HUBBARD, Captain Alfred Edward
[Manuscript diary of a 10th Regiment British soldier in Sudan at the Battle of Omdurman]
Sudan: 1898. Small 4to. 81pp. Written in pencil throughout. A few sketches showing battle plans.
Contemporary half green cloth and green paper covered boards. Housed in a red morocco backed box.
First-hand account of the Battle of Omdurman.
Beginning his journal, written as an epistolary narrative to his wife, on 13 Augus, Hubbard recounts the journey by boat and march to Omdurman. Aug. 30: "Sunday afternoon's march was a particularly beastly one - dust, dust, dust & a frightful thirst all the way ... The 21st Lancers and the [?] Cavalry are out in front & are I believe engaged with the Dervish cavalry. We are now within about 18 miles of Omdurman & things are getting exciting ... The whole immense camp is absolutely humming with business, like a swarm of bees, & I think we must be getting very near a climax at last. I can see two gun boats alongside us now. How the Khalifa can sit calmly & await such a great show of power as we are now developing beats me. I suppose he has no where to fly to ... Roll on Khartoum, say I & speedily." Much of the diary is devoted to a detailed description on the battle itself. Sept. 5: "The big battle is over. Omdurman is in our hands & we are on the eve of returning to Cairo ... When at last we gained the ridge line we got a view right up to the river. Far ahead of us, some 5 or 6 miles up the river we could see a long line of gunboats (I counted nine, through my glasses) standing along the bank & apparently shelling the Odurman forts ... It became known that a large Dervish force had been seen ... leaving Omdurman and marching towards us. It was reported to be an enormous army ... I don't think anyone thought the Dervishes would give up their stronghold at O. & come fight us in the open ... [we] formed up in a long semi-circle covering the river & facing west. Here we formed line and halted our position ... It appeared a somewhat thin line, but no one had any fear of the thin red line of British bayonets being pierced by any rush however strong of the enemy ... It appeared to me a too extended position, though offering a great field of fire ... Against the far range of hills, straight in front of us & about 3 miles off, could be seen (through the glasses) lines of high banners; they appeared to be everywhere, far as the eye could see, were banners & behind the moving masses of men it looked as if the entire world was coming on against us ... a kind of gigantic & final effort of Mahomedan fanaticism, and attempt to crush us by sheer weight of number." And continuing in a later entry recounting the whole battle in great detail (pp. 61-75): "The Dervishes advanced shouting; there was no movement in our lines ... When the Dervishes got to within about 1800 yards of our line the first gun on our side spoke. We could hear the heavy shell cleaving its way through the air ... The firing all along our line was now continuous & rapid & the ground in front began to get dotted with white clad corpses ... The pluck & bravery shown by the Dervishes under an absolutely appaling hail of bullets was most marked throughout the day ..."
Harrington & Sharf, Omdurman 1898: The Eyewitnesses Speak (Greenhill Books, 1998).