The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Colonel J.D.H. Stewart of Gunboat Abbas

Sometimes there are events in history that are overshadowed by bigger events. We all know of General Gordon’s fate at Khartoum in 1885. The city fell to the Mahdi’s forces when a traitor was said to have opened a gate during the night. Most of the Egyptian soldiers were overpowered before the alarm could be raised. It is believed that Gordon fell around dawn on the North East stairwell of the Palace. Obviously, some of General Gordon’s bodyguards were able to mount some form of resistance before the Mahdi’s tribesmen could execute total surprise, even though Gordon’s bodyguard were eventually overpowered and killed.

Some days before the city fell, Colonel John Donald Hamill Stewart took all the remaining westerners in Khartoum aboard a fortified paddle steamer called the Abbas. It was a desperate attempt to run the gauntlet of Manasir tribesmen who were on both sides of the Nile. They got past the most heavily fortified part of the blockade, but they were running low on fuel when the steamer struck a rock close to the Island of Kaniett.

The Abbas paddle steamer was in a desperate situation after stubbornly fighting its way past the most dangerous part of the blockade. Their destination was a place called Dongola and they were still some way off. A little further along the river was a smaller island called Um Dewarmat and an Arab named Sulieman – wad – Gamur invited them to land. They were offered hospitality which they accepted. While they refreshed themselves, Silieman and his tribesmen overpowered the passengers and crew of the Abbas after a brief fight.

There were many civilians among them and all were believed to have been executed including Colonel John Donald Hamill. Not much is known of the fate that befell the unfortunate people of the gunboat Abbas, but their final moments at the hands of Sulieman’s tribesmen must have been very ghastly if their captures were allied or part of Ahmed Al-Mahdi’s Manasir tribesmen.

Two days after Khartoum fell to Ahmed Al-Mahdi’s forces; the relieving British forces arrived and forced the Mansir tribesmen to leave. Ahmed Al-Mahdi died a few months afterwards.

The terrible fate that befell the passengers and crew of Abbas can only drown in speculation – flooded away by the fact of the many wretched people in the city of Khartoum who would have been accused of defying Ahmed Al-Mahdi met an equally horrific end. History does not dwell too much on the last journey of the Abbas. Unfortunately, we like heroics that are packaged right. The Abbas paddle steamer does not fit the Retro British mould of noble defeat. However, I can’t help thinking that the lot of the passengers and crew of the Abbas steamer was extremely tragic.

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