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union jack

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National Geographic

    the african continent

January 29, 2005
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

British Leaders of the late 19th Century v1.3

By Morley Evans


THE dum dum controversy? I don't know much about it, except that I do remember hearing about this when I was in Grade 7 and all of us boys were fascinated by war and sports. Our very popular teacher, Mr. Priest, a young man who had just come all the way from England itself, may have introduced the subject. Apparently, fragmenting bullets had been considered inhumane by some people around the time of the First World War. Obviously, killing someone with a bullet that didn't fragment was much more humane. (Some days I find it difficult to understand why people can't understand such simple things.) It is as hard to understand the Philippine insurrection that followed liberation by the American liberators who liberated Filipinos from the oppressive boot of the Spanish Empire so their country could become a liberated satrapy in the American Empire, like Puerto Rico. Why don't people just thank those who have nobly made sacrifices to liberate them? After all, fair is fair.

As far as the machine gun goes, several were invented by Americans during and after the Civil War. Clever people, those Americans. Americans apparently have always had a fascination with munitions. I remember reading that the rifle had been invented by some Daniel Boone types before the War of Independence and that they had demonstrated its superiority over the British standard issue Brown Bess musket when invited to do so by the king, George III. Civil War Gatling Guns needed to be cranked to eject the spent round and load the next. Hiram Maxim's gun used the gasses of the spent round to automatically do that job. Obviously that would be an advantage to someone who had no hands. Maxim was probably not as famous (and probably not as rich) as Samuel Colt or Winchester. Perhaps Maxim didn't understand that his best customer would always be the government of the United States. Maxim had to make do with the British, French, and Germans who adopted his design but may not have rewarded him, greatly. Maybe they did. He was not lionized by Hollywood in any case. Everyone, even Germans, think the Germans must have invented the machine gun. Not so.

Lord Kitchener, as you will know if you saw the movie starring Charlton Heston, went to avenge the murder of the British general "Chinese" Gordon by the Mahdi and his dervish army in the Sudan. General Gordon had been sent all alone to put down the insurrection by people who, like the Filipinos, failed to understand when they were liberated. People are so hard to understand. When Gordon was unable to reason with the Islamic messiah and his mob, Lord Kitchener was dispatched to teach them a lesson. One does wonder if Gordon had not been sent to provide an excuse to teach them a lesson. Kitchener was well prepared. He didn't go to the Sudan by himself. He went with a small force of the best troops in the British Army who were augmented by the Egyptian army and the Sudanese army. They had the latest repeating rifles, machine guns, and modern artillery. They built a railroad from Egypt to Khartoum and dispatched a fleet of gunboats up the Nile. Lord Kitchener meant business. Had there been an air force, he would have sent that too. (Reminds me of the liberation of Iraq, a century later.)

The Mahdi and the dervish army had only muskets, swords and spears. But they believed God was on their side. They may have thought they would be invulnerable when they charged into the blazing machine guns. Sadly, a great many dervishes had to be slaughtered before they learned their lesson. At the Battle of Omdurman about ten thousand dervishes (that's them) were killed, fifteen thousand were wounded, and five thousand were captured. The British (that's us) lost a few dozen soldiers. Our heroes congratulated themselves for their bravery and handed out Victoria Crosses. The world was safe, until the Boer War and then the Great War (a.k.a. World War I).

If one looks at the Sudan campaign ones sees familiar faces: Lord Kitchener was sent from Sudan to win the Boer War. He was then appointed Secretary of War for the Great War. War, War, War. General Haig, who commanded the British troops on the Western Front throughout World War I, was also with Kitchener at Khartoum. Winston Churchill was in Sudan too and also in South Africa as a news correspondent. In World War I, Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty. (In World War II Churchill would become the leader and Prime Minister of Great Britain and its colonies and Dominions.) The British Empire set matters straight with the Mahdi, but had a great deal of trouble with the Boers and even more trouble with the Germans, Austro- Hungarians and Ottomans. And whereas the dervishes had learned their lesson not to charge into machine gun fire and the Boers had always known not to do that, strangely, the British and French commanders in WW I did not learn this lesson until over two million French and British troops had been slaughtered charging into blazing German Maxim guns and well over three million had been lost to the Central Powers themselves. Yet more ironic still, the Americans — always too smart to learn from other people's mistakes — followed the same tactics which Douglas Haig and his subordinates had eventually abandoned when Black Jack Pershing lead the doughboys to France in 1917, eighteen months before the conflict finally ended and the fateful armistice was signed.

The worst was yet to come.

I'd like to blame the 20th century on somebody. The prime candidates today are the people who were left standing at the end — and are causing all the trouble now. That would be the United States of America as well as those who are currently celebrating the Auschwitz Festival. They are, at the very least, not as blameless as their friends have supposed for years.

Perhaps the mystic, General Gordon, sensed that cosmic forces would soon be unleashed upon the world by Kitchener at Khartoum. They were.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the leader of the band

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queen Victoria

the queen

 

the camel corps