Finest Hour 85

Omdurman, 5 September 1898: ‘The Fallen Foe’

“I have tried to gild war… But there was nothing dulce et decorum about the Dervish dead; nothing of the dignity of unconquerable manhood… Yet these were as brave men as ever walked the earth.”

By Winston S Churchill

FROM THE RIVER WAR, FIRST EDITION 1899

Reprinted in Finest Hour 85 by permission of the copyright holder, Winston S. Churchill. The unabridged text, which includes this excerpt, has been out of print since 1900; the writing herein will demonstrate the need for a modern reprint.


VOL. II, CHAPTER 21

ON THE 5th of September 1898, three days the Battle of Omdurman, I rode with Lord Tullibardine of the Egyptian cavalry, to examine the scene of battle. Our road lay by the khor whereat the victorious army had watered in the afternoon of the 2nd, and thence across the sandy, rock-strewn plain to the southern slopes of Surgham Hill. And so we came at once on to the ground over which the 21st Lancers had charged. Its peculiar formation was the more apparent at a second view. As we looked from the spot where we had wheeled into line and begun to gallop, it was scarcely possible to believe that an extensive khor ran right across what appeared to be smooth and unobstructed plain. An advance of a hundred yards revealed the trap, and displayed a long ditch with steeply sloping rocky sides, about four feet in depth and perhaps twenty feet wide. In this trench lay a dozen bodies of Dervishes, half-a-dozen dead donkeys, and a litter of goat-skin water-bottles, Dervish saddles, and broken weapons.

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