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am 8. August 2010
Omdurman is a really gripping account of Kitchener's conquest of Omdurman from the Mahdist forces in 1898. The prologue provides the background on the 1885 fall of Khartoum and death of General Gordon. The Mahdi died that same year and was succeeded by the Khalifa Abdullahi. The rest of that decade, the Egyptian and Sudanese troops of the Khedive were being properly trained to become a disciplined force. In 1889 they defeated an attempted Mahdist invasion of Egypt at Toski north of Wadi Halfa in Nubia.

Kitchener's success required a huge effort, including building a railway from Wadi Halfa through the Nubian desert to where the Atbara joins the Nile. After the Anglo-Egyptian force took Dongola in 1896, the reluctance of the British government to allow its further advance was overcome through the sensational reports of the brave spy Reginald Wingate. The army, joined by gun-boats, easily took Abadia and Berber.

On 1st September 1898 the gun-boat bombardment first destroyed the island forts then turned their howitzers on the inner city walls. Soon the Mahdi's tomb had taken some direct hits. Meanwhile the army was establishing itself on the south slopes of the Kerreri hills. On the day of battle, the thousands of dervishes that stormed the Anglo-Egyptian position were repelled mainly by artillery.

The action and the various close shaves are expertly narrated by Ziegler, including the famous charge of the 21st lancers. The battle turned into a wholesale slaughter of the Khalifa's forces that retreated into the city. As the army entered Omdurman on 2nd September, the Khalifa fled. Prisoners were freed and the Mahdi's tomb was razed to the ground the next day. On Sunday 4th September representatives of every regiment and corps crossed the Nile to Khartoum where a ceremony was held in Gordon's honor.

The text is enhanced by plenty of black and white illustrations and many maps and the book concludes with a bibliography and index. The bulk of Omdurman deals with the battle itself and the few days preceding it. For in-depth history of the campaign, recommended books include The Mahdist State in the Sudan, 1881-98: A Study of Its Origins, Development and Overthrow by P M Holt and The River War: An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan by Winston Churchill.
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