Medical units were increased and No 1 Native General
Hospital (NGH) (200 beds plus 12 beds in a British section) was located at
Berbera. No 2 NGH (300 beds plus 34
British beds) was located at Upper Sheikh.
A Field Medical Store Depot was positioned at the Berbera Base. Marching with the troops in the field were
one section of No 15 British Field Hospital (BFH); one section of No 18 BFH;
three sections of No 58 Native Field Hospital (NFH); four sections of No 65 NFH
and four sections of No 69 NFH. Offshore
was the hospital ship Hardinge,
equipped as a 100-bed NGH; the total carrying capacity of the ship was 457
patients – 146 in cots and 311 as convalescents. Colonel J.F. Williamson CMG, Royal Army
Medical Corps (RAMC), was the Principal Medical Officer.
A major sanitary problem was the disposal of dead animals
and the procedure ordered was to remove them from camp, disembowel them and
burn them if possible. Incinerators were
established at all camps for rubbish disposal, as were trench latrines for the
men. Inspection programmes made units
responsible for the cleanliness of their own lines, both for men and animals,
and for the disposal of dead animals.
Commander E.S. Carey, Royal Navy (RN), was the Provost Marshal and he
ensured adherence to camp sanitation regulations; also he maintained discipline
on the line of march especially in the rationing and issuing of water, a very
onerous and responsible duty in Somaliland.
Major C.B.M. Harris DSO, Army Veterinary Corps, was
appointed as the Inspecting Veterinary Officer.
He established a Base Veterinary Depot at Berbera and a section of No 6
Field Veterinary Hospital at Bihendula.
An Advanced Veterinary Depot was located at Wadamago in November 1903.
The Remount Department was placed under the command of
Captain Honourable T. Lister, 10th Hussars. When that officer was later killed in action
Lieutenant A.E.H. Breslin, 4th Hussars, took over command. A Remount Depot was first located at
Bihendula and later moved forward to become an Advanced Remount Depot at
Wadamago. Here it held a stock of 474
horses, 80 ponies and 120 mules. Units
that suffered animal casualties could indent to the Staff for remounts. During the Fourth Campaign the Remount
Department received 4,605 remount animals; three shipments of horses arrived
from India and other
purchases were made locally and in Abyssinia. Also a Camel Remount Depot was located at
Gololi under the command of Captain E.G.W. Pratt, 95th Russell’s Infantry,
Previously the Ordnance Department had been manned by the
British Army but for the Fourth Campaign the Indian Ordnance Department took
responsibility. The Principal Ordnance
Officer was Captain E.P. Carter, RA. The
Ordnance Workshops and Arsenal were located at Berbera and six Ordnance Depots
were positioned up-country to support the movements of the British force.
Captain H.E.S. Cordeaux CMG, 109th Infantry,
Indian Army, was the Political Officer whose role was to work alongside the
military commander in representing the British Government and its policies in
dealings with the Somali population, whether the Somalis concerned were friends
Support from Abyssinia
As in the previous campaign military support was requested
from Abyssinia to prevent the Mullah and his
entourage from escaping to the south and southwest, and His Majesty Menelik II,
Ruler of Abyssinia, agreed to produce a force that General Egerton planned
would advance to Galadi by December 2013.
As before Colonel A.N. Rochfort CB, RA, led the British Mission to
Abyssinia accompanied by Mr. J.L. Baird, Diplomatic Service; Major H.M. Alone,
3rd Battalion West India Regiment, Captain A. Duff, 3rd
Battalionn Gordon Highlanders; Major J.W. Jennings DSO, RAMC; Major H.N. Dunn
also RAMC and Doctor A.B. Wakeman, Indian Medical Service.
However rivalry between Emperor Menelik and Ras Makunnan,
the Governor of Harrar Province, slowed the Abyssinian effort down considerably
despite British money being disbursed and equipment supplied. Finally 4,000 Abyssinian soldiers under
General Gabri left Harrar in December, too late to affect the outcome of the
The Mullah and his followers were reported to be in the
Eastern Nogal, a large valley south of Taleh near the eastern border with Italian Somaliland.
General Egerton’s plan was to contain his enemy in the north of British
territory and either destroy the Mullah’s army or drive it out of British Somaliland.
Despairing of Abyssinian assistance arriving in time, and having ensured
adequate logistical preparations for the British force by establishing a
forward base at Kirrit, Egerton made his opening moves in late October 1903.
Right: A Bikaner Camel Corps Maxim gun
Manning concentrated his 1st Brigade at Bohotle
and marched down to Galadi to do the task originally allocated to the
Abyssinians. A garrison commanded by
Brevet-Major J.R.M. Marsh, Lincolnshire Regiment, and consisting of No 2
(British) MI Company, 25 Rifles Somali MI, the KAR Camel Battery, 250 Rifles
KAR and 25 Illalos remained at Galadi with two months’ rations whilst Manning
marched back to Eil Dab. This was a
tough march both there and back as there was insufficient grazing and potable
water on the route; hundreds of camels carried large cans of water for men and
beasts. On the return journey Manning’s
Somali MI came across an enemy party that had been raiding in the Ogaden; the
ensuing skirmish resulted in four or five dervishes being killed and 385 camels
and large numbers of sheep and goats being seized. The stock was later returned to its rightful
Whilst Galadi was garrisoned the Royal Navy demonstrated
off Obbia, with Italian permission, and brought the Sultan of Obbia onto the
British side with a gift of weapons, rice and dates that allowed the Sultan’s
soldiers to occupy and hold the inland wells at Galkayu. By controlling the important water sources in
the south Egerton planned to deny the Mullah an escape route in that
direction. Meanwhile Fasken concentrated
his 2nd Brigade at Eil Dab and Wadamago and the mounted corps
Above: Camel transport - a slipped load.
reconnaissance to Jidballi, 19th December 1903
By early December Egerton’s Assistant Quartermaster
General for Intelligence (AQMG-I), Lieutenant Colonel G.T. Forestier-Walker, RA,
knew that the Mullah had established a strong post at Jidballi. Fasken was instructed to send Kenna with
mounted troops to reconnoitre Jidballi whilst infantry units marched behind him
On the evening of 18th December 1903 Kenna rode
out of Badwein with two companies of MI, one British and one Indian; 200 of the
Tribal Horse; and 50 men of the Bikaner Camel Corps. Marching behind in support were 100 men of
the Hampshires and 150 men of the 27th Punjabis, with one maxim
machine gun. The mounted troops reached
Jidballi before dawn and saw many camp fires burning, Kenna then positioned his
men to threaten the enemy face and flanks.
At 0530 hours the British opened a heavy fire which was
immediately returned by the enemy from a line of bushes near his zareba (a compound
protected by a circle of cut thorn trees and bushes), but the British could not
induce the 2,000 dervishes to come forward and attack. After three hours of exchanging fire Kenna
observed enemy reinforcements arriving and he considered that his reconnaissance
mission should end; he broke off the action and rode back to Badwein, meeting
and turning round the infantry support on the way. The British MI casualties were 2 men wounded
and 1 missing whilst the Tribal Horse lost 2 men killed and had 2 others
wounded. It was believed that around 180
dervishes had been killed or wounded.
The award of a
Victoria Cross to Lieutenant H.A. Carter, 101st Grenadiers, Indian
During the withdrawal from the reconnaissance mission an
event occurred that Lieutenant Colonel P.A. Kenna VC DSO described as: “the
finest and most brilliant individual act of valour performed in the Somali
campaign”. Herbert Carter was first
awarded a Distinguished Service Order but this was later cancelled and a Victoria Cross was awarded. The citation for the Victoria Cross read:
Lieutenant Herbert Augustine Carter, Indian Army No. 6 Company, Indian Mounted Infantry During a reconnaissance near Jidballi, on 19th
December, 1903, when the two Sections of the Poona Mounted Infantry and the
Tribal Horse were retiring before a force of Dervishes which outnumbered them
by thirty to one, Lieutenant Carter rode back alone, a distance of four hundred
yards, to the assistance of Private Jai Singh, who had lost his horse, and was
closely pursued by a large number of the enemy, and, taking the Sepoy up behind
him, brought him safely away. When Lieutenant Carter reached Private Jai Singh,
the Sections were several hundred yards off.
During this action a Subadar of
the Indian MI displayed gallant conduct that resulted in his receiving the Indian Order of Merit. The report from his No 1 Section Commander,
Lieutenant W.P.M. Sargent, 23rd Bombay Infantry, Indian Army, read:
the action of the 19th instant, when the two sections of the Poona
Mounted Infantry were retiring, Subadar Bhairo Gujar (119th Mooltan
Regiment), seeing No 3072, Private Dana Gujar, dismounted and hard pressed,
returned alone to his aid, and under a fire from the enemy’s horsemen, who were
about 50 yards from Private Dana Gujar, mounted him on his pony and carried him
off. The Section, which was retiring at
a fast pace, was several hundred yards away.
build-up to the Battle
Deciding that the dervishes at
Jidbali were probably there to mask a northward movement of the Mullah’s herds
and encampments from the Nogal, Egerton withdrew the Galadi garrison from the
south and concentrated his force. A
relieving convoy commanded by Major C.W. O’Bryan, 27th Punjabis, with
many pack camels carrying water tins marched south, collected the Galadi
garrison and marched via Bohotle to Eil Dab, arriving on 15th
January 1904. The British plan now was
that Manning’s brigade would move into the Nogal to seize the Mullah’s herds whilst
Faskin’s brigade attacked the dervishes at Jidbali.
The plan was quickly altered as
intelligence reports showed that Jidbali was being considerably reinforced, so
Manning was now ordered to drop the bulk of his supplies at Yagurri and to
march to meet Egerton 20 miles east of Badwein on 9th January.
When Manning arrived Egerton’s force then
-Nos 1 and 3 (British) MI Companies -Nos 6 and 7 (Indian) MI Companies -No 5 (Somali) MI Company -Bikaner Camel Corps -Tribal Horse -Gadabursi Horse
1st Brigade (Brigadier W.H.
-1st KAR (275 rifles under
Lieutenant Colonel A.S. Cobbe VC, 32nd Sikh Pioneers, Indian Army.) -2nd KAR (200 rifles of ‘B’, ‘D’
and ‘F’ Companies under Major F.B. Young, Cheshire Regiment) -3rd KAR (75 rifles under Captain
G.R. Breading, Worcestershire Regiment) -No 4 (Somali)
MI Company -500 Gadabursi
Horse -6 Maxim guns
Brigade (Brigadier C.G.M. Fasken)
-28th (Lahore) Mountain Battery (2 guns under
Lieutenant H.E. Henderson, RA). -Hampshire Regiment (half battalion
under Major S.C.F. Jackson DSO). -27th Punjabis (half
battalion under Lieutenant Colonel A. Wallace). -52nd Sikhs under
Captain C.C. Fenner, attached from 59th Scinde Rifles, Frontier
Force, Indian Army. -Nos 17 and 19 Companies Bombay
Sappers & Miners commanded respectively by Captains W. Bovet RE and W.H.
Chaldecott RE. -6 Maxim guns
The Battle of Jidballi, 10th
At 0500 hours on 10th
January Egerton left a supply and baggage protection party under Major W.B.
Mullins, 27th Punjabis, at his bivouac and then marched towards the
enemy position. The British force
marched in two parallel columns with the right hand column forward and leading;
the flanks were protected by No 5 (Somali) MI Company and the Gadabursi and
Tribal Horse. Captain C.G.W. Hunter, RE,
was tasked with maintaining the correct compass bearing to Jidballi.
Above: Jidballi Clasp + Somaliland 1902-04 on African GSM
The enemy troops were camped in a
large depression, and when his force was 800 yards distant from the dervishes
Egerton ordered his dismounted troops to form a square. The 52nd Sikhs and the mountain
gunners manned the forward face, the KAR and Sappers and Miners manned the
right face and half the rear face, and the Hampshires and 27th
Punjabis manned the left face and the other half of the rear. The riflemen and sappers were instructed to
kneel or lie down.
The dervishes had been alerted by
their scouts and they opened fire on the square. The two mountain guns were ordered to move a
few yards forward of the Sikhs and to engage the enemy. The gunners fired shrapnel over the
depression and case (shells filled with small metal pieces) into bushes that
dervishes could be seen using as cover.
The Hampshires and the Punjabis then dashed a short distance forward in
order to attract dervish attention.
The enemy skirmished forward in
short rushes from one group of bushes to the next one, but the disciplined
rifle fire particularly of the Sikhs and the KAR prevented the square from
being charged. The Mullah was not at
Jidballi, and without his presence and exhortations the dervishes did not make
fanatical charges. The dervish fire was mostly high, missing the front face but
hitting several of the 2nd KAR in the rear face.