By Michael Perry
The war in the Sudan, as was the 1882 war in Egypt, one that Britain was reluctant to become involved in. El Mahdi (messiah) emerged in southern Sudan with an ever expanding mass of faithful Ansar (followers) which by early 1883 covered the whole of Egyptian held Sudan, west of the Nile. Egyptian field forces were sent out, were generally annihilated, and one by one Egyptian towns fell to the Mahdists. The Egyptian government hired one William Hicks, a colonel in the Indian army, to take charge of the Egyptian army in the Sudan. Equipped with poor quality troops and a motley European/Egyptian command they marched to face the Mahdi. Buoyed up by one outstanding victory at Jebel Ain, Hicks requested British troops which were refused but with a larger Egyptian force set out to retake the rich province of Kordofan. After an exhausting two months cat and mouse chase the force, together with Hicks, were massacred at Kashgil.