The National Archives British Battles
Print page Close window
 
 
 

Transcript

 
EnlargeTranscript
 
Next
 
 

Report on the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir

Page 1 of 4

From the daily reconnaissance of the position at Tel-el-Kebir, made from our camp at Kassassin, especially from the good view I obtained of the enemy's works on the 9th instant, when our troops drove back within their entrenchments the force of 13 Battalions, 5 Squadrons, and 18 guns, that had attacked our camp in the morning, it was evident their works were of great extent, and of a formidable character. All the information obtained from spies and prisoners led me to believe that the enemy's force at Tel-el-Kebir consisted of from 60 to 70 horsed guns, which were mostly distributed along their line of works, of two Infantry Divisions (24 Battalions) of about 20,000 men, and three Regiments of Cavalry, together with about 6,000 Bedouins and Irregulars, besides a force of about 5,000 men, with about 24 guns, at Salhalieh, all under the immediate command of Arabi Pasha. I have since been able to verify these numbers, which are certainly not overstated, except as regards the number of guns at Tel-el-Kebir, which, I believe, to have been 59, the number we took in the works and during the pursuit.

Owing to the numerous detachments I was obliged to make for the defence of my long line of communications from Suez to Ismailia, and thence on to Kassassin, and owing to the losses incurred in previous actions, I could only place in line about 11,000 bayonets, 2,000 sabres and 60 field guns.

The enemy's position was a strong one; there was no cover of any kind in the desert lying between my camp at Kassassin and the enemy's works north of the Canal. These works extended from a point on the Canal 1½ miles east of the railway station of Tel-el-Kebir for a distance, almost due north, of about 3½ miles.

The general character of the ground which forms the northern boundary of the valley through which the Ismailia Canal and railway run, is that of gently undulating and rounded slopes, which rise gradually to a fine open plateau from 90 to 100 feet above the valley.

The southern extremity of this plateau is about a mile from the railway, and is nearly parallel to it. To have marched over this plateau upon the enemy's position by daylight, our troops would have had to advance over a glacis-like slope in full view of the enemy, and under the fire of his well served artillery for about five miles. Such an operation would have entailed enormous losses from an enemy with men and guns well protected by entrenchments from any artillery fire we could have brought to bear upon them. To have turned the enemy's position either by the right or left was an operation that would have entailed a very wide turning movement, and therefore a long, difficult, and fatiguing march, and what is of more importance, it would not have accomplished the object I had in view, namely to grapple with the enemy at such close quarters that he should not be able to shake himself free from our clutches except by a general flight of all his army.

I wished to make the battle a final one; whereas a wide turning movement would probably have only forced him to retreat, and would have left him free to have moved his troops in good order to some other position further back. My desire was to fight

...

 
 
Next
 
 
 
 
Go to top of page Print page Close window