In June Wolseley was appointed Inspector-
Having seen the bill pas through the Natal legislature Wolseley set off on a fact finding tour of Natal on which he was told that just 1000 troops would be needed to deal with the Zulus. This advice which he took back to London became the official policy with terrible consequences. He returned in August 1875 to take up a position in the India Office.
Following the catastrophe of Isandlwana, Wolseley was sent to Natal as Chelmsford’s
successor abut when he arrived in Natal he heard that Chelmsford was on his way with
a substantial force to Ulundi to salvage his reputation by destroying the Zulu camp.
There was nothing Wolseley could do but his main mission was to bring peace to the
area by capturing Cetewayo and forcing the Zulu chiefs to sign away their power in
peace treaties. He achieved this quite quickly but the destruction of the Zulu gave
heart to the Boers who began to question British authority. Wolseley met the Boer
leaders and informed them that under no circumstances was the annexation of the Transvaal
which had been effected in 1877 revocable. The Pedi were raiding north eastern Transvaal
and it was Wolseley who raised a force of 12,000 to subdue them and destroy the stronghold
of Sekhukhane. Having achieved this he was recalled to England in May 1880, just
months before the Boers were to overturn British authority. Wolseley had hoped to
Egypt and Tel-
He was Quartermaster -
The campaign in Egypt arose because there was a collapse of authority in Egypt when there was a nationalist revolt against the weak rule of Khedive Tewfik and the presence of so many foreigners (90,000). The revolt was led by Colonel Ahmed Arabi and led to nationalists being given more responsibility, including Arabi becoming the Minister of War.
In June 1882 a row over a fare between an Egyptian donkey boy and a Maltese led to
a riot in Alexandria in which nearly fifty foreigners were killed and their property
plundered. this was reported in the London press as anarchy and panicked the London
stock exchange. Prime Minister Gladstone hoped that the French would work with Britain
to resolve the situation but the French assembly voted to keep out of the situation.
Britain was left to do what she felt was necessary to maintain her interests in Egypt
and to ensure that trade routes to Africa and the Far East were kept open. A naval
force was despatched to Alexandria and landed sufficient men to take control of the
city but with disorder throughout Egypt, Gladstone who himself had investments in
Egypt deemed the country in need of order being established. He therefore decided
to send an expeditionary force to the area to regain control of Egypt and protect
British people and property. Two armies converged on Egypt and warships gained control
of the canal. Wolseley was given command of a 31,000 force of men which landed on
the northern coast and in a series of superb moves, including one night march took
Arabi's army by surprise at Tel-
Following the battle, Wolsely moved on Cairo and once the situation had been brought under British control, Wolseley returned home with most of the army with 12,000 left behind to ensure compliance with the newly established British presence. It was not long though before Wolseley was back in Egypt.
Following Wolseley’s defeat of Urabi and the establishment of British advisers to the new Khedive, Britain found herself drawn into the politics of Sudan, a virtual colony of Egypt but where the rise of Islamic fundamentalism under a fanatical leader, the Mahdi, had first defeated an Egyptian force under the command of Colonel Hicks and then threatened Sudan. The British government decided to try to persuade the Egyptian government to give up Sudan.
The mission to rescue Gordon
In London at the time this debate was happening was General Gordon who had been Governor-
Gordon had decided in his mind that the Sudan should become independent and he even got in contact with the Mahdi with a view to making him Governor of Kardofan. Gordon arrived in Khartoum on 18 February 1884 but by April the town was surrounded by the forces of the Mahdi.
Once the news of this got back home the Cabinet began to discuss the question of sending out a relief expedition prompted by Wolseley who was sending memos to everyone. Eventually the Cabinet agreed and Wolseley left for Cairo in September. Once in Egypt Wolseley began to prepare for the expedition up the Nile and across the desert. Camels had to bought and soldiers trained in riding them whilst boats had to be built to carry the army of 11,000 down the Nile. Wadi Halfa was used as a forward supply base. The expedition was beset with problems.There were problems with the selection of offices despite most being from the Wolseley Ring, and the purchase of camels and once the troops were under way the boats were clearly overloaded and moved very slowly.
A camel corps was to proceed across the desert to reach Khartoum earlier than the main force but this ran into a large force at Abu Klea where 14,000 Dervishes attacked Stewart’s force of 1,500. The British line held but progress thereafter was slow and with the force now reduced to just 900,could not afford another engagement. On January 124 the force reached the Nile to be told that Khartoum had fallen to 40,000 Dervishes and that Gordon had been killed.
When the news reached England on 5th February the nation was horrified, and particularly the Queen. At home much of the blame for the failure of the expedition fell on Gladstone and later on Wolseley whilst Wolseley himself blamed Gladstone and Sir Charles Wilson who had taken over he desert column. Wolseley was blamed for reaching Gordon too late by taking too much time with his preparations. He returned to England in July 1885, the campaign being his last in the field.
An Assessment of an army career
The Gordon campaign was Wolseley’s first failure. It had been a largely successful
career in which he had spent all his time fighting colonial wars, if you include
the Crimean War as such. His achievements came at a time when reporters began travelling
with armies in the field to report events. Consequently he was portrayed as a Victorian
hero to the public, fighting to defend and extend the empire. He believed in the
Mission to Civilise and saw himself as a Christian soldier. He regarded most native
peoples as incapable of development and it was his role to bring them under British
rule for their own benefit. Wolseley was always meticulous in preparing for his campaigns
earning the title, ‘All Sir Garnet’. His failure in the Gordon, if failure it was,
was because he spent weeks ensuring that the boats, camels, and supplies were in
the right place and the men trained for the task in hand. He was the ideal imperial
soldier in the mind of the public but he did not endear himself to his men. He had
their respect but not their love for he was distant. He was also anti-
For the rest of his army career, Wolseley was based in the War Office and Ireland
until he eventually was given the command he had wanted for years, Commander-
The Battle of Tel-
The aftermath of Tel-
Various versions were told of how Gordon was killed but this is the version told to the British public
General Garnet Wolseley cont
Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah, the Mahdi (1845-