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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

The Battle of Ginnis, 30 December 1885

The Battle of Ginnis was the last battle that the British Army fought in red uniforms, though The Durham Light Infantry were in khaki, having left their red uniforms in Cairo. It was also decisive in the defeat of the Dervishes.

The 2nd Battalion The Durham Light Infantry took part in the battle as part of the 1st Brigade. The Digest of Services [D/DLI 2/2/14] records the following casualties:

  • Lance Corporal C. Baker
  • Private S. Mason (died from his wounds on 2 January 1886)
  • Lance Corporal O'Donnell
  • Private H. Watson
  • Private H. Hope

De Lisle, Reminiscences, pp.26-27 (Courtesy of the DLI Museum) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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In this edition of the Battalion's magazine, 'The Bugle', Captain De Lisle reminisces about 'how we fought the Battle of Guiness', of which 'being attached to the mounted troops' he 'had an excellent view of the first part of the fight'.

See a  transcript of The Bugle, 19 November 1896, p1394-1395

In his reminiscences, De Lisle looks back to the Battle of Ginnis:

De Lisle, Reminiscences, pp.26-27 (Courtesy of the DLI Museum) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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 'This was the first time that dervish hordes were met by fire from troops in line instead of squares, bringing four times the volume of fire to bear, and the result was decisive.'

He is very critical of the officer commanding the Brigade, Colonel Blake, because he refused permission for the Mounted Infantry to pursue 'as the dervishes retired along the east bank of the river', concluding that 'had he acted with initiative and resolution, the whole dervish force would have had to surrender.'

Here we see congratulations being sent to the 1st Brigade troops by their Brigadier General who commended them for 'The steadiness with which the march was carried out ... over extremely rugged ground; the cool courage evinced when exposed to a heavy and sustained Rifle fire along 800 yards of front, and on ground which gave effective cover to the Enemy, the determined manner in which the Artillery (Egyptian) and Camel Corps co-operated in the most exposed positions, the admirable order in which the final advance on Ginness was carried out... Above all... upon the fact that yesterday's action was fought in the old English Formation of Line, and that acting in this order, the Brigade inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Enemy, captured his Guns, Camp and Standards, and routed the entire Arab Army from its strong position.'

Digest of service (D/DLI 2/2/14, p.101)
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Digest of service (D/DLI 2/2/14 p.102) - Copyright © Durham County Record Office.
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See a Transcript of Digest of Services, 1885-1886 (D/DLI 2/2/14, pp.101-102).

When in Cairo, en route to India, in December 1886, General Sir Frederick Stephenson, the Egyptian Commander, presented the medals won by the battalion at the Battle of Ginnis, 'which subsequent events had proved to be so decisive and important'.