London: Kegan, Paul, Trench & Co., 1885. First Edition. Hard Cover. 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" Good / No Jacket. Item #005507672
A uniquely interesting copy, from the library of Col. A.W. Muir, who as ADC to the commander of the Indian Army contingent, served prominently in the campaign to relieve Gordon, and was decorated for his actions at several of the battles described here.
This copy is signed by then then-Lt. Colonel Muir in ink on the front cover, and extensively annotated in his hand in pencil thoughout, with corrections, additions, anecdotes, observations, and questions. Muir was clearly incensed at Gambier-Parry's account for a number of reasons.
Muir's annotations range from contradictions to Gambier-Parry's comments about the fortifications & water supply at Suakin ("the natives of Suakin & residents prefer it to any other water & it was said to be good"), to withering commentaries on officers (regarding camels - "essential beasts of burden the English transport officers naturally unacquainted - & as they were unable to to speak to the Indian drivers they were not as useful as the officers from India"). Muir was incensed by Gambier-Parry's opening to Chapter Four -"Night Attack" - for ignoring a list of actions and resulting casualties affecting Muir's troops, with details filling half a page. Some comments make clear Muir's belief that Gambier-Parry lacked military understanding - such as his response to Gambier-Parry's questioning the use of circular redoubts ("Sentries in these small circular redoubt pill boxes could not be rushed").
Gambier-Parry leveled a very serious charge against the Indian contingent on page 84, claiming that, during this night action, his unit suffered extensive casualties as thre result of volley-fire by Indian troops into their ranks, making this claim on the basis of muzzle flashes. Muir answers "Impossible - how could he tell which way they fired".
Gambier-Parry's anecdote about an old sand-filled barrel on the front line, which looked like a crouching soldier at night and was thus riddled with shot, brought this from Muir: "This was a funny mistake for him to make. These barrels & tuns were used by the Arabs before our force arrived. They fired into the town from these little shelter [?] & the barrels were pierced by return fire from the walls."
Muir shreds Gambier-Parry's ignorance ("untrue - misinformed") of such basic issues as sunburn, the proper way to prepare tin rations before opening. He further did not share Gambier-Parry's approval of war correspondents (who in this instance included Winston Churchill), referring to them as "some real skunks."
Muir supplies details of actions, like the 9th Bengal Cavalry finding itself over-run: "This was not their fault, but that of Brigadier Ewart who personally gave the order to dismount a squadron in the bush. The Arabs were on them before they got back to their horses."
Gambier-Parry's grasp of tactics and what was actually happening is often challenged. At Hasheen, where Gambier-Parry claimed a thousand Arabs killed, Muir counters "The enemy & our spies could never total up more than about 75 Arabs killed altogether!"
Muir's objections are raised to new heights in Chapter VIII - "The Zariba", at the top of which he has pinned a clipping from a newspaper, which notes that it has received a letter from Sir John M'Neil's solicitors regarding this text, which refers to a rebuttal sent by "an officer who has not disclosed his name" to this work's publishers at Kegan, Paul, Trench & Co. controverting Gambier-Parry's account. Given Muir's annotations here, that unnamed officer may have been Muir. Also laid in is a page of the "United Service Gazette" from July 25, 1885, reporting the action. Also pinned in is a newspaper column presenting an unidentified riposte, possible by this same unnamed officer, noting that Gambier-Parry's narrative "swarms with inaccuracies and misstatements" - and acidly stating that as Gambier-Parry "was employed in the Transport, he must have relied upon the narrations of others for some of the events of the actual fighting." Muir's annotations are so extensive and detailed from this point on that they defy summarization.
Given the inserted articles, the involvement of M'Neil's solicitors, and Muir's withering commentary, there should be little surprise that the publishers, Kegan, Paul, Trench & Co., issued an immediate revised second edition in 1886, mere months after the publication of this first edition.
Muir was both mentioned in dispatches and awarded medals for his gallantry in several battles and skirmishes during this campaign. His medals are now in the collection of the UK's National Army Museum.
Gambier-Parry was wounded and wrote this account during his convalesence.