At last Steve and I managed to meet to bring the Sudan game to a conclusion. On the river, the Tamei, which was very low in the water, drifted away from the jetty and after an order from the bridge, the engines were put into full astern. With the needles into the 'red zone' the steamer struggled into the main flow of the river. Suddenly, the power dropped away but the steamer was now out of the arc of the Dervish artillery. Rather than continue to shell the Tamei, the Dervish gun now concentrated on the Egyptian troops advancing on Ad Dueim, quickly finding the range and inflicted heavy casualties.
The Dervish cavalry had at last reformed and began to move forward. Ahead of them were the Egyptian mounted infantry, who had dismounted and formed line to support the attack on Ad Dueim. Caught unprepared, the Egyptians' volley was ineffective and the Dervish cavalry crashed into them. The line buckled and then gave away. As the Egyptians ran back towards the lines behind them, the Dervish cavalry followed up and charged into the disorganised line. Fortunately for the Egyptians the supporting Dervish cavalry were fired on by the Imperial field guns. The losses stopped them in their tracks and then the machine gun from the Tamei joined in to complete their destruction.
By the farm a fierce melee was under way. Dervish infantry had charged out of some broken ground and closed on the British line. A close range volley did not stop the Dervishes, but discipline and bayonets did and when the Dervish commander was killed, the fight went out of the attackers and they fell back. On the Imperial right the flanking column of mounted infantry continued their solid performance beating off yet more attacks in spite of the losses they were suffering.
Indeed, the Mahdi was beginning to think that perhaps this was not the day ordained for victory. However, he moved to rally his troops and having inspired them to greater efforts, ordered them forward. Once again the waves of Dervish infantry surged forward. Perhaps lulled by their success, the British infantry volleys were not as punishing as expected and the Dervish charged home. Three British units were now fighting for their lives and the initiative lay with their enemy. Scarcely believing his eyes, the Imperial commander saw the British front line waver and then break. Under the eyes of their leader, the Dervish infantry swept forward. This was the high water mark of the Dervish advance. Their cavalry was on the brink of breaking the Egyptian line opposite Ad Dueim and all that remained between the British and disaster were two units of Highlanders. It was at this point that the Mahdi received news that the defences of Ad Dueim had been shattered by artillery fire, the Dervish artillery in the town had been destroyed and that a whole brigade of Egyptian troops were bearing down on the town. He therefore ordered the supplies to be removed from the town and carried off into the desert.
The previously successful Dervish cavalry now found themselves unsupported. As they battled the Egyptians to their front they were attacked in flank by a Sudanese infantry unit. With their commander wounded all order was lost and the battered remnants of the cavalry galloped back towards their lines. Not wishing to suffer more losses, the Mahdi ordered his men to fall back; there would be other days and other battles before this war was won. For his part, the Imperial commander was happy to be left in possession of the field. His troops had suffered heavy losses and he had no cavalry to exploit his 'victory'. The Tamei would need extensive repairs before it could be in service again and the bulk of the supplies had been carried away by the retiring Dervishes.
The Duke of Marlborough's bayonets
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