Lieutenant-Colonel John Murray

In 1798, Lieutenant-Colonel John Murray was sent into the Red Sea with a small force, which, at the urgent request of the Ottoman government to the sultan of San'a', then sovereign of Aden, was allowed to remain there for a time. In 1799 Murray was appointed British commissioner in the Red Sea, and was sent with 300 men to occupy Perim in the straits of Bab al-Mandab, the aim being to intercept communication with India through the Red Sea. The troops landed on 3 May 1799, and remained until 1 September. Finding that the island yielded no fresh water, and that the shore batteries could not command the straits, Murray withdrew his detachment to Aden, where they were hospitably entertained, and remained until March 1800. Early in the following year Murray was appointed quartermaster-general of the Indian army proceeding to Egypt under Major-General David Baird; after many delays in the Red Sea this force arrived at Quseir in June 1801, crossed the desert to Cairo, and descended the Nile.

The man holding the Top Hat is John Murray. This is the only known image of him. Image Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery

Perim Island

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by Stephen Luscombe