The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir

Original Text: 
William McGonagall, Poetic Gems (1890; Trowbridge and Esher: Trowbridge, 1975): 35-36. PR 4970 .M45 P6 1975 St. Michael's College Library
1Ye sons of Great Britain, come join with me,
3Sound drums and trumpets cheerfully,
4For he has acted most heroically.
5Therefore loudly his praises sing
6Until the hills their echoes back doth ring;
7For he is a noble hero bold,
8And an honour to his Queen and country, be it told.
9He has gained for himself fame and renown,
10Which to posterity will be handed down;
11Because he has defeated Arabi by land and by sea,
12And from the battle of Tel-el-Kebir he made him to flee.
13With an army about fourteen thousand strong,
14Through Egypt he did fearlessly march along,
15With the gallant and brave Highland brigade,
16To whom honour is due, be it said.
17Arabi's army was about seventy thousand in all,
18And, virtually speaking, it wasn't very small;
19But if they had been as numerous again,
20The Irish and Highland brigades would have beaten them, it is plain.
21'Twas on the 13th day of September, in the year of 1882,
22Which Arabi and his rebel horde long will rue;
23Because Sir Garnet Wolseley and his brave little band
24Fought and conquered them on Kebir land.
25He marched upon the enemy with his gallant band
26O'er the wild and lonely desert sand,
27And attacked them before daylight,
28And in twenty minutes he put them to flight.
29The first shock of the attack was borne by the Second Brigade,
30Who behaved most manfully, it is said,
31Under the command of brave General Grahame,
32And have gained a lasting honour to their name.
33But Major Hart and the 18th Royal Irish, conjoint,
34Carried the trenches at the bayonet point;
35Then the Marines chased them about four miles away,
36At the charge of the bayonet, without dismay!
38Who never were the least afraid.
39And such has been the case in this Egyptian war,
40For at the charge of the bayonet they ran from them afar!
41With their bagpipes playing, and one ringing cheer,
42And the 42nd soon did the trenches clear;
43Then hand to hand they did engage,
44And fought like tigers in a cage.
45Oh! it must have been a glorious sight
46To see Sir Garnet Wolseley in the thickest of the fight!
47In the midst of shot and shell, and the cannon's roar,
48Whilst the dead and the dying lay weltering in their gore.
49Then the Egyptians were forced to yield,
50And the British were left masters of the field;
51Then Arabi he did fret and frown
52To see his army thus cut down.
53Then Arabi the rebel took to flight,
54And spurred his Arab steed with all his might:
55With his heart full of despair and woe,
56And never halted till he reached Cairo.
57Now since the Egyptian war is at an end,
58Let us thank God! Who did send
59Sir Garnet Wolseley to crush and kill
60Arabi and his rebel army at Kebir hill.


2] In 1881 the Egyptian army, led by Colonel Ahmed Arabi, rebelled against Tewfik Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt. Just at dawn on Sept. 13, 1882, the Highland Brigade attacked Egyptian forces commanded by Arabi and entrenched in fortifications at Tel-el-Kebir, sixty miles east of Cairo. The British assault, commanded by Sir Garnet Wolseley (1833-1913), was accompanied by the sound of bagpipe players. The Egyptian army collapsed after an hour's fighting. Back to Line
37] Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Alison (1826-1907). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
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