The Highland Brigade at Tel-el-Kebir , 1882 :~



In 1881 Egypt was ruled by the Khedive Tewfik , who, despite the efforts of French and British advisers since the building of the Suez Canal in 1869 to make him behave as a modern ruler should , managed to plunge his country into an increasing mire of bankruptcy , corruption and cruelty .
The long -suffering Egyptians broke out into a revolt against this unattractive despot and his European advisors, led by their own Army under Achmed Arabi Pasha : matters got out of hand with widespread attacks on Christian minorities and European trading interests ; and to safeguard the Canal the British Government , much against its inclinations , sent an Expeditionary Force to regain control of the country.
It was commanded by Sir Garnett Wolseley , who was the butt of Gilbert & Sullivan’s spoof patter song “ I am the very model of a modern Major-General “ : a vain but undeniably talented officer : and he conducted the campaign with almost total success.

After various manoeuverings , the climax came in the Eastern Desert at Tel-el Kebir before the dawn on 13th September 1882 , precisely where Wolseley had predicted it would : the British Army made a five mile silent night approach that remained undetected until within 300 yards of the objective , then hurled itself on the Egyptian Army’s position covering Cairo , which consisted of a large and impressive rectangle of entrenchments studded with artillery redoubts.

The Egyptian Army was far from being a contemptible foe : it was armed with modern Remington rifles and Krupp artillery ; and its Sudanese battalions were amongst the best troops in Africa.

The left of the attack was conducted by the Highland Brigade including the Black Watch on the left , the Camerons, the Gordons and the Highland Light Infantry on the right. They ran into heavy if inaccurate fire , and the HLI found themselves confronted with a 16ft ditch fronting a four-gun redoubt ; it was touch and go for a while , and they had to take two goes at it , but once reinforced from the supports they carried the position , but with appreciable casualties .
The Egyptian army retired , then broke under pressure from two sides… and the victory effectively ended the campaign.
Large numbers of Egyptian prisoners were promptly sent home , which was exactly what many of them wanted anyway, being unwilling conscripts ; and many of the Sudanese were recruited into the reconstructed Egyptian army of a few years later .


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These two figures are based loosely on the DML Zulu War figure : but as usual I have largely rebuilt them.

Starting at the top , my own casting of the Foreign Service Helmet, with a pagri made of silk.
Retailored tunics , Valise equipment made from deerskin and leather, with brass fittings.
The kilt and trousers were tailored from some scale Black Watch tartan specially produced for Highland figures by my friend Neil Walker : the HLI have had their overstripes added with paint.
The HLI gaiters were made by Nick Taylor, and Andy Sheppard provided the mohair for the sporran : having helpful friends is one of the delights on this hobby..
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Making the small equipment is always a pleasure : the Foreign Service helmet , the messtin in its oilcloth cover , the Oliver waterbottle , the Martini-Henry rifle , and some rations : tinned meals were already issued by this date , and the universal standby of the British soldier for two hundred years , the hardtack biscuit... Huntley & Palmers, of course : ~





This was the last campaign in which the British Army wore this kind of full-dress : khaki was already in use in India, and the scarlet jackets were soon to be on the way out.


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