21st Lancers at Omdurman

The charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman shown here added a dash of idiotic heroism to what was otherwise a day of unrelieved butchery. The 21st, whose ranks included 2nd LieuLtenant Winston Churchill, was on a prosaic scouting mission when the future Prime Minister spotted what he thought were about 150 Dervishes in a dried-up watercourse. The 300 Lancers broke into a headlong charge.

A horri!ole shock awaited them. The shallow depression was realy a deep ravine, holding not a handful of men but 3,000 warriors; lined up 12 deep. It was impossible for the 21st to rein in their excited horses and so they plunged on, yelling defiantly. Churchill swept through the foe, bIazing away with his pistol, and emerged unscathed. His comrades were not so lucky.

In 120 seconds, 70 cavalrymen and 119 horses were killed or wounded. Many of the dead were hacked to pieces by the frenzied Dervishes. The Heroism of the troopers against such odds was so great that three of them won Victoria Crosses.

It had all been a terrible mistake. But the heroic blunders 0f British cavalry have - with the aid of forgiving memory habitually been transformed into glorious feats. This charge was no exception.

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by Stephen Luscombe