Pillbox or sanger

For all discussions relating to the Egyptian and Sudanese campaigns fought between 1882 and 1898.

Pillbox or sanger

Postby Julian » 22 Sep 2011 16:42

Dear All,

The Sudan Archeological Research Society recented published a booklet entitled "Sudan's First Railway". It deals with the line south from Wadi Halfa and its extension during the Gordon Relief campaign. I have ordered a copy, but not received it yet. However, I have seen a scan of the back cover photo which shows the construction camp at Murrat Wells. There are a number of structures clearly visible. One is called a pillbox, one a redoubt and the others are the tent lines.

My question is that I think the term pillbox should really be applied to those concrete structures built in the UK in the 1940's. This structure is of stone and has no roof. Does any one know if the term sanger is the correct term for such a building?

Thanks

Julian
Julian
New Member
 
Posts: 26
Joined: 28 Dec 2010 18:23
Location: Hellfire Corner

Re: Pillbox or sanger

Postby zerostate » 22 Sep 2011 18:53

AFAIK the original sangars on the North West Frontier were stone, so yes. That doesn't mean there were not other terms that were interchangeable at the time though and also correct.

"Cookery is the art of preparing and softening food by the action of fire, so as to render it fit for digestion" - Instructions to Military Cooks in the Preperation of Dinners at the Instructional Kitchen, Aldershot, 1878.
User avatar
zerostate
Senior Member
 
Posts: 451
Joined: 13 May 2010 22:38
Location: Suffolk, UK

Re: Pillbox or sanger

Postby jf42 » 23 Sep 2011 15:31

Sangar' certainly usually describes a roofless stone fortification, usually temporary, erected for outpost or piquet duty. Later, of course we see it being used for sandbag emplacements. I think pill box dates from WWI. Before that, perhaps 'block house' would have been more current for a covered field fortification.

Depending on when 'sangar' entered British Army parlance, it may be the term was used in Egypt from 1882 onwards by contingents from India or with previous India service. ' Otherwise, perhaps one might see the word breastwork or, perhaps a little out of date by 1880s, fleche.

I had always believed- assumed?- 'sangar' was a word of Hindi or Pashtu origin adopted on the NWF in the late C19th. Curiously, I can find no reference for or to 'sangar' in:

Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. Yule, Henry, Sir. New ed. edited by William Crooke, B.A. London: J. Murray, 1903.

Strange question, perhaps, but does anyone have contemporary reference to the word being used before 1903?
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran member
 
Posts: 2145
Joined: 10 Mar 2011 15:12

Re: Pillbox or sanger

Postby jonc@adelaide.on.net » 23 Sep 2011 16:03

The challenge with Hobson Jobson is guessing the 19th century spelling - try "sungar". But although Hobson Jobson finds an 1857 usage ("sanga" in Bellew) it confirms your observation of its general adoption around 1903, stating that "The word has now come into general military use, and has been adopted in the S. African war"

Sylvester in his account of the 1863 Umbeyla campaign, probably written around 1875, uses sunga, but feels the need to explain its meaning.

jonc
jonc@adelaide.on.net
New Member
 
Posts: 59
Joined: 26 Jun 2010 05:39

Re: Pillbox or sanger

Postby jf42 » 23 Sep 2011 23:26

'Sungar'! What a difference a vowel makes.

Still, the entry is unequivocal about it being "A rude stone breastwork, such as is commonly erected for defence by the Afrīdīs and other tribes on the Indian N.W. frontier."

With reference to the OP and the field fortifications identified in Egypt, it seems reasonable to assume, pending more precise reference, that breastworks being described as 'sangars' is reasonably accurate for the period and accurate, if perhaps anachronistic, for contemporary reference.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran member
 
Posts: 2145
Joined: 10 Mar 2011 15:12

Re: Pillbox or sanger

Postby ED, in Los Angeles » 24 Sep 2011 05:53

The stone purpose built defensive buildings in the Sudan both, British and Dervish were called Forts. At Murrat Wells, there were three hilltop forts...Fort no.1, fort no.2, and fort no. 3. The wells were in a small vally sorrounded by low hills.
In all my readings of the Sudan, I have never heard the term sunger used by an author or first hand account except Mike Snooks "Go Strong Into The Desert". I had never even heard the term before purchasing Mike's book. Great book on the early years of the conflict.

Pillbox is a badly used term in the case of this publication.. I consulted my neighbor who is an American high school teacher, (ages 14-19), about the word pillbox. He has the huge multi volume and expensive Oxford English Dictionary. The dictionary has the first published military term pillbox, at February 7, 1923, Daily Mail 26. Just because a word was first put in print, does not mean it was not used as slang for many decades before being recognized by the general public. Google and bling are now in the dictionary...google meaning to search on the computer, and bling meaning jewelry. Google was a search engine and bling was american slang for jewelry. Gay once meant happy, now it has a totally different meaning.

The structures that Julian might have seen were the temporary structures of the units who were to build the forts and the gated wall between two hills.

Does anybody still use the term pillbox??? jf42 rightly states that sangar is obsolete today. Maybe that is true of pillbox also. Don't know for sure.

That publication that Julian has ordered sure looks good. i am going to look it up and perhaps get a copy. The railway is a facinating subject.

I am going to ask my neighbor with the Oxford Dictionary set about the word sunger or sanger. jf42's question about the first usage is an interesting question.

See:
"The Royal Engineers In Egypt And The Sudan" by Lt.-Col. R.W.C. Sandes
"Letters From The Sudan" by E. F. Knight...I mean REALLY SEE It ....
http://www.archive.org/stream/lettersfr ... 0/mode/2up
Great map and text. You can see this valley could have been a riverbed at one time, but is now an underground aquafier that is either trapped water betweem two rocky masses, or a flowing underground stream.
User avatar
ED, in Los Angeles
Senior Member
 
Posts: 350
Joined: 05 Sep 2009 04:00
Location: Los Angeles, California, United States Of America

Re: Pillbox or sanger

Postby jf42 » 24 Sep 2011 18:07

That is very interesting, that the word 'sangar'- or its equivalents- does not appear in contemporary sources for the Sudan. If the word was in use on the NWF by then, which seems to be the case (re: Ambeyla), then it clearly had not filtered into contemporary parlance further afield.

Just to clarify, I did not meant to suggest that 'sangar' is an obsolete term. I meant that it's use in reference to fortifications in the Sudan campaign would appear to be anachronistic in applying a 20th-21st century term to the Sudan of 1884-5. Sangar is still in use in the British Army today, usually referring to additional sandbag emplacements on rooftops and on perimeter defences, used for gun positions, observation and sentry posts, etc. You will find reference to them in accounts of Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Iraq and, of course, Afghanistan.

Although 'pillboxes' in the form of reinforced, covered gun emplacements are still built for static defense positions, I imagine they are rarely called that now.

I would think that war fiction on page and film, as well as works of military history, ditto, mean that few Anglo-American males would be confused by the sentence: "He destroyed an enemy pill-box single handed".
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran member
 
Posts: 2145
Joined: 10 Mar 2011 15:12

Re: Pillbox or sanger

Postby Frogsmile » 28 Sep 2011 17:35

ED, in Los Angeles wrote:The stone purpose built defensive buildings in the Sudan both, British and Dervish were called Forts. At Murrat Wells, there were three hilltop forts...Fort no.1, fort no.2, and fort no. 3. The wells were in a small vally sorrounded by low hills.
In all my readings of the Sudan, I have never heard the term sunger used by an author or first hand account except Mike Snooks "Go Strong Into The Desert". I had never even heard the term before purchasing Mike's book. Great book on the early years of the conflict.

Pillbox is a badly used term in the case of this publication.. I consulted my neighbor who is an American high school teacher, (ages 14-19), about the word pillbox. He has the huge multi volume and expensive Oxford English Dictionary. The dictionary has the first published military term pillbox, at February 7, 1923, Daily Mail 26. Just because a word was first put in print, does not mean it was not used as slang for many decades before being recognized by the general public. Google and bling are now in the dictionary...google meaning to search on the computer, and bling meaning jewelry. Google was a search engine and bling was american slang for jewelry. Gay once meant happy, now it has a totally different meaning.

The structures that Julian might have seen were the temporary structures of the units who were to build the forts and the gated wall between two hills.

Does anybody still use the term pillbox??? jf42 rightly states that sangar is obsolete today. Maybe that is true of pillbox also. Don't know for sure.

That publication that Julian has ordered sure looks good. i am going to look it up and perhaps get a copy. The railway is a facinating subject.

I am going to ask my neighbor with the Oxford Dictionary set about the word sunger or sanger. jf42's question about the first usage is an interesting question.

See:
"The Royal Engineers In Egypt And The Sudan" by Lt.-Col. R.W.C. Sandes
"Letters From The Sudan" by E. F. Knight...I mean REALLY SEE It ....
http://www.archive.org/stream/lettersfr ... 0/mode/2up
Great map and text. You can see this valley could have been a riverbed at one time, but is now an underground aquafier that is either trapped water betweem two rocky masses, or a flowing underground stream.


Sangar is most certainly not an obsolete term and it has been used continuously throughout my 37-years in the British Army and for very many decades before that, it is only the spelling of it that has changed since its original usage, as described above (even now Sangar/Sanger are interchangeable).

Its original meaning of rough stone enclosure for defensive purposes still stands, but in more modern usage it has also been used for the elevated watchtowers that have been so much a feature of improvised British bases during the rundown of the colonies post WW2, in Northern Ireland from 1969 until the ceasefire agreement and, subsequently, in Iraq and Afghanistan (thus coming full circle - plus ca change!). I realize I am paraphrasing Jf42 here.

As a word it appears in numerous military pamphlets and handbooks and has, in any case, like so many colonial era words (pukka, buckshee, dekko, jaldi, etc), been passed from generation to generation of British soldiers engaged in operations, so it is unsurprising that it has been etymologically enduring.
User avatar
Frogsmile
Forum Fellow
 
Posts: 4542
Joined: 25 Jan 2011 20:17
Location: Wiltshire, England

Re: Pillbox or sanger

Postby tabony » 28 Sep 2011 21:09

I'm glad it wasn't just me stuck on sanger duty! :D

Martin
tabony
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 958
Joined: 01 Jul 2010 20:46

Re: Pillbox or sanger

Postby DAW » 25 Oct 2011 21:43

In one primary source a structure of this type at Murrat Wells is called a sunga (National Archive WO 78/176(2)) while Colville refers to examples built by the Desert Column of the Gordon Relief Expedition in the Bayuda Desert as pepper boxes (Colville 1889, II, 75). In 1896 Atteridge calls one of these installations close to the railway, a watch tower (Atteridge 1897, 170).

DAW
DAW
New Member
 
Posts: 3
Joined: 25 Oct 2011 21:20


Return to Egypt & Sudan 1882-98

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron