Thursday, 12 January 2012

Britain's 20 Worst Military Disasters 15 - Khartoum


General Charles George Gordon was one of the loosest cannons ever to infiltrate the highest echelons of the British army.   The peace-loving Prime Minister, William Gladstone, should really have known better, but in January 1884 he hired Gordon to organise the evacuation of Egyptian garrisons from the Sudan.

In Egypt, Britain called the shots, but Sudan was a greyer area, and for more than two years, a local leader known as the ‘Mahdi’ had been on a mission to purify Islam and take over the country.

Instead of evacuating the capital, Khartoum, Gordon mounted a dramatic stand that lasted for 342 days, at the end of which the general and many others in the city were killed.   A British rescue expedition arrived just two days later, but beat a hasty retreat before the Mahdi’s overwhelming numbers.

Gordon’s ordeal was followed intently by people all over the world, and when it ended, it was Gladstone who got the blame.    His previous nickname – G.O.M. – ‘Grand Old Man’ was modified to M.O.G. – ‘Murderer of Gordon’.

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