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The Battle of El Teb took place in East Sudan on the Red Sea coast on 29th February 1884.
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Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah was a young Muslim who proclaimed himself Mahdi (Islamic messiah) and raised a jihad, leading the Sudanese Jihadist Arabs or Mahdists against the Khedive of Egypt. The Khedive depended on British support to eradicate the Sudanese slave trade and to safeguard the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal was of great importance to the British as the most direct route to India, then part of the British Empire.
During the First Battle of El Teb on February 4th 1000 Mahdists overwhelmed and slaughtered the majority of an Egyptian force of 3500 led by the British officer, Baker Pasha. Following this the British government diverted British troops returning from India to quell the Sudanese Jihadist Arabs.
The British troops numbered around 4200 and faced a force of unknown numbers of between 10000 to 15000 Mahdists. The success of the smaller contingent lay in the deployment of a closely packed formation of infantry called the square, a strategy that has been used, in different forms, since Roman times.
Two Victoria Crosses (VC) were awarded for this battle, one to Captain Arthur Wilson, RN who held off a Mahdist attack so that his men could bring their Gardner gun into action. The second was awarded to Sergeant William Marshall, 19th Hussars, who rescued his wounded commanding officer whose horse had been shot, dragging him back through the enemy troops to his regiment. Several Distinguished Conduct Medals (DCM) were also presented by Queen Victoria at Windsor.