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For Part 1 please click HERE

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, Indian Army.

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 or foes.

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 campaign.

The British opening moves

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 owners.

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 patrolled.

Above: Camel transport - a slipped load.

The 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 in support.

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 Army

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:

During 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.

The build-up to the Battle of Jidballi

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 consisted of:  

Mounted Troops (Lieutenant Colonel P.A. Kenna VC DSO commanding):

-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. Manning)

-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

2nd 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 January 1904  

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.

To continue to Part 3 HERE