In the late nineteenth century the British army was reluctantly dragged into two conflicts in the Sudan, in the aftermath of the British intervention in Egypt in 1882. At this point the Sudan was ruled by Egypt, and General Gordon had actually served as governor of the Sudan for the Egyptians before the British invasion of Egypt. Soon after Gordon left for the first time, the Sudan saw the uprising of the Mahdi. Gordon agreed to return to the Sudan, but was soon besieged in Khartoum. He relied on his own gunboats to maintain his narrow link with the outside world, while the unsuccessful attempt to save him also relied on gunboats, most famously for the 'Nile Dash'. After the failure of this expedition, the Sudan was left alone until British public opinion forced the government to attempt to re-conquer it. Once again the gunboat played a major role in this expedition, helping to defeat the Mahdi's successors.
This book covers quite a lot of material in 48 pages. After a brief introduction, which covers the political situation and the river itself we move onto a look at the four main types of gunboats involved. This begins with impromptu gunboats created by arming river steamers, but we soon move onto purpose built warships, which eventually became very sophisticated weapons, ideally designed for the upper Nile. The later boats were produced by the normal Royal Navy design process, built in Britain and shipped out to the Nile. Next comes a look at the individual boats and their combat careers. Next is an interesting look at how the boats were armed, protected, powered and driven, and what life was like onboard. Finally there is a look at how they performed in the two main campaigns of 1884-85 and 1896-98.
This is an interesting book that looks at a less familiar part of Victorian history. The gunboats are of course mentioned in any history of the fighting in the Sudan, but rarely examined in any detail, making this a useful volume.
Nile Gunboat Development
The Nile Gunboats
Gunboats in Action
Author: Angus Konstam