mike snook wrote:It is little known that there were in fact two Hicks campaigns, one into the jazira, the big V of fertile ground between the Niles due south of Khartoum, which was a success and included a winning battle, and the ill-fated Kordofan expedition which was as big a disaster as they come.
Unsecured and overextended lines of communication. No professional logistic arm. Eventually, obvious approach of logistic collapse.
Unsound choice of route - a function of poor environmental intelligence - hence LoC unnecessarily lengthy and insufficiently well watered. Consequent adverse effect on morale.
Moral superiority of the enemy.
Divided command. Governor general also present.
Tensions between Egyptian/Turco-Circassian/Sudanese loyalist/European factions in officer corps.
Language barrier for Europeans, especially if poor French speakers. No common language with Egyptian ORs or any of the Sudanese.
Worsening morale amounting eventually to despair and near psychological collapse.
No particular advantage in terms of firepower.
Surrounded by the time of the climactic action.
Poor tactical cohesion and cooperation.
Poor standard of leadership; poor professional competence of officers. Gulf between officers and men.
Mahdists by contrast enjoy the advantages of:
Concentration of force.
Superior numbers. Parity of firepower. Capacity for shock action (and a bit of awe thrown in).
Unified command. Excellent cooperation and cohesion.
High morale. God on their side. String of victories.
Ground of own choosing.
Excellent intelligence and surveillance.
Effective preliminary harassing operations.
Effective subversion of morale by means of clever psychological operations: leaflets and camp fire story-teller recounting Mahdi's miracles.
Could he have won. No. Do you up the stakes when you know the bloke on the other side of the table has all the aces? No,you wait until the cards turn in your favour before making the big bet. Are you more likely to win at home or away? In the desert 'home' is much easier win than 'away'.
Best course of action. Wait. No rush. All is already lost in Kordofan. No surviving garrisons after fall of El Obied and Bara. An anti-government insurrection has to maintain its momentum or wither on the vine. Wait at Khartoum. They have to come eventually. Recce enemy approaches. Choose own ground (towards which the enemy will ideally be drawn or can be channelled - though sometimes difficult in open desert). Develop tactical plans including contingencies against the unexpected. Build confidence and competence of troops by training. Ensure intelligence and surveillance network is sound (informers, spies, patrols and observation). Rehearse. If striking offensively try to incorporate tactical surprise, good operational security and if possible decisive manoeuvre. If settled on tactical defensive, ensure good fields of fire, all round defence or rear on Nile. Maintain reserve. Fire support from Fort Omdurman and steamers ideally. Keep calm. Shoot slow but straight. If it looks like your winning, be ready with worked up contingencies to counterattack and pursue. Once in pursuit mode do it relentlessly, use the open desert and distance to sanctuary to turn enemy defeat into destruction.
Might have worked! Flogging all the way to El Obeid on the other hand....well, why would you do that? You have to have a good reason for such an ambitious operational undertaking. Hicks didn't.
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