The Build-Up to Conflict

In 1867, King Theodore II of Abyssinia made a request to the British for munitions and military experts. He was a Coptic Christian who was regularly engaged in warfare with his Moslem neighbours. He thought that an infusion of expertise from the British could help his realm in this turbulent part of the world. With this in mind he dispatched a letter to Queen Victoria asking for help. As time passed by, it became clear that the British Foreign Office had completely ignored this particular request. This did not please the King at all. He became even further infuriated when he found out that the British Consul, Captain Charles Cameron, had just returned back to Abyssinia after a visit to neighbouring Egypt; A country that the King considered to be one of his enemies. Exasperated by this antipathy of the British, King Theodore decided to hold Captain Cameron, and others, as hostages until he received a reply to his letter.

The Hostages
The Hostages
At the time of this event, Gladstone and the Liberals were ruling party in Britain and they were deeply reluctant to get involved in any imperial adventures. This was despite the fact that their own inaction had helped to create this particular problem. Letters from Captain Cameron to the British press, and the fact that British women and children were numbered amongst the hostages, meant that the profile of this incident was high in the public imagination. It just so happened that a General Election was underway at the time and this incident played a small, but important, part in the campaign. During the campaign, the Conservative party milked the situation for all they could, but in doing so they had committed themselves to sending some kind of rescue expedition in order to retrieve the British hostages. When they were returned victoriously in the polls, Lord Derby and Benjamin Disraeli confessed that a military campaign had become unavoidable. Preperations were duly made to punish, in the minds of the British public, the petulant King in what was a classic case of the 'Small War' that would so characterise the Victorian military era.

The Hostages
Chetta Ravine

The Hostages
4th Foot

Results of Campaign
Soldier from the 4th Foot
Soldier from the 4th Foot
map of campaign
Location of Campaign
Illustrated London News Images
Illustrated London News
Commanding Officer
Sir Robert Napier
Significant Individuals
British and Imperial forces involved
British Army

3rd (Prince of Wales's) Dragoon Guards
4th (The King's Own Royal) Regt of Foot
26th (The Cameronian) Regt of Foot
33rd (Duke of Wellington's) Regt of Foot
45th (Sherwood Foresters) Regt of Foot

Indian Army

10th Regt of Bengal Lt Cavalry
12th Regt of Bengal Cavalry
3rd Regt of Bombay Lt Cavalry

21st Punjab Regt Bengal Native Infantry
23rd Punjab Regt Bengal Native Infantry (Pioneers)
2nd Bombay Native Infantry (Grenadier)
3rd Bombay Native Infantry
10th Bombay Native Infantry
21st Bombay Native Infantry (Marine)
25th Bombay Native Light Infantry
27th Bombay Native Infantry (1st Baluch)

No 1 Company of Bombay Native Artillery

Corps of Madras Sappers and Miners
Corps of Bombay Sappers and Miners

Abyssinian War Medal
1908 Damascus linked to Medina by German backed railway
1916 Shariff Hussein initiates Arab revolt against Ottomans
Sykes-Picot agreement
1917 Balfour declaration promises Palestine to Jews
Faysal enters Aqaba
1918 Hashemite Emir Faisal enters Damascus
1919 Versailles discusses mandates
1920 Faysal takes throne of Syria
French remove him by force
Faysal's brother Abdullah plans invasion of Syria
1921 British persuade Abdullah to take over administration of Transjordan
Cairo conference specifies Transjordan borders
1922 League of Nations confers mandate of Transjordan to Britain
1923 State of Transjordan declared by British
Arab League formed
1924 British forces and Arab League beat back Wahhabi incursion
1925 Aqaba and Ma'an join Transjordan
1926 Transjordan Frontier Force (TJFF) created
1928 Treaty declares Transjordan independent from Britain (except in finance, military and foreign affairs)
Constitution established
1929 First elections held
1930 Camel mounted Desert Mobile Force created
1934 Consular representation in other Arab countries
1941 Desert Mobile Force joins British in invading Iraq and Vichy Lebanon and Syria
1946 Treaty of London ends British mandate over Transjordan
Transjordan renamed Jordan
1948 Britain withdraws from Palestine
Israel created
Treaty with Britain removes all restrictions on soverienty. Britain maintains base and transit rights and continues subsidy of Arab League
1956 British commanders dismissed from Arab Legion
1957 Anglo-Jordanian treaty terminated
Suggested Reading
Victorian Colonial Warfare: Africa
by Donald Featherstone

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by Stephen Luscombe