
However, although there was no fighting, the KSLI suffered over 60 casualties through ophthalmia whilst working in this unhealthy spot.
On 21st September, the KSLI entrained for Ramleh but on arrival at Mallaha its orders were cancelled and it camped for the night at Garrabi junction near Alexandria.
One of the Egyptian leaders, Colonel Abd-el-Al, still held out with a force of Nubian troops at Damietta to the east of Alexandria and Sir Evelyn Wood was ordered to move there with three battalions to force his surrender. This column, which included the KSLI, entrained on the 21st and spent the night at Sherbin. Next morning, when the advance on Damietta began, it was found that the Egyptian garrison had dispersed during the night and that Abd-el-Al was ready to surrender. He was placed in the custody of Major W. Rogerson, KSLI, who left for Cairo next day with the Colonel and other prisoners escorted by one company of the KSLI.
The battalion was then engaged in salvaging arms and stores until the night of the 24th, when it left for Cairo, camping at Gazireh with the rest of the brigade and the bulk of the British army. There, it took part in the grand review before the Khedive of Egypt in Abdin Square and was present at the ceremony to send a Holy Carpet to Mecca.
By the end of September, the battalion was beginning to suffer the effects of climate and disease, with dysentery and fever breaking out among both officers and men. The daily average sick list in October was 186. During the course of the campaign, 24 NCO’s and men died of disease and 235 were invalided.
Wood’s brigade, which included the KSLI, moved Abbasiyeh on 18th October and into barracks in Cairo in December. Here on December 16th, Colonel Fendall retired after more than thirty years’ service with the old 53rd, his place being taken by Lt. Col. R.H. Truell.
The battalion remained as part of the Cairo garrison until February 1883, when it was sent to Malta and occupied quarters in Forts Ricasoli, Salvatore, Zabbar Gate and Vittoriosa
Battalion Granted the Battle Honour Egypt 1882
For its services in Egypt, the battalion was granted the battle-honour Egypt 1882 - the first battle-honour of the newly-formed KSLI - and all ranks received the dated Egypt medal and the Khedive’s Star.
Officers of 1st KSLI in Egypt, 1882.
Colonel G.N. Fendall. Lt. Col. R.H.Truell.
Major C.E. Terrot. Major R. Prince.
Major H.D.Rooke Major W. Rogerson.
Captain J.K. Kirkwood. Captain B. McClintock.
Capt. J.H.W.Eyton. Captain T.B. Hitchcock (Bgde Mjr,4th Brigade).
Captain & Adjutant P.H. Murray. Lieut. W. McLaughlin.
Lieut. C.C. Turner. Lieut. W.R.B. Peyton.
Lieut. H. Fenning. Lieut. H.W. Thatcher.
Lieut. A.R. Cole-Hamilton. Lieut. W.F.A. Wallace.
Lieut. G.C. Vesey. Lieut. J.L. Pearse.
Lieut. A.R. Austen. Lieut. R. Jenkins.
Lieut. C.M.H. Merriman. Lieut. G.S. Broome.
Lieut. A. Butler. Lieut. W.E.A. Butler.
Lieut. C.G.H. Sitwell (from 2-KSLI) Quarter Master : W. Griffiths.
Paymaster : A. Gleig. Warrant Officer : Sergt. Major C. Shortt.
The Army List gives the war services of all of these as:
Defence of Alexandria; occupation of Kafr Douar; surrender of Damietta. All received the 1882 Egypt medal and bronze Khedive’s star.
Captain Hitchcock, who had served as Brigade Major, also received the Turkish Order of the Medjidieh, 4th Class.
1st Battalion Casualties in Egypt
A memorial was set up in St. Chad’s church, Shrewsbury, to the memory of those men who died during the campaign, largely through disease, heatstroke and accident. It names:
Sgt. F. Tomlins
Cpl. J. Malone
Cpl. F. Byrnes
Pte. J. Brewer
Pte. J. Bayliss
Pte. G. Bone
Pte. F. Cox
Pte. F. Cook
Pte. J. Doughty
Pte. M. Dowd
Pte. P. Darcy
Pte. J. Denny
Pte. F. Grady
Pte. C. Herring
Pte. J. Higgins
Pte. J. Jones
Pte. R. Jones
Pte. J. Lacy
Pte. J. Mcbeth
Pte. J. McDonald
Pte. D. Morris
Pte. J. Peel
Pte. J. Phillips
Pte. J. Rawlinson