Bombardment of Alexandria

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Bombardment of Alexandria
Part of the Anglo-Egyptian War
Bombardment of Alexandria.jpg
"Well Done Condor" by Charles Dixon.
Date11–13 July 1882
Location
Result British victory
Belligerents
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom Flag of Egypt (1882-1922).svg Egypt
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Beauchamp Seymour Flag of Egypt (1882-1922).svg Ahmed ‘Urabi
Strength
British:
9 battleships
1 torpedo boat
1 steamer
5 gunboats
11 forts
Casualties and losses
6 killed
27 wounded
680–700 [1]

The Bombardment of Alexandria in Egypt by the British Mediterranean Fleet took place on 11–13 July 1882.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Mediterranean Fleet fleet of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom

The British Mediterranean Fleet also known as the Mediterranean Station was part of the Royal Navy. The Fleet was one of the most prestigious commands in the navy for the majority of its history, defending the vital sea link between the United Kingdom and the majority of the British Empire in the Eastern Hemisphere. The first Commander-in-Chief for the Mediterranean Fleet was the appointment of General at Sea Robert Blake in September 1654 the Fleet was in existence until 1967.

Contents

Admiral Beauchamp Seymour was in command of a fleet of fifteen Royal Navy ironclad ships which had previously sailed to the harbor of Alexandria to support the khedive Tewfik Pasha amid Ahmed ‘Urabi's nationalist uprising against his administration and its close ties to British and French financiers. He was joined in the show of force by a French flotilla as well. The move provided some security to the khedive, who withdrew his court to the now-protected port, but strengthened ‘Urabi's nationalists within the army and throughout the remainder of Egypt. On 11 June, anti-Christian riots began in Alexandria. The city's European residents fled and the Egyptian ‘Urabist army began fortifying and arming the harbor. An ultimatum to cease this build-up being refused, the British fleet began a 10½-hour bombardment of the city without French assistance. Historians argue about whether Admiral Seymour exaggerated the threat from the Egyptian batteries at Alexandria in order to force the hand of a reluctant Gladstone administration. Once the British had attacked the city, they then proceeded to a full-scale invasion to restore the authority of the khedive. Egypt remained under British occupation until 1956.

Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM". The rank is generally thought to have originated in Sicily from a conflation of Arabic: أمير البحر‎, amīr al-baḥr, "commander of the sea", with Latin admirabilis ("admirable") or admiratus ("admired"), although alternative etymologies derive the word directly from Latin, or from the Turkish military and naval rank miralay. The French version – amiral without the additional d – tends to add evidence for the Arab origin.

Beauchamp Seymour, 1st Baron Alcester British naval commander

Admiral Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour, 1st Baron Alcester, was a British naval commander. He was Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet between 1874 and 1877 and of the Mediterranean Fleet between 1880 and 1883.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

Origins

In 1869, Khedive Ismail of Egypt inaugurated the Suez Canal, which was a joint venture between the Egyptian Government and the French-led Suez Canal Company. During the excavation of the canal so many Egyptian workers died that it became common in the collective memory of Egyptians to say that Egyptian blood ran in the canal before the water of the seas. The canal cut sailing time from Britain to India by weeks and Britain's interest in Egypt grew. [2]

Khedive noble title of the Ottoman Empire

The term Khedive is a title largely equivalent to the English word "servicemen" or possibly viceroy. It was first used, without official recognition, by Muhammad Ali Pasha, the governor of Egypt and Sudan, and vassal of the Ottoman Empire. The initially self-declared title was officially recognized by the Ottoman government in 1867, and used subsequently by Ismail Pasha, and his dynastic successors until 1914.

Suez Canal canal in Egypt between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea

The Suez Canal is a sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. Constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, it was officially opened on 17 November 1869. The canal offers watercraft a more direct route between the North Atlantic and northern Indian oceans via the Mediterranean and Red seas, thus avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans and thereby reducing the journey distance from the Arabian Sea to, for example, London by approximately 8,900 kilometres (5,500 mi). It extends from the northern terminus of Port Said to the southern terminus of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez. Its length is 193.30 km (120.11 mi), including its northern and southern access channels. In 2012, 17,225 vessels traversed the canal.

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Due to the excessive spending of the Egyptian Government under the ambitious Khedive, Britain purchased the Khedive's shares of the Suez Canal company in 1875, thus becoming a substantial partner, owning 40% of the total share issue. [3] French and British concern led to the establishment of an Anglo-French Condominium over Egypt which was still nominally under the Ottoman Empire. Egyptian nationalism was sparked and, after a revolt by Egyptian troops in 1881, complete control of the government was held by ‘Urabi Pasha by February 1882. [2] The rebellion expressed resentment of foreigners. [4]

In international law, a condominium is a political territory in or over which multiple sovereign powers formally agree to share equal dominium and exercise their rights jointly, without dividing it into "national" zones.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

‘Urabi organized a militia and marched on Alexandria. Meanwhile, the European powers gathered in Constantinople to discuss reestablishing the power of the Khedive and an Anglo-French fleet was ordered to the port of Alexandria. The Egyptians began reinforcing and upgrading their fortifications and the British House of Commons ordered ships to be temporarily dispatched from the Channel Fleet to Malta under Admiral Seymour's command. [1]

Ahmed ‘Urabi Egyptian revolutionary

Colonel Ahmed ‘Urabi or Ourabi, widely known in English as Ahmad Ourabi, was an Egyptian nationalist, revolutionary and an officer of the Egyptian army. The first political and military leader in Egypt to rise from the fellahin, ‘Urabi participated in an 1879 mutiny that developed into a general revolt against the Anglo-French dominated administration of Khedive Tewfik. He was promoted to Tewfik's cabinet and began reforms of Egypt's military and civil administrations, but the demonstrations in Alexandria of 1882 prompted a British bombardment and invasion that deposed ‘Urabi and his allies in favor of a British occupation.

Constantinople capital city of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the Latin and the Ottoman Empire

Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), of the Byzantine Empire, of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire (1204–1261) and of the Ottoman Empire (1453–1923). In 1923 the capital of Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, was moved to Ankara and the name Constantinople was officially changed to Istanbul. The city was located in what is now the European side and the core of modern Istanbul.

Malta island republic in Europe

Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. With a population of about 475,000 over an area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi), Malta is the world's tenth smallest and fifth most densely populated country. Its capital is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area at 0.8 km². The official languages are Maltese and English, with Maltese officially recognised as the national language and the only Semitic language in the European Union.

On 20 May the combined Anglo-French fleet, consisting of the British battleship HMS Invincible, the French ironclad La Galissonnière and four gunboats arrived in Alexandria. By 5 June, six more warships had entered Alexandria harbour and more cruised off the coast. [1] The reasons that the British government sent warships to Alexandria is an object of historical debate, with arguments proposed that it was to protect the Suez Canal and prevent "anarchy", and other arguments claiming that it was to protect the interests of British investors with assets in Egypt (see 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War).

HMS <i>Invincible</i> (1869) 1869

HMS Invincible was a Royal Navy Audacious-class ironclad battleship. She was built at the Napier shipyard and completed in 1870. Completed just 10 years after HMS Warrior, she still carried sails as well as a steam engine.

French ironclad <i>La Galissonnière</i> french battleship

La Galissonnière was lead ship of a class of wooden-hulled, armored corvettes built for the French Navy during the 1870s. She was named after the victor of the Battle of Minorca in 1756, Marquis de la Galissonnière. She bombarded Sfax in 1881 as part of the French occupation of Tunisia and was present in Alexandria shortly before the British bombarded it before the beginning of the 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War. The ship participated in a number of battles during the Sino-French War of 1884–85. La Galissonnière was condemned in 1894.

The presence of the foreign fleet exacerbated the tensions in Alexandria between the nationalist forces and the large foreign and Christian population. On 11 and 12 June ferocious riots erupted, possibly started by ‘Urabi's supporters but also blamed upon the Khedive himself as a false flag operation. [4] Over 50 Europeans and 125 Egyptians were killed in the fracas that began near Place Mehmet Ali with British Admiral Seymour, who was ashore at the time, narrowly escaping the mob. [1] Upon learning of the riot, ‘Urabi ordered his forces to restore order. [5]

The reaction by European countries to the disturbance was swift. As refugees fled Alexandria, a flotilla of over 26 ships belonging to most of the countries of Europe gathered in the harbour. By 6 July nearly every non-Egyptian had evacuated Alexandria. Meanwhile, the garrison had continued to fortify the various forts and towers with additional guns until Admiral Seymour issued an ultimatum to ‘Urabi's forces to stop fortifying or the British fleet would bombard the city. That same day, the French Admiral Conrad, had informed Seymour that in the event of British bombardment, the French fleet would depart for Port Said and would not participate in the bombardment. [1]

The ultimatum, which was ignored amid denials of the defensive works by the Egyptian governor, was set to expire at 7:00 am on 11 July.

Battle

Plan of the Bombardement VOGT(1883) p245 BOMBARDEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA - JULY 1882.jpg
Plan of the Bombardement
British ships shelling Alexandria. Bombardamento Alessandria 1882.jpg
British ships shelling Alexandria.

At 7:00 a.m. on 11 July 1882 Admiral Seymour aboard HMS Invincible signaled to HMS Alexandra to commence firing at the Ras El Tin fortifications followed by the general order to attack the enemy's batteries. According to Royle, "[a] steady cannonade was maintained by the attacking and defending forces, and for the next few hours the roar of the guns and the shrieks of passing shot and shell were alone audible." [1] The attack was carried out by the off-shore squadron as it was underway, the ships turning from time to time to keep up the barrage. This was not entirely effective and by 9:40, HMS Sultan, HMS Superb and HMS Alexandra anchored off the Lighthouse Fort and concentrated their now-stationary batteries on Ras El Tin. The fort battery was able to score hits, particularly on Alexandra, but by 12:30, Inflexible had joined the attack and the fort's guns were silenced. [1]

Meanwhile, HMS Temeraire had taken on the Mex Forts (with Invincible splitting its broadsides between Ras El Tin and Mex) and was causing damage to Mex when she grounded on a reef. The gunboat HMS Condor (Beresford) went to her assistance and she was refloated and resumed the attack on the Mex fort. While the off-shore squadron was engaging the forts at long-range, HMS Monarch, HMS Penelope and HMS Condor were ordered into close engagements with the forts at Maza El Kanat and Fort Marabout. [1]

HMS Condor seeing that Invincible was within range of the guns at Fort Marabout sailed to within 1,200 feet of the fort and began furiously firing at the fort. When Fort Marabout's guns were disabled, the flagship signaled "Well Done, Condor." The Condor's action allowed the ships to finish off Fort Mex. [1]

With the Mex Fort's guns silenced, HMS Sultan signaled to Invincible to attack Fort Adda, which she did with the assistance of Temeraire. At 1:30, a lucky shell from HMS Superb blew up the magazine of Fort Adda and those batteries ceased firing. At about this time, the British fleet began to run short of ammunition. However, nearly all of the guns from Fort Adda west were silenced. HMS Superb, Inflexible and Temeraire focused their fire on the remaining eastern forts until at 5:15, the general order to cease fire was issued. The Egyptians, both outmanned and outgunned had used their firepower to good effect, but the outcome of the bombardment had never been in doubt. [1] The Cairo newspaper El Taif erroneously reported that the Egyptian forts had sunk three ships. [1]

The next day, HMS Temeraire reconnoitered the forts and discovered that the Hospital battery had reconstituted its defences. At 10:30 a.m., Temeraire and Inflexible opened fire and the battery raised the flag of truce at 10:48 a.m. Very soon an Egyptian boat set out to the flagship bearing the flag of truce and a cease-fire was ordered. By 2:50 p.m., HMS Bittern signaled that the negotiations had failed and the bombardment was to resume. Still, most of the forts flew white flags and an irregular cannonade by the British fleet began. [1]

By 4:00 p.m. a fire had broken out on shore, and by evening the fire had engulfed the wealthiest quarter of Alexandria, the area predominantly inhabited by Europeans. [1] The fire raged for the next two days before it burned itself out. Admiral Seymour, unsure of the situation in the city didn't land any troops to take control of the city or fight the fire. [1] It was not until 14 July that British marines and sailors landed in Alexandria.

Photo in Alexandria after the bombardment and fire of 11-13 July 1882. Alexandria after bombardment.jpg
Photo in Alexandria after the bombardment and fire of 11–13 July 1882.
Attarine Mosque Street after bombardment Attarine Mosque Street after bombardment.jpg
Attarine Mosque Street after bombardment

Aftermath

Fires continued to break out in Alexandria over the next few days and the city was chaotic and lawless which permitted Bedouins, among others, to loot the city. [1] British sailors and marines landed and attempted to take control of the blackened ruins of the city and prevent the looting, while propping up the Khedive's shaky government. Eventually order was restored and a month later, General Garnet Wolseley landed a large force of British troops in Alexandria as a staging location for attacking ‘Urabi near the Suez Canal at the Battle of Tell El Kebir. [1] Photographer Luigi Fiorillo  [ it ] created an album of fifty pages showing the changes in Alexandria from start to finish of this attack. These photos can now be found online at The American University of Cairo in the Rare Books and Special Collections Digital Library. This digital library was established in the fall of 2011 and the photographs of the Bombardment of Alexandria were compiled between June and August 2012. [6] [7] [8]

The bombardment was described in disparaging terms by British MP Henry Richard:

I find a man prowling about my house with obviously felonious purposes. I hasten to get locks and bars, and to barricade my windows. He says that is an insult and threat to him, and he batters down my doors, and declares that he does so only as an act of strict self-defence. [9]

After that the Urabi revolt was put down. Egypt became a British protectorate until 1922 and remained under British domination through the Second World War.

British Fleet

HMS Alexandra was the Flagship of the Mediterranean fleet, but at the Bombardment of Alexandria, Admiral Seymour transferred his flag to HMS Invincible HMS alexandra.jpg
HMS Alexandra was the Flagship of the Mediterranean fleet, but at the Bombardment of Alexandria, Admiral Seymour transferred his flag to HMS Invincible
One of HMS Temeraire's 11 inch 25-ton disappearing muzzle-loading rifles. HMS Alexandra shelled the forts with similar guns. HMS Temeraire (1876) 11-inch gun.jpg
One of HMS Temeraire's 11 inch 25-ton disappearing muzzle-loading rifles. HMS Alexandra shelled the forts with similar guns.

Battleships

Torpedo boat

Despatch boat

Gunvessels

Egyptian Forts

See also

Related Research Articles

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Urabi revolt nationalist uprising in Egypt

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Royle, Charles (1900). The Egyptian Campaigns (1882–1885). London: Hurst and Blackett, Ltd. p. 606.
  2. 1 2 "'Well Done "Condor"': The Bombardment of Alexandria". National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  3. Blake, Robert. Disraeli.
  4. 1 2 Karsh, Inari; Karsh, Efrain (1999). Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789–1923. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 409. ISBN   0-674-00541-4.
  5. Hopkins, A. G. (1986). "The Victorians and Africa: A Reconsideration of the Occupation of Egypt, 1882". The Journal of African History. 27 (2): 375. doi:10.1017/S0021853700036719. JSTOR   181140.
  6. "Fiorillo, Luigi | Armenian Photography Foundation". lusadaran.org. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  7. "Exhibitions: British Battles". The National Archives (United Kingdom) . Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  8. "Portrait of Khedive Taufik Pasha". Alexandria Bombardment of 1882 Photograph Album. AUC Rare Books and Special Collections Digital Library. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  9. "Supply forces in the Mediterranean". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) . House of Commons. 25 July 1882. col. 1778.

Further reading

Coordinates: 31°11′59″N29°52′16″E / 31.19972°N 29.87111°E / 31.19972; 29.87111