British Expedition to Abyssinia

The British Expedition to Abyssinia was a rescue and punitive expedition carried out in 1868 against Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia, he had imprisoned several missionaries and two British officials in an attempt to get the help of the British government. His position as ruler had become precarious as much of Ethiopia was in revolt against him and he was engaged in constant military campaigns against a wide array of rebels.

Britain had refused his requests for military assistance. The punitive expedition launched by the British in response required the transportation of a sizable military force hundreds of miles across mountainous terrain lacking any road system. Therefore Sir Robert Napier, was given command of the expeditionary force. This was a very unusual decision as it was the first time a campaign had been entrusted to an officer from the Corps of Royal Engineers.

On the right we see the 7 Tonne Mortar belonging to The Emporer Tewodros on site at Magdala Source:

British Ethiopian Empire
strength - 13,000
Casualities - 2 wounded 18
Regiments used:
British Army
3rd (Prince of Wales's) Dragoon Guards
4th (The King's Own Royal) Regt of Foot
26th (The Cameronian) Regt of Foot
33rd (Duke of Wellington's) Regt of Foot
45th (Sherwood Foresters) Regt of Foot
Indian Army
10th Regt of Bengal Lt Cavalry
12th Regt of Bengal Cavalry
3rd Regt of Bombay Lt Cavalry

21st Punjab Regt Bengal Native Infantry
23rd Punjab Regt Bengal Native Infantry (Pioneers)
2nd Bombay Native Infantry (Grenadier)
3rd Bombay Native Infantry
10th Bombay Native Infantry
21st Bombay Native Infantry (Marine)
25th Bombay Native Light Infantry
27th Bombay Native Infantry (1st Baluch)

No 1 Company of Bombay Native Artillery

Corps of Madras Sappers and Miners
Corps of Bombay Sappers and Miners

strength - 4,000
Casualities - 700 dead, 1400 wounded
Numbers are Approximate

The force consisted of 13,000 British and Indian soldiers, 26,000 camp followers and over 40,000 animals, including the elephants. The force set sail from Bombay in upwards of 280 steam and sailing ships. A railway, complete with locomotives and some twenty miles of track, was to be laid across the coastal plain, and at the landing place large piers, lighthouses and warehouses were to be built by the first week of December. The railway was built reaching into the interior, with 8 iron girder bridges being built. The engineers were also busy at work building a road to Senafe 63 miles long, rising to 7,400 feet.
It took British forces three months to trek over 400 miles to the foot of the fortress at Magdala. Tewodros' strength had already been dissolving due to bad displomacy and unneccassary battles with local tribes. At the beginning of 1865 he only controlled Begemder, Wadla, and Delanta. He struggled to keep up the size of his army due to defections, which meant he now had less than 10,000 men. On the Way to his Hill top fortress at Magdala the emporer made the fatal mistake of insulting a contingent of enemy natives who had already surrrendered to him, this lead to a skirmish which inflicted large casualties on his already depleted forces.
On Good Friday, the decisive battle began outside the fortress of Magdala. Ethiopian soldiers were camped around the hillsides with up to 30 artillery pieces Tewodros, however on the approach of the British Forces, the Emporer ordered an attack, and thousands of soldiers, many of them armed only with spears, charged the British positions. The British quickly deployed to meet the charging mass, and poured devastating fire into their ranks, including rockets from the Naval Brigade and Mountain gun artillery fire, as well as rifle fire. The Ethiopian artillery crews and their artillery were captured . The British continued their advance on 13 April, and laid siege to the fortress of Magdala where the British infantry poured in and opened fire, and advanced with fixed bayonets, forcing the defenders to retreat. Inside they found Tewodros dead, he had committed suicide with a pistol that had originally been a gift from Queen Victoria.

Boldon Combatants
PrivateHenry KnowlesA Colliery Worker employed at Boldon Pit for over 40 year


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