The subtitle of this book sums up the contents: “A narrative of the advance of the River Column of the Nile Expeditionary Force, and its return down the rapids.” In March 1874 Gordon was besieged by the Mahdi in Khartoum, but it wasn’t till August, after shilly-shallying and under considerable pressure from the public and parliament that Gladstone finally authorised a relief force (too late, as it happened) under the command of General Wolseley. He organised his force in two columns, one to cut across the Bayuda Desert (the Desert Column) and secure the shortest route to Khartoum; the other (the River Column) to proceed along the Nile. This latter column was placed under command of General Earle with Brackenbury as his deputy, and this is Brackenbury’s account. On 10th February the enemy was encountered at Kirbekan and in the battle Earle was killed as were the COs of two of the four battalions in the force, 1st S Staffs and 1st Black Watch, out of a total of a dozen dead. Brackenbury assumed command. He has written this narrative, he says: “….in the belief that the advance and return of four regiments of infantry (the other two were 1st Gordon Highlanders and 2nd DCLI) through a hundred miles of cataracts and rapids in an enemy’s country deserve, as a military operation, some permanent record….” He has done a good job!
An account of the journey and fortunes of the column despatched up the Nile in 1885 in an abortive attempt to relieve Gordon besieged in Khartoum.