The Egyptian Army

(1880-1900)

 

Organisation

The Egyptian Army of this period was reorganised by the British in 1883, after the end of Arabi's Revolt.  Details of the different evolutions are given below.

The army consisted of two types of soldier.  The bulk of the army was made up of Egyptian peasants (fellahin), including all the cavalry; with the rest being Sudanese, recruited from the Africans of the south.  Sudanese battalions of infantry were described by Roman numerals (e.g. the IXth) to differentiate them from their Egyptian counterparts (e.g. the 2nd).

Army Strength

The size of the army increased throughout the period.  In 1883, the British originally raised 6,000 men in eight battalions, with several cavalry troops and one Camel Corps company, and at least one artillery battery.  

By the end of 1885, there were nine battalions of infantry (one Sudanese); eight troops of cavalry; four batteries of artillery; and three companies of Camel Corps.  

In 1886, four more battalions of infantry were raised (two Sudanese), although the two Egyptian battalions were later disbanded to save money.  

By the end of 1888, these two disbanded battalions had been replaced by Sudanese battalions, and the Camel Corps increased to four companies.

By 1891, there were fourteen battalions of infantry (the last six Sudanese); five squadrons of cavalry; six batteries of artillery (one horse) and six companies of Camel Corps.

By 1896, two more infantry battalions (both Egyptian) and four more squadrons of cavalry had been added.  In 1897, the Camel Corps was increased to eight companies (four Egyptian and four Sudanese); the cavalry to ten squadrons; and two more battalions of infantry (both Egyptian) had been added.  In 1898, another battalion of infantry was formed from the Italian askaris of the Kassala garrison.

Infantry

Egyptian battalions originally consisted of four companies (buluks) of approximately 200 men each.

In 1890, Sudanese battalions were expanded from four companies to six companies, each of approximately 150 men.

By 1898, the Egyptian battalions had also expanded to six companies.

There was also a Camel Corps.  It operated in independent companies of about 150 men each.

Cavalry

In the early part of this period, the Egyptian regular cavalry was divided into troops of around 70 men each.  From 1890, the cavalry was divided into squadrons of 100 men each.

The irregular cavalry accompanying Arabi would have been split into warbands of no set size. 

Artillery

Artillery batteries had six guns each, machine gun batteries had two guns each.

Equipment

Infantry

The infantry and Camel Corps were armed with Martini-Henry rifles and a triangular socket bayonet.

Cavalry

The cavalry were armed with the Martini-Henry carbine and a sabre.  From the 1890's, the front ranks of the cavalry were given lances.

Artillery

Egyptian artillery used both mules and camels in each battery - mules being used for rocky or hilly country; camels for desert.  Horse artillery used horses.

In the early 1880's, the artillery used 7-pdr mountain guns; 9- and 14-pdr Krupp breechloaders; and 14-pdr muzzle-loading brass howitzers.  When the British standardised the Egyptian army, the main field gun became the 6.5cm Krupp.  From 1897, these were gradually replaced by Maxim-Nordenfelt 75mm quick-firers.

Multi-barrelled Gardner and Nordenfelt machine guns were used from 1896; Maxims from 1897. 

Uniforms

Infantry

Egyptian infantry wore a small red fez (tarboosh) with a short black tassel hanging from its top.  

Up to 1884, they wore a summer dress of white cotton cloth tunic and loose white trousers tucked into white gaiters, worn over black shoes.  Winter dress was a dark blue tunic and trousers, with the latter trimmed in white.  Equipment was black or brown.

From 1884, all infantry wore a brown (or very dark khaki) jersey (although some Sudanese units wore blue), and sand coloured trousers with dark blue puttees.  Leather equipment was brown, with a white haversack.  The fez was still worn, but could have a cloth cover with a neck flap wrapped around it (an imma).  The tassel was black for Egyptians; black, green or red for Sudanese.

Officers wore the winter uniform of dark blue, but in a French style:  single breasted, thigh length tunics with voluminous skirts;  dark blue baggy trousers tapered at the ankle.

Cavalry & Camel Corps

Early period regular cavalry wore the same as the infantry, but with short black boots.  Irregular cavalry wore their white traditional robes and turbans.

After 1882, the regular cavalry and Camel Corps wore khaki, although the Sudanese companies of Camel Corps wore blue jerseys.

Artillery

The Egyptian artillery wore the same uniforms as the infantry.

Quality

Sudanese troops should count as average to good quality.  Egyptian troops should count as average to poor quality.

 

BACK