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Report - Gunboat 'Melik', Khartoum (Sudan) - June 2012

Discussion in 'European and International Sites' started by kachangas, Jun 26, 2012.

  1. kachangas

    kachangas 'Explorers are we?'
    28DL Full Member

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    The ‘Melik’ is a guide-blade gunboat used by Lord Kitchener in his Sudanese campaign (1866-1899)

    Type:
    t.s.s. River Gunboat, guide blade twin-screw for Egypt via Royal Navy.

    Specification:
    Length: 145ft
    Draft: 2ft
    Beam: 24ft – 6ins
    Displacement: 134 tons
    Speed: 12 knots

    In 1896 when Kitchener, the Sirdar (Commander-in-Chief) of the Egyptian Army, set out to re-conquer the Sudan and avenged for the death of General Gordon (who was killed eleven years before by the Mahdi rebels), he knew that not only had he to defeat a great host of dauntless Sudanese warriors, but also to overcome the huge logistical problem of supplying 25,000 men and 10,000 beasts of burden over great distances in one of the most inhospitable climates in the world. Control of the River Nile was vital.

    The MELIK (name means ‘King’ in Arabic), therefore, was ordered by the Admiralty for service with the Egyptian Army in 1896 from the Chiswick shipyard of John I Thornycroft. Construction was rapid, and she was delivered the following year. It ran contractor’s trials in Britain, and was then dismantled into carefully marked sections and shipped to Ismailia in Egypt. From there the sections were shipped up the Ismailia Canal to the Nile and then southward to Wadi Halfa on the Sudan frontier. There it was loaded onto railway wagons and conveyed across the Nubian Desert on the newly built Desert Railway to Abu Hamed. In the summer or 1898 they finally reached the point or re-assembly at Abadieh, near Berber. Under the supervision on Major W. S “Monkey†Gordon (a nephew of General Gordon) they were finally re-assembled and launched on the Nile.

    The new gunboat joined a flotilla of seven older gunboats, and its formidable firepower gave it a great advantage: 12-pounder (76mm) guns, 5-inch (127mm) howitzers and rifle-calibre Maxim guns. These were manned by NCOs of the Royal Marines and Egyptian Army gunners. The Melik was also mounted with powerful searchlights which helped to discourage a much-feared Mahdist night attack.

    The Melik finally passed through the last Nile Cataract and kept pace with the Anglo-Egyptian Army right up to the Battle of Omdurman on 2nd September 1898, the decisive battle in the British campaign to recapture the Sudan from the Mahdi rebels.

    After playing an important role in that decisive action, 4 days later the Melik carried Kitchener and his staff form Omdurman to the ruined Governor’s Palace in Khartoum for a memorial service of General Gordon .After the campaign most of the river gunboats remained in service with the Egyptian Army and later the Sudan Defence Force. Afterwards the Melik was used for civilian purposes as a transportation across the Nile. In later years the Melik served as the clubhouse for the Blue Nile Sailing Club. Recently however, she was washed up on to the bank of the Nile in an exceptional flood, which might have saved it from its fate like the other gunboats that now lies at the bottom of the Nile. She is now on a sand berth awaiting restoration. Negotiations between the Sudanese Government, the sailing club and the British authorities interested in preserving this fantastic piece of history is still ongoing at the moment.

    Lord Kitchener, and the famous WW1 recruitment poster of him

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    The Melik, before

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    Front of the gunboat

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    Front deck

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    Inside the main compartment
    (Looks like someone is now squatting inside)

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    Captain's Room

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    Top deck

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    The side

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    Bottom (where the engine and boiler used to be)

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    Back of the boat

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    I hope you all enjoy reading it - feel free to comment as always
     

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