The 10th Hussars at El Teb 140th Anniversary

29 February 2024

This year marks the 140th anniversary of The Second Battle of El Teb, fought on 29 February 1884 during the Sudan Campaign and an important battle in the history of the 10th Royal Hussars.

The Second Battle of El Teb was the opening battle of the British Campaign in Sudan in 1884, which had its origins years earlier. In 1881 an Islamic revolt began in the Sudan led by Muhammed Ahmad, who styled himself the ‘Mahdi’ or ‘guide’ in opposition to the Khedivate of Egypt, which controlled the Sudan, and which was heavily supported by Britain.  The Mahdi’s forces inflicted several crushing defeats on the Egyptian Army and on 4 February 1884 a Sudanese force, under Osman Digna, defeated a 3,500 strong Egyptian Force at El Teb near Suakin. The Egyptian Force was led by General Valentine Baker (Baker Pasha), a former Commanding Officer of the 10th Hussars. On 29th February a British force under Sir General Graham arrived at El Teb, defeating the Mahdists with relatively few casualties. Graham’s cavalry, including the 10th Hussars, charged Digna’s forces as they began to withdraw after a hard-fought infantry battle.

Charge at El Teb, Sudan by Godfrey Douglas Giles (1884). On Display at HorsePower, The Museum of The King's Royal Hussars

Visitors to HorsePower will see this painting by Godfrey Douglas Giles depicting the 10th Hussars charging Sudanese tribesmen at El Teb. Giles, then an officer with the Egyptian Gendarmerie,  was present at the battle and rode in the Charge attached to the 10th Hussars. He started the painting while still in Cairo and by June 1884, just a few months after the battle, the painting was exhibited at Mr Arthur Lucas’s Gallery in New Bond Street, London before presented to the 10th Hussars Officers’ Mess by HRH The Prince of Wales, the Colonel of the Regiment, and several former officers.

Giles’s paintings stand out for their more realistic portrayal of combat, compared to some of the more traditional images of war, influenced by the fact the artist’s own combat experiences and in the case of El Teb his participation in the battle itself. In The Charge at El Teb Giles accurately depicts several of the officers and men of the regiment, who are identified on a separate key, and in this anniversary highlight we look at just a few of the scenes portrayed and some of the regimental characters from the battle.

Charles Staniforth Greenwood

C S Greenwood

Prominently featured  in the foreground of the painting is Lieutenant Charles Staniforth Greenwood. He had an eventful start to his career, commissioning into the 10th Hussars in 1876 he joined the regiment in India in 1877. Just three years later in March 1879 he was in the disastrous fording of the Kabul River, where a squadron of the 10th Hussars were swept away while crossing the river. He was awarded a medal by the Royal Humane Society for saving the life of another soldier by pulling him from the water. Only four officers and seven men of the squadron survived while one officer and 46 men died. 

As pictured, he rode in the charge at El Teb and was with the 10th Hussars throughout the Sudan Campaign. He later transferred to the Yeomanry and retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1894.

The Sudanese spears and shield from the battle and on display in the Museum were collected by Greenwood and donated to the Museum by his descendants and recently the Museum has confirmed that a regimental sword in the collection was one purchased by Greenwood in 1877. On the blade is a family crest and this may possibly be the sword he carried at El Teb. 

 His eldest son, Victor John Greenwood, also joined the 10th Hussars, commanding from 1928 – 1931 and was later Colonel of the Regiment. His grandson, Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Charles Greenwood was the last commanding officer of the Tenth Hussars, commanding the Regiment until amalgamation with the 11th Hussars in 1969.  In all no less than six members of the Greenwood family served in the 10th Hussars, an incredible record.

Charles Staniforth Greenwood, 1886.

The hilt of Greenwood’s sword showing a family crest or device on the blade, which is believed to be a leopard.

As the blade was manufactured by Wilkinson Sword  the blade number has been researched with the  Wilkinson Sword Archives held by The Royal Armouries revealing that this sword was set up in February 1877 and sold to C. S. Greenwood, Esq. 

Lord Alwyne Compton rescues Sergeant Morris

Towards the rear of the painting is a small scene depicting the moment that Lord Alwyne Frederick Compton rescued Sergeant Morris. During the charge, Morris’s horse was hamstrung, and he was forced to dismount. This was a tactic often employed by the Sudanese against cavalry, as they would lie dead during the initial charge, then as the cavalry returned at a slower pace they rose up to slice the hamstrings of the horses before killing the dismounted riders.

Seeing the sergeant in danger Lord Compton seized a horse whose rider had fallen in the charge and which was galloping along, keeping up with his troop, and held it whilst Morris mounted. Lord Compton was later appointed Adjutant in 1885 and retired from the Army in 1886.

He then embarked on a political career and was elected as The Member of Parliament for Biggleswade in Bedfordshire from 1895. On the outbreak of the Second Anglo Boer War, he volunteered for service and raised a local Company of the Imperial Yeomanry, the 28th (Bedfordshire) Company of the 4th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, which was known as ‘Compton’s Horse’. The Company left for South Africa in February 1900, and for his service Lord Compton was appointed a Companion of The Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

After the war he remained the MP for Biggleswade until his defeat in 1906. He returned as the Conservative MP for Bedford in 1910 until his resignation in March 1911. He died in December 1911, aged 56.

A 10th Hussars Polo Team, 1883. Lord Alwyne Compton is on the right (No. 4) Also shown are Lt Hon Herbert Tongue Allsopp (2) and P F Durham (3) who are also depicted in the El Teb painting. First on the left (1) is George Leopold Bryan who was present at El Teb but not identified in the painting.

The death of Sergeant Cox

Sergeant John Cox of the 10th Royal Hussars is killed during the charge ta El Teb

The British losses at El Teb were 30 killed while the Mahdists lost around 2,000. Two-thirds of the British losses were cavalrymen and the 10th had six killed including Lieutenant Francis Probyn and Major Montagu Slade, whose body was found pierced with seven spear wounds. From the ranks, Sergeant John Cox, Shoeing-Smith Stride and Privates Brinsley and Douglas were also killed.

Giles depicted in detail the death of Sergeant Cox, who was one of the best swordsmen in the regiment. He was a member of ‘’A’ Troop and rode in the 1st Squadron, his death being described in the Regimental history:

‘Sergeant J. Cox, too, as fine a soldier as ever served in the regiment, who often had carried off the regimental prize for swordsmanship, thinking he saw a good opportunity, left the flank of his squadron, and charged a group… but being overpowered by numbers he lost his life.’

On 27 June 1884 HRH The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) inspected the regiment before The Princess of Wales presented the Officers and Men with the Egypt Medal for their services in Sudan.

Medals were also presented to the widows including Mrs Cox as the Illustrated London News described: ‘the widow of a Sergeant who “foremost fighting fell” on the battlefield was brought forward and received her dead husband’s medal from the gentle hands of England’s future Queen with a few words of warmest sympathy’.

The Princess of Wales presents the Egypt Medal (for the Sudan Campaign) to the Officers and men of the 10th Hussars at Shorncliffe

'The Tenth had another hero, all ripe for the General's praise...'

Frank Hayes in later life as a Band Sergeant in the Scots Guards. He was serving with the 10th Royal Hussars at El Teb in February 1884.

(Image Credit: The National Army Museum, NAM. 1969-02-18-23)
Frank Hayes in later life as a Band Sergeant in the Scots Guards. He was serving with the 10th Royal Hussars at El Teb in February 1884. (Image Credit: The National Army Museum, NAM. 1969-02-18-23)

Although not depicted in the painting, an event during the battle which stands out are the actions of Private Frank Hayes, a bandsman of A Troop. As his horse was unwilling to charge the enemy, he dismounted and fought on foot. Cassell’s History of the Sudan War states he ‘showed great courage in the second charge [at El Teb], in dismounting, attacking, and killing a chief who was endeavoring to escape. Finding that his horse would not face the spear, he undauntedly attacked the Arab on foot, and killed him in single combat.’ Other accounts suggest that as a regimental boxer, he instead fought with his fists! For his bravery Frank Hayes was presented with the Distinguished Conduct Medal by Queen Victoria in March 1885. 

His fame became widespread when the poem ‘A Tale of The Tenth Hussars’ by Mr Clement Scott appeared in Punch magazine of 15 March 1884, widely reprinted across the country. The poem, based predominantly on General Valentine Baker and the fighting at El Teb, makes direct reference to Hayes such as this following verse:

‘For the Tenth had another hero, all ripe for the General’s praise,
Who was called to the front that evening by the name of Trooper Hayes;
He had slashed his way to fortune, when scattered, unhorsed, alone,
And in saving the life of a comrade had managed to guard his own.’

To read the full poem please visit the excellent Major Pillinger website here.

We hope you have found this very brief look interesting but the painting is naturally best seen in person by visiting the Museum, which is open from Monday to Saturday 10:00 – 16:00.

There are several objects relating to the battle also on display. These include the medals of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Alexander Wood who commanded the regiment and several weapons retrieved from the battlefield. The most fascinating is a spearhead with an incredible story to tell; during the battle Corporal William Green was speared in the left thigh pinning him to his saddle. Severely wounded he was returned to England and admitted to Netley Hospital for 4 months. He was discharged from the Army but kept the spearhead, later presenting it to the Regiment. 

The Sudanese spearhead which pinned Corporal Green to his saddle at El Teb