The Battle of Omdurman

Original Text: 
William McGonagall, Last Poetic Gems, ed. James L. Smith (Dundee: D. Winter, 1968): 142-44. PR 4970 .M45A6 1968B Robarts Library
1Ye Sons of Great Britain! come join with me
2And sing in praise of the gallant British Armie,
3That behaved right manfully in the Soudan,
5'Twas in the year of 1898, and on the 2nd of September,
6Which the Khalifa and his surviving followers will long remember,
7Because Sir Herbert Kitchener has annihilated them outright,
8By the British troops and Soudanese in the Omdurman fight.
10And marched on to Omdurman without delay,
11Just as the brigades had reached the crest adjoining the Nile,
12And became engaged with the enemy in military style.
13The Dervishes had re-formed under cover of a rocky eminence,
14Which to them, no doubt, was a strong defence,
15And they were massed together in battle array
16Around the black standard of the Khalifa, which made a grand display.
19And in ten minutes, long before the attack could be driven home,
20The flower of the Khalifa's army was almost overthrown.
21Still manfully the dusky warriors strove to make headway,
22But the Soudanese troops and British swept them back without dismay,
23And their main body were mown down by their deadly fire --
24But still the heroic Dervishes refused to retire.
25And defiantly they planted their standards and died by them,
26To their honour be it said, just like brave men;
27But at last they retired, with their hearts full of woe,
28Leaving the field white with corpses, like a meadow dotted with snow.
29The chief heroes in the fight were the 21st Lancers;
30They made a brilliant charge on the enemy with ringing cheers,
31And through the dusky warriors bodies their lances they did thrust,
32Whereby many of them were made to lick the dust.
33Then at a quarter past eleven the Sirdar sounded the advance,
34And the remnant of the Dervishes fled, which was their only chance,
35While the cavalry cut off their retreat while they ran;
36Then the Sirdar, with the black standard of the Khalifa, headed for Omdurman.
37And when the Khalifa saw his noble army cut down,
38With rage and grief he did fret and frown;
39Then he spurred his noble steed, and swiftly it ran,
40While inwardly to himself he cried, "Catch me if you can!"
41And Mahdism now has received a crushing blow,
42For the Khalifa and his followers have met with a complete overthrow;
44By the defeat of the Khalifa at the battle of Omdurman.
45Now since the Khalifa has been defeated and his rule at an end,
46Let us thank God that fortunately did send
47The brave Sir Herbert Kitchener to conquer that bad man,
48The inhuman Khalifa, and his followers at the battle of Omdurman.
49Success to Sir Herbert Kitchener! he is a great commander,
50And as skilful in military tactics as the great Alexander,
51Because he devised a very wise plan,
52And by it has captured the town of Omdurman.
53I wish success to the British and Soudanese Army,
54May God protect them by land and by sea,
55May he enable them always to conquer the foe,
56And to establish what's right wherever they go.


4] A Dervish city in Sudan on the western bank of the Nile, now a suburb to Khartoum, and the site of a battle between British troops and a Dervish army on September 2, 1898. At Karari, General Horatio Herbert Kitchener's army defeated Khalifa Abdullah el Taashi, the successor of the Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad. Back to Line
9] Sirdar: "In India and other Eastern countries, a military chief, a leader or general of a force or army; also spec. more recently, the British commander-in-chief of the Egyptian army" (OED). Back to Line
17] Sir John Grenfell Maxwell (1859-1929). Back to Line
18] Major-General Sir Hector Archibald Macdonald (1853-1903). Back to Line
43] Major-General Charles George Gordon (1833-85), murdered by Dervishes on the steps of the palace at Khartoum. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
The battle of Omdurman: a new poem: composed September 1898 by Sir Wm. Topaz McGonagall ([Edinburgh] 1898). Broadside. MCC M35 B329 1898 bro Fisher Rare Book Library
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: