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The Abyssinian Campaign of 1867-68 was a remarkable and now largely forgotten military undertaking of the Victorian Era. The expedition demonstrated the power and ‘reach’ of the British Empire, and no other nation at that time could have considered, let alone undertaken, such an operation. The Abyssinian Empire was a difficult country to invade due to its distance from any major port, the harshness of its terrain, and the inhospitable climatic conditions that swung from blistering heat to sub-zero conditions. Faced with no port facilities along the Red Sea Littoral, the British constructed a harbour, landing stations, roads, telegraph lines, and even a railway, in terrain that had been deserted before their arrival. The logistical demands of the campaign were enormous. To maintain an Anglo-Indian army of around 13,000 men, with around 20,000 camp followers, and over 40,000 animals, was a mammoth task that drew upon the skills of the Royal Navy, the considerable British and Indian merchant marine, and the cutting edge of technology. The campaign was remarkable in that there was to be no territorial aggrandisement, no capture of precious resources, or securing of strategic concerns. The Abyssinian Campaign was one that was conducted partly to rescue British and ‘European’ prisoners held by the increasingly mental unstable Emperor Theodore (Tewodros) II, and partly to restore and maintain British prestige. That this campaign was successful owed much not only to British power, resources, and technology, but also the remarkable leadership of Lieutenant General Sir Robert Napier, later Field Marshal and 1st Baron Napier of Magdala. An experienced officer of engineers he had also seen much active service. His skill and ability helped to ensure that a very difficult campaign in extremely hostile geographical and climatic conditions was successful. The campaign is largely forgotten today, but is worth remembering as a remarkable logistical exercised carry out under very difficult conditions. It was by no means a perfect campaign and much went wrong. Given the difficulty of the task at hand this was inevitable. That it was successful owed much to British technological advancement, and the great skill shown by Napier and his staff.
Series Title: Warfare in the Victorian Age
Publisher: Casemate Pub & Book Dist Llc
Author: Christopher Brice
Street Date: August 19, 2017
Item Number (DPCI): 248-28-3729
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