Monday, 13 September 2021

The Battle of Tel El Kebir

The Battle of Tel El Kebir took place on 13th September 1882, when an entrenched Egyptian army under the command of Ahmed Urabi Pasha was defeated by a British force led by General Sir Garnet Wolseley.

Urabi had ked the 1879 mutiny against the government of Khedive Tewfik, which was heavily influenced by an Anglo-French consortium that controlled the Suez Canal Company and had lent large sums of money to Tewfik's government. Once in power, Urabi began to reform Egypt's military and civil administrations.

The British and French governments were concerned that these reforms might lead to the Egyptians defaulting on their debts, and both countries sent warships to Alexandria to protect their interests. The arrival of of the warships caused unrest in the city, and on 12th June riots broke out, during which at least 50 Europeans and 125 Egyptians were killed, and businesses were destroyed. The French fleet returned to France, but the British prepared to restore order.

After bombarding the port's coastal defences, a force of Royal Marines and sailors went ashore, and martial law was declared. A month later a large force of British troops led by General Wolseley landed at Alexandria and advance on Cairo. Their route was barred by an entrenched Egyptian force at Tel El Kebir, which the British attacked early in the morning of 13th September.

The Battle of Tel El Kebir: Just before daybreak, 13th September 1882.
The Storming of Tel El Kebir by Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville.

I’ve always had an interest in this battle, and I used it as the background for a scenario (NIGHT MARCH TO THE CANAL) that was featured in my REDCOATS & DERVISHES rules.

As can be seen from the following gridded map of the battlefield, it was not too difficult to convert to scenario so that it could be used with my PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME rules.

  • British force
      • 6 infantry units (Two are Elite and the rest Average; 6 x 4 SPs)
      • 1 cavalry unit (Elite; 1 x 3 SPs)
      • 1 artillery unit (Average; 1 x 2 SPs)
      • 1 machine gun unit (Average; 1 x 2 SPs)
      • 1 commander (1 x 6 SPs)
      • Total strength = 37 SPs
      • Exhaustion point = 13 SPs
    • Egyptian force
      • 4 infantry units (Two are Average and two [both of which are Egyptian Gendarmerie] are Poor; 4 x 4 SPs)
      • 1 cavalry unit (Bashi-Bazouks, and therefore Poor; 1 x 3 SPs)
      • 1 artillery unit (Average; 1 x 2 SPs)
      • 1 commander (1 x 6 SPs)
      • Total strength = 27 SPs
      • Exhaustion point = 9 SPs
    • Scenario specific rules
      • The British must enter from the side indicated on the map.
      • The Suez Canal is on the right-hand edge of the map.
      • The Egyptian infantry and artillery are dug in behind an earth rampart.
      • The Egyptian units may not be activated until they realise they are about to be attacked.

    Tel El Kebir by Henri Louis Dupray.


    1. My Great Grandfather was there, in the DCLI. Have got his medal somewhere.

      1. Trebian,

        I hope that your treasure them and have them on display somewhere. They are too good an heirloom to be hidden away in a box somewhere.

        All the best,


    2. I have a question about the last bullet point: "The Egyptian units may not be activated until they realise they are about to be attacked."

      What triggers this? I would have thought a British army marching on the Egyptian forces (after the British invaded Alexandria) would be clear enough signal they were about to be attacked to start shooting immediately.

      1. PatrickW,

        It was a night march and attack that caught the Egyptians napping, although once roused, they fought well. The original scenario made that clear ... but I forgot to add it when I wrote this blog post.

        All the best,


    3. Hi Bob -
      Even without the constraints upon Egyptian activation, this looks like a tough assignment for the British! It will be interesting to see how this goes.

      I was somewhat reminded of the first attempt to relieve Scarlett's expeditionary for at Hak (August last year). Your Tel El Kebir battle jogs me inot thinking it's high time the second attempt be made, to conclude that 'occasional' campaign!
      Looking forward to the narrative...

      1. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

        Although the British won the actual battle, the Egyptians fought well, and had they not been caught napping by the night march and attack, they may well have won.

        If this has inspired you to set up yet another of your wonderful battles, then that is great news! I look forward to reading your battle report in due course.

        All the best,



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