Coat of chain mail. [El.B 27/3/2007]

Place details: AFRICA. Sudan, Republic of / Khartoum State Omdurman. Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Metal / ?. Processes: Riveted / ?. Dimensions: Max L = 830 mm Field Collector: Satm Eff Lufty When Collected: 1898 Other Owners: James Edward Little PRM Source: James Edward Little Acquired: Exchanged 1930

KEYWORD: Armour / CLASS: Armour Weapon / ?.

Research notes: James Edward Little was a notorious thief and forger of artefacts, particularly from Oceania. This item may this be a forgery. [JC 13 5 2003]

Omdurman was captured by Anglo-Egyptian forces led by Major General Sir Herbert (later Lord) Kitchener in 1898 [Encyclopaedia Britannica on line] [AP 12/9/2000]

The following notes are drawn from research compiled by Andy Mills as part of the DCF Cutting Edge project in 2006-2007. This is a good example of the mail armour (zirah) and helmet (kulah khud) that were worn in addition to the jibbah, by the emirs (leaders/generals) of the Mahdist forces in the late 19th century. They partake of the same Central Asian armour tradition as is demonstrated through the Persian and Moghul examples nearby.

Those individuals commonly spoken of as ‘Dervishes’ in the context of the Sudan of the late 19th century only loosely relate to the Persian term darwish in its proper sense – connoting a mendicant ascetic from any part of the Islamic world The participants in the Mahdist movement are now conventionally spoken of as Ansar rather than Dervishes.

The Battle of Omdurman (September 2nd, 1898) is one of the most poignant and mismatched battles ever fought. A combined army of Sudanese, Egyptian and British forces, number 25,800 men, under the command of General Sir Horatio Kitchener, met with the Mahdist army under the command of Khalifa Abdullahi. The Mahdist army taking the field that day was the single largest military force mobilised in Africa since the Crusades – in excess of 52,000 men - armed with a few thousand rifles, but in the main, spears, swords and daggers. They were armoured as can be seen from these two examples, but the metal armour shown here was a rarity. The Anglo-Egyptian-Sudanese force, however, was significantly smaller in numbers, but had Maxim machine guns in their first major deployment, as well as gunboats in the Nile providing covering artillery fire. Early in the battle, the Mahdists employed a traditional tactic of a mass charge in tight formation, committing 16,000 men to this manoeuvre, which sent them into the muzzles of the Maxim guns. 4,000 men died outright in this first charge, and not one came within 50m of the Anglo-Sudanese line. This early part of Omdurman was described by one British officer present as “Not a battle, but an extermination”. At the end of the Battle of Omdurman, British dead numbered 48, and wounded 434. Mahdist dead numbered 9,700, and wounded 13,000. [SM 08/05/2008]